31 July 2013

War Brides by Helen Bryan, Book review

Publisher: AmazonEncore (June 12, 2012)
ISBN-13: 978-1612183329


With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever.

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline’s arrival causes a stir in the village—but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there’s Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers.

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies—hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst—and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance.

When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women’s mission is not to commemorate or remember—they’ve returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.

Here are my thoughts:

An impressive, well honed WW2 story, this time about 'War Brides'. 
First spotted on Josie-Mary's blog, this fictional wartime novel caught my attention and I wanted very much to see what it was all about. Amazon was my first stop as usual and I chuckled at the 2,629 reviews already posted, more than half of these 5 stars. I was on to a winner and the rest is as they say, history.
Author Helen Bryan is not a Brit as I first imagine but she certainly grasps the very elements of British life, particularly during the conflict times of the 1940's.

From the onset this noteworthy story follows five remarkable young women: Alice, Elsie, Frances, Tanni and Evangeline each a War Bride, their lives intermingled through the good times and the hard times of wartime England in a little village called Crowmarsh Priors.

Alice, Elsie and Frances are British, yet their backgrounds are as dissimilar from one another as day and night. Alice is a vicar's daughter who cares for her emotionally dependent mother. Elsie hails from the East End of London and has been taken in service until she joins the Land Girls. Frances' father is a member of the Admiralty and had a privileged upbringing. Tanni is a Jewish refugee newly arrived in England and Evangeline is an American from New Orleans who marries Richard, a British Naval attache at the onset of the war. 

Together these women survive bombardments, rationing and the emotional stress induced by war time separations from their loved ones whilst bringing to each other some measure of comfort and at times, surprising skills. 

Tanni is nothing but a child herself when she first arrives in England with her new husband, yet she is expecting. She dreams of finding a way to bring her twin sisters and parents to safety someday. 
Free spirited Evangeline escaped a brutal matrimonial match by seducing Richard and sails to England with her new husband only to face a whole new way of life in Crowmarsh Priors. Richard however had first proposed to Alice, deemed a real brick by many, thus making the situation most difficult for all concerned. 

Drawing from civilian and military wartime accounts and inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of Victory Day Helen Bryan skillfully draws a breathtaking plot line around these women united by friendship and loyalty, their loved ones and  the shadow of a mysterious traitor. 

Beginning with Boxing Day in 1937 until their reunion in the Spring of 1995, War Brides' unfolds as each woman's story propels you into War riddled Britain, leaving you with nothing but admiration for these women' endurance, both physical and emotional. 

A dramatic ending binds each of these courageous young women, giving them the opportunity to put to rest a niggling question 50 years after the end of the War.

5 Stars! A great plot line for the cinema from an excellent author!

About the Author:

Helen Bryan was born in Virginia, grew up in Tennessee, graduated from Barnard College and lives in London where she qualified as a barrister and is a member of the Inner Temple. She left the Bar to write full time after publication of her first book, a layman's guide to the English planning system "Planning Applications and Appeals".
Her second book was a biography, "Martha Washington First Lady of Liberty," awarded a Citation of Merit by the Colonial Dames of America.

She is the author of two bestselling historical fiction novels. The first "War Brides" is a World War II saga inspired by family holidays in a small East Sussex village, the wartime reminiscences of older relatives and friends, and the true life stories of the brave young women who joined Churchill's Special Operations Executive.
Her new novel "The Sisterhood" is a romantic/religious/mystery saga spanning 400 years, set in sixteenth century Spain and Spanish America and featuring an unlikely modern heroine.

Note: As always please remember that unless stated otherwise, this review reflects ONLY my opinion!


  1. yay you read it! Great isn't it? x

    1. Hello Jo! So, what else have you read lately? How's the shoppe going?

  2. Looks like a great read. I will check this out. Thanks I love all of your reviews.

    1. Helen Bryan certainly impressed me with her knowledge of British life, particularly in the fourties Kayla! As to the ending, I had forgotten about one little detail which became a crucial point in resolving a mystery! This is one book I'll keep on my shelves and read again!

  3. This is definitely going on my 'to read' list. I find this period in history very interesting.

  4. Oh! I am so glad Tracey, you'll love it!

  5. I loved the book - thanks for the recommendation! I know I probably just missed it but I have flipped back and forth in my Kindle and I can't figure out what happened to Frances' daughter. Was Frances executed while still pregnant ? or is the baby out there somewhere like the twins were?

    1. Maria, I understood it as Frances was executed before she gave birth sadly!
      So glad you enjoyed the book and God bless,


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