Legacy of Greyladies

Written by Anna Jacobs
Review by Lynn Guest

1915. Greyladies, in Wiltshire, is a manor house, half of which the government has requisitioned to house German refugees while Phoebe Latimer, the current chatelaine, and her two servants continue to live in the older wing. When Phoebe’s officer husband comes home on Christmas leave, she will have exciting news for him.

A recent war widow, Olivia has been bullied by her obnoxious cousin into looking after his pregnant wife. Bored and frustrated, she is helped by a friend, Babs, to escape to London. Together they tour England advising on the setting up of the new Women’s Institutes. Although she did not intend to remarry, she is attracted to Babs’ friend, Alex. Chance brings them to Greyladies, where Olivia feels curiously at home. But the house is threatened by an embittered war veteran who plots to lead an attack to murder the Germans and burn Greyladies. Can the women and Alex protect the elderly Germans and thwart the thugs?

This is the third in the popular Greyladies series. The depictions of women’s restricted lives and early feminism are good, as is the village in wartime: the only males are old, young or wounded. But the characters, except for Olivia, are flat, either wholly pleasant or wholly nasty. A fourth instalment is planned, but this novel has a listless feel, perfunctory rather than engaging until the last chapters, when a slam-bang, patriotic finale is preposterous but heart-warming.