Young, rich, and pretty Rose Courteney lives with her stifling family in rural England. When it becomes clear that her path is to marry to please her parents, she takes her fate into her own hands. Just 18, she lies about her age to volunteer as a military nurse in London at the outset of World War I. Gaining experience and skill, she is thrilled to be sent to France to work in field hospitals. Despite this, she is never quite able to fully escape her family politics or their cloying expectations.
Alex Denham has been interested in Rose for a long time, they’ve known each other forever, but the circumstances surrounding his birth (he’s a bastard who was accepted and loved by his mother’s cuckolded husband) render him socially unacceptable. Part of the regular army, at the outset of the war he is shipped to France to slog through years of battle, wounds, recovery, and returning to the front.
The Silver Locket was a change of romance pace for me. Rose and Alex’s coming together took a long time and they spent months at a time apart as they each play their rolls in the war. The novel is more her story than his and details of the circumstances in which the nurses worked were really interesting to me and an area of war history about which I was happy to learn. James also realistically portrays the overall vulnerability and the limitations placed on women at the time – even those serving their country. Further, it’s harrowing watching the timeline crawl along as the four years of the war slowly pass, or realising with horror that the new battlefront means that a bloodbath is coming.
Neither Rose, nor Alex come through the war unscathed and it strips everything away from them but their essentials. The societal judgments and accusation, especially from those on the home-front, seem foolish and provincial considering what they have endured. The Silver Locket was only the first in the Charton Minster series which has five books about successive generations. I don’t plan on reading more from the series, as I like a little more romance in my genre fiction, but as a historical novel with a romance it may appeal to you.