Category Archives: historical fiction

“This Is How I’d Love You,” by Hazel Woods — A Perfect Read Any Time of the Year

I discovered the novel This Is How I’d Love You totally by accident. I was searching for books about the history of chess. Among the selections was this World War I-era story about chess players. After being matched, the correspondents share some details about each other’s lives, but the main purpose of writing is playing the game. Each man enjoys the chess challenge and is very good at it. Although they have never met, they like and respect each other.

Sascha Dench is a journalist at the New York Times who is very much against the U.S. entering World War I. In fact, he’s penned incendiary opinion pieces–and they have cost him his job. Charles Reid is from a wealthy New York business family. Unwilling to join the family firm, he enlists–much to the ire of his father. He is now serving as a medic in France, confronting war’s horrors and adjusting to life as a soldier.

Meanwhile, Sascha Dench is at loose ends. His independent-minded daughter Hensley, a seamstress, has recently graduated from school. However, she is facing her own serious problems. Deciding that a new start is in order, her father accepts a mine supervisor job in New Mexico through a distant relative of his late wife. Hensley goes with him–feeling alone and very unsure of what to expect in an unfamiliar part of the country.

One day, Hensley intercepts a letter from Charles to her father. She writes back, and encloses her letter with her dad’s reply. In addition to telling Charles about herself, she includes descriptions of their new home, and a few sketches and doodles.

Charles responds, and he soon looks forward to the family’s letters. On some days they are what keeps him going. “Your words have become as necessary to me as my own heartbeat,” Charles tells Hensley. His words are just as vital to her. When tragedy strikes, they are there for each other. It isn’t long before they fall in love through their correspondence. However, Charles and Hensley still have to dig deep to reveal truths about themselves. As they journey toward each other to meet in person, their relationship is strengthened even more.

This is Hazel Woods’ first novel. I can’t wait for the next one!  And I hope it will be just as beautiful. Here is an interview with the author.

 

Image result for free clip art chess pieces

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Filed under historical fiction, Romance, World War I

Regency England — The World of Georgette Heyer

I first heard of British writer Georgette Heyer through a librarian I knew who enjoyed reading her books to relax. “Pure escapism,” she would say. She didn’t seem like someone who would enjoy that author. I was intrigued about Georgette Heyer, though. I had never heard of her. In a review in the Guardian, a critic said Heyer took the plot of Jane Eyre and rewrote it one hundred times. Even so, the novels so far seem very lighthearted and enjoyable. I’m not so sure if the author was the same way in real life. I read Barbara Cartland a lot as a teenager, and apparently there was a rivalry between the authors.

I haven’t read a lot of Georgette Heyer, or much about Regency England, but I would read her again. For my first try at exploring her work, I went to my library’s e-collection. I chose Arabella.

No reader can resist Arabella–she’s smart, opinionated, funny, loves her family, and helps out where she can. She tries to see the best in people. For those she catches doing wrong, woe to them!  Although not of noble birth, Arabella has been given the gift of a London season from a school friend of her mother’s. Once there, by being true to her nature, she wins everyone’s hearts and changes lives for the good–including that of an obnoxious marquis, earl, or duke–I forgot his rank, but it doesn’t matter. For some reason, he is much admired by those in his circle.

You guessed it–Arabella turns his life upside down–after they annoy each other no end at their first meeting with their different views. They can’t agree on anything. And it takes him forever to realize that he loves her. It doesn’t take Arabella an eternity to realize that she has romantic feelings for this man; she’s just cautious and wise. The nobleman bordered on oblivious–until almost the very end of the story. Oh, well. Better late than never.

The next book I tried was The Foundling. I strongly identified with Gilly (his full name is too long to remember), a young gentleman of noble birth who has many things expected of him from others. He feels a great responsibility for everyone. The trouble is, he’s never been allowed to make a decision for himself. He’s always had assistance from other people. He also feels that he doesn’t have enough real-world experience. So, one day he decides to leave his ancestral home–and then the adventure begins.

It actually sounded pretty good. However, in the first chapter, where Gilly returns from a local hunting excursion, I knew I was in trouble. It took me a month to get past the pages where he crosses the lawn and enters the house.  Definitely not a good sign. I knew I had to leave it for another time.

My favorite catalog, Bas Bleu, sells many Georgette Heyer titles and a lot of other cool items. I got such a kick out of this entry from August 10, 2016 on their blog. I recommend it for smiles, grins, chuckles, and belly laughs: 16 Lessons We’ve Learned from Georgette Heyer. Enjoy!

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Filed under Fiction, historical fiction, Romance

A Spooky Halloween Read

I guess my motto should be “Better late than never.” I read the young adult novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters, last Halloween. I stayed up until the wee hours to finish it, and it was worth the effort. It had been a Big Library Read selection, and appropriately eerie for the holiday. It takes place during the time of World War I, in 1918. This was also the time of the influenza epidemic in the U.S. Also around this time, many people were into spiritualism–communicating with those who had gone before. Mary Shelley Black is the main character. She is mourning her friend Stephen, who had enlisted and was killed.

We see the events of the story through Mary’s experiences, thoughts, and memories, and there are many twists and turns.

The photo below was taken a couple of years ago. There’s a Halloween tradition around here that businesses paint their windows for the holiday. Some of the local school kids participate.  This one was a favorite–appearing in Mad Fox Brewery’s window.

 

Great Mad Pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fiction, historical fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized, World War I

Please Don’t Take My eBook Away! A Review of “With Every Breath”

When I got my Nook Simple Touch for Christmas several years ago, I expected to use it as much as I do print and audio materials, including books on CD. It’s worked out exactly that way. Other writers and readers have described an “inability to stop reading” or a feeling of “finally coming up for air.” What I have is a beyond obsessive need to get to the end of a story before the lending period for an eBook is up. Thus has led to many riveting late nights and much frantic reading before the book disappears from the eReader. I can’t help it. I just have to know how it ends. So it was with A Tale of Two Cities (after a lot of years), The Canterbury Papers, Gone Girl, Learning to Swim, and more than a few book bundles. My love for extremely long histories and sagas often do not do well in just one reading, even though I’ve become a faster reader; I’ve had to check out or renew several multiple times.

Anyway, I found myself on the edge of my seat recently while reading With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden. This is historical fiction with a little bit of everything–conflict, gentle humor, romance, medical research history, mystery, and strong characters with a lot of personality who grow and change and learn throughout the story. Although she lives in Orlando, Camden sets at least two of her novels–this one included–in Washington, DC, in the nineteenth century. This is another reason I will read Camden’s work again. I don’t know how much she researched this area during that period, but it certainly sparked my curiosity and imagination about the region where I was born and have lived in most of my life..

The year is 1891. Kate Livingston is working as a Census Bureau statistician when she applies to be the statistician for a tuberculosis research study at a local hospital. She doesn’t realize until the interview that her boss will be none other than her old school rival, Trevor McDonough. Kate of course gets the job, and the story moves quickly after that. Read for yourself to find out more.

So, on the last day of the loan period, I kept my Nook on all day so I wouldn’t lose the book. I used every spare minute to read, which is not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Even so, it was night before I got to the last chapter. Then, my Nook froze, and I lost the chapter. Undaunted, I downloaded it again on Adobe Digital Editions and read the last chapter and epilogue on my computer. Kind of cumbersome. I also was not able to enlarge the text within the program. However, emotional crisis averted, and I finished the story. With Every Breath also got excellent reviews on GoodReads.

Now, on to the next one….

 

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Filed under Christian fiction, Fiction, historical fiction, History, Uncategorized