It was hauntingly beautiful, a book that will stay with me for a long time. Not at all what I was expecting from the title, though. Emma is a rich, straight-laced New England heiress circa late 19th century. She's engaged to marry a wealthy man from a powerful family. One day, after church, she sees a poor Irish pregnant woman, Bria, (a mill worker in her fiancee's cotton mill) collapse in the street after a religious procession. Emma takes her home in her carriage and cares for her for a few days until she's feeling better. Emma visits her frequently, they become close friends, and Emma learns the woman is dying of comsumption. Emma grows to love Bria, her children and the entire family. Bria notices that Emma seems to like her husband, so she tries to arrange for them to be alone together, hoping they will fall in love and marry after she's gone.
The story is one of the most beautifully written I've ever read, and it's a huge tearjerker. It's as much a tribute to friendship as romance. This is not a one or two-hanky book. It's a box of kleenex book. It has some of the best characterization I've ever read and I fell in love with Emma, Bria and her whole family.
Emma falls in love with her dying best friends husband. Lots of drama. Good read.
With skill and beauty, Penelope Williamson conveys the power and poignancy of many kinds of love in this moving story of an all-consuming, forbidden passion between a high-society beauty from late-19th-century Rhode Island and the impoverished Irish revolutionary who is married to her new friend. Emma Tremayne, bound by duty in a luxurious, highly restricted world, unconsciously yearns for something more. Gradually she reaches out to a poor Irish woman, a pregnant millworker with a husband and two children, who is dying of consumption. In Bria McKenna, Emma finds a soul-deep friend who quietly transforms her, opening her eyes to new joys and possibilities. Observing Bria's rock-solid love for her husband Shay, Emma begins to find within her own heart a previously unknown capacity for passion and devotion. Yet Emma dares not reveal to Bria that she's fallen in love with Shay. Williamson captures this time and place, and these complex relationships, in vividly realized, highly visual scenes, creating a memorable novel of real and enduring characters, with language whose elegiac tone captures the fleeting beauty of life.