Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Gemma Hardy, a hardy Scottish lass, makes a habit of fleeing.  First, she escapes a Cinderella-like existence (the wicked stepmother = Gemma's widowed aunt), but there's no fairy godmother here.  She lands a scholarship of sorts to Claypoole, where the "working girls" are little more than slaves.  This gig ends when the school falls on hard financial times, and Gemma responds to an ad for an au pair in the Orkneys.  Despite the remoteness of her new post, she bonds with her ill-tempered charge, Nell, and with her employer, Hugh Sinclair, who puts in rare appearances.  This latter bond develops into something more, but Hugh is 41, and Gemma is 18.  More importantly, Hugh has some unsavory secrets that may be more of a hindrance to their romance than the age difference.  Gemma builds quite a history of regrettable deeds herself, with at least a couple more "flights" still to come.  This is one of those books that I looked forward to opening every night, so that I could share Gemma's next adventure.  I've read that this book is a retelling of Jane Eyre, but I saw Pippi Longstocking, one of Gemma's favorite characters, as her alter-ego—a little too audacious for her own good.  Part of what motivates Gemma is that she suspects that she has relatives in Iceland (Pippi is Swedish), and she yearns for some sort of family connection.  Another motivator is the need to right a wrong that she inadvertently caused.  Although she has suffered more than most in her short lifetime, Gemma is not the savvy wayfarer that the reader might expect.  Her naivete is at times her demise and at times her salvation.

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