The story opens on Millie Marsh’s wedding day. Her choice of Sir Jeremy Remington, as her husband, was so unexpected that her sisters try to talk her out of it. Millie’s parents offer her the last minute to change her mind too. All doubt the match because Sir Jeremy Remington is several years older and has been in military service during World War I which ended nearly a year earlier.
No one expected Millie and Jeremy to be attracted to one another. He lives on a neighboring estate, Remington Court and was a friend to her father for many years. Remington Court wasn’t his primary home for most of his adult life. Jeremy preferred his London home and the Chateau Dumont, ancestral home of his mother, Camille, in France.
Happily Ever After?
Millie and Jeremy exchange their vows in the small village church, surrounded by family and people of the village who have known them for years. Many are servants at Elm House for Millie and her family. Millie’ Grandmama, Adelaide Fordham, has gone all out decorating the church and the lawns with yards of white satin.
The day is lovely so that the guests can enjoy the reception outside on the lawns at Elm House. After a full afternoon with their well-wishers, Millie and Jeremy drive away to their honeymoon. They enjoy the top-down on Jeremy’s snappy Napier convertible.
While they both know they are attracted to one another, due to a short engagement and in keeping with the social times, they’ve not talked about that to great depth. The leisurely drive from Elm House to their fine lodgings at Scarsborough on the seashore was a time to open their feelings and conversations.
Jeremy reveals to Millie that he has stressful reminders from his war time experiences in Europe. He has nightmares and times of panic. The World War I term is ‘shell shock’. In his heart, he longs for Millie’s happiness to seep into him and change his life.
Millie bravely assures Jeremy that they will work through this together and their love will help him get better.
Even though the nightmares do pursue Jeremy even during their honeymoon, the newly weds set out to make Remington Court their home.
Remington Court Begins to Bloom
Jeremy has unhappy memories from his boyhood there after his mother died. He would prefer to live at Chateau Dumont in France, but the war has wreaked havoc there. He has a residence in London as well, but Millie had planned to make Remington Court their home. They would be closer to her family at Elm House.
The long-term housekeeper, Mrs. Jacobs, is not warm to Millie or Jeremy and becomes more hostile throughout the rest of her time at Remington Court. Until Millie calls her out and dismisses her.
Plans are made to replant trees along the entry drive and reclaim the long neglected gardens. The interior décor is dark from another era. Jeremy’s investments thrived during the war and they have funds to redecorate. The rooms will be come light and bright while the household requires close management of small necessities. Having enough food or variety to entertain is a challenge.
Millie’s taste is delightful for the new furniture and lighter colored walls. They have enough rooms ready for a Christmas visit from the Marsh family.
Clouds Gather More and More
As Remington Court becomes more beautiful, Jeremy becomes more stressed. Walking out in the forest brings a panic episode when there is a gun shot as someone takes aim at a pheasant. During one of his walks, Jeremy finds a homeless veteran camped in the forest not far from the house.
The man is nearly frozen to death. Jeremy rushes to bring him back to the house for treatment. Monty Pattison’s recovery treatments are as beneficial for Sir Jeremy as for Monty. They become fast friends, with Jeremy planning to have a position for Monty on the estate.
As Millie plans for her family to come for the holidays, the first little cloud rises over her new home. She feels that Jeremy enjoys Monty’s company more than hers. She struggles to understand that both men have endured situations described by the village doctor as ‘battle fatigue’ and ‘shell shock’. That they have a bond necessary for both of them to get through each day. 805 words <>
Jeremy’s nightmares continue, but he laughs more and enjoys better times with Monty there.
Millie has completed renovations on the house and their first Christmas holiday with her family is a success on most points. A holiday bird shoot set off a panic episode for Jeremy and a nightmare episode where Millie’s cheek was struck put a dark shadow on the couple’s Christmas time. Millie’s younger sister, Cecilia (CeCe) is very attracted to Monty Pattison, which draws family disapproval because they know so little about him.
Time to Drive Off the Terrors of War
Grandmamma Adelaide had a heart-to-heart with Jeremy before the family left to return to Elm House. She advised professional help, gave Jeremy the name of a doctor in London whose practice would treat him.
When Jeremy tells Millie that he plans to leave and she cannot go with him, she doesn’t want that, but understands. Jeremy explains he will see the London doctor, but will be at an asylum for shell shock in Plymouth.
Against Millie’s choice, Jeremy has named Monty as agent for the estate to manage the day to day activities. He assures Millie she will be occupied with the house and as his secretary handling correspondence and finances for him. She insists that Monty move to a cottage on the estate rather than stay in the house. Feeling petty, but justified in her jealousy over Jeremy’s trust and planning with Monty, she insists on her way about this. And writes a letter to her sister, Prue, that they must put a stop to the attraction and letter writing between CeCe and Monty.
These decisions are speedy and soon Jeremy is on his way, leaving Millie with long days on her hands. She does the paperwork and often drives to York for shopping or tea. Jeremy’s letters from Plymouth assure Millie that he isn’t unhappy, but he doesn’t seem happy either.
Friends Reveal Details
The same day that Jeremy’s oldest friend, Stephen Isaacs comes to call in the midst of a meeting with Monty, Millie faints. Monty has the maid call Dr. Boardman who stays for dinner with Stephen, Monty and Millie. Dinner spins around Millie as she absorbs the pregnancy diagnosis she received from Dr. Boardman.
After dinner, Stephen and Monty, ignorant about Millie’s condition, visit with her about the war and the basis for Jeremy’s condition. They recall the terrible times and how dedicated leaders like Jeremy have extra stress burdens.
Jeremy and Millie Learn Their Strengths
Spoiler Block: The next few months bring sadness and trauma to Remington Court and Elm House. Jeremy returns to Millie who has had a heart-to-heart talk with Monty, learning more about his past and his aristocratic roots. This is vital part of the book for readers — do not miss it!
The changes in the Remingtons’ life are huge! Monty will stay to manage Remington Court and the current servants. Millie and Jeremy will move to France to begin to restore Chateau Dumont from wartime damages, including revival of the champagne production.
Well Written Fiction of the Roaring Twenties, a Pivotal Time in History
Millie is the first book in the Marsh Saga Series. Millie and Jeremy along with extended family are featured in Christmas at the Chateau, companion novella for the series. The second book, Prue will be released in January 2020 with a third book for CeCe promised. Millie is the most ‘understated’ in the three sisters; Prue and CeCe are drawn closer to caricature. Next to them, Millie comes across as stable and almost dull. Yet, Millie is my favorite of the three sisters. She has her little foibles of immaturity, but still seems to be stronger than her sisters.
Author, AnneMarie Brear has written several novels. The historical fiction Marsh Saga series is her first venture into the genre. I like her style. She keeps the story line going straight and clear. Her prose is intelligent without being stuffy or overbearing.
Some may compare this series to Downton Abbey. The era is the same, but there little other comparison. I’ve not read “To Marry an English Lord”, apparently the book that inspired Downton Abbey; only watched most of the PBS series (I missed a few).
While the Marsh Sagas may be a low-voltage story of the social changes coming after WW 1, the story on pages has a longer lasting appeal. They have the advantage of taking us in our imagination to France .
I highly recommend Millie for fans of not-so-ancient history and good writing. Book Two in the Marsh Saga — PRUE — is released on January 23, 2020