Book Review: Playing it Safe #AshleyWeaver #Minotaur #WWII

I did this review for the May edition of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society.

Electra “Ellie” McDonnell, a former safecracker who is now working for the British government during World War II, is sent off on a mission by Intelligence to the port city of Sunderland. She is given an assumed identity and few instructions from her boss, Major Ramsey, and soon finds herself investigating a murder on her own. When she is finally joined by Major Ramsey, new concerns arise. Are the Germans counterfeiting IDs right under their noses?

This is the third book in the Electra McDonnell series, which just keeps getting better. I love that Ellie is from a family of former safecrackers, and her relatives show up or are alluded to throughout the book. Her Uncle Mick is the head of the family, and Ellie often recalls his lessons as she is breaking into a safe, a building, or a residence. Ellie uses her skills quite effectively, and it remains clear that criminals and spies have a lot in common. For example, Ellie says the following: “We hadn’t pulled a job of our own since getting involved with Major Ramsey, and I found that these dalliances with espionage were providing me with more than enough danger and excitement to quell my less legal impulses.”

There are plenty of twists and turns in this compelling mystery/thriller, and the plot is so clever that it will keep readers on their toes. The characters Ellie meets in Sunderland are well-written and quite intriguing. As Ellie turns her charms on friend and foe trying to find a killer, the reader is drawn in too. This series is both fun and thrilling, with just a touch of romance. Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from Minotaur Books via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.


Ashley Weaver is the author of the Amory Ames Mysteries and the Electra McDonnell series. She is also the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.



Book Review: The Last Russian Doll #Russianhistoricalfiction

Below is another review I did for the February issue of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society.

The Last Russian Doll is a dual-timeline novel set mostly in Russia. In 1991, Rosie (Raisa) is engaged to be married and taking care of her mother in London. When her mother dies suddenly, she leaves Rosie a key and a mystery. Rosie applies for a job in Russia, hoping to take that key and answer a lifetime’s worth of questions. In 1915, Antonina (Tonya) is trapped in a loveless marriage as the Bolshevik revolution is beginning.

This is a gorgeous saga, filled with mystery and Russian fairytales. The history of 20th-century Russia is told through the eyes of two women. The story encompasses many devastating events: the 1917 Revolution, the Russian Civil War, Stalin’s purges, and the siege of Leningrad during WWII. Rosie arrives back in Russia as the Soviet Union is nearing its end, determined to make sense of her past. The weaving together of the stories of Rosie and Tonya is a perfect tapestry of tragedy, romance, and survival. Fairytales and porcelain dolls add another intriguing layer. This magical but tragic blend of history and fiction transports us straight to Russia during many turbulent periods in its past. It is an absolutely mesmerizing read.

Fans of Russian history and folklore, and anyone who just wants to read an amazing novel, should pick this one up immediately.


Kristen Loesch grew up in San Francisco. She holds a BA in History, as well as a Master’s degree in Slavonic Studies from the University of Cambridge. Her debut historical novel, THE LAST RUSSIAN DOLL, was shortlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award and longlisted for the Bath Novel Award under a different title. After a decade of living in Europe, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

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*The Last Russian Doll will be released March 14th.

Indie Weekend: Queen of the West by J.R. Zink #historicalfiction #Cincinnatihistory

Indie Weekend is my effort to help promote self-published and indie books. Indie authors have to do it all, from cover design to marketing and more. If I can help even a little with marketing, I’m happy to do it. Below is a review I did of Queen of the West for the February issue of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society. It is set in 1850s Cincinnati.


Annie and Max meet on the Ohio River on a steamship bound for Cincinnati in the 1850s. Annie is extremely upset about being forced to move from her beloved New York, but her mother has gotten remarried to a man in Cincinnati. She feels she is entering the wilds. Max is an immigrant who lives in Cincinnati and is returning home. Despite their differences, they begin to bond. When their paths cross again in the city, Annie is even more miserable because her feminist views are looked upon as dangerous by her mother’s new friends. She and Max begin a romance, which is opposed by Annie’s family from the start.

This book provides some great history of pre-Civil War Cincinnati as it was really growing into its name of “The Queen City of the West,” now shortened to “The Queen City.” The author uses Max to describe the city’s history as he takes Annie and the reader on a tour of its many now-historic places. This was of great interest to me as I was born and raised in Cincinnati. The character development of Max and Annie is a bit slow, but this is the first of a trilogy, so it’s possible that more character growth will come later. We are made aware of Annie’s feminist views immediately, but for much of the book they seem to be used mainly for shock value against her upper-crust family and their acquaintances. When Annie finally truly gets involved in the women’s movement, the novel takes on new life. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, which takes us to the Civil War. Fans of Ohio history and women’s fiction will enjoy this book.

My rating is 4.2 stars, rounded to 4.


Walking the historic streets of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood inspired JR Zink to write the Queen of the West historical fiction trilogy. “I can almost hear the voices of the ambitious nineteenth-century women and men emanate from the buildings as I wander the neighborhood.”

JR Zink grew up in Ohio and earned his BBA from the University of Cincinnati. He enjoyed a successful career as a management and technology consultant and executive leader before stepping away from the business world to develop his right-brain talents as an author. In addition to writing, he coaches swimming and enjoys running, backpacking, bicycling and travel. JR and his wife raised a family and now live in Over-the-Rhine.



Click on the image below to buy Queen of the West, Book 1, and Queen of the Union, Book 2


*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

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Indie Weekend: Murder on the Underground Railroad by Craig Pennington #Guest Post and #BookReview #IndieAuthors #enslavement

Indie Weekend is my effort to support Indie and Self-Published authors, who have a lot on their plate. You can support them too by sharing this post with your social media followers. This is also a book I read for the November issue of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society. It is a murder mystery set in 1826 Pennsylvania with flashbacks to 1793.


During a blizzard in the cold winter of 1826, the quiet Western Pennsylvania town of Indiana is shocked by the gruesome murders of two runaway slaves. When the county sheriff shows no interest in the dead men, newspaperman James Moorhead and his friend, Dr. Robert Mitchell, vow to investigate.

In the summer of 1793, a yellow fever epidemic decimates Philadelphia, the nation’s capital. Thousands die while those who can flee to the country. A nine-year-old orphan struggling to survive on his own in the deserted city descends into a world of deprivation and inhumanity when he is locked away in Philadelphia’s infamous poorhouse.
The bloodshed triggered by these seemingly unrelated events threatens the lives of James Moorhead and Dr. Mitchell as they fight to expose the twisted link between the murders and an insane act of revenge reaching back thirty years.

The formation of the Underground Railroad, the horrors of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, and the life of the author’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, one of Pennsylvania’s most famous abolitionists, are woven into a thrilling story of ambition and revenge.


Indiana, Pennsylvania, 1826. When two escaped, formerly enslaved men are found brutally murdered in a barn, the county sheriff shows no interest in investigating. Newspaperman James Moorhead and his friend, Dr. Robert Mitchell, both abolitionists who support the Underground Railroad, are outraged and begin an investigation of their own. In the summer of 1793, a yellow fever epidemic decimates Philadelphia. A nine-year-old boy who is left orphaned during this tragedy is abandoned in the city’s poorhouse. These events begin a chilling link between the 1826 murders and an act of revenge that reaches back thirty years.

Craig Pennington’s saga of the Moorhead family continues, this time focusing on the author’s great-great-great-great grandfather, James Moorhead, and adding a murder mystery. The mystery is fascinating, as the reader is given the killer’s identity early, and then follows James and Robert as they try to figure out who is committing these gruesome and bloody crimes. Pennington expertly weaves fiction and history together to portray events during this terrible time in U.S. history. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 meant that “slave catchers” could enter northern states and retrieve the escaped freedom seekers. For James, this meant that his actions to support the Underground Railroad were constantly resisted by pro-slavery persons and organizations.

In addition to providing a compelling mystery, this book answers the question: was the northern U.S. really free at that time? Not completely. An epilogue includes the real-life case of 12-year-old Anthony Hollingsworth, who was recaptured in 1845 and then freed by a Pennsylvania judge. James Moorhead was involved in this case.

This is so much more than a mystery. It is a look back at a struggle between good and evil in the United States. The author does not back away from horrifying moments in history, and rightly so.

I received a free copy of this book via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.

I am so pleased to have the review of my latest book included on Bonnie Reads and Writes. In 1901, my great-great Grandfather AT Moorhead wrote a small book about the Moorhead Family, and I have relied on it for all three of the Moorhead novels. However, information about other people involved in the Underground Railroad and the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic is the result of a great deal of research. Below is more information about this mystery thriller’s real-life characters.

My 4X Great Grandfather, James Moorhead (1780 – 1857), was publishing editor of one of the first newspapers in Indiana, PA. Originally he adhered to his conservative Scots-Irish upbringing, believing that you should change the laws, not break them. Eventually, however, he became one of Pennsylvania’s most outspoken abolitionists, Underground Railroad conductors, and Anti-Mason crusaders. (The Masons in that area were pro-slavery, although that varied with Mason groups throughout the country. ) Although fictitious, the events in this novel attempt to explain how and why James Moorhead’s transformation occurred. In 1843, he published The Clarion of Freedom and The Independent, another paper dedicated to eradicating slavery. His son, grandson, and great-grandson were all newspapermen.

Moorhead’s best friend, Dr. Robert Mitchell (1786 – 1863), was the second physician to settle in Indiana, PA, and one of the first conductors and station masters of the fledgling Underground Railroad. He was instrumental in defending Anthony Hollingsworth and eventually paid a large fine for hiding other freedom seekers. In later years, Mitchell became a State Representative and Associate Judge.

Bishop Richard Allen (1760 – 1831), was a formerly  enslaved man who helped mobilize the free black citizens during the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic. These brave people cared for the sick and buried the dead while most of the wealthy citizens abandoned the city. In 1794, he and Absalom Jones founded the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Philadelphia, the first Black denomination in America. Later, Allen and his wife, Sarah Bass, were active participants in the Underground Railroad.

Debated as either saint or devil for his medical practices, Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813) was one of the country’s most highly regarded physicians and social reformers. He was a signer of the Declaration, opposed slavery, advocated free public schools, and sought educational opportunities for women. Although he is acknowledged as the Father of American Psychiatry, his obsession with bleeding and purging undoubtedly led to many unnecessary deaths. Ironically, Rush died from a series of bleedings attempting to cure his case of typhus.

The court case of the 14-year-old freedom seeker Anthony Hollingsworth is well documented. When he was captured and held in the Indiana Hotel, a mob threatened to burn the hotel down to free him. The case came before a judge who just happened to be a member of the Underground Railroad Committee. While Garrett Van Metre, the man claiming to own Anthony, argued that the law gave him the right to take Anthony out of Pennsylvania (which it did), the judge demanded that Van Metre prove that slavery was legal in Virginia. He gave Van Metre until one o’clock that afternoon to produce a copy of the Virginia Constitution. When Van Metre failed to present the document, Anthony was set free.  Van Metre was literally railroaded by the court.

What I find most exciting about historical fiction is placing real people in real events while presenting interesting and informative historical details in a fictional work. My previous novel about the Moorheads, The Heart of the Run, won the Gold Medal for Best Historical Fiction in the Florida Writer’s Association 2022 Royal Palm Literary Competition. My books are all available at Amazon on Kindle and in Paperback.




*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

#bookreview: Long Way Home by #lynnaustin

1946. Peggy is living with her father and working at his auto shop, but spends much of her time helping out at the Barnetts’ veterinary practice across the street. She regularly visits her good friend, the Barnetts’ son Jimmy, who was hospitalized due to a suicide attempt after his service in World War II. Determined to help Jimmy, Peggy begins looking for other soldiers who served with him in the war, and for the woman, Gisela, whose picture was among Jimmy’s possessions.

1939. After the Nazis begin to persecute and murder the Jews, Gisela and her family are put on a ship, the St. Louis, and given passage to Cuba, which had agreed to allow them to settle there. But the ship is turned away in Cuba, and Gisela begins a journey that will end at Buchenwald, where she meets a young American medic named Jimmy.

Lynn Austin has given us another well-woven and meticulously researched historical saga. This dual-timeline novel is set both during and after World War II, and slowly entwines the lives of two young women who are connected by a young soldier. We witness the heartbreaking voyage of the St. Louis as the captain tries in vain to reach a safe harbor, and we see the terror of Jews trying to hide in Nazi-occupied territories. We are shown the horrors of World War II and the struggles of survivors to move forward. A Christian crisis of faith is explored, and primitive mental health surgical practices of the 1940s are brought to light. Long Way Home takes us across the sea and back again, into concentration camps and even to small American towns on an unforgettable journey about the evil of war and the love that brings us through it.

My rating is 4.7 stars, rounded up to five on sites with no partial star option.

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Lynn Austin

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Hope College and Southern Connecticut State University to work as a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 27 novels. Eight of her historical novels have won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction: Hidden Places (2001), Candle in the Darkness (2002), Fire by Night (2003), A Proper Pursuit (2007), Until We Reach Home (2008), Though Waters Roar (2009) While We’re Far Apart (2010), and Wonderland Creek (2011). She was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2013. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn’s novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


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#bookreview: Murder for the Modern Girl #HistoricalNovelSociety

This is a wonderful historical paranormal fantasy that I reviewed for the August edition of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society.

In 1928 Chicago, young Ruby is the daughter of the state’s attorney and popular at parties, but she also knows dangerous secrets—because Ruby is a mind reader. When her abilities put men in her path who prey on and murder women, Ruby takes matters into her own hands. Guy has talents of another kind, and his brilliance and abilities just may uncover Ruby’s hidden life. However, Guy has secrets of his own. When the two of them meet, sparks fly, and they become a powerful and gifted team. They soon begin investigating a crime that is close to Ruby’s heart.

This unique novel combines gangland Chicago of the late 1920s with young adult and paranormal fiction. Ruby, the witty flapper who also reads minds, explodes off the page. Her gift and cunning take her from respectable society to back-alley bars, and from the best gatherings to the best poison. With the ability to pull the thoughts right out of a murderer, she is a young vigilante, determined to make things right. Guy has talents of his own, and he is looking for answers as to where they came from. He brings caution to Ruby’s bravado, and she pulls him out of the shadows. These two characters are brilliantly crafted, and they instantly pull the reader in. The plot is thrilling and engaging, and the touches of romance are beautifully balanced. This is a fun and original historical paranormal thriller that will have readers begging for a sequel.

My rating is 4.6 stars, rounded up to five on sites without a half-star option.

I received a free copy of this book from Holiday House via the Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Kendall Kulper is an author and artist living in Cambridge, MA. She writes historical fantasy for young adult readers and has published three novels, beginning with Salt & Storm (YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild Selection) and Drift & Dagger (JLG Selection), and a novella, Saltwater Heart. Her latest novel, Murder for the Modern Girl (JLG Selection), is currently available, and her next novel, A Starlet’s Secret to a Sensational Afterlife, will be published in 2023.Since 2018, she has hand-crafted unique, custom embroidered pieces for clients around the world. She graduated from Harvard University with an honors degree in History & Literature in 2008 and lives with her husband, two daughters, and much-Instagrammed dog, Abby.

Kendall’s Social Media: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter


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SNEAK PEAK: Upcoming Books I’m Reviewing #HistoricalNovelSociety

*No book reviews included.

I’ve been busy reading and reviewing books for Historical Novels Review, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society, and while I can’t post the reviews until August, I am sharing the covers and descriptions of some of the books I have been reviewing for them this time around. I can’t give a star rating or any impressions of them yet, but they are coming after August 1st.


A ravishing young mind reader stalks the streets at night in kitten heels, prowling for men to murder.

A soft-spoken genius toils away in the city morgue, desperate to unearth the science behind his gift for shapeshifting.

It’s a match made in 1928 Chicago, where gangsters run City Hall, jazz fills the air, and every good girl’s purse conceals a flask.

Until now, eighteen-year-old Ruby’s penchant for poison has been a secret. No one knows that she uses her mind-reading abilities to target men who prey on vulnerable women, men who escape the clutches of Chicago “justice.” When she meets a brilliant boy working at the morgue, his knack for forensic detail threatens to uncover her dark hobby. Even more unfortunately: sharp, independent Ruby has fallen in love with him.
Waltzing between a supernaturally enhanced romance, the battle to take down a gentleman’s club, and loyal friendships worth their weight in diamonds, Ruby brings defiant charm to every page of Murder for the Modern Girl—not to mention killer fashion. An irresistible caper perfect for fans of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, in an exquisite hardcover package with rose-gold foil.


It’s 1954. The place is Prosperity, North Carolina, a small farming community in Bliss County. Three teenagers, the 1953 championship-winning offensive backfield for Prosperity High, and lifelong friends, are unwilling participants in a horrific event that results in a young man’s death.

One of the friends harbors a tragic secret that could have prevented the crime. Divulging it would ruin his life, so he stays quiet, fully aware he will carry a stain of guilt for the rest of his life. The three buddies go their separate ways for almost a decade, before another tragedy brings them back to Prosperity in 1968. Now in their thirties, it is a time of civil and racial unrest in America.

They discover the man who committed murder back in ’54 is now the mayor. Worse, now he’s set his sights on Congress.

A Kind and Savage Place spans half a century from 1942 to 1989 and examines the dramatic racial and societal turmoil of that period through the microcosmic lens of a flyspeck North Carolina agricultural community.


Peggy Serrano couldn’t wait for her best friend to come home from the war. But the Jimmy Barnett who returns is much different from the Jimmy who left, changed so drastically by his experience as a medic in Europe that he can barely function. When he attempts the unthinkable, his parents check him into the VA hospital. Peggy determines to help the Barnetts unravel what might have happened to send their son over the edge. She starts by contacting Jimmy’s war buddies, trying to identify the mysterious woman in the photo they find in Jimmy’s belongings.

Seven years earlier, sensing the rising tide against her people, Gisela Wolff and her family flee Germany aboard the passenger ship St. Louis, bound for Havana, Cuba. Gisela meets Sam Shapiro on board and the two fall quickly in love. But the ship is denied safe harbor and sent back to Europe. Thus begins Gisela’s perilous journey of exile and survival, made possible only by the kindness and courage of a series of strangers she meets along the way, including one man who will change the course of her life.

Book Review: The Eleventh Commandment #JohnSingerSargent #VernonLee

This is the fourth book in the John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget mystery series. The amateur sleuthing pair of artist John and writer Violet, who wrote under the name Vernon Lee, make a great combination. These lifelong friends are drawn into an archaeological mystery when John receives a package from an acquaintance, Moses Shapira. Shapira had recently been accused of promoting a fake manuscript of the ten commandments, with an eleventh commandment added! Is the package of leather strips that John received an original, or is it a fake? Not long after receiving the package, John and Violet learn of a suicide that could actually be a murder. In alternating chapters, we follow Moses Shapira as he discovers and tries to verify the manuscripts, and Violet and John as they investigate a possible murder and the origin of those same artifacts. This book can be read as a standalone.

The duo of John and Violet as amateur investigators is delightful. Their friendship and Violet’s insight make for an entertaining read. Their travels revolve around the arts and their investigation. Violet is an excellent narrator, and the book includes snippets about her work and John’s paintings. The fact that they were real-life friends who traveled extensively makes the books even more authentic. The mystery is intriguing and multi-layered. With Moses, we travel with Bedouin guides into the deserts of the Middle East, searching for treasures. With Violet and John, we visit Rotterdam and search for clues into a mysterious death. This is a captivating and multi-layered mystery with absolutely endearing main characters.

I received a free copy of this book from Word by Word Press via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Mary Burns’ varied writing experience includes more than twenty years in business and agency public relations and communications, including video scripts, radio commercials, annual reports, newsletters and executive speeches.  She managed the media coverage of the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II to San Francisco, and was the producer of a local television morning talk show, Body and Soul.  She has run her own consulting business twice, alternating with corporate positions, and is currently pursuing several writing projects.

Mary’s creative fiction writing began with a short story that won a prize at the 2000 Mendocino (California) Coast Writers Conference.  Two other short stories garnered first places (see them at and She was an invited participant at the 2004 Squaw Valley Community of Writers conference in Lake Tahoe, California. Her first historical novel titled J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE, was published in July 2010 by O-Books Publishers, UK. She has just completed her fourth book in the JOHN SINGER SARGENT/VIOLET PAGENT MYSTERY SERIES.

For more information please visit Mary’s website.



Book Review: Drawn By The Current #SSEastland #Chicago

In Chicago in 1915, Olive is an insurance agent for MetLife, an unusual occupation for a woman at that time, and she is facing prejudice as she tries to get promoted and gain more responsibility.  She also soon discovers that her friend Claire needs her help.  She invites Claire to travel on the SS Eastland from Chicago to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana, as a temporary respite and a chance to talk.  When tragedy strikes, Claire makes an impossible request which places Olive in a position in which any choice she makes will compromise her values. Olive then volunteers for an opportunity to be an insurance investigator in the aftermath of the tragedy.  Facing discrimination from her boss and threats from others, she tries to help families who have lost loved ones while still keeping secrets herself. Although part of a series, this book can be read as a standalone.

This is a well-put-together story revolving around the 1915 capsizing of the SS Eastland, in which over 800 people were killed.  The description of the disaster as it occurs is well done.  There is another storyline involving abuse, and the fact that women in that time had little recourse for protection or escape.  The bias against women in business in the early 20th century is also addressed, and all these storylines are woven together skillfully.  The characters are all well developed, and the plot ranges from captivating to suspenseful to heartbreaking.  Drawn by the Current takes us back to one of the worst maritime disasters in U.S. history and also reminds us of the plight of women in those days.  Multi-layered and well-researched, this third book in the Windy City Saga series is not to be missed.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Jocelyn Green is a former journalist who puts her investigative skills to work in writing both nonfiction and historical fiction to inspire faith and courage.

The honors her books have received include the Christy Award in historical fiction, and gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Complex and nuanced characters, rich historical detail and twisting plots make her novels immersive experiences. Her fiction has been praised by Historical Novel Society, Romantic Times, Library Journal, historians specializing in her novels’ time periods, as well as popular and acclaimed authors Laura Frantz, Lori Benton, Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, Joanne Bischof, Julie Lessman, and more.

Jocelyn loves Broadway musicals, the color red, strawberry-rhubarb pie, Mexican food, and well-done documentaries. She lives in Iowa with her husband, two children, and two cats she should have named Catticus Finch and Purrman Meowville. Visit her at her website,


Book Review: The Commandant’s Daughter #HistoricalNovelSociety #WorldWar2

Germany, 1933.  Hannelore (Hanni) Foss is a young girl living in Berlin as the Nazis rise to power.  Her father is a prominent figure in the Nazi party, and she lives the life that he dictates, attending Nazi functions and doing what she’s told.  Then she meets Ezra Stein, a photographer, and he shows her the art of looking at her surroundings through the lens of a camera.  She soon begins to see behind the façade of her father’s world.  In 1946 Berlin, after the fall of the Nazis, Hanni Winter has reinvented her life, working in the studio of Ezra’s son and hoping to one day bring her father to justice. With a new name and a new purpose, she keeps her past well hidden.  When she meets Detective Freddy Schlüssel, she becomes his crime scene photographer, and they begin to investigate a string of murders.

This is a compelling story that does not hold back on the descriptions of Nazi atrocities, making for an authentic and heartbreaking read. We learn a little about the history of the Nuremberg trials and the many Nazis who managed to avoid prosecution. Hanni is a purposeful and driven main character who is wracked with guilt and desperate for forgiveness. Her quest for justice is never-ending.  Through Ezra’s son Natan, and through Freddy Schlüssel we get the viewpoint of Jews who are still in Berlin and are trying to begin again after horrific persecution and loss. The evil manipulations and vile acts of the Nazis are shown through Hanni’s father. The author’s expert knowledge of and research into photography are evident throughout the story. The Commandant’s Daughter gives us a candid view of Berlin, both during and after unspeakable atrocities, uniquely conveyed through the lens of a camera.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via The Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


(In her own words) I seem to have followed a rather meandering career, including marketing and teaching and politics (don’t try and join the dots), to get where I have always wanted to be, which is writing historical fiction. I am a story lover as well as a story writer and nothing fascinates me more than a strong female protagonist and a quest. Hopefully those are what you will encounter when you pick up my books.

I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. Both my children have left home (one to London and one to Berlin) which may explain why I am finally writing. If I’m not at my desk you’ll most probably find me in the cinema, or just follow the sound of very loud music.

I’d love to hear from you and there are lots of ways you can find me, so jump in via my website or on my Cat Hokin FB page or on twitter @cathokin