Impossible Saints

Convictions clash with the passion of love in Impossible Saints, Clarissa Harwood's debut novel. In England in 1907 and 1908, an early suffragette and an Anglican priest must decide if their attraction can withstand the personal and social conflicts it generates.

When Lilia Brooke outgrows her teaching job in the Ingleford village school (teaching girls Latin was the last straw), she's promptly relocated to London, with the caveat that family friend and respectable cathedral vicar Paul Harris will look out for her. Feisty feminist Lilia and spiritual leader Paul are immediately attracted; they're intellectual equals and respect each other.

Lilia's job at a National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies school feeds her belief in women's rights, and she becomes a spokeswoman for girls' education reform and "direct action" for women. Paul is skeptical but open-minded until Lilia moves from the less-radical NUWSS to the militant Women's Social and Political Union, where she is injured in a violent protest at Parliament. Meanwhile, their friendship has evolved into a love that both acknowledge, but Lilia steadfastly refuses marriage.

While Lilia and Paul remain in a romantic standoff, her involvement in the suffrage fight grows more violent, and Paul struggles in his career goal to become cathedral dean. He risks censure for associating with a feminist, but eventually convinces Lilia to marry him--which she does on terms that maintain her independence. While bliss may yet be unattainable, both newlyweds sacrifice, compromise and remain true to themselves for a happy ending. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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