Pocket Books, paperback edition July 2003
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson
Poppy Blake is an independent, vital woman who just happens to be wheelchair bound, but definitely not isolated and housebound. She has her finger on the pulse of Lake Henry, New Hampshire, and the surrounding area through the telephone answering service she runs from her home. She also gets around quite well in her specially equipped red Blazer. A snowmobile accident twelve years before has left her a paraplegic, but with the help of friends and family, she has learned to accept the things she can't undo, and go on to live a satisfying life. Among those friends who pushed the hardest, encouraged the most, and wouldn't let her give up, was a relative newcomer to Lake Henry. Heather Malone had moved to New Hampshire two years before Poppy's accident, and by quietly going about her business and being a good neighbor, ready to help anyone who needed her, she was quickly accepted by the citizens Lake Henry, which in itself is unusual.
When Poppy's private phone rings a few minutes before seven that morning, she knows something is wrong, but is totally unprepared for what she hears. Micah Smith is calling to ask Poppy if she can get his girls to school. He tells her the impossible-to-believe story that the FBI has arrested Heather, his significant other. They claim that Heather is someone named Lisa Matlock, and they have a warrant charging her with flight to avoid prosecution for a murder committed fifteen years before. Micah hires another close friend of Poppy and Heather, Cassie Edwards, an attorney, to represent her. They need to leave right away to follow Heather and the FBI to Concord.
In Princeton, New Jersey, Griffin Hughes is furious when he sees the news bulletin concerning Heather's arrest. Last fall, while in Lake Henry, Poppy had briefly introduced him to Heather. Later, a chance remark to his brother, who is with the Cold Case Division of the FBI, has led to her arrest. He has to get to Lake Henry and confess his part in this to Poppy before she finds out some other way.
Griffin, an investigative reporter, and Poppy met and fell in love while he was in Lake Henry covering a story concerning Poppy's sister, Lilly. But he is having a difficult time convincing Poppy that her disability is not a liability when it comes to their love for each other. Griffin just hopes this latest development does not set their relationship back any farther. He is ready to move ahead with Poppy and prove to her their love will work.
With AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN, Barbara Delinsky has at long last taken us back to Lake Henry, New Hampshire. We have begged for Poppy's story ever since we read LAKE NEWS, and now we have not only Poppy and Griffin's story, but also Heather Malone and Micah Smith's story, tightly knit together with enough suspense to keep us turning the pages. Will Poppy turn Griffin away again, or will she accept the love he has to offer? Is Heather really Lisa Matlock? If the charges are dropped against her, will she return to California, or will she remain with Micah and his two young daughters? Both Heather and Poppy have other major secrets that we find out about by the end of the book, but you will have to read AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN to learn what they are and how they will change their future.
AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN by Barbara Delinsky is a richly textured, multilayered novel that takes us back to the small New England town, and the people we met and came to know in LAKE NEWS. In this complex story, Ms. Delinsky's in-depth descriptive passages pull us into the setting to become one with the citizens and the town. The people of Lake Henry may gossip about each other, and have periods of not speaking to each other, but when trouble arises, they pitch in, neighbor helping neighbor. They can go back to gossiping and not speaking when the crises is resolved, but in the meantime they can be depended upon when it counts.
AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN can be read as a stand alone book, but I would advise you to read LAKE NEWS first in order to getting a fuller understanding of the picture this author paints in AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN. As with my other Barbara Delinsky books, this is a keeper and one of my favorites of this year.
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