Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb / #BlogTour

Hi guys. Today I am delighted to be part of the “Last Christmas in Paris” blog tour. I do love a great historical fiction, and I am always intrigued by books written by two authors, and this novel brings both of those things. While I’ve already read and adored books written by Hazel Gaynor – they mostly make me cry like a baby but they are so beautiful! – Heather Webb was a new author to me that I am incredibly happy to have discovered for myself.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

 

34150794Publisher: William Morrow

Publishing Date: 3rd October 2017

Source:  Received from publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre:  Romance, Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

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…

Rating: four-stars

I love to read great historical fiction and Hazel Gaynor is for sure one of the authors that can write in this genre. This time she has collaborated with Heather Webb, and together those two ladies have delivered a wonderful, poignant and heart – breaking novel, and a very unique one, as it is written in a letter format. There are literally only letters, and yes, at the beginning it was somehow hard to follow the story like this, without the usual descriptions of, I don’t know, people, their looks, the way they dress, places, weather, without dialogues, but it didn’t take me long to fell in love with the characters and the way the story was told.

Evie Elliott’s brother Will and his best friend Thomas leave to serve in World War 1. They all hope that war is going to end soon and that they’re going to see each other in a few months, in time for Christmas. They stay in touch via letters in which they describe all things that happens, their deepest thoughts, hopes and fears – out of those letters arises a story between a young and ambitious girl who wants to fight the war in her own way and becomes a spirited journalist, her reserved but loving brother and his best friend, those two new – minted soldiers, believing in all things good – that is, until they realise what war really is.

 There was one thing that didn’t really work so well for me, and it was the romance aspect between Evie and Tom.  All the time they were best friends and the sudden explosion of the love was this little bit unrealistic and out of the blue. I had a feeling that the authors concentrate on all things but the blossoming feelings, and then suddenly, towards the end, the love exploded and it felt much too rushed for my liking, too flawless. Also, the change in Evie after she went to the war was too forced for me, it just didn’t ring true, and was also too quick.

 But altogether,  it was a great love story, about dreams, disillusions and loyalty. What made it even more better was the fact that the authors so skilfully smuggled a lot of clever, sharp humour that was so needed when we faced all those tragedies. It was thoroughly researched and I didn’t have a feeling that it was written by two authors, maybe it was even better that it was written by two authors because the letters had their own distinctive voice and didn’t sound similar, as if written by the same person. Both authors writes in such an engaging, descriptive and rich style and they effortlessly transported me to a different times and different places.

In the end we receive a wonderful, touching and unique story that tugs at the heart strings. It made for a very fast read and it was, in fact, unputdownable – because it was always “just one more letter” and because it was so hooking and captivating. You somehow felt just like a part of the characters’ lives, probably because thanks to the letters, as they were so honest, there were no secrets, you knew all their feelings. Beautiful and poignant, a great book for fans of historical fiction – recommended from me!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

last-christmas-in-paris-tour-banner

The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl from the Savoy

by Hazel Gaynor

 

Publisher: William Morrow

Publishing Date: 7th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the author,  thank you!.

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Women’s Literature, Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Presenting a dazzling new historical novel … The Girl From The Savoy is as sparkling as champagne and as thrilling as the era itself.

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Rating: 5/5

 

Oh my, you guys have no idea how much I’ve been waiting for Hazel Gaynor’s new release – since I’ve read „The Memory of Violets”, that’s made it to my Top Reads in 2015, and that’s made me cry crocodile tears (because it was so beautiful!) I’ve been stalking Hazel on Twitter, looking for any news on her new book. And when the news came I couldn’t be more happy. And – what’s more – I am a very, very happy owner of a signed copy of „The Girl from the Savoy” and I am really going to love and cherish it for many years to come. So there.

Do I need to tell you after this intro that I’ve rated „The Girl from the Savoy” with 5 stars and that I loved it immensely? Thought so :)

Both „The Memory of Violets” and „The Girl from the Savoy” (I haven’t had a pleasure to read Ms Gaynor’s debut novel „The Girl Who Came Home” yet but I truly do hope to make up for this oversight very soon) are historical fiction but they are totally different, and yes, it surprised me a little, because I was expecting something in „The Memory of Violets” – style and I got a totally different in tone, times and plot story, but it didn’t concern me in the slightest. Otherwise, after my initial surprise I very quickly started to enjoy the fact that the book is set in 1920s London and that the plot concentrates on a more positive and light aspects.

The novel is set during the Big War and post – war times, in the 1920s London. It is told from three points of view: the one from Dolly Lane’s, a chambermaid whose life has been changed by the war, the one of Teddy Cooper’s, Dolly’s boyfriend whom we meet when he’s heading off to war, and whom we get to know better in hospital, when a nurse is reading Dolly’s letters to him, and the one of Loretta May’s, an actress, a star. All the narrators’ voices are incredibly strong and realistic and as all three characters are so different, all three voices give the readers a very different perspective on the same events and period.
The story introduces us to two very different women, leading two very contrasting lives. Dolly Lane is a maid at the Savoy Hotel but her dreams are reaching far beyond. She dreams of becoming a stage star. She tries her luck in various auditions, hoping to become a chorus girl but so far she didn’t have any luck, hence the job as a maid – though working at the Savoy, one of the best and most spectacular hotels, is a merit in and of itself. The war and post – war times wasn’t emollient for Dolly and throughout the course of the story we learn about her past.
Welcome Loretta May – who if living in our times would be on the covers of all tabloids and magazines! – has all that Dolly dreams of: fame, success, confidence, class, talent and is a star of many spectacles. But as all that glitters is not gold, she – as well as Dolly – is hiding a secret and she doesn’t know how to tell it to her younger brother Perry, a composer who’s just lost his zeal to work. Together they concoct a plan to find a muse for Perry that would help him to find his talent afresh.
The two women couldn’t be more different, but the love to the stage is something that link them. They were both perfectly drawn and had a great depth to them and both were strong personalities, and I liked that they were such complex characters. Under Loretta’s shining surface we are to quickly discover that there is much more to her than meet the eye. But it’s the same with Dolly, and I loved her character – she was a strong – minded girl with ambitions, she was aiming high and was not afraid to have dreams. There is also some sadness to her and we soon realise that something happened to her, and when the secret was eventually revealed my heart went to her. She is vulnerable, yet ambitious and she didn’t let the difficulties discourage her. She is also prone to accident, especially when cleaning the opulent rooms of rich and famous in the Savoy. There was this „something” in her that just made her a great character, in fact both the women were really great, and even though we are speaking about 1920s, they were both dreaming of better life, of being in different place, different time, just like it happens with us now as well.

I absolutely loved how the paths of the characters crossed and how intertwine they become, and the colourful, musical twenties in the background of this story. As in the previous book, this time it was also brilliantly and meticulously researched and I loved all the mentions of clothes, music and actors. The hotel is the perfect setting in this story, as it presents the two worlds perfectly. The upstairs and downstairs, the colourful and full of music ballrooms with the stars, a place that Dolly is dreaming of, and the other side, the one that the „chosen” ones are not to see, just like the lives of Dolly and Loretta, so different, and yet so close to each other. The author has also brilliantly captured the differences in both the life styles. While Dolly was saving all her pennies only to afford to see a West End show and her shoes were bearing traces of use, Loretta was used to the comfortable and generous life and the fact that she needn’t have to worry about money. So what happened that these two women found each other and even become friends? Impossible became possible, and Perry is the one that links them together.

This is a brilliant, charming story showing us that appearances are not everything, as we see through Loretta May. You could expect that such a star like her would be inaccessible and arrogant but you couldn’t be more wrong. However, the girls who so much would love to be one her place, to be Loretta May, don’t know what hides behind all the beautiful dresses, silky shoes and red lipstick.

The author pays a lot of attention to the historical facts and details and you can see that there is a lot of research involved, and no matter if she describes the hotel, the dresses or London, with the smog, trams and theatres she brings this all to life. But also, she has managed to write all the facts and events in a wonderful, fresh and accessible way. „The Girl from the Savoy” is a multi – layered story, and it’s not only a historical fiction but wonderful, captivating story about two very different women, fine representatives of those times, their lives and their influences. A vivid novel about 1920s glamour and its contrast, about couture dresses versus nurses/maids uniforms, and I loved every single second of it.

What I adored in this book was the fact that it was not only a story about Dolly and Loretta, about their dreams and lives, but that there were hidden layers as well. As both of the characters had secrets, and slowly the secrets started to unveil, which added so much to this book and made it even more special. There are difficult choices to be made and unexpected meetings to happen. The story also shows the influences of the war on young people and wonderfully captures all the emotions, and we have a real range of emotions there, from love and hate to hope and despair, friendships blossoming and broken, and add to this a cocktail of scandals, love, musicals and glamour – a wonderful, fantastic mixture, written in an engaging, captivating, fluid way. So for me again an absolute hit fro Hazel Gaynor and I won’t be afraid to recommend this book to all of you, even those who are not such fans of historical fiction – there is much more to this book than only history.

Top Ten Books in 2015

So guys, here we are, at the end of the year – can’t believe it, to be honest. The older I am, the quicker the time passes by. Nevertheless, what a year it was, with its ups and downs, but let’s concentrate on the books. I read 211 books in 2015, most of them I rated with 5 stars, because… well, because they were absolutely brilliant novels! I discovered new authors to me, fell more in love with „old” authors, was part of many wonderful Blog Tours, interviewed many great people, was honoured to post many fantastic Guest Posts… And today I am going to tell you about my top reads in 2015 – and believe me, it was a very tough choice! The books haven’t been put into order – it would be impossible!

 

I Hope You Dance by Beth Moran – a book that took my breath away. A bitter – sweet, true to life story exploring family life – fantastic!

 

My Everything by Katie Marsh – one of the best debut novels I have EVER read – so very maturely written cracker of a book about journey through life, about developing , about getting to know each other again, about following your dreams, compromises and backing down in the name of love.

 

The Silent Hours by Cesca Major – another incredible debut. After reading this book I couldn’t settle for another novel for a long time, as it left me with a major bookish hangover. This rare gem of a book that you are going to lose yourself in and forget about everything that’s surrounding you. It’s going to leave a large impact on you and your feelings.

 

The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts – I love good historical fiction, and this book is for sure a VERY good historical fiction. It’s a perfect mix of history, romance and drama. The writing style is hooking, realistic and so very vivid and the story was, in fact, unputdownable. I’d recommend it to all, no matter if you like historical fiction or not, because it’s one helluva novel!

 

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees – this book was one of the biggest surprises this year, I really haven’t expected it to be SO good! A brilliant, compelling story that takes us on a journey through early Victorian England and gives us a bunch of strong female characters, some male characters that look so weak in comparison to our girls, but also some that are really worth to make acquaintance with, and of course give us a look at the society, with all its stereotypes, as well as intriguing mystery.

 

The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson – a year without Lucy’s book is a lost year. I can’t imagine not having Lucy in my life and all her novels were rated by me with 5 stars. „The Day We Disappeared” is an incredible story of secrets, friends, family and honesty. I can only say, drop everything you do and go and buy this book – and you don’t have to thank me for recommendation this time.

 

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor – it was my first book by Hazel Gaynor and it left me speechless. It was a wonderful, beautifully written novel that is going to stay with you for a very long time, a book that comes upon once in a while and a book that you don’t want to leave, to depart with.

 

Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley – though I think I should put here all books by Cathy Bramley, as they all deserve to be mentioned! There is everything you could wish for in a book, humour, sadness, love, friendship, hope, together with fantastic writing and brilliant characters. And who knows, maybe you’re going to discover that you do have green fingers after reading the book? Highly recommended, this book for sure is going to lift your mood up and it could be a perfect escape for some time! I have read it twice already!

 

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester – another fantastic debut this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for a long time! There was everything that I could wish for in a book: brilliantly created atmosphere, fantastic times, vivid characters, mystery, drama but also a lot of dark and sharp humour. Full of twist and turns, surprises and gasps from me.

 

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin – last but not least, and I think this book has the biggest impact on me, and if I were forced to choose my absolute winner I guess this would be THE ONE.  Be prepared that when you start reading the book, you won’t be able to put it down. I have found myself reading it and reading, thinking only one more page. You know what’s going to happen, you know there is no hope, but nevertheless, you keep reading because you just want to know. After I finished this book I couldn’t move for some time, and it’s good that I was home alone, that nobody’s seen the tears pouring down my face. I knew how it’s going to end, but nevertheless, it didn’t make it easier for me. But it was without a doubt one of the most stunning, moving, beautiful books that I have come across.