Icon Tag: Historical

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Posted May 3, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 19 Comments

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall KellyLost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Series: Lilac Girls
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline's mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker's treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov's. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre's who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

The year is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so often, that most people have started to disregard it. Eliza Ferriday is happy to be traveling to St. Petersburg with her friend Sofya Streshnayva, who is the cousin of the Romanovs. As the Russian Whites and the Monarchy continue to enjoy their wealth and privilege with fancy balls, the turmoil on the streets continues to spin out of control as the red coats continue to gain power. Until the day that the Russian monarchy is overthrown finally comes, and Russia is left in peril.

The story follows three women. Eliza Ferriday, a socialite that lives in Manhattan, married to Henry Ferriday, mother of Caroline Ferriday. Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin to the Romanovs, the current reigning family of Russia and Varinka Kozlov a poor village girl that gets hired as a nanny to Max by Sofya. A decision that comes back to haunt Sofya when Varinka brings something dangerous back into her home that causes Sofya to part with Max and finds herself on the run for her life in hopes of getting her son back.

This story was, wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I adored Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I have not read the Lilac Girls and I found that it was okay. This book actually happens before Lilac Girls and to me seemed like a good place to start not only with the story but also with Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and the storytelling were woven so beautifully that I found myself savoring as much of the book as I could. I didn’t want to part with it, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters that Martha Hall Kelly has managed to capture. Both compelling, strong and realistic, the three women really drove the book and I was happy for the slow pace.

The ending had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails, waiting for resolution, wanting to see how the story wraps up for these women. The author left some threads loose, making it a possible consideration for future books. The writing was really lovely, I really enjoyed the authors writing style, I thought it was just so beautiful.

The story itself seems well researched and I have to admit I don’t recall reading many historical books set during WWI in Russia. I found the story itself, the fall of the Russian monarchy fascinating and heartbreaking. It was just such a dark time during the Russian revolution and I was glad to learn a bit more about it through the eyes of these characters.

There wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy. The ending felt super fast-paced as far as how it wrapped up and despite being slow-paced, to begin with, I found I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a slower ending, yet it worked. My general nit-pickiness comes to the Russian terminology in the book, but as someone who has a general understanding of the language, some sentences with Russian words thrown into them had me pack paddling a little bit. The Russian language uses congregations and every time they appeared wrong in the book my brain automatically found it a bit awkward to read. Like for instance, the word Zala appears throughout the book, which I assume refers to like the grand ballroom type room for gatherings and I’m pretty sure it should have been Zalo. But those are just minor details and don’t affect people that wouldn’t know otherwise.

I do love that the author has made a distinction between Ukrainian people and Russian when at one point the White Russian women were told they are going to be sent back to Ukraine and Eliza acknowledged that they are Russian.

Overall. I loved this book like I knew I would the moment I saw it. With that, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the Lilac Girls because I absolutely am in love with this authors beautiful writing style, there is just something about the way she weaves her words that completely draw me in. I really enjoyed the characters and their flaws, I also enjoyed that time and place this book took place because to me it was a whole new experience that I would love to farther explore.

I will be looking forward to more works from this author in the future.

 

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Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Posted April 12, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 7 Comments

Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances LiardetWe Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
Series: Standalone
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 26, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Spanning the sweep of the twentieth century, We Must Be Brave explores the fierce love that we feel for our children and the power of that love to endure. Beyond distance, beyond time, beyond life itself.
"This stirring debut will work its way indelibly into your heart." --Georgia Hunter, author of We Were the Lucky Ones
One woman. One little girl. The war that changed everything.
December 1940. In the disorderly evacuation of Southampton, England, newly married Ellen Parr finds a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus. No one knows who little Pamela is.
Ellen professed not to want children with her older husband, and when she takes Pamela into her home and rapidly into her heart, she discovers that this is true: Ellen doesn't want children. She wants only Pamela. Three golden years pass as the Second World War rages on. Then one day Pamela is taken away, screaming. Ellen is no stranger to sorrow, but when she returns to the quiet village life she's long lived, she finds herself asking: In a world changed by war, is it fair to wish for an unchanged heart?
In the spirit of We Were the Lucky Ones and The Nightingale, here is a novel about courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, and the astonishing power of love.

December  1940 during a rushed evacuation of  Southampton, England, Ellen Parr finds a young child asleep on the back of the bus and no one knows who this child, Pamela is.

Ellen Parr has professed not to want any children with her older husband, Mr.Parr and she finds that she does not, the only one she wants is Pamela.  It’s a rocky start for the two of them, especially for a little girl who longs for her mother and does not know her father. But after three glorious years, Pamela is taken away, leaving behind a broken heart filled with sorrow.

This book. This book took me a while to get into, I will be honest here. It’s dense and long and had parts that I felt could have been edited, but once I started pushing myself through it I grew to enjoy it. Really enjoy it.

The writing was something to get used to, but as the story unfolded, we got to learn about Ellen through her timeline and her childhood and I think that made me appreciate her a little more and everything she went through to become a strong, resilient woman. This book had some really emotionally heartbreaking parts that brought me to near tears, especially centering around young Pamela and Ellen Parr. I loved how the author emphasized that love for a child can span countless decades, and that was evident with how Ellen felt for Pamela years after the two were forced apart.

I love the way the author crafted the characters and took time to allow us not only to enjoy them but also get to know them.

I didn’t particularly liked the way Ellen handled things when Pamela was leaving, it was a bit cruel given everything that they went through, but I grew to realize it was the only way at that time she thought was necessary.

I also felt that maybe their reunion at the end seemed like it could have come sooner than it did, but even so, no matter how long it took I felt like it was still emotional and tear-inducing.

I wish the author did not forget to mention all the letters that Ellen had written to Pamela over the years and maybe mentioned that they were given to Pamela?

Either way, this story was beautifully heartbreaking, and I really enjoyed the characters so much so that I grew attached to them to the point where the end was just absolutely sad. It was hard to let go and brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

Wonderful debut novel and I cannot wait to see what the author will have in store for us in the future.

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Guest Audio review: A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain, Lucy Rayner

Posted September 28, 2018 by Lily B in Audio, Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

Guest Audio review: A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain,  Lucy RaynerA Twist in Time by Julie McElwain
Narrator: Lucy Rayner
Length: 16 hours 54 minutes
Series: Kendra Donovan, #2
Published by Tantor Audio on April 4, 2017
Genres: Time-Travel
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan's attempts to return to the twenty-first century have failed, leaving her stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815. And her problems have just begun: in London, the Duke of Aldridge's nephew Alec-Kendra's confidante and lover-has come under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved up in a bizarre and brutal way. Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, and her past wasn't quite what she'd made it out to be. Nor is it entirely in the past-which becomes frighteningly clear when a crime lord emerges from London's seamy underbelly to threaten Alec. Joining forces with Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must navigate the treacherous nineteenth century while she picks through the strands of Lady Dover's life. As the noose tightens around Alec's neck, Kendra will do anything to save him, including following every twist and turn through London's glittering ballrooms, where deception is the norm-and any attempt to uncover the truth will get someone killed.

Following close on the heels of the first book, A Murder in Time’s adventures, A Twist in Time takes modern woman and tough FBI agent, Kendra Donovan to the bright lights and society of Regency London to solve a murder that hits close to home.

This is a wonderfully unique mash up of time travel and historical mystery with a dash of romance. Kendra is a 21st woman with excellent profiling skills and FBI training who inexplicably ends up in 19th century England. She’s fortunate enough to have landed in the Duke of Aldrige’s castle and that he is something of a Renaissance man who can handle her odd quirks from the start. Kendra becomes romantically entangled with his nephew the Marquis of Sutcliffe, friends with a Bow Street Runner and a lady with feminist leanings. She is torn between her sense of not belonging where women are still second class citizens and her skills make her an oddity and knowing that this is the first time she has ever been around people who like and yes, love her.

Kendra has to set all that aside when Alec, Lord Sutcliffe, gets accused of a brutal murder of his former mistress. The clues lead Kendra through the balls and soirees of London Society to the darker alleys of Cheapside. Lady Dover’s life held secrets and one of them was enough to make someone not only kill her, but mutilate her face. Kendra’s detection skills paired with the forensics and policing of that day along with her companions’ knowledge of Regency norm all come together to bring this enchanting whodunnit.

As with the first book, I was most taken with how a modern person gets along more than two hundred years in the past. It was fascinating to see her do police work when modern method and tech aren’t there to help and she is bucking an all-male system all the way.

Kendra has abandonment issues from her parents and issues because of things that happened in her own time so she struggles to accept Alec’s love and wishes that she be with him. I confess that I wanted to shake her after a while. I get it, but it really does all come down to her own fear and need to trust someone and little to do with anything in her own time waiting for her. Alec is being punished because her parents turned their backs on her. At least she is starting to realize this in this one. I’ll look forward to where this romance thread goes in future books.

Also, her ‘I am woman hear me roar’ bit of ‘I can take care of myself’ was driving me nuts. She goes racing into the London slums alone to prove to herself and others something when it’s just stupid not to take back up. Even in modern times, she would have a partner or back up. She’s also constantly ragging on the times even though some of it is her own preferences and prejudices rather than something was necessarily wrong (which yes, it gets old when she compares things to modern times and overlooks that it’s not some great Utopia in our day and age). I get it, a woman’s lot really sucked back then as did the class system, but she chooses to toss it all out rather than see that some things were actually good if not better). This is part of her modern arrogance that because she knows the future that she knows better- you’d think she would have learned after what happened in the last book. But, at the same time, I find that the struggles Kendra goes through are a wise move on the author’s part to show that adjusting to a time travel situation would never be easy. The author did her homework on the historical setting and social mores of Regency times and brings those out through Kendra’s eyes.

The narration by Lucy Rayner continues to have me on the fence. I love aspects of her work like her accepts and ability to vocalize genders and tone. But, she gets a sing-song pattern and I feel that her Kendra voice (which is the primary one) gets whiny or snippy which might be influencing some of my issues with Kendra. I don’t dislike her work, but I don’t love it, either and had to get used to it all over again when I started this book.

Still, it was another great installment in a series that I think historical murder mystery fans and time travel lovers would enjoy.

My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele Hutchison

Posted June 4, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele HutchisonAn American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele Hutchison
Series: standalone
Published by AmazonCrossing on May 1, 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 234
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The true story of a girl from the wilderness settlements of a burgeoning new America who became one of the most privileged figures of the Gilded Age.
Born to a pioneering family in Upstate New York in the late 1800s, Allene Tew was beautiful, impetuous, and frustrated by the confines of her small hometown. At eighteen, she met Tod Hostetter at a local dance, having no idea that the mercurial charmer she would impulsively wed was heir to one of the wealthiest families in America. But when he died twelve years later, Allene packed her bags for New York City. Never once did she look back.
From the vantage point of the American upper class, Allene embodied the tumultuous Gilded Age. Over the course of four more marriages, she weathered personal tragedies during World War I and the catastrophic financial reversals of the crash of 1929. From the castles and châteaus of Europe, she witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a princess. And from the hopes of a young girl from Jamestown, New York, Allene Tew would become the epitome of both a pursuer and survivor of the American Dream.

An American Princess tells the story of a woman named Allene Tew and how far she had come from being a young girl from Jamestown, what she had lived through in life and her ultimate demise.

The book definitely reads more like a nonfiction, biography, so the pace of the book did vary and we were hit with a ton of historical information based on the era that Allene had lived through. There were definitely some dry areas at the beginning and it took me a while to get into the book, but I enjoyed it when the book started to pick up and become more interesting once we got to the war bits.

Allene had lived through a lot, as far as her love life went. In this book, we learn a lot about Allene love life, her husbands, what they did, and what ultimately brought an end to that relationship. Allene was married about five times, 2 times because of her looks, 2 times because of her money and 1 time due to the fact that there was actual love.

As a whole I never really felt like we got to know Allene. This book was well written, probably very historically accurate, but very much about the love life of Allene and her husband more over just Allene. I wanted to know about the woman as a person and what she had done in life to become such a historical figure over just who she married, what her husband did, and why that ended.

Despite that, I felt for Allene when she lost both of her children in World War but for some reason I never felt like her character truly grieved over losing her offsprings, or at least it was not an impression I got from the book.

But goodness this woman went through a lot when it came to husbands and she had five of them, so her marriages in general bought her some happiness, some heartache, and a lot of money. She was even pegged as a gold digger of her time.

Overall, as my second nonfiction, ever… I did enjoy this. The writing was good. But, I wish it was a bit more.

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Review: The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

Posted April 20, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Review: The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna GoodmanThe Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
Series: standalone
Published by Harper Paperbacks on April 17, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.
In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.
Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.
Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

Trigger warning for rape

It’s 1950’s in Quebec and Maggie is the daughter of the local seed store owner. The French and the English just barely tolerate each other, the tensions are high. Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phenix, a poor french farmer from next door. When Maggie get’s pregnant at 15 years of age, her parents give up her baby Elodie for adoption so Maggie could get her life back on track.

Elodie is being raised in one of Quebec’s impoverished orphanage’s. When all the sudden the laws change, her orphanage is converted into a mental institution and hundred of orphans become trapped in that system, classified as mentally ill.

Years later, Maggie cannot stop thinking about Elodie, and hopes to find her daughter again.

This book follows both Maggie and Elodie and how they grow as people in the life they have been thrown in. This book also explores The Duplessis Orphans who were the children that were victimized and falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of Quebec, Canada mid 20th Century. It wasn’t easy to read at times, the beginning of the book especially was a bit rough for me, because it involves rape of Maggie as a teenager by an adult and it was very uncomfortable.

I thought the writing in this book was well done, the author did a fantastic telling both Maggie and Elodie’s stories, even if Elodie’s part was also difficult to read at times, you just cannot help but sympathize with the characters.

This topic was new to me, I did not know much about Canadian history prior to this book, nor about the animosity between the people. I found this whole topic fascinating and very heartbreaking, especially with what happened to these orphans.

There was a bit of a struggle with this book at times based on the misogyny of the male characters and how they kept assuming that children will make a bad marriage better. When Maggie first get’s married, I wanted to throttle her husband for disregarding Maggie’s dream and forcing her into producing babies. Thought given the time frame, it isn’t all that surprising, does not make it any less annoying.

The ending did feel like it wrapped up kind of weird and convenient, I didn’t expect it to be as neat but it was really touching.

Overall, the writing I found really good. The storytelling flowed. I did find myself invested in the characters and their storylines. I did enjoy it and looking forward to more from this author in the future.

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Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

Posted April 14, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 4 Comments

Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne PerryTwenty-One Days by Anne Perry
Series: Daniel Pitt, #1
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10, 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

In this first book in a new series, Thomas Pitt's son Daniel races to save his client from execution, setting him against London's Special Police Branch.
It's 1910, and Daniel Pitt is a reluctant lawyer who would prefer to follow in the footsteps of his detective father. When the biographer Russell Graves, who Daniel is helping defend, is sentenced to execution for the murder of his wife, Daniel's Pitt-family investigative instincts kick in, and he sets out to find the real killer. With only twenty-one days before Graves is to be executed, Daniel learns that Graves is writing a biography of Victor Narraway, the former head of Special Branch and a close friend of the Pitts. And the stories don't shed a positive light. Is it possible someone is framing Graves to keep him from writing the biography--maybe even someone Daniel knows in Special Branch?
The only answer, it seems, lies in the dead woman's corpse. And so, with the help of some eccentric new acquaintances who don't mind bending the rules, Daniel delves into an underground world of dead bodies and double lives, unearthing scores of lies and conspiracies. As he struggles to balance his duty to the law with his duty to his family, the equal forces of justice and loyalty pull this lawyer-turned-detective in more directions than he imagined possible. And amidst it all, his client's twenty-one days are ticking away.

I love that the author is tackling the next generation with this first book in the Daniel Pitt series. I adored the long running series set in the late Victorian era about Daniel’s parents. This one is during the Edwardian Era and begins perhaps a decade after the last released Thomas and Charlotte Pitt book.

Daniel is fresh out of university with a law degree and his father helps get him in with a prestigious London law firm. Now he must prove himself to his new employer and to his father with his first courtroom case- a big one, since his client is in the dock for murder. No sooner than he finishes this trial than he is put on an even bigger one.

I loved getting to know this adult Daniel who has the best of both his parents in him and lots of promise. He’s vulnerable and also confident, but he has definitely been tossed into the deep end with these cases. I enjoyed getting to know the situation and the surrounding cast of characters.

The author uses her gift for historical setting, social issues of the day and a profound gift for writing complex characters to tell a steadily paced, twisting mystery. Daniel uncovers the clues that will either hang his detestable client or free him, but things get complicated fast leading close to home. The case brings out domestic abuse, the plight of people with disabilities, the issues of responsible writing when it comes to tell-alls, illegitimacy, women’s equality, and so much more. The author teases out these social issues as part of the plot without getting pedantic.

As usual, the mystery is not as easy as it looks from the beginning and the moral dilemma that comes with it is just as challenging for Daniel. The title refers to the fact that he has twenty-one days from the time his client is charged with murder and the hanging date. I started to get an inkling when the clues popped up, but that just made things more knotty instead of easier. I enjoyed how the mystery tied this first of Daniel’s cases back to the earlier series so his parents make an appearance, but also established itself in its own right.

I hope the new cast of characters will end up being regulars because I loved the Blackwoods with their shades of gray quirkiness, Daniel’s kind landlady, Miriam the female forensics scientist who is the daughter of Daniel’s boss.

So yes, this first in the new spin-off series was great. Love this peek at the Edwardian Era, a new main character, and a great twisting mystery plot. While I think a reader could get by starting with this book, it does have strong ties to the earlier Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series- and they are fabulous so why miss them. Definitely a recommend for historical mystery lovers.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: Where The Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

Posted March 1, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 13 Comments

Review: Where The Wild Cherries Grow by Laura MadeleineWhere the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine
Series: standalone
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 13th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .
In 1919, the cold sweep of the Norfolk fens only holds for Emeline Vane memories of her family, all killed in the war. Whispers in the village say she’s lost her mind as well as her family - and in a moment's madness she boards a train to France and runs from it all.
She keeps running until she reaches a tiny fishing village so far from home it might as well be the end of the world. Transfixed by the endless Mediterranean, Emeline is taken in by Maman and her nineteen-year-old son, and there she is offered a glimpse of a life so different to the one she used to know: golden-green olive oil drizzled over roasted tomatoes, mouth-wateringly smoky red spices, and hot, caramel sweetness.
But it's not just the intense, rich flavours that draw her to the village, and soon a forbidden love affair begins. One that is threatened by the whispers from home that blow in on the winds from the mountains . . .

In 1919 Emeline Vane has lost most of her family to war and her mother to the flu. When her uncle decides the fate of her house, her youngest brother and her, for her, Emmeline unable to cope with it decides to run away.

Now in 1969 Timothy Vane (her youngest brother) is dying and his descendants want to sell the abandoned family home to a developer. Bill Perch a local young solicitor in training is tasked with finding Emeline Vane or find proof that the great aunt was as crazy as they were said to believe.

This was a beautiful, poignant story of self discovery in the face of self perseverance, family and romance, brimming with rich vivid detail of food and French landscape.

I loved the book, I loved the strong willed, driven characters. I loved the setting and the descriptions made me feel like I was in France watching the tale unfold. I felt so wrapped up and invested in Emeline story and how she overcame everything, that I found it difficult to part with.

I found that the story was never dull as we follow the journey of both Bill and Emeline and the pages flew rather quickly. Thought that being said, I did find Emeline story much more richer not only in the setting that the author enveloped us in but also in quality. The love story between her and the boy that discovers her grows slowly despite the stakes that seemed to rise against them.

The ending did feel a little abrupt to me. Bill’s story was left a little open ended, but provided a world of possibilities for the young solicitor. Emeline’s ending thought a happy one, also was a bit sad.

Overall, this was a great book. It didn’t feel long, it didn’t drag and the author was a master at creating a rich atmosphere with vivid details of the landscape and the food described in the book. I adored both the characters and their story and am looking forward to more from this author.

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Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Posted February 23, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 9 Comments

Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona GreyLetters to the Lost by Iona Grey
Series: standalone
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on May 26th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars
Heat:two-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London…Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.
… He promised to love her foreverSeventy years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan's words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?
Now forever is finally running out.

Step back into 1943, into a world during World War 2. Set against the backdrop of London, Letter’s to the Lost is a love story that transcends time, that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

He was an American bomber pilot, whose chance of survival was only one in five. She was newly married. They met by chance, and didn’t mean to fall in love, especially with everything stacked against them.

This story was lovely, so beautiful, emotional and quiet a bit heart breaking.

We follow two time lines. In our main time line, we follow Stella, who is a young woman during World War 2 that comes from the poor school so all she really wants is a family and a roof over her head. She marries Charles the preacher and her marriage is off to a rough start right from the beginning. Stella does not seem to understand why Charles treats her more like a housekeeper instead of a wife, with no physical relationship between them, including during the wedding night.

When her husband volunteers to be a Chaplin during the war, Stella is further confused why her new husband found volunteering and leaving her behind so easily. Plus his friend Peter seems to be a very big influence in Charles’ life.

She meets Dan, an American bomber pilot during his brief break while searching for her bracelet, that she happened to lose during an unfortunate encounter. The attraction is instant, but it takes a bit for them together. It started with a bracelet, which led to letters, to a sort of friendship that morphed into a beautiful but heartbreaking relationship.

I was glued to the pages wanting to know what happened between them and the fate that awaited them in the end.

I do love how the author explored the relationships during this time period, as well as some stereotypes. Stella is pretty shy, quiet, kind of meek. She just wants a family and a home life as oppose to other women during this time that took on much larger roles and filled the shoes of men when they went off to war. So in that respect, that take on her character growth and how she progressed on events that surrounded her was really interesting.

The second couple we follow is Jess and Will. Jess escapes from an abusive relationship and stumbles into an old abandoned house running away from her boyfriend with nothing but 50 pounds in her pocket. While squatting in the old house that seems to be trapped in time, she finds a letter delivered by the postman entitled, Urgant, please forward if possible. Unable to help herself, Jess opens the letter and finds herself invested in its author and finding what happened between Stella and Dan. Through her, we get to see Dan’s side of the letters, as she reads them. With the help of Will, a man who she meets while he is trying to find the owner of the house – together the two investigate Dan and Stella’s story while slowly growing attracted to one another.

I have to say, I adored this book so much. The writing was so wonderful, Stella and Dan were both wonderful. I don’t usually like books with affairs, but once you get the whole picture between Charles and Stella and everything that happens, the pieces fall together and it makes Stella’s and Dan’s story all that much more heartbreaking – especially during this time when Stella felt she had very little rights.

I found Jess’ and Will’s story good enough. They weren’t the main focus of the book and I felt if it wasn’t for the way the book was structured, I would have been fine with Stella’s and Dan’s story alone, seeing as how that was the main focus and my favorite part. The characters were much more fleshed out and I found myself emotionally attached to the two of them. Also, I found parts with Jess and Will a bit slow moving.

I don’t know if I can say that this story has a completely happy ending, but I did like the way things wrapped up, despite a few tears shed at the end of the heartbreak and pain the two had suffered and the unfairness in all of it.

I highly recommend this book to all Historical Fiction readers who love a good story set in two different times and enjoy a timeless romance.

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Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Posted February 15, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel CleetonNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 394
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...
Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...
Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Elisa Perez has always dreamt of returning to Cuba after the revolution. Her and many others who have left for exile in America were waiting for the day that Castro would no longer have control of their beautiful country so they could make their way home. The day has finally arrived, but Elisa Perez never had the chance to witness it.

Finally making it onto Cuban soil after many years of her grandmother’s stories, Marisol Ferrera is both excited and saddened that she does not get to experience Cuba with her grandmother as Elisa passed away recently. But she wants to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish and that is to spread her ashes in Cuba. One problem, Elisa never told Marisol where she wants her ashes spread and as Marisol debates where would be the best place to lay her grandmother to rest, she comes to discover a lot of hidden family secrets since the revolution.

Oh gosh, this book. My first dive into this authors work and I do not regret it. This. Was. Fantastic. Slow moving at first yes, this book took a bit to get into, but once I was fully invested, I absolutely adored it!

This is told in two different time lines. We get to see how Marisol fairs in modern day Cuba, uncovering secrets about her grandmother that she was never told as well as possibly falling in love. Plus, we get to experience Cuba in the 1958 and how the revolution happened as well as Elisa Perez beautifully poignant story.

I loved Elisa’s story, it was beautiful and heartbreaking and I found myself more invested in her romance over Marisols. As Elisa accidentally falls in love with a revolutionary called Pablo, her family is sitting pretty, but scared of what will happen to their country. Coming from a wealthy family, Elisa is a daughter of a sugar baron and her father a huge supporter of Batista. When Batista escapes Cuba after losing the war to the revolutionaries, Elisa’s world is completely shaken and thrown upside down.

The twist in the end totally shattered my heart. I felt that it was coming as everything started to unravel, but I still felt unprepared. Cleeton is such a fantastic writer and storyteller and does such a wonderful job at weaving Cuban history into the storyline. I felt like I learned a bit more about Cuba and what the country was before the revolution. I also felt sad that it isn’t what it use to be after years under Castro’s rule.

The way Cleeton writes about the passion Cuban’s feel for their country in this book is both overwhelming and emotional as evident in the current timeline with Marisol and Luis. Luis is Ana’s grandson. Ana is Elisa’s best friend who stayed in Cuba despite the revolution and it is through their families hardships and passion due we witness the struggle and perseverance of families in Cuba.

There isn’t much negatives about this book. The slow pace aside at points, I do feel like the book could have been shortened just a tad bit at some spots. Also, I wasn’t sure how I felt about such a clean ending with Luis and Marisol, it just felt a tad bit too convenient for me to be believable.

Overall though, this was a great historical fiction with a mix of romance. The story that was told was interesting and the romance between Elisa and Pablo was just so heartbreaking.

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Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Posted February 14, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan MeissnerAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

Pauline and Thomas Bright drop everything behind Quakertown when they make the move to Philadelphia in 1918 because the city is the heart of new beginnings and promises.

Thomas has been asked by his uncle to come help him at the funeral home, because his uncle is getting old and does not have any children of his own, with Thomas being his favorite.

Now Pauline and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie and Willa have a chance at a better life as they navigate their ways around the new series and adapt to life in a funeral home. But then the ‘Spanish’ flu sweeps across the globe and as Pauline and the girls watch loved ones die around them, they take in a baby that had been orphaned by the disease and he becomes the source of their hope.

This was a story told in two parts. The first part deals with Pauline and her three girls as they move into the funeral home and how there is just so much hope in that move. Hope for a better life for herself and for her daughters, better schooling. That hope ends up being briefly crushed when Thomas, the father, get’s called by draft into serving at war and Pauline stays at the funeral home with the children as the flu sweeps across Philadelphia, claiming many lives.

It was interesting and engrossing following their lives in the funeral home as well as learning more about the events during this time, not matter how difficult it may have been. The flu ended up claiming a lot of lives of people they knew and the war changed the lives closest to them.

It is a story of family, hardships, lost, love and triumphs with the second half, a strong focus on the years following the events that drastically changed their lives.

I adored following the sister’s chapters separately because I adored how the author handled each of their stories, and how each sister grew with the events affecting their lives. It was wonderful, the writing was amazing. There is always something about Meissner’s writing that simply enthralls me and has me craving for more. I never wanted the book to come to an end. I liked the setting, I liked learning a bit about what happened in the American history during that time. The amount of death and from a funeral homes perspective was both cringe worthy and fascinating at the same time.

The characters were well fleshed out, each sister standing out on her own within their own chapter. Each sister affected not only by the flu, the death, but also by the war and the people around them.

The twist in the end that Meissner delivers about how their actions have also influenced others had been both brilliant and heartbreaking.

The story was beautiful and well told, though at times not easy to read just proves how well the author can get you so invested in the characters and the feelings that it something that stayed with me long after I was done with the pages.

I adore this author and cannot wait to see what she has to tell us next.

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