SOMEONE TO ROMANCE by Mary Balogh

October 29, 2020

SOMEONE TO ROMANCE by Mary Balogh.  Berkley (August 25, 2020). ISBN 978-1984802392. 416 pages.

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CHER AMI AND MAJOR WHITTLESEY by Kathleen Rooney

October 28, 2020

From the publisher:

A heart-tugging and gorgeously written novel based on the incredible true story of a WWI messenger pigeon and the soldiers whose lives she forever altered, from the author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

From the green countryside of England and the gray canyons of Wall Street come two unlikely heroes: one a pigeon and the other a soldier. Answering the call to serve in the war to end all wars, neither Cher Ami, the messenger bird, nor Charles Whittlesey, the army officer, can anticipate how their lives will briefly intersect in a chaotic battle in the forests of France, where their wills will be tested, their fates will be shaped, and their lives will emerge forever altered.

A saga of hope and duty, love and endurance, as well as the claustrophobia of fame, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is a tragic yet life-affirming war story that the world has never heard. Inspired by true events of World War I, Kathleen Rooney resurrects two long-forgotten yet unforgettable figures, recounting their tale in a pair of voices that will change the way readers look at animals, freedom, and even history itself.


With the arrival of the centennial of World War One (1914-1918), a good number of books have been published about aspects of that conflict. These deal with situations that are not necessarily fiction about men in war, but in many cases regarding little known facts previously not brought out but well researched and of interest for readers today.

Kathleen Rooney’s book is about a U.S. battalion that took part in the battle at the Argonne Forest in 1918. The troops were part of an attack organized in conjunction with soldiers from other U.S. troops and also from the French army. The battalion managed to reach the area ordered to by high command but the rest of the force did not: leaving these soldiers isolated and surrounded by German troops.

In the chaos of the situation artillery from the U.S. side was misaimed and landed on the isolated battalion killing many. There was no radio in those days and messengers sent to advise of the mix-up were killed. Another method was via the use of homing pigeons normally carried by soldiers trained in flying these birds.

The plight of the surrounded soldiers became widely known and they were termed “The Lost Battalion” by people far and wide. Cher Ami, a homing pigeon was sent with a message for the artillery to stop their fire. The bird completed its flight wounded by enemy bullets and losing an eye and one leg. Ms. Rooney tells her story using two protagonists; one is Major Charles Whittlesey and the other Cher Ami. It is an interesting combination that does get the author’s story across.

Whittlesey brings out the antiwar direction of the book. He is placed in command of the Battalion and must order men to face death in order to comply with directives from generals that live quite nicely behind the lines and don’t see the real cost in the lives of the decisions they make. His post-war life is described by the author as a major guilt trip. Also, an interesting mention is made concerning Woodrow Wilson, then president of the United States. He campaigned for the presidency in 1916, with the slogan “He kept us out of war” but then just a few months after the election promoted a declaration of war against Germany. His actions caused the deaths of thousands of American soldiers that were not necessary to prevent any actions by Germany against the U.S.

Using a homing pigeon as one of the two narrators of the book does not in any way detract from the story. On the contrary, that factor allows the presentation of further commentary by an entity that sees the foibles of soldiers and war from afar and still completes what is thought of as her duty. An interesting aside is the fact that a silent movie was made in 1919 featuring Whittlesey and other survivors of the “lost battalion” For those interested it is available on YouTube.

10/2020 Paul Lane

CHER AMI AND MAJOR WHITTLESEY by Kathleen Rooney. Penguin Books (August 11, 2020). ISBN: 978-0143135425. 336 pages.

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WOULD I LIE TO THE DUKE by Eva Leigh

October 26, 2020

WOULD I LIE TO THE DUKE by Eva Leigh. Avon (July 28, 2020). ISBN 978-0062932426. 368 pages.

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THE HAUNTING OF H. G. WELLS by Robert Masello

October 25, 2020

From the publisher:

A plot against England that even the genius of H. G. Wells could not have imagined.

It’s 1914. The Great War grips the world—and from the Western Front a strange story emerges…a story of St. George and a brigade of angels descending from heaven to fight beside the beleaguered British troops. But can there be any truth to it?

H. G. Wells, the most celebrated writer of his day—author of The Time MachineThe War of the WorldsThe Invisible Man—is dispatched to find out. There, he finds an eerie wasteland inhabited by the living, the dead, and those forever stranded somewhere in between…a no-man’s-land whose unhappy souls trail him home to London, where a deadly plot, one that could turn the tide of war, is rapidly unfolding.

In league with his young love, the reporter and suffragette Rebecca West, Wells must do battle with diabolical forces—secret agents and depraved occultists—to save his sanity, his country, and ultimately the world.


Robert Masello is an author who has published historical novels with a decidedly surreal twist involved in them. This current novel is written around H.G. Wells, an author who wrote many books involving a vision of the future that projected what later became real-life happenings. These included “War of the Worlds”, “Things to come” “The Invisible Man” and the “Time Machine.” Wells must be considered as one of the first authors writing what then became Science Fiction, and a man that knew fame in his own lifetime.

The novel begins in England during the first few months of World War I. A legend arose that ghosts of English bowmen and archers appeared magically at the western front and fought on the British side. This was conceived that the Gods were on the side of the English and used to buoy up the country in the face of war.

H.G. Wells, at the peak of his fame, is called into the war office and Winston Churchill the man in charge asks him to travel to the western front in Belgium in order to investigate the truth of the advent of the archers. Wells acquiesces and does so in the care of an experienced soldier.

Masello’s descriptions of conditions at the western front are very vivid and well done. He describes a group of men called ghouls that have deserted their armies and live underground at the front stealing food from the dead in order to survive.

In an attack by the English against soldiers of the German army Wells is propelled into an underground nest of the so-called ghouls who save his life. In later dispatches written by him when he returns to England Wells writes what he is told to by the war office.

In further adventures of the famed author, Wells meets a young lady, Rebecca West who becomes his lifelong mistress. Masello indicates that Jane, H.G. Wells wife knew of his philandering and allowed it to happen, understanding her husband’s needs to do so.

The last half of the novel becomes involved with two events that the author makes up. The first is the survival of a wounded crew member of a downed German airship that had attacked London, and Mrs. Wells caring for him against all regulations. The second is the description of a planned chemical attack by a German agent living in England and action against him by Wells with the aid of Ms. West.

It goes without saying that literary license is used by Masello, as it has been in previous successful novels aiding in providing a very readable novel and one that further enhances his reputation and piquing the interest of his readers who await his next work.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE HAUNTING OF H. G. WELLS by Robert Masello. 47North (October 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1542093781. 397 pages.

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ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne

October 5, 2020

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-1250318862. 416 pages.

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THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire

September 22, 2020

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Roland Ford Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

An Irishman in nineteenth-century England is forced to take sides when his nephew joins the bloody underground movement for independence in this propulsive novel from the acclaimed author of The North Water.

Manchester, England, 1867. The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting its revenge.

Stephen Doyle, an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War, arrives in Manchester from New York with a thirst for blood. He has joined the Fenians, a secret society intent on ending British rule in Ireland by any means necessary. Head Constable James O’Connor has fled grief and drink in Dublin for a sober start in Manchester. His job is to discover and thwart the Fenians’ plans whatever they might be. When a long-lost nephew arrives on O’Connor’s doorstep looking for work, he cannot foresee the way his fragile new life will be imperiled—and how his and Doyle’s fates will become fatally intertwined.

In this propulsive tale of the underground war for Irish independence, the author of The North Water once again transports readers to a time when blood begot blood. Moving from the dirt and uproar of industrial Manchester to the quiet hills of rural Pennsylvania, The Abstainer is a searing novel in which two men, haunted by their pasts and driven forward by the need for justice and retribution, must fight for life and legacy.


Ian McGuire brings us into the mid 19th century in a very well-done novel set during a period just after Ireland had suffered through a potato famine with consequences of depressed economic conditions. Land was mainly owned by transplanted British nobility and the Irish were focused on winning their liberty and their land back from England. A secret society termed “Fenians” waged underground war against England and their military and police based in Ireland to enforce British rule. Most of the population lived in abject poverty with roots in the potato famine. The story opens with the hanging of three Irish rebels for the crime of killing a police officer. The Irish underground is already planning a campaign of retaliation against British authority with the author introducing persona from both sides of the conflict and allowing their views to be aired as a necessary adjunct to the story.

Stephen Doyle, an Irish American who had lived in the U.S and had served with the Union army during the American civil war, returns to his native country filled with rage and anxious to shed blood. He moves into the city of Manchester and quickly joins the Fenians with the idea to cause havoc among the British. At the same time, head constable James O’Connor enters the scene. He had worked in Dublin but had become an alcoholic to escape the trauma of his young wife dying. He is sent to Manchester as a last chance to redeem himself and is determined to do so. When a long-lost nephew shows up at his house looking for work it creates a conflict that will put O’Connor and Doyle against each other in a situation that only killing will solve.

The novel is definitely enhanced by the author’s knowledge of and descriptions of the economic and political conditions in both Ireland and the United States in a period after the Civil War. The reason that O’Connor and Doyle became deadly enemies is logically tied into the conditions both men faced in their lives and in the areas they lived in during the action. Definitely, a novel that will capture its readers causing a good deal of loss of sleep and the obvious desire to pick up McGuire’s next novel.

9/2020 Paul Lane

THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire.  Random House (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593133873. 320 pages.

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REMEMBER ME by Mario Escobar

September 12, 2020

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From the publisher:

Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever.

Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his younger sisters, Isabel and Ana. When Marco’s parents align themselves against General Franco and his fascist regime, they have no inkling that their ideals will endanger them and everyone they love—nor do they predict the violence that is to come.

When the Mexican government promises protection to the imperiled children of Spain, the Alcaldes do what they believe is best: send their children, unaccompanied, across the ocean to the city of Morelia—a place they’ve never seen or imagined. Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but what ensues is a harrowing journey and a series of heartbreaking events. As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. And as their memories of Spain fade and the news from abroad grows more grim, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved.

Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me—now available for the first time in Englishexplores the agony of war and paints a poignant portrait of one family’s sacrificial love and endurance.

The publisher provided additional historical information – scroll down for the info and some pictures.


Mario Escobar lives in Spain and writes in Spanish. This book was translated by a professional translator and it was the novel in English that I read. It was still one of the most hard-hitting books I have enjoyed. I emerged from a continuous read emotionally spent and attempting to see how more than five stars could be given to what I had just finished.

The novel begins with a family of five living in Madrid in 1936; one that is closely knit and happy with their lives even though they are not wealthy. Life than changes abruptly for them when a civil war breaks out in Spain. The first phase began with a military revolt in Morocco triggered by events in Madrid. In a short time, Spain became an armed camp with Loyalists on one side and Nationalists on the other. The Nationalists soon became followers of General Francisco Franco who is described as a mass murderer. The author describes the situation as the two sides square off against each other. Atrocities occurred committed by both armies and Escobar describes a scenario when mass murders are the norm.

Marco Alcalde and his sisters Isabel and Ana are the three children of the family living in Madrid. Their father takes an active role on the side of the Loyalists taking part in several pitched battles. Based on their parent’s views of the blood bath they live in with the definite possibility that all will be killed if the Nationalists take Madrid it is decided to send the children to Mexico. The Mexican president has taken an interest in helping children caught up in the war to come to Mexico for refuge.

Marco and his sisters are smuggled out of Spain by their mother, taken by ship to Veracruz, Mexico and from that port sent on to Morelia a city on the western side of the country. A school and living facilities have been prepared for them paid for by the Mexican president. Unfortunately, the heads of the school have taken the opportunity of administering it to steal as much as possible from the budget leaving only a subsistence amount to pay bills such as feeding and properly clothing the residents.

Mexico during the course of the civil war allows many Spaniards to emigrate and settle in their country. The author, though, has written the novel to fully go over the plight of the children and the forming of a group that became known as the Children of Morelia.

Marco and his sisters decide to try and return to Spain after several years in Mexico. They, of course, want to reunite with their parents and return to their previous lifestyle. The ending of the novel is a description of their search and the horrors they are forced to endure in both Mexico and Spain,

The author’s style is blasé, but in a manner that helps the reader to get into the atmosphere of a novel that features scenes of combat, horror, and the inhumanity of ordinary people caught up in wholesale killing. A very well-done story about ordinary people and what they turn into in the face of war.

Also from the publisher:

Historical Background on the Children of Morelia and the Spanish Civil War

In the great wars of the 20th century, an entire generation of Europeans sought refuge in the Americas. They were displaced first by the Spanish Civil War, which was the first modern war of the 20th century, then by the terrible World War II. Just over a quarter of a million people died directly in the conflict, including a large number of children. Some 456 sought refuge in Morelia, invited by Mexican President Cárdenas.

We live in a moment of history with more and more people displaced from their homes. After the Spanish Civil War, just over 440,000 people escaped from the fascist repression. A large part took refuge in the Americas. Especially in Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina. Currently, an estimated 65 million people have had to leave their homes and find a new place to live.

Remember Me narrates the consequences of the Civil War and the relationship of the Spanish Republic with Mexico, from the first days of the conflict, the exile in France and Mexico of many refugees, the Francoist repression and the mistreatment of children after the war.

In a world like the current one, in which more and more barriers and walls are being erected, Remember Me tells us about the struggle of refugees to survive and the harshness of life in a new country, but it is also a song of hope and solidarity.

The Children of Morelia seek refuge

Some 456 minors, between five and twelve years old, were sent from Spain to Mexico to try to escape the terrible ravages of the Spanish Civil War. The children traveled in very harsh conditions during a long journey to Veracruz in the summer of 1937.

9/2020 Paul Lane

REMEMBER ME by Mario Escobar. Thomas Nelson (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-0785236580. 384 pages.

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MY HIGHLAND ROGUE by Karen Ranney

August 17, 2020

MY HIGHLAND ROGUE by Karen Ranney. Avon (July 28, 2020). ISBN 978-0063019928. 384 pages.

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AN HEIRESS TO REMEMBER by Maya Rodale

August 13, 2020

8/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AN HEIRESS TO REMEMBER by Maya Rodale. Avon; Reissue edition (March 31, 2020). ISBN 978-0062838841. 368 pages.

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A GOOD DUKE IS HARD TO FIND by Christina Britton

August 3, 2020

8/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A GOOD DUKE IS HARD TO FIND by Christina Britton. Forever (June 30, 2020). ISBN 978-1538717493. 384p.

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