I have read many historical fiction books that highlight women and their often forgotten or unsung roles in history. I am always pleased and surprised to find more, specifically about times or settings I do not know a lot about. Both of these audiobooks fit that bill nicely. I recommend them both.

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers, Narrated by Shannon McManus & Janet Metzger

Published February 15th 2022 by William Morrow, March 1st 2022 by HarperAudio

4.5 Stars:

Maddie is a budding seamstress who was left with her aunt in Bright Leaf, North Carolina while her recently widowed mother looked for a job and a place to live. Bright Leaf is the tobacco capital of North Carolina, and her aunt is the seamstress to the wives of tobacco executives. Bright Leaf is not feeling the losses of the depression or the war, but is rich on the profits of the tobacco industry. When her aunt contracts measles and ends up hospitalized, Maddie has to take over her business creating and altering dresses for the upcoming gala. She is taken under the wing of the wife of the owner of Bright Leaf tobacco, staying in her home. When she accidentally finds and reads a letter from a prominent local doctor to the owner sharing information about the dangers of smoking to pregnant women, she knows she has to tell someone. Not only are they covering up this scientific information, but they are treating the female workers terribly, endangering their health and trying to get them all to quit as the men are returning from war and need jobs. Can this young woman change the lives of a variety of women?

The last paragraph of the blurb says, “Shedding light on the hidden history of women’s activism during the post-war period, at its heart, The Tobacco Wives is a deeply human, emotionally satisfying, and dramatic novel about the power of female connection and the importance of seeking truth.” This is a great description of the themes in this book. Maddie is young and on her own. She has friends, one who is helping her with the business and one she is sort of dating, but can she trust them. I loved watching Maddie grow in this book and stand up for what she believed in her own way. I hate that big tobacco knew the dangers of smoking, yet continued to market to women, remember “We’ve come a long way, baby” ads for Virginia Slims? I will say I continue to be glad I live now and not in the past where women were subjected to whatever men thought they should or should not do. Make sure you read the author’s note and connection to the story at the end of the book. This is a debut novel and I can’t wait to see what Adele Myers has in store for us. Shannon McManus and Janet Metzger narrate this excellent audiobook. They give the characters their own voice, expression and tone. I enjoyed the pace and emotions added to the story and recommend this one to lovers of historical fiction, women’s issues and coming of age stories. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this audiobook upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.

Angels of the Pacific: A Novel of World War II by Elise Hooper,  Karissa Vacker (Narrator)

Published March 8th 2022 by Harper Audio, William Morrow & Company

4.5 Stars:

I have enjoyed many historical fiction books dealing with women during WWII. The Pacific Arena is something I don’t know a lot about, so this book really appealed to me. Angels of the Pacific is set in the Philippines and was inspired by the true stories of WWII’s American Army nurses known as the Angels of Bataan and the unsung contributions of Filipinas. In 1941, Manila is a sought after assignment for US Army nurses, however when the Japanese Imperial Army invades and quickly occupies the island, things change. US army nurse, Tess Abbott and her band of nurses serve on the front lines until captured as prisoners of war and held captive for four long years. Meanwhile, Flor Dalisay, a Filipina university student, joins the underground network of resistance showing courage, resilience, and leadership she never knew she possessed. This is their story of survival and life before, during and after the war.

This a story of faith, survival, friendship, courage and sisterhood. The Japanese did not treat POWs well, yet they were left to their own devices. The black market was encouraged and native Filipinos came to the camps to sell food, clothing etc. The resistance worked with prisoners to help them survive. Both Tess and Flor were strong and courageous taking many chances to help others. There are some scenes that are difficult to read or listen to, such as the beating of Flor’s mother. The native Filipinos were treated terribly, and once again, this was new to me, but also very realistically portrayed. This is a well-researched and detailed story drew me into the lives of these women, It also showed what the Filipino people suffered and risked in their fight for freedom, something I knew nothing about. There are a couple of romances begun during the war and imprisonment, but that is a very small part of the story. Another reviewer mentioned, We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan, a non-fiction book about the women inspired by this book and I hope to read it. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Karissa Vacker and I was impressed by her performance. The voices, emotion, accents, tone and pacing were wonderful and I enjoyed the audio very much. I recommend this book, especially the audiobook to those who enjoy historical fiction, especially those about women. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this audiobook upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.