REVIEW: Christmas Hope by Caroline Warfield
When the Great War is over, will their love be enough?
After two years at the mercy of the Canadian Expeditionary force and the German war machine, Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encounters color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnares him. Through three more long years of war and its aftermath, the hope she brings keeps Harry alive.
Rosemarie Legrand’s husband left her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation when he died. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier, but Harry’s devotion lifts her up. The war demands all her strength and resilience, will the hope of peace and the promise of Harry’s love keep her going?
Dear Ms. Warfield,
Ever since falling in love with two of your Christmas novellas two years ago, I’ve kept an eye out for them. This year instead of a Regency novella, you’ve gifted us with a World War I novel. Though it covers a space of years rather than just the Christmas holiday, Harry and Rosemarie’s hearts come together over a series of Noel celebrations as they pray to survive the war that doesn’t seem will ever end.
It’s due to a prankster, a Bible, and a three day pass that Canadian Harry ever meets French Rosemarie. He’s survived two years of war and she’s survived a horrible accusation by her now dead husband that has tainted the view of her neighbors towards her. Neither is sad when circumstances dictate that Harry return to Rosemarie’s little island cottage where – alas – his grandmother’s Bible is still not dry enough to take back with him. Soon Harry is pushing his luck and working his contacts to get leave to see Rosemarie and her young son Marcel.
But the war is a jealous mistress and Harry must report back for the next suicide charge that the generals are sure will win the war. He’s survived the Somme but when the Canadians are tapped to take Vimy, Harry truly wonders if this will be it. Meanwhile Rosemarie is struggling to support her son and earn what she can as a seamstress repairing uniforms while desperately trying to learn what she can about where the Canadians are fighting and if Harry is still alive.
Then the German push towards Amiens forces Rosemarie to flee with Marcel and contact between Harry and Rosemarie is broken. Will they even survive the last year of the war much less find each other once the guns are silenced on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month?
What a lovely story this is. I had no idea that les hortillonnages even existed and now having seen images of them, I am in love. They’re charming and an unusual setting for Rosemarie’s little cottage. While neither Harry nor Rosemarie immediately professes love at first sight, it’s obvious that the attraction is there from the start. But Harry is unwilling to promise what he might not be able to do and in true male fashion, holds back most of his feelings in order, he thinks, not to hurt Rosemarie. He also mentally puts her and Marcel in his grandmother’s house (in Canada) before he goes over the top in order to believe them safe and so that he has the fortitude to obey orders and keep fighting.
Wise Rosemarie understands when he tells her that he has to keep her safe – even if just in his mind – to keep going. She also keeps gently pressing until he tells her a crushing burden he bears. The war is not displayed in its gross entirety but there are enough details to illuminate the hell Harry endures and make clear how much he cherishes his time with the woman and child he is coming to love as his own.
The Army is still not finished with Harry even after the last post has sounded and I was madly “flipping” the pages of my ereader to see how Harry and Rosemarie would find each other again. Would she be safe? Would Harry and his friend make it back before being thought deserters? The suspense, road trip delays, and more suspense had me glued to the story. Their resilience and steadfast determination warmed my heart. Then, ah, the happy ending during which Rosemarie, Marcel, and Harry finally do make it to his grandmother’s safe house, filled with love and the comfort of home. A-