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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

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Member Reviews

Thank you Random House and PRH Audio for the review copies of The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club . this is a joyful, endearing, and even a bit sassy (in a good way) read. I loved it on audio as I really got to feel the story as it was narrated and it was a fun complement to a hot traffic filled drive. Standouts: WWI is a time I know less about so it was nice to read about this part of history;
somewhat expected themes on women's roles and acceptance, often themes that arise during world conflict, and their post war lives but the themes were introduced within such great characters that they felt fresh and fun; strong writing that made me genuinely care about what happened, cheering on for strong endings for each voice.

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Sometimes a book comes along that has a story which you step into and it becomes a living thing. This is one of those books for me.

It is a very character driven story and will appeal to fans of books like “A Man Called Ove” or “A Gentleman in Moscow”. It is a story that develops slowly, but oh how I fell in love with the characters and lost track of the pacing. However, the reader shouldn’t become complacent because there are surprises and moments that had me gasp out loud, especially towards the end.

It does touch on serious subject matter at times but you will still leave with an overall feeling of joy and hope. This is a story about a time when it was very difficult to be a woman. It is a good reminder for women today that the freedoms they currently enjoy exist because of those who went before us and pushed boundaries.

This is a book I will treasure in my library and read again. Easily a 5 star read and I will recommend it to all of my literary friends.

I'm hoping that Helen Simonson will gift us with a sequel. "Hazelbourne Aviation" perhaps?

A huge thank you for my e-ARC, which was provided by the publisher and the author via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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The English seaside shortly after the end of WWI. Constance Haverill has been relieved of her duties managing the local Lord's estate while the men were at war, and is acting briefly as companion to Mrs Fog in a seaside vacation for the both of them. Her future prospects are grim until she meets Poppy, the local Baronet's daughter, a convention shattering trouser wearing motorcyclist and organizer of the Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle Club. As she comes to know Poppy and her friends and family, and participates in new adventures, her world begins to open up with possibilities.
While many books have been written about this time period, it is Simonson's gift for language and characters that sends this story soaring. The author has a knack for all the best details to set the scene, rendering it vivid and alive, and then fills it with deeply sympathetic characters who soon seem like dear friends. Her world feels completely authentic, and the story flows effortlessly and swiftly forward. A rich, rewarding experience. Highly, highly recommended.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of this book.

I really like Helen Simonson's books!! I have read all three so far and eagerly await another. My only complaint is that it has been too long since The Summer Before the War. But, now the War is over, so it is time for another look at English life.

This time, the war has just ended, it is the summer of 1919 and the whole of English life in in flux. Too many men will not return, but too many of the ones who do are damaged from their time overseas. They also need jobs, so the women who manned the homefront are losing their jobs and being sent back home. Constance Haverhill has no prospects and has been asked to give up her cottage as well as her job as overseer of the local estate. . Her mother died of the influenza that took so many at the end of the war, leaving her brother and his wife are in charge of the farm where she grew up. To make matters worse, the baby that brought such joy to them all has also died of the flu and her sister-in-law blames Constance for bringing it home from her mother's deathbed. She is offered a summer at the seashore, as companion to the elderly grandmother from the estate, who she has nursed through her own bout of flu.

So she finds herself in Hazelbourne, not the most fashionable of seaside towns, but the hotel is very nice and her charge, Mrs Fog, has a secret reason for choosing it. This is one of the best stories in this book and I urge you to discover it yourself.

Constance become acquainted with some local women who are starting a taxi service using their motorcycles and completely scandalizing some of the holiday goers and townsfolk. But they turn out to be her salvation as the summer goes on.

Again, I don't want to give too much away as this is a long and very enjoyable read!

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A really warm and engaging visit to another time altogether, when women wearing trousers were considered unfit for food service in a fine restaurant, THE HAZELBOURNE LADIES MOTORCYCLE AND FLYING CLUB explores Britain right after the end of WWI. Author Helen Simonson is most interested in the roles available to women in this time period, as those roles briefly expanded while British men were called to war, and then contracted as they returned and wanted those jobs back again. She also takes a look at the differing options available based on the class system then very much in play, when marriage might be the only available course unless one was left specifically with a pot of money. Without a source of money or the capacity to earn it, women’s lives were very constricted. This book is very engaging, with good characters and a lively plot. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Helen Simonson's THE HAZELBOURNE LADIES MOTORCYCLE AND FLYING CLUB is a well-woven pleasure of a story of Post World War I Britain when the return of soldiers from war meant total upheaval. Women who worked in exciting, challenging jobs were once again relegated to the traditional staid, narrowly defined few employment opportunities of governess, servant, office staff, and companion to the well-to-do. heroine of the story, Constance Haverhill is ensconced in deadly dull companionship when irrepressible, intelligent Poppy Wirrall blows into her life, accepts a helping hand, and the pair transform themselves and others with adventures, mishaps, and intense friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed this view into lives grown huge and wide open by friendship -- such a fun and romantic, engaging, entertaining read! I received a copy of this book and these thoughts are my own, unbiased opinions.

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Helen Simonson's writing is delightful and reminiscent of Jane Austen. Simonson has created an exceptional character, Constance Haverhill, in this very enjoyable novel. The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is trying to give jobs to women in an English seaside resort town in 1919. Constance is vacationing with an elderly woman and working as her companion. Constance is single, unemployed, and not from a wealthy family. She does n't want to work as a governess and has been trained as a bookkeeper. Woman were employed in the work force during the war, but are no longer taken seriously for positions a man could hold. Constance is befriended by Poppy, the brains behind the motorcycle club. Poppy has the advantages Constance does not, but she welcomes Constance into her world.with open arms, Poppy's extravagant mother and war injured brother are also important characters. Simonson creates surprising connections between her characters and the novel is full of twists and turns. This book is definitely well worth the ride.

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Another great book from Helen Simonson. This book tells the story of English life in the early 20th Century, right after WWI. It tells the story of women who have been relegated to the sidelines and deprived of the jobs they held during the war. It also tells the story of wounded warriors also being deprived of jobs and opportunities.

I like the characters and the way the story unfolds. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Random House | The Dial Press for a chance to review this book.

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This post WWI tale will sneak its way into your heart. Here are four things I loved about it:

🛩The themes are rich and enlightening: the brother-sister bond, friendship, risk-taking, war veterans, race discrimination, class differences
🛩The way the women support each other and find ways to bring in income for themselves and those they are responsible for
🏍The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcyle taxi service. A genius plan to employ women and enjoy the freedom of riding their beloved motorcycles
🏍The humor and heartwarming feelings from reading about this eclectic bunch and their summer at Hazelbourne

She was both a fresh new topic and a very old story, at once as unique as a snowflake and and common as a pebble on the Hazelbourne beach.

Front and center is Constance Haverhill. She will surprise even herself as the summer goes on. This book was a bit slow at times and I would have loved to see more about the club and its other members. The title felt a bit misleading to me.

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review. Happy Publication Day!

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Set in 1919 following the devastation and loss of World War I and the Spanish influenza, the Meredith Hotel (shoutout to my Sister!) in the fictional British town of Hazelbourne-On-Sea is the setting for our tale, primarily told from the point of view of Constance Haverhill. Constance spent the war managing the Mercer Family estate office, a property owned by her mother's childhood friend. Now with the war over and men returning to society, Constance is spending the summer at the seaside as the companion and caretaker to the wealthy Mrs. Fog, a friend of Lady Mercer. Mercer fancies herself Constance's patron given their different economic circumstances, and she has made her opinion known that "with the war over and women no longer needed in men's professions, Constance would be well advised to take up as a governess," a suggestion that Constance absolutely loathes. But perhaps the summer will bring other opportunities Constance's way?

As the book introduces us to the hotel and its fascinating cast of characters, Constance encounters a wide collection of personalities, among them Poppy Wirral, the rebellious, entrepreneurial, and spirited daughter of a resident. Poppy owns and runs the Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle Club, a taxi service managed by women who worked as dispatch riders during the war. While Poppy always seems to say the wrong thing, frequently alienating her friends and loved ones, Constance instead begins to idolize the freedom with which Poppy carried herself through life. "Constance was suddenly tired of being a dull moth. So she would let herself be drawn to the rather alarming young woman and trust that, for the length of one dinner, she was sensible enough to protect her brown powdered wings from being singed." So begins an unlikely friendship, and Constance is immersed in the world of both The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle Club and Poppy's childhood friends, who come from a social circle that Constance had previously only watched from the outside. Will she be welcomed, or will she stay an outsider?

While the novel primarily follows Constance and the women, we are also offered additional insight into life at this time from several other characters, most notably two men with very different backgrounds. Klaus is a German-born naturalized citizen, who is back working at the Meredith after spending the war in an internment camp on the Isle of Man. Harris is Poppy’s traumatized and curmudgeonly brother who lost his leg as a pilot during the war, and is now faced with the financial realities of running the estate that his father has left him with few prospects for work and a mountain of debt. He starts to soften as he gets to know Constance and is begrudgingly pulled into service as Poppy makes plans to turn the Motorcycle Club into the Motorcycle and Flying Club.

The book meanders along at a moderate pace, expanding upon these stories and others, until it suddenly rushes to a conclusion around a closing trio of events. The Peace Day festival, a hasty wedding, and a Society ball all take place on the same end-of-summer day, bringing to a crescendoed climax many of the plots up to that point. Given the deliberate pace of much of the novel, this frenetic end seemed rushed and abrupt, with many choices and actions taking place in one day that will have lasting ramifications for the lives of many the characters. Some we find are not as they seem and others act, disappointingly or not, exactly as we expect them too.

The language of the novel is beautiful ,and I grew to love many of the characters. It also tackled several heavy issues, including the changing role of women in society, the hypocrisy of British colonialism, the struggle of wounded veterans returning from war, racism, and classism, to name a few. The characters were well-developed and multilayered, and there were a few surprises right up until the conclusion. Everyone bares their true colors by the end, and while a few there were a few bumps along the way, I was very much pleased with this winding ride.

It's somewhere between a 4 and 5 for me -- let's call it a solid 4.5. There was enough depth and interesting storytelling to make this recommendable to most, but it falls just short of a perfect 5 stars for me.

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What a beautifully written book. The main character Constance is absolutely a hoot with many great lines that you will want to share with others. You just can’t help fall in love with her and the other witty daredevil women.
This is a fun lighthearted coming of age novel sprinkled with a little romance and the plight of women following WWI in Britain.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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The charming Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is Helen Simonson’s third novel. The cover is lighthearted and cheerful even though some of the issues Ms. Simonson explores in her book are not. The plot is as leisurely as a summer spent in a small seaside town, and it is primarily character driven. The historical research is obvious and subtly incorporated into the novel. The messages regarding discrimination, social mores, and social class structure are much less subtle.

The story is told by multiple narrators, but primarily from the POV of Constance Haverhill--a single woman with aspirations but without much luck in finding work prospects. Captain Harris Wirrall, returned disabled from WWI, also provides some of the narration. While he experiences the same lack of work prospects as the women who are told to return to their expected domestic affairs after the war, it is for different reasons. The characters are fully developed and present an eclectic group from varying social and ethic groups.

I appreciated Simonson’s exploration of the social issues. The era seemed to be filled with judgment, and the smallest of misstep would make someone a social outcast. The titled elite were generous until or unless their generosity might somehow impact their respectability or resources. The restrictions on women working (the War Practices Act) was frustrating to read, but alas, accurately portrayed. The social class restrictions of the era were expected and only surprising to the 20-something characters in the novel—as if the tragedies of WWI would erase thousands of years of tradition. My only disappointment was that the big twist, when most of those same 20-somethings suddenly embrace or succumb to the era’s expectations of their not-quite-arranged-but-socially-acceptable marriage prospects, did not feel organic nor did the story’s denouement.

Overall, Ms. Simonson’s smart writing and humor makes The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club a captivating read. It is a smooth blend of history, camaraderie, and resilience.

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"The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club" by Helen Simonson vividly portrays post-World War I England, where societal norms, especially those pertaining to women, are undergoing significant shifts. Against the picturesque backdrop of Hazelbourne-on-Sea, the narrative unfolds around Constance Haverhill, a young woman displaced from her previous life, who discovers empowerment through her friendship with the spirited Poppy Wirrall. Together, they establish the eponymous club, defying conventions and serving as symbols of female agency in a society resistant to change. Simonson deftly delves into themes of classism, gender inequality, and personal identity through a diverse ensemble cast, each experiencing profound journeys of self-discovery and growth. While the pacing may occasionally falter, Simonson's evocative prose and meticulous attention to detail ensure an immersive reading experience, offering a poignant exploration of courage and resilience amidst societal upheaval.

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is the first book I've read by Helen Simonson. I think I'm in love! I've been really lucky so far this year; I've read a number of new-to-me authors, and I've found some new favorites. I know many reviewers say "I couldn't put it down" (me included!), but it is really the truth. I rushed through it, absolutely needing to find out what happens. I actually jumped ahead to the end when I only had a couple of chapters left, because I needed to prepare myself for possible heartache. I then went back and read what I missed. I haven't done that in years!

It's the summer of 1919, right after the horrors of The Great War. Now that men have returned home from the front, the women who held down the fort in various jobs are now losing them so the men can take back those positions. Constance Haverhill is one of those women; she's been asked to give up her cottage and her job at the estate she helped run during the war. She's got no prospects, but she’s sent as a lady’s companion to an old family friend who is convalescing at a seaside hotel; that will give her a little time to find a new position. Constance begins to experience the social life at Hazelbourne-on-Sea after she helps out Poppy Wirrall, a local baronet's daughter, who has committed a social breach of etiquette. Poppy's unlike any girl she's ever met - she wears trousers, operates a motorcycle taxi and delivery service to employ local women, and plans to add flying lessons. Poppy's friends and co-workers welcome Constance into their fold. Constance is also drawn to Harris Wirrall, Poppy's obstinately uncooperative brother, a fighter pilot who lost a leg during the war. Things are becoming complicated, however. The country is preparing to celebrate the peace, but Constance and the women of the club are forced to face the fact that the freedoms they gained during the war are being taken away.

This book had me running a gamut of emotions. There was a lot of humor in the story. However, there was also excruciating heartbreak, racism, classism and the physical and mental toll that the death and destruction wrought on those who served and survived. Constance, Poppy and their friends were modern women with dreams and goals, and they were quickly learning that peace was actually taking their independent gains from them. Constance was a great character. When she lost her job her employer Lady Mercer - who was a friend of her deceased mother - gave her the opportunity to be a lady's companion to her own mother, Mrs. Fog, who was recovering from influenza. Constance was very proper, and she was shocked by Poppy's outrageous behavior. But she quickly developed a close friendship with Poppy and friends/club members Tilly, Iris and others. Constance was very unsure about the motorcycles and sidecars, but she quickly became used to the rides and found them exhilirating. She was totally surprised when she was taken up in a Sopwith Camel airplane and realized she loved it and didn't want her rides to end. Constance also began to like Poppy's brother Harris; he was rather curmudgeonly, but he began to ease up in her company. Poppy was a hoot, though she could be self-centered at times. She worked hard to employ women so they could make better lives for themselves. I loved her sibling relationship with Harris. I adored almost all the characters, but I admit Harris was my favorite. He lost a leg in the war after his plane went down in flames, and he was having a lot of trouble dealing with it, naturally. No one believed he could fly anymore and refused to give him the opportunity to even try, including his friend Tom. (God bless Poppy for helping Harris do what no other person would help him achieve!) He was drawn to Constance but was rather off-putting at first. His morose behavior was hard to deal with, but it really became clear what he was going through when he he had to make the decision to join his deceased lost brothers or live. Oh, how I cried! I simply adored many of the supporting characters, especially dear Mrs. Fog, the elderly woman who had another chance to love. Lady Wirrall, mother of Poppy and Harris, was a lively woman who preferred to live in the hotel. There was Jock, Harris's mechanic during the war who turned to the bottle after losing his family to influenza. Klaus Zeigler was a German waiter who worked at the hotel; he was a naturalized citizen of Britain but was interred during the war. He was still treated with mistrust, though he was a kind man. There were also those characters you will love to hate, such as snobby Lady Mercer, her daughter Rachel and her racist husband-to-be. You'll want to slap Evangeline upside the head. Friend Tom will be a surprise. I laughed and cried, but it was an uplifting story and one that will remain one of my favorites. Now to read this talented author's previous books!

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. I received no compensation for my review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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I was provided a free advanced copy of this from @netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
In the summer of 1919 the small British seaside village of Hazelbourne-on-Sea is trying to celebrate the recent victory and readjusting to life in peace. But quite a few of the young ladies are not satisfied for things to return exactly as they were pre-war. Poppy enjoys wearing trousers, started a motorcycle club for women, and plans to add flying lessons too, that is if she can convince her brother to help. Constance is visiting as a lady's companion and knows that she has to find a way to support herself once their summer holiday is over. But will that be back home, or will she find reasons to stick around Hazelbourne?
This is a very British book about an adjustment period in history. Women had held down the homefront, but after victory were expected to return to their genteel roles.
I felt at times that this was a bit slow, but I think it was part of the atmosphere of the book of a slow summer on the sea. It just wasn't great when you're in a hurry to finish cause you're behind on reading! 😂 I enjoyed the characters, watching them grow, and how well I got to know them.
It is set to be published tomorrow (7 May) so add it to your TBR and enjoy the slow seaside trip through this important time in history!
#NetGalley #TheHazelbourneLadiesMotorcycleandFlyingClub

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This book was delightful and showed a post WWI England that I hadn’t thought about before. During the war many women held jobs that kept the country going while the men were away fighting. Now that the men are back the women are being shoved back into traditional rolls. This tension made a marvelous story with engaging character. Touching on race and class and the ability to chart your own course in life, this book is a gem.

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A beautiful story, engaging characters, and an all round joy to read.

What happens to the girls and women who kept things together during the war, when the war is over? Well, they are relieved of their jobs and left to figure out the rest of their lives.

I loved these ladies so much. A wonderful Historical Fiction read.

NetGalley/ Random House/ Dial May 07, 2024

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson

A post World War I story, this nicely written book emphasizes England’s adjustment to the men coming home after the war. Women did the heavy lifting while the men fought, and that’s about to change. After getting a taste of financial independence, the gals are not ready to give up their jobs so easily.

There are many facets to this story about traditional English roles, class, money, prejudice and snobbery. It is wonderfully entertaining with a lot of humor, especially between siblings Harris and Poppy.

The female characters in this story are the original feminists. The men stay in character for the males of their time. The struggle for the women is real. Poppy runs a motorcycle sidecar taxi service and(gasp)wears pants. Constance meets her in the seaside Meredith Hotel where she is companion to an elderly Mrs. Fog.

I recommend this book without hesitation to any reader. Five stars from me and my thanks to Random House for this advanced reader copy.

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Thank you Netgalley and Random House | The Dial Press for access to this arc.

Huzzah. A new book from Simonson. I’d almost given up when I saw it on a “to be released” list and sprang at the chance to read it. It’s a complicated and at times melancholy and heartbreaking book. It also, yeah, takes a while to get into gear and truly had me guessing how certain things would be resolved.

I should have remembered that her style is to slowly introduce the characters, set the scene, and only then allow the story to get going. This mimics the slower pace of life in a smaller seaside vacation town of 1919. Even with the gentler tempo, things are still going too quickly for middle aged characters who decry the sudden changes that are jolting their world. Meanwhile young women who see new opportunities are champing at the bit to enjoy life or, if they’re working class, are desperately attempting to find a job and scrounge a living. Those who fought and survived are learning how to live with their new realities. Tertiary characters fill out the background and show how various social outcasts ease through this world.

Constance is inhabiting a middle ground. She’s not truly a part of the wealthy titled world that she lives in and can easily see herself sinking into the unnoticed working class. The camaraderie she sees in the motorcycle club draws her. I liked Constance and felt she was standing up for herself as well as she could in her situation. Yes, she bites her tongue at times but she has to keep on on the good side of certain characters who control her employment. But she does stick up for Mrs. Fog and that woman’s lovely second chance.

Harris has inherited a barontency but is mired in depression due to his amputation and the feeling that he should have died in the war with his friends. A strong sense of responsibility for his former mechanic and a gift from his sister might be what drags him back even before the stark realities of the financial situation of his estate yank him out of his funk. I could understand Harris’s desire to withdraw from company, especially as we learn of past relationships that have been broken. Poppy is a character who both charmed and annoyed me. Often her heart is in the right place but she can also duck responsibility when she feels like it and makes a decision that causes a stunned Constance to tell Poppy that she just doesn’t understand the people in this (rarified) world.

There are events and revelations that call out the racism and classism of this world. Some people will end up having to reap what they have sown. Some innocents will pay the price for jingoistic attitudes. This story is much more historical fiction with romantic elements than a romance. The pace is leisurely. Bad things happen to some people. Other people get off the hook. But Constance’s eyes are open to what she’s going into and Harris knows that he’s found the woman he can respect and admire.

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So, I’m calling this romance and literary, because while there was a strong romantic element running throughout this novel, there was also plenty more going on beside that to keep it from feeling too romancy for my taste. That’s obviously a good thing, because otherwise I might have DNF this book. In any case, there are a few things I got with this book that I wasn’t expecting. For example, the title led me to believe that this was going to be a fun romp, with lots of humor. I didn’t really get that here, although there were a few times that I did let out a giggle or two. In fact, most of this novel was fairly on the serious side. I also got a huge cast of characters, all with their own stories, a few of which seemed somewhat superfluous to me. That said, while I often have a hard time with highly populated books, I wasn’t confused with who was whom, which is a real plus.

The basic premise of this novel is actually a very creative one. The idea of women trying to start their own business in the post WWI era certainly makes a whole lot of sense. We all know that during both world wars women ended up keeping the “home fires burning” in all sorts of industries and businesses, while their men fought abroad. We also know that in both cases, often these same women ended up being sidelined to allow the returning soldiers to return to their “proper places” in society. I’m certain that there were no small number of women like Poppy who felt the need to not return to their gilded cages, and step out as independent, more self-reliant people, with the hopes of being treated like equals – if not immediately, then at least eventually. Knowing that even today women are still far from being truly equal, you have to admire these trailblazers of over 100 years ago, and I loved how Simonson highlighted them.

Our two main female pioneers in this book are Poppy, and in particular, Constance. I really liked both of them, and how very differently Simonson portrayed them. At the same time, they’re both very similar in much of their opinions about people, wealth, and society, especially regarding the changing world that the two of them were now entering into. Sadly, they had no idea that the peace that they were celebrating was going to be as short lived as it was, but Simonson doesn’t allow that fact to cast any shadows on their festivities. Well, almost none, since Simonson also gives us a few characters in this story who remind us of the types of racial prejudices and baseless hatred that existed at the time, and unfortunately, have never seemed to totally dissipate.

While there were a few very pointed episodes of this in this novel that I believe Simonson put in to remind us of how flawed humanity was (and still is), I’m not totally sure that all of them were necessary. Not because I don’t agree with the sentiments, but because it gave the book a touch of a frenzied atmosphere in certain places. Not because I don’t agree with the sentiments, but because it gave the book a touch of a frenzied atmosphere. Plus, Simonson is quite a master of descriptive passages, and vividly painting the scenes for us, but I wonder if she couldn’t have cut a few of these down. That’s because for me, as much as I enjoyed them, some of these lovely passages seemed to slow the story down somewhat. Despite these drawbacks (which included a slightly clichéd ending), I’m still very warmly recommending this novel, and giving it a very solid four out of five stars! (And yes, I would like to read more by Simonson in the future.)

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