Letters from a Belfast Gardener is uneasily situated between the dramatic events in Scotland in The Gardener’s Wife and the Deans’ trip to the New World, described in A Garden in the Wilderness. The Deans spend six years in Belfast (1789-1795) in which old jealousies fester and new ones take root.
Each chapter is framed by letters, opening with a letter from John to his former fellow servants in Ellon, Matthew and Lavinia Henry, in which he discusses the simmering political situation in Ulster, and ending with a letter from either the Henrys or Penelope Dering, the mistress of Ellon Castle, who continues to foment trouble between the couple.
New problems ensue when Susan meets the radically republican brother and sister, Henry Joy and Mary Ann McCracken and their lives become entwined. Mary Ann lends Susan the book A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecroft, much to John’s annoyance.
John becomes jealous when he discovers a letter from Penelope in Susan’s book which seems to suggest something improper has passed between his wife and McCracken. He begins to doubt that he is the father of his newborn children, twins Charles and Esther.
Matters come to a head when he confronts Susan and then Henry Joy McCracken, but all is resolved before the family leaves for the New World.
Letters from the Gardener is available as an e-book from