BRIDGES

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Life is uncomplicated for Neil Vincent, a chauffeur for the St. James family at its estate, Westfield Court. At the age of 38, the confirmed bachelor and war veteran is content with his room above the garage at Westfield Court, where he keeps his collection of books and pursues a relationship with a maid named Jane. Neil’s orderly life changes in March 1963 with the arrival of 18-year-old Mary Claire St. James DeWinter, a student at Radcliffe returning for a final visit with her dying grandfather Austin St. James. Mary Claire’s life is touched by tragedy. When she was 11 years old, the girl and her brother, Michael, were involved in a car accident that left her blind and her face scarred. A friendship develops between Neil and Mary Claire, who share a love of reading and discussions about philosophy and religion. After Austin dies, the reading of his will reveals a major surprise. Mary Claire will inherit Westfield Court, but she must marry within one year of Austin’s death. If she fails to meet this stipulation, then the state of Massachusetts will receive the estate. Despite the economic security promised by the inheritance, Mary Claire is uncertain she wants to marry. Neil offers to wed the reluctant heiress and have a platonic marriage of convenience. She agrees, but when the friendship turns to romance, Neil wonders if their marriage will survive its unconventional beginnings. Griffin’s novel is a tender and nuanced story of love blossoming in the most unexpected of places. Neil and Mary Claire are appealing protagonists whose rapport is bolstered by their robust discussions of literature and religion. Despite the 20-year age difference between the two leads, the author establishes their relationship as an equal partnership. The strong supporting cast of characters includes Jane, whose casual attitude toward her relationship with Neil masks hidden jealousy. That said, the book is a slender 116 pages, and the pacing is so quick that the ending feels rushed.

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