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February 25, 2022

4 Wonderful Books of Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts

reviews of four wonderful books of historical fiction

It looks like there is a lot of great historical fiction books publishing this year.  Here are reviews of four books from vastly different eras - one about the 1920s, one about the 1960s, and two set during WWII.

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The Lady of Galway Manor by Jennifer Deibel

cover of The Lady of Galway Manor by Jennifer Deibel, a charming historical Christian romance
February 2022; Revell; 978-0800741112
audio, ebook, print (329 pages); historical romance

It's 1920 and there is a lot of turmoil between the English aristocracy and the Irish people.  Lord DeLacy has just been appointed as the landlord of Galway Parish.  He brings his wife and his daughter Annabeth to what he considers an uncivilized country full of people who are beggars and cheaters.  Annabeth is bored without all of the parties and events that she went to in London so she begs her father to let her learn how to make jewelry. She convinces him to arrange an apprenticeship for her with the Jennings family--descendants of the creator of the famed Claddagh Ring.  Stephen who runs the shop with his father is not happy with this turn of events.  He has no trust in the English and doesn't understand why the daughter of the Lord wants to work with him.  Plus he's hiding a secret from his father and the rest of the town - even though the Claddagh rings that his shop specializes in are a symbol of love, he no longer believes in love.  He'd been hurt in the past and has no plans to fall in love again.

Both Annabeth and Stephen carry the prejudices of their background into their day-to-day lives but they begin to see that maybe everything they believed may not be true.  The war for Irish independence is gaining ground in Galway and many people resent the English represented by Lord DeLacy and his family.  The town members begin to plot against the family and when something catastrophic happens, the family is in dire jeopardy.  Can Annabeth and Stephan go beyond the prejudices they've been taught about the English and the Irish and become true friends or maybe even more?

Ireland was in turmoil over their treatment by the English and the people were beginning to plot trouble against them.  The author does a great job of threading what was really going on in Ireland at this time with her fictional story.  The two main characters are a perfect example of the need to judge other people for themselves and not based on what they've been taught. 

Overall this was a well-written book about Ireland along with a romance between two interesting characters -- one who doesn't want to spend her life doing what is expected of her and the other who wants to change his life but isn't sure how.  



Claddagh Ring
Claddagh rings displayed with flowers
Image by M├ęgane Percier from Pixabay

There's an old Irish saying that goes along with the Claddagh ring: "With these hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love." The ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship. The classic Claddagh design includes two hands clasped around a heart topped with a crown. Each of these elements has its own meaning: the hands represent friendship, the heart symbolizes true love, and the crown is for loyalty.
Claddagh rings have been around for centuries, with some of the earliest iterations dating back to the 1700s.


Sugaring Down by Dan Chodorkoff

cover of character driven novel Sugaring Down by Dan Chodorkoff
February 2022; Fomite;  978-1947917811
ebook, print (418 pages); historical fiction

"We had no doubt it was time to build a new world.  We'd build a new society on the rubble of the old, a model of how life  should be,  and at the same time build a base for resistance and transformation, a revolutionary outpost." (p 12)

The year is 1968 and America is divided.  Jill and David are anti-war activists and dreamers who want to change the world.  They move to a small farm in Vermont, owned by a relative of Jill's, to start a commune as a base for the resistance.  They plan that other friends will live at the farm and their lives will be all be cool and groovy as they plot a way to end the war.  We find out from the first that they may want to change the world but they are ill-prepared to run a farm.  

They arrive in the midst of winter to a cabin that has no insulation and not enough wood to get them through the winter.  They need to learn how to farm and depend on their nearest neighbors who have lived in their home in the mountains for many years.  

As spring arrives, they begin to get a revolving number of visitors.  David tries to put them all to work by assigning jobs but some of them are just there for a place to go and have no intention of contributing their time to working. Some of the new people who move to the house are more interested in guns and violence than non-violence plus there are older people in the small town who look down on those 'useless hippies' so they are always in some danger in the place that they hoped to find love and peace. 

When winter arrives again, many of the residents move back to the warmth of the city.  Will David and Jill be able to maintain their dream of creating a base for the resistance or will the work involved in running a farm in Vermont take most of their time?  Will they lose faith in their original dreams??

This is a very character-driven novel with David and Jill telling the story.  I liked both characters - hard-working David more than idealist Jill.  My only complaint about the book is that I thought it was a bit too long and bogged down several times but overall this is a great story of dreams for the future versus the reality of day-to-day life.

 Buy Sugaring Down at Amazon

Under a Sky of Memories by Soraya M. Lane

cover of Under A Sky of Memories by Soraya M. Lane an engrossing story of three WWII nurses
January 2022; Lake Union; 978-1542031974
audio, ebook, print (351 pages); WWII fiction

"This is it.  Once we step on that gangplank, we'll be leaving America for months."
  (loc479)

Soraya Lane has become one of the best writers of strong women in WWII.  She always does considerable research and bases her story on real people in real situations.  Her new book is based on a group of 26 Air Force nurses and medics who crashed in Albania in 1943 and had to avoid the Germans who controlled the country.    They survived for 63 days before they were rescued and three of the nurses who were separated from the group were there for 135 days before rescue.

The Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron was set up to help remove wounded from field hospitals to better-equipped hospitals for treatment.  Vita, Dot, and Evelyn were all from different areas and lifestyles but became great friends when they were doing their training in the US.  Normally the pilot, one medic, and one nurse flew to get the wounded.  But the upper brass felt like this was too slow so they sent 26 nurses and medics.  Due to a storm, the plane got lost and ended up crashing in Albania.  It was amazing that everyone survived the crash but what followed was even worse.  They were lost and hungry and tired but had to be vigilant so they wouldn't be captured.  The story is told by the three nurses and each chapter is alternately told by each one of them.

Vida was from a rich family and when she told her parents that she was volunteering, they disinherited her.  She was fun-loving and was a real party gal but could always be counted on to do a great job.

Dot was very shy and sure that she'd be kicked out in training.  She's never really had a family until the three of them bonded and became a family.

Evelyn had taken care of her family after her mother died and knew that she needed more in life.  She was practical and determined and soon became one of the leaders of the small group trying to get rescued.

This was an engrossing story based on the three nurses.  They were all stronger and more resilient than they knew and no matter what was going on, their friendship stayed strong and helped them survive both physically and mentally.

I enjoy reading historical fiction when I also learn about a real event that I knew nothing about.  I love books with brave and resilient women who did their part to help their country.  Once again, Soraya Lane has given me all that and more -- a story that I won't soon forget. 

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for free0

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin 

cover of Until the Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin an inspirational story of friendship and love, allegiance and duty
February 2022; Revell; 978-0800741051
audio, ebook, print (403 pages); WWII fiction

Until the Leaves Fall in Paris
 starts in 1940 in Paris and the Nazi army has taken over the city.    The Parisian people have started to suffer from their new rules and from lack of lack of food.  Many people, especially the Jewish people are trying to get passage to a safer country.  The resistance has started to help fight the Germans even though it may cost them their lives.  The two main characters in this novel are Americans who have lived in Paris for years.  America hasn't declared war on Germany yet so they are still relatively safe.

Lucie - has lived in Paris since she was 14 to study ballet.  She gave up her dancing to take ownership of an American bookstore.  Her bookstore becomes a drop point for messages between members of the Resistance. She's frightened to be part of this but knows that she has to do what she can.  As the Nazis become stronger in Paris and hunt down the members of the Resistance, she knows that she could be discovered at any time and the punishment will be death.

Paul owns an auto factory in the city.  He is approached by the Germans to switch his factory and start making trucks to send to Germany.  He agrees but only because he is gathering information from the Germans to pass to the Americans.  He wishes that he'd left Paris sooner with his four-year-old daughter.  He lets people believe that he is a collaborator which causes many of his friends to turn their backs on him and his daughter.

Lucie and Paul meet at the bookstore when he brings his daughter for children's hour.  There is a spark between them but both know now is not the time for a romance when either of them could be discovered and arrested anytime for their clandestine activities.

I've read other books by Sarah Sundin and her books about WWII are all very well researched.    Her books are hard to put down once you start reading and there were several parts of this novel that had me nervously reading to find out if characters would be safe.

This book is inspirational and shows the importance of friendship and love, allegiance and duty to one's country.  Despite the overall danger in Paris during this time period, the feeling at the end is one of love and hope for the future. 




Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. 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 Facebook.



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