“[I]t seemed to Lilly, as she admired the lush fields, dotted here and there with flocks of plump sheep, that the war must belong to another world entirely. How else could she reconcile this sylvan bliss, now slipping so gently by her window, with the fact that guns were blazing, shell fire was raining down, and legions of men were fighting, killing, and dying, somewhere in France, all less than a hundred miles away?” Jennifer Robson, SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE
Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford has struggled against both her mother’s expectations and the restrictions early 20th-century British society imposes upon women of “gentle breeding.”
Lilly longs to make a difference, to have a life of substance and meaning. Only one person other than her beloved brother Edward ever listened to what she really wanted–Robert Fraser, Edward’s best friend. But that was many years ago when he was visiting and Lilly was young, and she is certain Robbie has long forgotten her.
Robbie Fraser knows he shouldn’t have come to the lavish ball given by Edward’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Cumberland. This world is far removed from the hospital in Whitechapel where he works as a surgeon. In his work, he is feted and admired by his colleagues and friends, yet his accomplishments count for nothing to the privileged few attending the Neville-Ashford gala. As he plots his quiet escape, he is stopped by a vision of loveliness-Lilly. He finds her utterly captivating. She believes he is the man of her dreams.
In a few short weeks, the world is engulfed by war. As the lights go out across Europe, Robbie becomes a trauma surgeon in a field hospital on the Western Front, while Lilly breaks free of convention, as well as from her disapproving parents, leaving home and eventually becoming an ambulance driver with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. When she is transferred to the same field hospital where Robbie works, she hopes to strengthen the growing bond between them. Yet how can love survive the class restrictions that separate them and the horrors and suffering of the Great War?
I was asked to read an early copy of SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE to provide a cover quote, and upon finishing this sweeping, captivating novel set during WWI, I was delighted to do so.
From the opening pages, the vivid settings in SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE engage the imagination. We soon meet Lady Elizabeth and her aristocratic family, and see that this is a young woman suffocated by her station in life.
Lady Elizabeth quickly becomes “Lilly” as she defies her parents and gives up her life of privilege to truly live. From learning to drive and working in London, to becoming an ambulance driver for the WAAC, Lily wins over men and women alike, and demonstrates that in spite of her sheltered upbringing, she is strong and capable.
The plot moves with speed, brilliantly demonstrates the perils of falling in love during a time of war, and the characters’ growth and changes are believable and satisfying. If ATONEMENT and DOWNTON ABBEY had a child, SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE would be the result. Fans of the popular television series and historical fiction will devour this book.