Readers' Favorite

June 10, 2021

4 Books for Fans of WWII Fiction

by Susan Roberts

I really enjoy reading WWII fiction about strong women who faced danger to help defeat the German Army.  Many of the women in these books are based on real-life brave women who put their lives on the line.  I've read four of these books recently that published this spring. Several of them are free ebooks for Kindle Unlimited subscribers so you can stretch your book-buying budget this month.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey 

The Secret Stealers
April 2021; Lake Union; 978-1542023559
audio, ebook, print (443 pages); historical fiction
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who live in it after we are gone?”

I read a lot of WWII fiction and it always amazes me to read another story based on real characters - strong resilient women who helped the Allies win the war but have gone unmentioned in history.

Anna is a young widow in Washington DC. She's from a wealthy family and is working as a French teacher.  Her parents wanted her to come home to Boston after her husband was killed but when she is recruited to work with the OAS in Washington it totally changes her life.  She is working at a secretarial job for legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan and when she learns about the espionage work being done in Europe she wants to help. When she gets the opportunity to go undercover as a spy in the French Resistance to help steal critical intelligence she is thrilled to have the chance to help the Allies get crucial information on German plans.  When she gets to France, she is in constant danger of being found out that she's really an American.  Even though she is fluent in French and an excellent radio operator, she is constantly in danger but is committed to sending needed information about Nazi plans back to the Allies.  The longer she is in Paris, the more convinced she is that she can make a difference.

This is a tension-filled novel about being a spy in Paris during the war,  The main character of Anna is braver than she realizes and wants to make a difference.  The secondary characters are also well written and add more detail to the story.  It is apparent on every page that the author did extensive research. This book has tension, intrigue, a bit of romance, and a lot of history.  it's a fantastic look at women's roles during the war.

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book to learn more about real people that many of the characters are based on.
(the ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers - sign up today!)

A New York Secret by Ella Carey

A New York Secret
March 2021; Bookouture; 978-1800192157
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); historical ficion
This is the first book in a new trilogy by Ella Carey set in New York City during WWII.  It's a story about love, friendship, and survival during a time in the US where there was a huge difference between the social classes.  Her novels are always exciting to read and this new trilogy looks like it will be a definite must-read.

It's 1942 in NYC and Lily Rose is a chef at an upscale restaurant.  Even though she grew up very wealthy, her love is cooking and making interesting food.  As the men in the kitchen go off to war, Lily is working to become the top chef in the kitchen.  Her snobby mother is appalled that she would want to work in such a place instead of attending parties and lunching with friends.  She wants Lily to make a good marriage and even has the man picked out for her.  The only problem is that Lily has chosen her own man - Tom, one of the chefs in the kitchen, who is from the poorer part of town.  Despite the fact that her grandmother encourages her to follow her heart, her mother is insistent that she live as a wealthy member of society and her refusal greatly affects her relationship with her parents.  When Tom gets drafted, Lily throws herself into her job to help her overcome her worry for him.   Will she be able to continue her job as a chef and wait for her love to return from war or will she give in to her mother's wishes and return to being part of the rich society of the city?

This was an interesting look at the effects of the war in America.  The girls drew lines on the back of their legs so it would look like they were wearing silk stockings when silk was no longer available for non-combat items and the food shortages made for some interesting dishes prepared in the kitchens. No matter how exclusive the restaurant was, they still had to deal with food shortages.  Lily was a strong and resilient woman who continued to work in a man's world despite the views of her mother and the men in the kitchen.

I really enjoyed this book, and I'm happy to know that there are more books coming that are set in New York during WWII. 

Buy A New York Secret at Amazon
(the ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers - sign up here!)

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

The Woman with the Blue Star
May 2021; Park Row; 978-0778311546
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); historical fiction
A riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

I have read and loved all of Pam Jenoff's books and they all stay on my favorite book lists.  Her new book is one of the best books that I've read about friendship during World War II - the friendship of two very different girls in totally opposite lives - but a friendship that transcended what was going on in the world at this time.

Sadie is 18 and living in the Krakow ghetto with her parents.  When the Nazis begin to liquidate the ghetto, they escape into the sewers under the city.  With several other families, they settle into a small alcove in the sewer tunnels.  At first, they think they will be escaping from there soon but it soon becomes apparent that they need to stay underground to remain safe.  Surrounded by the smell of the sewer and with a lack of light, they try to make the best of their circumstances.   Sadie longs for sunlight and often goes to the sewer grates to look up into the sun.  One day, a girl buying flowers sees Sadie below the grate and when she realizes that it is a girl hiding, she decides that she will help her.  Ella is from the rich side of town.  Her father has died and she lives with her stepmother who spends her time with Nazi officers and treats Ella terribly.  The war hasn't really changed Ella's life much so her decision to help Sadie was even more surprising.  Over time, as they talk, they realize how much they like each other and would love to get to know each other under different circumstances.   As the war continues, both girls are in extreme danger that could claim their lives if anyone found out.  Their friendship is more important than the worsening danger and their friendship continues until they must make a decision that will affect both of their lives.

This is a wonderful book about the strength of friendship that transcends social class, religion, or living conditions even during the most brutal times.  The trust and friendship that they had was a bright shining star during a dark time in world history.  Even if you are tired of reading WWII fiction, this is a must-read - it's about so much more than the war - it's about love and friendship and family and survival.

Other historical fiction books by Pam Jenoff that I enjoyed

The Lost Girls of Paris - see review HERE
The Orphan's Train -  see review HERE

The Secrets We Left Behind by Soraya M. Lane

The Secrets We Left Behind
May 2021; Lake Union; 978-1542025904
audio, ebook, print (319 pages); historical fiction
"Let Dunkirk be better than this."
(loc 103)

It's 1940 and Cate, an English nurse, is working at the clearance hospital in Dunkirk.  She loves her work and taking care of injured soldiers despite the fact that her fiancĂ© has been declared 'missing, presumed dead'.  As the bombing by the German army gets closer, there is a decision to evacuate the troops to England.  But some people need to remain at the hospital to help the wounded, so the staff draws straws.  Cate gets the short straw and watches her friends and co-workers and many of the injured leave for Dunkirk beach and hopeful evacuation.  One of the few patients left is Jack, and Cate has been having romantic feelings about him since he arrived.  When the Germans arrive to take prisoners, Cate and Jack escape.  Their walk to hopefully get to a safe place is filled with fear of capture and I was rapidly turning pages during this part of the book.  They finally find a house with two young women living in it and ask for help.    Sisters Elise and Adelaide are reluctant at first.  Their town has been taken over by the Germans and they are already hiding a wounded English soldier.  They all know that if they are discovered, they will be executed.   As each day passes, their lives become more perilous especially when a high-level Nazi becomes interested in Adelaide.  There are decisions to be made that will possibly put them in more danger.  

The author had me rapidly turning pages throughout this book.  I needed to find out if they were able to escape or be executed.  My favorite characters were Cate and Elsie.  Both were stronger and more resilient than they knew and it was their bravery that helped the other people in the house.

This is a fantastic WWII story about strong women who did their best in extreme situations to help the Allies win the war.  It's apparent on every page that the author has done extensive research.  Many of the characters and plots were based on real people.  This is a book full of suspense, history, love, and an overwhelming need to help others.

(the ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers - sign up now!)

Dunkirk evacuation, (1940) in World War II, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops from the French seaport of Dunkirk to England. ... When it ended on June 4, about 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers (dead, wounded, missing, or captured) from 10 May until the armistice with France on 22 June. 3,500 British were killed and 13,053 wounded. All the heavy equipment had to be abandoned.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. I have never read any Pam Jenoff, but a friend/colleague just told me about her books and was raving about them.