The Street of the Small Steps

I wasn’t feeling well on New Year’s Eve  and went to bed at about ten; I think that’s the earliest in years! My cold was a little better the next morning, and since no one else was up yet I had to content myself with one of the books in my room.

As much as I love the giants of romantic suspense, I also like trying to find forgotten authors of the genre. Ruth Willock looks like one of them. In The Street of the Small Steps, orphaned Lisa Barrett has always been torn between two worlds. Her mother’s family in Zurich, famous textile producers the Eberlis, have long tried to keep her under their thumb. When her American father was alive, however, she traveled with him on his journalism assignments sometimes and got her first tastes of freedom. Now she is living with a great-aunt in London and studying fashion design at the university. An American manufacturer Jerome Curtiss is interested in some of her sketches, and an engineering student, Richard Kendal, is interested in her.

When her domineering grandfather’s health takes a turn for the worse, however, she is ordered to return home for the summer and potentially for good. Lisa understands that her grandfather comes from a different era, where women had limited roles, but she wishes she had more control of her life. At the very least, she could design new textiles for the mills. She is glad, though, to catch up with her cousins Alec and Ursula, and spend time in the city again.

Lia soon has even bigger problems to worry about. Her mother’s cousin Nicholas, who as a barrister is in charge of her purse strings, suddenly seems intent on courting her. She has a constant feeling of being under surveillance. Everyone seems to want the sketches and mock-ups of her designs, especially a stunning cape, and she has no idea way. If they disappear, so does her shot of breaking free and starting a career with Jerome. The truth turns out to be bigger than she could have imagined.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I’ve long been interested in fashion, so that aspect held my interest, but Ruth Willock writes excellent suspense as well. I was snatching this up every spare moment I had the rest of the weekend. Lisa, and by extension the reader, has to go by instinct on who is trustworthy and who to be on guard with. She’s a bit in over her head, and making this up as she goes along.

Lisa’s situation also leads to the trapped feeling. The book was written in 1972, and I absolutely can’t imagine having someone order me to stop my schooling and my potential career to return home, to not see someone because he is a foreigner. It makes me appreciate how much control I have over my own life, and how I would feel if that control were taken away.

I liked the way the relationships were handled, especially seeing so many dysfunctional ones in Phyllis Whitney novels over the years. Lisa has her doubts sometimes about Richard, and Jerome even flirts with her a bit, but she believes deep in her heart that the love they had in London was real, and because of that I believed in him as well. It’s also refreshing for a heroine to have friends at hand with no strings attached, and no romantic tension. I’m very close to several of my cousins, so I thought the way Lisa, Alec, and Ursula all supported each other was very believable.

I picked this one up when the library at my school weeded its collection last summer, and I will definitely keep an eye out for more of Ruth Willock’s suspense novels. I wonder if there are any on Bookooch?

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] I do have to give her credit for the characters of Beasley and Agnew, however. Beasley has Vicky in his crosshairs from the moment he takes over the investigation. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that he believes her guilty, and his constant pointed accusatory remarks are designed to pick her apart. However, even Vicky must admit that he is honest, and still follows leads that are contrary to his suspicions. As a reader I hated him, but he was far from the bumbling fool that incorrect inspectors often are. Agnew, on the other hand, was probably my favorite character. He has all the cavalier innocence of an eighteen-year-old, fascinated by the investigation but not quite sure he has the stomach when it hits this close to home. He and Vicky are five years apart but have grown closer lately, and he is more than willing to act as her partner in–well, anti-crime, I guess. I’ve read enough gothics that it’s really refreshing when cousins can just be good friends, like in The Street of Small Steps. […]

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