When antiques dealer Cara Hargraves discovers a biscuit tin holding a locket, a photograph, and a diary dating back to World War II, she becomes determined to discover the identity of the smiling young woman in uniform.
Kelly (The Allure of Attraction, 2018, etc.) deftly balances intrigue with mystery and historical detail in her latest novel. As the chapters alternate between the present day and the war era, Cara unpacks mementos conjuring up the life of Louise Keene, a young woman chafing at the confines of Haybourne, her Cornish village. While her mother and Mrs. Moss may be convinced she’ll marry Gary Moss someday—just as soon as the war ends and he returns home to run his father’s small law firm—Louise herself has other plans. So when her beautiful, outgoing cousin, Kate, invites her to a dance, Louise pushes aside a self-deprecating glance in the mirror and musters up her courage. There, she meets the dashing Flight Lt. Paul Bolton, a man who captures her heart. Their whirlwind romance is thrown a curveball when Paul is suddenly deployed, and Louise sets off on an adventure, following him out of Haybourne. Eager to put herself and her mathematical skills to work, Louise enlists, joining the women’s branch of the British army as a gunner girl, a member of an anti-aircraft unit that calculates the locations of enemy planes. Her correspondence with Paul becomes increasingly passionate, and they quickly marry during a rare leave. But a string of unanswered letters is only the first clue that Paul has secrets that will utterly upend Louise’s life. Meanwhile, in the present, as recently divorced and romantically gun-shy Cara chases down the clues in the tin, she meets Liam McGown, her new, rather charmingly disheveled neighbor. A reader of medieval history, Liam chivalrously helps Cara on her quest, and love may be around the corner for the sleuths, too.
A charming imagining of the historical gunner girls.