From the author of Secrets of Nanreath Hall comes this gripping, beautifully written historical fiction novel set during World War II—the unforgettable story of a young woman who must leave Singapore and forge a new life in England.
On the eve of Pearl Harbor, impetuous and overindulged, Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever.
Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers, Lucy never dreamed that she would be one of the last people to escape Singapore before war engulfs the entire island, and that her parents would disappear in the devastating aftermath. Now grief stricken and all alone, she must cope with the realities of a grim, battle-weary England.
Then she meets Bill, a young evacuee sent to the country to escape the Blitz, and in a moment of weakness, Lucy agrees to help him find his mother in London. The unlikely runaways take off on a seemingly simple journey across the country, but her world becomes even more complicated when she is reunited with an invalided soldier she knew in Singapore.
Now Lucy will be forced to finally confront the choices she has made if she ever hopes to have the future she yearns for.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 19, 2017)
World War II-set historical fiction is my jam. Between book reviews and on my own, I have read or listened to about ten for the year so far. What drew me to jump on the tour for The Way to London was that they main character has been living in Singapore for the past few years and having spent time there for work years ago, I am always looking for books set there. Although we don't spend long in Singapore before Lucy is banished to London for the indiscretion of a romance with the son of one of her stepfather's local business contacts, it's always nice to read about the Raffles Hotel and other places I recognize.
Beyond the initial Singapore location, I didn't settle into the story in The Way to London easily--mainly due to the main character who is not immediately likable. She is spoiled, defensive, and has trouble controlling her impulses--especially when it comes to things that will annoy her distant socialite mother and lecherous stepfather. It is the interactions with these characters that made me thaw to Lucy--it becomes more than understandable what drives her behaviors. Once Lucy arrives in the English countryside to her aunt's estate (taken over by the government for use as a hospital/rehabilitation center for soldiers) she meets 12-year-old truant Bill Smedley, escaping back to London to find his mother. Lucy, wanting to get there herself in hopes of getting to America to start a new life by finding an acquaintance staying there on his way back to Hollywood, sets off with Bill and her experiences on the road with him begin to change her. With these changes, she becomes a better person and I found myself rooting for her happiness and on board with the rest of the book. There is romance, but the heart of the story is about growing up and Lucy's coming of age and it is well told. There is a good balance of humor (Bill especially is a pip and once Lucy grew on me I appreciated her wit and sarcasm more), some action, and a touch of poignancy--although coming off of a round of heavier books, I was happy that The Way to London leans to the lighter side of war historicals. Lucy and Bill have quite a journey and I was happy to travel along with them.
Author Notes: Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series, the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy, and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series.
Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.
Even though it's wartime, there are food and drink mentions in The Way to London including bacon and eggs, pickled onion, whiskey, bananas, cookies, coconuts, lemonade, scrambled powdered eggs, haggis, coffee, champagne, boiled cabbage, biscuits, haddock, cabbage and potato pie, beer, popcorn, boiled parsnips and cabbage,apples, tea, ham sandwiches, Coca Cola, chocolate bars, gum, cold martinis, extra jammy jam rolls, fish and chips, gingerbread, boiled eggs and toast, blackberry jam, a ham dinner, oysters, strawberry jam, beer, caviar, plum Charlotte, cottage pie, beans, soda bread, a recipe that replaced SPAM with cauliflower, peanuts, mushrooms, a picnic lunch of SPAM sandwiches and milk tea, an orange, currant roll, crisps, toast and margarine, beans on toast, bread pudding, egg and cress sandwiches, "carrolade" (a drink of carrot and rutabaga juice), real eggs and butter, mushy peas, eels, offal and sausage, finger sandwiches (ham, chicken and cheese), berries and scones with cream and jam, porridge and soft boiled egg, a cream bun, licorice all-sorts, steak, canapes, and chocolate millefeuille.
There were also a few mentions of gin--usually in a gin rickey which seemed to be Lucy's drink of choice although gin gimlets were mentioned as well. Not really being inspired by most of the food, I decided to make a gin rickey as my book inspired dish. It sounded good in our warm and humid weather and it's been a crazy week again and a cocktail was definitely needed. I am not a huge gin drinker as a rule but I have a bottle of Tanqueray gin that needs using and I like the fact that a classic rickey has no added sugar.
The gin rickey was created back in the 1890s in a Washington DC bar called Shoomaker's and was named for democratic lobbyist named "Colonel" Joe Rickey (Here's a take on the history by Imbibe.) There are lots of recipes for them online, differing slightly in ingredients. I ended up going with the one below from Serious Eats.
Recipe from SeriousEats.com
Fill a 10-ounce Collins glass with ice. Squeeze lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Toss in the lime shell, then add gin. Top off glass with club soda.
The rickey doesn't need it, but if you like a sweeter drink, add splash of simple syrup.
Notes/Results: Crisp, tangy and refreshing with that slightly bitter-in-a-good-way bite from the juniper in the gin. I can see why they were a favorite of the Lucy in the book. I liked it a lot as made as I tend to prefer a less sweet drink. I would happily order it or make it again.
I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "The Way to London" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.