The Old Man
He sits alone in the aging tavern, haggard, despondent, blind to the nervous glances of the patrons who drift in from the unpleasant night. Who is he, this stranger in their midst? Why is he there?
Speculation swirls, whispers of sea battles, promises to a dying shipmate, but only the pretty, young barmaid cares enough to draw out the truth. What she learns is a story of naked ambition and revenge, opportunities lost and the depths of grief, but above all, the power of transcendent love.
It’s spring of 1812. Ignoring the fears of a pending war with England that grip the new nation, Benjamin McNair leaves his home in Philadelphia to start off on his own. In the small village of Worcester in the hills of Massachusetts, he becomes the proud new owner of the Worcester Gazette, a struggling local newspaper.
After three months of working to make it prosper, he finds little reason to believe he will find happiness in this new life. Then, Abagail Winterhalter appears in his doorway.
She’s beautiful, radiant, intelligent. He’s handsome, shares her love of good books. Falling in love with each other is as sudden as it is inevitable. But she’s trapped in a loveless marriage to the most ambitious and ruthless politician in the state. She knows he will never willingly divorce her. Benjamin, a good newspaper man, has a plan, a way for them to have a life together.
But not all plans succeed, and they find their lives swept up in the tide of history. Decades later, he learns that even when love seems to have been lost, in the end love proves it can be found in the most unexpected places and unexpected ways.
I was given this book by a friend so I'd have something to read on the plane coming home. From the moment I opened the first pages, I was hooked. Finished half of it and a couple of days later read the rest in the car on the way back from a meeting in Ft. Collins. Couldn't put it down. Was reading the last page as we drove into the driveway...practically in the dark as it was around 6 pm, but I refused to wait till I got in the house to finish it and find out the ending. Outstanding and engaging love story set in historic times. Even a day or two later, memories of the characters seemed to live in my thoughts and flashbacks. I felt I'd somehow met these characters in real life.
I'm always wary of books published through non-traditional means, i.e., through iUniverse, Xlibris, etc., but after reading the first few pages of The Old Man (love that Search Inside the Book feature), I was impressed enough with the writing and intrigued enough by the titular character to consider it worth ordering. My hunch was right: This is an excellent book. While it shows some of the signs of a first-time author (as Mr. Hayes reveals on the back cover), this is an excellent debut. The beginning is a little slow, but in fairness it's somewhat necessary to establish the mood and the characters. It's in those characters, though, that Hayes scores. What is in fact a very old story-unrequited love between a man and a woman in a loveless marriage-is enhanced by an interesting historical setting (one of my favorite periods), an appealing leading couple, but most especially a refreshingly insightful look at the nature of love, in all its manifestations. While this is classed as a romance, and indeed it is, I doubted from the first few pages that it was a typical bodice-ripper, and indeed it isn't. This is an intelligent book, with intelligent thoughts about life and love and the manner in which fate forces us to learn about both. The Old Man gives me a little more hope about non-traditional publishing, and ensures that I will check out Mr. Hayes' forthcoming novel.