Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The Long Road Home by Mary Alice Monroe
I liked this story. I felt for Nora when everyone assumed she was a fake and had tons of money.
Her husband's suicide left Nora MacKenzie alone, and his shady Wall Street dealings left the Manhattan socialite penniless. By a miracle she's held on to their mountainside farm—and she'll keep holding on, no matter what. The property is Nora's one chance to wring some dignity out of the sham she's been living.
The Vermont locals think she's a city girl on a nature kick, but she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. Nora's serious about learning the farming business…if she can figure out where to begin. Against the locals' skepticism, she has only one ally: Charles "C.W." Walker.
C.W. is hardworking, gentle with the animals and a patient teacher of the hundreds of chores Nora needs to learn. Slowly she starts to believe she'll survive in her new life, even flourish. She might even be willing to open her heart again. But she won't return to a life of lies…and the truth about C.W. may be more than Nora's fragile heart can bear.
Nora MacKenzie slipped a complacent smile on her face. It was a look that she had mastered over the past year. A mask she donned to protect herself from the horde of lawyers, accountants, and other corporate hit men who had invaded her life since Mike's death. Most of them were here now, assembled around the massive oak conference table in Mike's office, shuffling papers, murmuring, jotting notes. Their work was done. Like jurors, they were poised to deliver a verdict.
She sat alone at the far end of the table, one against so many. Nora felt the bulk of her dark wool suit, the high blouse collar like a cinch around her neck. She had chosen the respectable outfit deliberately. Despite the gossip, she would show them that Michael MacKenzie's widow was a lady.
There was a chill in the morning air. No one had offered her coffee. Clasping her hands tight in her lap, Nora peered from behind her mask to study the men and women who would decide her fate. A few had the air of pompous boredom that she long ago discovered hid incompetence. She recognized those that had played the role of her supporter and those that had taken the attack. There were more of them. A few she had talked to daily for almost a year. Today, however, she was universally ignored. Dismissal was clear in their eyes.
Ralph Bellows sat across the length of polished wood, his gray hair flowing from his broad forehead like a periwig. Nora knew he would act as judge. Bellows relished the role. A clearing of his throat served as a gavel, and he called his court to order with a firm "Shall we begin?"
Nora's shoulders tensed. She had no doubt Mike would be found guilty in the eyes of his peers. He had committed the worst of crimes: bungled his finances, destroyed his businesses, and left them without a profit. Yet the one to serve the sentence would be her.
Straightening in the stiff leather chair, Nora appeared calm and dignified. She offered Bellows a gracious nod.
"Mrs. MacKenzie…well, we are not strangers in this room. We have endured together a long, arduous year. May I address you as Nora?"
His smile revealed teeth the color of ripe bananas. Nora nodded again. They'd endured? Nora clenched her hands in bitterness. She had endured. They'd conducted business as usual. No matter how disastrous her estate, they would be assured their pay before creditors got a dime.
"The untangling of Mike's business dealings has been more complicated than we originally envisioned," Bellows began gravely. "Our work is not yet completed."
A short gasp escaped from Nora's lips. It had been a year since Mike's suicide. What more could they need to accomplish before settling the estate?
Reading her frustration, Bellows continued in a conciliatory tone. "No one realizes the futility of further delays more than I. However, to put it bluntly, Michael MacKenzie left behind a mess. No one, least of all family, understood the extent of his holdings. We are doing our best to put together the pieces of his myriad dealings, but some critical bits of information are still missing."
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