BlogTour #BookReview Daughters of War (Daughters of War 1) by Dinah Jefferies @RandomTTours @fictionpubteam

Daughters of War BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies, the first in a new series set in World War 2 occupied France. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to HarperCollins for my digital review copy.

Daughters of War CoverAbout the Book

France, 1944. Deep in the river valley of the Dordogne, in an old stone cottage on the edge of a beautiful village, three sisters long for the end of the war.

Hélène, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening. Élise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost. And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free.

Then, one dark night, the Allies come knocking for help. And Helene knows that she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But bravery comes at a cost, and soon the sisters’ lives become even more perilous as they fight for what is right. And secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear…

Format: Paperback (544 pages)              Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 16th September 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Hélène, Élise and Florence, the author carefully delineates the three sisters’ personalities. Hélène is sensible, cautious and feels a keen sense of responsibility towards her younger sisters in the absence of their mother. Élise is impulsive, courageous but at times heedless of the risks to which she exposes herself and her sisters. Florence is sensitive, caring and has an instinctive feeling for the natural world.  At first, the sisters lead a charmed life, tucked away in their cottage and fortified by the food Florence seems to be able to create out of nothing.  They are also fortunate to have, or have come into their lives, three handsome men who offer them practical help, reassurance and often a little bit more.

It is Hugo, the local doctor, and his wife Marie, who initially experience the realities of life under the Nazis. However, everything also changes for the sisters following a brutal encounter (the nature of which may be triggering for some) which is quite different in tone from that of the book so far.  In fact, this event signals a change to a much more dramatic storyline during which the author explores in minute detail how each of the sisters respond emotionally to the often traumatic experiences they witness. The revelation concerning their mother towards the end of the book, although resolving a mystery signalled early on, may not come as that much of a surprise to the observant reader but does bring unexpected complications.

What the book does particularly well is convey the realities of life under German occupation: the violence of the Vichy-supporting Milice, the fear of reprisals for acts of sabotage by the Resistance, the shortages of food and fuel.  It’s a time of distrust, divided loyalties and uncertainty about what tomorrow might bring.  After all, how can you plan for the future when you don’t even know if you’ll be there to see it? ‘The world was cracking and splintering deep in its bowels. And people were falling through the cracks, never knowing which of them was going to meet their fate.’

Another strength of the book is its descriptions of the landscape of the Dordogne, a gift surely to the area’s tourist board.  So, through the eyes of the sisters, the reader is given a picture of ‘the languid twists of the river’ from which can be seen castles perched on high cliffs and fortified hilltop towers with old stone walls.

The first in a planned trilogy, in the concluding chapters of Daughters of War the author lays the groundwork for a number of possible story arcs in subsequent books.

In three words: Romantic, sweeping, dramatic

Try something similar: The Girl From Vichy by Andie Newton

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Dinah Jefferies Author PicAbout the Author

Dinah Jefferies began her career with The Separation, followed by the number 1 Sunday Times and Richard and Judy bestseller, The Tea-Planter’s Wife. Born in Malaysia, she moved to England at the age of nine. As a teenager she missed the heat of Malaysia, which left her with a kind of restlessness that led to quite an unusual life. She studied fashion design, went to live in Tuscany where she worked as an au-pair for an Italian countess, and there was even a time when
Dinah lived with a rock band in a ‘hippie’ commune in Suffolk.

In 1985, the death of her fourteen-year-old son changed everything and she now draws on the experience of loss in her writing. She started writing novels in her sixties and sets her books abroad, aiming to infuse love, loss and danger with the extremely seductive beauty of her locations.

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#BookReview Those I Have Lost by Sharon Maas @Bookouture

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Welcome to day one of the blog tour for Those I Have Lost by Sharon Maas which is published today. My thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Bookouture for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

Those I Have LostAbout the Book

A family on a faraway island. Seas crawling with Japanese spies. A terrible war creeping ever closer…

1940. When Rosie loses her mother and is sent to Sri Lanka to live with her mother’s friend Silvia and her three sons, her world changes in a heartbeat. As she is absorbed into the bosom of a noisy family, with boys she loves like brothers, she begins to feel at home.

But the war in Europe is heading for Asia. Searching for comfort from the bleak news and the bombings, Rosie meets a heroic soldier on leave, and falls in love for the first time. Yet the war will not stop for passion; he must move on, and she must say goodbye, knowing she might never see him again. She is left with just a memory.

Meanwhile, one by one, the men she considers brothers leave to fight for their island paradise. As she waits in anguish for letters that never come, tortured by stories of torpedoed ships and massacres of innocent families, she realises that she, too, must do her bit. Rosie volunteers to work in military intelligence, keeping secrets that will help those she loves and protect her island home. But then two telegrams arrive with the chilling words ‘missing believed captured’ and ‘missing believed dead’. Who of those that she loves will survive the devastating war, and who will she lose?

Format: ebook (430 pages)        Publisher: Bookouture
Publication date: 9th July 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The early parts of the book deal with Rosie’s childhood, first in Madras and then in Sri Lanka (known at the time as Ceylon) where she is sent to live on the tea plantation owned by her late mother’s friend, Silvia (who Rosie refers to as Aunt Silvia) and her husband Henry.  Rosie spends time with the two younger sons of the family, Victor and Andrew. (The eldest son, Graham, is away at boarding school in England.) She finds the two brothers very different in character. Whilst Andrew is ‘soft and gentle’, Victor is all ‘hard, tight-balled muscle and rough in manner’.

Since the brothers are away at boarding school for much of the time, initially it’s not quite the new family situation Rosie imagined when she left her grief-stricken father behind in Madras. However, she takes comfort in knowing she’s following the wishes of her late mother and in her friendship with a Tamil girl, Usha, the daughter of the family’s housekeeper. Even though their social positions are very different, Rosie has inherited the unusually enlightened views of her parents and their ‘sharp and disapproving eye for racial arrogance’. Unfortunately, things becomes complicated when Rosie can’t stop herself from interfering in affairs of the heart. She clings to the hope that one day she will have an opportunity to put things right.

Although I found the sections of the book covering Rosie’s childhood and early adolescence interesting, it was the outbreak of war in Europe that really brought the story alive for me. When its impact eventually reaches Ceylon it means big changes for all the family, including Rosie. The book description above gives you a pretty good idea how events unfold from this point on but I won’t spoil your reading enjoyment by answering the questions it poses at the end. Safe to say, in war nothing is certain, and grief and loss are only a telegram away. A section of the book I particularly enjoyed was one towards the end which focuses on Rosie’s war work, including an unexpected reunion.

The book’s prologue remained in the back of my mind throughout, making me wonder how the events it described would connect to Rosie’s story. Have patience, because eventually the different strands of the story do come together; in fact, fragments of the picture are revealed before that.

The author skilfully handles the multiple storylines whilst at the same time bringing to life the culture of both India and Sri Lanka through the descriptions of food, clothing and daily domestic life. Although a fairly chunky read, the book’s setting, the wartime backdrop and the element of romance means Those I Have Lost offers plenty for readers to enjoy.

In three words: Emotional, detailed, eventful

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Sharon Maas Author PhotoAbout the Author

Sharon Maas was born into a prominent political family in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1951. She was educated in England, Guyana, and, later, Germany. After leaving school, she worked as a trainee reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown and later wrote feature articles for the Sunday Chronicle as a staff journalist. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, is set in Guyana and India and was published by HarperCollins in 1999. In 2014 she moved to Bookouture, and now has ten novels under her belt. Her books span continents, cultures, and eras. From the sugar plantations of colonial British Guiana in South America, to the French battlefields of World War Two, to the present-day brothels of Mumbai and the rice-fields and villages of South India, Sharon never runs out of stories for the armchair traveller.

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