War Brides

Published December 4, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

A Review of War Brides by Helen Bryan

Overview from www.bn.com: Five young women, five wartime love stories, an adventure plot, and eventually, revenge.

My Review:

Wow, was that a short description or what?  I think, so far, that is the shortest description I have seen.  It makes this book seem trite which is almost unfair because it is anything but.  I am not even sure where to start since so many stories are connected to the World War II story yet they are all so seamlessly connected to one another that you can’t imagine leaving even one of them out when you talk about this book.

Obviously I am not going to go into all of them, but I think it would behoove me to give an overview that is more complete.  We begin in the spring of  1995 when the four girls whose stories we will get to know well, are preparing for a reunion of sorts.  So back everyone goes to England, except for two of the women (for they are now old women) who are still living there.

The book piqued my curiosity right away with the mention of a girl named Evangeline Fontaine, years ago who had run away from her home in New Orleans and married a stranger.  The people who are reminiscing are now living in an old folk’s home that was created out of her family’s old house.  Though they were wealthy, the old folks say, they fell on hard times after Evangeline left and had to sell it.  They wonder where she is now but then one woman mournfully adds, that she is probably dead.  Another agrees and says, “‘most folks we knew are.'”

One by one we are introduced to the main characters in the year 1995.  Then we go back to the beginnings of their stories.  The one thing that they have in common is the time that they spent together during the war in the English village of Crowmarsh Priors.  Although CP (I am calling it this from now on to avoid having to type it out each time) is a small town, the stories in the lives of these women are not.  They all, in their own ways, have in one way or another, scandalized their neighbors.

Let me introduce them.  Alice is the good girl who had her heart set on marrying her childhood friend Richard who eventually does propose.  Meanwhile, he goes off to the USA and meets our next character Evangeline, who we met earlier.  Then, he shocks Alice and everyone else when he marries her and brings her back to England.  This obviously prevents Alice and Evangeline from being friends for a while.

Then we have Tanni who is recent bride and Jewish refugee from Austria.  She is coming from Israel to rejoin her friends in CP when we first meet her in the year 1995 so we know that she somehow will end up leaving there while still married to the husband that her parents had chosen for her.

The last two are Frances and Elsie.  Though they came from different backgrounds, they have one thing in common- a wild streak.  Elsie is from a poor family in London while Frances is the daughter of a prominent military father.  Both however seem to like getting in trouble.  While Frances is seen in all the wrong places, Elsie sneaks out with a boy her mother disapproves of.

The story of these women is engaging and at the same time surprising.  I don’t know what I was expecting but I never imagined so much story could be packed into one book and still have it all come together.  The characters were all so different and yet engaging.  Separately, I couldn’t have imagined any of them being friends but somehow in the context of what they have been through, it all makes sense.

I have to admit that although I was curious about Evangeline from the beginning, I found myself not really liking her until close to the end.  It wasn’t so much they way she slept around as it was that she stole Richard away from Alice in order to get away from home and help her solve her problems.  It seemed wrong and cowardly somehow.  She did change later though and that was the only thing that saved her in my eyes.

This e-book also had some formatting issues that I think needed to be fixed.  This seems to be a common problem with e-books though I don’t know why.  I wish these publishers and/or authors would get their act together.

Of course I didn’t have so many problems with the other characters.  Frances is seen as a party in the beginning yet she gives Elsie some good, mature advice that makes you think there is more to her than you originally thought.  And the others pull together and do what they can even with the war and their family problems, that you can’t help but like them.  I think all around, it is a great story, even if there were somethings I didn’t like about it.  There is a little of everything in this story which made it a good read.

Contains: sex scenes, voodoo, war violence, and many instances of bad language.

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