It is time we read their stories...
Not a soul in England, or in Europe for that matter, was ignorant of the Hartley name. Percival Hartley, self-made railroad tycoon, passed his wealth and business sense down to his son Frederick, who in turn, trained his eldest son Theodore to fall into line and maintain the Hartley legacy. Theodore matured into the most sought-after bachelor in the country: charming, obscenely wealthy, and notorious for his aversion to marriage. In his third decade of happily unmarried bliss, Theodore finally fell in love. The new Mrs. Hartley, sixteen years old, was the envy of every woman who had hoped to catch Theodore's eye. After the difficult birth of her first daughter, Alice was warned of the risks if she should have another child. Theodore was terribly worried during Alice's second pregnancy, but thankfully both she and the child survived. As a devoted husband, Theodore insisted they relocate to Bath to rejuvenate; Alice was still very weak from the birth and wished to recover as soon as possible so she could care for her two daughters.
While in Bath, their eldest daughter Irene falls madly in love with her primary school teacher and successfully convinces her parents to offer her a position as governess to the Hartley daughters. Miss Mabel Crowley accepts, entering and changing the lives of every Hartley for generations to come.
Known in Mabel Crowley as the thin blonde with a "constantly pinched look to her face," Astrid Clark roomed with Mabel during their last year of school at King's School. The two students hardly formed a relationship, and after graduation they were certain that their paths would never cross again. While on vacation in Bath, Mabel overheard a conversation between a mother and daughter: “You don’t want to end up an old-maid schoolteacher, like Aunt Pauline, do you?” This suggestion was dreadful enough to inspire both young women to make decisions with drastic consequences in their lives. While Mabel decided to apply for a position as a primary school teacher, Aunt Pauline's niece chose to accept the marriage proposal of Mr. Reginald Denton. Mr. Denton, a horrid old man nearing sixty years old, demanded a male heir and beat his new bride to death after she gave birth to a baby girl.
He lies to his in-laws, convincing them that their daughter died in delivery, and he demands that they provide a replacement to take care of his household affairs and new child. The same afternoon of the late Iris Denton's funeral, Mr. Denton marries her younger sister, formerly Astrid Clark.
Oliver Grimsy, the shy runt of the litter, and Gregory Parker, a tough prize fighter, were the least likely among the men in the 14th Light Division to become friends. In the years they fought alongside each other in World War One, Oliver found his mentor, and Parker found the younger brother he always wished for. There were hardly any survivors in their division after a particularly devastating battle in 1917 when the creeping barrage arrived five hours early to their destination and were ambushed by two hundred German soldiers. Olli and Parker both made it back to England unharmed, and they vowed to keep in touch once they were settled.
Both soldiers have a great amount to adjust to, and they write letters faithfully each month to help each other with their hurdles. Olli returns to his abusive father who hopes the war has finally made a man of his son. Still grieving the death of his friend and fellow soldier Ned Hagen, Oliver develops a friendship with Ned's fiance Dorothy Brown, the only person in town who seems to realize that he has changed since the war. As he tries to suppress his growing attraction to Dorothy, he asks Parker for guidance. Surely an old married man would have advice for the lovelorn! Parker was married the weekend before he was shipped overseas, but he experiences his fair share of obstacles on English soil. Not only does he have to reacquaint himself with his wife Hazel, a former prostitute, but he must adjust to parenthood as he meets his daughter Samantha who was born while he was still in France.
Please leave your vote for which story you'd like to see on the shelves first and why in the comments section.