The Mersey Angels by Sheila Riley
Following the death of her father, Ruby Swift, and husband Archie finally move back into Ashland Hall.
As the Great War rages, fathers and sons take the King's Shilling and head off to fight the unknown enemy, not knowing what horrors lie ahead.
With Ned Kincaid in the Navy, Archie signs up to the volunteer constabulary and nurses Anna Cassidy and Ellie Harrington enlist to do their bit for King and Country.
Soon the true casualties of war are being brought home in droves, Ruby converts Ashland Hall into an auxiliary hospital for wounded servicemen.
It’s not long before the true cost of war is brought closer to home and Anna and Ellie enlist in the British Military Nursing Corp and soon find themselves in the battlefields of France in search of the truth.
But they soon discover more than they bargained for...
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Nurses and best friends, Anna and Ellie, soon find doing their bit for the war effort at Ashland Hall with Aunt Ruby isn’t enough. For many reasons they want to help in the field hospitals in France. Anna has a troubled past and in order to make peace with her future, needs to do what she can to get to France, even if it’s a million to one chance she’ll find her brother Sam there.
The two girls couldn’t be more different, but I found both were characters who kept my interest. They were strong, followed their hearts, but were not afraid of hard work. They met the horrors and losses they saw on the battlefields with real Liverpudlian grit and determination, never losing their focus.
Alongside the personal dramas, I also enjoyed the social history aspect to this novel. From the converting of grand manor houses to recuperation hospitals, to the rise of women in the workforce and the poverty portrayed in the Liverpool dock vignettes, as well as the horrific conditions of the mud-filled trenches of France.
There was a lot to like if you are a historical fiction fan like I am.
I hadn’t read the first book in this series, which introduces eccentric Aunt Ruby and Anna’s tragic childhood story, and although I felt a bit lost at the beginning, I soon caught up and enjoyed following her journey. I would, however, recommend starting with The Mersey Mistress.
If you enjoy historical dramas with a real sense of place, I’m sure you will like this series.
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy for Boldwood under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool. Her new trilogy began with The Mersey Orphan in September 2019.
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