Candida Sayle has one incredibly memorable event as a young girl. Invited to the coast with a friend’s family but arriving before them, she asks about the tide. Two elderly women note her name and tell her the tide will not rise until 11 p.m. She walks upon the beach, only to be stuck on the cliff side when the tide begins to rise much earlier. Fearing death, she calls out for a time.Â Stephen Eversly happens to hear her and pulls her up to safety, though they cannot get back to the inn until the next morning. Much her senior, he protectively holds her until dawn.
This is one of the best openings to a book I’ve read in a long time, and though this particular motif (young woman stuck on the side of a cliff in danger of drowning) returns in several Wentworth books, it’s particularly effective here. Plus, it’s incredibly romantic, and I was so sad that it appeared Stephen and Candida would never meet again.
But five years later, a lot has changed.The last of Candida’s relations has died, and she has no options until two great-aunts reach out, past a family dispute, to ask Candida to visit. Eccentric and co-dependent, the Misses Cara and Olivia Benevent make Candida uncomfortable, especially after she has a dream that these two women were the same who nearly drew her to her death on the coast five years earlier. As Candida sees more of her aunts and learns of the Benevent Treasure and its terrible curse, she becomes more and more afraid of the Benevent home and family.
As usual with a Miss Silver book, the star here is not Maud Silver. Instead, Wentworth writes a novel of characters: Candida, an innocent but intelligent young woman. Olivia Benevent, who I swear is very similar in demeanor to Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Cara Benevent, a poor soul who only wants love but who has been browbeaten by Olivia for so many years, she is withdrawn and skittish.
Miss Silver comes in – only when called and takes charge of the situation, knitting needles in hand, rising to the occasion in the final pages of the book. If you haven’t read Miss Silver yet, don’t let the knitting needles deter you. Yes, she knits with them, but mostly she uses them as a way to disarm her clients, who are usually hesitant to talk to her, whether it’s because they feel silly or that they shouldn’t discuss family business with a stranger.
Read this: and be prepared to be drawn into the wilds of England with missing secretaries, a mysterious legend, and a healthy dose of romance.
P.S. If anyone decides to take up the Miss Silver series, let me know. I’d love to read in tandem or include your posts for Miss Silver Saturdays.