ROYAL BEAUTY BRIGHT
BY RYAN BYRNES
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Blank Slate Press
Paperback; 304 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/WWI
After an autistic man ends up in the trenches of World War I, a nun-turned-journalist dances with treason to care for him, and a candy store clerk posing as Santa Claus risks everything to bring him home.
While in France, Luther meets Ethyl, an aspiring journalist who tries to expose his plight. As Christmas approaches, Luther sinks into despair and Ethyl is threatened with punishment.
Back home, Luther’s brother Jim enlists with the British Army Postal Service. His job, delivering sacks of Christmas gifts to the frontline soldiers, is a cover for his plan to rescue Luther. The plan is made even more difficult by three refugee girls convinced that Jim, with his bag of gifts, is Santa Claus.
Jim and Ethyl finally cross paths with Luther on Christmas Day, 1914, when they witness one of the most uplifting spectacles of nonviolence in history, when thousands of soldiers broke orders and refused to fire on each other during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
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The Baker family was not the typical family of Leamington Spa, England in the late 1800's. Mrs. Baker is a widow who runs her own sweets shop, her oldest son, Luther is different from other children. People say he is possessed or a lunatic, what we would now diagnose as autism. Luther's younger brother, Jim protects Luther furiously, but still takes the brunt of his mother's pain and frustration. One day as Jim and Luther are playing with Jim's best friend, Rodney, Luther pushes Rodney and hurts him badly. Rodney recovers but the incident leaves its mark. Years later, a war breaks out. Rodney is fighting on the Western Front and finds a new recruit in his regiment acting strangely. He is surprised to find that it is Luther Baker. Rodney is pressed to protect Luther by childhood friend Ethyl, who is serving as a nurse and trying to find a way to send Luther home. Meanwhile, Jim has taken a job with the British Army Postal Service with his own plan to smuggle Luther out. As Christmas approaches on the Front, Luther cooks up his own plan for survival.
Royal Beauty Bright is a heartwarming tale of compassion that revolves around the Christmas Truce of 1914. Alternating between 1897 and 1914, the timeline immersed me in the lives of Constance Baker, Luther, Jim, Rodney, and Ethyl. Though Luther was met with much adversity in his life, including being tricked into service, the love that Luther shares with his family and friends and they love they return shines brightly through. I loved that Luther excelled at chocolate making and that it paved the way for him to form relationships with other people as well. The depictions of life in the trenches on the Western Front were brutally realistic and showed the impact on the soldier's mental well being. Luther's insights during this time were often the most honest and truthful sentiments during the war, unhindered by what others might think of him. I loved when he told Rodney to write his mother: "Tell her people don't want to kill each other, but they don't know how to stop." As Christmas approaches on the front, I could tell that something had to give. I enjoyed reading the reactions of the men on both sides as they realized that they could take a break from the War and have fun, if only for a day.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Ryan Byrnes is a St. Louis native. His first foray into writing was founding the publishing imprint, Avency Press, where he wrote one illustrated chapter book, The Adventures of Wheatail, and four young adult fantasy novels in the Son of Time series. Since then, he has worked with a publishing company, a literary agency, and various aspiring writers seeking to self-publish. Ryan now lives in Iowa as a student in mechanical engineering and English. Between work hours, he builds Mars Rovers with his roommates, plays with cats, and watches Wes Anderson movies.
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