The Wild Dark Flowers: A Novel of Rutherford Park

Written by Elizabeth Cooke
Review by Audrey Braver

The Wild Dark Flowers is the second novel in the Rutherford Park series. It begins in 1915. Harry Cavendish, the son and heir, is leaving the estate to join the Royal Flying Corps in France, much to the distress of his parents, William, Lord Cavendish, and his wife, Octavia, whose nearest neighbors had just lost both their sons in the war. Besides his parents, Harry leaves behind his two sisters, Louisa and Charlotte, and his illegitimate infant daughter, Sessy. The fighting may be in France, but its stresses are felt at home in England. One after another of the male staff of Rutherford Park leaves to join the army, only to be followed by the estate’s horses. The newspapers gloss over the reports from the front, which are contradicted as wounded soldiers return home. Not only does Octavia miss Harry, but she is also missing her former lover, John Gould, now back home in New York.

Cooke has written a charming, intriguing novel. Some scenes are reminiscent of two popular TV series, Upstairs, Downstairs, and Downton Abbey, which have similar subject matter. Her research is excellent. The various battle scenes in France are completely riveting, and her portrayal of the sinking of the Lusitania is heartrending. This book is a perfect summer read.