"One Sweet Moment" is a beautifully crafted, poignant book which brings to life the Edinburgh of 1822 and takes us on a bittersweet journey with its cast of masterfully written characters.
Kate and her brother Andrew live under South Bridge in the old town. They are orphans in the care of their aunt and uncle, but their lives are blighted by the abuse meted out to them on a daily basis. Andrew walks badly, the result of an accident in a chimney. Kate fears for his future, but despite the daily grind of work in the family ale house and her uncle's inappropriate advances, she dreams of a better life for the pair of them. She squirrels away any tips she gets, keen to be able to pay for them to learn to read and write, but is thwarted when her aunt and uncle find the money and forcibly take it from her. When her life seems incapable of getting any worse, into the ale house, then into her life, walks Richard Hope, a young gentleman from the New Town and a student of medicine at the University of Edinburgh. The immediate attraction between the two threatens to turn their separate worlds upside down and we follow their story as they spend one golden summer together.
We also meet the Hendersons: Nathaniel, who runs a bookshop, and his devoted wife Peggy. Their personal life is marred by their inability to conceive a child, so, when the opportunity arises, both are keen to take Kate and Andrew under their wings and do what they can to help improve their lot. They nurture the blossoming relationship between Kate and Richard, but fear, as do the pair themselves, that they tread an unlikely path. Rich and poor in 19th Century Edinburgh live very different and socially divided lives. The chance of Kate being accepted into the society into which Richard has been born is non-existent. Both know this, though Kate is the stronger of the two in her preparedness to accept reality. The lovers are separated at the end of their golden summer, she to remain in Edinburgh, him to pursue his medical career, first at sea and then in London. When Richard's return to the city finally brings them back together again a couple of years later, there seems there might be a second chance for the unlikely pair, but fate has yet to lend a hand.
Edinburgh is the magnificent backdrop to this heartwarming story and Maggie Craig paints a word picture which is both realistic and atmospheric. The book progresses leisurely, giving the reader time to breathe in the sights and sounds of the city and to share in the experiences of the central characters. The story itself unfolds in rich detail and the end, when it comes, leaves the reader satisfied, if not totally happy, with the emotional outcome.