Once More Unto the Breach by Meghan Holloway

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For readers of The Nightingale and Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes a gripping historical thriller set against a fully-realized WWII backdrop about the love a father has for his son and the lengths he is willing to go to find him, from a talented new voice in suspense.

Rhys Gravenor, Great War veteran and Welsh sheep farmer, arrives in Paris in the midst of the city’s liberation with a worn letter in his pocket that may have arrived years too late. As he follows the footsteps of his missing son across an unfamiliar, war-torn country, he struggles to come to terms with the incident that drove a wedge between the two of them.

Joined by Charlotte Dubois, an American ambulance driver with secrets of her own, Rhys discovers that even as liberation sweeps across France, the war is far from over. And his personal war has only begun as he is haunted by memories of previous battles and hampered at every turn by danger and betrayal. In a race against time and the war, Rhys follows his son’s trail from Paris to the perilous streets of Vichy to the starving mobs in Lyon to the treacherous Alps. But Rhys is not the only one searching for his son. In a race of his own, a relentless enemy stalks him across the country and will stop at nothing to find the young man first.

The country is in tatters, no one is trustworthy, and Rhys must unravel the mystery of his son’s wartime actions in the desperate hope of finding him before it’s too late. Too late to mend the frayed bond between them. Too late to beg his forgiveness. Too late to bring him home alive.

REVIEW

“Grief and I had long been acquaintances, but now it met me in an unfamiliar guise. When I lost Aelwyd and the twins, and later my father, I had been gorged to excess on pain and anger. Grief had been a wolf pacing within the confines of my chest, gnashing at my heart, howling and feral and bitter.”

Let me say at the outset, this book is one of the best I’ve read, and I read a lot of excellent books. The above quote is a prime example of the author’s descriptive talent. Dialogue and narrative are so beautifully rendered, to the point where the reader’s mind has to work very little to conjure up the images described or the emotional depth the characters feel. Right from page one, I was hooked. The chaotic atmosphere created by the German retreat from Paris jump starts an incredible adventure. An intense drama, as Rhys and Charlotte follow the trail of his lost son, unfolds into a stunning tale of survival in a landscape filled with enemies and memories. The use of flashbacks to Rhys’ past, along with the letters from Owain that begin each chapter, are an integral part of the narrative, adding context as they reach into the very hearts and minds of father and son. Another important aspect of this book is the detailed look at a time and place filled with unspeakable horrors, and the heroic efforts by those who chose to defy the invaders. The research done by the author is very evident throughout the tale, and that coupled with an imaginative/creative writing style had this reader on the edge of his seat, pausing occasionally to take a breath. The author also found a way to include my new favorite fictional canine, a poodle named Otto. This, my peeps and fellow travelers, is a book to savor. 5 Stars

Triumph of a Tsar – by Tamar Anolic

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Triumph of a Tsar is an alternate historical rendering of the Russian Revolution in which the Romanovs survive and remain in power.  The young Prince Alexei becomes Tsar and faces many challenges as he cements his control over Russia against seeming impossible odds.  Not only does he have to prove he is capable of ruling, he has to survive assassination attempts, and his inherited hemophilia.  The author seamlessly weaves the history of post-WW1 into the fabric of her fictional what if. The reader is taken on a roller coaster ride through the turmoil of the times, the economic collapse of the late 20’s; the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party in Germany; the continuing threat from the determined Communists. It is a heady mix of true history and a very plausible alternative. The author also provides the reader with an in depth look at the intricate and widespread influence of family among the Romanovs and their relatives. This proves to be a great source of strength to the young Alexei and a troublesome burden come WW2. An entertaining, and very enjoyable example of history looked at from the ‘what if’ perspective. 4 Stars

Note: Historical Fiction Reviews received a copy of Triumph of a Tsar in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

“Triumph of a Tsar” is Tamar’s second novel. She has a history of writing about the Romanovs. Her first book, the nonfiction biography entitled “The Russian Riddle,” was the first biography of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. In addition, two of her short stories about the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich and his sons have been published: “Rumors of War” was published in The Copperfield Review in 2017 and “Before the Fire” was published in The Helix in 2018.

Tamar’s other works are not about the Romanovs. Her first novel, “The Last Battle,” was published in 2017. Her short story “Dark Night, Bright Sky,” was published in The Sandy River Review in 2018.

http://www.tamaranolic.com

 

 

The Berlin Affair by David Boyle

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An interesting tale about the British Intelligence attempt to crack the German coding system known as Enigma.  Xanthe Schneider is a young American studying in England where she meets a member of Parliament who subsequently ends up in Berlin.  Is he betraying his country?  Xanthe is recruited to find out.  The story is entertaining as she makes contact with him, but conflicting emotions cloud her ability to do the job she was sent to do.  She also attracts the attention of the Gestapo and that element is a prime plot line that reaches a rather stunning conclusion.  All in all the story is well written and researched.  My only real complaint, valid or not, is that the book is too short.  Other than that it is a good read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in a spy thriller taking place in 1940 Berlin.  3.7 stars