A somber but absorbing Civil War tale about overcoming guilt.

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In this debut novel, a Confederate soldier’s ghost laments his horrific war experiences and a secret that’s tormented him for years.

Tom Smiley has spent more than a century in his childhood Virginia home, long after his family members’ deaths and his own. He’s devastated when Phoebe and her husband inherit and invade the long-empty house. The couple’s presence stirs up Tom’s memories, starting with his 18-year-old self in the 1860s. As American states secede, a passionate speaker ropes him and others into enlisting in a “volunteer militia.” The young men hardly consider the militia’s anti-government stance or “the reasons behind the conflict.” Tom and his fellow soldiers soon feel trapped, as deserters are executed. They endure the grueling Civil War, from watching friends die in battle to appalling treatment at a Union prison camp. Despite Tom’s loving spouse and the children they have later, a horrible secret mercilessly burdens him. Unexpectedly, Phoebe, who has “second sight,” offers to help the ghost whose presence she senses. If Tom confesses to her and to himself, he may come to terms with what he did so long ago. Cutter paints a vivid portrait of the 19th century—a time of slavery and civil unrest. Her grim story reveals the suffering on all fronts. Union soldiers prove menacing at the prison camp as well as in their assaults in Virginia that Tom’s parents and sisters witness. The author’s striking prose invigorates such scenes as a close-quarters battle with bayonets while cannons roar and bombs continually explode. Tom, who narrates, is naïve but sympathetic; he worries about his friends’ well-being, whether under enemy fire or as prisoners. The engrossing story understandably centers on these young soldiers, with a nominal focus on the female characters, including Tom’s wife and even Phoebe. Tom’s sister Mary is a notable exception, with her letters and writings providing intriguing insights into the family in Virginia.

A somber but absorbing Civil War tale about overcoming guilt.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64742-387-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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