The war might be over, but the battle for love has just begun.
When Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George arrives in Wales after serving as a veterinarian in the Great War, she doesn’t come alone. With her is her former captain’s beloved warhorse, which she promised to return to him—and a series of recurring nightmares that torment both her heart and her soul. She wants only to complete her task, then find refuge with her family, but when Nell meets the captain’s eldest daughter, all that changes.
Beatrice Hughes is resigned to life as the dutiful daughter. Her mother grieves for the sons she lost to war; the care of the household and remaining siblings falls to Beatrice, and she manages it with a practical efficiency. But when a beautiful stranger shows up with her father’s horse, practicality is the last thing on her mind.
Despite the differences in their social standing, Beatrice and Nell give in to their unlikely attraction, finding love where they least expect it. But not everything in the captain’s house is as it seems. When Beatrice’s mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nell must overcome her preconceptions to help Beatrice, however she’s able. Together they must find out what really happened that stormy night in the village, before everything Beatrice loves is lost—including Nell.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
Please be aware this book contains content that may trigger certain audiences.
War related deaths and injuries (humans and horses)
Death and disability caused by vaccine preventable illness (pre-vaccine era)
Race riots (not detailed on page but discussed by characters)
Slavery and Highland Clearances (discussion on where Nell’s family made their money)
To write a book set in 1919 and find a happily ever after has been a difficult task given the highly fraught social conditions at the time. The end of the Great War brought many changes to society; some women were granted the vote in November 1918, the Russian revolution had the British upper classes worried about their own privileged positions, a depressed labour market meant men who’d fought came home to joblessness and a lack of health care (particularly mental health care), and many soldiers from across Britain’s colonies migrated to England only to find it wasn’t as friendly as they’d hoped. Throw in the knowledge that the great depression and WWII is on the horizon for my characters—they don’t know it, but readers do—was an added challenge. People are incredibly resilient and find love under the toughest conditions.
In popular culture, WWI is often shown to be a white man’s war, and yet, growing up in New Zealand, we learned all about the Māori Battalion and their incredible victory at Chunuk Bair in August 1915 as part of the failed Gallipoli campaign. The win was temporary and has unfortunately largely been erased from WWI narratives. The service of the Māori Battalion, as well as the Indian Battalions, North African troops, Chinese labours, Aboriginal soldiers, and so many others, have also been erased from popular culture and I wanted to make sure I didn’t do the same. These soldiers all faced more trials when they arrived back from the war. In Australia, the White Australia Policy ruled, and Aboriginal people didn’t get the vote until the 1960s, and Aboriginal soldiers were not welcomed in The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, which was the original name of the Returned and Service’s League (RSL). In New Zealand, the government had an equal access policy to its rehabilitation programme for returned soldiers, however, the Waitangi Tribunal later found evidence this didn’t happen in practice with Māori soldiers being overlooked and ignored.
The Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919 was over by the summer of 1919. I wrote this blog post with more details.
Dr Aleen Cust was the first woman to be recognised as a veterinarian in the British Empire in 1922. Is it unrealistic to have Nell working as a veterinarian? No. Dr Aleen Cust provides the pathway. Additionally, more than twenty women are known to have worked as human doctors in military hospitals in the war zone – even though the British Empire denied them the chance to enlist – they simply enlisted as volunteers for organisations like the Red Cross instead.
Dr Cust was the daughter of Sir Leopold Cust (Baron), she was born in 1868 in Ireland, and she first enrolled at the Edinburgh New Veterinary College in 1894 under the pseudonym AI Custance. In 1897, the Royal Veterinary Society (RVS) refused to admit her because she wasn’t a ‘male student.’ She graduated from the New Veterinary College in 1900, and won the Gold Medal for Zoology, but still wasn’t allowed to call herself Doctor, instead returning to Ireland to work as a veterinary assistant. In 1915, she volunteered to work for the Army Veterinary Corp, but had to work in an unofficial capacity due to RVS restrictions. After the war, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was passed, and she once again applied to the RVS. It took until 1922 to convince the Society to allow her to be called Doctor, and by the time of her death in 1937, there were a further 60 women veterinarians registered. The Women’s Veterinary Surgeons Trust was founded in 1968 by Dr Joan Joshua (1912-1993). Dr Aleen Cust wasn’t the only woman to apply to the RVS, Lucy Evelyn Cheeseman (1881-1969) applied in 1906 and was dismissed by the RVS. She worked for the Admiralty during WWI and become a renowned entomologist and explorer. There were probably others, but records are scant. Source: International Women in Science, A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. By Catharine Haines and Helen Stevens.
The British Army Veterinary Corp employed 1,668 veterinarians and 41,755 others between 1914 and 1918, treating over 2.5million horses with three-quarters of them returning to service after treatment. Source: Veterinary Medicine, A guide to historical Services. By Pamela Hunter.
Theirs Not To Reason Why, page 342, has a good map of the British Veterinary Hospitals, and Convalescent Depots across France.
Over a million British horses went to war, and only 60,000 came home. Across all armies, over eight million horses, mules, and donkeys were killed. Of the survivors, 49,751 horses were slaughtered after the war in France for human consumption, and selling these horses netted the Army an average of £22 per animal. In 1914, the Army paid an average of £45 for a cavalry horse (2018 £5,100), while after the war in 1919, the going price for a horse “fit for work” was £36 (2018 £1,800). Source: Theirs not to reason why, by Graham Winton.
As a comparison, the highest priced Thoroughbred yearling was Sceptre who sold for 10,000 guineas in 1900 (a record that stood for at least 20 years). One guinea = £1.05, and 10,000 guineas equates to £1.2million in 2018. Source: The Autobiography of Robert Standish Sievier, by R Sievier. Published 1905.
Many horses commissioned by the British Army were trained in England by the Remount Department, and women formed the cornerstone of this unit during WWI (because the men were away fighting). Source: The War Horses, by Simon Butler.
The Brooke Charity was set up in 1930 by Dorothy Brooke to provide vet work and training to people who owned the horses left behind in Egypt after WWI. Their practical work continues today and is, in my opinion, the best animal welfare charity in the world.
England suffered under rations for a long time after the war’s end in November 1918, with no meat in cities until December 1919, no butter until May 1920, and no sugar until November 1920.
The 1919 race riots occurred in various UK ports between January and August 1919. In a story that sounds awfully familiar, returned soldiers and a depressed job market meant job tensions for everyone. White British port workers were concerned that British soldiers who immigrated from British colonies including Africa and South Asia, as well as workers who identified as Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, and Arab were “stealing” the jobs of white workers. Across at least seven locations, two black men and two white men were killed during riots. Source: Great War to Race Riots by Madeline Heneghan and Emy Onuora.
Camphor was a common treatment for lung conditions. Typically it would be inhaled, rather than imbibed as it can be fatal at fairly low doses. To add it to soup, like Beatrice did for her Father, is risky but also effective at helping the lungs loosen up phlegm. Using it to clear up chlorine gas lung inflammation would have been effective at preventing the severe coughing. There were two main types of poison gas used as chemical weapons in WWI – chlorine gas and mustard gas. Mustard gas was more severe and also caused chemical burns to the skin. Of interest, the German scientist Fritz Haber who invented mustard gas also invented a process for the production of ammonia based fertiliser. This fertiliser currently feeds over a third of the world’s population and gained Haber the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918.
The polio vaccine was discovered in 1955—too late for Nell’s brother. The measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, and prior to that, having measles was as common as death or taxes. Before the vaccine was introduced, approximately 2.6million people globally died per year from measles complications, and most of those were under the age of five.
Approximately 40,000 Welshman died during WWI, including many policemen. Aled and Officer Rhys Wheeler were fictionally part of the Welsh Guard who fought in the Battle of Loos in 1915. I’ve based them on: https://www.wwwmp.co.uk/ceredigion-memorials/aberystwyth-police-station-war-memorial/
In 1800, the majority of Wales residents spoke Welsh, but by 1911, this had fallen to less than 50%. The difference between town and country was stark with only 5% of residents in Cardiff speaking Welsh while 99% could speak English (meaning that most Welsh speakers also spoke English), while in Anglesey 88% of people could speak Welsh (and 68% spoke English). The Welsh Language Act of 1967 was the first step towards formally preserving the language, and an update to the Act in 1993 put Welsh on an equal footing with English, however in 1991 only 18% of the population spoke Welsh. This percentage has stayed static since then, hovering around 20%.
Indoor plumbing and flush toilets became the norm for rich houses in cities from the Victorian era, but rural houses didn’t have the same systems. Some houses had cess-pits (the precursor to septic tanks), but many still used an outhouse/long drop/pit toilet system even after WWI.
There is a myth that Queen Victoria refused to acknowledge that lesbians existed in 1885 and thus she refused to sign the MP Henry Labouchere's amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. It is a myth for two simple reasons – the amendment only mentioned men (women presumably being unworthy of Labouchere’s attention), and it was unconstitutional at that time for a King or Queen to overwrite law by refusing to sign a bill passed by government.
In other legislation, (white only?) women over the age of 30 (plus other conditions) gained the vote in the UK in November 1918, but it wasn’t until 1928 that all people over the age of 21 gained the vote. “In 1918, Parliament passed an act granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities. About 8.4 million women gained the vote.” Wikipedia. Under these conditions, Nell would be fine, but Beatrice and Grace would not be eligible.
Regimental records from WWI show that swearing was considered a disciplinary offense, however, they also made the distinction between offensive swearing and occupational swearing while under fire, the latter being forgivable. Nell would have heard every swearword invented, every vulgar piece of language including cunt (which dates from the 14th century). Fuck, by contrast is younger, dating to 1670 in literature.
Aspirin – 1899
Pornography – used to describe obscene paintings from 1842
Erotic/erotique from 1650, but erotica (originally a booksellers category) not until 1820.
1839 - Aberystwyth is one of the 1st towns in the United Kingdom to get Gas Street Lighting (Electric street lighting arrives in 1894)
Aberystwyth Infirmary and Cardiganshire General Hospital opened on Upper Portland St in 1838, moved to Little Darkgate St twenty years later, then again to North St in 1888 where it was in operation until 1966. The building was demolished in 1998 and I couldn’t find an image of the North St building.
Knickers – from 1882 to mean ‘short undergarment for women.’ Before that, from 1866 to mean loose pants with buckles at knees and waist worn by men. Comes from knickerbocker from 1859.
Shell shock was first described in war records in 1915. When the war first began in July 1914, up to 10% of soldiers started reporting symptoms similar to concussion but without a physical head wound. By 1915, the connection to constant shelling coined the term shell shock, but some still felt the issues were more to do with a lack of courage than a real problem. By 1916, 40% of soldiers had some form of shell shock, and by 1917, steps were put in place to reduce the incidence of it. After all, soldiers with shell shock were often unpredictable with wild mood swings, hardly conducive to working alongside soldiers in the trenches. At the end of 1917, the term shell shock was banned by the British Army, and mentions of it were censored until 1922 when an official war report into shell shock was published. Nowadays we understand it better as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The National Library of Wales opened to the public in Aberystwyth in 1909, while the Aberystwyth University also had extensive libraries. Women were admitted on an equal basis to Aberystwyth University from 1893. Between 1909 and 1912, 14% of readers at the National Library were women (I couldn’t find library data for the university).
I did find a vague reference that the Aberystwyth Council banned cars from some parts of town in 1911, but I couldn’t find public records of which streets and for how long, so I’ve assumed the ban was lifted by the end of WWI.
The standard English breakfast began in the Edwardian era, prior to WWI, when hotels began copying the breakfast spreads put on in aristocratic hunting lodges. Rations affected the mixture of foodstuffs, but the ideal English breakfast dates from around 1900.
The greatest number of Dukes to exist at one time was 40, at the end of George I’s reign in 1727. Currently there are 24 non-royal Dukes in Britain, and about 800 hereditary titles.