Winter and Rough Weather by D.E. Stevenson

Winter and Rough Weather cover

First published in 1951 Winter and Rough Weather by D.E. Stevenson is the third and last book in her Dering series which is set in the Scottish Borders. I found it an enjoyable read and all the loose ends were dealt with albeit a wee bit abruptly at the end. It is of course an old-fashioned family tale with a smattering of romance.

I can’t make my mind up what it is that makes these books such comfort reads. Is it the characters? The high moral standards (that sounds so pious but the obnoxious and clueless of country ways new neighbours are clear cut baddies). Maybe it’s the decency of the locals and the sense of community that add up to a fine place to visit vicariously.

At the end of Music in the Hills (the second book in the series) James and Rhoda have decided to get married, it was a difficult decision for Rhoda as she knew it would mean re-locating from London to a remote rural area in the Scottish Borders, as a successful artist she felt like she might be giving up her career. James persuaded her to take a risk and marry him but she hadn’t realised that they would be living in a cottage with no electricity or phone, five miles from a neighbour and with a very poor road in between.

The story involves a bit of mystery with fatherless children who had been evacuated to the area with their mother during the war. She has always been very reticent about her past and seemingly uncaring of her children to the point of neglect. When Rhoda takes an interest in the boy who it turns out has a talent for art, it leads to their father being found.

D.E. Stevenson wrote light romances often with a Scottish setting, very reminiscent of O.Douglas books. It has been mentioned by a few people that in Winter and Rough Weather Stevenson concentrates on the boy and fairly quickly drops his sister from the storyline. This is such a typical thing with Scottish mothers and women of that period that I almost don’t even notice it. If you’ve read O.Douglas books too you’ll remember that she always had a young lad as a central character, very much the favourite – almost in the position of a ‘house god’.

It’s a sad fact that Scottish women of the past held sons and males in general as being much more important than females. I remember that a character in one of Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy comments that ‘in Scotland female children didn’t count’. Daughters were for helping with the housework. Thankfully this attitude has disappeared – I hope.

You can read a far more detailed review of this book over at Leaves and Pages although the book is called Shoulder the Sky there, presumably a title for the US market.

Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson

This is the sequel to Miss Buncle’s Book, which I really enjoyed reading so when I saw this at a library in the next town I snapped it off the shelf, even although it’s a large print book. I suspect that the powers that be in Fife libraries think that D.E. Stevenson’s books are only read by very elderly ladies in care homes, but I’m not quite of that generation.

Anyway, in this book Barbara Abbott nee Buncle is enjoying married life with her Arthur, she’s partial to large men you know, and he fits the bill perfectly. The only blot in their happiness is the fact that they have got into a social circle which means never ending dinner invitations and bridge parties. When they eventually realise that neither of them are keen on all the socialising, they plan their getaway.

So that they don’t upset their neighbours Barbara looks far afield for her dream home, and when she finds it it’s a wreck. She sets to work refurbishing the place and in time they make friends with all the neighbours, who are more to her liking, no bridge this time!

When I was about a third of the way through this book I thought to myself that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as Miss Buncle’s Book but by the time I got to the half way mark it had pepped up and I was happy eavesdropping on the inhabitants of the English village of Wandlebury. As you would expect from D.E.Stevenson, this is a cosy light read, which is sometimes just what I need.

D.E.Stevenson was Scottish and was related to R.L.Stevenson of Kidnapped/Treasure Island fame. You can read some more about her here.