The Gates of Rutherford
In this third book in the series, the son and heir to the great Yorkshire estate—Rutherford Park—is a fighter pilot in France. It’s 1917, and Harry has been injured and ordered to return to England for surgery. Back in England, his sister, Charlotte, is on the verge of marrying a blinded officer. She’s afraid she’s making the biggest mistake of her life. Her affections—feelings she doesn’t quite understand—are elsewhere, but she has bowed to convention. Her older sister Louisa is conducting a secret affair with a man of much lower station while taking care of their deserted father. Their mother, Octavia, a woman full of exuberance, has left her rigid, older husband and is living with the love of her life, an American about to travel to France to gather intelligence that will encourage the United States to enter WWI. We even get a sensitively rendered point of view from a German POW working on the estate.
Class differences are wavering, the old ways fading, and the upkeep of huge estates becoming impossible. The characters are sympathetic and interesting, but reading the first two books would help to know them better. I had the most difficult issue with Harry and his motivations, although perhaps the earlier stories would have remedied that. Cooke is a fine writer, even with dragged-out scenes and large info dumps on war, and the futility of war. Her descriptions of the fighting, weapons, aircraft and the day to day discomfort of being a soldier are impressive. Despite the title, most of the novel takes place far from Rutherford Park. I would recommend the series.