Updated: Feb 29
I like this tradition we have. This lovingly-curated GIF edition of THE TELLING TOUCH is full of spoilers and skates over many plot points. Let's get on with it.
It's 1807 and Meg Summers is fourteen. She goes fishing with the boys, is adored by her grandfather and lives her very own Cyndi Lauper fever-dream.
Her 19yo bestie Nick Ainsley returns from university and, like all college guys, is looking rather hotter than usual. But he has always been more interested in Meg's sister, Isabelle. In fact he's an Isabelle superfan--has the t-shirt, bought the album, stands in the mosh pit.
Meg thinks that Nick is being a squidge blind to the Gaping Maw of Doom that is Isabelle's soul but it never really matters until she is mugged by Eros in a True Love Stick-up. Possessing the ability to read the minds of those she touches, Meg sets out to discover Nick's thoughts, hoping that he's sparing some for her. The news...isn't good. Nick brain is a 24 hour diner serving All Isabelle, All the Time.
But Isabelle (also a mind-reader) is not going to tie herself down to a maybe-possibly-future-heir-to-an-earldom when there is a perfectly good earl (Nick's elderly uncle) lying around unused. They elope. Isabelle gets to be a countess. Nick's future is dashed. He flees to China. Meg is ruined by association. Her late-teens become a massive bummer
We jump six years into the future and the Widow Isabelle returns to the family home because she did not lock down the legalities before running off with the old man and failed to produce an heir. And with old Lord Ainsley dead, Nick, the new Lord Ainsley, comes into town.
Isabelle is delighted.
Meg is nursing a seething resentment that her best friend took off for six years and didn't even text.
Nick keeps visiting Isabelle even when there is gardening to be done.
Grandfather dies, forcing Meg to discover a new facet of her magic which makes her read everything about a person she touches and feel the emotional blowback of their emotions. What of Grandfather's will? Meg gets almost nothing while we find out that Isabelle did lock down the legalities to inherit the entire estate.
Though worried about his inexplicable return to Isabelle's orbit, Nick begins to meet Meg down at the fishing stream and they settle into an amiable friendship.
But not too amiable. Just the right amount of amiable.
Of course there is a smuggling subplot. (We are in Sussex. We have to have a smuggling subplot.) Meg's new gift allows her to see into the hearts of the villagers whom she hasn't been particularly fond of, feeding a need to keep them from danger even while she watches her old friend Nick repeating the idiocy of falling in love with her sister again.
But Nick hasn't been meeting Isabelle on purpose. Meg discovers that Isabelle has a power she didn't know was possible--pushing thoughts from a person's head and taking over their will. This places Nick in danger of being wedded against his will (Insert mental image of the daughters in 'The Pirates of Penzance' shouting, "Against our will, Papa! Against our will!") She has a little sit-down with him about Isabelle's magic and its implications.
Obviously, he assumes this is the perfect opportunity to propose. Marching up the aisle together would give her a home and him safety from Isabelle. He is not the first man to think that math will win more arguments than it does.
She loves him too much to be his second choice and tells him no but days later finds him nearly on his deathbed. Isabelle is totally using her powers to do it. This time when she's really good and ruined and Nick's life is on the line, she accepts his proposal.
Meg has to discover how to keep her fiancé-of-convenience safe, fend off her sister, keep the less-than-smart smugglers from being rounded up... It's a laundry list. Then Meg discovers that her sister has been involved in illegal activity and that Nick is missing.
Isabelle has kidnapped Nick and Meg finally has to confront her sister and we see which power will reign supreme.
In the end, Isabelle is banished, Nick is saved and Meg is among friends. All they need now is to sort out how much of their engagement was fake and how much was real.
Spoiler: It was all real.