Tag: history

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Lipstick Bureau, by Michelle Gable

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Lipstick Bureau      
Author:  Michelle Gable   
Genre: Historical Fiction    
Rating:  DNF

1944, Rome. Newlywed Niki Novotná is recruited by a new American spy agency to establish a secret branch in Italy’s capital. One of the OSS’s few female operatives abroad and multilingual, she’s tasked with crafting fake stories and distributing propaganda to lower the morale of enemy soldiers.

Despite limited resources, Niki and a scrappy team of artists, forgers and others—now nicknamed The Lipstick Bureau—find success, forming a bond amid the cobblestoned streets and storied villas of the newly liberated city. But her work is also a way to escape devastating truths about the family she left behind in Czechoslovakia and a future with her controlling American husband.

As the war drags on and the pressure intensifies, Niki begins to question the rules she’s been instructed to follow, and a colleague unexpectedly captures her heart. But one step out of line, one mistake, could mean life or death…

This seemed a bit erratic, and the transitions between POV characters were clunky. I felt very distant from all the characters—they were more paper dolls than actual people. And….Niki wasn’t a very likable person. I read 38% of this before realizing I didn’t care about her or what happened to her because she was pretty cold and heartless.

Michelle Gable is a bestselling author. The Lipstick Bureau is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: The Secret Society of Salzburg      
Author:   Renee Ryan
Genre: Historical fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

London, 1933

At first glance, Austrian opera singer Elsa Mayer-Braun has little in common with the young English typist she encounters on tour. Yet she and Hattie Featherstone forge an instant connection—and strike a dangerous alliance. Using their friendship as a cover, they form a secret society with a daring goal: to rescue as many Jews as possible from Nazi persecution.

Though the war’s outbreak threatens Elsa and Hattie’s network, their efforts attract the covert attention of the British government, offering more opportunities to thwart the Germans. But Elsa’s growing fame as Hitler’s favorite opera singer, coupled with her secret Jewish ancestry, make her both a weapon and a target—until her future, too, hangs in the balance.

From the glamorous stages of Covent Garden and Salzburg to the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, two ordinary women swept up by the tide of war discover an extraordinary friendship—and the courage to save countless lives.

I love World War II historical fiction. That being said, I did DNF one just a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t ever in danger of putting this book down, though! Both Hattie and Elsa were fascinating characters, and I was fully invested in both of their stories. I wanted to see them succeed beyond their wildest dreams—and it was exhilarating seeing that happen on the page.

World War II was one of the most horrific times in world history, but seeing Hattie and Elsa jump in, determined to help Jewish people despite the danger to themselves was inspiring and uplifting. I truly loved every page of this book!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida and now lives in Wisconsin. The Secret Society of Salzburg is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin 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:  Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck

Image belongs to SparkPress.

TitleHello, Goodbye    
Author: Kate Stollenwerck
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Fifteen-year-old Hailey Rogers is sure her summer is ruined when her parents force her to spend a few days a week helping her grandmother, Gigi. Although she only lives across town, she never sees her grandmother and knows little about her. But Gigi is full of surprises–and family secrets. Throw in the gorgeous boy down the street, and Hailey’s ruined summer might just be the best of her life.

Then tragedy strikes, lies are uncovered, and Hailey’s life suddenly falls apart. After unearthing clues in an old letter written by her great-grandfather, she takes off on a road trip to solve the family mystery with the only person she can trust. In a forgotten Texas town, the past and the present collide–and Hailey is forced to choose what she truly values in life.

I loved this! I think Hailey is a great character, and I loved seeing how her mind works and how she changed through the course of this book. The family dynamics were intriguing, and I really wanted to know what was going on with Gigi. I enjoyed the Beatles obsession—and the car. I just thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page.

Kate Stollenwerck lives in Florida. Hello, Goodbye is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of SparkPress 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.)