Thursday, December 26, 2013
New Review: Margaret Tanner’s A ROSE IN NO-MAN’S LAND – Love Amidst the Horror of WWI
Set in Australia, Egypt, Gallipoli (Turkey), France and England, during the First World War, this is the story of the Australians who fought in Europe, and Sister Amy Smithfield, an Australian Army nurse. Amy is dedicated and has a heart of gold, giving her all to the wounded soldiers, even following them onto the battlefield. When she meets Mark Tremayne, an English captain in the Australian army, she falls hard for the handsome aristocrat. Mark also falls for Amy, but hides a secret that he says prevents him from taking a wife (read that “doing the right thing”).
Mark draws Amy near with sweet words and compliments, then pushes her away, saying he can never marry her and that being seen with him will ruin her good name (we can only wonder why). He tells her “…if I had a scrap of chivalry in me I’d walk away from you.” I do agree. And because he did not, he remained the cad for much of the story. Any woman hearing what he had to say would be a fool to pursue him, but Amy does, giving him both her heart and her body, willing to live with the shame to have him.
Misunderstandings abound and treachery prevails as Amy faces trial after trial both on and off the battlefield, enduring one woman’s scorn and another’s jealousy. At one point, Amy is even captured by the Germans! Still, she survives and gains the respect of all. One can only admire her courage.
Tanner has obviously done meticulous research into the Aussies serving (and dying) in the various battles of that first horrible World War, and their experience at the hands of senior officers who cared little for the plight of the young men sent to their deaths in droves. She does not spare us the ugly side of that war but adroitly weaves in the history of the Australians serving while giving us some endearing characters and a wonderful romance. The love scenes are well crafted to the lovers, too.
It is a well-told story of wartime love when lovers were never sure they’d have another day—or another night—together. I recommend it!