Linnet and Valerians
Partly it was the character of Nan, who is 'plain,' but still becomes much loved. This was a great comfort to me, and I remembered how much I relished reading about Nan and her private parlour, because she needed time alone, and fierce Uncle Ambrose who nonetheless cares deeply for the children. I loved his owl, Hector, and the bees, and Ezra with his pointed ears who is the repository of old magic, while Uncle Ambrose stands for logic and civilization. It takes a balance of these powers, and the courage and energy and compassion of the children, to defeat the forces of badness in the village and right an old wrong. There were echoes of The Little White Horse in this theme, but I could relate more to quiet, plain Nan than to the confident, self-possessed Maria Merryweather!
But... geez, it was slow in patches. Lots of detailed description of the moor and the hill and the woods, which is the kind of thing I normally love, but it was in great undigestible slabs that bogged the story down. The characters were all wonderful, and it was the characters who stayed with me down the years, but this time, unlike LWH, the setting didn't quite catch fire for me. And the solution to the 'mystery' was perfectly plain from practically the first chapter.
Still, I'm very glad to have re-acquainted myself with this old favourite (though I wish it still had the original cover), and very content to have it on my shelf.