I enjoyed this read which balances itself on a narrow ledge between reality and the supernatural.
It is slow in the beginning as we meet Alice Hart, a thirty-five-year-old divorcee restarting her life in a small English village after being abandoned by her ex for his younger secretary.
While I didn’t always agree with her choices, I liked Alice from the beginning.
Neil was an ass—that much isn’t up for debate—but Alice admits her formative years left emotional damage and perhaps she didn’t try hard enough in her marriage. But to be fair, she believed she was being the wife Neil wanted. He didn’t speak up; she didn’t ask. Lack of communication (and Neil being a total and complete ass) equals divorce.
The divorce brings Alice a small cottage and the funds to renovate it, so she moves to Yorkshire for a fresh start, which will include a small ensemble of colorful characters, not the least of which is Richard Wainwright and Owen Maltby.
Richard is a gorgeous specimen of manhood, but it’s the soft-spoken, elusive pharmacist-turned-shop-owner, Owen, Alice is drawn to.
But pinning Owen down long enough to get to know him proves to be an ongoing problem for Alice. He disappears abruptly and shows up suddenly, keeping Alice confused and off-balance.
Combine seeing Owen when he doesn’t even acknowledge her; the mournful crying coming from her barn, and visions in her own home she’s not sure she saw, and moving to Yorkshire for a fresh start is an idea Alice Hart can toss out the window.
Or is it?
At first glance, I was put off by everyone in the story except Christopher, the vicar. They all seemed too far from center. But when a cleaned out barn becomes cluttered again, and Alice seeks out Owen with concerns about their unprotected sex, (which appeared to be a catalyst to more weirdness) The Cheesemaker’s House became unputdownable!
Already cautioned by villagers that Owen is a weirdo, Alice notes his odd behavior but it doesn’t deter her feelings for him. An aggressive move by Richard blindsides her and as she tries to put it in its proper perspective, the nightly crying… and Owen’s odd behavior intensifies.
A surprise discovery in Alice’s barn sends Owen off on a tangent and he goes missing, leaving Alice and friends to wonder if he’s reached the brink of madness… or is even alive.
It takes new friend, Margaret, and Richard’s Uncle Cyril to delve deep into this centuries-old mystery.
The weaving of the parallels between the back story and present-day is spot on and one of my favorite parts of the story. No one here is crazy. But, as humans, we feel something is wrong with us when we see or experience something we can’t explain away.
Such is the case with Owen. Right before losing his beloved Gran, his full charmer heritage showed up and not quietly. Oddly enough, he has the skill of a charmer, but not of the full acceptance of his calling. None of it makes sense to the man of science… but it is happening. However, knowing he wouldn’t be believed, Owen keeps everything to himself… and looks nuttier than a fruitcake.
Alice Hart might have gone down the same path, but she wasn’t as close to it as Owen. Her growing feelings for Owen and her need to find the truth; plus having others she trusted to confide in saved her focus. I believe it also helped her to shed the emotional damage of her childhood and her failed marriage. Alice found her inner strength and was now proactive instead of reactive.
Owen Maltby was stronger than he appeared also. He had to be. A weaker soul would have been driven to madness. Seeing people who lived almost three-hundred-years ago can do that to a person. HA!
The most curious part of The Cheesemaker’s House for me was the Owen/Richard relationship. It was supposedly antagonistic because of a woman they were both involved with. However, after Richard admits to the childhood friend they both played with, I wondered if casting shade onto Owen, in fact, made Richard feel normal? The men eventually appear to find an agreed-upon peace, but I’ll bet Owen benefits more than Richard.
However, everyone in this story benefited because of Christopher. One would expect a typical man of the cloth and representative of the church to denounce and deride every word out of these character’s mouths. While maintaining a biblical focus, Christopher was the voice of reason. He was invested in the mystery but never got lost in the mania. Kudos to him.
The Cheesemaker’s House is an engaging, detailed read which pulled me right in. I was invested in the future of the characters as well as the plot. I applaud the story’s close because it doesn’t deliver an unrealistic pretty package, but instead, it ends on a high note of hope. I believe readers of mysteries, historical fiction, and women’s fiction will get lost in this supernatural mystery and the love story which comes with it.
Just think, Alice, right now Owen could be putting a hex on you!
When Alice Hart’s husband runs off with his secretary, she runs off with his dog to lick her wounds in a North Yorkshire village. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including the drop-dead gorgeous builder Richard Wainwright and the kindly yet reticent cafe´ owner, Owen Maltby.
As Alice employs Richard to start renovating the barn next to her house, all is not what it seems. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from? And if Owen is the village charmer, what exactly does that mean?
The Cheesemaker’s House is a gripping read, inspired by a framed will found in the dining room of the author’s dream Yorkshire house. The previous owners explained that the house had been built at the request of the village cheesemaker in 1726 – and that the cheesemaker was a woman. And so the historical aspect of the story was born.
Jane Cable’s novel won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show People’s Novelist competition, reaching the last four out of over a thousand entries. The Cheesemaker’s House can be enjoyed by anyone who has become bored of today’s predictable boy-meets-girl romance novels.
Amazon universal link – viewBook.at\CheesemakersHouse
“I desperately want to find out about Owen; a fascinating character… the gift here is to make you want to read on.” – Jeffrey Archer
~The Cheesemaker’s House~
(Click on image and scroll through)
The Cheesmaker’s House – Side view of the barn
The Cheesemaker’s House – Garden Room Door
The Cheesmaker’s House – Jane Cable studies the original lease in the dining room.