I really enjoyed both of these historical fiction stories set during The Great War, aka WWI. Both audiobooks were provided upon request from Netgalley. The rating and opinions shared are my own.
Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski, Narrated by Kate Rudd
Published January 12th 2021 by Thomas Nelson, Brilliance Audio
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I enjoyed this story based on real life character, Lily Durham. Lily is an American heiress who got into a few situations that caused her parents to banish her to England just prior to The Great War. She is to live with her cousin, Bertie and her family, but is stranded when WWI breaks out. Bertie wants to do her part, especially after her brother is sent to the front and trains as a nurse. Lily trains as an Aide, and they both head off to Scotland for assignment. Kinclavoch Castle is a convalescent home for wounded soldiers in the wilds of Scotland. Alec MacGregor, owner of the castle, is desperately trying to keep afloat and repair the crumbling Highland Castle that he inherited from his father and Laird of clan MacGregor. Because Lily is rather impetuous and does not always think about what her choices may do, she does not get along well with either Alec or Marton Strom, the one she answers to. As everyone gets to know Lily and realizes that her heart is in the right place, they begin to warm to her. With one problem after another occurring at the Castle, Alec begins to realize that he may not be able to save his home.
I really enjoyed Lily’s character. She seemed to be a natural nurse’s aide. Her caring and upbeat nature is a winner with the patients. She does get herself into a few problems, but nothing that isn’t handled well. There is a bit of a mystery going on in this story. There are not only mishaps and problems in the castle, but several incidents seem to point to Lily as being negligent when she did or did not do things to cause them. I enjoyed watching the relationships develop in this story. There were a couple of romances happening as well as Lily and Alec’s sister’s friendship. I do not want to ruing this story for anyone, so will not say more. This was a very enjoyable mystery, romance, historical fiction with some fun and suspense. I do recommend this one to those who enjoy a good historical fiction without a lot of trauma.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kate Rudd. She does a great job narrating this story, putting just the right emphasis where needed, and assists in building the suspense in the story. She also does a good job giving the various characters their own voice using tone, inflection and accents well. I always enjoy books that she has narrated.
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig, Narrated by Julia Whelan
Expected publication: March 2nd 2021 by HarperAudio, William Morrow
It’s 1917 and a group of women recently graduated from Smith, Smith College Relief Unit, along with two female doctors set sail for France to assist French civilians who are suffering from the destruction of the Germans in WWI. Kate Moran was a scholarship student who thought she fit in with this group, but her reason for going is very different from some of the others. It is not the welcome they expected when they arrive. They have money, supplies, and good intentions—but that does not play out as they had hoped. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned. The war rages on and the Germans continue to shell the area and the British Army wants them out. Not only that, but they are fighting amongst each other as to what they should be doing. Can they survive all that they are up against? Can they truly become a Band of Sisters?
I always like when a book is based on real events or people. I liked that there actually was a Smith College Relief Unit and did a bit of research on my own about them. This story followed the history of this unit quite well, although the women from the unit were all of different ages recruited from different years of graduating classes. These were very brave women who had to learn new skills (i.e. driving and repairing large vehicles), sacrifice their own personal well-being and health at times and caring for seriously ill and injured people. There was some romance in this story that added a bit of humanity and interest in a character (Kate) who could be hard to get close to. I enjoyed this story a lot, but there were some downfalls. First, there is a large cast of characters in this book. We really don’t get to know them with the exception of Kate and Emmeline. I often had to double check a characters background to make sure I could keep them all straight. Kate, the main character seemed to really have a chip on her shoulders. There was times that I wanted to give her a shake. What these women endured was remarkable. They also did a lot to help the French people in these villages that were completely destroyed, several time. I recommend this story to those who enjoy historical fiction based on real people and/or events.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Julia Whelan. She has narrated some very well known books from Gone Girl to The Great Alone and I understand why. She has a great range in her voice and is able to do accents, voices from different classes and both male/female and make them real. I enjoyed her narration very much and she will go on my list of narrators that I watch for.