Tag: historical

Book Review: The War Nurse, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example―even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.

When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital’s limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice―to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms.

I enjoyed this read. Julia was an interesting character:  she has a fairly distant personality—she keeps her emotions in a little box—but she wants to be close to people. She’s motivated by her desire to make things better for the people around her, whether the patients, her fellow nurses, or the doctors.

The blurb makes it sound like the respiratory illness is a HUGE part of the novel, but it really wasn’t. The bulk of this story is Julia’s internal conflict. Even the war itself isn’t an on-screen character, it’s more background and setting. This is a solid read about a fascinating woman.

Tracey Enerson Wood is from New Jersey. The War Nurse is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

This was a fantastic read! I had never heard of the historical facts behind the premise and found it both fascinating and heartbreaking. I read a solid amount of World War II-set historical fiction, but this was new territory for much. Surviving in the forest like this required so much strength and resiliency, and I am just in awe of these people.

I liked Yona a lot and seeing her grow from a child to a woman—and how her thoughts evolved—was engrossing to read. I loved how she left her comfort zone behind to help others—she knew it was the right thing to do, even though she’d never been taught that. Proof that people are inherently good (which I tend to forget). Loved this read!

Kristin Harmel is a bestselling author. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Champagne, 1939

Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…

A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.

Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.

Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…

This was an incredible read! It wasn’t in the least what I expected, but it was so good. I will say that Hélène wasn’t my favorite character, but it was due more to her reserved and secretive personality than anything, as she was incredibly determined to protect her family. I didn’t care for the youngest daughter at all, but Gabrielle was a great character and I enjoyed her journey so, so much!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida. The Widows of Champagne is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Love Inspired in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Abduction of Pretty Penny, by Leonard Goldberg

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Press.

Joanna and the Watsons are called in by the Whitechapel Playhouse to find Pretty Penny, a lovely, young actress who has gone missing without reason or notice. While on their search, the trio is asked by Scotland Yard to join in the hunt for a vicious murderer whose method resembles that of Jack The Ripper. It soon becomes clear that The Ripper has reemerged after a 28-year absence and is once again murdering young prostitutes in Whitechapel.

Following a line of subtle clues, Joanna quickly reasons that Pretty Penny has been taken capture by the killer. But as Joanna moves closer to learning his true identity, the killer sends her a letter indicating her young son Johnny will be the next victim to die. Time is running out, and Joanna has no choice but to devise a most dangerous plan which will bring her face-to-face with the killer. It is the only chance to protect her son and rescue Pretty Penny, and save both from an agonizing death.

This is the first book in this series I’ve read…and I’m not sure I’ll read more. Solid writing and interesting characters, but it just didn’t keep my attention. I was never that invested in what happened to Pretty Penny—I didn’t feel a connection to her at all—and the POV was very distant for the other characters, so I felt like I was watching a TV show, not actually involved. And, frankly, I felt like the resolution—despite the Jack the Ripper mystery—was a bit of a let down.

Leonard Goldberg is a physicist and professor of medicine The Abduction of Pretty Penny is his newest novel, the newest installment in the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Warsaw Orphan, by Kelly Rimmer

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Warsaw Orphan
Author Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality–and that it’s the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.

Using Sara’s credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara’s cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm’s way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever.

I’ve read a number of books about World War II, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read one set in Warsaw. With the different points-of-view, the reader sees what life is like inside the ghetto, but what it looks like outside the ghetto, too. This was an engrossing read, and although not a light or happy one, there were some glimmers of light peeking through.

I recommend this read, for illustrating a slightly different aspect of the World War II tragedy. The characters are believable and I was invested in what happened to them and how they learned and grew from their experiences.

Kelly Rimmer is a bestselling author. The Warsaw Orphan is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Secrets We Left Behind, by Soraya M. Lane

Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

TitleThe Secrets We Left Behind
AuthorSoraya M. Lane
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Occupied France, 1940. When the staff at a field hospital draw straws to find out who will join the evacuation from Dunkirk, Nurse Cate is left behind. But when the Nazis arrive to claim prisoners of war, she takes her chance and flees into the night, taking one patient with her.

Fifty miles away, the surrendering soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment are shot dead by the advancing Germans. Beneath the pile of bodies two men survive, crawling to the safety of a nearby farmhouse, where sisters Elise and Adelaide risk their lives to take them in. When Cate, too, arrives at their door with her injured soldier, the pressure mounts.

The sisters are risking everything to keep their visitors safe. But with the Nazis coming ever closer and relationships in the farmhouse intensifying, they must all question the sacrifices they are willing to make for the lives of others. How far will they go for family, friendship, and love?

I enjoyed this read! I liked the characters a lot, and they were realistic and people to root for. Except maybe Adelaide, who I kind of wanted to smack in the back of the head. I was never sure how this was going to turn out, so it wasn’t predictable to me, and the writing was excellent, with a setting that I enjoyed reading more about.

Soraya M. Lane lives in New Zealand. The Secrets We Left Behind is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleThe Girl in His Shadow
Author:  Audrey Blake
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted–and secret–assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role–that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is–even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

I enjoyed this very much! Sure, it was hard to read about such a capable woman who was ignored because she was female, but Nora is such a great character. She’s different—and she embraces that and is determined to persevere and do what she needs to do, no matter what people say. Even when she cares about people, she doesn’t put aside her own dreams, and she’s willing to risk her future, or at least her reputation, to save lives. Also, this cover is beautiful!

Audrey Blake is the pseudonym of Jaima Fixsen and Regina Sirois. The Girl in His Shadow is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Woman with the Blue Star, by Pam Jenoff

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

TitleThe Woman with the Blue Star
AuthorPam Jenoff
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

This is not a happy book. I liked the characters; their strength, determination, and resourcefulness. I cannot even imagine hiding in a sewer for months on end. I did find the idea that Ella could stand in the middle of a street over a sewer grate for long enough to have entire conversations and give Sadie food and no one noticed a bit far-fetched. That wasn’t believable to me, but apart from that, I found the book entirely readable, even if sad.

Pam Jenoff is a bestselling author. The Woman with the Blue Star is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Bookshop in London, by Madeline Martin

Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Last Bookshop in London
AuthorMadeline Martin
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

It seems like every World War II novel I read is sad, but this one proved to be an exception. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely sad and horrifying moments, but the overall message of this novel is hope and helping others. I thought it was a wonderful touch that initially Grace isn’t even a reader, so we get to experience her falling in love with books as she grows to love the bookshop and its patrons. This is a lovely read!

Madeline Martin is a bestselling author. The Last Bookshop in London is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Last Garden in England, by Julia Kelly

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

TitleThe Last Garden in England
AuthorJulia Kelly
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

I enjoyed all three timelines in this novel. I’m not sure I’ve read anything by this author before, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout in the future. Emma’s timeline, the present-day, was probably my favorite, as she experiences a lot of character growth and she seemed like she’d be a fun person to hang out with. Venetia was dealing with so much living on the edge of high society—those people were awful—and this didn’t end like I thought it was going to. Beth’s timeline featured things I’d never heard of, keeping me interested and invested in the characters. This is definitely a solid read!

Julia Kelly is a bestselling author.  The Last Garden in England is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)