Greetings! Rosie Clarke is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia. Writing books is her passion. Rosie also likes to read, watch good films, shoes, holidays in the sunshine, and animals (especially dogs and squirrels). Rosie Clarke also writes The Mulberry Lane series (I just love it). Readers can follow Ms. Clarke on Twitter (@AnneHerries) and Facebook (@RosieClarke).
Hetty’s Secret War by Rosie Clarke is the final installment in Women at War Trilogy. It is early summer in 1939 in Yorkshire when Georgie Bridges receives the news that her husband, Arthur is ill and will soon pass away. Georgie has had a good life with Arthur, and she will miss him when he is gone. However, she has never stopped loving Ben Tarleton who is training for a special war mission. Georgie is happy to reconnect with Ben, but their time is short. Ben is soon sent overseas, and Georgie may never see him again.
Beth Rawlings is nineteen and has just finished her secretarial courses. Annabel offers her a job at Rowntree House Hotel, but Beth would like to spread her wings and help the war efforts. She meets Captain Drew Bryant on the train and falls head over heels in love. When they receive word, that Drew is being deployed, they quickly marry. Beth keeps busy at her job with Arnold Pearson, but she soon discovers that she is with child. Just before Beth is due, she receives a telegram that Drew is missing in action. Will Drew be found, or will Beth become a war widow?
Hetty Tarleton has been living in Paris for ten years when war breaks out. She is a free spirit and artist. Her friends encourage her to return to England, but Hetty does not wish to leave. With the Germans about to enter France, Hetty departs in her car where she navigates roads clogged with people trying to get out of France before it is too late. After a horrific incident, Hetty meets Pierre de Faubourg who takes her to his family’s home, Chateau de Faubourg. Hetty becomes close with Pierre’s mother, Adele. She joins the resistance where she meets the enigmatic Stefan Lefarge. On one mission Hetty encounters the last person she expected to find in France. Hetty takes great risks fighting the German invaders. Will she make it through the war alive? Join Hetty, Beth, and Georgie as they struggle to survive World War II in Hetty’s Secret War.
Hetty’s Secret War can be read as a standalone, but you will find it confusing in the beginning. I suggest you read Jessie’s Promise and The Runaway Wife before embarking on Hetty’s Secret War. You will have a better understanding of the characters and their situations. I have always found World War II a fascinating time period (I would not have wanted to experience it though). Women were encouraged to work outside the home and take on tasks that were previously done by men. It was a difficult time, but people rallied together for the war effort. This is what we see in Hetty’s Secret War. I found the story nicely written with a variety of characters in different situations. There is foul language and intimate scenes included in the book (fair warning). While the book focused on Hetty, Beth and Georgie, we also catch up with Annabel. I like how the separate characters stories intertwined to create one charming book. They face losses and experience heartache, but there is joy as well. Hetty experiences danger and life threatening situations. Despite the hardships, they continued to have hope and faith as well as the comfort of family and friends. The ending had me smiling. Hetty’s Secret War is an emotional novel that will touch your heart.
‘But it makes no sense for you to stay here in Paris, ma chérie,’ Madame Arnoud said and spread her hands in an expression of disbelief. ‘You are English not French. You should go home, get away from this madness before it is too late. Believe me, I am old enough to remember the last time the Germans paid us a visit. It was not pleasant.’ Although well into her middle years the Frenchwoman’s clothes, make-up and dark brown hair followed the latest mode and she looked both stylish and attractive.
‘But I feel more French than English these days,’ Hetty replied, wrinkling her nose at the older woman’s comment. ‘I have so many friends here and I love the life I’m leading – why should I give it all up?’
‘Because the Germans will make you suffer if they catch you out,’ Madame Arnoud said. ‘You will probably be sent to an internment camp, that’s if you’re not shot as a spy.’ ‘Perhaps they won’t invade…’
‘Pouff!’ the Frenchwoman snorted her disbelief. ‘It is more likely that pigs will sprout wings. They will come, Hetty, believe me – it is merely a question of when.’
They were sitting in Madame’s private parlour drinking wine, something they often did in the evenings when Hetty called to discuss her latest designs or simply to talk about what she had seen or done. They were good friends and had been for some years, since Hetty had first approached her rather tentatively with a design for an evening gown.
‘Yes, perhaps,’ Hetty agreed. ‘But there’s time yet, madame. I shall think about leaving when it becomes inevitable. Not that I’ve any idea of what I’ll do when I get back to England. It will be difficult to settle anywhere else but Paris. Oh, it’s such a shame that wars have to happen! Why must the Germans be so awful? Why can’t they just leave us alone?’
‘If we knew the answer to that the world would be a different place,’ Madame Arnoud said and offered a world-weary smile. ‘It is men who make wars, ma chérie, and we all know about them, do we not?’
Hetty laughed. At twenty-six years of age she had matured into a woman of some style, her hair a rich honey blonde that she wore long and in soft waves rather like Marlene Dietrich, the German film star with the gravelly voice, who had first made her name in the 1930 film The Blue Angel.
When at the age of seventeen she’d eloped to France to be with Henri, Hetty had been pretty rather than beautiful, but now she was stunning. Many of the artists she knew begged to paint her portrait, but these days she preferred to use the brush herself and earned a precarious living drawing quick sketches of the tourists, supplementing her meagre income with the work she did for Madame Arnoud.
‘Yes, of that there is no doubt,’ Hetty agreed. She had learned how selfish a man could be the hard way, weeping bitter tears the first time she’d discovered her lover, Henri, had been unfaithful to her with his latest model. She’d given up everything to come to Paris with him – her family home, the chance of marriage and a normal life – but she’d adored the fascinating artist who had challenged her to be bold. His betrayal had almost torn her in two that first time, making her weep into her pillow. He had told her he was sorry afterwards, swearing that the girl meant nothing and that it was her he loved. Hetty had forgiven him, but it had happened again, and again, until she woke up one day to discover that he no longer meant anything to her. It was over – the passion and love she’d had for him gone, destroyed by his lack of care for her. In the end, he was the one who had wept when she walked out on him, begging her to reconsider.
It had been hard at first without Henri, difficult to find work, her income barely enough to keep body and soul together, and lonely too. She had thought about going home to England, but something inside her had refused to give in – just as she had refused all the offers from Henri’s friends to take his place in her life. Whether that had been from pride, a lack of interest sexually in the men themselves or her fierce independence, she had never been sure, but she had remained alone. And gradually she had found a new life and new friends; she had won respect for her own work, both as an artist on the Left Bank and as a dress designer for Madame Arnoud.
She could have worked full-time for the woman who had become both a friend and almost the mother Hetty felt she’d never had, if she’d wanted to be a model or a vendeuse, but neither of those things appealed to her. Besides, she now earned enough to pay the rent of her little apartment and to be able to buy food and clothes. She had no interest in more and found the relaxed, pleasant way of living suited her nature.
She might not always have been happy, but her life was busy, interesting, and she made sure it stayed that way. Love was something she’d learned to do without when she was a small child. Her father had been a kindly but remote figure, her mother cold and severe; both Ben and Annabel had been generous and kind, but they were twins and closer to each other. In the early years she had wept bitter tears over her mother’s lack of affection, but then she had come to realise that it was something lacking in Lady Tarleton: she was a woman incapable of loving anyone other than herself and treated Annabel even worse than Hetty. Becoming independent and resourceful beyond her years, Hetty had found the best times were when she was in the kitchen with Cook and the maids who always had a soft word and a smile for her. And then Henri had come into her life and she’d given her innocent heart to him – a gift he’d taken and discarded without thought.
But Madame Arnoud was talking to her, scolding her, giving her the advice she knew she ought to take but was stubbornly resisting. Here in France she had a life, but there was nothing waiting for her in England.
The Avid Reader