Category Archives: Historical fiction

Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans by Wanda Maureen Miller

The satisfying story of Madeleine, one of the filles a la casquette and a forgotten French policy to colonize the wilderness known as Louisiana.

When the master of the de Mandeville chateau began to take an inappropriate interest in his wife’s ladies’ maid, 17-year-old Madeleine Boucher finds herself enrolled in the French government’s program to provide suitable females as potential brides for their pioneering countrymen in their Louisiana colony. Madeleine is accepting of this fate; it is a chance for her to have a future in a new world far from the shadow of poverty and her early life as the daughter of a serf on the de Mandeville estate, a chance to be her own person and no one’s servant ever again. Along with 59 other filles a la casquette, she’s provided with a trunk (casquette) of household basics with which to start her married life with whomever she chooses as her husband.  The girls with their chaperones, Ursuline nuns traveling to their convent in New Orleans, board Les Belles Soeurs, the ship which is to be their home for the next 3 – 4 months as they make the long journey by sea from France to the Port of New Orleans. They endure cold, heat, storms, sickness, diminishing food supplies, and the constant threat of pirates along the way.

Through no fault of her own, the lovely Madeleine is mistakenly identified on the ship’s roster as a member of the de Mandeville family rather than from the de Mandeville chateau. However, she doesn’t correct the error, hoping to prevent others from treating her like a mere servant. But rather than acting like a fragile flower from an aristocratic family, Madeleine pitches in to pull her own weight and help out any way possible, all the while keeping a cool head under the considerable stress of the ocean crossing. She catches the eye of the ship’s captain, Jean Paul Beauchamp, and although there is an immediate and mutual attraction between the two, they manage to maintain the utmost decorum and respect for each other. On their last night aboard ship before debarking for the final journey upriver to New Orleans, Captain Beauchamp admits to Madeleine that despite his deep regard, his life will always be the sea.

When the girls finally arrive safe and sound in New Orleans, they are dismayed by the rough, crude conditions. Still, the warm and friendly welcome from the colonists lifts their spirits and soothes their disillusionment. They are soon showered with marriage proposals from men of all manner of background, circumstance, and situation. Madeleine is attracted to a young French army lieutenant, Jacques Bouligny, the younger son of an aristocratic family back in France. Jacques, in turn, is just as enamored of her but is away from New Orleans more than not quelling the rising turmoil among the Indian tribes inhabiting the Louisiana territory.

One by one, all the casquette girls except Madeleine make their selection of a husband and leave to start their new lives. She chooses to stay with the Ursuline sisters, assisting in their hospital and school for girls as she waits for Jacques to declare himself or Captain Beauchamp to return, having changed his mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new story of Madeleine and the filles a la casquette, set in the early 1700s in the wilds of southern Louisiana. It was an interesting and adventurous historical fiction novel laced with an irresistible romance. The heroine brought to mind Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Emma Harte from A Woman of Substance or Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara (without the negative personality traits.) I read with anticipation of the resolution of Madeleine’s romantic relationships. Would things work out for her and Jacques, or would Jean Paul come back into the picture? I thought the plotline involving the Natchez exciting yet troubling. The tension of this situation was always hovering in the background. The same can be said regarding the reality of slavery.  The characters of Moses, Rima, Lying Boy, Laff, and Lame Doe were some of my favorites, and I enjoyed their presence in the story. I hope to see more of them in the next book.

As the story covers almost 25 years, there is plenty of action during that time frame; there was never a dull moment in the book. This one kept me up reading way past a decent bedtime.

I recommend MADELEINE: LAST FRENCH CASQUETTE BRIDE IN NEW ORLEANS to readers that enjoy historical fiction with a romantic storyline or those that would like a story about a forgotten French policy (filles a la casquette) in the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. This story contains details related to sexual relations and is better suited to a more mature audience. I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

Wanda Maureen Miller

on Tour April 12-16 with Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans    

Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride In New Orleans

(historical fiction/romance) Release date: April 1st, 2021 at Atmosphere Press 272 pages Goodreads 📚📚📚

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SYNOPSIS

In 1728, beautiful, resourceful Madeleine Boucher is one of the last in a group of poor young girls given modest dowries in trunks, or casquettes, by the French government—then shipped off to America, where they are intended as wives for the French settlers in the Louisiana Territory. Despite a series of romantic travails, Madeleine remains dedicated to finding passion and securing the promise of her new adopted land, free from prejudices of the past.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans_Wanda Maureen MillerWanda Maureen Miller (or Mo) grew up on an Arkansas farm in the 1940s and 1950s, got educated, moved to California, and taught college English. She has published six books —a historical romance, The French (1983); three textbooks, Reading Faster and Understanding More, Books 1, 2, and 3 (5 editions, 1976 to 2001); her slightly fictionalized memoir, Last Trip Home (2018); and now Book 1: Madeleine, Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans. Retired, she plays pickle-ball and is working on Book 2: Solange, Daughter of Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans. To find our more, please visit her website, and follow her on Facebook Visit the publisher, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter
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Alina: A Song for the Telling by Malve von Hassell

Alina: A Song for the Telling is a wonderfully told story set in the Christian court of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

During his lifetime, Alina and Milos de Florac’s father, Guy, had been far more interested in his family and music than estate management, and the holdings, as well as the retainers that depended on its success, had all suffered due to its neglect. And when his beloved wife, Beatriou, and eldest daughter, Maria, tragically succumbed to the sweating sickness, he sank into immovable despair, and things only got worse. Not long after, he was found drowned, a suspected suicide, and his brother, Garsanc, and his wife, Marci, arrived, determined to set things right and repair the damage to the family name.

The brother and sister felt increasingly stifled, trapped under their new guardianship. Milos was constantly in trouble for one scrape or another. He was young and undisciplined; their father had been lax with the boy’s education in estate management much as he had been. Nor were there the funds to send Milos as a page to the household of a knight where he could learn and trained as a squire before returning home to take up his duties when the time came.

Although bright and musically-talented like her father, Alina was not considered a great beauty, and lacking an attractive dowry, her prospects for an advantageous marriage were dim. She dreamed of becoming a trobairitz, a female troubadour, traveling the country, perhaps the world, playing her lute, and singing songs of her own devising.  She became alarmed by the parade of unsuitable men her aunt keeps thrusting in her path, and the threat of the convent starts to look more desirable.

As the tension at home mounted, the siblings formed an escape plan: they would join one of the parties of knights, merchants, and pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land on the pretense of praying for their father’s endangered soul. Aunt Marci and Uncle Garsanc agree, glad to have the pair out of sight for a while as they continue to mend the damage to the estate all the years of neglect had wrought. Uncle Garsanc knows of a group preparing to depart soon and led by a reputable knight from right there in Provence, Baltazar de Aurignac. With money from Uncle Garsanc in their pockets and Alina’s lute carefully wrapped for the journey, the young brother and sister set off for Lyon to join their new companions and head off on the trip of a lifetime.

Author Malve von Hassell has written a wonderfully immersive tale set in 12th century France and Jerusalem. Set during the time of the Crusades, the long journey by horseback is interesting and exciting and so descriptive that I felt I was right there with Alina and Milos. The arrival in Jerusalem was full of sights and smells, dust and heat, color and antiquity. There are mystery and political intrigue galore that kept me turning the pages as I soaked up the atmosphere the author so skillfully and effortlessly crafted. ALINA is historical fiction, so real people and events are included in the story, and fact and fiction fit together flawlessly. It is amazing to me thinking about the massive amount of research this author did in completing this wonderful story. This realization only came to me later after putting the book down because I never felt like I was reading history; the story was so lively and entertaining.

I enjoyed that the book was told from Alina’s point of view, and the thoughts and feelings of the young teenager felt true and natural. I also liked that she’d learned how to behave properly from her mother and had enough self-discipline to control her emotions and reactions to how she was treated at the court in Jerusalem. I felt this enabled her in her role as an onlooker of the various political schemes and drama. Well-behaved and a proper lady, she was useful yet overlooked and dismissed at times, allowing her the freedom to move about without being missed.

I recommend ALINA: A SONG FOR THE TELLING for readers of historical fiction, especially those that would enjoy the 12th century setting of the Crusades, France, and the history of the Christian court in Jerusalem. The book is suitable for YA and adult readers, and I could see this as a read-aloud book for middle grades and younger and something the entire family would enjoy.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

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L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom

A fascinating story of Gustave Courbet’s fabled painting, L’Origine du monde

In 2011, the author arrived in Paris to begin an extended artist residency and visited the Orsay Museum before settling in on her work. During the visit, she was captivated by the celebrated work, The Origin of the World, by Gustave Courbet, a realistic portrait of a supine woman’s exposed genitals (no face, arms, or legs). She was compelled to apply to be a copyist at the museum with L’Origine du Monde as her subject. Over the next seven weeks, she attempted to reproduce Courbet’s iconic work, all the while under the watchful and curious eyes of thousands of daily museum-goers. The copyist’s goal is to expand their skills and techniques as they try to duplicate the actions of the masters, but Milgron got more than this. She also gained insight into the world’s view of what a woman is, what it means to be female, and a deeper regard for her own femininity and sexuality. She also became determined to discover the history behind the museum’s mythic painting and one of its most prized possessions.

L’Origine presents the work’s journey from Courbet’s first imagining through creation in 1866 to its various owners. Due to its controversial subject matter, it was kept hidden out of sight for decades, only shared with a few select friends of each owner, but its existence was whispered about and speculated upon for years. Lost during World War II, it surfaced once again, and through a series of private transactions, it finally returned to Paris, the home of its birth, and became a treasured part of the Orsay’s collection.

This fictional account of how the painting came to be displayed and viewed by more than a million visitors a year at the Orsay Museum was a highly satisfying story. Beginning with the author’s artist residency in Paris, the trip back through time was both magical and eye-opening. I learned so many interesting things about that time period in Paris when Courbet was active, the Realism movement, his contemporaries, and the effects on the art world by what was going on politically at that time. Some of the painting’s owners were in the thick of a hotbed of political unrest and, eventually, war in Europe.

I especially appreciated Milgrom’s recounting of her own experiences at the museum in Paris while a copyist. Her stories of the reactions of the visitors viewing the painting were varied and telling and did cause me to contemplate my own feelings about the work and the subject as well as historic and modern ideas regarding women’s sexuality. There are some excellent, thought-provoking questions for discussion at the end of the book.

I recommend L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom to readers of historical fiction and especially to those interested in the world of art or art history.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Lilianne Milgrom

on Tour January 18-29 with L'Origine  

L’Origine: The Secret Life Of The World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece

(historical fiction) Release date: July 28, 2020 at Little French Girl Press 255 pages

2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award

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SYNOPSIS

L’Origine‘ traces the extraordinary, clandestine odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that shook up the author’s world and continues to scandalize all who set eyes upon it. Gustave Courbet’s portrait of a woman’s exposed torso and sex – audaciously entitled ‘L’Origine du monde’ (The Origin of the World) – was so shocking it was kept hidden for a century and a half, surviving revolution, Nazi plunder and the foibles of its eccentric owners. Today it draws millions of visitors to Paris’ Orsay Museum. Lilianne Milgrom brings a fresh, feminine perspective to an iconic work of art created specifically for the male gaze. ‘L’Origine‘ offers readers more than a riveting romp through history–it also reflects society’s complex attitude towards female nudity.
NB: this is a historical novel, no explicit scenes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L'Origine - Lilianne MilgromLilianne Milgrom Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an award-winning international artist, writer on the arts and author. Her art can be found in both private and institutional collections around the world and her articles have been published in Huffington Post, Daily Art Magazine, Ceramics Now and Bonjour Paris. Her 5-star, bestselling novel ‘L’Origine‘ is the result of ten years of research and was accepted into the Historical Novel Society. Lilianne lives in Washington DC with her husband. Follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Join her mailing list
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Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne by Linda Lappin

With twists and turns at every step, this is a don’t-miss-it historical mystery!

When her husband and mentor, renowned painter, Amedeo Modigliani, dies after a short but brutal illness, Jeanne, 21 and pregnant with their second child jumps out of a window of her parents’ Parisian flat two days later and also dies. As a spirit, she tries to reunite with Modi but eventually ends up returning to the apartment and studio they shared, where she watches people she knew remove her things, even discovering her one last secret artwork hidden in the wall space behind a large cupboard. The painting, one that Modigliani had begun, was of Jeanne and their child, but when he’d rejected his initial work, intending to destroy it and start over, she’d saved it and added his likeness to the family portrait. Dubbed a lost Modigliani, its existence had become a myth in the world of artists and art collectors. But now, she spends her time pacing the floor and practicing the violin, the one thing her ghostly self was allowed to grab and take with her into her afterlife.

Time passes to 1981, and an American art history student comes to Paris to research her thesis on Manuel Ortiz de Zárate, another of the famous Montparnasse artists who happened to live and work on the floor below Jeanne and Modi. But seemingly at every stage of her local research, she runs into persistent whispers of Modigliani, Jeanne, and the lost painting. When a dying woman entrusts her with more than just whispers, she is compelled to follow the story.

Loving Modigliani is a wonderfully imaginative and absorbing story that I honestly did not want to put down. The descriptions of Paris and Jeanne’s life were so vivid I felt I was there.  I know I held my breath as I was introduced to the author’s vision of the ‘Other Paris’ – the Paris of the dead. The characters came to life for me as the story twists and turns both in Jeanne’s afterlife story and the art scholar’s search for the lost painting. Nothing is as it seems!

The amount of research that must have gone into developing this story had to have been tremendous – not only the life and times of the well-known characters but also the places and practices of the era, including health care, medicine, death, and dying, and burial. The story definitely benefitted from all the work; it was interesting and exciting throughout. I am delighted to learn about this artistic woman, talented in her own right, who has apparently been kept in the shadows all these years.

I recommend LOVING MODIGLIANI: THE AFTERLIFE OF JEANNE HÉBUTERNE to readers of historical mysteries, especially those that don’t want to get involved in a series, readers that enjoy stories set in Paris, and those that have an interest in the art world, the art scene of Montparnasse Quarter in the 1920s.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Author Linda Lappin has written a wonderful story where love never dies.
https://giveawaytools2.com/giveaway.php?sk=22320593521

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The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume Two – War in the Pacific by Matt Zullo

The true story of the men of U.S. Navy’s secret radio intercept and cryptological program – the On-the-Roof Gang – after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This second volume of Matt Zullo’s work of historical fiction begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and continues the stories of the founding members of the U.S. Navy’s fledgling cryptoanalysis program known as “The On-the-Roof Gang.” The attack brought home the overwhelming need for the United States to fully support these operations and activities. Their subsequent successes in alerting the Navy to Japanese war plans quickly validated their worth.

The wartime activities and memories of the actual men who lived these events are exciting and exhilarating, but tragic and heart-breaking when relating the group’s losses during action in the Pacific and as prisoners of war of the Japanese. Poignant and awe-inspiring, these men kept their involvement in these classified activities a secret, even from their own families, until long after the war was over.

Before even starting page one, the reader knows the history, the big picture of World War II, the war in the Pacific, and, most specifically, about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some may even be familiar with the stories of American prisoners of war by the Japanese. Others may have gleaned their understanding of these events from Hollywood films. Others may have heard stories from elderly family members that served during that time and experienced it firsthand. But for most, that knowledge is a leftover from a history class or two and, unless you were very, very lucky, those classes were about as interesting as watching paint dry. Author Matt Zullo has crafted a remarkable fictionalized history based on extensive academic research as well as detailed information straight from the mouths of the men that lived it. This story literally came alive.

After reading the superb first volume (The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume One – Prelude to War), I felt like I already knew many of the individuals portrayed in this continuation of the story. And even though I knew what was coming, historically-speaking, it was still an absorbing experience reading about how known events happened and how these men stepped up and played their part in the action. Many of the events were achingly tragic or shocking, and I was utterly invested in their outcome, and in what happened to the men I’d come to know. It was sobering to realize that these men were never able to tell their families what they did during the war because it was all classified and remained classified for decades afterward.

One of the things that surprised me in this and the previous volume was how vast the naval radio operations were at that time and how much broader they had yet to become by the end of the book. There is a helpful list in an appendix showing where all the stations were located and their operational dates. Some are, of course, in very exotic locations, but I was surprised to find there was one in my own state of Texas, in a place I’ve even visited (and now will again with a different goal.)

The role of the On-The-Roof Gang was shrouded in secrecy for so long, and I am grateful to this author for writing this book about them and their accomplishments. I am honestly amazed that he could do so in such an easy-to-read but page-turner of a book.

Start with Volume One to get the background information, and then jump on Volume Two as soon as you can after that! If you’re a World War II history buff or have an interest in the history of the war in the Pacific, or are a ham radio/radio enthusiast, this book and its preceding volume are MUST READS.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume One – Prelude to War by Matt Zullo

A fascinating look at the beginnings of the U.S. Navy’s radio intercept and cryptological program, and the men that made it happen.

The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume One – Prelude to War, is the fictionalized account of the creation and development of naval radio intercept and cryptoanalysis beginning soon after the close of World War I up until the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is an awesomely told story of the actual people, places, and events; the fiction is the recreated dialogue.

The story begins in 1921 with a break-in at the Japanese embassy in New York City and the copying of secret diplomatic documents in an effort to find out what the Imperial Japanese Navy is building up toward in the Pacific. They had already instigated aggressive actions against Chinese on the China mainland, and this was of grave concern to the U.S. The FBI and agents of the U.S. Navy had been able to retrieve the code to decrypt Japanese radio transmissions in this fashion.

Meanwhile, navy radiomen had been picking up radio traffic from unknown sources that did not adhere to International Morse Code. Skilled operators, such as Petty Officer Harry Kidder stationed in the Philippines, were able to copy the “dits” and “dahs” from these unknown sources in between monitoring scheduled navy transmissions. Eventually, these reports and Kidder ended up in Washington, DC, as part of the Navy’s Code and Signal Section – “the Research Desk.”

Recognizing how critical the ability to listen in on the Japanese would be in the war that many felt was brewing, the Navy created a training facility on the roof of the Main Navy Building in the nation’s capital. Led by new instructor now-Chief Harry Kidder, eight Navy and Marine radiomen at a time were put through the school to learn to intercept the katakana code from the Japanese.

This new book by Matt Zullo was a fascinating and well-told story. The characters and events absolutely came alive – no dry-as-dust history lesson here. He skillfully wove together history with anecdotal recollections from the people that lived it and created an engaging and immersive reading experience. In fact, I was immediately ready to jump into the rest of the story in Volume Two!

I found it exciting seeing the creation of this secret, new unit with the mission of intercepting and analyzing the contents of the Japanese messages. I was amazed at the feat these guys accomplished just in being able to copy, report, and then convert to usable information the code they heard over great distances and under pretty rough conditions (both physically and atmospherically.) They were taking the ‘dits and dahs’ of encrypted Japanese and eventually translating it into English. Their personal stories made me feel a real connection to these men. I wanted them to succeed, and they did. But some of the things that happened along the way to a couple of them were heartbreaking.

I felt the frustration of these men as they struggled to gain support from those in Washington, DC and, sometimes, even at the various places they had established listening stations. I was shocked when Henry Stimson, Secretary of State under President Hoover, shut down the joint code-breaking operation of the U.S. Army and the State Department (leaving only the Navy’s group to carry on) saying “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

One thing that made the events and history so much more interesting to me were the details that kept anchoring this story to what the world was like during this time. For example, at this time (the 1920s and 30s), telephones were not in every home or office. Households were still using gaslights as not everyone had been able to afford the transition to electric lights as yet. Aircraft carriers were relatively new ships in the fleet. And Hawaii was a territory, not yet a state.

I appreciated the look inside day-to-day naval operations as well. The author provides a helpful key to abbreviations at the end of the book, but there were also little tidbits of information regarding rank, duties, and duty stations worked into the story, too. I learned that there is a universal compartment-marking scheme, a letter-number designation which will tell you where a particular location is on board ship. Also, a major stumbling block to getting candidates for the intercept school and position had to do with the promotion process. Many of the radiomen did not want to train to intercept the Japanese katakana because it would degrade their abilities and speeds in Morse Code, which was a significant factor in getting promoted. And then, as I progressed through the book, I realized what a logistical nightmare and considerations involved in setting up new intercept or direction-finding stations all around the world could be.

I highly recommend this book to readers of non-fiction, historical fiction, World War II buffs, and ham radio enthusiasts. It was engaging, easy-to-read, and totally engrossing. I loved it!

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

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Jezebel’s Lament: A Defense of Reputation, A Denouncement of the Prophets Elijah and Elisha by Abdiel LeRoy

Jezebel’s Lament is the 3rd of the Epics series by Abdiel LeRoy, all of which have been different and entertaining.

To begin with, this is the flipside of the biblical story of Elijah – Jezebel’s version of what was going on in her world when the prophet made his appearance in King Ahab’s Israel around 900 B.C. She is telling her side of the story because she feels that she doesn’t deserve the reputation that history gave her. There are two sides to every story.

I listened to this via an Audible Audio edition, read by the author himself, and right off the bat; he made me laugh out loud. Truly, Abdiel is a talented writer, and secondly, he sounds great. Not familiar with the specifics of Jezebel’s story? This telling was exciting and eye-opening. The author’s done a lot of research, and if this short reading piques your interest, he tells you some of the sources he used and recommends.

This story is for a mature audience and would be especially useful for when you have a brief period of time to sit and enjoy the whole from start to finish.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy.

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Landing by Moonlight by Ciji Ware

Landing by Moonlight

 

Well-researched, thrilling, and tense!

In the early days of WWII, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Washington, D.C. mining heiress, Catherine Farnsworth Cahill Thornton, is in a loveless marriage to a British diplomat posted far out of sight to the embassy in Chile. She joins the US war effort supporting our Allies in Europe by successfully stealing, copying, and returning undetected the French naval codebooks from the embassy of the Nazi-puppet Vichy French government. Assisting her is French diplomat Henri Charles Leblanc, the press attaché at the embassy.

When the French delegation is ultimately ordered out of the country, Catherine and Henri are both recruited for Churchill’s newly-formed spy operation, the SOE, the British Special Operations Executive. Separated, they are trained in spy craft at various secret schools established in the English countryside and eventually sent to secret undercover positions in Nazi-occupied France.

Inserted into hidden networks supporting the French Resistance, Henri in Paris and Catherine on the Mediterranean coast, the Cote d’Azur, both work to disrupt Nazi war operations, provide the members of the resistance with weapons, information, and other supplies, and help to spirit out downed aviators and their fellow secret agents as needed. With D-Day approaching, all this is accomplished under the very noses of the Nazis and the dreaded SS.

Author Ciji Ware has crafted a well-researched and thrilling historical fiction novel of WWII. “Landing by Moonlight” has the kind of characters that grow on you and become people that you worry about chapter after chapter. And worry I did! This story focuses on a piece of WWII history not really familiar to me. I’ve read some about the undercover men and women working right under the noses of the Nazis but they were always secondary characters to the hero or heroine. Here, they are front and center.

This story immerses you in the constant danger they had to have been under at all times and made for a tense, and exhilarating, reading experience. The mantra, “Trust no one,” was really brought home for me. Not even knowing who among your old friends and acquaintances were working for the Nazis, maybe just to get food for their children, was terrifying.

Besides the constant threat of exposure, the characters are out in the field accomplishing the big tasks that helped turn the tide of war in favor of the Allies – tasks that someone really had to do – exhilarating when successful and exhilarating when it was over. Characters need to blow off a little steam and relieve the pent-up tension so there are sexual relationships and well-written scenes of a sexual nature.

Another aspect of this book I enjoyed were the various settings. The characters move around from location to location and each time this author made me see and feel the time and the place. My favorite had to be the setting in the south of France. I could almost feel the sun, see the old boats, and taste the ‘new’ red wines.

I recommend this book to historical fiction readers, especially those that want a pretty immersive tale. This one so very well done.

I received a copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

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A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

Fire Sparkling

Wonderful story with great characters and all the emotions!

When Gillian Gibbons discovers the man she loves and lives with is cheating on her, she retreats to the Connecticut farmhouse her father and 96-year-old grandmother share. She hasn’t seen her father in over five years and their reunion is somewhat awkward at first but her father is desperately glad to hear from her: he’s uncovered a secret in the attic that might change the meaning of his entire life.

Gram came to this country with her young son, Edward, after the World War II, as the wife of her second husband, Grampa Jack. Her first husband, Theodore Gibbons, a deputy cabinet minister working with Churchill, had been killed in the Blitz along with her sister, April. After his death, Gram and Edward had gone to the country to stay with Theodore’s aristocratic family on their estate. But while doing her part in the war effort, Vivian had met and fallen in love with the American flyer, Jack Cooper, and after the war ended had married him and lived in the farmhouse since then. Or at least that is what Edward and Gillian had always believed.

While Edward was in the attic inspecting the roof, he’d come across his mother’s antique sea chest. The old chest was a familiar item; Gillian had always called it a “treasure chest.”) But, as Edward had examined it, he’d discovered a secret drawer inside with pictures of his mother and a German Nazi officer in Berlin dated only months after her marriage to Theodore. The photos made it clear that the two were very much in love. With so many questions and concerned that he was the son of a Nazi war criminal, he and Gillian decide to talk to Vivian and get some answers.

The story is Gram’s revelation of what the pictures were and what happened in the war. While her son and granddaughter listen, they gradually come to terms with the real history behind their family as well as the other issues in their lives that were keeping them apart. The retelling is an emotional story with lots of action and history and the things people do for love and country.

The author obviously did a lot of research to bring the reader a solid thriller with twists and turns that really held my interest and kept me up reading late into the night. I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction.

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The Lebensborn Experiment: Book 1 by Joyce Yvette Davis

Lebensborn

Set in Europe during WWII, The Lebensborn Experiment tells a story of young children stolen from their parents and taken to state-run orphanages, “graded” like livestock for Aryan traits, and adopted out to approved German families never to see their own families again or their parents ever discovering what happened to them. One boy, Adok, is adopted by Dr. Josef Weiss as a companion to an older, mentally-damaged son.  Dr. Weiss is working on an immortality serum under pressure from a Nazi colonel, Otto Strauss, and tests the serum on Adok. The boy dies but days later comes back to life with some remarkable physical enhancements: superior eyesight and hearing, the ability to climb like a spider, and apparent immortality.

At the same facility, Colonel Strauss had been holding two black American soldiers prisoner awaiting execution during an upcoming visit by Adolf Hitler himself. When Strauss receives word of Hitler’s suicide and the approach of Allied forces to the facility, he orders the doctor to dispose of the Americans. Weiss kills one but mistakenly administers the immortality serum to the other. When the soldier revives as his body is being removed from the lab, he escapes and is able to return to his old unit to fight again.

The story continues with these central figures’ stories to just after the end of the war in Europe.

This book is exciting, imaginative, and entertaining but sobering as well with the understanding that many of the things described are based in past happenings. The author has created memorable characters that I really rooted for and others that I wanted to be defeated. The title indicates this is book one giving reason to believe there is more to the story. I’ll be looking for that.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Horror