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.