Standing in the Shadows
This is the second in the Swallowcliffe Hall series. The first book, about maidservant Polly Perkins, was set in the Victorian era. This book, which begins in 1914, takes up the story of Polly’s daughter, Grace Stanbury. Fifteen-year-old Grace lives with her parents at the gate lodge, so her life is intimately bound up with that of the Vye family who own the Hall. Grace is employed as a kitchen maid, a job for which she has absolutely no talent. However she loves looking after the horses, and escapes to the stables whenever she can. The story begins with the outbreak of the First World War and the requisitioning by the army of most of the Vyes’ horses. Grace manages to rescue Colonel Vye’s horse by riding him out of sight so that he is not taken.
Much of the book is taken up with the effects of the war on life and relationships at the Hall, and we see Grace coming into her own and growing in independence. When the stable boy joins up, she takes on his job. She also learns to drive the Rolls Royce, which is used as an ambulance when the Hall becomes a hospital for wounded soldiers. But a growing romance between Grace and the son of one of the Vyes seems hopeless.
There is a dramatic plot twist in this story that relates to events in the past and which made me feel I should read the first book again. Although it’s intriguing and cleverly worked out, this revelation is not as involving as Grace’s own story. However, readers are sure to look forward to Book 3 and the changes that World War II will bring to the Hall—and to the final resolution of the mystery that Grace has begun to uncover.