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PURSUIT OF PARADISE

A well-researched tribute and a memorable addition to World War II literature.

Awards & Accolades

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A debut novel about a young soldier’s World War II experiences in the South Pacific and his romance with a hometown girl.

Smith mines a rich trove of family history to tell the fictionalized story of his parents, Red and Judy Smith, who hailed from farming families in East Texas and fell in love as teenagers. The novel opens on a hot day in Hopkins County in August of 1940, when local, 19-year-old baseball player Horace Garlton “Red” Smith, a responsible eldest son in his family, first notices Juliette “Judy” Hamilton, a 12-year-old girl from a neighboring farm, cheering him on. Despite the age difference, Judy says to herself that “she would, by hook or crook, someday, somehow, win the heart of this Red-Headed Prince and be carried away to Paradise, to live, as they say, happily ever after.” The story follows their later wartime courtship and postwar marriage, closing with epilogues that capture each spouse’s final moments, reaffirming their bond. Judy remains a somewhat idealized character throughout, and this narrative choice makes the postwar section of the novel feel less compelling than earlier chapters. But the book succeeds in its detailed evocation of Red’s transformation from a young farm boy to a seasoned soldier fighting in ferocious jungle battles in the South Pacific, tried by combat and buoyed by the strong bonds of friendship with a small band of fellow soldiers. In a prelude, Smith effectively foreshadows Red’s experiences during the November 1944 battle in Leyte in the Philippines: “The night was dark as pitch. Howling winds carried horizontal sheets of blinding, cutting rain.” And although Red’s survival is never in doubt, the tension is high as each battle threatens his closest friends—Nobel Horner, Pete Petty, and Kenny Herrod—and the other members of the mortar unit. Crisp, believable dialogue and backstories bring these secondary characters into sharper focus.

A well-researched tribute and a memorable addition to World War II literature. (bibiliography, introduction, author’s note)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72833-564-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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