In Ghosts of Winter, Rebecca Buck introduces Ros Wynne, a teacher who has suffered the breakup of her long-time relationship with Francesca, the death of her mother, and her decision to quit her job all in the same year. When she unexpectedly inherits an 18th century manor house, Winter Manor, on the condition that she restore it to its previous glory, Ros decides that the renovation and restoration project is just what she needs to start her own life over again. She moves into the abandoned and dilapidated manor house and meets architect Anna Everest, who the previous owner wanted to run the renovation project. Anna, the consummate professional in designer clothes, expensive perfume and driving a very hot sports car, is hiding tragedies of her own.
At first, the two women’s relationship is strictly professional, although Ros is harboring unprofessional thoughts about her beautiful architect. As they get to know one another, there is no doubt that there is an attraction between them that has nothing to do with the on-going renovation to Ros’ manor house. However, Ros’ lost confidence in herself rears its ugly head and she purposely drives Anna away. They must continue to work together, though. Only a potentially life-threatening accident brings them back together.
In the end, both characters get what she wants and needs, but they have to fight their own demons to get there.
This is no run-of-the-mill romance novel. Nor is it all about the renovation of Winter Manor. In fact, there are few details about the renovation given. This is all about Ros and the road she must travel to regain her self-esteem and self-confidence.
One of the best things about this book is the dynamics between Anna and Ros. Buck’s dialogue sings with humor and angst in rapid succession.
Buck has given us a wonderfully written novel full of nuance. She is spot on in describing Ros’ reticence and doubts about entering into a new romance with subtlety and without trying to overwhelm the reader with it. At the same time, she carefully and slowly allows the reader, and Ros, insight into the character of Anna.
Buck gives us glances of previous owners of the house by interrupting the flow of the story to insert these chapters. She might have been better served to tell these stories by having Ros go to the local library rather than dropping the reader out of her story of Ros and Anna.
Ghosts of Winter will undoubtedly be in the small handful of the best books written in this genre in 2011.