Book Review: Bluebird by Genevieve Graham

 Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2022)

This novel opens in WWI with Adele Savard, a nurse from Canada, who is treating injured soldiers. She meets Corporal Jeremiah Bailey of the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company and they make an immediate connection. They are both from the same town. Adele and her fellow nursing sisters are nicknamed Bluebirds from the color of their uniforms, thus the title of the book. Jerry goes back to the front and they aren’t sure they’ll see each other again, but they hope to. After the war Jerry and his brother return home to discover their parents have died from Spanish Flu. It’s Prohibition and everyone in town, including Jerry’s late father, have been making money rumrunning. Adele works for a local doctor and she and Jerry reunite after he saves her from his devious rival, a man he has a history with since childhood.

Their romance is tender and sweet, and best of all in my opinion, it is not rushed. They form a friendship that blooms with time.

The story contains a present day thread in which a young woman named Cassie is a historian who used to live in the Bailey House but lost her mother there in an accident. When the current owner finds bottles of whiskey hidden in the walls of the house, the two work to unfold the mystery, which is part of Cassie’s family history. I love family history connections!

I found the modern thread to be brief and while interesting, not too well developed. However, the story of Adele and Jerry is compelling and I love a book that teaches me history I wasn’t aware of. The rumrunning in Windsor, Canada was linked to the US due to its proximity to the border across the Detroit River and the fact that Prohibition ended in Canada long before it did in the US. (The author’s note at the end is not to be missed!)

The story is gritty at times, but just enough to draw you into the story. It involves two bloody periods in history after all. The ending is quite intense, but the conclusion unveils hope and illustrates how those who lived it endured and continued to live their lives. Those who love history, like all of our readers on this blog, will enjoy this one.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purpose of review and all opinions are my own.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

www.cindyswriting.com

Book Review: Count the Nights by Stars by Michelle Shocklee

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Tyndale House Publishers

978-1-4964-5993-0

This is a very engaging dual-time period novel set in 1897 and 1961. I love historicals I can learn from and this one revealed a lot of Nashville’s history from both time periods. The story revolves around the Maxwell House Hotel. (Yes, like the coffee. I enjoyed this historical tidbit!) The earlier time period is set during the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, which is an interesting historical event to learn about. The later time period looks back to that event through the scrapbook of a resident of the hotel during the decline of the hotel. Both Priscilla from 1897 and Audrey from 1961 learn to step out of their comfort zones to help those in need. The plight of immigrants and the exploitation of young girls who are either desolate or too innocent is one of those needs. Civil rights and the education of special needs kids is another. These things could overwhelm a novel but instead Shocklee explores how her characters choose to respond to the people in peril. The title comes from a proverb one of the characters tells Priscilla.

I won’t share any spoilers but this is a book that I’m glad I read and highly recommend.

Read the first chapter here.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

I was given a digital copy (via NetGalley) from the publisher for the purpose of review, but no review was required. This is my honest opinion.

Book Review: Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

On the eve of World War II, two sisters embark on a journey that changes everything.

William Morrow Paperbacks (July 27, 2021)

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In 1937 two estranged sisters are sent by their dying grandmother on a European trip to deliver messages to people from their grandmother’s past. I was transported to Paris, Venice, and Vienna through these pages. The authors are wonderful writers, highly skilled at drawing readers into the times and places they write about. The sisters travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the Hindenburg, which indicated that the ending was going to be dramatic. But the inner journey each sister takes is more impactful. They learn what it means to be a family, even when the family looks different from what they imagined.

I liked the format, alternating between each sister’s point of view with a few chapters from their grandmother’s point of view as she waits for their return. The voices were distinct and effective at showing their different personalities and reactions to events. There is a love interest for each sister but the authors do not take the easy way out with either. The sisters do not instantly fall into a man’s arms because of the romantic setting, even though they are told many times it could happen. I love how talented, strong-willed, but not impulsive these characters are. This story explores the importance of relationships in the midst of challenges, dangers, misunderstandings, and mishaps. You’ll enjoy this one!

Review by Cindy Thomson, https://www.cindyswriting

Book Review: The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson

Affiliate link used. I receive a small compensation if you purchase through this link.

Release: January 11, 2022

Hardcover | 978-1-4964-4421-9 | $25.99

Softcover | 978-1-4964-4422-6 | $15.99

400 pages | Tyndale.com

A stunning cover to go with a stunning story. I love learning history I wasn’t familiar with before. I love time slips when a lesson is learned from the past. I love it when an author dares to write something a bit different from typical wartime fiction. Just when I thought I’d read all the WWII fiction I cared to, this book comes along, not about Nazis, not about soldiers, not about the Holocaust, although all those things are mentioned because all those things affect the characters greatly. This is a story about how the people who were affected, the innocents, dealt with what they experienced for the rest of their lives.

Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker working to rescue Jewish children in France during the war. Decades later Addie Hoult is looking for the Tonquin family because her mentor is dying from a genetic disease. But these women from the different storylines and time periods also need rescuing in ways they don’t truly grasp until the end of the story. All the characters are deeply wounded from both what they did and what was done to them. Restoration doesn’t come easily, but there is hope.

I think it’s fair to say no one does time slip novels better than Melanie Dobson. Many times I prefer the historical timeline to the contemporary one but this one had me totally engaged with both. I highly recommend you read this one!

*I was given a copy by the publisher for the purpose of review without compensation or expectation. I have given my honest opinion.


Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

www.cindyswriting.com

Book Review: Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Published October 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks

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Affiliate link used. If you purchase through the link, I will receive a small kickback but it won’t cost you any more.

This story, told mostly as an epistolary novel, was so well done and so touching that I was completely engrossed by the characters of Evie and Thomas as they corresponded throughout the war. The letters are filled with humor and fun banter between childhood friends and as the war progresses they turn more serious at times and deep with soul-searching thoughts and ideas and finally with desperation. Sprinkled throughout we see the elderly Thomas in 1968, obviously without Evie but it isn’t until the end we understand why he’s come back to Paris to read all the letters they had exchanged plus a new one he doesn’t open until he finishes the wartime letters. The description of the agonies the characters endured plus their hopes and dreams feels so real as I imagine they were, although not usually spoken, for those who lived through those times.

I can imagine these two authors, quite successful as solo novelists, took on particular characters as the voices are as distinct as they would be with real people, and that is the strength of this novel, in my opinion. It’s a love story, but not just a love story. It’s filled with history, as we who love to read historical fiction look forward to when we open a book.

Highly recommended!

—Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

Book Review: The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

Tyndale House, Sept. 2021

Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab—since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.

If you’ve read Lynn Austin’s If I Were You (reviewed here) you’ll recognize the characters Audrey and Eve. You might even have wondered what happened to them. While this novella helps to answer that question, it’s also a wonderful nostalgic story. Who doesn’t remember looking at toy catalogs at Christmas time and circling the things you most wanted? Parents often struggle with how to balance their children’s wishes with what is most important about the season, and Audrey and Eve are no different. Having struggled through WWII in England, these characters now have children who have no experience to compare, and little understanding of what it’s like to go without. The lessons learned in this story, however, are not just for the kids. Audrey and Eve learn something as well.

Grab some hot cocoa and a Christmas cookie and snuggle down for this delightful read!


About the Author:

Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full- time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

Book Review: Chasing Shadows by Lynn Austin

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 8, 2021)

You can always count on Lynn Austin to provide interesting and intriguing historical details in her stories. Chasing Shadows is about the Dutch people’s resistance when occupied by the Nazis in WWII. Three basic storylines are presented: Lena, a farm mother who learns to trust God with the lives of her family; Ans, her young adult daughter who leaves home to find her way and ends up entering the dangerous world of the resistance fighters; and Miriam, a young Jewish girl escaping the worst and getting separated from her baby and husband. These are hard things to read about but Austin paints her stories with hope and bravery in the face of very real terror and despair.

While most of us cannot begin to understand how these people survived and rebuilt their lives and their country, novel like this one help take us there and make us appreciate their actions. We may never face what they did but we can learn about strength and faith and how those things can carry us through what we deal with in our lives.

And that cover? Gorgeous!

There is quite a lot of Christianity in this book: characters including “sharing faith” and remembering Bible verses. Knowing that some readers look for that and others avoid it, it should be mentioned. It’s written by a strong Christian believer and published by a Christian evangelical publisher, so that should come as no surprise. Even so, in real life these people did depend on their faith to see them through. As my late father used to say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I for one cannot imagine emerging from such oppression, brutality, and starvation without depending on God.

I enjoyed this book. It took me a little longer to read, perhaps because of its intensity, which is not a bad thing. But because I put it down so much I had a little trouble remembering which character was which. A chapter title would have helped. But that’s a small complaint. Historical novel lovers will like this one!

Read the character interview here.

Book Review: Miss Wetherham’s Wedding: The Brides of Mayfair, Book Three by Linore Rose Burkard

Lettie Wetherham lost her husband Steven to searching for more diamonds in a previously productive mine. Her resulting reduced circumstances and the promises she made to him hang like a pall over her future. She resorts to becoming a “hobby” matchmaker, relying on the generosity of those families for whom she has helped find mates for their loved ones. But her services are never advertised as that would be beneath her station in life and those whom she hopes to influence. 

Nick Dellacourt, a spoiled gentleman who is used to having his own way, can’t stand the thought of the subject of his recent affections so easily becoming engaged to an earl without any thought to his sentiments. He’s sure that she doesn’t love the other man and it galls him to have her out of reach. Nick may have the reputation of being a rogue and he may not intend to marry the young lady but being out of control of the situation is unthinkable!

When he observes the attractive young widow, Miss Wetherham, as they call her, at a gathering at Almack’s, he hatches a scheme. Soon he approaches her with his devious plan. Would she be willing to help him lure his former love interest away from her current intended and perhaps ensnare a loveless, but very rich match for herself—for hire?

Lettie is aware of Dellacourt’s reputation but finds herself and close relatives in a pickle because of the loss of funds in the diamond mine. If she’s willing to do the unthinkable and work for him it may bring the security she lacks. Yet, it goes against her Christian ethics, and her promise to Steven that if she marries again, it would be to a good man she loves. If only Dellacourt wasn’t so persuasive and… handsome! 

Linore Rose Burkard again weaves a wonderful Regency romance with historic detail and believable characters which draw you into their world. While it may seem to start a little slow, it sets up the characters’ conflicts, plot, and pace nicely. The author also takes on a little-used point of view: omniscient. This takes you outside of the heads of the characters to that of a narrator or observer. Omniscient POV seems very appropriate for a Regency novel and is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s writing and that of other 18th century authors. 

Lettie is a bit of a different heroine, though she is young and beautiful, she is also a widow, still bound by her love for her dead husband. Ms. Burkard delivers depth of character and Lettie is someone the reader will want to see have the best outcome. With Nick Dellacourt’s character, the author hints beyond the hero’s seeming impenetrable surface to the depth of his pride and surprising care for others which becomes evident as the story moves along.

As always, the detail of her Regency world is impeccable. It there’s an unfamiliar word or a term cannot be deciphered via context, there is a helpful glossary at the end of the book.

Miss Wetherham’s Wedding delivers the expected conundrums of marrying for love or money, misunderstood intentions, and evasive social interactions that fans of Regency romance have come to expect. There is a hint of a faith basis which fits with the time. It is a fun, sweet, and clean read I truly enjoyed. Brava, Ms. Burkard! 

Book Review: A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

Feb. 2, 2021, Revell, Paperback, 352 pages.

First of all, can we just agree that this is a gorgeous cover! This historical romance takes place in 1921 when Moira Doherty moves from Boston to her deceased mother’s hometown in County Donegal to take the job of village teacher. There is a secret about her mother that Moira doesn’t figure out until the end. The story explores the theme of trusting God in the face of adversity even when you’d rather run the other way. A strong concept worth exploring.

I liked this book. What I loved most was the depiction of Ireland. The author lived there for several years and described the dialect, the people, the landscape so much more accurately and vividly than many other books set in Ireland I’ve read.

I thought the romance between Moira and Sean was sweet and genuine and the ending satisfying. Midway through the story slowed down a bit for me and there were some plot aspects that either didn’t make sense to me or seemed somewhat forced. That being said, read A Dance in Donegal if you’re eager for a pleasant trip to Ireland, a sweet romance, and an inspiring and satisfying ending.

A note if you don’t normally read Christian fiction: This story has a lot of scripture, characters reading the Bible, and inter dialogue about trusting God. I’m fine with that, but if you’re sensitive to it you should understand that it’s meant for readers of Christian fiction.

Novel PASTimes received an Advanced Copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest, unbiased review with no obligation.

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Hardcover | $26.00
Published by Berkley
Feb 02, 2021 | 384 Pages | 6 x 9 | ISBN 9780451492180

Set in 1906 during the great San Fransisco earthquake, this new novel by Susan Meissner follows Irish immigrant Sophie Whalen who chose to leave poverty in New York City to become a mail order bride for widower Martin Hocking and his young daughter. But make no mistake. This is not your traditional mail order bride story. This is a mystery to be solved with characters to sort out. Nothing is as it first seems.

Before the earthquake Sophie learns about Martin’s secrets and is forced to make a decision to save the daughter Kat she’s become so fond of. The daughter doesn’t belong to her, however, and the events that unfold deliver twists and turns that made this book extremely hard to put down. The ending wasn’t predictable but like Meissner’s other stories, was satisfying and redemptive. Perhaps more so than in her previous stories, this main character pushes the fringes of good moral behavior, but her motivations gradually become clear, making Sophie a real, raw, character readers will root for.

The historical details are so vivid and detailed that readers will be swept into the story much like watching a film unfold on a big screen. When I read the ending all I could say was, “Wow!” Highly recommended.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions in this review are mine alone.

Cindy Thomson, http://www.cindyswriting.com