As I have already written, I read all four books in the Escape to New Zealand series twice in two weeks. I can't seem to get the characters or the stories out of my mind!
Jenna is a primary school teacher who finds herself divorced and wandering around her newfound home, New Zealand. She settles in Auckland, and decides to look for a nanny position that will carry her until the start of the new school year. She interviews for what seems to be the perfect position: six months, housing included, ends right before the new school year starts. Her interviewer is Finn Douglas, a member of the Auckland Blues rugby team; he assumes she's there for her "Mrs.", and, in return, she assumes he's an arrogant jerk. When his actual hire doesn't work out, he calls Jenna and begs her to take the position. She moves in and is a modern day Mary Poppins, with a few modern, not-ready-for-Disney adaptations, but still resulting in a happily ever after.
What I love about Rosalind James' books is how she develops her characters. They are all slightly damaged (not fully broken like certain other protagonists!), and are in various stages of awareness of that damage. The dents are shown to us gradually: opening scenes of adultery, flashbacks of childhood memories, wistful conversations over glasses of wine. The characters all have tremendous depth, but it is presented to us subtly; it is like wading into a deep ocean, rather than jumping into a frigid, deep pool. Her characters make mistakes, both big and small. The big mistakes become major plot points. But it is the smaller mistakes, like Finn's comment about Jenna's bathing suit, that both cause and heal character flaws, giving dimension to characters who otherwise live in a two-dimensional book.
Ms. James hints at issues around body image, parenting and family, acceptance of others...but all in a subtle way. There is no beating of chests and gnashing of teeth, yet I find myself pondering socio-cultural issues after reading her books. The purpose of the book is to tell a wonderful story; thinking about the world around us is just a side benefit.
I give this book four hearts, and really encourage you to read this book, and the whole series.