Cara is working for and learning the antiques trade after a series of losses have her back in the area she lived during university. The loss of her parents to a drunk driver, her divorce from her college sweetheart, and cleaning up the mounds of debt created by her ex have her in a state of retreat – retreat from the emotional upheaval, retreat from the hurt and above all, retreat from the chance of having to open herself again. Her job as an assistant to an antiques dealer, which requires her to study and be prepared with answers to origin, age, craftsman, value, etc. I would have been incredibly happy with this story had it been focused on Cara, her learning what she needs for work, and discovering a mystery from the past. But, the story adds another layer, one that is heavily laden with romance, even as her newly acquired neighbor is a medieval history lecturer, familiar with researching, digging and calling in favors – favors that he calls in to help Cara in her search. From the introduction of Liam, the story does have a bit of an uphill battle to decide which element is more substantial, romance, historic or the questions for and about her grandmother. For Cara’s new life is in close proximity to her Grandmother Lil, a character at 94 who makes her own decisions, has a busy social life, is full of advice and charm, and refuses to discuss her own time during the war. Yes, there are plenty of different elements, but London does manage to make weave the three elements of the story (past, present and mystery) into a blanket that slowly unfurls and builds as you read on. On an estate appraisal, Cara discovers an old stylized biscuit tin, inside is contained some bits of a life and a diary written during World War II by a young Cornish woman. Intrigued by the diary and the connection to questions stirred by a photograph of the girl in the uniform of the Auxilliary Territorial Services (ATS) a branch of the army, the same uniform that her grandmother wore during the war. Not knowing her grandmother Iris’ story, and deciding that discovering the author of the diary and returning the items to her family is important, Cara begins reading the diary, determined to ask her grandmother for answers. With the arrival of her new neighbor, Liam, a history lecturer, his interest is also piqued, and the two begin to dissect the clues on the way to solving the story. With the calming influence of Liam, and his steady and quiet demeanor, bits of the diarist Louise’s life unfold, gripping for the danger and courage, as well as the intrigue around her mysterious ‘flyer boyfriend’ Paul. While London manages to balance the three elements of this story reasonably well, we learn of Cara’s marriage, Louise’s service and the niggling questions that have Cara using Louise’s diary as an entrée to her own answers about her grandmother’s life and the multitude of questions she has about both her grandmother’s time in the war and the reasons she won’t speak of it. With answers and trust, both Cara and Liam both grow closer, even as the mysteries of Iris’ service and who Lillan was grow, and Liam’s connections to other historians bring answers not wholly unexpected for Louise, if one reads the diary entries carefully. Interesting for the connections and a fuller picture of the women serving in the ATS, the unfolding of answers bring Cara some long-awaited answers in her journey to moving forward with her life. An interesting read, full of emotion, lots of facts and a sense of London (and Great Britain) in the midst of war, this is better defined as a contemporary woman’s fiction with historic, mystery and romantic elements, but engaging and intriguing for those wanting an afternoon of diversion. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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