War Brides by Helen Bryan



Five young women from diverse backgrounds form a bond due to the imminent invasion of England by the Germans in WW II. Most of the action in this book takes place in Crowmarsh Priors, a rural southern England location. The village is peaceful and bucolic in the days leading up to Britain declaring war on Germany. Alice Osbourne, the late vicar’s daughter, is the town sweetheart. She has just become engaged to Richard Fairfax, whose family is several rungs up the proverbial class ladder. Richard is a junior officer in the British Navy and is part of a group that goes to the United States for an official visit. While there, he meets and succumbs to the charms of Evangeline Fontaine. Evangeline has a secret that would ostracize her from New Orleans society and convinces Richard to take her with him on his return to Britain. They are married at sea by the captain. Frances Foxleigh is the daughter of a highly placed British admiral and is a wild young thing. She is sent to her aunt, Lady Marchmont, in Crowmarsh Priors, to get her away from the bad company she keeps. Elsie is the eldest daughter of poor folks from London’s East End. She is too old to be billeted away from London with other British children but finds a place as a domestic in Lady Marchmont’s estate home. Elsie is one of seven children and worries about her mum and little ones. Antoinette Joseph (Tanni) is Jewish and just barely escapes from her German home by marrying a family friend who is able to get her to London. Her husband is a professor and works for the British Intelligence. She is waiting to hear about her twin sisters aged four or five. The girls were supposed to be trained out of Germany but delays have caused problems and no one knows where they are. These five young women form a bond during the dark and dreadful days of the war. We follow their stories through an interweaving that is both complex yet plausible. Eventually, we meet up with these women fifty years later when they come back to Crowmarsh Priors and finish up some old business.


This story gripped me from page one! I read it in three days. It was suspenseful, intriguing, and educational all the while adding in a bit of wartime romance. I found it to be well written. I bought the paperback edition and did not find anything negative to say about the editing. There were one or two typos but they did not affect the overall story. The final chapters filled in many of the blanks but I think a second book would have fleshed out the next generation a bit and given the reader more of the back story. That said, I rate this as a five star book for its readability and engaging characters.

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