REVIEW: The Civil Prisoners by Meriol Trevor
This one is slightly different in that it’s set in the French town of Verdun which was used to house some of the English who were taken prisoner after England declared war on France in 1803. All Englishmen of military age, whether civilian or military, who were in France or French territories were arrested and hauled off to these towns. The women, children and older men could travel on but many stayed with their men and set up tiny English enclaves to try and mirror their lives in England.
This is from the back blurb: “Emily, Lady Royden — a lively, enchanting creature with an elegant figure and clear brunette complexion — felt Cary Vyner’s eyes watching her. Emily was used to being watched and admired. But there was something more in Cary’s gaze. Did he recognize her as the sixteen-year old schoolgirl he had once refused to marry?
Now she and Cary found themselves thrown together again in the narrow society of the prison town of Verdun. The romantic, rebellious Cary Vyner had come to France just in time to be made a prisoner of war — as were all Englishmen. Emily lived in her own personal prison, trapped as she was in a loveless marriage with the weak, drunken Lord Royden.
But Emily was not thinking about her husband or her marriage now. She was thinking about Cary Vyner and when they would meet again.”
I guess you could call this a ‘former acquaintances find love’ book. Cary was a sulking 21 year old in love with someone else and Emily a young, shy, gawky girl when they last met. Their life experiences have tempered them and brought them to the point where love is possible where it had no chance before. Neither of them have turned into ‘I’ll never love again’ martyrs but being trapped at Verdun and Emily’s marriage throw some pretty high obstacles in the path of their HEA.
I felt that both of them had lived and learned enough to know true love when it finally found them. The resolution of Emily’s marriage was pretty standard romance fare but done in a believable way in regard to the rake her husband had become. The prison problem was something else and was quite nerve wracking to read how they handled that. There is a whole cast of secondary characters in this one and you do need to flip to the family tree at the front til you get them all straight. I thought Trevor did a good job with them all and showed how even the most wonderful people can end up getting on your last nerve in close confines. I also liked her writing style but caution people that this book was written in 1977. There is a lovely secondary love story between two of my favorite characters that was a nice bonus. I ended up giving this one a strong B+.
Oh, I almost forgot. A tiny bit at the end was set in Devonshire and it seems that the horror stories I’ve heard about the roads there are correct.