Reading is a great form of escapism for me, and sometimes, when the world seems too complicated, I reach for historical fiction – particularly fiction set around the first and second World Wars, because life at that time seemed simpler. Love wasn’t over thought and life was about family and faith.
Well, sure, that is a generalization, and every generation had its share of problems and conflict, but life in general was simpler, and romance was sweet. So for What I’m Reading Wednesday, I’m sharing two books set in and post-wartime.
Hope Rising, the second book from the “Of Love and War” series by Stacy Henrie.
While part of a series, Hope Rising functions well as a stand-alone book. In her first book of the series (Hope at Dawn, which I reviewed earlier this summer) we met Livy, a schoolteacher in rural Minnesota. This story centers on Joel, Livy’s surviving brother and a soldier who is serving on the front lines in France, and introduces Evelyn, a US Army Corps nurse.
Nurses on the war front are not allowed to be married, and are sent home immediately if they are found pregnant, so fraternization is strictly a no-no. While on leave, Evelyn meets Ralph, who invites her for a coffee. She initially rejects his offer, but ends up joining him for coffee, and falls in love. As things happen in a time of war, she finds herself pregnant and fearful of discovery and disappointing her grandparents.
Tragically, her Ralph is killed in battle. Brought in with the wounded is Joel, Ralph’s best friend and squad leader, who was with Ralph as he died.
Carrying guilt for Ralph’s death and learning that his dream of a family of his own might have been quashed by the injury he received, Joel is buried in sadness and loss. As Evelyn cares for the wounded Joel, she comes to a solution for both of their situations.
Henrie has an elegant writing style and her characters are relatable – flawed as humans are and full of emotion. Her secondary characters are also engaging. While billed as a historical romance, Amazon also tagged this book under Christian fiction – something that surprised me, having read the first novel in the series and not getting that vibe. This book definitely veers more heavily into finding faith and God, but I will still file it under Historical Fiction.
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is a collection of short stories by Karen White, Jenna Blum, Sarah Jio, Melanie Benjamin, Kristina McMorris, Alyson Richman, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy.
My love for Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter was what first drew me to this collection of short stories. While some of the other contributors were familiar to me (Karen White and Sarah Jio), this served as a first taste of the others, and now I’m anxious to read more.
To me, the best indication of a great short story…is that you don’t want the character’s story to end. The lovely part of this collection is how many of the characters are delicately woven into a small thread of each others’ stories.
Going Home, by Alyson Richman, is the tale of a Jewish violinist, Gregori, who escapes Poland and immigrates to New York. While he works in his uncle’s restaurant at night, entertaining diners with his music, he finds joy busking in Grand Central Station…for himself, and then for a lovely girl who buys pastries at a nearby cart. It is the story of how memories are tied to music.
I’ll be Seeing You by Sarah Jio is the heartbreaking story of a girl who returns to meet a soldier she married before he shipped out. No spoilers here, but it might have been my favorite in the lot.
I’ll Walk Alone by Sarah Robuck is the tale of a mother and her son waiting to meet her abusive husband at Grand Central as he returns from war, and the woman she meets who changes her life.
The Reunion by Kristina McMorris is a story of a female pilot who served as WASPS – Women Airfare Service Pilots – during World War II. It will pull on your heartstrings, and was another favorite.
Strand of Pearls by Pam Jenoff is the story of Ella, who has recently arrived in New York from China for a start at a new life. A chance meeting with a porter and the search for her father who had immigrated to Brooklyn before her leads to a crossroad. Oh, how I wish this story was a full length novel!
All the stories were wonderful and a great introduction to more new-to-me authors. Some of the stories deserve a two-hanky designation, too.
What is your favorite genre of books?