Last Christmas in Paris

January 5, 2017

War changes everything….

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WW 1
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Last Christmas in Paris 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction (WW 1), epistolary, war, romantic

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit January 


At the beginning of WW 1 as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, leave for the front, she (and nearly everyone) naively believes the war will be over by Christmas. To keep their spirits up, the three make plans for celebrating Christmas in Paris. The Great War, as we know from history, turned out much differently. While Thomas and Will struggle with the horrific realities of war, Evie does her part by writing to each of them. Through letters, Evie and Thomas grow fond of each other and find it easy to share their deepest hopes and fears through letters. Evie is a high-spirited, determined, and independent young woman who wants to more fully participate in the war effort. Through her interests in writing, she writes columns for a newspaper on the topic of war from a woman’s point of view. These columns become more controversial as she finds it difficult to write anything but the truth. Eventually, she travels to France to be closer to the front as she wants to contribute to the war effort in a more significant way. Will Evie and Thomas and their love survive the war? Will they ever make it to Paris to celebrate Christmas?
Amazon Rating (January):  4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

The title is a bit misleading as the story doesn’t take place at Christmas….Christmas in Paris is mostly a symbol for hope and happier times. In addition, I think it symbolizes the tremendous loss of innocence and lost years.

Despite the heavy subject matter of WW 1, The Last Christmas in Paris is a mostly light, easy,  endearing, and romantic read. I loved it and there is a high likelihood it will end up on my favorites of 2018 list at year’s end. It reminded me a great deal of my other favorites Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. If you’ve read either one and loved it, then The Last Christmas in Paris must be added to your TBR immediately!

Themes play an important part in my enjoyment of literature. In Last Christmas in Paris there were several themes to ponder including themes of hope, tragedy, humor, friendship, and love. First, we must recognize and honor the service of the heroic young men who served in WW 1.  Through the bravery, endurance, loyalty, and determination of Lieutenant Thomas Harding, readers can imagine the sacrifice and horrors of war.  My mom said that this story reminded her of what her dad (my grandfather) told her about WW1 (he received a Purple Heart). Next, we can be inspired by independent, determined, and free-spirited Evie, an aspiring writer, and her chagrin at having been left behind. Evie represents the role of many women in WW1.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me:
I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
“One must always have an adventure in life, or the promise of it, at least.”       ~Evie

In addition to some great insights into WW1, the story includes a bit of romance as the letter writing process unfolds. Through reading their letters, I can imagine thousands of similar relationships that bloomed over the years of the Great War.

“I will reserve my shoulder for the curve of your cheek anytime. I hope I am lucky enough to feel it again.”
“Letters make one uncommonly honest, don’t you think? I’ve told you things in words that I would have been far too shy or distracted to tell you in person.”

I was also struck by the angst, tediousness, and patience of communicating solely by snail mail! From our modern perspective of instant communication, it’s amazing to be transported back to the realities of life in the early 1900s when beautiful letter writing on elegant stationery defined the times.

I loved the gentleness of this book, and I felt as close to the characters as if I had stumbled upon the letters of my great grandparents in their attic. Trust me, you need this book in your life!

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, epistolary format, and are looking for an easy, enjoyable, engaging, charming, clean, and uplifting read. Also recommended for book clubs for its interesting themes. In fact, as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day approaches, this would make a thoughtful gift for your wife, mom or grandmother. You’re welcome.

My Rating: 5 romantic Paris Stars twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

last christmas in paris

Buy Here

Meet the Authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

In 2017, Hazel will release two historical novels: THE COTTINGLEY SECRET (August, William Morrow/HarperCollins) and LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (October, William Morrow/HarperCollins).

Hazel was selected by the US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015. Her work has been translated into several languages and she is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management, New York.

For more information, visit

Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the international bestselling author of historical fiction, including Becoming Josephine, Rodin’s Lover, and Last Christmas in Paris, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. Rodin’s Lover was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in multiple countries worldwide. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America.

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Looking Ahead:

Next week I’ll review This Must be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must be the Place

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?

Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

What are your favorite WW1 or WW2 historical fiction reads?


Castle of Water

September 22, 2017


Happy first day of fall everyone!

Every now and then do you enjoy an escapist read? Are you looking for a vacation read? Do you need to get away from tragic histfic, need a break from heavy nonfiction topics, a relief from diverse literature where we work hard to climb into the perspectives of others, or a time out from text books if you’re a student? Then this may be your next read! Sometimes you find a book at just the right time, and this is when this book found me!

Castle of Water
by Dane Hucklebridge

castle of water 2

Genre/categories; fiction, survival, action & adventure, romance


“And so it came to pass that two utterly disparate lives happened to overlap … bound together on an uninhabited island some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.
Crap, as Barry liked to say.
Putain de merde, as Sophie was known to exclaim.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Sophie, an architect and honeymooner, and Barry, disillusioned with his career in finance and seeking inspiration for his love of art end up on one very small island when their plane is hit by lightning and crashes in the middle of the South Pacific. Strangers and sole survivors and as different as night and day, Sophie and Barry wash up on a small uninhabited island and survival becomes their primary objective. Sophie and Barry draw from each other’s strengths and skills and through harrowing experiences keep the hope of rescue alive. Eventually, Sophie and Barry resign themselves to beginning a new life and creating a home on the isolated island. Amazon Rating (September): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

This book found me at exactly the right time as I needed a break from reading tragic and heavy histfic. It is truly an escapist and/or vacation read! At first glance, this might seem like a classic castaway survival story, and it is….yet it’s so much more….. it’s a charming, witty, poignant, engaging, and beautifully told story that explores themes of home, love, loss, sadness, perseverance, heartbreak, hope, resiliency, and desperation. Furthermore, the history and geography that the author weaves into the narrative is informative and interesting.  The story is easy to get into with memorable characters, unexpected humor, and it’s full of heart. The story alternates between present and past timelines, and I devoured it in one day. Unputdownable. Even though Mr. Hucklebridge has a unique style of writing that was refreshing and at times exquisite, the story has a slightly impersonal feel to it and at times I wished that I could know what Sophie and Barry were thinking and feeling from a first person point of view. The author’s decision to write from an impersonal viewpoint is at its most effective when he speaks directly to the reader because it allows us to become true cohorts in the adventure and we can appreciate all their joy and sorrow. The impersonal viewpoint is a minor concern because overall I enjoyed his masterful writing and simple telling of a complicated situation and relationship. I could easily reread this book and that is rare for me.

“He smiles and shakes his head, a smile that’s bewildered and content and still pursed by that same tender sadness that visited him by the arch, that trails him as doggedly as his gratitude and his guilt … the wonder of it all, the unknowable mystery, to serve as fleshy custodian to such a fragile flame.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Recommended for all adult readers who are looking for a masterfully written tale of adventure, escapism, or a vacation read. Rating: 5 Stars (rounded up from 4.5).


Castle of Water

Buy Here


Meet the Author, Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Huckelbridge was born and raised in the American Middle West. He holds a degree from Princeton University, and his fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Tin HouseThe New Delta ReviewThe Wall Street Journal, and The New RepublicCastle of Water is his first novel, although he has also authored two historical works on American whiskey and beer, respectively. He lives with his wife in Paris, France, and New York City.


Read an interview with Dane Hucklebridge here.

(Thank you to Top Shelf Text.)

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J. Hughes

Looking Forward:

Next week, I’m eager to review The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (a YA diverse literature pick dealing with racial issues currently in the news) if you’d like to “buddy read.” Lots to discuss here. *Language alert

The Hate You Give

Get more info and/or buy here.


Sharing is Caring:

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments on Castle of Water if or when you read it!