Dr. Gillian Pembury arrives at Redbridge Veterinary practice in the rural Yorkshire village of Blackford planning to stay, at least for a while. She knows the isolated area won’t bring any possibility of a lesbian relationship, but she accepts the fact as a trade-off for a quiet life devoid of any drama—and it’s her chance to work with large animals. However, when she meets Sandi Helton, a local sheep farmer, who manages Helton Farm with her brother, the two women quickly embark on a relationship different from past experiences of one-night stands and demanding partners.

The sometimes moody, distant Sandi has past traumas to overcome before she can be open to a full partnership with Gill. Sandi’s difficulties are tied up in the loss of her parents in a tragic accident when she was younger. She’s also lived a pretty closeted life in Blackford, only venturing into the city for an occasional casual connection.

Gill’s last partner was a little too domineering, insisting that Gill uproot herself to locate somewhere she didn’t wish to go. She’s often been a bit of a rolling stone, she just couldn’t see herself moving to a Scandinavian country with Inga. Now her longing for a place to call home might be right under her nose, although she may not recognize it. Sandi has so much more to offer Gill, if Gill will just give up her need to keep moving.

If these two women can work out their issues, they may find a “home” in one another. First, though, there are mountains to climb to get past these complications, and the strong physical attraction drawing the two women together brings communication problems, making a difficult situation almost impossible.

The Winder Path, a trail leading up into treacherous hill country (giving the story its title), calls both women separately when each is required to contemplate her future. The path comes with its own heartrending legend and it seems to send out a siren call.
However, it’s an accident away from the mountain, which endangers both women’s lives, that brings up Sandi’s buried fears. Instead of running toward her lover, she runs away, leaving Gill confused and alone.

Written with a definite British flavor, the tone, setting, and story enhance one another, and a writing style, which uses a bit of passive voice, occasionally takes on the flavor of a Regency novel, rather than the contemporary tale it is. The story, however, is unique, with interesting and likable characters. The main characters’ dialogue moves the story along and gives insights into their inner struggles.
Minor characters, especially Sandi’s brother, John, and veterinary assistant, Becka, play supporting roles well. John is caring—and sometimes wise beyond years. Becka is an affable friend, helping Gill to settle in, offering information, friendship and encouragement.

The legend of the Winder Path is interesting and consistent with an area like Blackford. It offers an aura to the area, lending mystery to the dangerous hiking region of the same name. It contributes to the tension of the story with its difficult terrain, serving as a metaphor for the challenging emotions of the main characters with the locale skillfully woven through their lives. Their inner battles color a touching tale. The two women’s journeys toward wholeness impart insight into how past trauma affects future relationships and how facing fear—and love—can bring healing. But first, the characters must navigate mercurial moods reflected against the stunning, yet dangerous wilds of the surrounding hills.

Dowland gives us descriptions of a sleepy town and the surrounding landscape, transporting the reader to a setting imbued with history and rugged beauty, where a mystical mountain serves as inspiration to endearing characters. Taking The Winder Path is an encouraging and restorative journey.

 

 

The Winder Path
By Lyn Dowland
Bella Books
Paperback, 9781594935404, 187 pp.
May 2017



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