"I was in Paris the day the French Army was mobilized."
In 1914, while visiting her friend Madeleine, Lady Elspeth Douglas's life is thrown into chaos when war breaks out and the Germans quickly overrun Belgium, threatening France. Having just agreed to marry Alain, Madeleine's dashing brother, Lady Elspeth watches him leave to join his unit, and then she sets out for England, only to find herself trapped on the French coast.
Caught amid a sea of stranded travelers, terrified refugees, and wounded men overflowing the port of Calais, the restless Elspeth - daughter of a Highland aristocrat whose distinguished family can trace its roots back to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots - decides to make herself useful, carrying water to weary soldiers near the Front. It is an act of charity that almost gets her killed when enemy shells begin to explode around her.
To her rescue comes Captain Peter Gilchrist, who pulls her away from the battle and leads her to safety. But before they can properly say good-bye, Elspeth and Peter are separated.
Back in London, surrounded by familiar comforts, Elspeth is haunted by the horrors she witnessed in France. She also cannot forget the gallant Peter Gilchrist, even though she has promised herself to Alain.
Transformed by her experience, Elspeth goes to London and enrolls in a nursing course, where she meets a fellow nurse in training, Bess Crawford. It is a daring move, made without the consent of Elspeth's guardian, her cousin Kenneth, a high-handed man with rigid notions of class and femininity.
Yet Elspeth Douglas is a woman with a mind of her own, which - as she herself saysis a blessing and a curse. She is determined to return to the battlefields of France to do her part . . . and to find the man she has no right to love, no matter how far Cousin Kenneth may go to stop her. But before she can set things right with Alain, he goes missing and then Peter is gravely wounded. In a world full of terror and uncertainty, can the sweetness of love survive or will Elspeth's troubled heart become another casualty of this terrible war?
A poignant, compelling tale brimming with adventure, danger, and love, The Walnut Tree is an enchanting holiday gift and a wonderful companion to Charles Todd's acclaimed Bess Crawford series.
©2012 Charles Todd (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
What it ISN'T is a Charles Todd mystery like the Ian Rutledge/Beth Crawford series.
It is a nice little romance/adventure story written in a style which ought to appeal to someone looking for a light and easy read with a good story and not to much tedious attention to details. It should especially appeal readers who are dipping a tentative toe into historical fiction from that era.
For those of you old enough to remember the Cherry Ames books Lady Elspeth is Cherry Ames reincarnated. Back in the day when I was a young and enthusiastic reader (still enthusiastic BTW) developing my reading tastes and cutting my literary teeth on historical fiction I went through the Cherry Ames books like a hot knife through butter.
For those of you who don't remember them google Cherry Ames and you will see what I mean. If my Granddaughter was still in her teens I would definitely buy this book as a birthday gift as I know she would have loved it.
For folks whose who are looking for a book written about this era but who want more realism I recommend Vera Brittain's excellent book Testament to Youth. That ought to be enough realism for anyone.
The team of Charles Todd write great heroines for their World War One stories. Bess Crawford makes a cameo appearance but the story has a different set of characters. The main character is a Scots noblewoman. The descriptions of France, England, and Scotland are well done and the reader is excellent. This is a good listen for anyone looking for a quaint holiday story - more a novella than a meaty novel.
DId not read the print version, but I love to listen and to read Charles Todd novels.
A lot like the Bess Crawford series, Bess was even in this book. A little too much like Bess Crawford actually.
That beautiful Scottish accent!
Hmmm, I always listen in my car, so that's hard to say.
Keep them coming, Charles Todd!!!
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