Hope at Holly Cottage

Written by Tania Crosse
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Plymouth, England, 1954. World War II is over, and young Anna Millington should be looking forward to life as she studies to become a teacher. But things are not easy. As a result of a war injury, her father suffers from terrible mood swings, and Anna fears for her vulnerable mother. When tragedy strikes, Anna must get away fast. She finds herself a job as a housemaid in rural Devon. She should be safe here, surely. The housekeeper may be over-strict and snobbish, but Anna’s employer, Lady Ashcroft, is kind, and her son, the handsome Sir Gilbert, soon indicates that he likes Anna very much indeed. Things are looking rosy – or are they? Anna discovers that life can be as difficult in the country as it was in Plymouth, and soon she faces some very tricky problems.

The author plainly knows her subject well; the continuing lack of any but the most basic amenities in post-war Plymouth grinds Anna and her family down in a way which has the stamp of authenticity; as does the upstairs-downstairs life at Ashcroft Hall where the old rules of class snobbery still holds sway under the surface friendliness. Anna must learn to judge people and situations for herself rather than taking them at face value.

Unfortunately, in spite of the various serious problems Anna faces, she is never left friendless for more than a day or so. Heroines need their mettles tested, and it’s difficult to become involved with Anna’s problems when help invariably arrives sooner rather than later and the burden is lifted from her shoulders. The story zipped along, but it was all a bit cosy for my taste.