Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Miranda's Mount, by Phillipa Ashley

On the coast of Cornwall, St. Merryn's Mount stands as a family sentinel and a metaphor. When the tide is out, the home of the ancient St. Merryn family is connected to both the mainland and the people who live there. But when the
tide is in, the Mount stands apart, isolated and surrounded by currents and eddies that flow with the Atlantic Ocean's rhythms. Thus is the metaphor for Miranda's Mount, the story of Miranda Marshall, property manager of this heritage spot, and Jago St. Merryn, present Lord of the manor.  These two damaged souls are both, like the Mount, connected to this piece of land and each other, yet isolated by past circumstances neither one of them could control. 

When Miranda first meets Jago, he is in the armory, holding an ancient cutlass and looking for all the world like a pirate from a story book. According to Miranda, he looked like someone who had "seen and done and probably smoked or inhaled a lot of stuff." He also looks like "how D'Artagnan might have looked if Levis had been invented." Jago is the Earl of St. Merryn, returned home after ten years abroad. And while the staff is hoping he has decided to take on the responsibility of his heritage, Miranda soon finds out the truth. He is selling St.Merryn's Mount to a large leisure company, and getting out. His reasons at this point are unclear.  What is clear to Miranda is that at the very least, Jago is the enemy. At the most, she is already falling for him. And with her own damaged family background and what she knows about Jago's plans for the Mount, she must confront her past and her future and try to determine if the sale presents an opportunity for her to finally let go of her own safety net and move on with her life; a dilemma that becomes more complicated as despite his plans, she and Jago become closer. 

Miranda's Mount is so much more than a simple romantic, contemporary love story.

Ms. Ashley delves into both Jago and Miranda's pasts with obvious relish. There are reasons why these two cannot be together, why Jago feels it necessary to sell the Mount, and why Miranda is so afraid to move on.  With this heavy psychological load, you would think this novel would veer toward the dark and depressing. Nothing is further than the truth. There is humor and wit threaded throughout, a technique that allows for laughter despite the somewhat dark obstacles these two face.  There is one scene in particular that involves a rowboat, an incoming tide, some rocks, alcohol, and a very sexy Earl that will leave the reader laughing out loud. It's a talent that Ms. Ashley has that lightens up the mood of her novels and makes her characters so real to her readers. Speaking of all her characters, there are some wonderful secondary characters in this novel as well. There's Theo, a "pillar of the community and a serial hero," a man who has a definite problem with the St. Merryn family, and is a rival for Miranda's affections. There's  Ronnie, head of security at the Mount, Karen the local bartender and various other additions to this colorful cast of Cornish characters.

There's even a scene that Richard Armitage fans may relate to involving a baby
stroller and a body of water that most likely ended a bit less dramatically for
Richard than it did for the little boy living it in this story. But even this scene serves a purpose. Ms.Ashley is very adept at using every opportunity to get her story across

When Jago's feelings for Miranda get too strong, he confesses to her why he is
selling and why he will only break her heart. But as doubts on his chosen course beset him, Miranda reveals her family history, and she herself realizes why Jago's decision is so important to him and she stops fighting it. It's beginning to look a bit like a Gift of the Magi moment for these two with one exception. In the end, they both get what they really want without giving up what they already have.

I've read every one of Phillipa Ashley's novels and I have to say, this one is my favorite. Everything about it is pitch perfect and from beginning to end, the characters, the setting and the story itself ring true. Written with wit, feeling, intelligence and a good deal of the "hot" factor, Miranda's Mount is a must-read.