During the last year of World War One, Vera Betts was a tough yet compassionate nurse working in a field hospital alongside young and idealistic Dr. Nicholas Wallace. A year later, Vera is living in her family manor as Lady Margaret Halladay while Dr. Wallace is imprisoned, waiting for a trial. So begins BLOOMS OF WAR by Suzanne Tierney. And with an opening like that, how could you possibly not get hooked?
But the thing that makes BLOOMS OF WAR stand out is the way Tierney narrates her story. Throughout the novel, she keeps setting up seemingly baffling mysteries. Who is Vera Betts? Why is Dr. Wallace in jail? Then, by skillfully skipping between the past (Western Front in 1918) and the present (England in 1919), Tierney answers all these questions and more. All the while, she carries thoughts and motifs over, thematically connecting Then and Now. Vera-not-Vera is a character that readers won’t be able to help themselves from cheering on. Smart, brave, and full of nervous energy, she chafes under the constraints imposed on her by her family and society. The war may have bruised her, but nevertheless, she persists. As for Dr. Wallace, his fatal flaw is his honor, which tells you how perfect he is. But it is precisely his sense of honor and duty that causes him trouble. Saving him presents our heroine with a challenge worthy of her abilities.
A big theme running through BLOOMS OF WAR is the way women struggle to obtain a place in a society that refuses to recognize them as equals. From noblewomen to war widows, Tierney’s heroines either try to fit into pre-determined societal roles, run things behind the scenes, or strike out on their own. While some readers may not be too keen on the book’s somewhat purplish prose and find the protagonists too idealized for their liking, they will also probably notice how skillfully Tierney writes her novel and how immensely she seems to be enjoying herself by mixing genres.
Engaging and skillfully written, Suzanne Tierney’s historical romance BLOOMS OF WAR offers suspense, drama, and intrigue in spades.
~Danijel Štriga, for IndieReader