I have a bit of a soft spot for fiction set during, around or inspired by the period of the Crimean War, one of my favourite books is The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin and I adore the Charge of the Light Brigade poem so this book automatically peaked my interest when I saw it.
Overall I enjoyed the book, it’s characters, the setting and pace. While it was definitely a romance, at it’s heart I felt was the relationship between the two sisters although they were barely together in the novel, I felt without that it would have been another generic novel of romance, war and despair.But that sisterly relationship gave another element and helped drive the plot forward.
I liked both of the sisters immensely although they were clearly very different people, I perhaps identified with Dorothea the most (being an older sister myself perhaps?) but I understood Lucy too and could understand her motivations and perspective. It was interesting to see the war from the different perspectives of soldiers wife and nurse that the sisters took, seeing the conditions, bloodshed and chaos from both sides did allow for very different insights and to see how the war changed both of them.
I do have to agree with other reviews I have read that Lucy, despite all her trials, also had some very fortuitous circumstances come her way but overall I didn’t feel this detracted from the book, or made it less believable overall and when you consider Lucy’s personality type it perhaps make sense that those circumstances came her way. Although Lucy was very young, and this was clear, I liked her and was rooting for her throughout the book, she certainly had a lot happen to her, but despite this showed great spirit and resolve. I was personally far more invested in her secondary relationship, than the one she had with Charlie which I felt was flawed from the start, though I could tell they loved each other, but I far more enjoyed what happened to Lucy post Charlie and her subsequent relationships and felt immensely sorry at the way it panned out for Lucy.
Dorothea had, if not an easier path, a more straight forward one in the book. I liked her resolve and determination to be useful and to make a difference in the war, despite her worry and fear for Lucy. I felt one incident that occurred to Dorothea was a little unnecessary, I didn’t see what it added to her storyline but it was minor and while traumatic for her didn’t deter her resolve. I really enjoyed how through Dorothea we met Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, two fascinating historical figures but also considering all the other nurses, doctors and staff who went to the war through Dorothea you see that perspective of those who weren’t recognised for their efforts, they just did their job. I was pleased about how her story panned out, and though it wasn’t her intention her at all she got her own happy ending as I really felt she deserved it after her years nursing her mother, being a dutiful daughter to her father and trying to be an example to her sister that she deserved happiness – and I really liked who she ended up with. Yes it wasn’t some raging fire of desire or heat of the moment (like Lucy’s love affairs) but more slow, steady and based on knowing each other.
Overall, as a read to immerse yourself, forget for a little while and just to enjoy being swept away it was solid and enjoyable, and not too sickly sweet with the romance and would appeal to Historical Fiction fans. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.