After reading J’nell Ciesielski’s latest novel, The Ice Swan, I was craving more from her and I noticed that I hadn’t read one of her earlier books, Among the Poppies! So a real no-brainer here, as many of you know I am a huge Great War romance fan and this book was literally right up my alley and I couldn’t wait to read it!
It was a super fast read—-because it was good! Ciesielski is a hidden gem author for me. She writes consistently well written and researched books and the romance always feels epic and believable. While Will wasn’t as charming and dashing as some of her other heroes, he was exactly what I expected—handsome, noble, protective, and brave.
I cracked this book open while I was still in Arizona and breezed through it in a matter of days (though I could have finished it much faster if life wasn’t getting in the way!). If you haven’t read anything by Ciesielski then you are missing out—-you absolutely need to read one of her books. All of them are wonderful and to be honest it’s hard for me to pick a favorite though I think I am going to have to go with The Ice Swan is probably my favorite thus far but this one came in a close second.
The ideal lady wears lace, speaks quietly, and never—under any circumstances—fixes an automobile. But Gwyn Ruthers has never cared two snaps about being the ideal lady. With the war to end all wars exploding across the English Channel, she leaves behind her restrictive life as a chauffer’s daughter to serve in an all-female ambulance unit in France. She’s not about to let her social status or gender prevent her from serving her country. Not even a handsome captain can distract her from her mission. Most of the time.
Captain William Crawford wouldn’t wish the ravages of war on any man, much less the captivating woman who insists on driving into battle instead of staying safely at home. He can’t deny that the troops need more medical help, but not when it puts innocent women in danger. How can he lead his men against the Jerries while worrying about Gwyn’s safety?
Bound together by circumstances, Gwyn and William can’t stop the love growing between them. Can their relationship survive, or will it become another casualty of war? (summary from Goodreads)
For me Gwyn was spunky and sassy with incredible strength. I loved how brave she was and bold enough to go after what she wanted. The whole chauffeurs daughter bit seemed a bit over played throughout the book but it wasn’t too far of a stretch considering the circumstances. Gywn is a character that readers will easily cheer for and enjoy. She is down to earth with heart and again her bravery is both bold and understated in this book. I really enjoyed her and I thought that she an Will had a fun relationship full of chemistry and innocence. I loved Will’s love of horses (it made him feel young and boyishly charming) and watching their attraction grown even during a terrible war was heartwarming.
I will say that I could have done without the friend subplot. I can’t even recall Gwyn’s friend’s name now but I felt like her subplot was unnecessary to the over all story and her character so underdeveloped that she clearly left little to no impact with me as a reader. I felt like WIll and Gwyn were strong enough characters on their own to drive the story without including Gwyn’s childhood friend in the story. It just felt distracting and didn’t add anything to the plot for me and I had little to no investment in those side stories because it was all about Will and Gwyn for me.
Since this is one of the author’s early books, I can see why some of these choices in the plot were made and having read her latest novel, I can clearly see growth in her writing and story telling abilities. But even for an early novel, this book was solid. I loved the title and the setting and I thought she really brought battle field nursing to life. I wrote my master’s thesis on battle field nursing and this book captured the chaos and stress wonderfully. I loved reading about the history as well as the romance. Such a wonderful read for historical fiction fans looking for a sweet romance.
Book Info and Rating
328 pages, Kindle Edition
Published June 11, 2018
INSPY, Debut Fiction (2019)
Review copy provided by personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: historical fiction