Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Finding and Losing: Post-WWI Historical Fiction
Author Guest / October 21, 2021

In the years after World War I, cataclysmic changes in society were shifting traditional roles and expectations, with women demanding more independence and a greater say in determining their own futures.  This month’s selection of titles illuminates the unfolding of these changes through the lives of several determined women, both wholly fictional and fictionalized. In AT SUMMER’S END by Courtney Ellis, after winning a British Royal Legion art contest, painter Alberta Preston is determined to pursue an artistic career, despite her family who tries to push her into a conventional life of marriage and family.  When she receives an invitation from Julian Napier, Earl of Wakeford, to spend the summer painting at the family’s country home, Castle Braemore, she sees this as her chance to prove she can become a successful professional artist despite her gender. But the Great War has wrought serious changes upon the Napier family and their ancestral estate is near bankruptcy.  Disfigured by battle wounds, suffering from traumatic stress, the earl remains in his rooms, seeing no one but his widowed older sister Gwen.  Bertie makes alliances with Julian’s younger brother Roland, who actually runs the estate, his sister Cece, and gradually is able to work…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Aftermath of Upheaval
Author Guest / October 21, 2020

Like many, I’ve posted ironic images on my Facebook pages comparing the 2020 Year of COVID to many things–a hula hoop made of barbed wire, a pinata that’s actually a hornet’s nest, a time clock that sent us in March from Standard Time not to Daylight Savings Time, but into the Twilight Zone. So perhaps more than in “normal” times, we can identify with protagonists who are attempting to reconstruct their lives in the aftermath of unprecedented upheaval. And aside from a world-wide pandemic, nothing uproots people and disturbs lives like war. We begin with a novel by three of the most talented writers penning historical fiction today, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White.  The trio collaborated to create ALL THE WAYS WE SAID GOODBYE, using an iconic Parisian hotel as a locus for their stories.  Aurelie de Courcelles is devastated when, at the outbreak of World War I, her home is taken over as a German headquarters.  The dilemma is made more difficult when she discovers the commander’s aide de camp is the handsome young man who charmed her during her debut season in Paris.  Despite their opposing loyalties, friendship deepens into love…until betrayal drives Aurelie back to…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Daring and Danger – A Tribute to WWII
Author Guest , History / July 17, 2019

Continuing with WWII fiction in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we’ll focus on stories that illumine some fascinating but lesser-known people and events in the war, most based in historical fact. We begin with THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM by Marie Benedict.  In pre-WWII Austria, beautiful—Jewish–actress Hedwig Keistler catches the eye of the wealthiest man in Austria, arms dealer Fritz Mandl.  Knowing that marriage to the powerful Mandl may keep her and her family safe from the rising tide of anti-Semitism, after a short courtship, Hedwig weds him.  Certain his glamorous wife doesn’t care about or understand the weapons he develops and sells, Mandl discusses them freely around her with his business partners.  But Hedwig is brilliant as well as beautiful, with a life-long interest in science nurtured by her father. When Mendl becomes ever more abusive and controlling, Hedwig flees from him, first to London and then to America—where she becomes film star Hedy Lamarr.  But she also carried with her the plans for the Nazi’s weapons systems—and an invention of her own that will pave the way for secure communications and cellphone technology. A look behind the glamorous façade, Benedict’s book reveals a woman as…