The Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles
Review To Follow
In the dark days of war a new hope is born . . .
Mary Vale, a grand and imposing Mother & Baby Home, sits on the edge of the Lake District. Its doors are open to unmarried women who come to hide their condition and find sanctuary.
Women from all walks of life pass through Mary Vale, from beautiful waitress Emily, whose boyfriend has vanished without trace, to young Isla, cast out by her wealthy family after her first year at university goes horribly wrong.
Awaiting them is Nurse Ada and Sister Anne who work tirelessly to aid the mothers and safely deliver the babies. But the unforgiving Matron and Head of Governors, Captain Percival, have other, more sinister, ideas.
As war looms the women at Mary Vale must pull together for the sake of themselves and their babies and Ada and Anne must help protect their patients, no matter what the cost.
In her college digs in Durham, Isla Ross took small sips of
water from the glass she clutched in her trembling hand.
‘God!’ she gasped. ‘If only I could stop being sick …’
She was trying to pack her belongings into a suitcase in
order to vacate her room, which her crabby landlady was
keen to repossess.
‘I’ll be off soon,’ Isla had promised.
Secretly, she’d been hanging on for longer than was
sensible for one purpose
to talk to Professor Wiley
about her condition.
‘God!’ She gagged again, as her stomach seemed to rise
into her mouth.
For somebody who hadn’t eaten for what seemed like
days, how could she keep on vomiting like this? After the
bout had passed, Isla almost collapsed on her narrow single bed; staring up at the ceiling, she tried to stop the tears
welling up in her eyes. What a mess she’d made. What an
unbelievable bloody fool she’d been. Up until she’d been
twenty-one years old, she’d never even as much as kissed
a boy; then, at the beginning of her second year at Dur
ham, she’d fallen head over heels madly in love with her
middle-aged English professor, who’d literally seduced
her with the poetry of William Shakespeare.
All through her first year at college her friends had tried
to involve Isla in their social life, which centred around the local dancehall. To start with, just to show willing, she’d
gone along with their giggling plans, allowed herself to be
made up and dressed up in borrowed crêpe dresses. At the
dancehall she’d drunk only shandy, while her friends
downed gin and orange, and she’d actually hidden in the
ladies’ toilet when the dance band struck up.
All Isla had ever wanted to do was to read books and
study English literature: Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Chaucer, the Brontës, Jane Austen, T. S. Eliot. A star pupil at
Benenden, she’d come to Durham to
study – not to dance and drink and find a boyfriend. She appreciated her friends’ joie devivre (the last thing she wanted was for them to think
she was an intellectual snob), but she really did detest those
Saturday nights at the dancehall, where she actively avoided
men rather than enticed them. When her friends finally
realized how shy and retiring Isla was in public, they stopped
asking her to join them, for which Isla was truly grateful.
And that’s how her student life had been: quiet, peaceful,
happy – until Professor Keith Wiley had laid
eyes on the cleverest student in his tutorial group. Isla Ross,
with her silver-blue, dreamy Highland eyes and luscious pink lips set in a sweet, heart shaped face framed by curling silver-blonde hair. She had a soft young body, with curves in all the right places, and distinctly strong, muscular legs
because of all the hockey matches she’d played at boarding
school. Though innocent Isla didn’t know it, Keith Wiley
was famous for his dalliances with clever, pretty girls, whom
he charmed with compliments and attention. Nobody could
have been more infatuated than Isla when Wiley critiqued
her essays or selected her to read passages from Shakespeare
and Marlowe in her lilting Scottish voice.
When the professor had asked Isla if she’d like to
accompany him to the theatre to see a local production of The Tempest, Isla had almost swooned in delight. They’d met on a snowy night and walked into the town centre, the Professor gallantly taking her arm in order to stop her from slipping on the icy roads.
The production was mediocre, but Isla thought it was sublime; she knew all the
great lines from the play and whispered them under her
breath as she watched the actors on stage. ‘We are such
stuff as dreams are made on,’ she murmured.
Taking her hand and softly kissing her fingertips, Keith
Wiley had concluded the line for her: ‘And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Hearing his deep Northern voice in her ear, Isla’s pulse
raced and her heart beat so fast she was sure
he would hear it. During the interval they drank sherry at the bar
and discussed the performance; Isla had never been so
happy, so alert and so in tune with another human being. He might be double her age and her tutor, but she was quite incapable of
resisting his kisses; in fact, she welcomed them with an intensity that surprised her. ‘Goodnight, dearest girl,’ he’d murmured as they parted, with
the snow still falling softly around them. ‘Come and see
me in my rooms tomorrow; we have so much to discuss.’
Weak at the knees, Isla had agreed and gone to bed in
a haze of romantic infatuation.‘And
look where that got me!’ she thought bitterly now.