Frontline Nurses

Written by Holly Green
Review by Rachel Richardson

Leonora Malham Brown and her friend Victoria, members of FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), travel to Bulgaria in the midst of the First Balkan War to join a convoy of fellow Englishwomen carrying wounded from the battlefield. Working alone at the frontlines, Leo cuts her hair and forgoes her skirt to cope with the mud and lice, leading a dashing Serbian Colonel to mistake her for a man—a fact which complicates their friendship and Leo’s attraction to him.  Meanwhile, Victoria has her own ill-fated romance, and Leo’s almost-fiancé Tom embarks on a reluctant mission to “rescue” Leo which becomes a journey of self-discovery and sparks an accidental career as a war artist. Although the unequal point-of-view splits make the narrative somewhat disorganised, the development of these characters is compelling and adds to the appeal.

It is an unusual setting for a novel and vividly told, with the horrors of war laid bare for both characters and readers. The action is fast-paced, sometimes abruptly so, and though the story is rather predictable, the novel is clearly well-researched. A few clichés, improbabilities, and minor inaccuracies (such as anachronistic use of passports and “art deco”) should not get in the way of an enjoyable read.