No Place For A Lady – Gill Paul

Published by Avon

Kindle edition – 4 June 2015

Paperback – 2 July 2015

No Place For a Lady will hook anyone who’s loving Poldark, weeps at Suite Française, devours writers such as Victoria Hislop, and can’t believe their luck when they find Gone With the Wind is on the TV. Set against a backdrop of the Crimean War, packed with gripping drama, vivid historical detail and with a love story that will squeeze your heart tight – this is the perfect all-consuming summer read.

In wartime, the rules of love change…

1854. Britain slides unprepared into a gruesome war. Lucy Harvington, who knows little beyond how to play the piano, has accompanied her handsome impetuous officer husband to the battlefields of Crimea. She’s way out of her depth, so if he doesn’t survive what will become of her?

Dorothea Gray, a nurse at London’s Westminster Hospital, is determined to follow her little sister Lucy to the front and serve her country alongside her heroine Florence Nightingale and the pioneering nurses already risking their lives out there.

Neither sister could have known the horrors awaiting – the brutal cold, the appalling diseases, the hideous injuries … nor could they have guessed the risks they will have to take, the forbidden passions they will taste, and the simple heart-breaking fact they may never meet again …

Rich in historical detail, the far-reaching narrative will sweep you off your feet, making this the perfect escapist read this summer.

* * *

I have a couple of Gill’s previous books hidden on my Kindle (The Affair and Women and Children First) and I now feel quite ashamed that I haven’t yet read them (for no other reason other than having too many books and not enough time) although after reading this, I shall now be keen to bump them up the reading list. No Place for a Lady was a wonderful read and I‘m sure that fans of historical fiction will enjoy it too.

I’ve read many books over the last year or so about WW1 but have never read anything about the Crimean War. I’ve heard of it but I didn’t take in the intricacies of who was fighting against who. Having read this book I feel I know a little more and I do love books that leave you with a little extra knowledge. Don’t think for one moment that this is a history text book though  – it is a beautifully written story of love and duty and the horrors and hardship of war.

When young Lucy Gray marries the handsome and cavalier Charlie Harvington, her elder sister Dorothea is horrified. She thinks that Lucy is far too young to marry and urges her to wait, but Lucy will not be deterred. She thinks that Dorothea is interfering in her life and having discarded her sister from her life, decides to travel with Charlie and his regiment to the Crimea. She is still a teenager and completely unprepared for the hardship of living in a foreign land and on a battlefield.

Dorothea, a nurse, is desperately worried for her. She is very much a person with a strong sense of duty and wants to do her part in caring for those injured in the war and at the same time she hopes to try and find her sister. Her travels lead her first to Constantinople and to Florence Nightingale – I must admit that I now have a different picture in my mind of Florence who, for all the right reasons, appears to have been a much more difficult person than I had previously believed.

The story is told by both Dorothea and Lucy (by third person narration), with their narratives sometimes overlapping. Rather than being repetitive, I found it really helpful to see the same timeline of events told through a different pair of eyes.

Ms Paul doesn’t hold back on the horrors of war – some of the injuries are graphically described, although not gratuitously, and every aspect is so vividly described that you can clearly imagine the landscape and the awful conditions that both nurses and soldiers had to live with.

I really enjoyed the style of writing. I found this an easy and engaging read, and whilst the text was superbly descriptive, it didn’t slow down the story. The story appears to have been meticulously researched and this shows in the level of detail throughout. At the back of my copy (which was a proof copy) were several pages of notes explaining the background to the Crimean War, which I found particularly helpful.

Their different experiences had left their marks on both Dorothea and Lucy and you could see how their characters changed as the story progressed.   In their own way, both were strong women. Of the two sisters, Dorothea was my favourite, Lucy’s opinion of her trying to dominate and ruin her life was quite unfair and in fact Dorothea was extremely kind and caring and would always put others before herself. I felt that Lucy was initially rather spoilt and quite selfish which can be put down to her immaturity but even as she matured and after all that she had endured, I still found it difficult to warm to her.

There is so much that happens in the book that it is impossible to detail it all here and I wouldn’t want to. It is a story that you need to discover for yourself. I loved it and definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

There is an extract from the beginning of the book here, as part of the recent blog tour which I hope gives a flavour for the story.

My thanks to Sabah of The Light Brigade and the publisher for the paperback copy to review.

I should just mention that at the time of publishing this review, the Kindle version is still available on Amazon for 99p – it’s a bargain at that price! 

About the author:

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, No Place for a Lady, set during the Crimean War of 1854-56, is about the difficult relationship between two sisters, against a backdrop of the horrendous chaos of the British campaign and the development of nursing by Florence Nightingale et al. Other titles include Women and Children First, about a young steward called Reg Jones who works on board the Titanic, and The Affair, set in Rome in 1961-62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fall in love while making Cleopatra.

Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition, relationships and anything to do with history. 

How to find out more:

Twitter: @GillPaulAUTHOR 


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