A Christmas Gathering by Anne Perry

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Anne Perry (born Juliet Hulme) is a British historical novelist. http://www.anneperry.co.uk/about

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The English countryside at Christmas-sounds glorious to some, but not to Lady Vespasia and her new husband, Lord Victor Narraway. The invitation to Cavendish Hall is of obligatory nature, so no real cheer and anticipation are involved. Max Cavendish and wife, Amelia, have invited a select group of guests for Christmas Day. The events leading up to Christmas Eve will add quite a bit to the usual anxious excitement that surrounds the holiday. Anne Perry’s annual Christmas novella will be a treat to the Downton Abbey fans; butlers, footman, changing for dinner and the after dinner “withdrawing room”-are all here. Lady Vespasia and Victor, recently released from duty as the head of the Special Branch, will treat the reader to some Christmas secrets, strolls through the elaborate gardens, a meeting in the orangery, and even attempted murder. So for the mystery lovers and followers of Anne Perry, don your dinner duds, and ring the bell for the cognac to be served; add The Christmas Gathering to the silver tray. GR


The Uncertain Season by Ann Howard Creel

The Hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston Island, but a storm of betrayal is still brewing.https://www.amazon.com/Uncertain-Season-Ann-Howard-Creel/dp/147780904X

After first writing for children, Ann turned her attention to Historical Fiction. Her first novel for adults, THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS. Her recent titles have been Kindle bestsellers and include WHILE YOU WERE MINE, THE WHISKEY SEA, THE UNCERTAIN SEASON, and her latest, THE RIVER WIDOW.

She now writes full-time. Ann’s main characters are always strong women facing high-stakes situations and having to make life-changing decisions. Her historical settings have ranged from Victorian-era Galveston to World War II in New York City. Her next novel, MERCY ROAD, to be published in 2019, takes readers to World War I France. Besides writing, Ann loves old houses, new yoga routines, and all things cat.

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

The Great Galveston hurricane, known regionally as the Great Storm of 1900, was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history,https://www.history.com/news/how-the-galveston-hurricane-of-1900-became-the-deadliest-u-s-natural-disaster

Overwhelming devastation to a city, its families, and the island itself; The Great Storm of 1900 that destroyed Galveston, Texas, is the setting for The Uncertain Season.

“Harry Gobinet knew something huge was blowing in, but even he didn’t foresee the magnitude of the storm coming their way. Still he saw enough to save them. “

An eleven year old girl and her friend, Harry, fight for their lives in a shrimp boat in Galveston Bay. Later, as they search for homes and family, the aftermath of the deadly storm of 140 mph winds engulfs the reader. Ann Howard Creel’s descriptions of the island devastation are recorded as she shares the storm’s impact on three women who find themselves in Galveston, 1903: the bold, but shamed Etta, from Nacogdoches, Texas; the privileged & engaged,but lonely Grace; and an elusive, mysterious islander known only as The Girl.

Amidst the building of the “modern engineering miracle,” known as the seawall, the author does a masterful job of weaving the gripping, coming of age of The Girl with the untimely unveiling of family secrets and betrayal, by both Etta and Grace. Adding the realizations of “living in a home where appearances were more important than the truth,” creates a compelling mystery. The upbringing, childhoods and parental influences of Etta, Grace, and The Girl, play an important role in individual reactions and emotional responses as each are battered about in the “personal storms of life.” Who survives the storms?

Powerful imagery, deep, emotional family situations involving trust, identity, regret, and forgiveness; the reader will “survive the storm,” but in the aftermath there will be that amazing feeling of freshness and beauty after a storm, along with the overwhelming relief and joy of new beginnings. Readers of The Uncertain Season will “be prepared” for the next storm. ***** GR

Galveston Historic District

The Perfect Love Song A Christmas Story by Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry is an American novelist. She is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen books, including the historical novel, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS – The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis and also her June 2019, contemporary Southern fiction THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER. This novel is also reviewed here on The Grateful Reader.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The holiday season sometimes fills us with unrealistic expectations”-so true, isn’t it? The Perfect Love Song is a story of brotherly love, life-long friendships, finding true love; and even recognizing God’s perfect love through those He places in our lives. Patti Callahan Henry takes the reader on a magical Christmas journey; from the Southern Lowcountry in South Carolina, to Rockefeller Center in NYC, and over the ocean to Galway Bay in Ireland.

The main character, Kara Larson, is highly influenced and her young , “soon to be wed” life story, impacted by an elderly Irish woman, Maeve Mahoney. Maeve is from Galway, Ireland, and she willingly shares her wisdom on life and love relationships with Kara. Truly appreciated are the quotes at the beginning of each chapter from Maeve to Kara. Some are Maeve’s own; some Old Irish Proverbs. Either way, the story and the sayings will give the reader much “food for thought” to reflect and ponder during quiet, stolen moments during the coming Christmas season.

The Grateful Reader hopes your holiday expectations and romantic visions do come true. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present by reading The Perfect Love Song; and then relish the “joy of giving” in this season of God’s perfect love, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

“Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.” Old Irish Proverb

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of the same name in Galway. The ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century.

The Legend of the Claddagh Ring-told by Gina Alward-https://thehereandwow.com/claddagh-ring/

The legend of the Claddagh ring dates back five hundred years to the fishing village of Claddagh, just outside of Galway city. The men from Claddagh would go out to sea to fish for food for their families, and back in this time, such a task posed many dangers. Currents were strong, the weather was changing, and the sea was bound to seduce the most deadly risk of all: pirates.

On one fateful day, a young man named Richard Joyce was fishing at sea with other members of his family. A Spanish pirate ship who was also sailing along the coast, captured poor Richard and his family and brought them to the North Coast of Africa, selling them all into slavery.

Richard, who was a silversmith and the youngest of his family members, was the most devastated. All of these men had left their loved ones behind, but Richard had only just met his one true love and now feared he would not live to ever see her again.

Years had passed since his captivation, and while some of his family members had died during these years, Richard continued to yearn for his love and remained hopeful of one day returning to Claddagh. To help keep his spirits high, Richard would steal tiny specks of gold from his slave masters each day while tending to their fire in the goldsmith shop. Throughout his years of hard labour, he slowly fashioned a ring from this gold, with a hope of someday returning to his village to present this ring to his beloved.

At last, Richard finally made his way back to Claddagh. Whether he escaped or was released from slavery, no one knows for certain. Needless to say, upon his return, he was thrilled to learn that his beloved had remained faithful to him throughout these daunting and gruelling years, waiting for the day that they could be reunited.

And it was on that day that Richard gave her his ring – the ring that is now known around the world as the Claddagh Ring.

The Claddagh design consists of a heart, held by two hands with a crown resting upon it. The heart symbolizes the love that Richard longed to share with his true love; the crown symbolizes their undying loyalty to one another; and the hands symbolize their friendship, which is, after all, the very foundation of all love. This design became very popular as an engagement or wedding ring, particularly in Galway, the Aran Islands, and Connemara, and in fact, the Claddagh design is featured in various types of jewelry and art all across the country.

How this ring is worn is also very important in Irish culture. If the Claddagh is worn on the ring finger of the right hand with the heart pointing outwards, it means the wearer’s heart has yet to be won. If the ring is worn on the same hand and finger, with the heart pointing inward toward the heart, it means the wearer’s heart belongs to another. If the ring is then worn on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart pointing outward, this indicates the wearer is engaged to be married, and if the ring is pointing inward on the same hand, it means the wearer is married.

Receive The Perfect Love Song and the Legend of the Claddagh Ring as a gift you will cherish and share for many Christmases to come. TGR


Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

Publication Day- October 22, 2019 https://lisawingate.com/

Judy Christie is an author and consultant who lives in Northwest Louisiana. She writes inspirational fiction and nonfiction. Her popular Green series chronicles the goings-on in the small Louisiana town of Green and is part of Abingdon Press’s new inspirational fiction line.

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than thirty books. Her blockbuster “Before We Were Yours” was on the NYT best seller list for over one year. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Lisa believes stories can change the world.

Be sure to read this novel first! : “THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT–A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart. . . based on a notorious true-life scandal.”…. Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong. *Library Journal Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017” –

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

Incredible. Real life. These two descriptors will grab the reader from the cover to the last page. Readers often think, which part is really true; which is fictionalized by the author?For readers of historical fiction this NONFICTION sequel is a “dream come true!” The phenomenal novel, Before We Were Yours,written by Lisa Wingate, is a fictional account of a family torn apart by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, ( TCHS). Documents show that the TCHS was in operation in Memphis, from 1924-1950. Many factors, such as the Great Depression, WWll & the Holocaust, contributed to a very turbulent time in the lives of American families. Poverty stricken or unwed mothers in desperation; even hard working parents who couldn’t afford to care for their children, added to the many years of disturbing statistics while the TCHS was in operation. In the last two years, the success and popularity of Before We Were Yours garnered the attention of many friends and family of the real-life adoptees and their families. As word of the fictional novel spread, the adoptees/survivors, now in the final years of their lives, began to emerge; to share and reveal their heart wrenching memories and true stories.

In Before and After Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate have compiled the memories and stories revealed in letters, phone interviews, face to face meetings, even FaceTime. The anguish and heart ache revealed is certainly hard to read and digest; that such cruelty existed for so long. As a reunion of adoptees and families comes to fruition, the real heroes are the courageous survivors that braced themselves and their families to face the past. Many found siblings and cousins, along with love and redemption, at the end of a life-long search.

“Where are you? Do you look like me? Are you like me in any way? ” Letter from a TCHS adoptee to her unknown birth family.


The Lost Daughter

The story of Anastasia Romanov’s sister, Maria, and her fight for love. Gill Paul’s beautiful website: http://gillpaul.com/

“Gill Paul specializes in relatively recent history, mostly 20th century, and enjoys re-evaluating real historical characters and trying to get inside their heads.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories. ” http://gillpaul.com/author

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Romanov-A name long associated with family tragedy. Ekaterinburg, July 17, 1918- The centenary of the brutal murder of the Russian Tsar, Tsarina and their children is what prompted Gill Paul to imagine the survival of Maria. Maria was considered the “most beautiful” of the four girls and physically strong, since it is well documented she was able to carry sickly Alexei, the Tsarevitch, on her own. The reader is immediately introduced in the prologue to the militant men from a metallurgy works, as each are assigned a member of the royal family on that fateful night.

The girls in birth order: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia—Maria, a bubbly, outgoing 19 year old, who has been overly protected her entire life, is naive for her age. The family has been under house arrest since the revolution in February 1917, so out of boredom Maria is quite friendly with the house guards. This perky personality is what leads Maria on a journey of survival, true love, and forgiveness.

The dual timeline transports the reader to Sydney, Australia, in the 1970’s, where Val lives with husband Tony, and daughter, Nicole. Val’s Russian father has his own secrets and treasures in a safety deposit box. After his death, her father’s revealing last words, heard by a nurse mumbled while dying of dementia, leads Val down a path in her family history that she never knew existed. Val knows her father is Russian, but he’s never talked about his time before coming to Australia. (There’s so much history to be learned: many Russians did eventually migrate to Manchuria and Australia after the revolution; and another wave in the 1920’s.) The reader will be anxious to find the secrets hidden from Val by her father and her long, lost mother. Why does Val’s father never reveal his past and why did her mother leave her?

Completely drawn in to the plausible scenario, The Grateful Reader, highly recommends this novel to those who have read all the Romanov and Anastasia novels. The Historical Afterword is as compelling and informative as the love story of Maria Romanov is spellbinding .

From the splendor of the ostentatious Russian palaces to the cold, damp basement at Ipatiev; let yourself think: if only….. Five Stars *****

The following are photographs of locations, palaces, and items mentioned in The Lost Daughter.

Follow the Grateful Reader for more historical fiction reviews. https://gratefulreader.home.blog/


The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes https://www.amazon.com/Flight-Girls-Noelle-Salazar/dp/0778309169

Noelle Salazar was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she’s been a Navy recruit, a medical assistant, an NFL cheerleader and always a storyteller. As a novelist, she has done extensive research into the Women Airforce Service Pilots, interviewing vets and visiting the training facility—now a museum dedicated to the WASP—in Sweetwater, Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found dodging raindrops and daydreaming of her next book. Noelle lives in Bothell, Washington, with her husband and two children. The Flight Girls is her first novel.

A HISTORY OF THE WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS In 1942, as the country reeled from the attack on Pearl Harbor, trained male pilots were in short supply. Qualified pilots were needed to fight the war. The Army also was desperate for pilots to deliver newly built trainer aircraft to the flight schools in the South. Twenty-eight experienced civilian women pilots volunteered to take those ferrying jobs. They formed the country’s first female squadron late summer 1942. To read more go to : https://waspmuseum.org/

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Audrey Fitzgerald Coltrane has spent her whole life flying and plans to own her own airfield-in Texas. In 1941 as the war in Europe had begun, Audrey heads to Oahu, Hawaii, to train military pilots. Audrey has already decided her path will not lead to matrimony and babies-she has other plans, big plans. “Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.” This story of Audrey and the other women pilots that fly and train the men that will ultimately defend our country is amazing and surprising. The amazing amount of courage and vulnerability involved to accomplish what they did and so surprising, but sad, that it took until the late 1970’s for the Women Airforce Service Pilots to be recognized. Read for yourselves, the history of the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, and refresh the events of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. I found the history of the WASP as compelling as the story of Audrey and her fellow pilots. The Flight Girls is an enlightening novel; one that also inspires women to follow dreams and seek the freedom to fly and soar like a bird.

“What I learned from the women of the WASP…is that there is always a breeze. We can either hunker down and hide from it, or we can spread our wings and fly.” Noelle Salazar


A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away….

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses. She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoys teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Touched by tragedy, a century apart, Clara Wood and Taryn Michaels are connected by a century old scarf. Clara, is a nurse on Ellis Island, after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, and Taryn is a widow raising her daughter alone, after the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. The timeline of the historical events in 1911 are set against the contemporary events of September 11, 2001. Clara and Taryn each face situations that can only be described as ethical dilemmas. These choices make for great self evaluation and also revealing group discussions. I specifically appreciated the description of the events of September 11, from the perspective of a terrified observer on the street as that horrible day unfolded. Not that this is “enjoyable,” but that Susan Meissner takes you to the street level among the masses of struggling people with her words; her vivid descriptions; you are there. Clara and Taryn also find themselves in that “in between place” as survivors of tragedy. This is another compelling thread for self analysis and group discussion: Do you believe in destiny; that God has a purpose for each of our lives? A Fall of Marigolds will provide the reader with historical insights and personal reflection for years to come. GR*****

“The scarf billowed up between us, soft and eager to fly. I caught a whiff of fragrance in its threads, delicate and sweet. In the sunlight it looked less like fire and more like a burst of monarch butterflies. I could see a cascading fall of marigolds splashed across the fabric.”

New York City the day Taryn is supposed to meet Kent. https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory One Year Later: “The tragedy brought widespread attention to the dangerous sweatshop conditions of factories, and led to the development of a series of laws and regulations that better protected the safety of workers.” Notice the FIRE ESCAPE sign!

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history. WikipediaDate: March 25, 1911

LocationTriangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York,

NY Number of deaths: 146 Injuries: 78

Owner: Two weeks after the fire, a grand jury indicted Triangle Shirtwaist owners Isaac Harris and Max Blanck on charges of manslaughter.

Ellis Island: Clara arrived here to work in the hospital after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/ellis-island

The registry hall on Ellis Island, N.Y., in the early-1900s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)