Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.
It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.
In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.
Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.
Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
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The Light Over London
Barlow, Gloucestershire, England, September 2017
It was the discovery Cara loved most: digging through the forgotten, the memorialized, the tossed-aside, and the cherished. Uncovering the treasures and trinkets left behind and making sure they had the chance to tell their stories.
At Wilson’s Antiques & Curiosities, it was her job to find out the where and when of every object that came through the shop’s doors. But it was the why and the what that intrigued her most. When she answered those questions, she could give once-treasured possessions a new life with new owners.
When Cara couldn’t unearth the history of a piece, she spun stories for herself. It was easier than thinking about her own mistakes and the regrets she carried. While she worked, she could escape into the comfort of someone else’s life for a few hours.
Gravel crunched under her well-worn flats as she stopped to study the formidable house rising up before her. The Old Vicarage was a grand mansion of yellow Cotswold limestone, standing arrogantly against the dual ravages of weather and time, and punctuated by a pair of columns on either side of the white front door. A light wind rustled through the ivy that crept lazily between the first and second floors. Someone had pushed one of the third-story windows open, probably hoping to air out the house that had lain unoccupied since its owner had died almost six weeks ago.
The front door opened with a creak, and Cara’s boss, Jock Wilson, stepped out with a blond woman in her early forties. Dressed in pale blue and white, all elegance and softness, the woman was a stark contrast to Jock’s stiff tweed and polished leather brogues.
“Miss Hargraves, you’re finally here,” said Jock.
Cara glanced at the antique gold watch that Gran had given her upon her graduation from Barlow University years ago. It was nine o’clock on the dot, the exact time Jock had instructed her to arrive—unless she’d misread his email.
A flush of panic heated her cheeks. She couldn’t have gotten the time wrong. She’d been so careful since her first day two months ago. She’d had to be. This job was her chance to start again.
“Mrs. Leithbridge, this is my assistant, Cara Hargraves.” Jock’s hand swept out as though Cara were an early-nineteenth-century Limoges teapot he was presenting at auction.
She swallowed around her worry and crossed her hands behind her, hoping the gesture conveyed both deference and regret. “My condolences for your loss, Mrs. Leithbridge.”
The client gave her a minute, dismissive smile. “Thank you. Let’s get on with it then. I have a tennis lesson this afternoon.”
As the lady retreated through the front door, her high-heeled sandals clicking on the mosaic tile floor, Jock raised his brows to Cara as though to say, She’s one of the types I warned you about.
“I can’t imagine how I got the time wrong,” Cara whispered in a rush as they followed their client.
“You weren’t late, but you weren’t early either,” said Jock.
Her step hitched. “What?”
“Better to be early and sit in the car than to leave a client waiting. Now come on.”
Cara forced her shoulders down and breathed deep to soothe the sting of her boss’s prickliness.
Focus on the job. Show him what you know.
The air in the entryway was cool and stale. It might’ve been unsettling except she could almost hear the echoes of children long since grown scuffing the floors as they tore through the place in their eagerness to play outdoors. It wasn’t hard to imagine past proud owners standing at the huge white door greeting friends with two kisses and a warm smile each.
This was someone’s home, not just a job site, she reminded herself, taking in the pale green paneling that climbed up a third of the wall before giving way to a familiar wallpaper of bold acanthus leaves on a deep-blue background. Immediately, her mind zipped through the categorization Jock had taught her.
William Morris. British. Mid-1870s.
When she’d first started working at Wilson’s as an eighteen-year-old student, she’d thought she would have a natural advantage having grown up surrounded by antiques in both her parents’ and grandparents’ homes. But Jock had been quick to show her just how little she’d known. Now that she was back more than a decade later, he’d made it clear that he expected her to become as knowledgeable as him in short order. That meant any time not spent visiting Gran in her nearby retirement village was taken up reading about the styles of furniture Cara would most likely encounter on the job. But, standing next to him on her first trip into a client’s home, she’d known the Morris wallpaper without the crutch of her books, notes, and Google searches. She could do this.
“Your brother mentioned on the phone that your great-aunt was a collector,” Jock said.
Mrs. Leithbridge lifted a shoulder. “Great-Aunt Lenora was a pack rat. The whole house is jammed with clutter.”
“Miss Hargraves, do you see anything of interest in this room?” Jock offered Mrs. Leithbridge a strained smile. “Miss Hargraves is currently training after some time away from the antiques trade.”
“I see,” said Mrs. Leithbridge as though she couldn’t have cared less.
Determined not to be intimidated by her boss or by their apathetic client, Cara’s gaze settled on a small bench pushed against the wall next to the front door. Its finish was worn where countless people had paused to pull on wellies and clip on dog leashes over the years. It would’ve been unextraordinary except for its back and legs, which were carved in an intricate geometric pattern.
“That oak bench,” she said, pointing.
“Movement?” Jock tossed back.
“Arts and Crafts, likely constructed in the later half of the mid-nineteenth century.”
“American or British?”
She walked over to the piece and ran a hand over the back, feeling for the smooth joins that held it together without the aid of nails. “The wood is in good condition, but there are a few dings and nicks. The finish is only fair.”
“And what of the country of origin, Miss Hargraves?” Jock pressed, his formality making her feel like she was back in grammar school.
She stared hard at the bench. It was likely British, but people traveled, and collectors bought from abroad.
“Without searching for a maker’s mark, I can’t be certain,” she finally said.
“Are you sure you don’t want to hazard a guess?” asked Jock.
Her boss gave a small nod. “Very good. Better to be right than to guess.”
“This is all fascinating, I’m sure, but is it worth anything?” Mrs. Leithbridge asked.
“With the right buyer, everything has value, but let’s hope for pieces that are in better condition,” said Jock. “Perhaps you could show us the drawing room?”
“Through here,” said Mrs. Leithbridge, guiding them with a flick of her hand.
Always start in the drawing room, Jock had said when briefing Cara yesterday. It’s where people show off their best. And remember: F-S-P.
Those were the two governing principles of his business. Furniture, silver, paintings. Find, sell, profit. F-S-P.
Yet for Cara, there was more to it than that. When she’d been at university, Wilson’s had been a haven of sorts, a place to lose herself in the past. As she’d methodically catalogued each item in the storeroom, she’d felt like participant, witness, and confessor to little slivers of other people’s lives. Now, thirteen years later, she’d finally have the chance to glimpse a fuller picture of the connection between antique and owner.
Jock stopped short in the drawing room doorway, nearly causing Cara to crash into him. But then she saw why he was rooted to the spot. The room was packed with furniture, with only little walkways weaving across the huge handmade wool-and-silk rug. There were at least five sideboards dotting the space, including two pushed flush against the backs of a set of massive roll-top sofas. A Gothic-style grandfather clock ticked away in a corner, and paintings were hung in the Victorian style over nearly every inch of the oxblood-painted walls, while a mess of photographs, vases, candy dishes, and other curios covered almost every surface. Yet it was the wood-and-glass monster opposite the wide, tiled fireplace that caught Cara’s attention.
“A Collinson and Lock,” Jock finished.
They approached the piece carefully, as though it were a skittish animal that might bolt at any moment. Gingerly, Cara grazed her fingers over the edge of the cornice punctuated by a white scroll pattern.
“It’s rosewood, and the inlay is ivory. The crosshatching is there,” she said, thankful she’d just read about the furniture-making firm of Collinson & Lock that weekend.
“Very good, Miss Hargraves. The glass-fronted doors are also a key feature of the makers. But we won’t have confirmation until we find the stamp.” He opened the central cabinet door and made a show of craning his neck to look inside. “Not here. Would you look underneath? My knees are aching today.”
Jock’s knees seemed to be acting up quite a bit since she’d rejoined him, meaning it’d been up to her to do the crouching and bending around the shop. Nevertheless, Cara knelt on the floor and twisted to look up at the unembellished base of the cabinet’s lower level.
Shifting to pull her penlight out of her back pocket, she clicked it on and illuminated the words “Collinson & Lock.”
“It’s here,” she announced, pulling her head free. “Serial number 4692.”
“What is it?” Mrs. Leithbridge asked as Jock jotted the numbers down in a small leather-bound notebook he kept in his breast pocket.
“A very fine piece, and a good indication of your great-aunt’s taste. Perhaps,” said Jock, turning on his most brilliant smile, “you might consider rescheduling your tennis lesson. We have a great deal of work to do.”
Later that afternoon, Cara and Jock were in the dining room sorting through the contents of the late Lenora Robinson’s china when Cara’s phone rang.
Jock, who had been examining an Adams sugar bowl they suspected was from the 1850s, shot her a glare. “Miss Hargraves, will you turn that infernal thing off?”
Her grip reflexively tightened around the heavy stack of eighteen dessert plates she’d been pulling out of the butler’s pantry. “I’m so sorry.”
She slowly made her way to the dining table to set the plates down as the phone rang again.
“Miss Hargraves,” her boss said again, crossing his arms.
She ripped the phone out of her back pocket, her stomach sinking as she saw Simon’s picture filling the screen.
“Are you going to answer it or simply stare?” Jock asked.
She cleared her throat. “It’s my ex-husband.”
“Then I suggest you take this very personal call somewhere else. Far away.”
“Yes, of course.” She hurried out and picked up the call as soon as she was in the corridor. “What is it, Simon?”
His voice, as polished as it was judgmental, filled her ear. “Why are you whispering?”
She strode up a narrow flight of stairs that must’ve once been for the servants of the house. “Because I’m at work.”
“With the antique owner of the antique shop?” He snickered.
“Yes, and Jock needs me, so if you’d just tell me why you called . . .”
Glancing around for Mrs. Leithbridge, she slipped into the first room she came to, kicking up a cloud of dust that swirled in the light from a single window. When she shut the door, an old, battered armoire creaked open.
“Come now, it isn’t like you’re performing surgery,” he said.
God forbid he think her job was important.
“You should go back into events,” he continued, his tone overbearing and snobbish. “I’m sure your old boss could find a spot for you, or you could start your own consultancy. Then you could make real money.”
Of course Simon didn’t think working for Jock was good enough, and it grated on her that, even though they were divorced, he still felt his opinion should matter.
“Simon, I hated working events and I should’ve quit long before I did.”
“And I suppose that’s my fault,” he said, his voice sharpening.
“Part of it is, actually.”
All at once, Simon’s self-righteous bluster left him. “I’m sorry, Cara. I ruined everything. I’m going to get help, I just . . .”
She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the wave of guilt to come. Only now it had been long enough that it didn’t crash down on her but rather lapped at her feet. They’d been down this path before. He’d first promised her when she’d told him she wanted a divorce that he would seek help, but he’d never gone. It had taken her considerable time with her own therapist to understand that her shoulders weren’t broad enough to carry the full weight of her husband’s narcissism, insecurity, and addiction.
“Why did you call?” she asked.
He cleared his throat. “A bill was forwarded to me by mistake. It was for your parents’ storage unit.”
She slumped against the wall, the memory of the late-night phone call stealing her breath. It had been a police officer, telling her with clinical dryness that a drunk driver in a Range Rover had hit her parents on a one-track country lane. They were being medevaced to a hospital in Cumbria. She hadn’t arrived in time to say goodbye.
“Apparently the annual fee was paid out of our joint account. Since we closed it, it came back declined,” Simon continued, oblivious or uncaring as to how his words hit her.
“Please forward it to my new address. I’ll take care of it,” she said, her voice cracking a little.
“You should clear it out and sell the lot. They’ve been dead for almost two years, Cara. You need to stop wasting money on this.”
His callous disregard for the way she chose to mourn her parents’ deaths might’ve felt like a slap once. Now it just left her with a deep, soul-aching sadness. “Send me the bill. I’ll handle it.”
“I’m only trying to help,” he said.
“No, Simon, you’re not, and one day I hope you’ll see that.” She swiped to end the call. Her divorced friends had told her that there’d be times when she’d be so angry at her ex she’d want to rage, but all she felt was weary to the bone. She could hardly remember why she’d fallen in love with him all those years ago.
She tucked her phone away, determined to focus on whatever Jock threw at her, but before she could, a glint of gold from inside the partially open armoire caught her eye. She moved to shut the door that had fallen open, but hesitated. Great-Aunt Lenora had proven canny about hiding things away in nooks and crannies. Who knew what was squirreled away inside?
The old hinges creaked in protest as she opened the door wide. Compared to the clutter of the house, the shelves were disappointingly bare. The gold turned out to be a hand mirror with an elaborate fleur-de-lis back, and next to it lay an old Scrabble set that looked to be at least two dozen letters short.
Not feeling particularly hopeful, she turned her attention to the two drawers on the bottom. Nothing in the first but a couple of dead moths. But when she opened the second drawer, she saw a biscuit tin molded to look like a shelf of upright books. She’d seen tins like this full of buttons and other odds and ends in Gran’s house when she was a child. If she had to hazard a guess, against Jock’s wishes, she would’ve said it was from the 1940s, possibly the very early 1950s.
Kneeling on the floor, she slipped her short nails under the top to rock it back and forth. It was slow work but finally the thin metal gave way. Her heart kicked up a beat at what she saw. On top lay a small fat notebook bound in red-cloth-covered cardboard and held together by a band. When she tried to open it, the elastic disintegrated in her hands.
“Damn,” she cursed softly. She should probably set the book aside, but the damage was already done.
The notebook’s first page was blank, but the next was covered in looping script written in faded blue ink. The date at the top read “14 October 1940.”
The bombs fell again yesterday night. I’d just gone to sleep when the explosions started. They sounded so close I thought the ceiling might fall in. Dad says the Germans dropped six bombs on RAF St. Eval. We don’t know yet how much damage was done.
I suppose that’s why I’m writing in this diary. Dad has been saying for ages that I ought to keep a record of this war and of what happens to me.
Just last week Mum was horrid about the idea, saying, “What’s she going to write about? Her job at Mrs. Bakeford’s shop?”
Well, something has happened and I have to write about it, even if it is simply to spite Mum.
It was a diary. A World War II diary. Cara skipped ahead a dozen or so pages.
21 February 1941
For months I felt as though I didn’t have anything to record in these pages. Everything stays the same here, but now things are different. Now it seems as though I can’t stop writing.
Paul took me to the pictures in Newquay yesterday afternoon to see Freedom Radio. I told Mum I was helping Kate knit socks for the war effort, but instead I ran to the bus stop to wait for him. He was a perfect gentleman, buying my ticket and helping me to find my seat. We arrived at the theater just as the film was starting, and as soon as the title card came up, he took my hand and didn’t let go the entire time. I don’t think I paid attention to a thing Clive Brook and Diana Wynyard were saying on the screen!
24 February 1941
Two days until I see Paul again.
I never thought I would be the type of girl to become all swoony over a man, but today at the shop I dropped a glass jar of boiled sweets. By some miracle it didn’t break, but Mrs. Bakeford scolded me for having my head in the clouds. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t my head but my heart.
With a smile, Cara flipped forward to a random section midway through.
25 September 1941
I said goodbye to Paul this morning. He tried to talk me into staying in bed, but I told him that would be desertion.
Cara paged through the rest of the diary, looking to see how far it went. The writing stopped abruptly with a single line.
5 January 1942
Everything is over. I thought I loved him.
Guilt tugged at her as she closed the cover, but sitting with her hand still touching the journal full of another woman’s most intimate thoughts, she couldn’t deny that she was curious. Who was Paul and what had happened? Why was everything over, seemingly in less than a year? And whose diary was this in the first place?
When she tipped the rest of the tin onto the floor, out tumbled a tiny compass with a bent edge, a locket, a photo, a few pieces of paper, and a scrap of cloth. The cloth was easy enough to identify: a man’s handkerchief, plain and serviceable, with a “P” stitched in one corner. One of the papers was bright coral and dry with age. She flipped it over. A cinema ticket to the Paramount Theatre in Newquay dated 20 February 1941, the day before one of the diary entries she’d read.
She set the ticket aside and examined the other scraps of paper. A small flyer with a torn corner for some sort of Valentine’s dance at the generically named Village Hall on the fourteenth of February. An unused tube ticket for the Central line.
She picked up the photo next. A woman wearing a uniform was looking over her shoulder, her hand raised to the cap that sat perched atop her swept-back, pageboy hairstyle. Her smile was bright and brilliant, as though the photographer had caught her in a moment of pure joy.
But that wasn’t what made Cara pause. It was the uniform—she’d seen it before. Gran had been issued the same one when she’d joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1943, and Cara recognized it from the two photographs Gran kept in her sitting room. One was a formal portrait taken on Iris Warren’s first day of leave from the women’s auxiliary branch of the army. In the other, she was lined up with four other uniformed girls, all linking arms and smiling.
“I met your granddad at a dance at the NAAFI,” Gran had explained to her once. “Every few months, something official would be put on in the canteens with as good a band as they could scrape together, but more often we’d dance to music played on a gramophone. The Americans had brought the jitterbug with them, and we were all mad for it.
“Your granddad was an American GI, with his hair cut short and his sharp uniform. He did his best to woo me with chocolates and the promise of silk stockings.”
But that was where Gran’s reminiscences ended. The last time Cara had tried to ask about the war when she was just sixteen, Gran had abruptly clammed up and gone to lie down, claiming to have a migraine. Mum had scolded her, saying, “There are some things your gran doesn’t want to talk about. Don’t push her, Cara.”
She traced her finger over the strong sweep of the woman’s jaw before flipping the photograph over. On the back, in a different handwriting than the diary, someone had written “L.K. on the Embankment.”
Setting the photo down, she picked up the simple gold heart locket and eased her thumbnail between the clasp to open it. One side was blank but the other held a tiny photograph of a dashing man in a fleece-collared bomber jacket with a pair of goggles perched on top of his head. A pilot.
“Miss Hargraves!” she heard Jock shout from somewhere downstairs.
Quickly, she gathered the things into the tin and rushed to find Jock in the study with Mrs. Leithbridge.
“What have you there?” he asked with a raised brow.
“I’m not entirely sure.” She set the tin down on a table. “Mrs. Leithbridge, did your great-aunt serve in the ATS during the Second World War?”
The lady lifted her brows. “I don’t know what the ATS is.”
“It was the women’s service that supported the army.” When Jock looked over the top of his glasses, she added, “My gran served.”
“Great-Aunt Lenora used to drone on about being a volunteer ambulance driver in London during the Blitz.” Mrs. Leithbridge rose and click-clacked over to a desk near a pair of tall sash windows. Her hand wove through the air before plucking up one of the photographs that lined its edge. “Here.”
There was no way the woman who stared out at Cara was the one in the ATS uniform. Even in black-and-white it was easy to see that Lenora Robinson, all sharp angles with high cheekbones and a thin, small nose, bore no resemblance to L.K. on the Embankment’s youthful features and strong jaw.
Still, Mrs. Leithbridge’s great-aunt shared a first initial with the inscription on the back of the photograph.
Cara opened the tin and pulled it out. “Are you sure this wasn’t her? The back reads ‘L.K.’ Maybe it was taken before she was married. What was her maiden name?”
Mrs. Leithbridge barely glanced at the photo. “Great-Aunt Lenora never took her husband’s name. Quite modern, really.”
“Oh.” Cara glanced at Jock. “There was a diary too.”
“There’s a market for World War Two paraphernalia and diaries, but since it doesn’t appear that Mrs. Robinson wrote it, we’d have to authenticate it and identify the writer,” said Jock.
“I have a broker coming to look at the house in two weeks. Everything that can’t be sold will be cleared out by a junk-removal company,” said Mrs. Leithbridge.
“But shouldn’t we do something with it?” Cara asked, holding up the diary. “Perhaps return it to the woman who wrote it?”
“Where did you find it?” Jock asked.
“In an armoire in a small room off the back stairs.”
“The box room?” Mrs. Leithbridge laughed. “No one’s been in there for years. Throw it out.”
“No!” Heat crept up Cara’s neck as two pairs of eyes bored into her, but she refused to look away. She felt strangely protective of the diary, drawn in by the happiness and heartbreak she’d read, and was now more determined than ever to get the answers she needed from Gran about her history.
“I’d like to keep it and try to figure out who it belonged to.” Cara paused. “If that’s okay with you.”
“I don’t care,” said Mrs. Leithbridge. “I’ll be in the drawing room if you need me.”
When they were alone, Jock pinned Cara with a stern glare. “Miss Hargraves, we do not argue with clients.”
“She wanted to throw it away,” Cara protested.
“And that’s her right. Mrs. Leithbridge can haul all of this to the back garden and set fire to it if she likes, but I’d rather persuade her to sell it and earn my commission. It would be helpful if my assistant didn’t scold her.”
“Aren’t you the least bit curious as to who wrote it?”
“Given that I’m working and using up my client’s valuable time, I’m far more interested in this writing box,” he said, gesturing to a Victorian lady’s lap desk that lay open on a table. “Or any other number of things that will actually turn a profit. F-S-P, Miss Hargraves.”
She squared her shoulders, but before she could say anything, Jock sighed, took off his glasses, and rubbed them on a handkerchief from his pocket. “If it’ll stop you from looking at me like I’m a philistine trying to destroy history, you can take the diary home. Go put it away, but hurry back. This is proving to be a larger job than I expected.”
Cara kept her head down as she rushed to her car, but she couldn’t help the little smile that touched her lips. She and Gran would have quite a bit to talk about after work.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Light Over London includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book
For Cara Hargraves, burying herself in her job working for an antiques dealer is an easy escape from the memories of a failed marriage and the tragic death of her parents. One day, while clearing out an estate, she finds a World War II–era diary and photograph of a young woman in uniform—the same uniform her grandmother wore during the war. With the help of her neighbor, Cara searches for the identity of this mysterious woman, all while exorcising the secrets of her family’s past.
Author Julia Kelly weaves in the tale of Louise Keene, the author of the diary, as she falls in love with a dashing pilot before running away from her Cornish village to join the women’s branch of the British Army during World War II. While Louise gains her independence and finds her place among her fellow gunner girls, she also discovers the darker side of wartime romance. The Light Over London is about two women who find themselves and fight to forge a better and brighter future.
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Although Louise’s mother is proud of her flower garden in front of their house, Louise’s father plants a vegetable garden there in case of rationing, which was “the first big battle of her parents’ war within the war. . . . The argument was finally won one spring day when Louise had returned from a bicycle ride to find her father on his knees in the mud, ripping out just-flowering plants, while her mother stood in the front window, arms crossed and face pale” (page 23). What does this scene reveal about Louise’s parents’ relationship, and how they cope with living during wartime?
2. One of the main conflicts in the beginning of The Light Over London is that Louise is dissatisfied with life in her Cornwall village. Who in your group is from a smaller town? Discuss the differences between life in small town and a bigger city—both the pros and the cons.
3. When Cara first discovers the diary, Mrs. Leithbridge tells her to throw it away, but Cara fights to keep it. Why do you think she is so drawn to it initially?
4. Nicole, Cara’s best friend, and Kate, Louise’s cousin, have relatively minor roles, but they are important in the book. How do their characters drive the plots of the two sections forward?
5. “It seemed extraordinary to her that this man who belonged to a glamorous world so removed from her own had chosen her, a girl who’d hardly ever ventured out of Cornwall save the few times she’d visited her mother’s sister in Bristol” (page 86). Discuss the power dynamics going on in Paul and Louise’s relationship. What do you see as potentially harmful for each of them?
6. Discussing a passage in Louise’s diary, Cara remarks, “Of course people slept together before they were married” (page 213). What are your perceptions of sexual ethics during World War II, and did reading The Light Over London change them?
7. What about Cara’s relationship to Liam is different from her relationship to her ex-husband? How do you think her character has changed?
8. Paul makes the following argument to Louise: “If you ask me, they should’ve never started women’s auxiliary branches. It’s too dangerous, not to mention the distraction” (page 221). What does Paul mean by “distraction”? What modern-day arguments have you heard for keeping certain groups of people from serving in the military?
9. After Paul dies, Louise learns that he already had a wife when he married her. What do you think of Louise’s response to this information? Did the revelations during her meeting with Lenora surprise you?
10. Paul’s character is one that’s easy to fall for (both as the protagonist and as the reader). Why? What about him makes it seem like a good decision for Louise to choose him?
11. In looking back at the scene where Paul and Louise first meet, can you find any hints of Paul’s true character? Did you think anything about him was suspicious?
12. A major theme of this book is Louise’s independence. Discuss her transformation as a character throughout. What surprised you?
13. How do Cara and Louise’s stories mirror each other? How do they diverge?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Cara’s need to find the owner of Louise’s diary is motivated by her desire to uncover her own family history. Look online for a basic family tree template, fill it out, and bring it back to the group—sharing what you know about your ancestry and the gaps that you found.
2. Have your group research the women who served in the British military during World War II. Bring your findings back and discuss what you discovered. Focus in on what many of these women did after serving.
3. A large part of Cara’s job is assessing the value of antiques. Have a show-and-tell day in your book club where you each bring in a family heirloom. If any items have been appraised, share what they’re worth and why. If any of your members are willing, bring items that haven’t been appraised to an antiques expert and ask the expert to appraise them. If there’s an appraisal cost, the whole group can chip in.
4. Host an authentic tea party, complete with English tea and biscuits. If you have time, put together an antiques version of “The Price Is Right.” With the antiques that you had expertly appraised, have everyone guess how much the pieces are worth. The person who guesses correctly the most times wins a teapot.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cara is working for and learning the antiques trade after a series of losses have her back in the area she lived during university. The loss of her parents to a drunk driver, her divorce from her college sweetheart, and cleaning up the mounds of debt created by her ex have her in a state of retreat – retreat from the emotional upheaval, retreat from the hurt and above all, retreat from the chance of having to open herself again. Her job as an assistant to an antiques dealer, which requires her to study and be prepared with answers to origin, age, craftsman, value, etc. I would have been incredibly happy with this story had it been focused on Cara, her learning what she needs for work, and discovering a mystery from the past. But, the story adds another layer, one that is heavily laden with romance, even as her newly acquired neighbor is a medieval history lecturer, familiar with researching, digging and calling in favors – favors that he calls in to help Cara in her search. From the introduction of Liam, the story does have a bit of an uphill battle to decide which element is more substantial, romance, historic or the questions for and about her grandmother. For Cara’s new life is in close proximity to her Grandmother Lil, a character at 94 who makes her own decisions, has a busy social life, is full of advice and charm, and refuses to discuss her own time during the war. Yes, there are plenty of different elements, but London does manage to make weave the three elements of the story (past, present and mystery) into a blanket that slowly unfurls and builds as you read on. On an estate appraisal, Cara discovers an old stylized biscuit tin, inside is contained some bits of a life and a diary written during World War II by a young Cornish woman. Intrigued by the diary and the connection to questions stirred by a photograph of the girl in the uniform of the Auxilliary Territorial Services (ATS) a branch of the army, the same uniform that her grandmother wore during the war. Not knowing her grandmother Iris’ story, and deciding that discovering the author of the diary and returning the items to her family is important, Cara begins reading the diary, determined to ask her grandmother for answers. With the arrival of her new neighbor, Liam, a history lecturer, his interest is also piqued, and the two begin to dissect the clues on the way to solving the story. With the calming influence of Liam, and his steady and quiet demeanor, bits of the diarist Louise’s life unfold, gripping for the danger and courage, as well as the intrigue around her mysterious ‘flyer boyfriend’ Paul. While London manages to balance the three elements of this story reasonably well, we learn of Cara’s marriage, Louise’s service and the niggling questions that have Cara using Louise’s diary as an entrée to her own answers about her grandmother’s life and the multitude of questions she has about both her grandmother’s time in the war and the reasons she won’t speak of it. With answers and trust, both Cara and Liam both grow closer, even as the mysteries of Iris’ service and who Lillan was grow, and Liam’s connections to other historians bring answers not wholly unexpected for Louise, if one reads the diary entries carefully. Interesting for the connections and a fuller picture of the women serving in the ATS, the unfolding of answers bring Cara some long-awaited answers in her journey to moving forward with her life. An interesting read, full of emotion, lo
Parallel stories between a woman today and a woman in the past have become a familiar structure for novels I've been reading lately. So I like to ask: Why these two women? Why these two periods in time? And what does the title say about their relationship? At first "The Light Over London" appears to provide simple answers: Two women who face heartbreaking loss. Two women connected by a diary. The novel focuses on how Cara and Louise deal with relationships and responsibilities, and how they discover their own strength. But about 2/3 of the way through, I was completely surprised by a discovery they make. (I should have seen this coming!) And then the story becomes so much more. "The Light Over London" shows the dark parts of our past, but it doesn't dwell on the darkness. And as a gunner girl, Louise literally shines a light into the sky. The WWII details felt relevant and real, and I enjoyed being in the worlds of both Louise and Cara. Highly recommended historical romance!
Very intriguing book. It is an easy book to read.
This is a great read for any fan of WWII fiction. The author weaved true facts that inspired her writing into the fictional story. It was gripping and sweet, but yet believable. A must read.
I never seem to tire of historical fiction set during WWII. Louise and the Gunner Girls story runs parallel with Cara's present story after she finds some treasures in a biscuit tin at the antique shop she works at. It was a fascinating read, I really enjoyed it.
WWII mystery of love and war. A lovely historical fiction describing the life of a young woman yearning to escape the dull future that her mother has planned for her, and the romance that carries her away into action during World War II. The story is told through the character of a contemporary antiques cataloguer, who, with mysteries of her own to solve, decides to find the family connected to a war diary found in a piece of antique furniture. Amongst the mystery, romance and personalities of all the characters both in the past and present, a beautifully crafted plot is driven by the brave service of a group of women I had not heard about before; the Auxillary Territorial Service, ATS for short. We have now lost nearly all of our WWII veterans, and the first person oral witness to this horrible chapter of world history. With loving research and the genre of historical fiction, some of the drama, intrigue, sorrow and sacrifice can bring this period alive for us. This book definitely fits the bill by both teaching me (and thereby causing me to read more) about service women in Britian, and entertaining me with a mystery with secrets, romance, deception, and redemption in the past AND present. This was a wonderful book. It is perfectly written, very easy to follow, and you will not be able to put it down at the end!!! Read it. You will not be disappointed.
Loved this story! I turned the pages as quickly as I could to learn how the stories - both present and WWII period - would develop. I enjoyed how the chapters went back and forth between Cara and Louise. Loved learning about Ack Ack (or Gunner) Girls. Great book.
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly is a beautifully, written piece of historical fiction with depth, graceful prose and unexpected events. Cara Hargraves is trying to leave her past behind by focusing on her present and future pursuits. To that end, she takes a position working in antiquities. While clearing out a client’s estate, Cara finds a “World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform” named Louise Keene. Louise, a 19 year old, writes her most personal feelings throughout the diary. Clara reads Louise’s journal and takes the historical adventure with her all while trying to find Louise (or her family) to return the diary to them. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I loved The Light Over London. This work switches back and forth between different timelines, events and time periods seamlessly. The juxtaposition of war times and current day were beautifully crafted in prose which were set to the backdrop of relationships, love and resilience. I enjoyed this read very much! I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In present-day Gloucestershire, England, Cara Hargraves is working for Wilson’s Antiques and Curiosities when she discovers an old diary in an armoire at an estate she and her boss are sorting through. The diary is a treasure, written during World War II by nineteen-year-old Louise Keene, who lived in Cornwall during the war. As Cara learns more about Louise through her diary entries, Kelly takes the reader back to 1940s England when Louise met airman Paul Bolton, and their wartime romance blossomed quickly. But Louise’s mother wanted her to marry a local boy who was away serving in the military and is appalled that Louise would be interested in any other man. Frustrated with her mother’s controlling nature, Louise joined the women’s branch of the British army in the anti-aircraft gun unit. Though Louise had led a rather sheltered life, she performed exceedingly well in her military unit, but her romance with Paul had its ups and downs as his letters revealed a side of him that Louise had not previously experienced. As Cara continues to read Louise’s diary, she would like to be able to return the diary to Louise’s family and find out how Louise’s story ends. Cara receives some welcome assistance in her quest from her new neighbor, Liam McGown, a professor. Sparks fly between Cara and Liam though both are a little shy of getting involved as Cara has endured a difficult divorce, and Liam’s engagement ended not long ago. Readers of historical fiction where past and present are both well represented will adore this novel. Richly developed characters, effortless plotting, a healthy dose of mystery, and unanticipated twists and turns fill the pages to create a memorable will that is impossible to put down.
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly is a World War II historical novel. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of life in this era. I found the jobs women filled were especially interesting. Certain parts of the story were predictable but well told. The characters were interesting although I would have preferred more detail at the end of their stories. Plenty of fast paced mystery and Intrigue throughout.
Dual narratives currently appear to be popular in historical fiction. The recent novel, The Gown, uses this structure. These books offer the perspective of the present while exploring an earlier time and demonstrating that, whatever the period, characters look for meaning, relationships and safety. In this enjoyable novel by Julia Kelly, the reader gets to know Cara in the present and Louise during WWII. The device that links them is the diary that Cara, an antiques expert, finds when she is evaluating the objects in the home of a character with a link to Louise. When the novel opens, Louise is living with her parents and is a dutiful daughter who dreams of one day moving to California with its sunshine and greater educational opportunities. However, her present is WWII Cornwall where she meets and falls for Paul. The evolution of their relationship is a key part of the novel. The war provides Louise with the opportunity to enlist and leave her small community. She becomes an "ack-ack girl." According to the website The Female Soldier, ack-ack girls "were members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) that helped operate Anti-Aircraft Guns in the defense of Britain from German bombing raids during World War 2." Louise becomes an integral member of an integrated male/female unit. She writes extensively to Paul while in the service. Will they have a happily ever after? You will need to read the novel to find out. Cara, following a recent divorce, is giving most of her attention to her job until she meets a neighbor. Their relationship evolves. Will they have their happy ever after? Throughout the book, Cara discovers Louise through her diaries, just as the reader does. These entries form an integral part of the narrative. There are other stories as well, especially that of Cara's grandmother who does not want to talk about her wartime life and who appears to be harboring a secret. Cara wants to know all that she can while her grandmother is alive to tell her. Will she find out? Each of these narrative threads is handled well by the author and I very much enjoyed reading this novel. I experienced more of what it was like to live in London during wartime and connected with the characters and their stories. My only caveat would be that some of the physical romance feels a bit formulaic while it is the relationships that are more interesting. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I recommend Light Over London to those who enjoy historical novels set during the second world war.
World War II has always been an era that has fascinated me. Once man's hatred changed the course of history and changed everyone's lives. The trajectory of the world was changed in a short span of time, everyone called to fight for their lives and for their freedom, becoming people they never thought they would ever be. Louise is a nineteen year old girl from a small town outside of England, destined to marry a man she didn't love, living the life her mother wanted her to live, and dreaming of living a life of personal freedom while the war raged on mere miles away. In a diary Louise writes about her dreams, her issues with her mother, and her experience being dragged to a dance with her cousin Kate. It is that fateful night that she meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton and it is love at first sight. The blossoming love gives Louise the courage she needs to finally take control of her life and live it on her terms. Louise joins the ATS or Auxiliary Territorial Service and becomes a gunner girl, apart of the Ack-Ack Girls, and serves her country in the war. Years later Cara, a girl that works for an antique and curiosities house, discovers Louise's diary and longs to find the unknown author and find the missing pieces to the antique puzzle. The mystery that Cara is trying to reveal is paralleled with Louise's journey throughout her life and journal, as well as Cara's personal struggle of adjusting to life after a divorce, and unearthing a family mystery of her own. The Lights Over London has a lot going on but it all intertwines and makes sense in the end. The characters are so realistic, I felt like Louise and Kate could've been branches in my own family tree. You feel sympathetic to their plights, with moments of sadness and anger, and though pretty predicable, you read on just to make sure that everything works out in the end. For those that are clean readers, there are a few parts with some sexual content but it is mild and does not take away from the tale but goes along with the story. I throughly enjoyed The Lights Over London and now want to learn more about the brave women of the ATS and the Ack-Ack Girls. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gallery Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly is the kind of book you want to curl up with in front of the fire on a cold winter night. Two story lines are intertwined, involving the love interests of one woman during WWII and another woman in today’s world. Both women exhibit courage and grit, as they face situations and problems that were unexpected and unimaginable. The resolution of their stories will resonate with readers as real and satisfying. This is not a war story that has anything to do with the Holocaust or the concentration camps. References to The Nightingale and The Lilac Girls are misleading to readers and will skew opinions about this book. Situated on the home front, this book is about relationships, some of which are set during WWII. Kelly creates memorable female characters who will be remembered fondly. I recommend this as a quick, enjoyable read that illuminates the ability of people to step up to the challenges of life. Many thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the opportunity to read an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Light Over London takes place in present time then flashes back to Cornwall and London during World War II. Cara is newly divorced after losing both parents to a fatal car crash a few years before. She is starting in a new job, evaluating antiques for a demanding boss. As they are evaluating an estate, Cara finds a tin biscuit (cookie) box that contains the diary of a woman who lived in Cornwall in the 1940's. Cara becomes fascinated by the diary and is determined to find out who wrote it and return it to her family. Cara identifies with the author and devotes considerable energy and resources to discover her identity, hoping that will help her understand her grandmother's war experience and the secrets she keeps from Cara. She ends up enlisting the help of Liam, her handsome new neighbor who is a history professor. Liam offers valuable insight, friendship, and through working with him, Cara works through problems left from her messy divorce. Cara's story is interspersed with entries from the journal and Louise Keene's own story.. We meet Louise in Cornwall where she lives with a domineering, unhappy mother and a loving and supportive father. Her cousin Kate invites her to a dance in a neighboring town where she meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton and quickly falls in love. When Paul is shipped out, Louise can't take the small town life any more and heads out with Kate to join the ATS. She ends up being assigned to the Ack-Ack Girls and uses her considerable intelligence to work with a team to aim and fire anti-aircraft guns. Her relationship with Paul continues to grow, as does Lousie's self-confidence in herself and her abilities. There are several stories unfolding in The Light Over London - all of them well-written and well-researched. Julian Kelly did a fabulous job - what could have been a tangled mess is an intricate, well-crafted story that was engaging and very entertaining to read.
A truly captivating read of the courage of women and of taking chances. The author takes you along on the journeys of Louise and Cara and makes you feel as if you are living in both timelines right along side them. Truly a delightful story with characters you grow to cheer for.
Julia Kelly does a wonderful job of weaving a fictional story with historical fact. I thoroughly enjoyed the modern day story as well as it's WWII counterpart. I always enjoy novels that are able to connect two different time periods and flawlessly jump between them. Highly recommend this one!
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly follows two very strong willed and determined women who never knew one another but whose lives interconnect on so many levels. One lived during WWII and the other today. Both have had heartbreak and survived, and come through their sadness stronger afraid of their futures but willing to take a leap of faith. Louise Keen lived in a small English village in the 1940's. At the young age of 19 Louise feels trapped in her ordinary life. Afraid she will never experience life outside her village she takes a leap of faith and goes to a dance. There she meets a young Flight Lieutenant, Paul Barton. When his unit is deployed, Louise makes a decision which will forever change her life. Cara Hargroves has just come out of a horrible marriage and lost both her parents in a terrible car accident. She and her grandmother Iris are the only family left. Still unable to truly deal with her parent's deaths, Cara decides she needs to start over and she too takes a leap of faith and moves closer to her grandmother and begins work at an antique shop. While sorting through a client's house, Cara finds the diary of a woman who lived in the 1940's. As Cara begins to read the diary she begins to realize that no matter what generation you have lived heartache, heartbreak and survival are all the same. It becomes Cara's mission to find out who the diary belongs to and return it to its proper family. In the process by reading the diary she begins to heal herself as she takes the life lessons from the diary to heart. What happened to the woman after the last diary entry? Will Cara ever find out? Secrets play an important role in the story. Some which should be taken to the grave and others which are buried in a different place...deep in the mind and the past. The Light Over London is a love story, but its more than that. It's also a story of women's empowerment and not listening to people who say you can't succeed. A terrific read!
Billed as: "Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted." S0--intrigued. The dual storyline format--which I quite enjoy. Cara Hargreaves, present-day--newly divorced [and broken], working for an antiques dealer. Parents recently died in a car crash but still has beloved 90+ year-old grandmother [Iris, a real character--loved her]. Finds a diary [while evaluating items from a house] from 19-year-old Louise Keene, who is eager to escape her narrow existence in her Cornish village. Louise enlists in the women's branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft unit [Ack-Ack Command] as a Gunner Girl. She falls in love with a soldier [not the local boy her mother wants her to marry]. And so it goes. I quite liked the WWII story. It was engaging. I learned about life in a small village [before Louise moved to London as a gunner girl]--and when in London, setting for bombings, blackouts, and what is was to be a woman among men. There were mysteries to both stories. Gran was hiding something from Cara--not revealed til the end. And something didn't add up in Louise's story--slow reveal towards the end. Of course, there also is a romance in the present day. Surprise [not]; Cara's new neighbor, Liam [also somewhat damaged]. This story was the least interesting/most predictable. And sometimes the language set me off--not totally cringeworthy, but... lots of lingering lips and hearts jumping and leaping, etc. Although the stories kept me going, the present-day romance detracted from the impact the novel could have had.
I recently finished The Light Over London by Julia Kelly. When I saw this book I was sold because I haven't read a World War II book that I haven't enjoyed. However, when I started reading this book I found that it is a marvelous blending of a contemporary story and a war romance with several unexpected twists. Author Julia Kelly uses a found diary as the bridge to combine the story of Cara, a contemporary divorced woman who works for an antique dealer, and Louise, the author of the World War II era diary. The diary also is one aspect which leads to Cara learning her Gran's never before told war story and serves as the connecting point for a blossoming relationship between Cara and her charming new history professor neighbor. Kelly seamlessly transitions from contemporary times to World War II and back again. The story is so well told that readers will be surprised by at least one of the three twists which occurs at the end of the story. On an "appropriate scale" this book barely registers a blip. Foul language was pretty much non-existent. This is a romance geared toward adult readers so there were veiled references to sex but nothing tantalizing or descriptive. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to high school readers on up. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book The Light Over London free via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Light Over London was such a great to read. Being a fan of Lilac Girls and The Nightengale I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Following the lives of Cara and Louise and their lives as Gunner Girls during World War II and had a little bit of a history lesson on World War II and Rosie the riveter. Our patrons are always in demand of new historical fiction and for being fans of Lilac Girls, they are sure to love this book. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
This has become one of my favorite reads of the year. The story has the perfect blend of history and fiction, with elements of romance, subterfuge, mystery,adventure and feminism. The story centers on the lives of two main characters, Cara in modern times and Louise who a gunner girl in an Ack Ack unit in London during WW ll. Cara works with in the antiques industry in the modern era and she finds a diary dating back to the 1940’s. She is so intrigued by the contents of the diary and becomes determined to learn more about the original author and return it if possible. The story left me wanting to learn more about the history of the gunner girls. This is a story of strong and courageous women who are not afraid to start over and make their own way.
Linda Zagon's review Jan 07, 2019 · edit really liked it Lindas Book Obsession Reviews “The Light Over London” by Julia Kelly, Gallery Books, January 8, 2019 Julia Kelly, Author of “The Light Over London” has written an intense, captivating, enthralling, intriguing and dramatic novel about World War Two. The Genres for this book are Historical Fiction and Fiction. There are two timelines for this novel, World War Two and the present. I appreciate how the two timelines do connect to each other. The author describes her colorful characters as complex and complicated. Cara Hargraves deals with many antiques when going through people’s homes. Her boss wants her to sell them as quickly as she can. Cara discovers an old diary from World War Two in a old fashioned tin in one of the pieces of furniture. When she investigates further, she realizes that one of the pictures of a woman in uniform reminds her of her Grandmother, who also wore a uniform during the World War Two. Cara is fascinated by the unfinished diary, and also wonders why her Grandmother has never shared information about this time. Before her parents were in an fatal accident, Cara, remembers her Mom and Grandmother arguing about something in regard to this matter. In 1941, Louise Keene is encouraged to go to a dance with her vibrant cousin Kate. Louise has a stressful relationship with her mother, who is always finding fault with anything she does. Louise meets a charming man Paul, a RAF pilot. When Paul is deployed, they promise to write letters to one another. Louise is unhappy at home, and unhappy that Paul is gone, and decides to join the Woman’s branch in the British Army as a gunner girl. There is a tremendous amount of danger in this position, but Louise feels that she is doing something for her country. It seems that Louise is writing a diary of what is in her heart and mind. Cara has this diary, and there isn’t a conclusion. With the help of her new neighbor, a History professor, they look to see if anyone in the present can help them with what happened in the past. There are betrayals, and well-kept dark that can change many things. In both timelines, the women characters are strong and determined. I would highly recommend this story for those readers who enjoy Historical Fiction. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review. 1 like
Sweet, intriguing, and romantic! The Light Over London is a compelling tale set during the early 1940s, as well as the present day, and is told from two different perspectives. Louise, a young girl who finds adventure outside her hometown by becoming a Gunner Girl in the British Army and being swept off her feet by a dashing RAF pilot; and Cara, a recent divorcee who after finding an old locket, photograph, and diary during an estate sale embarks on a journey to discover the owner’s identity and life story. The writing is light and fluid. The characters are intelligent, resilient, and determined. And the plot, including all the subplots, intertwine and unravel subtly into an engaging tale of life, loss, family, heartbreak, betrayal, friendship, secrets, and love. Overall, The Light Over London is an uplifting, atmospheric, informative tale about taking chances, moving on, and discovering one’s true self. And even though I felt it delved a little deeper into the romance, relationship side than the historical fiction side of things I did enjoy the little glimpse into some of the unknown, specialty roles women played during WWII.
Cara is an antiques dealer just learning the ropes. She finds some old love letters and this leads her to investigate the past. She discovers Louise. Louise is bound and determined to change her stars. Her mother wants her to wait for her rich boyfriend to come home from the war. Louise wants more out of life than that! Enter Paul Bolton, a larger than life Fight Lieutenant. He sweeps her off her feet. She decides to join the British Army where she is trained as a gunner girl. Their love letters keep her going, until they just stop. If you follow my reviews, you know I love strong women characters. Both Cara and Louise fit this to a “T”. Louise is unstoppable in her quest to help in the war effort. She does not intend to mend socks for the service men. She wants to be in the middle of the action. Cara is just as tenacious. Her grandmother is keeping a secret about her time in the war. And Cara is determined to find out more. This story has a little bit of everything. Family drama, love, mystery, action, just to name a few. Parts of this tale are purely magical. When Paul takes Louise into smugglers cave, I could just feel their connection. I fell in love with Paul …glad it was not in real life…I would have been hoodwinked. (Sorry spoiler alert). Well, well, well, this author taught me something. I knew women were nurses, ambulance drivers, spies and more in WWII. But, I have never heard of gunner girls or ‘ack ack’ girls. These ladies helped with the anti aircraft guns. How have I missed this! These ladies were so brave. To say I loved this read is an understatement. This is a fantastic, awesome novel. I ended 2018 with a bang! I would rate this one in my top five of 2018. Read this TODAY!