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Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Source: William Morrow and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 400 pages
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Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson is a historical fiction romance set during WWI.  Lady Elizabeth “Lilly” Neville-Ashford has lived a cloistered life in high society, but she’s always dreamed of doing more — going to university or helping with the war effort.  She buries her head in books to avoid conflicts with her mother, who believes that as a lady of society Lilly should be seeking a suitable husband.  After pushing for a new governess when she was a teenager to expand her education, she’s hit a roadblock in her twenties where her mother and father are concerned.  Her brother Edward, on the other hand, seems to have the easy life and he rolls with the punches, making jokes and letting the unpleasantness just pass by.  In many ways, she is jealous of his ability to smooth out the wrinkles of their aristocratic lives and to do what he wants — like join the soldiers at the front.  Lilly is above it all, looking down in judgment on her brother and her parents, but she rarely examines her own actions in the same way.

“He, and all his friends, seemed to regard the war as a great lark.  To them it was a blessed chance to do, to act, to be forged by the crucible of war into better men.  An improbable notion, Lilly was sure, though she could understand its appeal.  What had any of them actually done with their lives thus far, despite the riches and privileges heaped upon them?” (page 21)

In a final effort, Lilly is pushed to the brink, secretly learning to drive while away from her parents, and by then, she’s passed the point of no return.  She has to take her life in her own hands and mold it into what she wants.  Finding a job isn’t easy for a young woman of her stature, with no money and no skills, but her former governess Charlotte becomes an angel in her life.  Readers will find Lilly’s attitude toward others disconcerting at first because she’s at times affable and friendly, while at others secretive and softly judgmental.  However, once she gets a taste of what it means to be a common girl, with little money and her dreams just out of reach, she becomes even more determined to get what she wants.

“Before emptying the tub, she checked the water and was relieved to find no evidence of lice.  A month earlier, she’d been horrified to discover nits when combing her hair before bed.  Persian insect powder, mixed into a paste with petroleum jelly, had killed the lice in her hair, but then she’d inspected her clothes and found them infested with body lice, likely picked up from one of the walking wounded … ” (page 193)

Robson does an excellent job of placing the reader in the field hospitals, with Robbie — Edward’s university friend who becomes a surgeon — and with Lilly once she makes it to France as a driver.  While the romance is a bit overblown, the hardships of the nurses and surgeons is palpable, leaving readers shocked at the blood and split-second choices that have to be made when the wounded come pouring in.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson provides a detailed look at the life of those on the front lines of WWI who do not shoot the guns or drop the bombs — those tasked with cleaning up the mess of war.

About the Author:

Jennifer Robson first learned about the Great War from her father, acclaimed historian Stuart Robson, and later served as an official guide at the Canadian National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France. A former copy editor, she holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children. This is her first novel. Connect with her on Facebook.

1st WWI book for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist

 

 

 

1st book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in France.

 

 

 

2nd book for 2014 New Author Challenge

 

 

 

 

1st book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Mailbox Monday #250

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  December’s host is Rose City Reader.

***The Mailbox Monday poll found that most bloggers preferred the Mailbox Monday blog to be the permanent home for the meme beginning in January.***

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston came unexpectedly from the publisher.

In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Bevan, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

2.  Return to Tradd Street by Karen White for review from the publisher.

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

3.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

4.  Taking What I Like by Linda Bamber for review for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Linda Bamber has combined her love of fiction from the past with her propensity to shake things up, taking what she likes and gleefully sharing it with us. As entertaining and contemporary as these stories are, they also remind us what we, too, love about the classic texts she takes apart and reassembles. Bamber’s tales, like the best translations, exist independently while reminding us not to forget the plays and novels they treat. Alternating between admiration and attitude, the stories layer their plots with commentary, history, and politics, pausing as they build only to make room for the sanity and wit of the authorial voice. Emotional and genuine, these stories are also playful, inventive, and hilariously funny. From her long study of the Bard, Bamber has absorbed some of Shakespeare’s own empathy, understanding, and expressive flair. It is not too much to say that her work takes its place in the same literary sphere as the works it engages.

5.  Pieces of the Heart by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

To escape the stress from her all-consuming job as an accountant, Caroline Collier joins her overbearing mother at the family’s vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina. But the serene beauty of Lake Ophelia cannot heal Caroline’s heart, which is still broken by the loss of her younger brother, who died when she was seventeen. And the tension between her and her mother still simmers. Only their neighbors, the husband and daughter of one of Caroline’s childhood friends, seem able to penetrate her cool reserve, giving Caroline the courage to face her biggest fears-and dive headfirst into life.

6.  The Color of Light by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

With a lyrical Southern voice, White delivers an emotionally moving novel of a woman in search of a new beginning and a man haunted by the past.At thirty-two, pregnant and recently divorced, Jillian Parrish and her seven-year-old daughter find refuge and solace on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Jillian had experienced her best childhood memories here-until her best friend Lauren Mills disappeared, never to be found. At the time, Linc Rising, Lauren’s boyfriend and Jillian’s confidant, had been a suspect in Lauren’s disappearance. Now he’s back on Pawleys Island-renovating the old Mills house. And as ghosts of the past are resurrected, and Jillian’s daughter begins having eerie conversations with an imaginary friend named Lauren, Jillian and Linc will uncover the truth about Lauren’s disappearance and about the feelings they have buried for sixteen years.

7.  Still Love in Strange Places by Beth Kephart from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

When Beth Kephart met and fell in love with the artist who would become her husband, she had little knowledge of the place he came from—an exotic coffee farm high in the jungle hills of El Salvador, a place of terrifying myths and even more frightening realities, of civil war and devastating earthquakes. Yet, marriage, she finds, means taking in not only the stranger who is one’s lover but also a stranger’s history—in this case, a country, language, people, and culture utterly foreign to a young American woman. Kephart’s transcendently lyrical prose (often compared to the work of Annie Dillard) has already made her a National Book Award finalist. In each of her memoirs she has written about love, using her own life to seek out universal truths.

8.   Books and Reading: A Book of Quotations edited by Bill Bradfield from my SantaThing from LibraryThing.

Over 450 memorable quotes about books and reading from writers, political figures, and celebrities. With provocative declarations from John Keats, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, James Thurber, and Oprah Winfrey, among others. A handy aid for speech writers and public speakers, this entertaining collection will delight anyone who loves books.

9.  The Descent by Alma Katsu for review from the publisher.

Lanore McIlvrae has been on the run from Adair for hundreds of years, dismayed by his mysterious powers and afraid of his temper. She betrayed Adair’s trust and imprisoned him behind a stone wall to save Jonathan, the love of her life. When Adair was freed 200 years later, she was sure that he would find her and make her existence a living hell. But things turned out far different than she’d imagined.

Four years later, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home, where he has been living in self-imposed exile, to ask for a favor. She wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so she may beg the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan, whom she has been keeping as her consort. Will Lanore honor her promise to Adair to return? Or is her intention to reunite with Jonathan at any cost?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #246

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  November’s host is I Totally Paused!.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics, illustrated by Gregory Burgess Jones for review.

This book is a Mom’s Choice Award Recipient.  Is your child afraid of the dark? Are you having trouble with bedtime? You are not alone! Even those least likely to have a fear of the dark may have a story to share. In this book you will meet Brady, a bat who oddly has a terrible fear of the dark. This poses quite a dilemma for a creature that sleeps in a dark cave and comes out to play at night. Learn how Brady discovers a creative way to solve this problem…with a little help from some special, glowing friends.

2.  A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith for review.

The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons’ graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In this emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel, April Smith breathes life into a unique moment in American history, imagining the experience of five of these women.

They are strangers at the start, but their lives will become inextricably intertwined, altered in indelible ways. These very different Gold Star Mothers travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say final good-byes to their sons and come together along the way to face the unexpected: a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed.

3.  Still, at Your Door: A Fictional Memoir by Emma Eden Ramos for review.

Sabrina “Bri” Gibbons has only a few short minutes to pack her things and help her sisters pack theirs before running with their mother to the bus that will whisk them away from Butler, Pennsylvania, an abusive relationship, and a secret that none of them wishes to acknowledge. She was not prepared, though, for her mother to drop them on the streets of New York with the promise that she would be right back. Haunted by the sight of her mother running back to the cab, Bri, with Missy and Grace in tow, settles in with their grandparents. Thoughts of her present and her future collide with memories of her past, her dead father, and her mother’s bizarre episodes. She watches her sisters struggle with school and acceptance, all the while knowing the lack of any sense of security will make it impossible for them to carry on as ‘normal’ children. She finally lets her guard down enough to allow someone else in and sees a faint glimmer that her dreams might be attainable. Disaster strikes again, this time targeting her sister. Is it possible for Bri to find that balance between her dreams and her family’s realities?

4.  Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich for review.

Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband’s illness and death. Now she’s alone at age thirty-two. And she weighs more than she ever has. When fate throws her in the path of Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to pro athletes, and he offers to train her, Holly concludes it must be a sign. Much as she dreads the thought of working out, Holly knows she needs to put on her big girl panties and see if she can sweat out some of her grief.

Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly to most intense and steamy workouts. But can Holly and Logan go the distance as a couple now that she’s met her goals—and other men are noticing?

5.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson for review.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lilly from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lilly is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lilly’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lilly is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

6.  The Scribe by Antonio Garrido, translated by Simon Bruni, which came unexpectedly.

The year is 799, and King Charlemagne awaits coronation as the Holy Roman emperor. But in the town of Würzburg, the young, willful Theresa dreams only of following in the footsteps of her scholarly father—a quiet man who taught her the forbidden pleasures of reading and writing. Though it was unthinkable for a medieval woman to pursue a career as a craftsperson, headstrong Theresa convinces the parchment-makers’ guild to test her. If she passes, it means access to her beloved manuscripts and nothing less than true independence. But as she treats the skins before an audience of jeering workmen, unimaginable tragedy strikes—tearing apart Theresa’s family and setting in motion a cascade of mysteries that Theresa must solve if she hopes to stay alive and save her family. 

What did you receive?