(Review) The Cotillion Brigade: A Novel of the Civil War and The Most Famous Female Militia in American History by Glen Craney

Publisher and Publication Date: Brigid’s Fire Press. March 15th 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 399.
Format: e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from the author. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of the Civil War era.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Links for more information about this history:
The Girl Soldiers of Nancy Harts Militia, from the Civil War Monitor
Troup County Archives
History.com
American Civil War Forum
Women History Blog (beware of pop-ups)

Author Info:

A graduate of Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Glen Craney practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to write about national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. In 1996, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was named Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. He is a three-time Finalist/Honorable Mention winner of Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year and a Chaucer Award winner for Historical Fiction. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, the Scotland of Robert Bruce, Portugal during the Age of Discovery, the trenches of France during World War I, the battlefields of the Civil War, and the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. He lives in Malibu, California.
Learn more about Glen’s books and subscribe to his newsletter for deals and new releases at www.glencraney.com.

Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest/ Goodreads

Summary:

Georgia burns.
Sherman’s Yankees are closing in.
Will the women of LaGrange run or fight?

Based on the true story of the celebrated Nancy Hart Rifles, The Cotillion Brigade is a sweeping epic of the Civil War’s ravages on family and love, the resilient bonds of sisterhood amid devastation, and the miracle of reconciliation between bitter enemies.

“Gone With The Wind meets A League Of Their Own.”

1856. Sixteen-year-old Nannie Colquitt Hill makes her debut in the antebellum society of the Chattahoochee River plantations. A thousand miles to the north, a Wisconsin farm boy, Hugh LaGrange, joins an Abolitionist crusade to ban slavery in Bleeding Kansas.

Five years later, secession and total war against the homefronts of Dixie hurl them toward a confrontation unrivaled in American history.

Nannie defies the traditions of Southern gentility by forming a women’s militia and drilling it four long years to prepare for battle. With their men dead, wounded, or retreating with the Confederate armies, only Captain Nannie and her Fighting Nancies stand between their beloved homes and the Yankee torches.

Hardened into a slashing Union cavalry colonel, Hugh duels Rebel generals Joseph Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest across Tennessee and Alabama. As the war churns to a bloody climax, he is ordered to drive a burning stake deep into the heart of the Confederacy.

Yet one Georgia town—which by mocking coincidence bears Hugh’s last name—stands defiant in his path.

Read the remarkable story of the Southern women who formed America’s most famous female militia and the Union officer whose life they changed forever.

My Thoughts:

Several reasons why I love The Cotillion Brigade:
1. It is a history I’ve not heard of before.
2. It is not dual time periods. Bravo! The story is told in a linear or chronological form.
3. There is tension, internal and external conflicts, controversy, and extra-ordinary characters.
4. One of my favorite points about this story is the wonderful dialogue. I love the Southern phrases. I love the specific word usage by the different characters down to their humor and sarcasm. Several times I laughed out loud at the comic moments. The Cotillion Brigade is a serious story of war. In a serious story it is important to have moments when the reader can take a breath. Those comic moments are a benefit.
5. Through Nancy’s eyes I saw the destruction and devastation of the war on the people, the towns, and the land. It is especially moving during the part of the story where she tends the wounds of soldiers.
6. The story moves between the women involved in the Brigade and Colonel Hugh LaGrange. His parts in the story are mainly the events of the war. He is a Colonel in the Union Army. I am able to understand his experiences during the war. His decisions and feelings about the South.
7. The descriptions of the people, land, buildings, homes, and the aftermath of war is brought to life on page. I especially love reading about less significant things like the characters facial expressions and mannerisms.
8. The Cotillion Brigade has a solid ending. A satisfying ending. The devastation of the war on the land and people is a fact. I like characters to have a resolve of some kind. I like to see a transformation. I am pleased with the ending.
9. I can think of one point that is not something I cared about in the story. The beginning of the story is focused on the pre-Civil War years of Nancy Colquitt Hill and Hugh LaGrange. I do not care about house parties and clothing. I do not care about who has a bonnet set on a particular man. I did enjoy reading about LaGrange. These years gave me an idea of his beliefs and convictions.
10. The Cotillion Brigade is not a story with the aim/focus of telling about the injustices of slavery. The emphasis is on the Brigade, Nancy, and Hugh. The characters have opinions and during the telling of the story it is obvious their feelings.

Themes in the story: honor, courage, bravery, grief, compassion, injustice, perseverance, power of love, sacrifice, romance, loyalty, death and dying, survival, suffering, and heroism.

(Review) The Forsaken Children (The British Home Children #1) by Naomi Finley

Publisher and Publication Date: Huntson Press. April 13, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 350.
Format: E-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from the publisher and HFVBT. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction focused on children.
Rating: Very good.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour landing page.

Link for the book @ Amazon.
Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

The books in the series are Prequel/ The Forsaken Children/ Miss Winters Rapscallions (in 2022).

Author Info:

Naomi is an award-winning author living in Northern Alberta. She loves to travel and her suitcase is always on standby awaiting her next adventure. Naomi’s affinity for the Deep South and its history was cultivated during her childhood living in a Tennessee plantation house with six sisters. Her fascination with history and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome obstacles are major inspirations for her writing and she is passionately devoted to creativity. In addition to writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, and hosting dinner parties. Naomi is married to her high school sweetheart and she has two teenage children and two dogs named Egypt and Persia.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley’s website. You can also find her on FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

Summary:

A riveting tale of endurance and resilience, illustrating the spirit of a child and the bond between siblings.

It’s 1921. Fifteen-year-old Hazel Winters and her six-year-old brother, William, are placed on a ship by an organization that relocates British orphans and children of poverty to new homes in Canada. Arrivals in the new land are exported to distributing houses, where devastation and heartache greet the youngsters as the headmistresses govern their fate.

The assurance of a better life across the ocean is far from what Hazel experiences. Through hardships and loneliness, she is determined to survive. Finding refuge in memories of the past, she clings to the dream of returning to her homeland while preserving a reunion in her heart.

In 1890, orphaned Charlotte Appleton and her sister Ellie were scooped up from London’s streets and sent to new homes across the ocean. Although mere miles kept them apart, Charlotte never knew her sister’s whereabouts until a chance interaction reunites them. Together the siblings vow to make a difference for the families and home children of an institution in Toronto, Ontario.

Can an unexpected guardian give Hazel renewed strength and resolve for a future of promise?

Based on the child emigration movement that occurred from 1869 through the late1930s, this poignant tale follows the lives of siblings who were burdensome byproducts of Britain’s poverty.

My Thoughts:

The Forsaken Children is aptly named. It is 350 depressing pages. Other words I’d use to describe the book is exhausting, oppressive, and filled with despair. However, The Forsaken Children is an important story. It teaches about a period in history where the most vulnerable in society were taken advantage, abused, and considered expendable.

Before I share my impressions of this story, I have been reminded of something my dad shared about his life. Dad was born in 1922 (the same period of this story). Dad was born in a small town in central Texas. He lived during the Great Depression years. His family was poor. Dad remarked that his parents generation treated children terrible. Children were often regarded with disrespectful words, humiliation, made fun of, and abused. It was rare for an adult to take up for a child. Men especially treated children bad. Dad had a low opinion of the previous generation. One story my dad shared is an adult man, a neighbor, allowed his dog to attack my dad, this man laughed at dad-he did nothing to help. This man considered it amusement. The Forsaken Children recreates this same time period and the same type of ideology.

What I love about The Forsaken Children is the heavy atmosphere and descriptions that bring the story to life. It is a harrowing tale and it has a full impact.

Hazel is a true heroine. She is described as thin and barely 5 feet tall. She is a sprite of a girl. But, she has a heart of gold. She has the will and perseverance of a super-hero. I love it that no matter what she has experienced in life, Hazel has not become bitter.

There is an additional dual time story of Charlotte’s life. I love it that the dual time periods are not back and forth too often, but they reveal Charlotte’s persistence in uncovering the truth about Hazel.

The characters are either exceptional or villainous. There is no in-between. The polar extremes makes either side 3-D.

The story does not wrap-up in a tidy package. It’s possible there will be more to this story in the next book.

Themes in the story: shame, compassion, betrayal, courage, perseverance, self-worth, power of love, and loyalty.

Giveaway:

Enter to win a mystery box of goodies + a copy of The Forsaken Children by Naomi Finley!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on April 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway: The Forsaken Children (gleam.io)

(Review) The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Publisher and Publication Date: Berkley Books/Penguin Random House. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of early 20th century California history.
Rating: Excellent.

To read more information about the book from the publisher: Berkley Books. At this link there is an audio sample.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Barnes and Noble

Author Info:
The following link is Susan Meissner’s bio.
Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest

Links to read more information about the 1906, San Francisco earthquake.
History.com
USGS
Archives.gov-several photographs at this website
Wikipedia-don’t dismiss the write-up and photographs because it’s at Wikipedia


There are several videos of the earthquake destruction. I chose these two. The second shows San Francisco before the earthquake and afterwards.

Summary:

The story begins in 1905, San Francisco, California.

Sophie Whalen arrives in San Francisco and is immediately taken to the courthouse for a hasty marriage to Martin Hocking. She met and married him on the same day. They’d written letters to one another while she still lived in New York City. He wanted a mother for his young daughter, Kat. He wanted a wife without fanfare. He is a business man and travels often.
Sophie had not been in New York City long. She is from Northern Ireland. She left behind her mother. A brother lives in Canada.
Sophie’s heart goes out to Cat. Sophie’s days are spent caring for Cat and making the house a home. The relationship with Martin is chilly, strained, and with no affection.
Meanwhile, a young woman arrives at Sophie and Martin’s home. Her visit followed by the earthquake shake up the lives of everyone.

While reading The Nature of Fragile Things I am reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

My Thoughts:

The Nature of Fragile Things is a heavy story. It is heavy with strong themes, it has a huge historical earthquake at its swirling center, and there is a mystery element. A book this heavy could cause gastric reflux, but it works, and it works well!

Themes in The Nature of Fragile Things: marriage, maternal health, courage, sacrifice, shame, ambition, obsession, bravery, complex trauma, death and dying, self-worth, abuse, betrayal, compassion, friendship, loyalty, parenting, society and culture standards, crime, and survival.

Several reasons why I love The Nature of Fragile Things:
1. Surprises. There are surprises about the characters I didn’t expect-I didn’t see coming.
2. Martin Hocking is sinister from the introduction. He is a character no one takes their eyes away from. I believe this is clever writing because it hides the possibility other characters are not who or what they claim to be.
3. The devastation of the 1906 earthquake and the fires afterwards are seen dramatically through the lens of Sophie. The descriptions and experiences brought additional tension and emotion to the story.
4. I have read (possibly) one other historical fiction on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I wonder why? This is a fabulous history spot to write about people’s lives through fiction. I love the time period. I love the history of this book.
5. I love the character Sophie. She is imperfect. She is not described as a beautiful, gorgeous woman. So often in stories the female lead characters are beauty queens. Okay, I am being overly dramatic. Most people are just in the middle. Neither the most beautiful nor the ugliest. In my opinion, middle of the road and imperfect people are believable. When the characters are believable I can relate to them. And, I can become swept up in the story.


(Review) The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House. February 23, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. WW2.
Pages: 416.
Format: NetGalley e-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary NetGalley e-book copy. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who like the WW2 era.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Barnes and Noble

Summary:

Four women each want to win The Kitchen Front contest. Each woman is from a different station in life. Each woman has a uniquely different personality than the others. Two of the women are estranged sisters. One is an outsider.
The setting is Fenley Village, England. The year is 1942.

My Thoughts:

I love the unique storyline of this World War II historical fiction period.

The themes are cooking, baking, sisters, gardening, single parenting, pregnancy, maternal health, hospitality, honor, sacrifice, war, ambition, perseverance, courage, grieving, compassion, forgiveness, power of love, self-worth, loyalty, and bravery.

I love reading WW2 stories. I love cooking and baking. I love stories about women who persevere against the constraints placed on them. I love reading about true friendship among women. If all of these were points they’d add up to 100% for this story.

Additional reasons why I love The Kitchen Front:

1. The plot of the story is who will win the coveted prize, but the story is so much more. It is about building relationships. It is about forgiveness and the steps needed before then. It is about grieving; and how grieving impacts people differently. It is about shame from abuse. It is about closure.
2. I love it that these women are all from different lifestyles. Yet, through their experience in The Kitchen Front, and through their love of cooking and baking, these bring them a oneness-a bond-a building point for everything else.
3. The Kitchen Front is an uplifting story. It’s encouraging. It’s a feel good story.
4. The Kitchen Front has characters who evolve in a good way. I love transformations.
5. I love a story that’s focus is not on a romantic element, but on a true and lasting bond of love. I’d like to see more stories like this!

(Review) The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith

Publisher and Publication Date: Park Row Books. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. WW2. Holocaust.
Pages: 344.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of WW2.
Rating: Okay.

Link @ Amazon
Link @ Barnes and Noble

Summary:

The story begins in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 1943.

Marijke de Graaf, and her husband, Theo, are both arrested by the Gestapo and sent to camps. Marijke is at Ravensbruck. Her husband is sent to another camp.
Marijke is singled out with other attractive young women for a chance to survive in another type of “climate.” They are given the opportunity to work in a brothel as prostitutes in a different camp. They will be housed in a better place. They will be given better food with more portions. They will be regularly checked by camp doctors. They will be asked to perform as prostitutes for the camp inmates.
Marijke wants to find Theo. They are a young married couple. They are in love.
Marijke accepts this job. She tells herself it is to survive and find Theo.
After Marijke’s arrival at the camp, she is given a few days to settle.
Meanwhile, a new commander arrives at the camp. His name is Karl Muller. He is young and handsome. He is a staunch believer in Nazism.
Muller is immediately attracted to Marijke. They have a pseudo relationship.
Added to the book is another time period and another story. It is the story of Luciano Wagner. He lives in Argentina in the late 1970s.

My Thoughts:

*Possibly giving away too much about the story. Forgive me.

There are more things I dislike about the book than like.
1. I dislike the dual time period. I am seeing this too much in historical fiction and it has become boring.
2. I dislike the addition to the book of Luciano Wagner. He is introduced in chapter three. I spent most of the book wondering why he is in the book? What is the purpose? Does he matter to the whole of the story? Do I care?
3. In other books with a woman who becomes involved with a Nazi, the Nazi is almost always a reluctant Nazi. There is something in his behavior that gives him attributes of compassion, tenderness, and a willingness to help. Karl Muller is not this kind of person. As a result, there are several disadvantages given to Karl and Marijke’s relationship. One of them is their relationship is a fake. I feel no pull to read their storyline. When they are together it doesn’t hold my attention.
4. Theo is at the beginning of the story, but then he is gone, except in Marijke’s memories. If he had been more in the development of the story (his plight), I might have become invested in their outcome. After-all, Theo is the motivator for Marijke.
5. I feel the plot/storyline is a difficult one to engage the reader. A group of women who are prostitutes for the camp inmates, and because of their job their sexual acts are just acts. The women stare off into space-they check out. Some make a joke about it. Others are sickened. Their attitude and behavior is mechanical which makes their story feel mechanical. It doesn’t come across on page well. The one point that impacted me is the soreness of Marijke. Her private area is sore from having had so many clients-up to 8 per night. I want to have empathy and become invested (swept-away) in the story, but it comes across as a mechanic representation.

What I like about the story is the style of writing. I noticed instead of lengthy pages with descriptive writing, there is condensed, strong, and vivid sentences.