Rachel Makepeace, a freelance illustrator, leaves her friends and home in London to move to Clematis Cottage in rural Herefordshire. The cottage is in dire need of renovation but, with a view to die for, Rachel employes a local father and son team of builders and accepts that the work will be messy and take an age, but will be totally worth it, with her much dreamed of, picturesque country cottage emerging bright and new one day in the future. This decision to move will change her and her life irrevocably.
During the renovations one of the builders finds an old biscuit tin hidden under the water tank in the loft. When Rachel delves inside the tin she discovers old letters, postcards and a diary written by the previous owner of the cottage, Henrietta Trenchard-Lewis, now sadly deceased. She begins to read Hetty’s life story and becomes engrossed and fascinated by the account, so much so that she decides to undertake further investigation and maybe even, in the future, get the book published with her own illustrations added to it, much in the way of the very popular ‘The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’. What Rachel learns is both intriguing and heartbreaking, but disappointingly also incomplete.
Rachel’s story continues with a surprise sizzling romance and her renovations still on-going. She settles into her new life and even acquires a puppy who keeps her company throughout a long lonely winter. Fitting well into the community, Rachel loves her new life but she encounters many disappointments and problems to face ahead of her. Whatever else she has on her plate, she looks forward to reading more of the artefacts and learning more about Hetty’s life.
Hetty’s story begins with her as a young girl being looked after by two impoverished maiden aunts in their spacious but gloomy, tumble-down house. It continues with her friendships, romances and working life throughout the late Victorian and early Edwardian times but the diary entries end abruptly in 1916 during the Great War. Whatever could have happened in the intervening years? The stories of these two ladies living their lives a century apart are deftly interwoven and full of insight, interest and empathy.
I really loved this wonderful dual time frame novel. The storytelling was absolutely gorgeous and the story was filled with an eclectic mix of well crafted characters, as in life itself. As for the handsome character of Gabe, well yes, he fit the bill perfectly, gentle, misunderstood and full of fun. With a mystery from the past, missed opportunities, misunderstangings, love and loss and the theme of ‘waiting’, this was a compelling and well paced story, one with a satisfying and revealing finale. I would have no hestitation in recommending ' While I was Waiting' to my friends and other avid readers as a ‘must-read’ novel, and thank Netgalley and HarperImpulse for my copy in return for an honest review.