A Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
Multnomah Waterbrook, 2015. Trade paperback, 338 pages.
A Refuge at Highland Hall is the concluding book in a trilogy that became with The Governess of Highland Hall. In that novel, Julia Foster, a former missionary to India, and her family are forced to return to England due to her father’s ill heath. During that time, Julia becomes governess to Sir William Ramsey’s children, Andrew and Millie, and cousins, Kate and Penny, and a dear friend to Sir Williams sister, Sarah. Governess is followed by The Daughter of Highland Hall, which basically follows Kate during her debut season in London, including her volunteer work in London’s East End. Of course, there are many challenges and several loves blossom during both novels. To me, these novels were the Christian fiction version of the first four seasons of Downton Abbey all tied up in one book, less the World War I aspect.
Whereas the first two novels take place back-to-back, A Refuge at Highland Hall takes place three years later to a backdrop of World War I. Jon and Kate, Penny Ramsey’s sister and brother-in-law, have opened their home to orphaned children from London’s East End. With Kate expecting, Penny is staying with them in London when bombs carried by Zeppelins rain from the sky. Before all but Jon, whom is also Julia’s brother, leave for the country, they meet Lieutenant Alex Goodwin, Jon’s old friend from their days in India. Alex and Penny promise to write.
Once the group arrives at Highland Hall, the bulk of the novel takes place. Penny and Alex’s friendship grows by letters. Kate is often tired and absent from the action. Julia is facing personal fears. Ladies’ maid, Lydia, befriends a German POW tending Highland Hall’s crops. All the women and the children feel the strain of being separated from the men, as Jon remained in London and William soon joins Jon. On top of all this, Andrew, future lord of the manor, and Donald, one of the East End children, constantly clash and prove a headache for the women. And Sarah’s aunt-in-law joins the women while recovering from a long illness. Meanwhile, Alex makes a name from himself serving in the Royal Naval Air Service before suffering an injury. He has a hard recovery ahead of him.
Like the other novels in this trilogy, personal struggles and one’s faith takes center stage. Again with this book there are Downton Abbey-like elements-upstairs/downstairs relationships, depictions of upper crust British life, support of war-time charities, and romantic elements. However, the struggles faced by Alex and Penny are more reminiscent of those in Jennifer Robson’s two books, Somewhere in France and After the War is Over (review forthcoming), especially in the latter book’s case (Alex is very much like Edward). Looking at the historical elements, customs of the time were followed. However, despite the historical setting very little history was depicted; this novel followed the relationships between the characters more than anything. That said, I still enjoyed the heartwarming story.
Do you think you may read this novel? Have you already read one or both of the first two books? Please share your thoughts.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.