Jennifer Robson's Somewhere in France is an 'all's well that ends well' though with its share of heartache along the way sort of novel, and if there were a few categories of stories I was hoping to fill this year, it fits a few of them quite nicely. It is very much in the comfort realm of storytelling, definitely romance-ish and while a little predictable, sometimes that's okay depending on what you're looking for in a particular read. And especially if you know you are hoping for a happy outcome, too. I already know I am going to read all her books now. She reminds me of her fellow Canadians, Susanna Kearsley and Simone St. James and I want to (and have been doing so) read all their books, too. Each author does her own thing while at the same time being very similar in style. I suspect if you like one, you may well like the others.
Jennifer Robson's Somewhere in France is a WWI novel with an aristocratic protagonist, young in age and in experience, but willing to shrug it all off to help the war effort and of course, live for and make her own happiness. I suspect Robson's novels all have a strong love story running through them. Simone St. James sets her novels in the same era--mostly post-WWI, though her stories have a supernatural/paranormal/ghost story slant to them. Also with a strong love story. Susanna Kearsley is a little more varied. Her novels move around in time, are largely set in England or Scotland, may be historical novels and she does the time-slip thing really well. Hers almost always have that parallel storylines format. Yes, there is always a dash of romance to them as well. You know where you stand with each author, you know that in the end it will be a satisfying read. Oftentimes these are my favored comfort reads and it is always nice to have a reliable author you know you can pick up and are likely to enjoy.
Lilly Ashford is Lady Elizabeth Ashford who wishes she had more opportunities but as a younger sister to a much-loved brother and the daughter of extremely conventional (read that as very snobbish and unbendable) parents she is tutored at home as proper young ladies are and will be married off as soon as possible and with as best of a match as possible as proper young ladies are raised to do. It's not what she wants but it's what is expected and she might well have gone along with it all had she not been re-introduced to her brother's best friend Robbie Fraser. The first time they met she was little more than a schoolgirl and he paid her not the least attention, or at least as much attention as any young man who's best friend has a younger sister still in knee socks and plaited hair is likely to do.
But seven years later and in long gown, kid gloves and tiara (remember she is a Lady) she catches Robbie's eye and the favor is returned. Sadly for Lilly and Robbie, regardless of those sparks that fly, her mama has other plans (and other suitors) in mind. Her brother Edward is getting betrothed and while not the Belle of the Ball, Lilly is no longer a schoolgirl. Unfortunately Robbie, who knows Edward from Oxford it matters not that he is a newly minted doctor, a surgeon even. He comes from the wrong side of the Glaswegian tracks. Besides weren't doctors looked down on at the time by aristocrats? Mama firmly pushes a wedge between the two potential lovers, and that's that.
And then war breaks out. Both men enlist or are called to serve each in their own capacity--officer and doctor. And Lilly knows this might well be her opportunity to do something more with her life and so begins to learn to drive hoping she might join the FANYs or some other war organization. It's Robbie who puts her on to the idea. The two had been corresponding just as friends initially, but you know how wartime romances start. When Lilly is caught out not just learning to drive but writing to an unsuitable young man it causes an irrevocable break and she leaves with nothing but her title and that counts for little in this uncertain new world.
I expect you know the drill from here on out. Lilly goes to France and paths cross and it's all going to be love and hearbreak. This is a gentle sort of read, easy on the mind and spirit. And for visualization purposes . . . do you recall in the summer I was watching the PBS drama The Crimson Field and mentioned a particular doctor of Scottish extraction in the show and lamenting how I never manage to run across blue-eyed Scotsmen (click on link and scroll down if you are curious who I am talking about)? That particular character fit quite nicely in my mind as Robbie Fraser. Definitely an entertaining read. I bought an inexpensive ebook copy of Robson's After the War is Over. It will make a perfect gym read. And she has a new book coming out soon, too, Moonlight Over Paris.