Tag: historical

Book Review:  The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey, by Serena Burdick

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey    
Author:  Serena Burdick  
Genre:   historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

What if you could write a new ending for yourself?

England, 1898. When Evelyn first married the famous novelist William Aubrey, she was dazzled by his brilliance. But their newlywed bliss is brief when William is gripped by writer’s block, and he becomes jealous of Evelyn’s writing talent. When he commits the ultimate betrayal–stealing a draft of her novel and passing it off as his own–Evelyn decides to write her way out of their unhappy marriage.

California, 2006. Abigail always wondered about her father, his identity forever lost when her mother unexpectedly died. Or so Abigail thought, until she stumbled upon his photo and a message that her great-great-grandmother was the author Evelyn Aubrey, leading Abigail on a journey to England in search for answers. There, she learns of Evelyn’s shocking disappearance and how London society believed she was murdered. But from what she uncovers about Evelyn, Abigail believes her brilliant great-great-grandmother had another plot up her sleeve.

When I first started reading this, Abby was such a self-absorbed, selfish person that I almost stopped reading. I held out until she went to England, and then, as she started growing, I got more interested. Following the mystery of Evelyn made her a much more interesting character—and learning more about her own parents, especially her messed-up mother, allowed her to work through her own issues.

Evelyn was my favorite character:  she ended up caught in a very tough situation, but she was smart enough to figure a way out. I wanted to smack her husband—and his mistress—several times, but she somehow managed to turn the other cheek and make a life of safety for herself. This ended up being a fascinating and engrossing read—despite the slow (due to a character issue) start.

Serena Burdick lives in Massachusetts. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   When We Had Wings, by by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title When We Had Wings (audio book)   
Author:  Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner  
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

The Philippines, 1941.

When U.S. Navy nurse Eleanor Lindstrom, U.S. Army nurse Penny Franklin, and Filipina nurse Lita Capel forge a friendship at the Army Navy Club in Manila, they believe they’re living a paradise assignment. All three are seeking a way to escape their pasts, but soon the beauty and promise of their surroundings give way to the heavy mantle of war.

Caught in the crosshairs of a fight between the U.S. military and the Imperial Japanese Army for control of the Philippine Islands, the nurses are forced to serve under combat conditions and, ultimately, endure captivity as the first female prisoners of the Second World War. As their resiliency is tested in the face of squalid living arrangements, food shortages, and the enemy’s blatant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention, the women strive to keep their hope— and their fellow inmates—alive, though not without great cost.

In this sweeping story based on the true experiences of nurses dubbed “the Angels of Bataan,” three women shift in and out of each other’s lives through the darkest days of the war, buoyed by their unwavering friendship and distant dreams of liberation.

I really enjoyed this! The narrator was personable and clear, and I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. I loved all three main characters, and even the secondary characters were well-done and became people I cared about. I couldn’t wait to find out how everything worked out for these three women! This is well-worth reading.

Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner are bestselling authors. When We Had Wings is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper Muse in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Treachery on Tenth Street, by Kate Belli

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

TitleTreachery on Tenth Street     
Author: Kate Belli   
Genre: historical fiction   
Rating:  4 out of 5

As a heat wave engulfs New York in the summer of 1888, the city’s top models begin turning up dead, one by one, suggesting the work of a single killer. Society girl turned investigative journalist Genevieve Stewart is drawn into the case when Beatrice Holler, one of her friend Callie’s fellow models, is found with her throat cut.

Genevieve and her compatriot, wealthy Daniel McCaffrey, are joined by Callie to seek out the suspects, which leads them to search for answers from the members of the elite, notorious gangsters, and the city’s most prominent painters.

In an era when London’s Jack the Ripper murders have everyone on edge, the police want to keep the killings quiet. But the bodies are piling up as fast as the suspects—and unless the killer is found, the simmering New York summer could boil over into madness.

I haven’t read any of the other Gilded Gotham mysteries, but that wasn’t a problem. This was a solid read. I enjoyed the characters and the setting. I liked Genevieve’s independence in a time when that wasn’t a common thing. Even Daniel had depths, with his street punk background and shady friends. This was a fun read, and I’d definitely read more of the series.

Kate Belli lives in Pennsylvania. Treachery on Tenth Street is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Girl from Guernica     
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:  Historical fiction  
Rating:  5 out of 5

On an April day in 1937, the sky opens and fire rains down upon the small Spanish town of Guernica. Seventeen-year-old Sibi and her family are caught up in the horror. Griff, an American military attaché, pulls Sibi from the wreckage, and it’s only the first time he saves her life in a span of hours. When Germany claims no involvement in the attack, insisting the Spanish Republic was responsible, Griff guides Sibi to lie to Nazi officials. If she or her sisters reveal that they saw planes bearing swastikas, the gestapo will silence them—by any means necessary.

As war begins to rage across Europe, Sibi joins the underground resistance, secretly exchanging information with Griff. But as the scope of Germany’s ambitions becomes clear, maintaining the facade of a Nazi-sympathizer becomes ever more difficult. And as Sibi is drawn deeper into a web of secrets, she must find a way to outwit an enemy that threatens to decimate her family once and for all.  

I was hooked on this from the very first page! All the characters were so vivid and so believable, and the author did such a great job with them that I felt like I was right there with Sibi through everything, grieving and struggling and determined to do what was right—no matter what. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Girl from Guernica is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Thread Collectors, by Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Thread Collectors     
Author:   Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.

I really enjoyed this read! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with quite this setting—it was both heartbreaking and inspirational. I liked all four main characters and was invested in their journeys, and it was lovely to see such hope in the midst of such a dark struggle. I love that this is inspired by both the authors’ family histories, and I truly enjoyed this tale.

Shauna Edwards lives in Harlem and Alyson Richman lives in Long Island. The Thread Collectors is their newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Don’t Go to Sleep, by Bryce Moore

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:    Don’t Go to Sleep  
Author:   Bryce Moore
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Gianna is the average seventeen-year-old girl living in 1918 New Orleans. She worries about her family’s store, the great war, and a mysterious illness that’s about to take hold of the city she loves.

It doesn’t help that there also appears to be a mad man on the loose in her neighborhood. The attacks started as burglaries but soon escalate to cold blooded murder. There’s a killer out there, and the police can’t seem to figure out how to stop him.

Gianna enlists the help of her friend Enzo to investigate. And as they study the crimes, they see a common link between the victims, and Gianna can’t help but wonder if it’s the same man who attacked her family years before.

As Gianna gets closer to the killer, she discovers a connection between them that she never would have suspected.

I love historical fiction and New Orleans, so this should have been a winner. Instead, I found it slightly above average. I was fascinated by the descriptions of New Orleans a century ago, but Gianna’s habit of rushing headlong into danger without regard for the consequences was a bit too much for me. Not just chasing a literal axe murderer but running around the city in the midst of a deadly influenza pandemic. Her POV felt a little disjointed and distant, and there was never any explanation offered for her connection to the killer.

Bryce Moore lives in western Maine and is a Librarian. Don’t Go to Sleep is his newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin

Image belongs to harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Librarian Spy    
Author:  Madeline Martin
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.

I enjoyed this read! I do love a good WWII historical fiction, and this was definitely well-worth reading. I enjoyed Ava’s story just a tiny bit more than Elaine’s, but I loved how both stories came together. Elaine must have been terrified most of the time, surrounded by horrors and grief as she was, while risking her life to get the truth out there. Do yourself a favor and pick up this read!

Madeline Martin is a bestselling author. The Librarian Spy is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:    Potiphar’s Wife, by Mesu Andrews

Image belongs to WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Title:    Potiphar’s Wife
Author:    Mesu Andrews
Genre:    Christian fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Before she is Potiphar’s wife, Zuleika is a king’s daughter on the isle of Crete, where the sisterhood of women rules in the absence of their seafaring husbands. Now that she’s come of age, Zuleika knows she will soon be betrothed. Her father believes his robust trade with Egypt will ensure Pharaoh’s obligation to marry his daughter.

But Pharaoh refuses and gives her instead to Potiphar, the captain of his bodyguards–a crusty bachelor twice her age, who would rather have a new horse than a Minoan wife.

Abandoned by her father, rejected by Pharaoh, and humiliated by Potiphar’s indifference, Zuleika years for affection. But when her obsession with Joseph, the Hebrew chamberlain with the face and body of the gods, goes terribly wrong, she discovers the truth: Only the God of Joseph can heal her wounded heart.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for so long, and I finally had the time! I’ve loved all of Mesu Andrews’ books I’ve read, and I really enjoyed this one, too, although not quite as much as some of the others. I found Zully really difficult to like, frankly. She was so selfish and self-absorbed and couldn’t see past her own short-sighted ambitions to anyone else. I enjoyed the secondary characters like Joseph quite a bit, and I would have liked to see more from Potiphar’s point-of-view, but Zully annoyed me quite a bit. Still, a solid read that I enjoyed.

Mesu Andrews is an award-winning author. Potiphar’s Wife is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleBreaking Time  
Author:    Sasha Alsberg
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

This was a decent read. Nothing too unique, but nothing completely cookie cutter, either. I enjoyed Klara’s personality and I liked Callum, but sometimes his dialogue sounded like he was from the 1500s—appropriate—and sometimes it sounded like he was the boy next door—not appropriate at all and threw me out of the story. A quick read, but one I never really felt like the stakes were very high in—despite the supposed consequences of the plot.

Sasha Alsberg lives in Massachusetts. Breaking Time is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

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