Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford has always thought fondly of her bother’s friend Robert since as a child he encouraged her to pursue her dreams. A surprise meeting years later reveals him to still be equally supportive and their mutual attraction is obvious. However, Elizabeth’s mother disapproves of Robert almost as much as she disapproves of Elizabeth’s career aspirations. The war and encouragement from friends give Elizabeth the courage to break with her parents. As an ambulance driver she is eventually sent to the front, where she is reunited with Robert (a surgeon). Although they are reunited, his fear for her safety is a strain their relationship might not survive.
Even in historical fiction, I feel like most readers want female characters to behave like modern women. I personally find it unpleasant to read a book like Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival which doesn’t at least condemn the sexism of the time period. In many time periods though, I suspect it was unusual for a woman to successfully resist seixst social pressures. That is one reason why Jennifer Robson’s choice of setting is so perfect. It is clear that many women are beginning to have the freedom to attend school, have careers, and marry who they like. A woman from an old fashioned family might have to fight for those privileges. She also might believably succeed. Watching Elizabeth do so was inspiring and a ton of fun.
The romance, like Elizabeth’s personal story, was perfectly suited to the time period. Having to deal with the war and the social issues that might separate them made every happy moment of the relationship feel precious. The letters the characters exchanged were enjoyable and an integral part of the story’s success. In particular, they allow you to see Elizabeth and Robert’s relationship forming. At the end, you know why these characters love each other. In any genre, I think that’s a critical component of a well written romance.
Descriptions of the war were also very well done. It was clear how horrible the war was. It was clear what a devastating effect it was having on the mental health of everyone involved. And both these things were accomplished without rubbing your face in gory details. This backdrop made the romance all the more moving. I think that makes this a spectacular example of a historical fiction romance. The romance personalized the time period and the romance couldn’t have happened at any other time. It was beautiful, poignant, and fit the time period perfectly.This review first published on Doing Dewey.