Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Last Christmas in Paris Review

I'm counting my blessings again over here on the blog, as the fabulous Heather Webb noticed my love of the Eiffel Tower covered book and offered to send me a copy of the new novel she wrote with Hazel Gaynor coming out October 3rd! I drooled on my keyboard as I wrote a response that went something like "please please yes please oh thank you please please please". Yes, I lean towards subtle and professional when I pen e-mails. My only hope was that the inside of this book lived up to it's beautiful exterior, and I am happy to report that it SO did.

Last Christmas in Paris is a beautiful historical novel set in World War I. It is an epistolary novel, told mostly through the letters of Evie Elliott as she sees her brother and his best friend go off to war in France. They all believe the war will be short, and the boys will be home by Christmas, where they will meet up in Paris to celebrate. But as it wages on longer and the world they know upends, the connection Evie builds with her childhood friend Thomas grows into something different. Can love flourish even during this terrible war that feels like it will never end? And will they ever get their Christmas in Paris??

Despite my incredibly mushy-sounding description, this book is not a sappy romance really. I think the authors did a great job of keeping it from being too overly sentimental. Evie has very progressive thoughts for her time, and wants more than anything to be a writer and journalist. She has the chance to write a regular column for a paper in London, and runs into problems with the War Office. She wants to do more all the time, while butting heads with her mother, who has very old-fashioned ideas of what a woman should be doing.

Thomas suffers with the loss of so many of the men under his command. He's struggling with not being back home to care for his ailing father, and the family's business that has been left in the hands of a distant relative with differing values. His health declines, and Evie becomes a beacon in the dark for him.

The novel is bookended with Thomas as an elderly gentleman on borrowed time, reading the stack of letters that Evie has painstakingly kept. We know that he's lived a long life with his love, which does nothing to detract from the bulk of the story. You are still fully immersed in the horrors of war, and worrying right along with Evie about her friends and loved ones.

This novel held my attention completely and it's so well written. To me it's Downton Abbey meets War Horse...full of Tom Hiddleston-level British Gallantry (and I LOVE him). If you're a fan of any of those things, this book is a must read. If you're a fan of historical fiction really, I'd say it's a safe pick. And I agree with the comparisons to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, although it's been a long time since I've read that one. I haven't read enough books set in World War I. It seems like most of the big popular historical fiction books are set in World War II, which is a shame really because this time period is actually quite fascinating to me.

So, a HUGE thank-you to Heather Webb for sending this book my direction. Last Christmas in Paris isn't out until October 3rd, but I couldn't hold onto my review any longer. I sat on it for a bit, but every time I saw someone else rave about it online it felt like I'd dropped the ball!! It is up on Amazon and I'm sure other bookseller's sites for pre-order though, in case you're like me and have the retention of a gnat.

Let me know if you have a favorite historical fiction book set in World War I that you think I need to read...or one with a beautiful picture of the Eiffel Tower on the cover...because I'm a sucker for those Paris pictures. 😁

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