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Guest Review: THE HAZELBOURNE LADIES MOTORCYCLE AND FLYING CLUB by Helen Simonson


ABOUT THE BOOK

A timeless comedy of manners—refreshing as a summer breeze and bracing as the British seaside—about a generation of young women facing the seismic changes brought on by war and dreaming of the boundless possibilities of their future, from the bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand It is the summer of 1919 and Constance Haverhill is without prospects. Now that all the men have returned from the front, she has been asked to give up her cottage and her job at the estate she helped run during the war. While she looks for a position as a bookkeeper or—horror—a governess, she’s sent as a lady’s companion to an old family friend who is convalescing at a seaside hotel. Despite having only weeks to find a permanent home, Constance is swept up in the social whirl of Hazelbourne-on-Sea after she rescues the local baronet’s daughter, Poppy Wirrall, from a social faux pas. Poppy wears trousers, operates a taxi and delivery service to employ local women, and runs a ladies’ motorcycle club (to which she plans to add flying lessons). She and her friends enthusiastically welcome Constance into their circle. And then there is Harris, Poppy’s recalcitrant but handsome brother—a fighter pilot recently wounded in battle—who warms in Constance’s presence. But things are more complicated than they seem in this sunny pocket of English high society. As the country prepares to celebrate its hard-won peace, Constance and the women of the club are forced to confront the fact that the freedoms they gained during the war are being revoked. Whip-smart and utterly transportive, The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is historical fiction of the highest order: an unforgettable coming-of-age story, a tender romance, and a portrait of a nation on the brink of change.

 

OPENING LINES

“In the first place, it did not seem quite right that a girl that young should be free to wander the hotel and seaside town without a chaperone.”

 

GUEST REVIEW by Sophia Rose

For some young women at a loss when peace comes and the jobs are given to the returning men, the excitement of riding and servicing motorcycles and airplanes becomes a dandy summer adventure by the sea. Author Helen Simonson has come into her own with a second historical fiction set against the England of Post-WWI with authentic historical details, careful attention to character, and plot development with a gentle pace and a warm, nostalgic tone.

 

Three narrators from different classes, genders, and nationalities give The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club a richer perspective for the reader to appreciate as a large surrounding cast and side plots are presented. Klaus is a German-born English citizen who has had a rough time because of his ethnicity. Recently interned during the war, he feels lucky to get a good wait staff position, but he knows there must be no mistakes; his position is precarious as anti-German sentiment runs high.


Constance is a farmer’s daughter, educated as a gentlewoman, caught between two worlds, and uncertain of her future. Her mother’s old friend gifts her a summer by the sea as an older lady’s companion, and the old gal teaches her a thing or two about life. Is she brave enough to step out of her comfort zone to try something adventurous like her new friend Poppy and the other women who ride motorcycles and want to learn to fly? Her biggest gamble of all is to take a chance at romance with someone above her station.


And there's Harris, Poppy’s brother, who flew planes in the war, crashed, and lost his leg. He’s morose and uninterested in anything since it happened, but the ladies with their plans, particularly the quiet but determined Constance, give him something to tempt him back to life and recognize that he still has worth.

 

It was easy to root for Constance and the others as they found their way. I also appreciated the well-written summer seaside 1920s backdrop and the excitement of historical era motorcycles and aviation. The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club takes its time building to the crisis, utilizing a bet, a race, tangled relationships, and an outcome that surprises all.  


A great choice for your summer beach reading.

 

smiling white woman with short blonde hair wearing navy blouse
Helen Simonson, author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helen Simonson is the New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (2010) and The Summer Before The War (2016). Her newest novel, The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club published in May 2024. She was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village near Rye, in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics, with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive, dual US/UK citizen and a proud New Yorker. Helen is a longtime resident of Brooklyn and is married with two sons.


ABOUT GUEST REVIEWER Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet, curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, piano-playing, and gardening. Road trips and campouts, museums and monuments, restaurants, and theaters are her jam. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and a loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, baseball, cats, Scooby Doo, and chocolate.


As a lifelong reader, it was inevitable that Sophia would discover book blogs and the joy of blog reviewing. In 2012, she submitted her first book review and is currently an associate reviewer. Sophia is a prolific reader and audiobook listener which allows her to experience many wonderful books, authors, and narrators. Few genres are outside her reading tastes, but her true love is fiction, particularly history, mystery, sci-fi, and romance. Sorry, no horror...or she will run like Shaggy and Scooby.


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2 comments

2 Comments


Ooh, this sounds like such a good book! I really enjoyed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, so I'll have to add this one to my list. Thanks for the review, Sophia!

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Both are new to me. Glad you liked!!

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