Maddy, Ellis, and Hank make a riotous threesome as they party and caper their way through Philadelphia high society. It is World War II, but both Ellis and Hank are classified 4F. In any case, taking upon any adult responsibility doesn’t seem to be in their plans. Maddy and Ellis Hyde are married, but they live with Ellis’ parents. Hank has a girlfriend but has shown no interest in marrying Violet.
After a particularly drunken New Year’s Eve, Ellis’ father throws Ellis and Maddy out of the house to fend for themselves and cuts Ellis’ allowance. To get back into the good graces of Mr. Hyde, Ellis and Hank come up with a hare-brained scheme. Long ago, Mr. Hyde went to Loch Ness to look for the monster. He claimed to have found it and circulated photos. But they were revealed as fakes. Ellis thinks if they can find the monster and take legitimate pictures of it, he can revive the family name and make his family proud.
But getting to Scotland during wartime poses problems. Hank finally gets them on a freighter, but when their ship rescues some men whose vessel was torpedoed, Maddy begins to understand the horrors of war. Arriving at their destination, she is the only one of the three who seems to understand how ridiculous their presence as tourists is during this difficult time. The three know nothing of ration cards, air raids, or war casualties. And the men’s boorish attitude about the lack of conveniences at the inn doesn’t help.
Maddy settles in and gets to know the villagers, but she is soon disturbed by how much Ellis and Hank are drinking and how many of Maddy’s “nerve pills” Ellis takes. Maddy herself has only ever taken one.
Although dealing with another period and setting, Gruen is covering some of the same ground as in Water for Elephants. She clearly enjoys the wives in distress theme. Still, after I experienced an initial distaste for all three main characters, Maddy grew on me with her evolving sensitivity and efforts to help the villagers. I enjoyed this novel and think it makes a good light historical romance. Gruen periodically gives us details of the war and does a fair job of evoking the atmosphere of a small pub, where everyone nightly listens to the war news.