Official Synopsis from Goodreads: From the bestselling author of The Tuscan Child comes a beautiful and heart-rending novel of a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War.
As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.
When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.
As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1918 Devonshire, England
***I received an eARC copy of The Victory Garden from the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, and Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley***
*** this post contains affiliate links ***
Review: A sweet and calming read.
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen is a standalone historical fiction novel set in England during the First World War. I’m a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s mystery series (Constable Evan Evans, the Royal Spyness Mysteries, and Molly Murphy), but I’ve gone back and forth with her standalone historical books. I loved In Farleigh Field, but really struggled with The Tuscan Child. I’m thrilled to say that I really enjoyed this read, The Victory Garden, and found it quite enchanting!
Our main character is Emily, a wealthy young woman who is at a crossroads. Her brother has been killed in the war, and she wants to do her part to support the cause, but is unsure of how exactly she wants to help and feels trapped at home. She ends up volunteering to be a Land Girl, and learns how to work on a farm so that the valuable crops can be harvested as most of the men are out fighting in the war. I’ve always been fascinated by the Land Girls, Victory Gardens, and herbal remedies, so I was quite excited to read this book, and it didn’t disappoint! I really felt I was there working on the farm with Emily, and struggling with her as she loses her fiancé and tries to find her way. Emily was plucky, and she was also a bit naïve, so sometimes I grew frustrated with her.
The synopsis, while not misleading, does basically spell out everything that happens in the book, and Emily doesn’t start to read the diaries about herbal remedies until about 63% through the book, and so I wish that the synopsis that is out there wasn’t quite so detailed as to the happenings of the book. There’s a predictability here, but it’s a good, comfortable predictable. This is a book that you can curl up in front of the fire with on a wintry day and be transported to WWI England.
In terms of the characters, I liked Emily, and I also liked her friends Alice and Daisy, whom she meets when she joins the Women’s Land Army. They were supportive and kind, and helped Emily when she needed them. I also enjoyed Lady Charlton, the imposing Lady who lives at one of the homes that Emily works at. Emily’s parents however I did not like at all! I thought they were quite horrid, and their treatment of Emily was terrible.
All in all, this is a good book with a solid story. The characters are (for the most part) likable and genuine, and there’s a comfort here and I very much enjoyed this! There are a few melodramatic moments, but it was overall quite enchanting!
Bottom Line: Sweet and predictable, but overall enchanting!
My Review of In Farleigh Field
My Review of The Tuscan Child
4 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen”
I’ve never heard the term “land girl” before, but I confess I don’t read much historical fiction. I’ve found more and more lately that a book synopsis released by the publisher will be the spoiler-filled thing out there! If it doesn’t happen within the first 50 pages, it shouldn’t be on there. Even the book I recently review, Arrow’s Fall, had a spoiler on the back cover: “And, to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Ancar’s court than just preparation for a hoped-for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Ancar’s realm — an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time!” Okay, Talia doesn’t leave for Ancar’s kingdom until page 135. She doesn’t learn about the ancient magic until somewhere around page 170. She doesn’t warn the Queen until a dozen pages after that! I mean, what a bunch of spoilers. The book is only 319 pages long. Do you have any ideas why this happens — the synopsis on the back of the book that spoils most of the story?
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Oh wow! Yeah, I don’t know why that happens – my only guess is that they want it to sound enticing and attract readers, and perhaps giving a rough idea doesn’t sound exiting enough? I don’t know. I was quite surprised as I read this book to realize that everything is given away in the synopsis! And then there are those books where the synopsis is so misleading that you have to wonder if the person who wrote the synopsis ever actually read the book…
I took a grad class on children’s literature and learned that book cover designers rarely read the book. The ones who do it professionally for a big publisher don’t have time. They get a synopsis and use that, so there have been some classic blunders throughout the last 100 years with covers that utterly fail to match the contents.
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You’d think someone would’ve stopped those bad covers from being used! I still remember seeing one cover for Anne of Green Gables and the girl didn’t have red hair… I find it hard to believe that no one noticed that before it was published! Perhaps they noticed but just didn’t care 😦
Every so often I come across a great cover that really has the spirit of the book, and I always wonder if those ones are so good because the artist/designer was able to read the book. Or if they just got lucky, or got a great synopsis of the book to begin with. This particular cover for The Victory Garden is perfectly fine, but fairly vague, so I would guess that the cover designer was just given the synopsis to work with here. And it works just fine here! Of course, that synopsis did spell everything out… 🙂
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