Reviewed by Elizabeth Mullenger
"1920, Durham. Since she was a child, Lucy Charlton has dreamed of working with her father in the family solicitor's firm. But a scandal shatters her dreams and, when her father disowns her, she finds herself on the streets, fighting for survival.
Joe Hardy has returned to London after the Great War to find his life in tatters - his father is dead and his pregnant fiancée has disappeared. Then Joe learns he's unexpectedly inherited an old river house in Durham from a stranger called Margaret Lee. With nothing left for him in London, he makes arrangements to travel north and claim it.
Lucy's determination has finally secured her a job as a legal secretary, campaigning for the rights of the poorest in society. As Joe arrives in her office to collect the keys to his new home, she promises to help him uncover information about his mystery benefactor. But before long, the past comes back to haunt them both, with shocking consequences..."
Despite its 1920's setting, Elizabeth Gill weaves a modern tale of love, heart-break, family feuds and scandal throughout the years. She cleverly documents the recovery of England and it's ex-soldiers after the First World War, particularly the lack of future opportunities available for the men who returned home. The story centres around two main characters whose lives are in tatters; ex-solider Joe who dangerously succumbs to passion whilst on leave and Lucy whose future is in turmoil after a horrendous infringement of trust by a family member.
I found the writing style jagged at times, with the grammar and inconsistency letting Gill down throughout the book. For example: "[Emily] sat by the window and watched [the rain] day after day. She longed for winter. How could you hide when the tulips were drowning in their beds? Emily sat outside, wishing it were winter when it was dark at ." Is she inside or outside? This inconsistency happens throughout the book and really jarred with me as a reader.
However the book is still an interesting, if slightly predictable, read and the descriptive writing style certainly made me want to visit the North of the country again. The stories main themes are loss, romance and family loyalty. I'd like to add a trigger warning to my review as the book deals with sexual abuse twice in the story, as well as child loss.
I'd like to thank Margot at Quercus for sending me a copy of this book to review and Elizabeth for reviewing it for me for this feature week.