The Long Walk Home
by Will North
(Shaye Areheart, $24, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-307-38302-0
***
Fiona Edwards owns and operates a small bed-and-breakfast on a sheep farm in rural Wales. Her husband David has been physically and psychologically injured by the pesticides in a government-mandated sheep dip. Because his multiple sensitivities severely limit his activities, David lives in a remodeled barn. Fiona takes his meals to him, but they live mostly separate lives.

American Alec Hudson is a writer and consultant. He is walking from Heathrow Airport near London to a mountain close by the Edwards farm. His late ex-wife asked him to scatter her ashes on the mountain because they had enjoyed a wonderful vacation there. Alec believes that her request also obliges him to walk this distance carrying her ashes in a pack on his back. He reminisces on their lost love and her final days.

Alec shows up at Fiona’s B-and-B. She does not have a room for him but agrees to let him pitch a tent. In practically no time, Alec’s moved in literally and figuratively. Alec and Fiona recognize that they are soul mates meant for one another, but there’s a small problem: Fiona’s got a husband who needs her. Fiona’s daughter Meaghan, away at university, is an added complication.

When Alec finds David collapsed in a field far from the barn, reality intrudes.

The Long Walk Home is a romance in The Bridges of Madison County tradition: that is, for better or worse gets shoved aside when a hunky stranger shows up at the door. In a previous review (www.theromancereader.com/sparks-nights.html), I observed that a romance written by a man is different from one written by a woman. Women authors write about the love of a lifetime. Men write about instant attraction and a quick trip to bed. It’s gotta be a guy thing. What’s so romantic about adultery? And would the discarded Davids in these books see it in quite the same way?

The Long Walk Home is a better-written book than other progeny of The Bridges of Madison County. More attention is devoted to character development. Alec truly regrets that he and his ex-wife gave up on their marriage. His long walk from Heathrow to Wales then up and down mountains carrying her ashes is clearly an act of penance. Not to mention melodramatic. In a sign of how the times they are a-changing, Alec can do more than open a wine bottle — he’s a fantastic cook, too, and writes overwrought poetry.

Another of the book’s strengths is the vivid description of the Welsh countryside. The interlude where Meaghan brings home her boyfriend is a welcome and sometimes amusing section that parents of teenagers or adult children will appreciate.

The Long Walk Home won’t appeal to all romance fans, but readers who have loved (and cried over) the books of Nicholas Sparks may want to check it out.

--Lesley Dunlap


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