Paradise Falls takes us to 1890s Michigan for the story of a single girl embarking on a new life. Fiona Downey is the only child of Irish immigrants who work hard to give her a fine life in America. Her father is an instructor at Bennett College in Massachusetts. She is accepted as a student there, only to have her dream shattered by his sudden death.
Determined to make the most of her situation, Fiona accepts a job as schoolteacher in Paradise Falls, Michigan, thinking the town’s name is a good omen. She will live with the Haydn family. The train conductor had described them as “fine people,” but their behavior puzzles Fiona. The overbearing and angry Mrs. Haydn constantly berates her disabled husband and their oldest son, Grayson. The younger son, Fleming, is very handsome and playful, but obviously pampered and favored by his mother. Grayson soon falls in love with Fiona, but thinks she loves the charming and irresistible Flem, who does not hide his feelings either. When Fiona is lost in a snowstorm, Grayson rescues her and takes her to his home. The two are isolated by the storm for three days. In the course of their time together, Fiona undergoes a life-changing experience, and Grayson finally reveals the cause of his mother’s unending anger toward him.
Although Ms. Langan’s story is all that it’s supposed to be—light reading for a quiet afternoon—I would have enjoyed more depth in her characters and an ending where every loose end was not tied up so quickly. It is an interesting look at standards of behavior in Victorian America, and her description of a Michigan snowstorm will have you reaching for more hot tea.