Monday, February 8, 2010


I found "A Country Affair" by Rebecca Shaw at a local thrift shop for a very good price. I love novels set in the English countryside and I loved James Herriott's books, so I thought this would be a winner. And if I liked it, there would be more, because beneath the title it says "A Barleybridge Novel".

It was not a winner. Too bad I didn't look too far inside the book and discover there was a list of characters. Now, a list of characters is very helpful with a massively big novel like "War and Peace". But it is not a good sign in a 280 page book. It means there will be a lot of extraneous characters who sometimes never even appear except to be mentioned by name.

"A Country Affair" is about the affairs of an English veterinary clinic in rural Barleybridge. The heroine, 19-year-old Kate Howard, has always wanted to be a vet, but unfortunately did not receive a high enough grade in chemistry. So she does - in her mind - the next best thing and goes to work as a receptionist/accounts person at the clinic. Obviously she is more well-educated than the other office people and this causes conflicts.

She is immediately pursued by a handsome Aussie vet, Scott Spencer. The trouble is that she already has a boyfriend, boring, weird old Adam Pentecost, who has their whole future planned out for them. When he becomes too possessive, she breaks it off with him and he becomes a full-fledged stalker.

Kate's relationships with the two men were the most troublesome parts of the novel. In real life, a stalker would not have gone away as easily as Adam did. And she should have seen red flags all over the place with Scott. She knows he is a womanizer. She knows he is more than likely the father of  the baby Bunty Page, a clinic nurse, is expecting. And she knows that other handsome Aussie vets have been at the practice and, with the Australian man's supposed wanderlust, flown off to other adventures. Yet she falls for Scott anyway.

I was irritated that Shaw portrated Kate as being very intelligent but gives her no sense whatsoever when it comes to men. And it is so predictable that Kate will come to her senses regarding her career, get tutoring so she can re-take her chemistry exam, and study to be a vet.

There are also a couple of sub-plots that are extraneous. I can only think we are introduced to these people because we will meet them again in the small village of Barleybride. As far as I could tell on, there are at least two more Barleybridge novels. If you like Jan Karon's novels, you will probably like this one, but like Karon's books, I will be giving other Barleybridge books a wide berth.

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