Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: "Last Christmas in Paris" by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb #TLCBookTours #LastChristmasInParis

Last Christmas in Paris Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Date finished: October 19, 2017
Date Published: October 3, 2017
ISBN: 9780062562692
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Epistolary novels, Stories set during World War I, Friends to Lovers stories, Downton Abbey

Summary:
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?


Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

My Thoughts:
While I had never read anything by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor is one of those authors that I know I will always enjoy.  I'm a little wary of books with dual authors, but the fact that Hazel Gaynor was one of the authors was enough to convince me to give it a try.

This is an epistolary novel--or a story told through letters.  I actually enjoy these sorts of novels, but I know that it isn't everyone's cup of tea.  One of the reasons I like these is that I find that they are easy to pick up and put down.  Because of this, I decided to save this book to read while my family went on a road trip.  While I enjoy reading in the car, I do have to take breaks at fairly frequent intervals to keep motion sickness at bay.  I figured that an epistolary novel would be perfect for that...and it was, except for one thing.

Once I started, I couldn't put this book down.  Well, I mean, I did put it down when nausea became an issue (due to the car, not the book), but I got right back to the book as soon as I could.  I was immediately drawn into Thomas and Evie's lives as soon as I started the book and each letter just deepened the hook for me.  Both characters are fully dimensional, flawed, and believable.

My knowledge of World War I is not as deep as it probably should be, but the fact that this story is told through personal letters puts the conflict in a uniquely compelling light.  Webb and Gaynor do an excellent job of weaving historical details into the letters in a very organic way.  I never felt like the authors were trying to camouflage an info dump, but that the details would just naturally arise in the correspondence between the characters.

The reason why dual-author novels don't always work for me is that the voices of the two authors don't always blend well.  Fortunately, that is not the case with this book.  I'm not sure how Gaynor and Webb divided up the writing, but I never felt like I  knew which author was writing at any one time.  Of course, the epistolary format of this book is especially conducive to multiple authors, but Gaynor and Webb make use of every advantage.

While I did find the story itself a bit predictable, I still enjoyed it as it unfolded (hence not being able to put it down).  Gaynor and Webb keep the pace of the novel up throughout and bring it all to a very satisfying ending.  This is definitely one of the better novels set during World War I that I've read and I would heartily recommend it.

About the Authors
HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

HEATHER WEBB writes historical fiction for Penguin, including her novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.

As a former military brat, Heather naturally grew up obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before channeling these passions into fiction. When not writing, she flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Find out more about Heather at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

If you would like to read more about this book, please check out some of the other stops on this blog tour.


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