Things seemed pretty peachy at the end of first book, Darcy’s Hope: Beauty For Ashes, but the reader can see the ominous clouds in a distance and they aren’t just caused by the Great War. Wickham is still set on bringing down Darcy, Elizabeth is still suspected of being an enemy spy, and Darcy is going back to the front lines. This was one engaging, heart-felt story from cover to cover.
As noted earlier, this is book two. I think the reader could get by with reading this one out of order, but would miss all that went into the hard-fought romance between Darcy and Lizzy as well as all the twists and turns of the ongoing suspicion of espionage.
At Donwell Abbey opens on the heels of the close for Beauty For Ashes. Darcy is headed back to his ongoing investigation into traitorous activity while Lizzy is safely headed to Darcy’s home, Pemberley. Darcy track down clues meanwhile Elizabeth receives a letter from Caroline Bingley followed by seeing a newspaper story both pointing to her as being a spy.
Elizabeth goes into hiding to prevent the scandalous lies about her from touching Darcy and her sister, Jane’s reputation while at the same time Darcy gains the facts that will prove who the real culprits are. Darcy learns of a death on his estate and that Elizabeth is missing. Unfortunately, Darcy can do nothing to track her down because he’s been ordered back to the frontlines.
Lizzy hides under an assumed name and now works for a doctor specializing in head injuries and blindness. She takes his dictation as he works on a manual to help train other doctors and meanwhile, he ends up the lead doctor at a new military hospital associated with Darcy’s cousins, the Knightleys on their estate, Donwell Abbey. It makes her nervous to be so close to a place where someone might recognize her. Then a new patient arrives and her newly acquired knowledge and other skills make her the only one qualified to nurse him. Dare she trust him with the truth?
As before with the first book, I enjoyed immersing myself in the Great War world this author carefully painted as backdrop for the ongoing story. Meticulous details lent the authenticity that allowed me to notice the historical setting in balance with the plot and characters. The pacing was gentle and I appreciated following both Darcy and Elizabeth’s narration.
There are some new characters introduced particularly the colorful Knighley family members at Donwell Abbey. Darcy’s aunt is a pistol with her old-fashioned upper crust ways and dogged determination to marry her granddaughter and Darcy. Dr. Scott was another that was fun to meet. Cameos from Colonel Brandon, Marianne Dashwood, Margaret Hale, and John Thornton rounded things out. I would love to pursue some of these other stories that were bubbling in the background.
The medical knowledge was fascinating with how the doctors and nurses were treating injuries due to the war that were forcing them to think outside the box and seek for advances in the fields of medicine. This book focused on work with blind and men with minds made fragile by war. It was also interesting how private estates were being turned into hospitals to accommodate the influx of wounded. Families gave buildings, but also volunteered themselves. Everyone helped with the war efforts.
Normally, I’m iffy on stories that rely on misunderstandings to drive the conflict, but in this case, it worked brilliantly. Darcy can’t make sure the widespread rumors and errors about Lizzy are retracted because it’s all still top secret. And Elizabeth acts on what she knows- the letter and newspaper are clear sources that any sensible person would heed. Unfounded accusations are happening all over and innocent actions could be misconstrued easily. This separation right when they both found happiness and love was sad, but then what came after for them both was heartwrenching. There is always hope though and the adversity gave them a chance to see yet more reasons why they loved each other.
So, all in all, this second half of their hard-fought for romance was a strong story of healing, inner strength, and deepening love told alongside a swirl of suspense. I would recommend it for those who enjoy sweet historical romance against a war setting and definitely those who want a few nods to historical drama fan favs like Downton Abbey, North & South, and Pride & Prejudice. I hope other stories are forthcoming in the Great War world the other created.
Romance Roundabout #42 HR
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New Release #21
Austenesque Lovers #8