"Ellen and Kate were best friends and committed suffragettes. On the eve of the Great War, Kate and another suffragette burned down a church as part of a suffragette protest under the “Deeds not Words” banner. A man died and Kate disappeared. Sixteen years later, Ellen and her brother Freddie have rebuilt their lives after the trauma of war and loss. She is overjoyed when Kate reappears, but Kate is consumed by remorse over the death. They enlist the help of Alec, Freddie's ex-lover, to find out what happened that day in the church. There are ties from the past that bind them all: guilt, fear, pride. Can they break free from these and reclaim the lives they deserve? In order to do so, the foursome begins an investigation into the man’s death, which is peculiar because the church was searched thoroughly and found to be empty before the fire was set, so how did he get there? Since Alec is an attorney, he spearheads the investigation, using his contacts to get the documents needed to corroborate the facts. Their sleuthing pays off as a cover-up is revealed."
The novel is well written, but the plot is a bit of a slow-burn for the first third to half. Once the investigation gets going, the plot takes off; however, it was pretty clear rather quickly what happened as the documents are found. The “reveal” is essentially a confirmation of the reader’s presumption.
The plot revolves around two former suffragettes, so a good bit of history about the pre-war suffragette movement is included. The information, while accurate, is also disturbing when relaying how the women were treated—and how they were still being treated in 1930.
While female characters from different classes are included, the reader sees that the abysmal treatment did not respect class distinctions. All the women were treated badly in one form or another, and the heterosexual men come across as boorish pigs while the two homosexual men seem to be the only ones with any sensitivity regarding the women. Perhaps because they were treated so poorly as well?
The reader should be aware that the novel includes two homosexual relationships, one M/M and one F/F. Nothing more graphic than kissing is included, but if the topic makes readers uncomfortable, they should be aware of these relationships.
The novel takes a sensitive look at how women and homosexuals were regarded in the early twentieth century. Once the book got going it became a good read!
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Dawn Lee