Publisher: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Review source: Library
Reviewed by: Kathy Davie
Series: Bess Crawford, a short story spin-off
This is a romantic peek in at one of Bess Crawford's fellow nursing sisters during World War I.
I was so disappointed in this. I was expecting Todd's usual high-quality writing and instead, I got this dreck. Yes, it's a cute story. In all its highly clichéd glory.
Girl has met boy who is best friend's brother, drooled over him, and he finally sees her as an adult. On the brink of war, boy asks her to wait for him. Girl then meets true love with all the whiny guilt and self-remonstration we are forced to read through.
Boy 1 becomes a hero, then a prisoner of war with a grievous injury. Boy 2 also gets injured. And, just for the fun of it, girl pulls a tiny Bess Crawford. What the point of including this was, we'll never know.
Oh, I almost forgot. Lady Girl takes up nursing with Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service in defiance of her hopefully ignorant noble family. Hmmm, is there a cliché I missed?
Lady Elspeth just has to go back to England right after her friend has had her baby and it appears that Paris won't be invaded. Yup, just go ahead and leave her friend there with all her worries. Because, only by being in England, can Elspeth discover and support the soldiers. The ones she takes up nursing for so she can come back to France. Admittedly, this is a noble endeavor, but I found her initial arguments for leaving specious.
Then how lame is it that someone's family driver takes him out to the woods and then leaves him out there without really looking?
I don't think Charles Todd put any real effort into this. S/he got tapped into writing this and they cranked it out.
With her father dead and the title passing on to her second cousin, Lady Elspeth Douglas is trapped under his guardianship until she turns 30. But after events in France, she is determined to get through the nursing course and get back to the battlefields and help. Kenneth is the cousin who succeeded to her father's position as earl and head of the family. He's anxious to get her properly married off. Catriona is his wife. Major Rory Douglas is Kenneth's oldest son; Bruce is the younger and a lieutenant.
Madeline Villard is Elspeth's pregnant French friend with whom she's staying in Paris when war breaks out. Captain Henri Villard is her loving husband, but he's been called to war. Alain Montigny is Madeline's brother. The one all the girls swooned over.
Captain Lord Peter Gilchrist comes to Elspeth's rescue in her first foray amongst the wounded.
Mrs. Hennessy is the landlady where Elspeth finds a room, sharing the house with Bess Crawford and Diana (who mentions Simon Brandon) among others. Joel and Mrs. Wright take care of Elspeth and Peter while they're at Walnut Tree Cottage.
Two of the soldiers and friends who help Elspeth include Captain Jeremy Martin-Ward, who helps her find a room in Calais, and Timothy Howard, who's with the War Office, helps her to and from London.
I'm guessing that the cover is meant to stand in for Elspeth's family home in Scotland and the three-quarter profile we have of Elspeth in her pre-war finery is to set the mood for the time period.
The title is Sister Blake's dream of home, The Walnut Tree at her family's cottage where Elspeth and Peter finish falling in love that Christmas.