Mary Grey finds herself in the north of England, working as a waitress, when one day she decides to go for a walk along Hadrian’s Wall. While there, Mary is accosted by Con Winslow, who mistakenly thinks she is Annabel, his cousin who disappeared to America eight years ago. He and his sister Lisa convince Mary to engage in a act of deception: to impersonate Annabel Winslow so that Con might inherit her grandfather’s estate, Whitescar.
It’s a short novel, and like Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree is very plot-driven. Stewart’s novels are tinged with a bit of magic, and in most of them, she chooses to give her characters rather romantic names (Annabel, Connor, Crystal). On the surface, it’s a deliciously wonderful story of deception, but not all is as it appears.
The Ivy Tree is an emotionally-charged novel; and though Stewart doesn’t do very much in terms of character development, this book contains the right amount of romance, danger, suspense, and fantasy, with a little bit of Roman history sprinkled in. Stewart also does a great job of unfolding the mystery, such as there is, choosing not to give it all away until it’s almost too late. This is one of those stories where it isn’t until after you’ve learned the solution that you go back and think, “now why didn’t I figure that out?” And then you realize that all the clues were there all along. I’m very glad that Mary Stewart’s novels have been re-released; another of her novels, Thornyhold, is on my TBR pile.