Book Review: Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

This is my second attempt at writing a review of this book.  I scrapped the first one entirely as I was rambling on at length for no apparent reason other than my absolute adoration of this book.

Lady Elizabeth Ashford (who has several other monikers but I’ll keep it short here) is a modern-day woman trapped in a genteel family where her talents are not recognized nor nurtured.  Her parents actively insist that her role in life is to marry well, have children and raise them to the standards set by her family for generations.  Her parents have several homes across Europe including a townhouse (read mansion) in London and a summer home in Cumbria.  To most of us, Lady Elizabeth, has it all.  She is of a different opinion.

WWII is just about to start and there are rumors of war.  Lady Elizabeth — Lilly to her closest friends — wants to pitch in and help with the war effort.  Her parents refuse.  Lilly was not allowed to go to University.  She was not allowed to work.  She was only allowed a governess/tutor who gave her rigorous lessons only after she was encouraged by her brother’s friend, Robert Fraser, when he came to visit with her brother Edward one summer when Lilly was 13.  That one push from Robert set the tone for Lilly and she made fast friends with Charlotte, the governess/tutor finally hired.

We’ll fast-forward several years and Lilly is now in her early 20’s.  She’s been presented to the public for only one season and garnered no attention; the season was a flop for her.  Her parents were devastated.  But Lilly?  She was nonplussed.  She now had her time to herself albeit a lonely existence she did not have to follow in her mother’s boring footsteps.

Her mother drags her to a ball and there she meets up again with Robert Fraser who is immediately enamored of the little girl with freckles who has now matured.  He tells her she can do anything she puts her mind to and encourages her to follow her heart and find meaningful work.  Shortly after speaking with her, Lilly notices that her mother has cornered Robert and has a stern look on her face as she speaks to him.  Of course, no good could come of this.  When Lilly seeks Robert out later that evening he has gone and her brother tells her he bade her goodnight through him.

She decides shortly afterward that she needs a break and goes to live in their country home while her parents are in London.  She learns to drive all manner of vehicles from one of the servants and feels accomplished and ready.  She finally had a skill that would be useful if she could ever get the opportunity.

Long story short, Lilly is called back to London.  Her family found out from the vicar that she has been learning how to drive.  She has a verbal tussle with her parents and they order her to follow their rules, or else.  Lilly goes for the ‘or, else’ option and moves in with her governess/tutor, Charlotte.  From that point on, all of Lilly’s wealth and privilege mean nothing.  She eschews it all and gets a job as a ‘clippie’; a person who clips bus tickets.

The pay is menial but she knows she’s distantly helping the war effort because the men who used to do the clippie job are now fighting at the front.   During this time, she begins to correspond with Robert Fraser who is now a surgeon with the Army.  Through their correspondence, he encourages her to do more — as she’s always dreamed.  She finds out about a new organization of women that will help close to the front lines.

She applies as a driver and is accepted.  And, of course, eventually she gets shipped to the very base that her darling Robert — Robbie — is stationed.  There, a love story that is both a war tale and a moving love story, begins to unfold.

It is not the most swiftly unfolding book but it is a wonderful historic read that paints in all of the detail of the time and provides a wonderful scenic background to this war love story.  I highly recommend this book to history buffs and historical romance fans.

5 Blogairy Notebooks



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