I like romance, and this rather long novel held my attention, especially for the first half. However, two of the characters seemed inconsistent, and toward the end so many complications piled up that the plot, for me, became unconvincing.
In a Jane Eyre type of situation, at the end of the Civil War pretty young widow Portia (“Po”) leaves home to take a job as a tutor for the son of a handsome but bitter widower, war veteran Beau Stanford. A romance between them brews—but there are obstacles. Beau had fought for the North, Po’s husband for the South, but she is sympathetic to anti-slavery sentiments and that obstacle to their romance is overcome.
A bigger obstacle is Lydia, her rival for Beau’s affections. Lydia, the beautiful, voluptuous, rich cousin of Beau’s deceased wife, comes to visit Beau for an extended period. Lydia is sometimes portrayed as a spoiled, selfish (“I get whatever I want”) racist, other times as an actually good person in love with Beau and appreciative of all Po has done for Beau’s son. As for Beau, he is sexually attracted to Lydia and needs her money, but knows he really loves the good woman Po who teaches his son (and gets him to talk again), wins the hearts of his son, his father, and the servants, and helps with the housework and the gardening. Then there is still another conflict—Beau’s brother-like friend Harry Franklin, a morphine addict, sometimes portrayed as rakishly flirting with every woman he meets and sometimes as actually in love with Po; at least he flirts enough with her to arouse Beau’s jealousy. There were dramatic dinner scenes, dances, and the like with tensions among the four characters.
Then the book suddenly picks up speed like a runaway roller coaster ride with all sorts of melodramatic episodes: the appearance of a long-missing person, an attempted rape, an attempted lynching, fire, deaths, and murders. Still, after all these events, the ending is satisfying, and the background historical elements seem well-researched, so overall, if you like this type of novel, I’d recommend A Time for Everything as an enjoyable read.