The ideal lady wears lace, speaks quietly, and never—under any circumstances—fixes an automobile. But Gwyn Ruthers has never cared two snaps about being the ideal lady. With the war to end all wars exploding across the English Channel, she leaves behind her restrictive life as a chauffer's daughter to serve in an all-female ambulance unit in France. She's not about to let her social status or gender prevent her from serving her country. Not even a handsome captain can distract her from her mission. Most of the time.
Captain William Crawford wouldn't wish the ravages of war on any man, much less the captivating woman who insists on driving into battle instead of staying safely at home. He can't deny that the troops need more medical help, but not when it puts innocent women in danger. How can he lead his men against the Jerries while worrying about Gwyn's safety?
Bound together by circumstances, Gwyn and William can't stop the love growing between them. Can their relationship survive, or will it become another casualty of war?
Among the Poppies by J'nell Ciesielski
Among the Poppies is an incredible, explosive first novel, with extraordinary characters in the setting of WWI England and France. After reading about Ms. Cielieski and her online posts, I couldn’t not read this novel, and loved it! It is captivating from the start, especially to women who don’t fit into their assigned role and are clasping God’s hand in faith.
Gwyn is the daughter of the chauffer for the Baron of Somerset. She has huge dreams, including going to the only school in the world in 1915 that will train women to be pilots. Cecelia Hale is the daughter of the Baron. She has dreams, too, of being the beloved wife of someone suiting her social circle, someone wealthy, pleasing to her and her parents. The two ladies have been friends since childhood, but their friendship has changed as they grew up.
Both Cecelia and Gwyn meet Captain William Crawford, home briefly from the front, the day of a dinner party at the Baron’s home. Cecelia meets William at the elegant dinner party. Gwyn meets him when Lizzie, a classic Model T, is broken on the roadside. She is underneath, trying to fix it. Cecelia pursues William’s attention, and Gwyn knows the daughter of a chauffer has no chance with him.
Cecelia volunteers nursing services at the local hospital with Gwyn. Gwyn becomes an ambulance driver for a private hospital for soldiers in France; Cecelia goes along to provide nursing care. She knows William is near there, and also wants to be with her friend, Gwyn. Gwyn risks all to be a medic and ambulance driver on the battlefront. The battlefield scenes, including the terrible new weapons and slaughter of allied soldiers, are so powerful that I almost felt as if I could see every stunning moment. There wasn’t even a thought of what would happen when they returned to England. It was more like, who, if any of them, would live to return.
Gwyn is my favorite character! Her dauntless energy, optimism, and spirit of adventure are enviable. She has a very loving relationship with her father, even when he doesn’t understand her desire to help the soldiers at the front. While I couldn’t do what she did, watching her was exhilarating! Even in her darkest, most devastating hours, she is a young woman with principles. In some ways I felt sorry for Cecelia, constrained by her social standing. William sounds like the hero of every girl’s dreams, whether as a future husband or maybe a son. These three are the strongest, best defined characters, so real I almost wanted to pray for them!
This novel is stunning. The descriptions of the French countryside before the battlefield poaches it are so clear, this reader could almost smell the greenery. Most of the plot twists were so unanticipated and the effects of the war devastating. The author must have spent countless hours of research into every aspect of the history and locale, from autos to battlefield weapons. I can’t imagine how it felt for her to write some of the most intense scenes. What strikes me most is how each character responded spiritually to the devastation of the war. I was so wrapped up in the events and characters that the characters stayed with me after finishing it. The ending was almost completely satisfying. I highly recommend it to those who appreciates Christian historical women’s fiction set in WWI Europe. It is not to be missed.
From a grateful heart: I received a copy of this e-ARC from the publisher, and this is my honest, unrequired review.