Sylvia Marks spent the war serving as a doctor at a field hospital in France. Now, she has returned home to her small village where she has taken on the position of the local doctor. It’s not easy to adapt back to the quiet life after the horrors of war, but Sylvia’s family has served the village for generations and she is eager to find her place back at home. While she still mourns the loss of her lover, Anna, an ambulance driver who died under strange circumstances two years ago, Sylvia is trying to move forward.
When Sylvia treats a patient who seems to be losing his mind and wasting away, her inclination is to dismiss his stories of magic, time travel, and supernatural beings living in another realm. But when he provides evidence, Sylvia realizes something might actually be going on. Still, she manages to mostly put it out of her mind. A friend from the war, nurse Lucille Hall-Bridges, has come to stay with Sylvia and the women are continuing to grow their close friendship. In fact, there may be the potential for even more between them.
Sylvia’s attempts to put all the stories of magic and otherworldly beings aside begin to flounder when she is once again pulled in to treat a patient who has stories to tell of this strange magical world. Even worse, Sylvia begins to suspect that Anna may not have died after all, and that her disappearance may have been tied to the same magic that the patients have encountered. While mourning Anna was hard enough, if it was just that, Sylvia may have been able to move on. But the idea of Anna lost in some sort of limbo, or worse, being held captive in some other world, is more than Sylvia can bear. Sylvia is determined to find out what may have happened to Anna, but that may also mean losing her chance to learn if she could have something real with Lucy.
The Fog of War is the first book in A.L. Lester’s Bradfield Trilogy. I picked this one up for Under the Rainbow Week for our Reading Challenge Month, as while I do enjoy lesbian romance, I don’t read them nearly often enough. This is a story set just after the end of the first world war and Lester really makes the most of the time period, as well as the characters’ roles in the war. Sylvia worked as a doctor in a field hospital, seeing the worst of what the war created. She endured her own losses, and was still required to be a strong leader. Lucy also worked at the field hospital, digging in and doing whatever needed to be done. So both of these women have seen horrors and lived through trauma, and now that the war is over, they are trying to settle back into normal lives. But it has given them a different perspective, neither woman being easily fazed, nor particularly interested in societal expectations after all they have seen and done. I think it sets them up nicely here as they are thrust into this strange and somewhat terrifying magical world, as they have the background and disposition to handle what gets thrown at them. There are some other nice period touches, and I particularly liked seeing how Sylvia does a blood transfusion with what’s now 100-year-old medical technology.
The paranormal world Lester creates is interesting, though we are just getting the first pieces of it here. I think it works well that we learn about things along with Sylvia (and later Lucy and their friend, Walter). Often in paranormal stories, we are introduced to the world by someone involved with the supernatural. But here, even those who are somewhat in the know, like their patients, are really only novices about it all. So we are learning along with the characters and it was a nice way to unravel the world. I don’t feel like things get very far here, though, in terms of fleshing out the world or answering all our questions. I am going to assume that is because this is the first book in the trilogy and there is more to come. However, I did realize after reading this that the story is part of Lester’s larger Border Magic Universe and it appears that the world building connects to those other series. As a new reader, I had no trouble following along here and, as I said, I assume more is to come as the series progresses. But if you have read other books set in this world, things may come together a little faster for you.
I enjoyed the relationship between Sylvia and Lucy and it presents an interesting conflict. We know early on that Lucy has had feelings for Sylvia ever since they met, but the women have never gone beyond friendship. For her part, Sylvia never really thought of Lucy that way, particularly as she was mourning Anna. But now that Lucy is staying with Sylvia, that friendship is really getting a chance to deepen and there is potential for it to grow into more. Yet Sylvia is caught between her past and future, not sure how she can move on if Anna is trapped in some limbo from which Sylvia may be able to help her escape. And as much as Lucy cares for Sylvia, she can’t open her heart further for fear it will get broken due to Sylvia’s feelings for Anna. We do get a nice romantic resolution here, though I am really curious to see how things continue to develop in the future books. But while the romance is just starting to bloom between Sylvia and Lucy here, I think it comes together nicely and the women are really sweet together. I particularly enjoyed how Lucy is such a wonderful caretaker and how she is able to help Sylvia let down some of her ever-present burdens.
I think The Fog of War was a nice start to this series and an engaging introduction for me to this world. I am looking forward to see what is next to come in the trilogy.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for Under the Rainbow Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous paperback book bundle from Carina Press (you can see the details on the bundle in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Under the Rainbow Week here.