There is a certain allure that comes with stories about English women—whatever year they live and thrive, however old they are. From Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett to Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene, to Anita Brookner’s Edith Hope, we are keenly invested in the trials and tribulations these women endure.

That being the case, when we open Julia Kelly’s The Light Over London (Gallery Books), we are happy to delve into parallel stories that move from current time to World War II and back. From the start, the reader is offered a cogent tale of two women who strive for independence and meaning in their lives.

In 2017 Cara Hargraves, a young woman who works in the antique business, is recovering from a failed marriage while facing the secrets of her family. Her work as an antique dealer leads her to the diary of Louise Keene, who was 19 years old in 1940 when she fell for a pilot named Paul.

Soon after, she enlists in the British Army and is chosen to be part of the anti-aircraft gun unit. Despite Louise’s parents’ wishes that she marry the local “nice boy,” Louise marries Paul, defying social mores of the day. Within hours of their union, Louise realizes Paul is not the man she believes him to be.

As Kelly weaves both the present story of Cara and her discovery of Louise’s past, the similarities of the two women from different centuries become surprising and profound.

Cara’s story diverges from Louise’s in that her dashing neighbor Liam comes on the scene and works on uncovering Louise’s past with Cara. In this way we cheer Cara on in the relationship and hope Liam isn’t another cad – there seem to be several lurking around.

Yet perhaps even more important to the reader are the women’s mirroring experiences. Both Cara and Louise sensed somehow there was a family secret–generated by their mothers. And while Louise, as a product of her time, couldn’t quite fathom her own feelings and longings, Cara too, decades later, struggles with her own truth.

As she reads Louise’s pages, Cara realizes that her hardships and disappointments in love resonate with her own. Cara too misunderstood the man she married, she too had a complicated mother. Cara’s divorce feels shameful, and her ex-husband has a darkness of his own.

Kelly doesn’t disappoint us –and readers will be engrossed in Louise’s story of love and war juxtaposed with Cara’s present discoveries. Cara’s one-way bond with Louise is a lifeline. As her attempts to piece together what happened to this woman who shed convention for her voice and agency grow more encompassing, Cara experiences her own personal awakening and feels emboldened.

We root for both Louise and Cara, understanding their fears, hopes and chances.   

The Light Over London will be available to purchase Jan. 8 2019.

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Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of women’s fiction and historical romance books about the extraordinary stories of the past. She also writes fast-paced contemporary sports romance as Julia Blake. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London.