Solid Women’s Fiction, Too Reliant On COVID, Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This is the penultimate entry in the Sail Away “series” where several authors have come together to craft their own unique stories all centered around cruising, with each taking a different bent to it. The cruise Sands uses here is more of a luxury yacht / WindStar type ship sailing the Mediterranean, and the cruising elements here are absolutely breathtaking – particularly for anyone who is even remotely familiar (even from other pop culture sources/ YouTube) with the waters and coasts of the region, from Spain to France to Italy.
Something like a solid 70% of this tale is more women’s fiction based, with a woman trying to rediscover her passion after years of COVID burnout, and through this section, it absolutely works as a women’s fiction tale. The star deduction is because it *is* so heavily focused on COVID and related topics, and any such talk for me is an automatic star deduction because I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. (This noted, it *is* in the description that this will be discussed to some extent or another, but in my defense here… I pre-ordered this entire series months before publication, just on the strength of the authors and my love of cruising generally.)
The romance here, such as it is, feels a bit tacked on and rushed, even in a shorter sub-200 page novel/ longer novella. It works within the story being told to that point, just don’t expect the entire tale here to be the romance. 🙂 Note that no other element of this tale feels so rushed as this particular element.
And the epilogue. It works. It is what one would expect from a women’s fiction/ romance. But why oh why does seemingly every romance author out there (not *all* of them, but *many*) feel the need to tack in a baby/ pregnancy in these epilogues? Completely unnecessary, and leaves a bitter aftertaste to the tale for those who are childfree (such as myself) or childless (others I know). Yes, there is a difference between the two – childfree largely are happy not having children, childless want them and don’t have them. (A touch of a simplification, but one that works for purposes of *brief* explanation.) Something to look at for authors who may not be aware that these particular groups exist – and thus the inclusion of the pregnancy here in the epilogue wasn’t star-deduction worthy so much as discussion-within-the-review worthy.
Still, overall this book really was quite good, and a solid entry into a fun series. Very much recommended.
This review of Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands was originally written on February 24, 2023.
Grief And Madness. One of the things I like about this particular book, and the way it parallels my own family’s life, is in showing how events during WWII can have generational impacts via creating madness – the older term for insanity, yet which feels like it applies more appropriately here – in some of the survivors of that war. Here, we see it even in two people who were far from soldiers, far from the front lines. They were simply mothers who had daughters at nearly the same time in the same city who happened to become friends… and then had that friendship tested in pretty horrific ways. But the varying types of madness we see here do a great job in showing how the war impacted different people differently, even people as connected as these two mothers were. Without giving too much away, we even see the horrors of the Holocaust a bit – and there again, we see survivors trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
All told this was one of those books where the gut punches land heavy – but early. The “big reveal” is, in fact, rather obvious *much* earlier than the explicit reveal, and yet the way this is done works within the story being told of the varying madnesses and how these survivors are trying to cope in any way they can. So while I can’t personally fault Harmel for this, I can see where other more stringent reviewers might. Even the near 400 page length works well here, never feeling bloated or too slow and instead simply packing in a *ton* of rich detail and events, many – even among the seemingly more insignificant in this tale – based on real world events and seemingly quite accurate. (The author’s note in the end reveals how one particular incident within the last few pages of the book is actually the author inserting her characters into that particular moment, but otherwise being pretty close to an actual nonfiction report on the incident in question.)
Overall a truly well done, beautifully layered tale of two beautifully broken women and the impacts their choices have across decades. Very much recommended.
This review of The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel was originally written on December 19, 2022.
Return Of The Queen. This book has a lot going on, and several problems, but ultimately there is nothing technical/ objective-ish to hang a star deduction on. The positive image of a sex worker is great – as is the more real-to-most view of what *actually* happened later in the book. The twists and turns are well executed and extend all the way into the epilogue, which is also good. But there are absolutely points where you’re going to question whether you want to continue – this book gets *dark* and seems like it is going to be getting even darker. But then comes an abrupt and extended shift, before we get back to the meat of our current story, and that saves us from the darkest areas. Still, my own biggest problem with the book is that it has exactly the same problem Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King does (and hence my title of this review). That last 10-15% in particular is pretty dang unnecessary and should have been left on the editing room floor. The epilogue itself is fine, but there is around 10% of the text in between the penultimate twist and the epilogue that seems to exist for no reason other than padding the length of the book… and why bother padding the length of the book? Does your contract or pay as an author or publisher depend on the number of words or pages or some such? It just makes no sense otherwise. Still, the tale itself here is interesting and ultimately satisfying, even if there are various problems therein. Recommended.
This review of One Last Secret by Adele Parks was originally written on December 10, 2022.
This week we’re looking at a remarkable and rare blending of the historical fiction and women’s fiction genres. This week we’re looking at You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham.
If you’ve read very many of my reviews on WWII historical fiction books at all, you know it is a subject that has long fascinated me due to my own personal family history there – both grandfathers were at the Battle of the Bulge, one got a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions there, the other was in the area (at minimum) when the Americans liberated the first concentration camps on their front of the war. And the dichotomy of what I knew of those two men decades later – one (concentration camp) whose lifespan my own intersected with by 5 weeks, the other who I knew for the last 20 years of his life – has become a long running, simmering thread in my own tale.
And without further ado… the Goodreads review. 🙂
Long Buried Family Secrets Find Closure. Here, we get an interesting spin on this oft-travelled subject and technique. So many books of this genre want to take place primarily in the past with only the occasional jump to the future (ala Titanic), but here Graham sticks remarkably close to alternating every single chapter past and present. The past storyline is, perhaps, a touch more urgent, as it involves hiding a brother and trying to smuggle him out of France in 1941. But the present storyline has more of the “women’s fiction” elements of a woman trying to find herself after the tragic loss of her grandmother soon after the loss of her significant other and business partner… and stumbling across things about her grandmother that had never been known in the family, which leads to her quest and ultimately the resolution of both timelines. Both timelines worked quite well, and it is indeed rare to see a single book blend elements of the two distinct genres together so effectively – which speaks to just how good Graham is. Very much recommended.