A literary love-story
‘Bel knew she should be at home with Miles, instead of sitting here digging up the past. But Alec was due to arrive any day. The past was dug up already.’
When Bel’s former lover makes an unexpected reappearance fifteen years after their affair, she feels ‘a leap of the heart and a knife in the gut’ and is transported back to the summer of illicit love she shared with Alec in a small chateau in France.
With her husband Miles preoccupied with family and work problems, she tries to rekindle the affair only to discover it led to tragedy for Alec and for his wife Julia.
Stricken by guilt, Bel breaks off contact with Alec and finds fulfilment in exploring the history of the chateau garden where their affair took place. But Alec, disenchanted with his own marriage, has embarked on a similar project. When the history of the garden brings the lovers together yet again, Bel must decide once and for all where her future lies.
The novel is set in Oxford, the Loire Valley, and the West Country. It spans a period from the nineteen-eighties to the present day, and has as its central motif the Carte de Tendre, a map of loved devised by Madeleine de Scudéry, a French writer of the seventeenth century. The map also provides the overall structure of the book.