I am a total fan girl of Beatriz Williams, let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. I love her books. She has a beautiful, lyrical story telling style and I am almost always completely engrossed in her novels!
This novel was all over my Twitter feed for weeks and I broke down and bought it because I couldn’t pass up such an interesting sounding novel plus it’s set in WWI so you know I was all over that!
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.
Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.
Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well (summary from Goodreads).
So I am not sure how to review this one. It had so many elements that should have worked well together. Criminal activity, romance, family secrets, exotic location, mystery, danger. So many things that promised a stunning novel but for me it just fell flat. I spent a long time wondering what it was and for me it was the characters.
Virginia was supposed to be this strong leading lady who was able to dazzle this womanizing officer making him change his ways. But for me she was just blah. Nothing stood out to me and when she arrives in Florida, she seems almost broken and just too quiet and fragile to be taken seriously as a leading lady. That to me set the tone for the whole novel. I wasn’t impressed by her and had trouble seeing what it was about her that made Simon love her so much. Sure she was innocent and young but I found that even more unbelievable and frustrating. I also didn’t think enough time had passed between the time they fell in love and her time in Florida. Three years in between I think……it seems all too soon for enough time to go by.
I liked Simon just fine. I thought he was charming (as he was meant to be) and likable, but I couldn’t understand why a woman as flat as Virginia managed to get him all besotted. I felt like she had so much promise in the beginning when she told the story of how they first met and I thought ok here is a bold woman and then she just came across broken and that made me sad because I had hoped she would be more exciting.
So why did I keep reading? Well the mood felt very much like a Gothic novel or a noir read. It kind of had the same atmospheric feel as the novel Rebecca. I liked the unease and the shady characters and the complexity of the plot. I liked not knowing who to trust and what was plausible and what wasn’t. The plot itself kept me on edge and intrigued. I wanted to know who was lying and who was telling partial truths and how those little lies fit together within the greater story.
In the end, I ended up rating this novel a solid 3. I liked it enough to finish it but it wasn’t the best example of William’s abilities as a writer. I would obviously still read her books but this just isn’t one that would stick with me and that I could say ‘I loved it’….it was ok but there are better novels by her that truly shine and showcase her signature style.
- Review copy provided by: Personal collection
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 3 out of 5
Genre: Historical fiction, war romance, romance, women’s fiction