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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

REVIEW: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis @bethklewis

The Wolf Road 
by Beth Lewis

Publisher: Broadway Books
Publish Date: April 11, 2017
368 Pages
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper.

She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he's taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.

But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He's a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.

Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper's drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn't left Trapper behind--and he won't be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she's going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she's been set on.

The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape--told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.

My Review:

Elka is a girl who gets lost, finds a surrogate Dad in Trapper and just needs to survive.  Trapper teaches her how but doesn't show much warmth.  After a decade under his care, she learns he's a killer and now the chase has begun.  Will she outrun him or will he catch up to her and make her his next victim?

This is an incredible read.  The survival instincts of a child - see what you need to see, do what you need to do.  As we see only through her perspective, we see her inner struggles, her revelations and her growth.  It's nothing short of genius how Lewis lays this entire story out for us readers. She gives us Elka, a character you absolutely grow to love despite some of her actions and because of them.

The world she lives in is hard and she takes the hard, wolf road to get to all her destinations.  I felt like I was right there with her throughout her travels.  Her naivety growing into lessons learned... hard ones at that.  The help of a few people, one in particular, along the way.  This is basically a story of a wild child finding her humanity and I'm not sure which lesson was the hardest here.

In a gist, you should pick this book up, read it, hug it and tuck it away safely. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.


BLOG BLITZ & REVIEW: Out of the Silence by Owen Mullen @bloodhoundbook @owenmullen6

Out of the Silence
by Owen Mullen

Thank you to Bloodhound Books for this incredible read and stop on the Blog Blitz.

Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Publish Date: January 28, 2019
Kindle Edition
Genre: Revenge Thriller

Star investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan’s glory days are behind him. His newspaper has banished him to Pakistan, not knowing the greatest moment of his long career is waiting for him there.

When Simone Jasnin asks him to help expose a grave injustice, he finds himself embroiled in a harrowng tale that began in a dusty settlement in rural Punjab, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

Seven years later in the city of Lahore, members of a prominent family are being brutally murdered, one by one. The only clue is a hand-carved wooden bangle left at the scene of each crime.

As the list of suspects grows and the tension mounts, Ralph realises the answers might be closer to home than he ever thought possible.

Solving the mystery will put him back on top but at what cost?

Only when the smoke clears will the killing stop and honour be satisfied…

My Review:

A difficult book to read but absolutely worth it.  Part human interest in the plight of the Pakistani women, part revenge thriller with the subtle underlay of a heartbreaking love story.  MY EYES ARE LEAKING.

I felt very strongly for both Jameel and Afra… especially Afra.  The things she endured.  How she has no choice in anything.  My heart!  This is when the revenge part had me cheering.. all while my heart was breaking.  Guys..... GUYS.  This is such a hard read.  I don't why this particular read really got to me but it just did.  

I realize Ralph and Simone are intricate characters but I can only seem to pull Jameel and Afra out of my brain stem right now.... but to not do them any injustice....  Ralph grew on me as a character and Simone was a bit part in his growth in my opinion.  She has strong opinions and wants to do more for the women of her country.  Ralph is a bit of a cynic and has his own personal demons to deal with and doesn't seem keen on taking on anything harder than a drink.  However, their roles are intricate to this story.

Big props to the author for bringing some awareness to this world.  It's beautifully written though not an easy read to get through.  On a completely different note, it was interesting to see my name so much in a book for once.. this rarely, if ever happens.  Too bad that Chandra was such a cunt. 

I'm a bit a loss for words (though this review may show otherwise).  I highly recommend this book.  


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

REVIEW: Out Behind The Barn by John Boden & Chad Lutzke @chadlutzke @JohnBoden1970 @night_worms

Out Behind The Barn 
by John Boden & Chad Lutzke

The second novella I've read from the Night Worms January package, authors I may have never found otherwise (or the finding would have been postponed) these authors are one you need to add to you list if you are a horror fan.

Publish Date: September 27, 2018
125 Pages
Genre: Horror

The boys crept to the window and watched as Miss Maggie carried the long bundle into the barn, the weight of it stooping her aging back. Rafter lights spilled from the barn doors and Davey saw an arm fall from the canvas-wrapped parcel. He smiled.

“She got someone!”

Both children grinned and settled in their beds, eyes fixed to the ceiling.

This was family growth.

My Review:

This is the second novella I've read with Lutzke as an author and my first Boden.  This surely won't be the last I read from these authors, that's for certain!  I'm usually not the biggest fans of novellas and short stories but Kealan Patrick Burke first brought back my love for these types of stories and now Lutzke and Boden are extending this love and continuing my love for the horror genre. Be still my beating black heart.

The synopsis along for Out Behind The Barn makes my toes tingle!  Family is very important and no one wants to take care of her boys more than Maggie. I figured things out pretty early on with the hints given but it didn't take away from the feel that these boys were giving.  Through their eyes, the authors give us a real vision of how little boys think, their naivety and trust in Maggie.

I can't talk too much about the story or I'll give it all away.  What I love is that this novella has both the horror and very much human element of family and it's importance in a person's life. Highly recommend and I look forward to more from these authors.

A shout out to Night Worms for bringing them to my attention!


REVIEW: Once a Liar by A.F. Brady @tlbooktours @harlequinbooks @AFBradyNYC

Once a Liar
by A.F. Brady

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Books/Park Row for this copy and stop on the review tour.


Publisher: Park Row Books
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
384 Pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, is extremely adept at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. A sociopath practically incapable of human emotions, he has no remorse when he fights to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists. When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA--and Peter's former lover--is murdered, Peter's world is quickly sent into a tailspin as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter's, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter's death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder. 

Peter sets out to prove his innocence, and as he pieces together his defense, he finds that it's those closest to us who are capable of the greatest harm.

My Review:

A tale as old as time.... man from a bad childhood wants to make it big so he leaves his old life completely behind, works hard, loses any goodness he has while building the perfect life he so desperately seeks - at any cost.  Beautiful, successful wife who he grows bored with, enter mistress and the affair that will eventually end on a multitude of levels. Bye wife, enter girlfriend, who he also grows bored with but it looks better professionally to have this perfect little world than to not and he's nothing if not for keeping up appearances. And his son? Another byproduct of a life he doesn't really want and tries to ignore. He's a true winner, isn't he?

A narcissistic sociopath through and through, this is the type of character I loathe and yet love to be inside the head of.  I think people will consider him to be a little bit of unreliable narrator but I find him to be completely reliable in his selfishness and emotionless state of being.  There's nothing surprising in how he acts, what he does and how this eventually plays out.  I was surprised at the end and honestly, I'm really happy with that ending.

My issues with the book was that the pacing of the back and forth from past to present seemed a bit repetitive and we really didn't get anywhere till the last quarter of the book.  Maybe we needed all that build up to realize what a douchenozzle Peter really is... or maybe it could've condensed or played a little bit differently to make a bit more convoluted and twisty.  Then again, all of this makes Peter all too real.  

It's true - sometimes you only see what you want, but if you look close enough, you'll always find that other person lurking under someone's skin.  We all have our roles, but we all have out blinders.  Careful out there, folks! 😉


Sunday, January 27, 2019

REVIEW: When You Read This by Mary Adkins @harperbooks @AdkinsMary

When You Read This
by Mary Adkins

Thanks so much to Harper Books for this delightful copy!

Publisher: Harper Books
Publish Date: February 5, 2019
384 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction

A comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts, for fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell. Iris Massey is gone. But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.

My Review:

What a delightful cast of characters.  Centered around Iris, the girl who died all too young from cancer, Adkins brings us a group of characters, mainly her sister, Jade and her boss, Simon, who are dealing with the aftermath of her death, the blog she left behind and unanswered questions that bring them together and also threatens to tear them apart.

Along with these "main" characters, we get introduced to YOPLAY, who I found annoying and endearing BUT WHO TYPES WITH CAPITAL ALL THE TIME?!  Carl, the intern who comes to take Iris's place at Smith's agency - who lives in his own little eccentric world.  While he repeatedly irritated me with his mercury in retrograde and inability to follow simple directions, his comic relief and brightened take on the world provided some much needed levity throughout the read.  (Carl, I want to have coffee with you!)

At the end of the day, it all comes down to Jade and Simon.  Each wanting to do what they think Iris would have wanted and having to come to terms that they both knew a different side to her.  The biggest stories here are theirs to tell.  The ups and downs of love, loss and grief.  Certainly some learning moments throughout.

Written in various forms of blog posts, emails and texts, this book pulls at the heart strings, gives some hope to the world and takes a real look at how people deal with grief.  (And I do believe I'll be trying to make those Orange-Kissed Chocolate Chip Cookies.)


Saturday, January 26, 2019

REVIEW: The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

The Lost Night 
by Andrea Bartz

Thank you to Crown Publishing and Astoria Bookshop for this free copy.

Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: February 26, 2019
320 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

What really happened the night Edie died? Ten years later, her best friend Lindsay will learn how unprepared she is for the truth.

In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating the city like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.

A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light.

My Review:

While I appreciate what this book tried to do, it unfortunately fell a bit flat for me.  I found the main character to be extremely irritating and not in the "I love to hate characters" kind of way.  I knew exactly what the twist was going to be very quickly and that only made it all the more annoying when all my fears became true.

I appreciated the small chapters from other perspectives more than I did Lyndsay's and while she was an unreliable narrator, she was just plain unreliable and I have to agree with one of the characters when they question how Lyndsay even made it this far in life.  

I feel that this is going to be a divisive read amongst thriller lovers.  It gives off a bad Lifetime movie type of feel (and these are guilty pleasures for me), highly predictable and full of selfish people.  I think those who like the lighter side of thrillers or are new to the genre may appreciate this read.

Sometimes it's just better to let the dead be dead.  Searching into the past usually yields terrible results.  Lessons learned here:  always be kind to all your friends, do not take drugs, never dig into the past and for goodness sake, don't leave a loaded gun lying around.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

REVIEW: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal

Fireside Chat with a
Grammar Nazi Serial Killer 
by Ryan Suvaal

Publish Date: January 14, 2019
Kindle Edition
23 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Short Story

Seventeen gruesome killings across the United States, within a span of six months and there is one clear connection among victims. They were all writers. 

While media is decorating the murders with sensationalist stories, and law enforcement is playing catch-up, the homicidal maniac remains elusive and secretive. 
Things get very interesting, when one day she decides to appear on an internet talk show for an honest fireside chat.

My Review:

OMG this short story! Hahaha. The very beginning had me going, Oh no... I'm not going to like this.  WHAT............ and then I got the Fireside Chat and YES! This is where the story shines.

We have a woman serial killer out to make a name for herself.  Fireside Chat is on the dark web where people can listen to an interview with serial killers who are vetted to make sure they are who they say they are.  You can even pay a pretty coin in hopes of being one of the chosen ones to ask a question yourself.

What I loved best is how she kills her victims and the reasons behind her strategy.  As an avid reviewer, I tend to look over grammatical error and typos since ARCs are uncorrected copies and are to be expected.  However, in final copies, an abundance of these really DO get under my skin.  Not enough to kill anyone... (yet). ;) 

This is on kindle limited right now so if you have it, run and spend a few minutes on this short story. I'm so glad I took the time.


#ATBR2019 Review: The Suspect by Fiona Barton @berkleypub #fionabarton #allthebookreviews

The Suspect
by Fiona Barton

Thanks to Berkley Pub for these copies.
See what Jessica and I thought about Barton's latest.

Publisher: Berkley Pub
Publish Date: January 22, 2019
416 Pages
Series: Kate Waters #3
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth--and this time is no exception. But she can't help but think of her own son, whom she hasn't seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling.

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think...

My Review:

This is my third Barton book and in looking back, it seems I rated every single one the exact same way.  And look, everyone has their own way of thinking about ratings but I do not consider a 3 star rating bad like some people.  And this has been my consistent rating for Barton... and I still need to read everything she writes!

She has a way of keeping you addicted to the pages.  She writes in a way that keeps the story flowing.  Different perspectives: in this case, one of the teenage girls who is missing, a mother/reporter whose son has been a mystery to her and the detectives on the case.  These all intertwine... though I'm not sure the storyline of one was entirely necessary to keep the story full.

The thing with Barton is that she gives us this little bit of a mystery, the suspense through the story and it's all done at the same pacing.  There's never any real BIG reveal  or a throat punch twist. I think those who love these types of stories should absolutely pick up all 3 of Barton's books.  There also seems to always still be some type of dangling mystery still to keep your mind moving as you turn that last page.

I do enjoy her novels.  I close the book with this kind of …. but but but… but in a good way. I think I prefer those novels that while aren't always tidy, also gives me more of a roller coaster in the feelings department.  I'll certainly still be keeping my eye out for whatever Barton comes out with next, because she definitely does entertain.


Jessica's Review:

THE SUSPECT will mark the third book of Fiona Barton's that I've read - and they've all been buddy reads! What I've loved about all three so far is that they're incredibly consistent. Solid and addictive writing, a story that has you completely invested, and a plot that intertwines seemingly unrelated characters.

I feel like this is a book where the synopsis is the perfect amount of information that you need before starting, so no spoilers here! I have always been a fan of the multiple POVs in a suspense read and Barton does it effortlessly. While it's a slower paced suspense the pacing stays consistent throughout and I never felt a lull as the story progressed. Barton keeps stringing you along until the very end! No jaw-dropping reveals, but always enough to keep you wondering even after you finish.

If you're looking for a solid slow-burning suspense novel, then this is one you definitely need to pick up! I will continue to pick up whatever Barton releases and would highly recommend THE SUSPECT, THE CHILD, or THE WIDOW!

3/5 stars

SPOTLIGHT & Q&A: An Improbable Pairing by Gary Dickson @smithpublicity @garydlax

An Improbable Pairing 
by Gary Dickson

An Improbable Pairing [January 8, 2019] by historical romance novelist Gary Dickson chronicles the enduring themes of a young man's coming of age and the rebellious love with a mismatched European high society Countess. Set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, An Improbable Pairing provides an inside look into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites—the domains of rank and privilege. But society's privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure.

In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee—he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess's ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess's friends of European high society. A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something's got to give. It won't be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.

An Improbable Pairing proves that love will prevail even when family and society are against the couple’s will. “Those of us fortunate enough to have been in love or to be in love remember or know the intensity and deliciousness of being infatuated with another person,” says Dickson. “Troubles and cares melt away and being with that person of our desire overtakes all reason. A kind of trance develops where we see no wrong, disregard any blemish, deny any fault. This is the feeling I hope to invoke with readers of An Improbable Pairing.

Gary Dickson is an inveterate traveler and a Francophile, sans merci. Educated in the United States and Switzerland in history, literature, and the classics, Gary lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Susie. Follow him on GoodreadsInstagram and Facebook.

An Improbable Pairing is now available on Amazon and other retailers.

Q&A with World Traveler and Novelist Gary Dickson

Question: What do you want readers to take away from Scott and Desirée’s connection and relationship in the story?

Gary Dickson: I want readers to understand and remember the architecture of the relationship between Scott and the Countess, Desirée. While built on the chemistry of attraction and love, it is buttressed by affection, intelligence and humor. To be in love is often chemistry, but to stay in love the relationship must be of such importance that the couple is willing to make the necessary modifications to their pre-conceived desires and attitudes in order for their love to survive and blossom.

Q: What makes An Improbable Pairing so different from other historical romance novels?

Dickson: Most historical fiction is heavy with obvious research piling on specifics sometimes not pertinent to the story. In the case of An Improbably Pairing, no research was necessary since the scenes and the culture of this period are so very familiar to me. As a result, the descriptions have the authenticity of first-hand experience rather than a ponderous factual approach. This story is light-hearted, fast-paced yet packed with accurate detail, as one reviewer remarked, “an almost cinematic description.”

Q:  Do you have additional stories or books you are working on?

Dickson: Yes, many in the works! I have already written a sequel but with an espionage and thriller flavor called A Spy with Scruples, a continuation of the Scott and Desirée story. I also have an idea for a sequel to this novel, which is a continuation of the spy motif that takes place in Switzerland, New York, and Palm Beach, FL. I have also completed another novel, a melange of a fantasy, a mystery, and a romance within the speculative fiction genre. Additionally, I have written and will shortly publish a book of poetry, La Poesie De Bonne Bouffe/The Poetry of Good Eats. A series of 25 poems in French with English translations, celebrating French food specialties, a French and English recipe for each, and an acknowledgement page which details the places I’ve frequented and learned about these delicacies.

SPOTLIGHT & EXCERPT: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff @tlcbooktours #parkrowbooks @pamjenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff

Come in and take a look at this historical fiction, releasing January 29, 2019.  An excerpt is below so you can get a taste and then run to preorder 😉 Thank you to TLC Book Tours for this opportunity.

Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Orphan's Tale, an instant New York Times bestseller. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff is now employed as an attorney in Philadelphia.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat's Wife and Almost Home.


Chapter Three
London, 1943
The last place Marie would have expected to be recruited as a secret agent (if indeed she could have anticipated it at all) was in the loo.

An hour earlier, Marie sat at a table by the window in the Town House, a quiet café on York Street she had come to frequent, savoring a few minutes of quiet after a day of endless clacking at the dingy War Office annex where she had taken a position as a typist. She thought of the coming weekend, just two days off, and smiled, imagining five-year-old Tess and the crooked tooth that surely would have come in a bit more by now. That was the thing about only seeing her daughter at the weekend—Marie seemed to miss years in the days in between. She wanted to be out in the country with Tess, playing by the brook and digging for stones. But someone had to stay here and make a few pounds in order to keep their aging row home in Maida Vale from falling into foreclosure or disrepair, assuming the bombs didn’t take it all first.

There was a booming noise in the distance, causing the dishes on the table to rattle. Marie started, reaching instinctively for the gas mask that no one carried anymore since the Blitz had ended. She lifted her gaze to the plate glass window of the café. Outside the rain-soaked street, a boy of no more than eight or nine was trying to scrape up bits of coal from the pavement. Her stomach ached. Where was his mother?

She remembered the day more than two years ago that she’d decided to send Tess away. At first, the notion of being separated from her daughter was almost unthinkable. Then a bomb had hit the flats across the street, killing seven children. But for the grace of God, that might have been Tess. The next morning, Marie began making arrangements.

At least Tess was with Aunt Hazel. The woman was more of a cousin and a bit dour to be sure, but was nevertheless fond of the little girl. And Tess loved the old vicarage in East Anglia with its endless cupboards and musty crawl spaces. She could run wild across the fens when the weather permitted, and help Hazel with her work at the post office when it did not. Marie couldn’t imagine putting her girl on a train to be sent off to the countryside to a cold convent or God-knows-where-else, into the arms of strangers. She had seen it at King’s Cross almost every Friday last year as she made her way north to visit Tess—mothers batting back tears as they adjusted coats and scarves on the little ones, younger siblings clinging to older, children with too-large suitcases crying openly, trying to escape through the carriage windows. It made the two-hour journey until she could reach Tess and wrap her arms around her almost unbearable. She stayed each Sunday until Hazel reminded her that she had best take the last train or miss curfew. Her daughter was safe and well and with family. But that didn’t make the fact that it was only Wednesday any more bearable.

Should she have brought Tess back already? That was the question that had dogged Marie these past few months as she had seen the trickle of children coming back to the city. the Blitz was long over and there was a kind of normalcy that had resumed now that they weren’t sleeping in the Tube stations at night. But the war was far from won, and Marie sensed that something far worse was yet to come.

Pushing her doubts aside, Marie pulled a book from her bag. It was poetry by Baudelaire, which she loved because his elegant verse took her back to happier times as a child summering on the coast in Brittany with her mother.

“Excuse me,” a man said a moment later. She looked up, annoyed by the interruption. He was fortyish, thin and unremarkable in a tweedy sport coat and glasses. A scone sat untouched on the plate at the table next to her from which he had risen. “I was curious about what you are reading.” She wondered if he were trying to make advances. The intrusions were everywhere now with all of the American GIs in the city, spilling from the pubs at midday and walking three abreast in the streets, their jarring laughter breaking the stillness.

But the man’s accent was British and his mild expression contained no hint of impropriety. Marie held up the book so that he could see. “Would you mind reading me a bit?” he asked. “I’m afraid I don’t speak French.”

“Really, I don’t think…” she began to demur, surprised by the odd request.

“Please,” he said, cutting her off, his tone almost imploring. “You’d be doing me a kindness.” She wondered why it meant so much to him. Perhaps he had lost someone French or was a veteran who had fought over there. “All right,” she relented. A few lines couldn’t hurt. She began to read from the poem, N’importe où hors du monde (Anywhere Out of the World). Her voice was self-conscious at first, but she felt herself slowly gain confidence.

After a few sentences, Marie stopped. “How was that?” She expected him to ask her to read further.
He did not. “You’ve studied French?”

She shook her head. “No, but I speak it. My mother was French and we spent summers there when I was a child.” In truth, the summers had been an escape from her father, an angry drunk unable to find work or hold down a job, resentful of her mother’s breeding and family money and disappointed that Marie wasn’t a boy. That was the reason Marie and her mother summered far away in France. And it was the reason Marie had run away from the Herefordshire manor where she’d been raised to London when she was eighteen, took her mother’s surname. She knew if she stayed in the house she had dreaded all her childhood with her father’s worsening temper, she wouldn’t make it out alive.