I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I'll See You in ParisWhen I started I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable I liked it, but when I finished the book, I loved it. A narrative that picks up as the story progresses, I felt truly engaged with the characters by the end. I also love the cover. A worn book on a café table in Paris? How dreamy! The story is filled with classic literary quotes from Hardy, Proust, Woolf, as well as many others, and each was a lovely addition to the story.

The story is based on the real life of Gladys Spencer-Churchill, also known as the infamous Duchess of Marlborough, although she denies the title vehemently throughout the book.

Annie, a young woman of 22 years, finds herself in Branbury, England with her mother. Annie has found an old tattered biography of the duchess and sets out to answer the question of the woman’s true identity. Annie may just fill in some of the gaps of her own family history as well during her search…

Between present day flashes of Annie’s search, we meet Gladys, Pru (her American caretaker), and Win (her self proclaimed biographer) back in the 1970’s. I must say that I LOVED the witty banter between Pru and Win. It was quick, sarcastic, and full of affection all at once. It was fantastic.

I also really liked Gladys, a gruff old woman over 90 years old who doesn’t filter her comments and speaks her outrageous thoughts. Despite her hard exterior and continuous desire to be the center of attention, we get to see a side of the woman that is quite endearing.

While I highly enjoyed Pru, Win, and Gladys, I didn’t especially enjoy Annie. A perfectly fine character, I thought that she acted quite immaturely during her search. It was interesting to compare Annie at 22 years old to Pru, who was 19 years old as a caretaker, and their differences in maturity.

My favorite quote – “You see, Miss Valentine, that’s the problem with getting old. Your body changes but your heart does not.”

I’ll See You in Paris is a great book that grows with you as the plot twists. Definitely add this one to your TBR list, especially if you enjoy historical fiction and wild characters!

I received a copy of I’ll See You in Paris from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Along the Infinite SeaBeatriz Williams is an author that makes me want to become a writer myself. Along the Infinite Sea, her most recent novel, is an incredible story told from the perspectives of two strong women. I haven’t been disappointed by any of William’s stories yet and I’m already eagerly waiting for her next release this summer!

This book picks up where Tiny Little Thing left off with Pepper Schuyler’s story in the 1960’s. While these books are not a traditional series, and don’t need to be read in order to be enjoyed, they focus on the Schuyler family and each of the three sisters in turn. Pepper is pregnant, unwed, and on the run from her baby’s father. She has just sold an old restored Mercedes and plans to use the large sum of money to raise her child on her own. The car’s buyer, Annabelle, introduces herself to Pepper and they take a liking to each other, if hesitantly at first on Pepper’s part. Pepper doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t trust anyone besides herself, but Annabelle’s story may just change her mind…

The book switches from Pepper’s perspective in the 1960’s to Annabelle’s in the 1930’s when she was in Europe between the two world wars. I love Annabelle’s spirit and poise, and I love her relationship with the mysterious and charming Stefan as well. The circumstances and misunderstandings that keep Annabelle and Stefan, a Jewish German man, apart are truly heartbreaking.

This is a delicious story, one that I devoured as quickly as I could. I love the trio of sisters that Williams has created because the Schuyler sisters are just so great.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the SunI really enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain so I was excited to get my hands on her latest book, Circling the Sun. I liked this book, but unfortunately I wasn’t as drawn into the story as I had hoped to be. It was good and I wanted to see how it turned out, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t put it down.

The book is based on the real life of Beryl Markham, a record-setting pilot. Beryl is a strong character, very alive and brave, and one who wants freedom more than anything else. As a young English girl growing up in colonial Kenya, she faced wild animals regularly, but she used fear to motivate her rather than hold her back. Beryl is a character that is easy to admire.

Along with Beryl’s character I was fascinated to read about life in Africa during the 1920’s. McLain did a great job of creating this wild colorful scenery filled with lions, horses, and other animals.

Throughout the story I had a hard time understanding how each character’s lives could change so often. From romantic partners to careers to houses, each character seemed to be bouncing all around with no sense of stability. As a person that doesn’t always welcome change, this was very strange to read about. Some sections were also a bit slow for me and at times I had a tough time keeping track of the many characters involved.

Circling the Sun is definitely an interesting and well-written story worth a read!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's EdgeThis is one of the books that helped build my love for Scotland, its green countryside, and the lively people. Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, has returned with another great book, At the Water’s Edge.

The story centers around Maddie, a young woman from high society Philadelphia. During World War II, she travels to Scotland with her husband and his best friend in an attempt to locate the Loch Ness monster, following a trail left by her father-in-law. After behaving poorly at a party, Maddie and her husband, Ellis, hope that finding the mystical monster will win back his favor.

Maddie has grown up in a very restrictive environment, bound by the rules of society and distant parents, but doesn’t realize how much so until she arrives in Scotland. The Scottish barmaids and inn owner open her eyes to an entirely different world and she finds herself drawn to it. In the Scottish countryside she also finds out that the man she married may not be who she thought he was. Her charming husband turns out to be a nasty brute while a new man in Scotland may win her heart instead.

At the Water’s Edge has a snowball effect, picking up speed as the story goes on. With an intense ending, I was gripping the book until the very last page. I really liked the story and found myself rooting for Maddie the whole time!

A Few Favorite WWII Historical Fiction Novels

As we get older our reading choices develop and change. Over the last couple years, I’ve found myself drawn to historical fiction novels more than ever, especially those focusing on Europe during World War II. A terrible time in history, I find these stories both horrifying and fascinating. Three of my favorite books of this period also happen to take place in France during this time.

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This is an excellent book sharing the powerful story of two sisters and how they each cope with the Nazi occupation in France. I was completely taken away by the bravery of these women and have recommended this book over and over again.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Another great book, this is a beautifully written story with flashes of scenes between characters and time All the Light We Cannot Seeperiods. Two characters, a young blind girl in France and a brilliant German boy who is recruited by the Nazis, offer readers very interesting perspectives. As the book goes on we see how their worlds collide during wartime.

  1. Sarah's KeySarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – A haunting twist in the book has caused this story to stay with me years after reading it. In an attempt to save her brother from the Nazis during World War II, a little girl hides the boy in their special hiding place. Throughout the book we see her journey to get back to Paris and her brother.

These books are all so well written and I continue to look for other books by these talented authors!

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

A Hundred SummersThis is one of my favorite books and I don’t throw that term around lightly. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams is a fantastic historical fiction novel sharing the story of Nick and Lily. This was the first book I read of Williams and I have adored her writing style ever since.

A Hundred Summers switches between the years 1931 and 1938 in New York City and a nearby beach town where wealthy people spend their summers lounging by the shore. During present time in the book, 1938, Nick and Lily aren’t together, but when the story switches back to 1931 they are. The book is spent reconciling what happened between those years that tore the pair apart. Williams does a great job building characters and plot twists into the book to keep us readers guessing.

This story sucked me in and every misunderstanding between characters had me gripping the book in frustration. I love a book that makes me feel actively invested in the outcomes of the characters.

My one critique of A Hundred Summers was the ending, which was a bit random, but it worked. I loved this and every other book I’ve read by Beatriz Williams and I highly recommend her work!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThis one is absolutely incredible! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a story that must be shared and read over and over again. Hannah shares with us the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, young women living in France during WWII. Hannah has done a fantastic job here, the book has great character construction and many different dynamics running throughout.

The elder sister, Vianne, has always been the weak one. When her husband is drafted for the war she has no choice but to stay strong for her daughter. Through Vianne’s story we get a glimpse into the life of a mother trying to survive through German occupation, while starving, freezing, and hosting German officers in her home.

Isabelle, the younger sister, is wild and has few thoughts for the consequences that her actions will cause. All her life she has felt unloved, a motherless girl being pushed away from a father and sister who cannot cope with the loss, kicked out of every boarding school she’s attended. When she joins the resistance against Germany she finds herself right in the center of it all.

The Nightingale is a beautifully written story and so terribly sad. These women are so brave, and although they are fictional, they represent very real people. I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone, not only historical fiction lovers.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea by Susanna KearsleyWhere to start on this one? First of all, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley had me bursting into tears with a sudden plot twist that I DID NOT expect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon for me to get emotional when reading, but I usually see it coming. You know a book is good when you are so invested in the story that you feel for the characters and their hardships and that’s what happened to me with this one.

The Winter Sea is a great book and I’m excited to have found it, it being the first novel I’ve read of Kearsley’s. This is an interesting story, the narrative switching between author Carrie, who is writing a historical fiction novel focusing on the 1708 Jacobite invasion into Scotland, and Sophia, the woman Carrie is writing about. In a twist of fate, it turns out that Carrie is more deeply entangled in Sophia’s story than she could have imagined. Carrie and Sophia’s lives seem to mysteriously mirror each other, both making a life for themselves and finding love along the way.

Kearsley has written a beautifully sculpted novel that portrays the passion an author has for her characters and how their story becomes engrained in her own life.

I really recommend this one, especially to all those historical fiction lovers out there!

Sunday Spotlight: Kate Morton

I’m really excited today because it’s the first post of my Sunday Spotlight series! Through these posts, I want to showcase incredible authors and spread their stories.

First up: Kate MortonKate Morton

Kate Morton is a wonder, her stories transporting readers into other worlds and times. I have read two of her historical fiction novels and was very impressed by her ability to sweep me away with the story. An incredibly talented author, Morton brings us stories set across the globe including settings in both England and Australia.

Morton’s books are not short, but she gives them the space needed to develop and creates twisting plotlines that keep you hooked.

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton was an incredible read with shocking plot twists. The story focuses on Laurel, a modern day woman attempting to trace her mother’s mysterious past after remembering a crime she witnessed as a child in her family home. The story switches between Laurel in the present and flashbacks of England during the chaotic aftermath of World War II. I was completely STUNNED by a twist at the end of the story, a jaw dropping finish that left me with my mouth hanging open.

That fact that I couldn’t put The Secret Keeper down while studying abroad in Italy, only goes to show how great this story is.

The Forgotten Garden By Kate MortonThe Forgotten Garden is another great story of Morton’s with a woven plot split between narratives of 3 women, Cassandra, her grandmother Nell and a mysterious woman from Nell’s past.

The death of her grandmother sends Cassandra on a journey to trace Nell’s past, who was found abandoned on a dock at four years old. Not only does Cassandra find the truth about her ancestry, she finds a way to heal after a heartbreaking accident that left her alone in the world.

I highly recommend reading Kate Morton’s novels and I would love to hear whether any of you have read her work!