Penny Ramsey has always considered Highland Hall her home, but when Britain becomes involved in World War One she travels to London to assist her sister Kate with the eight orphan children she and her husband Jon have taken into their home. Doing her part for the war effort takes priority over Penny’s dreams of romance until she meets Alex Goodwin, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot in training.
Alex is determined to prove his worth and do his part to defend his country. Knowing he is heading off for the dangerous assignment of chasing Zeppelins across the front line in France, he feels it’s unwise to form any romantic attachments. But he can’t help admiring the pretty, warmhearted Penny and wondering what it would be like to find her waiting when he returns home from the war.
As Penny writes to Alex, their friendship blossoms, and she becomes his tie to home and normalcy as he faces the hardships war. But being an RNAS pilot means confronting the enemy, and the fallout form those experiences push Alex beyond Penny’s reach. Can God mend the brokenness left by the losses of war? Will faith and forgiveness bring them together again?
Continue reading for my review of A Refuge at Highland Hall and also for an excerpt from the book.
The first thing to say about A Refuge at Highland Hall is “Hurrah for a cast of characters!” Before the book gets going there’s a useful list of almost everyone you’ll come across while you’re reading. It includes the staff of Highland Hall and the orphans Jon and Kate have taken in. The ages of all the children are also there, which helps in understanding the complex relationships they have with each other.
The book starts in London and readers get shown a slice of the life of those living there. Volunteers help arrange an outing for wounded soldiers and other military, which is where Penny is introduced to Alex. There’s also some drama as a child goes missing during an air raid. The extended family then moves back to Highland Hall and the reader learns more about life on the home front. This includes an internment camp being in close proximity to the family home. The German men housed at the camp are sent to work at the farm, and readers get to know them as individuals rather than just ‘the enemy.’ Life at home is intertwined with Alex’s story in Europe. These segments are exciting, tension-filled, and also sad as Alex experiences the deaths of his fellow pilots. His life is changed forever during one mission and the book explores the feelings of depression, despair, self-doubt, and survivors’ guilt. The use of letters between Penny and Alex further the story in a nice contrast to the regular narrative.
A Refuge at Highland Hall is the third in the Edwardian Brides series although, strictly speaking, the Edwardian era ended in 1910. The series focuses on the Ramsey family of Highland Hall, their relatives, and their servants. I’ve read all three and do suggest you read them in order as they follow on from each other. If you enjoyed Downton Abbey and its ‘upstairs-downstairs’ focus, you’ll probably enjoy these books as well.
Thank you to Multnomah for my complimentary copy of A Refuge at Highland Hall, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read A Refuge at Highland Hall? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Multnomah (a division of Random House)
Publication Date: 20 October 2015
Page Count: 352