After the War Is Over
About This Book
After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.
Edward Neville-Ashford, her former employer and the brother of Charlotte’s dearest friend, is now the new Earl of Cumberland—and a shadow of the man he once was. Yet under his battle wounds and haunted eyes Charlotte sees glimpses of the charming boy who long ago claimed her foolish heart. She wants to help him, but dare she risk her future for a man who can never be hers?
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.
Jennifer Robson is a new-to-me author, so I was hoping to meet a new favorite when I picked up After the War Is Over, and I’m delighted to say that I did. I found her prose to be very straightforward and engaging, without flowery excess. I liked Charlotte immediately and was really able to connect with her, able to relate to her yearning for more out of life and insecurities about how to change her situation.
In terms of tension and conflict, this story didn’t have a lot of “action.” Instead, it revolved around more internal struggles, the doldrums of post-war life and the general feeling of uselessness on the part of those men and women now home from the front. But the research and historical details of that life and setting were absolutely fantastic. This book is filled with period detail that really brought the early 20th Century to life for me, especially this ambiguous time in history when the war was over but the Roaring Twenties hadn’t yet begun. The characters personified this limbo as well, being torn between old ways and new.
Charlotte is a vicar’s daughter, but any expressions of faith in this story were relegated to social status only; the characters go to church because it’s expected. Some mild language (mostly British swear words) and a scene of brief but rather descriptive sensuality may offend more conservative readers, but on the whole nothing was overly graphic or included for mere shock value. This story was quite clean, even sweet, for a general market novel. If this was a movie, I would rate it PG-13; parents should read this story before allowing their teen/young adult to do so. And while this book is billed as a sequel to Somewhere in France, and events from that story are alluded to, this book has no trouble standing on its own.
This book was a bit heavy on a dialogue, but that is unavoidable in any single-point-of-view story because the author is always forced to convey information to that character (and subsequently the reader) through conversations contrived for that very purpose, which can end up being a bit awkward at times. Charlotte is the only point-of-view character in this story, and as such Edward, the hero, was kept at a distance when I would’ve really enjoyed getting inside his wounded and weary mind to experience more of the story’s conflicts from his perspective. At first, the bombardment of secondary characters felt a bit overwhelming, but perhaps it’s because they were all introduced so quickly; as the story went on, I was able to keep them straight.
The story structure was rather awkward at times, with the pre-war chapters showing how Charlotte and Edward had met just a few years before the story takes place. It was not quite distant enough for me to justify appearing as a separate subplot the way they did; one good prologue and a few shorter, more direct flashback moments or allusions would’ve made the story flow much more smoothly for me. Some story threads, largely centered around other ladies in Charlotte’s boarding house, felt random and unnecessary to the story, especially when they were all left unresolved, but perhaps this is to set up additional sequels.
This book was almost more like historical women’s fiction than historical romance, and the relationship between Charlotte and Edward didn’t have quite as much romantic tension as I would’ve liked. There just wasn’t much to keep them apart, and the way there one big obstacle—her lack of fortune—was swiftly brushed aside in the rather telling final scene, once more attest to the problem I have with single-POV stories. The tension may have been greater had I experienced some of it from Edward’s point-of-view. As it was, the ending was a little too neatly resolved to make me feel they really earned it.
Overall, After the War Is Over was a surprisingly sweet story about a young woman yearning to find her place in a world still traumatized by the horrors of the Great War. Fans of Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge will especially connect with this cosmopolitan tale of defying conventions and overcoming social barriers in the pursuit of happiness and true love.
Available January 6, 2015 from William Morrow