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"Celia's House" by D.E. Stevenson

I've heard of Scottish author D.E. Stevenson, but receiving "Celia's House" for Christmas was the first time I was able to read her for myself. In a style that reminded me strongly of Lucy Maud Montgomery, this is the story of a Scottish estate and its residents from 1905 until the middle of World War II.

Humphrey Dunne was shocked when his elderly aunt named him to be the heir of her family estate. Dunnian is full of history and is a beautiful, charming place in which to raise his family. Aunt Celia has some strange stipulations to the arrangement, including that he must name one of his future daughters Celia and make sure she is the one to inherit the house after Humphrey. When Aunt Celia passes, Humphrey and his small but growing family are happily overwhelmed as they settle in to their new home.

Much of the story focuses on Humphrey's children as they grow. There's Mark, the eldest, who is tenderhearted and wants to become a doctor. There's Edith and Joyce, the oldest sisters who tend to be spoiled by their mother. The youngest two, Billy and Celia, are close pals who tend to get into their share of scrapes. Soon a cousin joins them, but Deb quickly becomes as close as any other sister and is a huge help with the general running of the household.

A good portion of this book borrows from Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," which is about a cousin who grows up with her relatives, and the foibles and follies they fall into with their neighbors in their young adult years. If you've read Austen's story you can see a lot of the plot twists before they happen, although it isn't an exact mirror and it's fun to see it from another point of view. There are courtships and schemes and one big play-acting production that quite captivates the group for a while.

I would recommend this for fans of Austen, Montgomery, and other classic storytellers. It's a delightful character-driven tale, and covers some interesting parts of history, too. Originally published in 1943, this new edition is once again bringing attention to D.E. Stevenson's works.

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