Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

Rate this book
From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s lain hidden for generations.

To satisfy her wandering feet, eighteen-year-old Gillian McAllister is sent from Ireland to Canada in the summer of 1932. She arrives with her Irish ways intact, determined not to let the wiles of crop duster Christian Hunter woo her into submission. Yet as the summer unfolds and the sweet taste of love grows, Gillian’s appeal lures more than she anticipates, shattering the life they’ve built.

Fourteen years, a Great Depression, and a World War later, Christian sets out to discover why Gillian was ripped from his life. What he discovers on the Isle of Man will change them both forever. Not even a thatched cottage by the sea, a spritely Gillian, or memories sprinkled on a page can mask the secret that has been buried for too long. But it isn’t until a set of poems is given to Gillian’s granddaughter that the real mystery—Gillian’s true secret—is freed.

338 pages, Paperback

First published April 16, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Susan Ornbratt

1 book9 followers
Susan Örnbratt was born in London, Canada and grew up on the dance floor until her brother’s high school rowing crew needed a coxswain. Quickly, she traded in her ballet shoes for a megaphone and went on to compete in the Junior and Senior World Championships and the XIII Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Western Ontario in French and the University of Manitoba in elementary education, as well as attending L’Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II in France while she worked as a fille au pair, Susan has gone on to teach and live in six countries.

Although a maple leaf will forever be stitched on her heart, she has called Sweden her home for the past sixteen years with a recent three-year stint in North Carolina, USA for her husband’s work. It was there where Susan wrote The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley.

Susan lives in Gothenburg with her husband and two children and an apple tree beloved by the local moose population. If she isn’t shooing away the beasts, you can find her in her garden with some pruning shears, a good book and always a cup of tea. If Susan were dried out, she could be brewed.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
23 (31%)
4 stars
17 (23%)
3 stars
20 (27%)
2 stars
10 (13%)
1 star
2 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,572 reviews361 followers
May 30, 2016
A special thank you to Light Messages Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Top Books of 2015!

THE PARTICULAR APPEAL OF GILLIAN PUGSLEY by Susan Ornbratt, an unveiling, a mystery of one woman's past—a beautiful love story, a journey across time, oceans, and war; written with stunning imagery and poetic prose, for a mesmerizing timeless work of art.

From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s lain hidden for generations.

Set in the 1930s, free spirited, independent, and adventurous Gillian Pugsley (Gilly) leaves Ireland for London to live with her sister, Beaty. She becomes a nanny to Shashi and Samir, the children of Indian royalty at the Wentworth Estates. The family and the children fall in love with her and extend her tenure by inviting her to return with them to India. She is excited, the adventurous girl, wanting to capture life to the fullest. However, her father does not wish for her to join them and sends her to live with relatives in Canada.

While in Canada, at age eighteen, Gilly meets Christian, a romantic love relationship of two young people for one memorable magical summer. When she abruptly returns to Ireland, she leaves behind only a letter. Through the war and storms of life, Christian never forgets his Gilly, nor does Gilly forget her first love.

Presently in 2003, Gillian is eighty-nine years old, and dying of cancer. She has decided it is time to share her story with her granddaughter, her name sake, the writer. Flashing back to 1931 when Gillian was seventeen, far from home in Ireland, visiting her sister Beaty, in London, England, dreaming of Mr. Right, to 1932 when she meets Christian in Canada.

Flashing back and forth from 1932 to 1946 when Christian travels across the ocean determined to find Gilly-- He longs for answers, to know she is happy. Why did she leave? So much has happened through these years apart. They are different people. His long lost love, after fourteen years, including a Depression and a World War, he is desperate to find her.

When they finally meet again, could it be too late to recapture their lost time, or will there bond be even stronger? There was a reason she left but she could not tell Christian, she wanted to protect him; which becomes a mystery throughout the book and only unveiled toward the end, as all the pieces of puzzle come together.

A poignant love story of not only the romance between of Christian and Gilly; expanding to the magnetic friendship between mentor Gillian and young Shashi from afar through powerful letters and words of the heart —two women from vastly different cultures appreciating similar interests; and the loving close family relationship between Gilly and her granddaughter.

Inspired by the author’s own grandmother’s writings and gift of poems, given to her similar to the fictional account of the novel, for a captivating, and bittersweet story. You will find yourself bookmarking numerous pages; from the charming keepsakes, telegrams, beautiful poems, and letters, reminiscent of a simpler time.

Would encourage readers to view The Book Trailer , nicely done, a great intro to this spellbinding tale. A cross between authors, Jo Jo Moyes, Kate Morton, Nicholas Sparks, and Kristin Hannah. Fans of historical, literary, romance, suspense, mystery, and women’s fiction are assured to fall in love with this special love story and characters you will not soon forget.

An exceptional debut! One of the best historical fiction and romance novels of the year, and predict a "bestseller". Looking forward to more from this exciting newfound author, Susan Ornbratt.

Judith D. Collins Must Read Books
Profile Image for Caitlin Hicks.
Author 6 books27 followers
February 21, 2015
The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley
By Susan Ornbratt

The premise of this book attracted me – a story of lost love, a multi-generational secret. I opened the first page and felt relief with the recognition that I was in the good hands of a good writer.

The story begins in 2003 – a grandmother has been diagnosed with cancer that will surely take her life. But she has a story and secrets to tell before she dies and a granddaughter, also ‘Gilly’ who is a writer. So Gillian begins to reveal this story to her granddaughter - and to the reader.

As the story flashes back from 1932 (the summer of love between Christian & Gillian), 1946 (the year Christian travels to answer why she left him) and 2003 – the year of the cancer), Gillian gives her granddaughter hints, poems and final reflections about her story.

The storytelling in the first half of the book did not feel urgent or compelling enough to me – the authentic language was reserved and polite in the true manner of the English (although Gillian is Irish) or perhaps in the linguistic style of the the era. Here is an old woman at the end of her life who seems overall, to be content with the choices she has made and wistfully glances back at the memory of her former lover. She has married and made a family with the village doctor and has loved him more affectionately than passionately. We already know how it’s all turned out, so why are we reading? Okay, I'll hang on if you can get to the part about why she left him after their summer of love. Maybe it will pick up then.

As a writer I wondered if this book could have been told from a different pov to give it more urgency, to take the reader through the story and important character development that set the reader up for the final pay-off. That the story was cut up in flashbacks I felt weakened it; as a writer I have often considered this way of telling a story, but as a reader I build my interest and emotional commitment to a story the deeper I get into it. Sometimes this tactic works, if each section can be longer and hold more answers, but here it annoyed me – as I just wanted to get to the story that was building. And just as it was building to a point of interest, I was cut off. The next chapter usually began too casually, with the loss of tension that had been building in the previous chapter – chatty letters from her sister or her friend, or even a wistful conversation with her granddaughter. That there were details and emotional content in letters, poems and excerpts did not affect me at all because of this.

But I stayed with it. One by one the details began to emerge and as I was given more information (rather than teased by lack of it), I became more engaged. There was more discovery at the end as granddaughter Gilly had to put the pieces together about what ultimately happened to her grandmother on the Isle of Man. Finally, I was in tears, totally taken over by the richness and layering of this universal story, a story that reflected gently yet poignantly on the human condition of loving and living and aging and dying. This wasn’t just a love story between lovers; it was a love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter; between sisters; between friends. It made me think of my grandmother and how she wrote her story before she died. The artifacts: poems, letters, photographs, a watch came to life at this point (as I reflected on the letters and trinkets my mother left me before she died and realize the secrets they hold). Ultimately, I was profoundly moved that this was inspired by a true story (the author and her grandmother ) – it reminded me that I’ve got to start writing my own stories. In the end, the only way to communicate with those who follow us – is to write.

Congratulations, Susan Ornbratt. I feel I know you.

Profile Image for Margaret.
1,183 reviews49 followers
April 21, 2015
The book with the long title, don't let that scare you off like it almost did me. The cover is what grabbed my attention and the blurb just glitched it. A weird quirk of mine is location. When I saw Bruce Peninsula, the Great Lakes and Tobermory I was sold, these are my stomping grounds.

Gillian spent the next several days trying to imagine why on earth Daddy would want her to go to Canada of all places. She needed to let the idea soak in. Honestly, she was furious with the man. India sounded so exotic -- all those spices! Canada sounded, well... wild.

With such a great setting my expectations rose somewhat. I really hate putting pressure like that on any author, beautiful setting must equal beautiful story, right?.

Did Susan Ornbratt rise to the occasion? Of course she did, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley was an absolute pleasure to read! The authors writing style made it extremely easy to get lost in this story. Told in various time periods this reader had no problem connecting with Gillian. First introduced when she is 89 years old (2003), then she takes us back to 1931 and then 1946. Gillian is such a likeable character, she is adventurous, open minded and genuine. First she is a nanny for a family from India, then off to the wilds of Canada. Her relationship with her sister and father was played out nicely, the bantering between them added much to this story. I loved the strong bond between Gillian and her granddaughter, Gilly (who is tasked with writing her story) was the finishing touch this story needed.

The plot was intriguing, kept me on my toes. There is much going on here, a beautiful love story, mystery, trauma of WW II and more. With vivid descriptive prose it wasn't hard to picture scenery and the added poems was a unique idea and enhanced this story nicely. While the story weaves back and forth in time, as well as alternating POV's it wasn't hard to get totally invested in this book.

It's such a strange phenomenon with writers, the way a story starts to breathe life, the way the characters become real, the way a writer becomes a servant to the story as much as its creator.

This is Susan Ornbratt's debut, reminiscent of Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley, I highly recommend.

This and other reviews can be found at justonemorechapter.com
Profile Image for Jeanie.
2,844 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2015
Rating 3.5

It’s such a strange phenomenon with writers, the way a story starts to breathe life, the way the characters become real, the way a writer becomes a servant to the story as much as its creator.

A grandmother and a granddaughter relationship can have a life of its own. Such is the case in this descriptive witty prose of Gillian and Gilly. Gillian is sharing her life to her granddaughter who is a writer thru her poems of her time during the war and her life in the Great Lakes area of Canada. During a time that is volatile and the future is unsure.

Gillian has a long lost love in Christian whom at first sight was connection for both of them.
They have a sparring that is fun and witty between them. The attraction between them is not just physical but redeeming in that they feed on each other’s strength. However, their world pulls them apart and 14 years later Christian cannot get Gillian out of his mind and goes in search for her. How will find her? Will she feel the same way after 14 years and the after-math of war?

The narration is done in several ways. Thru letters between Gillian and a former employer’s daughter whom she was a nannie for, and her older sister as she shares her life with the doubts and trials that come with it. The letter writing between child and nannie was a little odd for me as she was sharing her feelings for Christian which was somewhat unconventional between a child under 10 and young woman in her 20’s. Shashi however, gives her wisdom and footing in Gillian’s doubts.

Time is another aspect of the narration as you are drawn to the present with Gillian and her granddaughter Gilly and back to the past. Gillian knows her time is short and desires that her granddaughter discovers the mystery of what happened with Christian and the love that they shared thru Gillian’s poems and a visit to her cottage where Christian and Gillian were reunited.

As I am writing this review, it dawns on me that this is a love story that is timeless as it is endless.

A special thank you to Light Messages Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debra Schoenberger.
Author 7 books80 followers
July 16, 2015
A tarnished silver pocket watch, a packet of letters and poems and a newspaper clipping are all clues that tell the tender love story of two lovers, the unbreakable connection between a grandmother and granddaughter, the feisty friendship between two sisters, a true friendship over the oceans and the love between a father and his daughter.

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley is one of those rare stories that wraps around you and stays with you long after you've finished reading it. The humour, wit and exquisite writing keep you smiling, laughing and crying. There were so many amusing and quirky expressions, while the poetry was very touching.

This is definitely a keeper.
Profile Image for Drita.
452 reviews33 followers
April 21, 2015

Compelling it's what came first to mind. Beautifully told love story evoking all my interest in a powerful irresistible way.
Enjoyed this authors writing style, her use of words, the poems, the way she invites you and introduces you with the characters. She just gives you that urge to know more. Beautifully done!

Lucky to come across this lovely novel, thanks Netgalley and Light Messages Publishing for gifting me a copy of ~The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley~
Profile Image for Elyse.
2,493 reviews123 followers
June 7, 2017
NetGalley ARC.

I rather enjoyed this sweeping, tragic romance. Told in alternate times of 1932, 1946, and 2003, you slowly get pieces of a beautiful story about a woman who fell in love with a man and became separated but were able to find each other again years later. It was a sweet, sad love story and the poems were beautiful.
190 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2015
This book drew me in because of location. Not many books set on the Isle of Man and since it also included the Great Lakes, I was hooked. A multigenerational love story with some twists and turns. The main character Gillian is quirky and puts me in mind of Anne of Green Gables. A thoroughly enjoyable book.
1 review3 followers
April 26, 2015
I devoured this beautifully written novel on a transatlantic flight, oblivious to everything around me. Several weeks later, I still find myself thinking about the unique and inspiring characters and the poignant scenes that will stay with me for a long time. I loved this book.
Profile Image for Michelle.
260 reviews7 followers
August 14, 2015
Plot: I read some other reviews and the blurb for The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley, and decided this was a “must read.” When the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reviewing her book, I didn’t hesitate. I loved the story. It is definitely my kind of book, containing a mix of genres – historical fiction and romance. What could be better? The book did not disappoint. There is some mystery to the story, but it is eventually brought to light. The story was, at times, exciting with lots of surprises, and at other times, melancholy, but not overly so. The way the author kept going back and forth from present time (2003) to the early days of the story (1931-32 and 1946) kept my interest in overdrive. The transitions were smooth and easy to follow.
Characters: What made this book so enjoyable for me is that it is character driven. Gillian McAllister Pugsley, is seen as strong and independent with a lot of love to give, but will she find Mr. Right, and if she does, will she let him back into her life? Christian Hunter is everything a young girl could hope to find – handsome, strong, interesting, romantic, daring. As the story progressed, the characters grew with it, and this increased their believability.
Writing: I loved the way the book was set up. A poem written by the author’s grandmother preceded each chapter. The story was easy to follow even though it kept changing back and forth between times, and sometimes from other characters’ point of view.
181 reviews
September 1, 2015
This book was a love story told in a very different way. It was told in bits and bobs from different times of this woman's life to her granddaughter. Who is writing a book about this grandmother. You don't find out all of the truth till the end. Such a beautiful and compelling story. I loved the characters and settings so much that I felt I was right there with them.
Profile Image for Diane W.
51 reviews
May 17, 2016
Loved it! I figured out the secret about midway through the book but it was the process of getting there that held my attention. It was a beautiful love story.
Profile Image for Nada.
1,200 reviews17 followers
May 22, 2015
The cover of Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Ornbratt tells us it is a love story. The first chapter tells us how the love story ends. The remainder of the book gets at the reason why. Unfortunately, when the revelation does come, it is somewhat anti-climatic. The book describes the events of this love story, but somehow, the emotions and depth seem lacking. Unfortunately, the story just never quite comes together for me.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2015...

Reviewed for GoodReads First Reads program
Profile Image for Jessica.
61 reviews
October 25, 2015
I'm completely confused as to why this book was so well received?? The love story was so under developed that, in my mind, it couldn't carry the weight of all the other plot lines. The big revelations at the end of the book were so unoriginal and undramatic that I was upset that I even bothered to finish the whole thing. If you've read other great novels in the same genre, I wouldn't bother with this one. You will be disappointed.
1,027 reviews3 followers
December 13, 2017
What a sweet, lovely story of the unusual Gillian Pugsley and her life! The way the story switched the focus in Gillian's life back and forth between the years 1932, 1946 and 2003 drew me in and added to the mystery of her life. An added touch was that Gillian Pugsley spent part of her life in London Ontario, a city I know well, and in Tobermory too.The little poems to introduce each chapter were very interesting. Lovely writing. Everyone should have a grandmother like Gillian Pugsley to love you!
111 reviews3 followers
August 13, 2015
the storyline of this book was good, but the facts that there were few commas and no indents for paragraphs made reading it difficult. I'd be reading about one thing and then it would change to something else without any kind of warning. A paragraph indent would have really helped. The Gillian Pugsly of this book did appeal;she was a strong woman with a loving heart and this is the story of her life. As she reaches the end of her life, she has things she'd like to share with her granddaughter; things she has kept hidden for ages that will, maybe, change the lives of those she loves. This is a pretty good book and i don't think you;ll be sorry you read it.
Profile Image for Bonnie Judd.
90 reviews
September 11, 2016
I rated this book with 90 pages left earlier today. The story is a good one, but it is hard to follow. I didn't imagine what Christian an Gilley looked like for instance. Reader is jumped around a lot with no warning. The story made me cry...the ending did for sure. I still can give this book only a 3-4 star rating.

I rated this book quickly with 90 pages left to read earlier today. The story line is good, made me feel and cry. However, couldn't visualize characters or places. Story also"jumped" in time which was hard to follow. Therefore a 3-4 star rating for this book.
Profile Image for Amy.
254 reviews33 followers
May 16, 2015
The premise intrigued me, but the overall story fell a bit flat. The nonlinear structure, probably meant to incite mystery, actually killed the conflict and tension for me. The deep POV wasn't consistent, and the action jumped around enough that I never felt connected to any of the characters. Just technically not an enjoyable read for me.
Profile Image for Barbara.
533 reviews
August 29, 2016
The poems written by a woman dying of cancer are the impetus for her granddaughter to write a novel about her life and this is the result. As a young woman, she leaves the the young man she remembers all her life as "Mr. Right" and the question in the readers mind throughout the book is, "Why did she leave?". Engaging story involving events on 3 continents with a twist at the end.
Profile Image for Thomas.
17 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2015
A love story told in bits and pieces, jumping back and forth in time, with a few "big reveals" at the end trying to tie it all together. I found it difficult to keep track of the story line as well as the multitude of secondary characters.
Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.