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The Victory Garden

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From the bestselling author of The Tuscan Child comes a beautiful and heart-rending novel of a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War.

As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.

When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.

As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny.

390 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 12, 2019

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About the author

Rhys Bowen

112 books7,798 followers
I'm a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I have recently published four internationally bestselling WWII novels, one of them a #1 Kindle bestseller, and the Tuscan Child selling almost a million copies to date. In Farleigh Field won three major awards and was nominated for an Edgar. My other stand-alone novels are The Victory Garden, about land girls in WWI and Above the Bay of Angels, featuring a young woman who becomes chef for Queen Victoria.
April 2021 will mark the publication of THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK--another sweeping historical novel of love, loss and intrigue.

My books are currently translated into 29 languages and I have fans worldwide.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in the 1930s. It's lighter, sexier, funnier, wicked satire. It was voted by readers as best mystery series one year.
I am also known for my Constable Evans books, set in North Wales, and for my award-winning short stories.

I was born and raised in England but currently divide my time between California and Arizona where I go to escape from the harsh California winters
When I am not writing I love to travel, sing, hike, play my Celtic harp.
* Constable Evan Mystery
* Molly Murphy Mysteries
* Her Royal Spyness Mysteries

Agatha Award
◊ Best Novel (2001): Murphy's Law
Reviewer's Choice Award
◊ Historical Mystery (2001): Murphy's Law

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5 stars
19,041 (44%)
4 stars
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3 stars
6,490 (15%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,564 reviews
Profile Image for Liz.
2,135 reviews2,746 followers
February 4, 2019

Rhys Bowen specializes in historical fiction with a heavy side of romance. This time, she turns her attention to the last year of WWI. Emily is a young lady of means, at a loss of purpose when she meets a young Australian flyer recuperating at the hospital next to her home and they quickly fall in love. Once she turns 21, she signs up to be a land girl, much to the consternation of her parents. It doesn’t take long for her to end up engaged, pregnant and her fiancé dead.

This book is heavy on romance and drama, light on historical issues. Don’t expect to learn anything about England during WWI. In fact, anyone expecting historical fiction, steer clear. I found the story formulaic, but I did enjoy Emily and the other characters. This is a sweet novel and it is enjoyable as long as you aren’t looking for anything deep.

This is the third Bowen novel I’ve read. I enjoyed In Farleigh Field but barely tolerated The Tuscan Child. I’m coming to the conclusion I’m probably not the intended audience for Bowen.

My thanks to netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for an advance copy of this book.

Profile Image for ✨ Gramy ✨ .
1,382 reviews
March 5, 2019
It did seem to take an awfully long time (nearly six chapters) to set the scene, develop the plot, and build the characters. But after all the groundwork was constructed, the story flourished into an intricately detailed drama, entertaining the reader by allowing them to visit another time and place with hours of pleasure.

This quote is a very minor influence of the book, but it rings so true"
Books are wonderful. You can get transported away by a good story. If we're living in a place like this, we can read about Paris or a tropical island and feel like we are there.

The focus was on the last year of WWI. However, its central point of the attention was shone on the people at home that suffered traumatically from the effects of the war, especially the women. The women learned so much about life and how to survive. The skills they learned and the friends they made provided them with hope, strength, and peace of mind. There were a lot of changes for women during this era and you get a feel for how some of them were introduced.

The main character was brought up in the upper class and chose to volunteer to serve their country in the Women's Land Army, against her parent's wishes. After receiving a harsh rebuke from her parents and hearing their thoughts and beliefs about the situation a neighbor girl had found herself in, she was left with only the ability to react by separating herself from them to save their reputation. She battled with feeling defenseless against hope, trust, and faith.

The tale provided very little in the romance department but made up for it by unfolding hardship, the mystery of the 'wise woman', and successfully overcoming afflictions, instead of submitting to defeat when things were difficult. The villagers learned to trust the outsiders and eventually welcomed them into their fold. I was intrigued about the herbs and their uses, which drew me into the story more compellingly when they were introduced. Some parts were far-fetched, but it is a fiction read, so you can just 'sigh' and move on.

There did not appear to be any grammatical errors that I observed. I was not that impressed with the conclusion, which came abruptly, even though it reflected things in a positive light. It just left some loose ends I had hoped would be tied. However, I was extremely delighted with this being a clean and wholesome read.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,284 reviews1,331 followers
November 3, 2018
The simple message of a garden is hope that sprouts from tiny seeds.

Rhys Bowen presents a story in the midst of The Great War. It's May of 1918 in Devonshire and Emily Bryce is about to celebrate her twenty-first birthday. Being the daughter of a judge and living on quite a sizable estate, Emily is removed from the hardships that have worked their way into the lives of most families in England. But that is all about to change.

Emily corresponds with her best friend, Clarissa, who has become a nurse stationed at the front. Emily longs to follow in her friend's footsteps, but she's turned down by the Nurses Voluntary Aid Detachment. Instead, Emily finds herself signing on the dotted line to become a Land Girl. This division of volunteers travels the area working in gardens and on farms after the men have been called up to fight. Tension escalates when Emily tries to tell her parents. They turn her away.

Soon Emily is working on land owned by Lady Charlton with a band of good-natured women. This is the first time that Emily has felt needed in her life. But as Rhys Bowen's story unfolds, the reader will come upon secrets that Emily has been keeping. One will note how women's lives of the time were held to such rigid standards. Gossip lined every sidewalk in small towns and villages. There was a compulsive need to label and to shame. Perhaps human nature doesn't change much after all.

I've read many a book by the talented Rhys Bowen including The Tuscan Child and all of the Molly Murphy Series. She has a way of telling a story in which her main characters try to steady the ship during the worst of storms. It's honest, relatable people who are flawed but seek a way of their own. The Victory Garden allows us a glimpse into the real sacrifices taken on by so many in generations ago.

I received a copy of The Victory Garden through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Rhys Bowen and to Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,320 reviews2,140 followers
February 11, 2019
Set in 1918, towards the end of "the war to end all wars" the story tells of the trials and tribulations of 21 year old Emily Bryce. She has been kept close at home by her parents who are still grieving the loss of their son, Emily's brother Freddie. The moment she comes of age Emily leaves her home, becomes engaged to an Australian fighter pilot and joins the Land Army. All very brave moves! Of course things do not turn out the way she hopes, but Emily ends up making life long friends and finding her own path.

This is a very entertaining book featuring a number of engaging characters and a good story. It never reaches any great depths but does give a fair representation of what the people who stayed at home went through during the First War. Set in a rural area, the characters in this book do not endure bombs, but they do live through the deprivations of war and also the huge losses of young men who went away and ever came back. All of them were of course brothers, sons, husbands and sweethearts of the women who were left behind to try and keep the country going as best they could.

An enjoyable read with plenty of historical fact mixed in with the fiction. Recommended if this is your genre.

My thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Laura.
667 reviews6 followers
February 27, 2019
I love Rhys Bowen’s books, especially the recent stand alone historical fiction such as In Farleigh’s Field and the Tuscan Child. Therefore, it pains me to write this review. I found Victory Garden to be predictable, forced, and unrealistic. With few exceptions, I found the characters two dimensional, like they were playing a stereotyped role. I did enjoy the main character Emily, but even she fell into a predictable and disappointing pattern. I also think the title was misleading. Overall, I was very disappointed in a book I was extremely excited to read.
Profile Image for Ankit Garg.
251 reviews354 followers
December 31, 2020
"The Victory Garden" by Rhys Bowen is apparently a historical fiction novel revolving around World War I. It is fiction alright, but historical only up to the extent that the events are scheduled around a war of the writer's choosing, WWI in this case. It could have been any other war in history, and the story would have still kept afloat with no to few changes. Meaning to say, I would have loved more details about the war itself for the tag to make sense.

Apart from that, the plot is predictable yet promising. It revolves around love and suffering, hope and redemption. It also tries to bring to notice how difficult life was for war widows back then. The ending is predictably happy, something I dislike.

The protagonist is an honest and lovable character.

Some quotes:

"Books are wonderful. You can get transported away by a good story."

"One never gets over it, my dear."

"There is nothing more dreary than dining alone."

"You don’t know what it’s like, lying in that big cold bed, staring at the ceiling every night and praying for morning to come."

Verdict: Less historical; more fiction. Read it for the story.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,848 reviews146 followers
October 9, 2020
Charming Story

I very much enjoyed this book. The Victory Garden was set during WWI. The main character Emily was an exceptionally strong character.

More review coming.........
Profile Image for Rachel McMillan.
Author 25 books1,077 followers
October 4, 2018
This is the first non-mystery book by Rhys Bowen I have read. I am a huge fan of her mysteries because I love the accessible style, her capable ability to render a historical setting and world to life and her characters. Such memorable characters.

The Victory Garden proves that Bowen can write with easy elasticity in any genre. While I found the book lacked a certain emotional depth; it was still a worthy snapshot of one woman's experience during a time when women were seen to have much more agency ( while the men were at war) and yet little ability to decide their own fate at all. It is in the crux of this double standard we find Emily, a 21 year old who works as a land girl and back breakingly does her bit for the war effort even while mourning the soldier she loved and lost.

It is the female friendships and sphere that rounded out Bowen's usual talent for character and I was impressed by how quickly I fell into their world, their quirks and dialogue.

This is not so much a romance between a woman and a man; rather a woman and possibilities when all seems hopeless and uncertain and the makeshift community she becomes a part of.

With thanks to Netgalley for the early review copy.
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
419 reviews39 followers
December 23, 2020
Whew, this is the last of this author I had on my shelves! I know Ms. Bowen is a very popular and prolific writer, beloved of many, and I respect that. I think I've figured out why I'm not a fan myself. It's not the plotting; I've read other books with predictable plots which I nevertheless enjoyed. It's not the characters; they are pleasant enough, and many have potential, especially her older characters. The settings for the stories I've read are lovely-the English countryside, the southwest of England, Tuscany. It's the writing style itself. It's too consistently basic, subject-verb-object, with modifiers tossed in, sentence after sentence, and it made these novels lackluster for me. There is none of the complexity of grammatical structure and nuance of vocabulary that make English a beautiful language. Basic is not the same as simple or spare which can be wonderful and effective when each word, phrase, or image is carefully and deliberately chosen, and some of my favorite authors write in that style, e.g., Colm Tóibín; that's not what I'm talking about. I thought about reading my Latin I text and Julius Caesar or my first French reader, quite correct and absolutely necessary to learn before moving on to the beauty and poetry of Ovid and Virgil or the excitement of Dumas and Verne and the humor of Balzac, to name a few. This is just my personal opinion; full credit to the author for having the discipline to write stories that please so many readers.
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,252 reviews391 followers
February 8, 2019
I stopped reading the review pitch once I saw ‘WWI’ in the description, which was basically the first line in the summary. I have read a lot of stand alone novels by Bowen and have been impressed with her writing and historical research.

Her stand alone books have mostly been set in WWII, but WWI is truly my favorite period in historical fiction, so seeing that this book was set during that time earned this book and instant and enthusiastic, ‘yes’ from me.

I have consistently enjoyed reading Bowen’s books, whether they are one of her historical mysteries or her stand alone novels. She as an incredible gift for writing vastly different content and managing to keep all of her heroines fresh and interesting.

This novel started toward the end of the war rather than the beginning which caught me off guard. So many writers tend to start at the beginning of the war and pace their story in time with the war. While it caught me off guard, it was nice to not relive the entire war beginning to end. This allowed the audience to focus mostly on Emily’s story rather than getting carried away in the vastness of the period. I know when I read a WWI novel I inevitably end up down a rabbit hole researching the war, and with this book picking up with the war already established, help keep me on track with the characters and story.

I was most intrigued by the ‘land girls’ angle. That was one aspect that I wasn’t familiar with and was eager to learn more about. It provided a new historical interest for me and I was eager to continue reading about it. I enjoyed Emily’s character and the romantic bits with Robbie, but the story over all lacked the heavy hitting emotional impact that I was expecting in a book with this setting and content.

It was a pleasure to read and I eagerly picked up this book whenever the opportunity arose, but I just didn’t feel like it reached above and beyond the average novel of the same period. In some ways I was grateful for that. I wasn’t in the mood for an overly heavy, emotional novel, but at the same time I almost expect to be taken on a roller coaster of emotions.

In the end, Bowen’s writing and experience writing believable stories with memorable characters and romance mixed in, made me give this book a solid four stars. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the WWI era and all the romantic drama one expects from books in this period!

See my full review here
70 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2019
One always hesitates to be the lone negative review in a sea of five star reports but this book was no where near worth the time to read it.

The author took 2/3 of the book to get the plot to the same point the book flap had gotten with little added to justify the slog. The "atmospheric " touches were banal and the use of 17th century language in the retelling of "recipes" (a 20th century word) was laughable and unworthy of one who regularly writes historical fiction.

Stereotypical, one dimensional characters, unrealistic coincidences and a predictable storyline left me disappointed.

Bowen's series are much better than this as was her earlier stand-alone novel Farleigh Field.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,953 reviews277 followers
August 3, 2019
4.5 stars
Rhys Bowen is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, who has published a range of award winning historical fiction novels. The Victory Garden, published in 2019, is her latest a standalone historical fiction title. Set in the last year of World War I, it is the story of a young woman who experiences love, loss, duty, commitment and independence, during a time of great uncertainty. It is a compelling period piece that demanded my undivided attention from the opening page, to the final word.

The Victory Garden is a stunning portrait of the final stages of the Great War, that places an emphasis on relations on the home front. It tells the story of a determined young woman, Emily Bryce, who wants to break free from the stiff clutches of her sheltered home and contribute to the war effort. When Emily encounters a charismatic Australian pilot, her life is turned upside down. She embraces her new independence and she falls desperately in love with the dashing Australian. Much to ire of her parents, who would rather Emily settle for a man close to home, Emily falls into the arms of her brave pilot. Emily accepts his proposal, just as he is shipped off for another death defying mission in the air. To keep her mind off the danger faced by her beloved, Emily throws all her energy into her work as a land girl. Emily’s role as a fully fledged land girl sees her posted to the stately home of Lady Charlton on a substantial estate. In the run down cottage on the estate grounds that Emily calls home, she makes a startling discovery. A legacy left by those who once resided in the cottage lives on. Emily is inspired to carry on their work, as a herbalist. It is a welcome distraction for Emily, especially when she discovers some shocking news about her Australian airman. Nursing a broken heart, Emily must pick up the pieces of her broken life, as she is about to face the biggest battle she has even known – alone.

The Victory Garden proved to be a truly delightful piece of historical fiction. I do love stories about the Great War, and Bowen’s book was a slight departure from the usual books I have read set in this time period. Bowen has based The Victory Garden in the latter stages of the war, a different move that I appreciated very much. It provided an alternative bird’s eye view of the war, with much emphasis placed on the impact of the Great War on the home front. Bowen focuses much of her book on the impact of the loss of loved ones had on those left behind. The devastating emotions experienced by mothers, fathers, grandmothers, siblings, loved ones and friends. Everyone was stretched to their emotional limit and Bowen does an excellent job of depicting the very heart of the feelings expressed by those left behind.

As this is a home front based novel, there is a strong emphasis on the work of the hardworking division known as the ‘Land Army’. These were able bodied women from all walks of life, across Britain, who bravely volunteered to do their bit for their country. Bowen outlines the huge dent left by the men who went away to fight in the war. The author also looks at the high death rate. As a result, a large gap was felt in the farming and agricultural areas of work. Emily, the lead, answers to this call, boldly defying her family who would rather she not work at all following the loss of their only son. This area of the book highlights the class differences and expectations that were prevalent at this time. Emily’s parents are absolutely horrified, rather than proud of their daughter’s work for the war.

Emily is an appealing lead who goes through quite a transformation as the book progresses. I saw The Victory Garden as an enlightening coming of age experience. Emily is naive and sheltered to begin with, but she grows in independence as the story unfolds. I enjoyed the romance and addition of the cheeky Australian airman, Robbie. This was a genuine and sweet romance.

The relationships between Emily and her many of the subsidiary characters form a significant portion of the narrative. We witness a strong bond, told mostly through letters, between Emily and her best friend Clarissa. There is also a focus on the often restrictive relations between Emily and her parents. Then there are the strong bonds formed between Emily and her fellow land army workmates. Finally, there is a lovely friendship forged between Emily and the aged Lady Charlton, the owner of the Devonshire based estate.

A side thread involving the work of a herbalist and taming a once lost herb garden, thanks to a journal unearthed by Emily, provides a nice offset to the war experiences. Emily really comes into her own through this experience and I appreciated following her journey. Along the way I learnt about the medicinal properties and the power herbs have to save lives. Bowen also outlines the pitfalls of this alternative form of medicine, through the persecution and lack of understanding of a female herbalist.

I really enjoyed my first experience of the work Rhys Bowen, who is a world renowned author. I am very tempted to select more of Bowen’s work in the future, based on my full appreciation of The Victory Garden.
4 reviews25 followers
April 8, 2020
I read a lot of books that I don’t particularly enjoy. It’s my preference to finish them nonetheless, so I power through and once I’m done I probably don’t ever think about the book again.

This one though… oh boy. I finished reading this book at 12:30 in the morning and it left such a horrible taste in my mouth that I got out of bed, grabbed my computer, and started hate typing this review.

TLDR Version: For me this novel has absolutely no roots. Nothing drew me in and nothing made me care about the characters. In fact, the protagonist is so unlikeable that it ended up souring my entire view of the story. If you want to waste your time reading a book about a girl who is saved by her social class and literally nothing else, due to a complete lack of positive attributes, then this is the book for you.

Lack of Character Development
-Emily: Emily’s storyline is utterly predicable, and the setup of her character is so haphazard that I couldn’t care less about her situation. I get that 1918 was a different time, and that in some instances courting accelerated quickly, but in Emily's situation I just wasn't buying it. She starts off writing a whiny letter to her friend who is working as a nurse in the war trenches of France, which ruined my first impression. Throw in the absurd fairytale romance with "the most handsome man [Emily] had ever seen," and I simply could't stand her.

Because I had this issue early on in the book, it inhibited my ability to care about Emily throughout the rest of the story. I couldn't shake the feeling that she was a whiny, upper class brat who was saved by her social standing and nothing else (more on that below).

-Clarissa: Speaking of Clarissa, the friend from the trenches. Clarissa acts as whiny Emily's sounding board, makes it back to the country, and then dies from fighting others. The end. As soon as it's clear to Emily that there's no longer an option of living off Clarissa it's the last we hear of her.

-Mommy & Daddy: The story arc of these two characters was just dreadful. They are rude and unloving for the entire novel, and then suddenly at the end they are a happy family full of smiles who have forgiven each other for everything? They are completely different at the end of the book, but as readers we have no idea how they got there. Before he comes to rescue his daughter, the last we saw of Daddy he was a red-faced jerk spouting horrible things about illegitimate pregnancies. And then, suddenly he's saving his daughter from being arrested and is all sheepish and smily with her?! It was like we teleported from one side of the world to the other.

-Other Cast of Characters: Total Downton Abbey rip-off. The scary old dowager who's actually friendly. The scheming housekeeper who almost ruins everything. The simple village-folk. There's not much else to say.

Class Divide Issues
This book provides an unsettling picture of the vast class divide in early 20th century England. Of course this class divide existed and was just as true as described in this book (if not worse), but there was virtually no attempt to develop the characters from a lesser social standing and to give them a dynamic story. There are two main issue I had along this theme.

(1) The character of Daisy: When we first meet Daisy, she's a shy young girl who tells Emily the following: "I saw how hard my mum worked all her life, and I made up my mind that I wanted something better for myself." This planted the seed for a character from the service class to rise above her circumstances, but at the novel's conclusion she ends up as a housemaid! I don't care if she's the head housemaid, she's still in the exact same stratum in which she started. As if this weren't bad enough, Emily treats Daisy like dirt the whole time. There were numerous times at which Emily said she would teach Daisy to read, but this never happened. And once Emily had her illegitimate daughter, Daisy was her de facto caregiver whether she wanted to be or not. "Just let me fetch Daisy to look after the baby" is just one example of Emily's completely flippant attitude.

(2) Privilege Privilege Privilege: If any of the other Land Girls had found themselves in a situation like Emily's, they would've been completely ostracized from society. There would be no judge Daddy coming to save her, no rich lady to take her in, and no local head of the WLA would would be uncharacteristically friendly towards her. This fact is painfully obvious throughout the book, but to me it's not properly addressed within the tory itself. Emily could've been someone who didn't rely on her social standing to solve her "troubles," which could be compelling, but literally nothing else got her through her situation apart from her privilege. What's worse, although Emily helps a number of the other Land Girls settle into new lives, there's a savior complex issue at play and Emily still thinks she's better than everyone else. For example, to me Emily doesn't get any credit for inviting Alice and Daisy up to the big house multiple times because she never chose to spend time with them. She knew how uncomfortable they would be, and her invitation was akin to offering somebody the last cookie while it's halfway to your mouth.

Part of the reason I feel so strongly about this book is because I read it during my COVID-19 quarantine, which has been a reminder of our own class issues in 2020. With that said, even in the best of times I would feel exactly the same way (possibly with less vehemence).
Profile Image for Paige.
152 reviews297 followers
July 8, 2019
The description on the back of this book was on point, nothing else to this story.

This follows the fictional life of the main character Emily during WWI. The story does include her life among the Women's Land Army, albeit not into much detail. Since the book covers the very end of the war, the land girls and Emily's life there were only given about one fourth time of this novel. I was disappointed. Next, the story tries to then focus on the main character using natural herbal remedies as the next chapter in her life, but this aspect just seemed tacked on. Emily's herbal remedy potions had little to do with what she learned being a land girl. It was like the story needed somewhere to go. I kept reading waiting for everything to piece together, but it was weakly done.
Something I found interesting and was hopeful about was the pregnancy of the main character. Refusing to go to a home where she can have the child placed for adoption, she was determined to have the child on her own and make ends meet. She has the child out of wedlock during a time period where this was unacceptable, so this is what kept me reading. Yet, I found her unrelenting ability to always prevail and meet her challenges successfully during the pregnancy far-fetched and romantical rather than historical.

Not as impressive as The Tuscan Child, which I was a huge fan of. I didn't feel like I was immersed into another society or culture. BUT a quick and very easy read. I would say 2.5 stars. Although some things were very predictable, it had entertaining moments. 2.5 stars
Profile Image for Kate Carlisle.
Author 94 books2,547 followers
February 22, 2019
I read The Victory Garden last weekend, and it was the perfect book for a long, cozy weekend of reading. We ate leftovers because I didn't want to stop reading long enough to pull together dinner. Rhys Bowen is a masterful writer. She transported me to another time and place--England, toward the end of the Great War and then the time immediately afterward. Emily was a character to cheer for. When she found herself alone, unmarried and pregnant, she had the grit and determination to forge a life for herself.

A lovely read, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,524 reviews56 followers
January 27, 2019
I expected more from The Victory Garden. I heard a lot about this book before I read it. I tried several times, but unfortunately, I couldn't get interested in the story. It didn't hold my interest at all. I skimmed through. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kylie H.
944 reviews
October 15, 2021
This book is set during WWII, it centres on Emily Brice who is twenty and feeling imprisoned by her parents. Her mother is determined that Emily will marry well, preferable to a titled man. However, with the war on and so much loss, including her own brother Freddie, gentlemen are in very short supply.
When Emily turns twenty-one she decides to forge her own path and do something useful with her life, like her best friend Charissa who is a nurse in the battlefields of France. Unlucky with nursing, Emily finds herself signing up for the Women's Land Army and finding strengths she never knew she had. Through all of this Emily finds herself enamoured with a young Australian fighter pilot, a person of whom her parents would never approve.
The book had tendencies to be a bit Enid Blyton in parts but overall and enjoyable story with some great characters.
Profile Image for Ami.
306 reviews60 followers
March 17, 2019
An overly sweet bit of fluff chock full of anachronisms that must surely have taken place in an alternate reality because it was all too good to be true and everything was much too easy for our erstwhile heroine although, the author would certainly have us believe otherwise. I had expected something more along the lines of Mary Stewart's Thornyhold; how disappointing.
19 reviews
February 20, 2019
While I have enjoyed her royal spyness series, I found this book to be insipid, predictable and boring.
Profile Image for Lissa.
1,127 reviews115 followers
May 18, 2019
I've been on a bit of a kick when it comes to fiction set in WWI lately, so I was happy to pick this up at my local library. Unfortunately, it wasn't that good of a book.

My main problem with this book is that it just wasn't that compelling. The romance was tepid and the conflicts are generally solved within the same chapter in which they're introduced, only to have yet another "major conflict" to be introduced in another couple of chapters to be solved in the same manner. It was tedious.

My recommendation: save yourself some time and just read the synopsis that is on the inside of the book jacket. It literally gives away every major plot point to the very end. That isn't the author's fault, but if you've skimmed over that, you don't need to read the book.
135 reviews3 followers
February 3, 2023
This book bordered on painful to read. I found it to be very predictable, superficial and unrealistic. I thought I was getting an historical novel but I would call it an historical romance- I’m not big on romance novels.
For me the book felt like reading a glossy hallmark movie.
An example of the type of writing that just was so unrealistic- the author is describing Emily ( the protagonist) as she is in labor. She has some waxing and waning contractions that cause her to want to cry out but she holds back. And then Emily says “I think the baby is coming.” And after a comment from the woman helping her through labor, the baby just slipped out. Really?!?!?
If you are fond of Hallmark movies and romance novels then you may enjoy it. For me it couldn’t end soon enough.
Profile Image for Jen.
1,166 reviews102 followers
January 14, 2019
What I love most about Rhys Bowen’s writing is her ability to sweep you away to another locale. She engages all of the senses and allows the reader to escape to a different time and place. While reading this I was no longer on my couch, in the midst of a Minnesota winter. I was completely wrapped up in this story, the distinct smell of a wood burning fire in my nose and the damp feel of a stone cottage in my bones. This sweeping saga is beautifully written and I adored the characters, the setting, and the lessons learned. This is the tale of Emily, a young lady in the midst of the first war. She yearns for more yet is held back by her overbearing parents in the safety of her parents estate. When she turns 21 she is able to set out on her own and determined to do something to support the war effort, becomes a Land Girl. These strong women take over the work for the men that are gone fighting in the war and work farms to continue to keep the country fed. This is a far cry from her sheltered upbringing but brings out a strength in her she didn’t know she had and sets her on a different path in life. Emily begins to forge a new path and struggles without her parents financial assistance, yet never giving up her will to do it on her own. This is a fabulous story and in my opinion, Rhys Bowen’s best work yet. For me, The Victory Garden was ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars. Thank you @amazonpublishing for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for - The Polybrary -.
329 reviews187 followers
February 26, 2019
~*Review first appeared on The Bent Bookworm!*

The Victory Garden is a poignant, sweet book that takes place at the end of WWI in England. Emily is just turning twenty-one as the book starts, and she at last has the legal standing to shake off her overprotective parents and really DO something for the war effort. Having already lost her brother, she feels the need to do something to honor him.

“I want to be useful. I want to do my bit, so that Freddie’s death was somehow not in vain.”

In the process of finding how she is going to do her bit, she (naturally) meets a dashing young pilot (Australian! Gasp!), falls in love, her lover dies a hero, and it turns out she’s pregnant.

All this is revealed in the blurb, so I picked it up thinking that it had to be more than just a romance since…well, you know. Hard to have a romance when one party is deceased, however heroically.

The “more” turns out to be the massive amount of growth and experience Emily goes through in less than a year. She becomes a “land girl,” – something I was not familiar with at all, and I think many Americans would be there with me. She stands up to her parents, who despite being protective are just as much about their own egos as they are about shielding her from heartbreak. She takes a chance on love, knowing that it will most likely end in heartbreak. In the process, she discovers the power of both independence and female friendships. Britain lost a large majority of their fighting age men in WWI, something I hadn’t honestly given much thought. The story really shows just how that loss changed – or at least how it began to change – societal roles for both genders.

The Victory Garden isn’t particular heavy on either history or romance. In fact, there could have been less of a romance and the story would have worked just as well. I knew going in that Emily’s dashing aviator was going to pass, as so many of them did at that time, so I went in willing myself to not get too invested. The history was interesting but not overwhelming in detail.

As far as the actual garden, there was SOME emphasis on it in the last half of the book, and a little tiny bit of a mystery involving an old journal Emily finds, but it was very…well, I wish had been more about the herbs and the garden. It seems like the title is a bit of a misnomer. 😛

Overall, 4/5 stars. I closed the book feeling a little sad, but hopeful for Emily’s future with her child.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Profile Image for Elizabeth.
817 reviews
July 24, 2019
Very enjoyable if a bit predictable. But that didn’t detract from the emotion and the loveliness of the characters.
345 reviews194 followers
April 11, 2019
“The simple message of a garden is hope that sprouts from tiny seeds”

This is going to be quite a difficult review to put together – not because I didn’t love the book, because I did – but because on Rhys’s recent visit to Fiction Books, she answered questions so fully and in depth, that there seems to be little else I can add without repeating the interview, or giving away too many spoilers. You really do need to check out the lovely conversation we had – and of course, read this amazing novel for yourself …
So here goes!
I truly admire authors who can write across multiple genres, for diverse reading audiences and different age groups – and most importantly – do it well! With that in mind, I fully intend to check out the several mystery series Rhys has also written, as I have very eclectic reading tastes and like to mix up my genres.
The Victory Garden is the third in a small series of war-time stand alone novels, which form exceptionally thoughtful, sensitively written and well constructed works of social history and commentary from the times.
The book was littered with strong moral messages: Death and destruction of the human mind and body to breaking point; women’s empowerment; the role and rights of women in society; the breaking down of class barriers; the culmination of the Suffragette movement; witchcraft or simply a new way of healing? – all difficult and controversial mores of an early 20th Century society at war.
All this and much more, laid bare and raw, in The Victory Garden.
The issues were incorporated seamlessly into a storyline which was well constructed, flowed smoothly and moved along at a pace which kept me engaged, interested and eager to know the eventual outcome.
If I had one very small niggle, it would be that for me personally, perhaps this story dealt with too many issues and none of them in any great depth. However, I appreciate that to have expanded on many of them in any more detail, would have made The Victory Garden a chunkster of a book and would probably have verged on the non-fiction by the time it was finished. So in retrospect, I came to the conclusion that Rhys got this this just about spot on and opened up plenty of opportunities for me to carry out more detailed research on individual aspects of the story in my own time – which I did!
The cast of characters were all well defined, strong and brought to life with every stroke of the author’s pen. Whilst none of them was perfect and all flawed to one degree or another, each was given the bandwidth and opportunity to grow into their respective roles, both physically and emotionally. Especially the main protagonist Emily for whom life is turned completely upside down and will never be the same again, after the many life-changing experiences she has to adapt to and overcome.
There was also some lighthearted banter and almost comedic exchanges between Emily and her new found friends, which whilst they highlighted the vast differences in class structure and life expectations between them, also served to bring them together as a force to be reckoned with, as they journeyed, united, on their voyage into a future of self discovery and empowerment. They learned to work as a team towards the common goal, whilst still respecting their own self-imposed boundaries and conventions, still not yet confident enough to challenge them completely, but knowing that the time is near.
Because of the lifestyle and social changing nature of World War I, much of the story revolves around female friendships and struggles, although the male characters were also treated to the same level of nurture and care, as they too had to adapt to their new and changing roles in a society which had hitherto held them in much higher esteem than their female counterparts. This also begged the question in my mind – who really had the greatest changes in social standing and convention to deal with – men or women?

Profile Image for Tanja ~ KT Book Reviews .
1,409 reviews190 followers
February 5, 2019
The Victory Garden proves that beauty can grow and envelope the darkness. It also embodies the saying "Hope Springs Eternal". I truly feel that fans of Bowen are in for a real treat. It's an amazing tale of history, love, and the real struggle of being a woman in a time where perception is everything. I can't sing its praises enough. Another 5 star read from Rhys Bowen.

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Profile Image for Tracy  .
794 reviews12 followers
April 28, 2019
The ending was a complete and utter surprise! Did not see this revelation coming and what a great way to conclude this lovely novel. Overall, its entirety was fascinating, as I not only learned much appreciated factual information, the character development was spectacular and I found the strong female friendships, bonds, and resilience which developed during this time of tremendous hardships and losses inspiring and empowering!
Profile Image for Laura.
6,906 reviews565 followers
February 17, 2019
I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the story of Emily Bryce, a twenty-one-year-old young lady, who tries to collaborate in the war effort in order to gain her own identity against her family. She then becomes a "land girl". While living in Devonshire state, she discovers a forgotten diary on herbal garden.

There are some parallel and secondary plots linked to the main one which makes the reader to anticipate the final development of the history. In the end, this book is quite disappointed since in overall it doesn't bring anything new in a World War fiction as covered by other excellent books on this subject.
Profile Image for Kathy.
3,414 reviews190 followers
May 8, 2019
Young woman finds her own path during WWI. It is a tender heart warmer.
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