I read Courtney Ellis’s debut novel last summer, At Summer’s End, and good lord was it ever good! I devoured it and it was one of my favorite reads last year. So naturally when I saw this one coming up for review I was thrilled! This one has a great dual timeline aspect which I know is often overdone in historical fiction, but for me it never gets old! I love readling dual timeline books!
This book promises long buried family secrets and complex characters rich in historical detail. And it certainly had all of those things! Ellis write beautiful historical fiction with lots of historical details and heart and this second book was not a disappointment in that regard. I know that fans of the historical fiction genre will not have missed Ellis’s first novel (not with that stunning cover that’s for sure!) but this book doesn’t quite have the ‘curb appeal’ that the first book did. The cover was more simple and not nearly as eye catching as her first book but it was still a wonderful read so don’t let the basic cover fool you!
If you are a fan of historical fiction this book and author should be on your TBR list. Ellis is clearly one to watch in the genre and I for one am going to be eagerly awaiting the next book she writes! This book had a lot to recommend itself based on my expectations from the first book, but at first I did have my doubts that I would love this book though that was quickly dispelled.
Connected through time to her great-grandmother by a shared English countryside home, an American nurse tries to piece together her family’s tangled history in this new historical novel from the acclaimed author of At Summer’s End.
England, 2014: Audrey Collins knows only two things about her beloved grandmother’s past: She was born into nobility and she immigrated to America at seventeen years old. So when Audrey inherits her gran’s home in North Yorkshire, she arrives expecting a sprawling country estate fit for lords and ladies. Instead, she finds an abandoned stone cottage perfectly preserved as Gran left it when she fled in 1941–ration book and all–and begins to uncover what secrets her family has been keeping.
France, 1915: Lady Emilie Dawes is working as a nurse on the Western Front, grateful to have escaped the restraints of her restrictive, privileged home life. But the independence she fought hard to earn is suddenly jeopardized when a familiar man shows up in one of her hospital beds. Facing him means facing her past, and the decisions she had made in fear. As the war rages around her, Emilie realizes she cannot continue running from who she is until she decides who she truly wants to be.
Over a hundred years apart, Audrey and Emilie each struggle to find purpose, love, and a place to call home in this enchanting family saga celebrating the courage of underestimated women–and the power a secret can hold across generations. (Summary from Goodreads)
When this book started, instantly I was put off by the main character Audrey. She is a recovering alcoholic and I feared I would have a hard time relating to her. There is a history of alcoholics in my family so instantly when I read a character as an alcoholic (recovering or not) I have a hard time connecting or feeling sympathetic toward them. Obviously that I my own personal bias so when within the first couple of pages it’s established that Audrey is a recovering alcoholic, I feared I simply wouldn’t like the book because of my own bias. But I tried so hard to put it aside and enjoy the book mostly because I was so excited for this one.
For me personally, I felt like try as I might, I couldn’t connect with Audrey at all—-but I did love reading Lady Emilie’s story and felt like of the two main plots this was my favorite and what ultimately saved the book for me. The WWI chapters were a little more detailed and lengthy than the modern day ones but I didn’t mind as it provided historical background and established different plot points that were necessary so naturally I assumed they would be longer and the focus of the book—–this is a historical fiction novel after all! I loved how much of a life Sparrow Cottage took on in the book. It was essentially its own characters and I loved that about this book and would have loved to have visited this wonderful house! It seemed so charming and idyllic.
While I might not have loved Audrey’s character, her plot was well written and I liked how it took shape throughout the novel, especially with Isaac. Even if I had my own personal bias about her character, I still found her journey interesting and engaging and I think that many readers will connect with her and cheer her on as her life takes on a new meaning and shape. I loved discovering the past secrets and lives of the characters and those secrets made the book for me. This was a well written novel and a great follow up the Ellis’s debut novel. I ended up giving it 4 stars and felt content once it was complete. I am eager to see what tale Ellis will craft for us next, this is a historical fiction author to watch!
Book Info and Rating
Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: August 9th 2022 by Berkley Books
ISBN 0593201310 (ISBN13: 9780593201312)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: historical fiction, romance, war romance