*Not so much a book review as me blathering about my favorite themes and passages from the book
You all did not lead me astray! This was really good, there were some pacing problems in the beginning for me, I like my main couple to be more centric and interacting with one another, but the second half implemented that more and very well. This author's style felt like a cross between Courtney Milan (use of underlining themes and heroines) and Grace Burrowes (full framework of world and secondary characters). There were so many themes in this book that I want to start a book club just so I can discuss them all.
Economic status implications and noble poor myth
"I didn’t choose Jack for his money.”
“There’s nothing petty or self-interested in worrying about money,” Phoebe said sharply. “It isn’t easy being poor.” Miss Jessop couldn’t know what it was like, to worry you wouldn’t be able to pay the grocer’s bill next month. To kiss your husband’s forehead and feel that he had a fever, and to have to decide whether to call the doctor, and what you could sell to pay him.
Our heroine Phoebe is a bit brusque, yes, but she's pretty honest with herself, which others can't always handle. When the town rich girl wants to marry Phoebe's less monetary endowed brother-in-law, Phoebe doesn't see "love" through rose colored glasses and tries to share some realism with Miss Jessop.
Acclimating back into civilian life and how to live with the emotional/psychological impact of war
And he believed her; she wanted to know. So few people did. They wanted to shut their eyes and their ears---But was that true? Or was it only what he had told himself, because he didn’t want to tell the story? Would his brothers really have flinched back? His friends from school, his fellow officers? Hell, some of them had asked him, and he’d ignored them or played it off with a joke.
Our hero has been to war and as with many a soldier, he doesn't know how to fit into his new role in life. He doesn't think civilians really want to hear or can handle hearing his stories but when our heroine asks, he begins to see that maybe at least this one person does and that maybe he needs to tell these stories, just as it’s important that civilians hear them.
“You were good company.” Tony ducked his head shyly. “If you’ve ever a mind to come again, you’d be welcome. Not that you’d probably want to, I know it’s a dashed odd way to spend one’s time, but---“
Just like that, it was all worth it. “I’d love to,” he said, and meant it.
Love wasn’t selfless, and it wasn’t selfish either. Love was equality. It was saying that another person’s self was just as important as yours, and expecting them to feel the same way.
Family dynamics were a huge part of this story and they were there in all their messy glory. No one is an island and even though our couple falls in love and want to be together, their world is messy. This was where the author really shined for me, the character dynamics felt real and were rooted in my favorite color, grey.
People are all the same and in this together
He felt the way he had talking to Miss Jessop or to Mrs. Sparks’s friends---the sudden realization that he wasn’t the only one. He wasn’t Childe Harold with his unfathomable, solitary pain. He was just a man, with ordinary human problems that plenty of other people shared. It was lowering, maybe, but it was a relief.
I don't want to give the impression that there isn't much romance in this book, because there is and the couple's relationship is pretty heartwarming and heated with their open communication sex scenes but there was so much more to the story. The cost of war and family/mother issues I touched on, along with grief, the wild notion that a man and woman can be friends (heroine and brother-in-law) and how two imperfect individuals and their flaws, can make a perfect story.