I reviewed Summer Before the Storm back in November, and since I really enjoyed it, it seemed only natural to agree to read the second book in the Muskoka trilogy, Elusive Dawn
This follows the story of our Muskoka residents throughout the darkest portions of the Great War. Picking up where the first book left off, we see Ria join the WATS--female ambulance drivers--in an attempt to find purpose and clarity after discovering her husbands betrayal. The book also follows the lives and loves of the rest of the ensemble cast, including Ellie, who becomes a doctor, Zoe, who becomes a nurse, and Pheobe, who battles serious mental illness in an oppressive environment.
I have to say, I felt more capable of keeping track of the characters throughout this book. I still maintain that there are too many, but my familiarity with them has increased so that I have some vague clue of everyone's place.
The characters are very real, and their development felt honest without becoming melancholy--something that's not easy when you're talking about such a grim time period. I've really grown attached to Ria. She's struggling to cope with her own infertility and the fact that her husband has a son with another woman, things that no woman would like to deal with. Her time among the WATs was perhaps the most interesting portion of the series for me so far. Not only does she recover some of her independence and find a sense of purpose, she also discovers love, forgiveness, acceptance, and ultimately the power to make her own family.
There were many characters other than Ria that I wish we could have spent more time with, and that is precisely what I mean when I say there are too many. Ellie, the doctor, is simply begging to be the heroine of her own drama. Pheobe's story is fascinating in a terrible train wreck kind of way, and I think the authors efforts at writing her world view are quite admirable. I find that in each case, I feel like I'm getting a slice of life instead of an entire story. It's both tantalizing and frustrating, and I think how you feel about it will depend largely on personal taste. Ensemble casts work well in movies, but I'm not so sure they belong in books.
To conclude, this is shaping up to be an excellent historical drama series which will fully immerse it's readers in World War I era life.I highly recommend it. 4 stars.