Tuesday, June 11, 2024

BOOK REVIEW: The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is a new release from Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Set in the summer of 1919, in a British seaside resort town, it explores the alteration of British lives in the aftermath of WWI and the Spanish flu.

Constance Haverhill is a young woman who has lost both her parents and now her job and home. During the war, she helped run the estate of old family friends. But with the return of men from the war, women were booted back to traditional female roles so that men could have jobs, no matter if the women (and their children) had no means of support. For this summer, Constance is serving as a companion to Mrs. Fog, the widowed mother of Lady Mercer (whose estate Constance had been overseeing.) Fortunately for Constance, Mrs. Fog is a kind woman who allows her a good bit of autonomy. (Mrs. Fog has interests on the side that she doesn’t want her daughter to know about.)

While at the hotel, Constance is befriended by Poppy Wirrall, a feisty girl of her own age who runs a motorcycle taxi and delivery service, staffed by women. Poppy takes Constance for a ride, and Constance is hooked. Poppy also introduces her to her mother, widow of a local baronet and a force in the community. And Constance meets Poppy’s brother, Harris, a sour-faced and angry war veteran, a pilot, whose leg had been amputated after a crash. Harris has means to live an idle life, but he wants to fly again, to be treated as the man he has always been, not be shunted aside as damaged goods.

While Constance is enjoying this time with new friends, abuzz with activity, she is acutely aware of the difference between her social class (and some of Poppy’s employees/friends) and that of Poppy and her society friends. Moreover, Constance is pressed by the passage of time to look for employment. The summer will not last forever, and Mrs. Fog will be returning home to her daughter. She will have no further need for a companion. Constance hopes for a bookkeeping job, but fears those jobs will go to men and she will end up a governess.

The plight of women cast adrift in the aftermath of the war is beautifully shown, as is the upheaval in the lives of veterans. Nevertheless, despite the potentially heavy subject matter, this is a light, charming read thanks to the good-heartedness of the protagonists and their enjoyment of what the summer has to offer.


  1. Great review! Makes me want to start at the beginning again! I will look for some of your books.


  2. I loved Major Pettigrew so this one is definitely one I am interested in reading!

    Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.