Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French
Reviewed by Sharon Lewis
Jackie French’s books just keep getting better. I love the Australian content and the depth of history and research that goes into each one. Her characters are believable and draw you into each story, with a different way of looking at our traditional stories and working them into a believable alternate reality. I know that when I start reading one of Jackie’s stories that I am lost until it is finished which, for me, is the sign of a good book.
Jackie has been inspiring readers of all ages and one of the things that I most love about her writing is that it transcends generations. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies continues this tradition and is inspired by true events. It is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.
Taking us from the Australian outback to war torn Europe in 1914 the book is based around Sophie Higgs, the daughter of Australia’s corned beef baron. Because she comes from ‘earned’ money she is not readily accepted into the colonial society. She is sent to Miss Lily at secluded Shillings Hall, in the snow-crisped English countryside, where the mysterious Miss Lily draws around her young women selected from Europe’s royal and most influential families. Her girls are taught how to captivate a man – and find a potential husband – in ways that would surprise outsiders. For in 1914, persuading and charming men is the only true power a woman has. Of all Miss Lily’s lovely ladies, however, she is also the only one who suspects Miss Lily’s true purpose.
As the chaos of war spreads, women across Europe shrug off etiquette. The lovely ladies and their less privileged sisters become the unacknowledged backbone of the war, creating hospitals, canteens and transport systems where bungling officials fail to cope. And when tens of thousands can die in a single day’s battle, Sophie must use the skills Miss Lily taught her to prevent war’s most devastating weapon yet.