Monday, October 2, 2017

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Last Christmas in Paris by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor

From the Back Cover:

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

My Thoughts:

As soon as I saw this book, I knew I was going to read it. Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor are both terrific writers, and the timing was perfect as I've been on a World War I kick lately. However, it somehow escaped my notice that this is a book composed almost entirely of correspondence. I tend to stay away from epistolary novels, but I knew if any two writers could change my mind, it would be these two. (Check out my reviews of Becoming Josephine, Fall of Poppies, and The Cottingley Secret.)

I won't go much into plot because the blurb already does a good job of letting you know what the story is about, and I want to avoid spoilers. At its heart, it is a love story between two childhood friends who discover via their years of wartime correspondence that they have a deeper connection, but is it true love or a product of their circumstances?

I find myself wondering if real, honest love can flourish in times of war, or if we are all just grasping desperately to the slightest suggestion of it, like drowning men clinging to life.

This is not only a story about love, but a story of women emerging from pampered, sheltered lives to take positions that make a difference. Both Evie and her friend Alice, frustrated and feeling helpless as they learn of the ongoing devastation of war from afar, step out of their comfort zones and into roles traditionally held by men, opening their eyes to the realities of war and discovering their own inner strength in the process.

We women are not as sheltered from the world as we once were. War is opening the world up for us. What sad irony is that?

What I don't like about novels told via letters is that I feel like I'm being held at arm's length. I prefer to see what the characters are seeing as they see it, (for one example, I wanted desperately to witness Evie and Tom's reunions rather than learn about them in summation afterward). Ultimately, while I enjoyed the story, I can't help but feel that I would have absolutely loved it had it been written in a manner that allowed me to experience the story through the eyes of the characters as it occurred. It's just not the same having it recounted after the fact. But that's my personal preference, and many readers will likely not feel as I do.

That being said, the letters are wonderful at conveying emotion and sentiments that people may not actually have the courage to say face-to-face, and there are some profound passages about love and hope and war and the resilience of the human spirit. I shed a tear on several occasions, and I could not put the book down, dying to know what would become of them in the end. This is a unique entry into the World War I fiction market, and one I can heartily recommend to readers of romantic historical fiction looking for insight into wartime on both the front lines and the home front.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5



Last Christmas in Paris is on a blog tour!
GIVEAWAY!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 copies of Last Christmas in Paris! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
  Last Christmas in Paris

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your great review and for hosting Heather & Hazel's Blog Tour, Jenny! Good luck to all who enter the giveaway!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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  2. I love their writing. Just finished reading Hazel Gaynor's The Cottingly Secret. I have this on my TRL because I look forward to reading Last Christmas In Paris. Thank you for the post and giveaway chance.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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