by Barbara Delinsky

July 2002
ISBN: 0-743-20470-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Simon and Schuster

An Accidental Woman is a story of several people’s lives that are all intertwined and who are all struggling to overcome an obstacle of some kind or another. First, there is Heather Malone. She has lived in Lake Henry for the last fourteen years and has become a valued member of the community during that time. Despite the fact that Heather has lived with Micah and his two young girls for the last 4 years, Micah has always apprehensively waited for the day when Heather is somehow taken out of his life. However, he is shocked by the means his worst fears are realized when early one morning his house is surrounded and the FBI take Heather into custody on flight to avoid prosecution for a murder that took place 15 years ago. What is even more disturbing are the doubts Heather’s arrest raises about her past, or rather the lack of information about her past that brings to question what everyone close to her thought they knew about Heather.

Poppy Blake is a close friend of Heather’s and is determined to prove that the woman she knows could never be guilty of murder. Heather was there for Poppy when she was involved in a snowmobile accident twelve years ago that left her wheelchair bound for the rest of her life. Because of Heather’s support, Poppy has learned to rebuild her life and go on despite her disabilities, even though she does still view some things beyond her capacity, such as children and marriage. Poppy has vowed that she is going to find the person responsible for tearing Heather’s family apart and make them regret the day they ever set foot in Lake Henry.

Unfortunately, the one unknowingly pointed the finger in Heather’s direction and resulted in her being taken into custody is Griffin Hughes - a man that fell for Poppy and her rebel attitude the minute he talked to her over the phone. Although Poppy made it clear to Griffin that a relationship between them was impossible, for what she considers obvious reasons, Griffin has remained tenacious in wearing down Poppy’s resistance. He fears his blunder involving Heather has just screwed up any opportunity he may have had with Poppy, so he makes it his personal goal to find out all he can about Heather’s past to prove that she did not commit murder so he can redeem himself in the eyes of Poppy and all the residents of Lake Henry. But will Griffin’s investigation clear Heather’s name or will it bring to light everyone’s worst fears? And even if he can prove Heather's innocence, will Poppy ever move beyond her accident and allow herself to have a future with Griffin?

Because there are so many characters involved in the story, the beginning of An Accidental Woman was a bit confusing. I kept having to flip back and figure out their characters. Perhaps it would have been less bewildering if I had read Lake News, Barbara Delinsky’s previous novel that introduced the characters of Lake Henry. My review has barely scratched the surface of all the supporting cast of characters; also involved are Poppy’s mother and sisters, Griffin’s brother and missing sister, Micah’s uncle and Heather’s attorney, to name just a few. Nonetheless, the characters provide a real sense of community and from the very first page, An Accidental Woman pulls you into the close-knit, antiquated way of life in Lake Henry, New Hampshire where the residents are all fiercely loyal to one another and where strangers have better beware of angering one of the locals. The suspense is gripping and keeps you turning page after page to find out how Ms. Delinsky will resolve the many issues concerned.

It is very interesting to see the trials and obstacles Poppy must undergo in her everyday life without the use of her legs – simple things that many of us may take for granted, such as cooking a meal or using the restroom. I also enjoyed learning about the process of turning sap into maple sugar, something I did not previously have much knowledge of or give much thought to.

An Accidental Woman is a story about forgiveness – forgiving others and most of all forgiving ourselves; and hope – hope for the future that allows us to face every day despite what trials are thrown before us. The romance aspect of the story is entangled with the suspense and stories of the residents of Lake Henry’s lives. But it is not the primary focus of the novel and that is the only reason I did not give An Accidental Woman a full 5 rose rating, since after all, I am reviewing it for its romantic side.

If you are looking for a novel that leaves you with a feeling as warm as hot maple syrup on a cold day, and that makes you stop and appreciate the loved ones in your life and life in general, An Accidental Woman is for you.

Reviewed in July 2002 by Nicole.

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