An unassuming but riveting tale of the hardships and ultimate rewards of family.


In this debut novel, an orphan living in an Irish convent becomes torn between resentment and compassion when she learns the identity of the mother who seemingly abandoned her.

After 6-year-old Mary Margaret Joyce endures a callous foster family, a judge sends her to Saint Thomas’ Industrial School in 1943. Upon meeting the girl, Sister Constance changes her name to Peg, as there are “too many Marys.” Convent life isn’t always easy, with strict rules and sometimes-harsh nuns, but Peg perseveres and even makes a few friends. She gets a reprieve from the convent when the sisters send her on a one-week holiday to stay with Norah Hanley and her husband, Dan. Peg thoroughly enjoys time with the couple and is sad to leave. Fortunately, her visits become an annual event, but when Norah and Dan begin having children, Peg longs to be part of a family—perhaps theirs. Knowing that she was a child born out of wedlock, Peg soon suspects that her birth mother is Norah or her sister, Hannah. Peg is angry that her mother would give her away, but it’s also clear that an unmarried pregnant woman in Ireland bears the sole responsibility (and punishment) for what some perceive as a sin. Daniele’s story is quietly engaging; her straightforward prose details Peg’s arduous time at the convent without recounting graphic abuse. For example, when a nun punishes Peg and another girl with slaps to their faces, it’s a startling moment primarily because the sister strikes without warning. The author furthermore succeeds at generating sympathy for both Peg and her mother. The girl’s fury is understandable, but her mother, readers learn, has her own tale to tell. Captivating supporting characters help shape Peg’s often dour world, from kindhearted nuns to a girl at the convent who suffers periodic seizures. Daniele leaves the ending open, with the possibility of more stories about the appealing young protagonist.

An unassuming but riveting tale of the hardships and ultimate rewards of family.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-943006-94-6

Page Count: 242

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2019

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.


A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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