Synopsis from Goodreads: Spinster aunts and uncles, bachelor sons -- no wonder they were called the "non-marrying" Wilstacks. When Jean Bedford became the family's music teacher, she watched Hugh and Anthony Wilstack, the most eligible bachelors within hundreds of miles, fend off determined girls far more beautiful than she. Jean vowed she would not join the husband-hunting crowd that pursued them -- but she could not stop herself from falling in love...
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; Beagle Books, 1972.
How acquired: From my mother.
First line: Jean stepped from the train, holding her case and handbag and hoping her face did not show the mixture of temerity and curiosity that burgeoned inside her.
My thoughts: Jean Bedford has traveled from Perth to the middle of nowhere to give violin lessons to young Matt Wilstack. Matt’s mother and older brother, Hugh, are both musically inclined, often playing at gatherings and parties, and Mrs. Wilstack hopes that with Jean’s help, Matt will begin to take an interest in his own musical studies.
Jean is just the violin teacher, and not meant to be household help, but she is unable to just lounge around and do nothing when not working with Matt. Good thing since, on the page at least, we rarely see any music lessons actually happening. Jean’s father is always traveling, and she has no mother, and the one thing she longs for more than anything else is a home full of people to love and be loved by. So she happily throws herself into the Wilstacks’ daily routines and helps out wherever she can.
The other two occupants of the home are the area’s most eligible bachelors, the self-proclaimed non-marrying Wilstacks, Hugh and Anthony. Hugh, as the oldest brother, runs the homestead, often barking out orders that everyone instantly follows with no hesitation. In fact Jean often fumes to herself that he never says please or thank you, and that everyone waits on him hand and foot, which he seems to accept as his right. For instance, he leaves his clothes on the bathroom floor, and she resolutely tells herself she will not pick them up, she’ll leave them until he picks them up himself, but then, realizing that Mrs. Wilstack will end up picking them up instead, she gives in and picks them up because she wants to do everything she can to make life easier for his mother.
Lucy Walker’s books are always delightful (except Girl Alone, which I found somewhat boring and disappointing). They are always quaint, sweet romances, and I quite love her writing. They’re a bit old-fashioned (this one was first published in 1957), with passages like this:
So contrary is the heart of woman that now that Hugh had offered to help, Jean no longer wanted him to do it. It was true…the men worked terribly hard outside in the paddocks all day and at night Hugh came in and sat all hours doing the book management of the estate. Perhaps after all it had only been the “willingness” that she had wanted and not the actual “doing”.
Moreover, she had the woman’s natural instinct to help the man. She understood Mrs. Wilstack’s anxiety to do all for her sons. It satisfied a need within herself.
Despite that, Jean is a strong and modern feeling heroine, and I don’t think Lucy Walker’s books will ever get old.
For another good Walker book, I recommend Follow Your Star.