© Mary Cluff
The Warring Heart is a gentle romance set in England during WWI. The focus is on Pretoria, who after navigating a mildly scandalous relationship, finds herself without a beau and so agrees to marry Nathaniel, a well-established local farmer and a man completely devoted to her but for whom she initially feels little.
At its heart, this novel is a romance. Foremost are Pretoria’s burgeoning feelings for her husband and the steady love he offers her despite the challenges of gossip, distance, and war. An unexpected twist halfway leaves the reader curious as to how a resolution might be found; at the same time, the characterization is such that it was easy to predict that all would end as it did, even as there was some question as to the capitulation of one particular character. That aside, readers will enjoy watching Pretoria's and Nathaniel’s relationship grow over time. It is a love story at its core.
The novel takes place over the four years of WWI and is centered on the home front where Pretoria manages the farm with hired help. Other chapters focus on the war itself, and while the war provides a compelling backdrop, it is also in this that something is lacking. For example, Nathaniel leaves to serve in the trenches, but the letters that he writes home are remarkably mild. There was an opportunity to not only acknowledge the brutality of the war but also to explore how it might have changed Nathaniel. As such, the horror of the war is downplayed and Nathaniel himself seems largely unaffected.
While the graphic nature of war is minimized, the book itself is rich in historical details. For instance, references are made to the Women’s Land Army, a group made up of women that during WWI volunteered to work in the fields in order to keep soldiers fed. The novel also explores to some degree the anti-German sentiment which would have been widespread. Small details like the inclusion of pinafores, carriages, corned bully beef, and even Royal Vinolia Toothpaste not only added to the story, but also allowed the reader to be completely immersed in WWI Britain.
Inevitably, the war ends. Nathaniel comes home. Pretoria reaches a place where she understands her own heart. Each character stays true to who they are and what they hope for, and the story ends on a satisfying note. Those who appreciate a sweet romance with a comforting resolution will enjoy The Warring Heart.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Mary Cluff