Tag Archives: historical fiction

August Book Club Pick — Surviving Savannah

2 Aug

How is it August already! My teacher friends are already back at work and will welcome students tomorrow! Is your summer over? Whether you or your kids are back at school or like me you are on a perpetual vacay (retired life, you know 😉 ), I have a book for you. Join my book club in reading Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan. Check out all the details below.

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaskitogether, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

Patti Callahan (who also writes as Patti Callahan Henry) is a New York Times bestselling author. Patti was a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, has been an Indie Next Pick, twice an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her work has also been included in short story collections, anthologies, magazines, and blogs. Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina, with her husband. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR: website | facebook | twitter | instagram

Top 10 Tuesday — Island Reading

27 Jul

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday theme is books to read on a deserted island. Since it’s mid-summer and you may still need a getaway that doesn’t involve fending off island predators and/or those stranded with you 😉 , I am going another direction and listing books set on islands, real and fictional. There’s women’s fiction, history, romance, suspense, and mystery included, so there should be something for every reading taste. And don’t those covers give you the necessary island vibe!

For more island fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Island Reads

The Art of Rivers by Janet Ferguson

As The Tide Comes In by Cindy Woodsmall

As The Light Fades by Catherine West

Hidden Currents by Christy Barritt

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

On A Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Phoebe’s Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Still Waters by Lindsey Brackett

Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble

To Have And To Hold by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller

Northshire Heritage Series Blog Tour + Giveaway!

26 Jul

Northshire Heritage JustRead Blog Tour
Welcome to the Blog Tour for Northshire Heritage series by JP Robinson, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOKS

In the Shadow of Your WingsTitle: In the Shadow of Your Wings
Series: Northshire Heritage #1
Author: JP Robinson
Publisher: Logos Publications, LLC
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

The shadow of the Great War looms over Europe, affecting everyone in its path.

Leila Durand, an elite German spy charged with infiltrating the home of British icon Thomas Steele, sees the war as a chance to move beyond the pain of her shattered past. But everything changes when she falls in love with Thomas’s son, Malcolm. Is there a way to reconcile her love for Germany and her love for the enemy?

Thomas Steele sees the war as an opportunity for his profligate son, Malcolm, to find a purpose greater than himself. But when Malcolm rebels, it falls to Thomas to make tough decisions.

The war’s reach extends to the heart. Eleanor Thompson finds her faith is pushed to the breaking point when her husband disappears on the battlefront and her daughter is killed in a German air raid. Where is God in the midst of her pain? In the Shadow of Your Wings presents inescapable truth that resonates across the past century. Then as now, the struggle for faith is real. Then as now, there is a refuge for all who will come beneath the shadow of God’s wings.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub

EXCERPT

Leila slipped her shoes back on, held her breath to still her racing heart, then plastered  on a sedate smile. “Oh, there you are darling!” She minced toward him, eyes wide. “So, did you  conquer the old dragon?” 

He caught sight of her and paused, standing before the three paintings of his ancestors.  His face was worn, creased by lines that hadn’t been there only a few minutes earlier. Something  was wrong. Terribly wrong.  

“Malcolm?” Her voice quavered. “Malcolm, what is it?” His eyes had never been so dull.  Whatever had happened in that room seemed to have sucked the life out of his blood. 

“We… we have to leave, Leila. Now.” 

Her blood ran cold. “He’s done it, hasn’t he? He’s disinherited you.” 

Malcolm nodded, averting his eyes. “He’s kicked me out of my home.” 

“It’s my fault.” Leila touched his chest as guilt washed over her. “Malcolm, I’m to blame.  Were it not for me…” 

He stepped closer and cupped her cheek with his hand. 

“No, Leila.” His blue eyes roamed over her face. “I made my choice. I love you.” 

Tears stung the back of her eyelids and she looked away. What have I done? If he only  knew the truth… 

“You don’t understand.” 

“Shh…” He pressed her to him and she listened to the rhythm of his heart. She had been  sent to use him, not fall in love with him. But she did love him. And he loved her enough to walk  away from his father and all that he knew—for her. 

She took his hand. “Leave me Malcolm. Only your father knows about our marriage. Tell  him you’re sorry and you’ve made a mistake. Tell him—” 

He crushed her lips against his own. For a long moment, he just held her, ignoring the  tears that slipped down her cheeks. At length, he pulled away. “That’s a no, in case you were  wondering.” A faint smile touched his lips as he fingered a few strands of her blonde hair. 

She hesitated, her heart splitting with guilt and concern. “I have a flat in London,” she  said. “We’ll go there and sort out what we’ll do next.” 

In the Midst of the FlamesTitle: In the Midst of the Flames
Series: Northshire Heritage #2
Author: JP Robinson
Publisher: Logos Publications, LLC
Release Date: November 8, 2019
Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

Divided by a lie. Haunted by the past. Bonded by their love.

As the fires of the Great War rage across the European continent, the Steele family is caught in the midst of the inferno.

Estranged from his wife Malcolm wonders if he can ever find forgiveness for his betrayal as he begins the long journey home.

Leila desperately searches for a way to escape her past life as a spy—and the German agent who has been sent to kill her—as she struggles to prove her innocence.

Determined to save his family, Thomas risks everything in a high-stakes political gamble, bringing Britain to the brink of obliteration, as spymaster Robert Hughes plots his downfall.

Will everything be reduced to ashes?Or does God still walk with those who, through faith, step out into the midst of the flames?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub

EXCERPT

Malcolm rolled onto his back, folded his hands behind his head, and stared up at the  brothel’s ceiling. So, Leila, I’ve kept my word.

His mind flitted to the last time he had seen his wife. After hearing about the severity of his  wounds, Leila had travelled with his father, Thomas Steele, to visit him at a hospital at Etaples.  The reunion had been anything but happy. 

Malcom’s lips curled back in a sneer. At that fateful encounter, Leila had revealed that she  was a former German spy, recruited by Abteilung 3B to elicit secrets from the son of Sir Thomas  Steele. As a personal friend to both the Prime Minister of England and the head of British  Intelligence, Thomas was too tempting a target for Germany to ignore.  

And I was the gullible errand boy.  

He slammed his eyelids shut. Eight months after he had learned the truth, he was still unsure  of what hurt worse—the fact that he had just been a necessary tool to get to Thomas, or the fact  that Leila had deceived him at all.  

With a groan, Malcolm buried his face in his sweaty palms. After learning of their marriage,  Thomas had banished the pair from his home at Northshire. Too late, Malcolm had discovered  a duplicitous side to his golden-haired beauty. Furious at her betrayal, he had fled to the Front  where the battles were physical and not of the heart.  

Leila betrayed me. She deserves no better.  

Why then did he feel sick with shame? 

In the Dead of NightTitle: In the Dead of Night
Series: Northshire Heritage #3
Author: JP Robinson
Publisher: Logos Publications, LLC
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

The smallest flame can conquer the darkest night

Darkness gathers in the final days of the Great War as the Germans plot to unleash a weapon that will plunge the Allied world into obscurity.

For the Steele family, the stakes have never been higher.

Leila is forced back into the shadows when the leader of a German spy ring kidnaps her child, jeopardizing Europe’s fragile bid for peace.

Meanwhile, Malcolm fights to keep Northshire Estate as his father stands trial for treason against the British empire.

Confronted with overwhelming circumstances from their past, the Steeles must rely on their grit and faith to conquer the night.

But will it be enough?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | BookBub

EXCERPT

Bending down, Leila scooped her son into a protective embrace and kissed the fuzz on top  of his head. His tufts of hair were a mixture of her own mane of gold and Malcolm’s shaggy  brown, but his eyes were the same shade of green as her own.  

He’s perfect, Malcolm. I want you to see him. To hold him. To love him as I love him. 

Leila let out a deep sigh. “Did I make a mistake, Jenny? Am I wrong to love Malcolm as I  do?” Life was complicated. God had forgiven her past, but it seemed that those made in His  image would not. One mistake had spawned a litany of consequences that she couldn’t outrun  no matter how hard she tried. 

Leila rubbed her cheek against the soft top of her son’s head, savoring the fragrant mixture  of life, hope, and new beginnings. She would not—could not—allow him to pay for her sins.  Which had led her to this point. 

“Against all odds, I became a mother. Against all odds, I’ll ensure my son has a future.” “What will you do?” Jenny took a step back as though she feared the next words that would  leave her mistress’s lips. 

Lifting her chin, Leila met her gaze. “Change everything.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JP Robinson

JP Robinson is an award-winning author of historical/political suspense, a full-time minister, and the president of Lancaster Christian Writers Association. With a tagline of “Unforgettable drama, Undeniable Truth, ” JP’s high-adrenaline novels often mesh real-world marriage and parenting scenarios with vivid fiction. His books have been praised by industry leaders such as Publishers Weekly.

JP often speaks to writers and church groups within the United States and internationally. He has been happily married for over fifteen years to his high school sweetheart.

CONNECT WITH JP: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a Grand Prize of a signed complete set of the Northshire Heritage series (all three books)

PLUS (5) additional winners of digital copies of the complete Northshire Heritage set (PDFs)!

Northshire Heritage JustRead Blog Tour Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight July 26, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on August 2, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Print copy US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Top 10 Tuesday — Who, What, Where, When, How, And Why

13 Jul

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday’s challenge is book titles that ask a question. I cheated a bit and looked at other bloggers’ posts for inspiration. That’s how I came up with the who, what, where, when, how, and why theme. 2 books each with titles featuring those question prompts equals an even dozen! There are a variety of genres — hope you find one to love!

For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Who, What, Where, When, How, And Why Book Titles

The Boy Who Danced with Rabbits by J. R. Collins

Who Sang The First Song? by Ellie Holcomb

What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

What Momma Left Behind by Cindy K. Sproles

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Where The Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

When Night Comes by Dan Walsh

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

How The Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

How Sweet The Sound by Amy K. Sorrells

Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

What I’m Reading Wednesday — Biographical Novels

7 Jul

This summer I am choosing to read biographical novels, specifically those that feature women as the main character. So far I have read 4 — The Engineer’s Wife, Code Name Helene, The Queen of Paris, and Circling The Sun. All the women, well-known or obscure, made a big difference in their world.

Why read biographical novels?

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a big fan of story. In the realm of biographical novels, I love to see how the author fleshes out the unknown aspects of a person’s life — conversations, thoughts, motivations. This was especially true in The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood. The author took some liberties with the main character’s life and loves, but all in all I really enjoyed living in the 1800s through the eyes of a woman who wanted more than society dictated for her.

I also love how a novelist can add drama, suspense, and romance. Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon was a page-turner. Nancy Wake was really larger than life and Lawhon captures her well. Coco Chanel was the focus of The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen, and while I didn’t like her very much, Ewen’s portrayal of the fashion icon rang true.

Speaking of not liking the main character, that seems to be a pitfall for biographical novels. I appreciate the authors including all the warts. I don’t think the novels would have the same level of authenticity without them. I read The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki some years ago, and knew that Peggy Shippen Arnold, the wife of the infamous Benedict Arnold, would not be a sympathetic character. It’s okay not to like the main character. Maybe it’s more fun that way! 😉

I have at least two more books on my biographical novel TBR list which should finish out my summer reading challenge — Fast Girls by Elise Hooper, a novel of three American women who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and The Only Woman in The Room by Marie Benedict, a novel of Heddy Lamar, movie star and scientist. I can’t wait to dig into these fascinating lives.

Do you like to read biographical novels?

Top 10 Tuesday — Reasons to Love Fiction

6 Jul

While I say I am an eclectic reader (I read almost all genres), I do limit myself to fiction. Why? I love a good story. And with my advanced years 😉 I need to make sure I read books I enjoy. It’s like eating dessert first! Today’s Top 10 Tuesday prompt is Why I Love Reading — I hope you like my reasons and the books that go along with them.

For more Top 10 Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Why I Love Reading Fiction

I love a good story.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

Stories That Bind Us By Susie Finkbeiner

I love history.

The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

I want to learn about different cultures.

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Fiction makes me more empathetic.

Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

Moments We Forget by Beth K. Vogt

I love a good mystery.

Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

Prince Edward’s Warrant by Mel Starr

Why do you love reading?

Book Review: Circling The Sun

5 Jul

In my summer reading quest to read biographical novels featuring interesting women, I chose Circling The Sun by Paula McClain. I read Beryl Markham‘s memoir, West with The Night years ago, so I knew a bit about the life of the amazing woman who was the first ever (male or female) to fly solo across the Atlantic to North America. I wish I had stuck with this version of Markham. 😉 Read my thoughts below.

This powerful novel transports readers to the breathtaking world of Out of Africa — 1920s Kenya — and reveals the extraordinary adventures of Beryl Markham, a woman before her time. Brought to Kenya from England by pioneering parents dreaming of a new life on an African farm, Beryl is raised unconventionally, developing a fierce will and a love of all things wild. But after everything she knows and trusts dissolves, headstrong young Beryl is flung into a string of disastrous relationships, then becomes caught up in a passionate love triangle with the irresistible safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and the writer Baroness Karen Blixen. Brave and audacious and contradictory, Beryl will risk everything to have Denys’s love, but it’s ultimately her own heart she must conquer to embrace her true calling and her destiny: to fly.

Paula McLain is the author of the the New York Times bestselling novels The Paris Wife, Circling the Sun, and Love and Ruin. Now she introduces When the Stars Go Dark, an atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense. McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress –before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and is the author of two collections of poetry, a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and the debut novel, A Ticket to Ride. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, O: the Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Huffington Post, the Guardian and elsewhere. She lives with her family in Cleveland.

My Impressions:

Let me first begin by saying that Paula McClain is a very talented author. Her diligence in research and her ability to set the reader in a different time and place is showcased in Circling The Sun. Kenya of the early 20th century came alive to me. And I felt that I knew and understood the characters well. I just didn’t like them very much. 😉 That’s not the fault of McClain — this is a biographical novel, after all, and the warts are very much in evidence. Beryl Markham was an amazingly independent and progressive woman for her time, yet she continually makes the same mistakes in her relationships with men. Some of that can be chalked up to her hands-off upbringing and her parents’ negligence, but sometimes we just need to learn from our mistakes. Colonial Kenya seemed to be a place for those who bucked the norms of the day or the misfits who just didn’t fit in their home societies. The portrayal is fascinating. So I guess I shouldn’t have really expected a lot of high ground from the people who populated Markham’s life. Much of the novel features her early life and loves; less focus is put on her flying acommplishments. While I thought the book was very well-written, I’d recommend reading Markham’s memoir West with The Night if you only have a limited time to devote to the subject. It may be a little more biased, but I liked Markham more in it. (Please note: this is a general market novel — adult language and situations.)

Audience: adults.

(I downloaded the audiobook from my local library through Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — Freedom’s Ring

2 Jul

Happy Independence Day! This week’s first line comes from Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli. I thought a time-slip novel with an historical setting in 1770 was fitting for this weekend’s post. This novel has been on my TBR shelf for awhile. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know why I should move it to the top!

Here’s the first line:

Death’s threshold overwhelmed me in a swell of instant silence and intense heat.

Boston, 2015
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated―plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.

Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Her latest dual timeline novel, The Orchard House, is inspired by the lesser-known events in Louisa May Alcott’s life. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Heidi online at her website (heidichiavaroli.com) or on either of these social media platforms:

Facebook.com/HeidiChiavaroliAuthor
https://www.instagram.com/heidichiavaroli/

Book Review — The Queen of Paris

1 Jul

This summer I am on a biographical novel reading kick. In my search for books with interesting women as the main character I came across The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen. I had read several of Ewen’s early novels and loved them, so I decided to give the book about fashion icon, Coco Chanel, a chance. I liked the book, but hated the character! LOL! See my thoughts below.

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style — the iconic little black dress — and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII — as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.

Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.

While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel — a woman made of sparkling granite — will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?

After practicing law for many years in Houston, Texas, Pamela Binnings Ewen exchanged her partnership in the law firm of BakerBotts, L.L.P. for writing. She lives near New Orleans, Louisiana. Her latest book, released in April 2020, The Queen of Paris, a novel on Coco Chanel, received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly and was ranked No. 1 in Hot New Spring Releases in historical fiction by Amazon Kindle. This is the explosive story of Chanel’s newly revealed secret life during the Nazi occupation of Paris in WWII.

Pamela is also the author of The Moon in the Mango Tree, awarded the 2012 Eudora Welty Memorial Award by the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a trilogy of novels on young women lawyers in New Orleans in the 1970’s — including Dancing on Glass, Chasing the Wind, and An Accidental Life. She also authored the Secret of the Shroud, and a non-fiction book, Faith on Trial, both now in second editions.

While practicing law Pamela served on the board of directors of Inprint, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting the literary arts in Houston, Texas, as well as on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement in Houston. After retiring and moving to the New Orleans area, Pamela served on the board of directors of the New Orleans Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, The Tennessee Williams Festival, and as President of The Northshore Literary Society. In 2009 Pamela received the St. Tammany Parish President’s Arts Award as Literary Artist of the Year. Recently, Pamela was recognized by Marquis Who’s Who for Excellence in Law and Literature.

Pamela is the latest writer to emerge from a Louisiana Family recognized for its statistically improbable number of writers. Cousin, James Lee Burke, (the Dave Robichaux books) and a winner of the Edgar Award, wrote about the common ancestral grandfathers in his Civil War novel White Dove at Morning. Among other authors in the family are Andre Dubus II (The Bedroom), Andre Dubus III, The House of Sand and Fog) Elizabeth Nell Dubus (the Cajun trilogy), and Alafair Burke (the Samantha Kincaid mystery series).

My Impressions:

The Queen of Paris is a well-written biographical novel featuring the life of Coco Chanel. Told in flashbacks in Coco’s own voice and a third person narrative during WWII, it reveals the very interesting personality of the fashion icon. Don’t expect a flattering or even sympathetic handling of the main character though. Pamela Binnings Ewen portrays Coco with warts and all — and there are a lot of warts! Coco is shown to be a shrewd businesswoman determined to preserve her brand and her fortune. She is both savvy and naive, which seems at odds, but just adds to the complex and infuriating woman who was Coco. The flashbacks serve to give the reader background on her early life, as well as showing how Coco’s personality evolved. She was a woman of many contradictions — selfish, yet loyal, self-serving, yet sacrificing. I wavered between being sympathetic to what she endured and being disgusted at how she saved her livelihood. Coco has long been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, and Ewen explores that. The result of this well-researched book is what feels like a balanced and accurate portrayal. Paris during Nazi occupation is depicted well, though Coco’s view is certainly different than many of her countrymen.

Did I like The Queen of Paris? Very much. Did I like the main character? Not at all! I think that is the strength of the novel. Ewen created a book that kept the pages turning even though the reader can’t help but hope the main character gets her comeuppance. 😉 Did Coco? You’ll have to read the book to find out. (Please note: this novel was written for the general market. There are adult situations described.)

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

If You Liked . . . When Twilight Breaks

30 Jun

My book club unanimously approved of When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin. Sundin is one of our favorite authors, and she hit it out of the park with this novel. There was so much to talk about — the historical aspects of the book, the parallels with today’s world, and of course the lovely characters. 🙂 If you liked this book too, I have a few more recommendations for you.

Woman Doing A Man’s Job

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

Biographical Fiction of Real Life Journalist, Spy, And Resistance Fighter

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

In 1936 Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène follows Nancy’s transformation from journalist into one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But with power comes notoriety, and no matter how careful Nancy is to protect her identity, the risk of exposure is great — for herself and for those she loves.

Nazi Sympathizer

The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style — the iconic little black dress — and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII — as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.

Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.

While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel — a woman made of sparkling granite — will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?

Historical Parallels for Today

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and As Bright as Heaven comes a novel about a German American teenager whose life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp during World War II.
 
In 1943, Elise Sontag is a typical American teenager from Iowa — aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
 
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
 
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
 
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.