REVIEW & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Today is the day for my review of The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan! Be sure to enter the HFVBT giveaway at the end of this post, and check out yesterday’s interview with the author herself.

Author interview: Rachel McMillan for The London Restoration

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Review

With painstakingly researched detail, The London Restoration spins a story of romance and reconciliation. A twofold love story is exquisitely told, initially through smartly placed flashback sequences and an ongoing one as Brent and Diana confront the changes a world war has wrought in the architecture of their relationship. This is a romance of two imperfect people whose roles in the war efforts have left scars both mental and physical, whose friendships have flourished and complicated the present with new loyalties, and whose amplified insecurities and secrets propel them to work toward restoration with patience and trust. Also, tea. Lots of tea.

I love how Brent and Diana both choose to make selfless sacrifices for one another while still not fully understanding the depth of each other’s time during the war. The secrets Diana keeps, under obligation to both friendship and government order, are for the betterment of the nation, yet are driven by her love for Brent and his well being. Brent, too, makes choices out of his motivation to protect Diana, but he steals the heart of the reader when he goes a step further and acknowledges Diana’s own strength and assertiveness. I think I really fell for him as a reader in the flashback scene when he ships off to war and has a delightful conversation with Di, showing how he truly knows her and wants her to feel comfortable in her own skin. Even as they try to restore their relationship in the present, this knowing and connection is threaded through their new maturity and colors their hesitant connection.

Author Rachel McMillan’s forte is historical romance! Her signature wit and authentic character development are ever present, as are her penchant for portraying deep friendships and a love for classical music. The romance sparks with both physical and intellectual attraction, and the London setting comes to life with its winding streets, WWII aftermath, and historical architecture. Readers will turn the final page with poignant satisfaction, a new love for London (and its churches), and a special place in their hearts for two wonderfully imperfect new (fictional) friends, the Somervilles.

After reading The London Restoration and making a TON of highlights and notes, I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version for a “reread” (Thanks, NetGalley!). I liked the accents and pronunciations the narrator employed, as well as her easy to listen to voice. Sometimes, though, the sentence structure came across as a little hesitant. This is a narration issue, not reflective of the smart dialogue and cadence of the writing. I would recommend reading a print or ebook version first, then listening to the audio for a more immersive “English” experience.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

Author Interview & Blog Tour: “The London Restoration” by Rachel McMillan

Welcome to my first stop on the HFVBT Blog Tour for Rachel McMillan’s new historical romance novel, The London Restoration! Today I’m featuring a review with the gracious Rachel McMillan and all the bookish info. Check back tomorrow for my review!!!

About the Book

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook

Genre: Historical Fiction

From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.

Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to hang out and talk about your new book — and for sharing some lovely pictures from your travels!

How does the theme of “restoration” play out in this novel?

I was really fascinated by the fact that the Blitz ruined a comparative number of churches as those desecrated by the Great Fire of London in 1666. More still, because Londoners deemed a barrage of night attacks in the late December 1940 as the Second Great Fire of London. And much as architect Christopher Wren set almost immediately to restoring the churches, so committees were working while the bombs were still falling to determine how they would restore architectural treasures after the war and preserve them for future generations. Because I knew that the churches were going to play a major role in the story, it was so easy to start Brent and Diana’s reunion from a place that had a strong foundation, much like many of the surviving churches but still bore a lot of cracks. So I would say the love story between Diana and the churches and her needing to foster her love for them even though their scarred parallels what she is trying to restore with Brent. And it’s more complicated because due to the fact that they were only married one night before he shipped out, she has to learn how to love him all over again. And that decision is so restorative and sets, for me, the theme of the book.

The churches and cathedrals of London play a major role in The London Restoration, specifically the churches designed by Christopher Wren. Please share about your love and the appeal of these churches. Which of these would you recommend as “must-visit” on a trip to London?

Great St. Bart’s (What Londoners call St. Bartholomew the Great)

This is really hard for me because there are so many churches in London that are special to me and many, many were cut before the last draft of the book (I just couldn’t fit all of the beautiful churches in). This is not a Wren church, but my personal favourite church in London is St. Bartholomew the Great which is almost 1000 years old and survived King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the zeppelins of the Great War and even the bombs of the Second World War. I am really fascinated by all of the history it has seen. (For one, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, was drawn and quartered in the yard just behind the church). Because it isn’t that far a walk from St. Paul’s, I always recommend people try and see it.

There are so many Wren churches that move me: St. Bride’s on Fleet Street is the journalist’s church and is patronized by storytellers which I just love. But a must- see has to be St. Paul’s: it is Wren’s masterpiece and was quite innovative for the time. Not only was he rebuilding the cathedral from the site where it was wrecked during the Great Fire, he utilized it to make a Protestant statement: the open pews and passage ways, the font that leads people to go out into the world just as Christ commanded his disciples, including Paul, made for a much more open worship function that was not cloistered or closed off by confessions: rather to favour a more modern type of evangelism—that of a cleric who could speak loudly and commission congregants on the great commission. I just love this. Churches were often where the most beautiful pieces of art, sculptures and paintings were kept and St. Paul’s is very much a work of art: in its architecture, yes, but also in the many goodies you can find inside

So many churches! I love Magnus the Martyr (another Wren church) and the funnily named St. James Garlickhythe and I love St. Stephen Walbrook which has a dome not unlike that you would find in St. Paul’s.

I have several places on my must-visit list now, thanks to you!

During your extensive research, did you come across any interesting facts that you could not fit in the story?

St. Paul’s

LOL yes! See above! I wanted to basically write a 500 page book on fascinating Christopher Wren facts. The church rebuilding was just fascinating to me. Especially the Paul’s watch: Churchill was adamant that St. Paul’s (Which was into the 1960s the tallest building in the London skyline) survive for morale so volunteers pledged their lives to keeping it whole and camped out (Even during a water shortage) with hoses and pails to protect the cathedral. That’s a whole book in itself.

I also cut a lot about the process of Diana getting to Bletchley Park and all that she would have undertaken to qualify for that amazing position. So a lot of Bletchley research and scenes were cut. Finally, my editor and I decided that while Diana has many flashbacks to Bletchley, we would save Brent’s flashback from his time at the front to be the most important and integral one in his life: what had happened to his friend Ross. And so a lot of the research I did to craft his scenes at the front and in training were cut.

Did Brent and Diana surprise you in any way?

I was lucky in that they both popped into my head pretty fully formed and so I just took to dictation. I was coming off writing two very sweet heroes –Oliver Thorne in Rose in Three Quarter Time and Hamish DeLuca —and I was excited to have a hero with a sarcastic edge (that I had to reel in just a bit so that it never looked like he was demeaning Diana) so I was often surprised by some of Brent’s acerbic wit.

I was also surprised at how Diana showed me that she wanted their relationship to be so equal that they save each other. In so many romances, the hero saves the heroine: and Brent gets plenty of protective opportunities here, but when it came to Diana’s turn to show her own protective side, I was really proud of her.

St. Stephen Walbrook

In the past, you have written contemporary romances and historical mysteries. This is your first title specifically in the historical romance genre. What does this mean to you as an author?

It means I am finally writing the genre of my heart for publication. I used historical mysteries and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love those characters and stories and the romances therein) to get through the publishing door but I always set out to write historical romance and have several stories that readers have not/will not see in this genre. So I am really happy to feel in my safe and happy zone here. I intend to keep on writing some contemporary romances (I really write the Three Quarter Time books for me and just let people peer over my shoulder, LOL, that’s how fun they are), I just keep getting sidetracked by contracted books (which is a very good problem to have).

It sounds like the best kind of problem for we readers! 🙂

Secondary characters Sophie and Simon seem to fill every scene they are in with undercurrents and hints at more to their connection. What is next for them?

When I first was working on The London Restoration, I had no plans at all to ever write another WWII era book. Indeed, I hadn’t set out to write WWII at all but a momentous trip to St. Bart’s in London and my meeting Brent and Diana changed that. So I created Simon Barre as a plot point: as Diana’s Bletchley colleague and MI-6 handler. Yet there’s one scene where the two are having tea at The Savoy and I typed something absently about the glamour of the place fitting Simon like a bespoke suit. And I remember then just being flooded with Simon’s history. He wasn’t Simon Barre, he was a lord with a devastating past who fought his own wars again and again through Britain. I knew then I had to come up with a fascinating woman for him. So I left a lot of doors open. I intentionally made their chemistry surge the few times we see them on the page together (am happy that came across) while leaving enough mystery not only for the reader but for myself so I had the freedom to play around with them. I hadn’t intended to pitch a second story in this world, but luckily I did and The Mozart Code is their turn on the page. It releases next summer and is a marriage of convenience (sigh) which is kinda like Downton Abbey meets The Alice Network. They might be my personal favourite couple I’ve created.

Just for fun: do you love tea as much as Brent? What is your favorite kind?

I do love tea. I have this manatee shaped tea strainer that I used quite often while plotting the proposal for this book and so this book is so tea-infused I referred to it as Project Manatea for a long time! LOL! I love Twining’s Earl Grey (classic) and I love any and all kinds of green tea. I am a huge fan of a company called David’s Tea here in Canada that sells all manner of loose leaf tea. Read My Lips is a black tea flavoured with chocolate hearts and chili peppers and I love it! I also love a tea they sell called Lavender Buttercream!

Those tea-treats sound heavenly! Thanks again, Rachel, for taking the time to talk about your books!

If you’d like to know more about Rachel McMillan, follow her on social media, links below. On a related note, she has a FABULOUS travel memoir that will inspire you to plan your own adventures. See my review of this fun nonfiction book here: Dream, Plan, and Go.

Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, August 18
Review at Nursebookie
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Austenprose
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 20
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Friday, August 21
Interview at Heidi Reads
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, August 24
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird

Wednesday, August 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview on Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice

Saturday, August 29
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Enter the givaway for a copy of The London Restoration

April Happenings (2020)

It’s time for my monthly update post…Happy Leap Day! The second month of 2020 is already over…

I’m sharing a few updates on what I’m reading, blogging about, and what I’m eating and watching.

April Happenings

on the bookshelf

Currently reading: Stay With Me by Becky Wade

Recent additions to my TBR/shelf I’m super excited about: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner, The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans, When I Lost My Way by Jennifer Rodewald, Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson.

on the blog

Most visited new reviews:

  1. The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch
  2. The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
  3. Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig

Other popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Titles That Would Make Good Band Names
  2. First Line Fridays # 32: Take a Chance on Me by Becky Wade
  3. Spotlight + Excerpt: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper Basham Birthday Blog Tour

on the screen

I’ve been watching all the WWII related dramas. So far, I’m enjoying the PBS WWII drama World on Fire. It has an almost-too-big cast (many little plots to follow), but it’s following interesting events early on in the war.

I also loved the TV movie The Windermere Children, based on true life Jewish refugee children in post-war England. I rewatched Operation Finale, too.

in the kitchen

I love all things ITALIAN. Lately, I’ve made my first homemade meatballs (recipe here) and found that they freeze well! And, thanks to my PBS watching and America’s Test Kitchen, I discovered the Torta Caprese AKA a flourless chocolate cake make with whipped eggs and almond flour. It had just the right balance of gooey and light texture.

Your turn! Tell me: what have you been reading, watching, and eating this month?

Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.

Book & Movie Thoughts: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Fans of romantic period dramas are probably well aware of the recent book-to-screen adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, now available on Netflix here in the US. Having read the book AND watched the adaptation, I have thoughts!!!

Book thoughts…

Guernsey 2I first heard about this book through another epistolary book-for-book-lovers, Dear Mr. Knightley. The quirky title was enough to have me googling and seeing other reviews that made this sound like something I would like! I’ve since read it twice, most recently with friends discussing in a read-along on Twitter with #GBral. (Shoutout to the #bookbesties who made this super fun!)

I adore the book! I am now and forever a fan of the epistolary (letter) format, and a huge fan of WWII era stories. This combines the best of both worlds, with a gradual romance that keeps you guessing (who is the ultimate hero?). The colorful characters keep the story humorous and balance the more serious moments of the harsh reality of German occupation.

 

Content note: there are a few instances of mild to moderate language, a child born out of wedlock, and suggestions that one character is homosexual.

Movie thoughts…

Guernsey 1

Courtesy of IMDB.com

I appreciate book adaptations. Really. I know they cannot be the original story that plays out in your head, and they cannot possibly be so detailed within a shorter time frame. With that in mind, I really, REALLY enjoyed this one!

I thought the casting was perfect (except for Markham… he was a little more charismatic in my head). Lily as Juliet captured all the emotions and growth so well. Isola was quirky and lovable. Adelaide has a slightly different role but was brilliantly and emotionally played. And Michiel as Dawsey!!!! *heart eyes* He’s wonderfully straightforward and shy and just so genuine. Little KIT was my favorite! She was precious.

The scenery was wonderful. Having a visual of the beauty of the island will be great when I want to revisit the book. Everything from the set design to the costumes and cinematography were wonderful and helped build a picture of the story world.

Let’s talk story! I appreciated the parts that were reserved, and mourned some characters that were missing. Given the shorter time frame, I understand the parts that were abbreviated. I DO wish we had just a bit more time with the characters near the ending! And, I wish they had featured Kit a little more in the way her role with Juliet blossoms. But I loved the time with the society, the stories of Elizabeth, and especially the pigs!

Overall, this was a great adaptation that made me appreciate the root story even more — and is likely very enjoyable as a period drama for anyone who hasn’t read the book.

If you have seen and/or read this little gem, what did you think? Do you feel they did it justice with the adaptation? What was your favorite scene?

Review: “The Sea Before Us” by Sarah Sundin

Learning about real history through story is one of my favorite things, especially when it involves lesser-explored perspectives or the details of a well-known major event. In the case of The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin, it covers what feels like a firsthand experience of D-Day in Normandy during WWII from the sea.

About the Book

The Sea Before UsIn 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Sea Before Us is a historical romance that delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day.

This is my very first book by Sarah Sundin — and I’m happy to report that her writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. Interesting facts are woven into the story in a natural way. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

I’m looking forward to seeing these characters in the next two books in the “Sunrise at Normandy” series — especially seeing how Wyatt’s brothers will be featured and how their family dynamic will play out after their current estrangement was well established in this book.

 

Thank you to Revell Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: True History in Fiction

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is a “Back to School” Freebie! I’m taking a suggested idea of Books to Complement a History Lesson and turning it into a list of true history in fiction. I enjoy historical fiction — especially when I’m learning something new through story. I am allowing myself to go a *little* over 10 books (I’m listing 18 books in total). I hope you find a new era or event you’re interested in learning more about!

Wait, that’s a true story? True History in Fiction

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

1520s The early Protestant Reformation and the true-life romance between the prominent protestant reformation starter Martin Luther and former Catholic nun Katharina von Bora.

The Sound of Diamonds

The “Steadfast Love” series by Rachelle Rea Cobb

The Sound of Diamonds | The Sound of Silver | The Sound of Emeralds

1566 A Catholic girl’s changing perspective in Protestant Reformation-Era England.

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-green

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

1719-22 Early French settlement of New Orleans and the Louisiana area.

Woods Edge

The “Pathfinders” duology by Lori Benton

The Wood’s Edge | A Flight of Arrows

1757-1777 New York settlement and Native American involvement in Revolutionary War.

screenshot_2017-01-06-15-25-44-1.png

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz

1777 Kentucky wilderness during the early American frontier– plus a little of Daniel Boone’s personal influence on its settlement.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

1787 The “State of Franklin” dispute in the Appalachians and western North Carolina.

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

1857 The “orphan train” era, including working conditions and an inside look at poverty in immigrant communities of NYC.

Sentinels-of-Andersonville

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

1864 Andersonville prison in Georgia and its conditions toward the end of the Civil War.

The Thorn Bearer

The “Penned in Time” series by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

1910s WWI England and post-war America, including the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, events on the England homefront, and a German internment camp in the Appalachians.

High as the Heavens

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

1917 WWI Belgium, with secret spy networks and methods (the heroine was inspired by 3 different real women).

maggie bright

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

1940 England and Dunkirk, France during the WWII evacuation event.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

1940s WWII Auschwitz and the role of Jewish musicians/artists in concentration camps.

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

1941-45 America and Europe, late WWII conditions from a nurse and doctor’s perspectives. Fun fact: The couple in this story is based on the real-life parents of the author and includes much of their real-life correspondence during the war.

As always, thank you for reading!

What did you pick for this back-to-school week? Have you read any of the books on my list? What is your favorite era/setting for historical fiction? Do share in the comments!

Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

IMG_20170322_172510_852

Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?

 

Review: “Maggie Bright” by Tracy Groot Blog Tour

After my overwhelming love of The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot, I was very excited to get my hands on her latest book, Maggie Bright. While it was not as epic as Sentinels (I don’t think any book can top that in its genre!), it was very good!

maggie brightBook Summary: “England, 1940.” Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the “Maggie Bright”–a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.Across the Channel, Hitler’s “Blitzkrieg” has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows “Maggie Bright” must answer the call–piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Tracy Groot skillfully writes vivid characters. From the first few pages of the book and glimpses of the characters, their unique personalities are established. Along with Clare, the story features American Murray Vance and Detective Inspector William Percy from Scotland Yard in England. While their story unfolds, a contrasting storyline of Private Jamie Elliot under siege, making his way to Dunkirk, France, immerses the reader in the action on the continent. The banter between the characters, particularly that of Clare and Detective William, was a fun and bright spot in the midst of drama.

The Maggie Bright brings these characters together – sometimes with surprising revelations – and unites them with a courageous purpose. I enjoyed seeing how the different characters realized they could contribute to the war efforts and make sacrifices, no matter their age or abilities.

Tracy confronted a unique subject within this story. And, featured the rescue at Dunkirk – an aspect of WWII I was previously unaware of.  Within this story, the importance of belief in bolstering courage and faith in the power of prayer were highlighted and central to the story. I look forward to whatever is next from Tracy – I will be reading it!

One thing I love about reading historical fiction is that, while being entertaining, it often sheds light on interesting historical events or persons. Do you have any favorite examples of books like this? Have you heard of the rescue at Dunkirk?

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The debut novel The Butterfly and the Violin (“Hidden Masterpiece” series #1) by Kristy Cambron uncovers the story behind a painting of a young German girl during the Holocaust. It does this both through the eyes of Adele, the girl in Auschwitz, and through the story of a contemporary art gallery owner, Sera, searching for the painting.

In the world of reading, it’s common to come across stories told through multiple points of view, usually the viewpoints of 2-3 main characters. Sometimes a secondary character gets some story time, too. Rarely do you come across a story with more than one main character who lives in a different era. I can only think of one other book I’ve read (Karen Kingsbury’s Even Now) that features characters in different eras – – even that one could be considered “contemporary only”. This one by Kristy, though, is skillfully set in two eras — two genres, even — both contemporary and historical.The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Plot Summary

“Today.” Sera James spends most of her time arranging auctions for the art world’s elite clientele. When her search to uncover an original portrait of an unknown Holocaust victim leads her to William Hanover III, they learn that this painting is much more than it seems.

“Vienna, 1942.” Adele Von Bron has always known what was expected of her. As a prodigy of Vienna’s vast musical heritage, this concert violinist intends to carry on her family’s tradition and play with the Vienna Philharmonic. But when the Nazis learn that she helped smuggle Jews out of the city, Adele is taken from her promising future and thrust into the horrifying world of Auschwitz.

The veil of innocence is lifted to expose a shuddering presence of evil, and Adele realizes that her God-given gift is her only advantage; she must play. Becoming a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, she fights for survival. Adele’s barbed-wire walls begin to kill her hope as the months drag into nearly two years in the camp. With surprising courage against the backdrop of murder and despair, Adele finally confronts a question that has been tugging at her heart: Even in the midst of evil, can she find hope in worshipping God with her gift?

As Sera and William learn more about the subject of the mysterious portrait–Adele–they are reminded that whatever horrors one might face, God’s faithfulness never falters.

This is a moving, beautiful, and at times, gripping story. The perfectly balanced historical and contemporary settings serve to weave together the story of Adele with Sera and William’s, both building to the conclusion of Adele’s story piece by piece. Sera and William’s professional — and potentially romantic– relationship has its twists and turns as each of their characters learn important lessons about trust, responsibility, and God’s call. Against those very relevant struggles, the horrors of the holocaust period still serve as a contrast at times, exploring the strength that only God can provide. With some “flashback” moments for Adele, the reader learns of her friendship and love story with orchestra member Vladimir. The reader eagerly anticipates both the fate of Adele and what has become of Vladimir during her time there.

The beauty of the art world and classical music is an uncommon treat in a novel. Kristy uses it to add interest and a poetic element as well as being a symbol of worship amidst chaos. The art is also used to tie the present with the past, in a mystery unknown to Sera and William for much of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut from Kristy. I look forward to her next release in the “Hidden Masterpiece” series, A Sparrow in Terezin, releasing in April 2015. Reading this story was a very unique experience (after all, I love a good historical or contemporary – this was the best of both!). With a great plot full of accurate historical details, it left me considering the goodness and provision of God, even through circumstances we may not understand.

Note: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Thank you to BookLook and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read any books with characters set jn different eras? What was it?