Smothered by her overbearing parents, 21-year-old Emily Bryce has to fight for her independence in the summer of 1918. Falling in love with a completely unsuitable Australian flyer, Emily leaves home, joins the Women's Land Army, and finds herself working with a group of young women on farms in Devon, England.
When her Australian flyer dies a hero, leaving her pregnant and alone, Emily masquerades as a war widow and returns to a large Devonshire estate she'd worked on previously. She finds the journals of a woman who devoted her life to the herb gardens around the cottage in which Emily lives, and those long-forgotten words inspire Emily to learn about the healing properties of the plants. There may indeed be healing in those plants, but there is also danger-- danger that could bring disaster to Emily and her unborn child.
Rhys Bowen has written a lovely standalone piece of historical fiction set during the last months of World War I. I spent a wonderful afternoon immersed in her story and living with her characters. My favorite wasn't Emily, as might be expected, but the octogenarian Lady Charlton, who is a mass of contradictions and more than capable of surprising all those around her. However, there are enough characters in the book for readers to each have their favorite.
Over many years of reading, I have found that I don't care much for static characters and complete predictability in my series fiction, but I don't mind it at all when I read a standalone novel. There's really nothing new under the sun in The Victory Garden. I knew what was going to happen before it did, and there was only one bit of shocking news. But I didn't care. It is very enjoyable to read a story in which good things eventually happen to good people who have faced great adversity. Sometimes your heart needs to be fed more than your mind, and The Victory Garden is a satisfying main course.
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen
Lake Union Publishing © 2019
eBook, 347 pages
Historical Fiction, Standalone