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When Christmas Comes Again

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Dear America series. Well, it’s equally true that I shouldn’t be allowed to read war stories. Or real accounts, because I cry and cry and cry. And When Christmas Comes Again is certainly no exception. I’ve cried sad and happy tears with this one.

When Christmas Comes Again tells the story of privileged 18-year-old Simone Spencer during 1918. She has recently graduated, and the war in Europe is raging. She’s looking for a little bit of adventure and, more importantly, to help the war effort. Then, the perfect assignment comes along. General Pershing is looking for young women who are fluent in French to help translate messages . . . along the front lines! Simone is even more eager now to do her part.

In Europe, Simone’s story is one part fascinating and two parts tragic. She finds that her brother, Will, is at least temporarily safe and sound, which is relief in and of itself. But work as a Hello Girl is pressing. It’s imperative that every single word be translated correctly or the orders along the front lines will get confused. A lot rests on the shoulders of the Hello Girls. But hard work isn’t the extent of Simone’s tragedies. Her best friend Alice takes sick. Will and Sam Cates are sent to the front. And worse.

Simone isn’t over in Europe a year before the war is wrapping up, and though the Armistice should bring happiness to Simone’s life, she can’t help but remember those she lost. She returns home to find that Will has made it home safe and sound, but that life at home is, well, hard. But as Christmas does come again, life brings a sweet surprise to Simone. One too sweet to spoil.

Some people seemed to be confused by the title, thinking this was a Christmas story. But readers of Dear America should know that these stories often cover one or more years. In this case, the title refers to the common idea that the war would be over when Christmas comes again. We’ll be home and the War to End All Wars will be over. They thought that in 1914, and were wrong. By 1918, they were desperate for it to be over.

Is Simone’s story the most riveting story out there? Well, no. However, it was the first I had learned about Hello Girls. No one much acknowledged what they’d done until the 1970’s. So, Simone’s story is a little-known story of how young women played a vital role during the Great War.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: Children’s

Era: WWI

Goodreads: When Christmas Comes Again

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The Victory Garden

The Secret Garden for adults. That is exactly what The Victory Garden feels like. Set during WWI, The Victory Garden is full of mystery and intrigue with just enough of history thrown in for good measure.

Emily Bryce, to be perfectly honest, is probably feeling a bit bored. Following her mother to visit the wounded soldiers isn’t necessarily how she would like to spend the entire war. Especially not when her best friend is really serving. Then, just as they are planning a magnificent 21st birthday, she happens upon one of the invalid soldiers admiring her family’s gardens.

She and Robbie hit it off right away, and before long they are making plans to get married and join Robbie’s family in Australia. But if you think that this is merely a romance set in WWI (have no fear those will never appear here), wait!

Robbie is soon being sent back to the front, making Emily yearn all that much more to do her own part. So, despite threats of disownment from her parents, she joins the Land Girls. The work his hard, but Emily nonetheless finds herself enjoying the challenge. She particularly enjoys her assignment of keeping the gardens on a widow’s estate.

But before too much longer, more and more tragic news hits Emily. As the war wraps up, Emily finds that she has no place to go. Except, well, except maybe returning to the little cottage and to the widow’s gardens. With two dear friends from Land Girls with her, she heads out to make a life of her own, her Land Girls skills at the ready. And it’s here that Emily takes comfort in the old journal she has discovered. Through it she learns the story of not one, but two former tenants. Their stories are as tragic as her’s, and its because of this that she finds a sense of connection. She learns to cultivate the gardens and to use the many flowers and herbs as medicines, which comes to the aid of the villagers on more than one occasion. But as the past of the garden comes to haunt her, she also finds family in many different places.

The Victory Garden, yes, does have some romance. But it also tells the story of a privileged girl who is willing to throw everything away to serve her country, even when she thinks that means she has no family whatsoever to turn to in times of crises. It also tells the story of the garden. The Garden becomes a place of mystery and refuge and escape for Emily Bryce, much as it did for Mary Lennox.

Genre: Historical Mystery

Classification: Adult

Era: WWI

Goodreads: The Victory Garden


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Bess Crawford Series

I moved posts around some to ensure The Unknowns was featured on November 11. And to fill it’s place, I have another WWI Centennial post. The Bess Crawford series.


Bess Crawford, the daughter of a very highly thought of Colonel, was brought up India while her father was there on assignment. She was also brought up believing one most always do his or her part for their country. Which is why, once WWI breaks out across Europe, she does a very noble thing: She joins the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). Bess serves for some time on the Britannic. But, after it sinks, Bess suddenly finds herself in the bloody fields of France, right on the front lines, working overtime to save the lives of the boys overseas. But to Bess Crawford, daughter of a British Colonel, duty does not end with treating the men’s wounds. No, for Bess, this means repairing their lives in any way she possible can. And, usually, this means travelling throughout Europe with her father’s trustworthy said, Simon, to solve one mystery or another.

Essentially, the Bess Crawford series shows the epitome of WWI-era women wanting to play their part in the war. For the first time, women found themselves on the front lines, and for the first time, they found that they, too, could make a difference and play a role.

For Bess, this particularly means caring for the injured men on the front – and in some cases, this means the same men wander through the pages of every book. And time and again, her reasoning is that it’s “my duty” to England, to her father, to the army, to those back home, to the men who are fighting, and to the men who have died.

The stories take part on the front lines, in the hospitals with Bess (which, to be honest, can be gory and dark), but they also follow Bess around England and France as she solves one mystery after another, all to make just one man’s life a little bit better (yes, there are different characters in each book). Bess does show that women can play a vital role in war.

So, if you like mysteries – particularly historical mysteries, then this is the series for you. If you want a well-written series of stories set during WWI, or better yet, a series about a strong women in WWI, then this is the series for you. Though, like I said, fair warning, her descriptions about the field hospitals are dark and gory, but they are not the main setting . . . only part.

At the moment, there are 10 novels & 3 short stories. And, yes, they continue all the way through WWI (it ends in book #9).

Genre: Historical Fiction (Mysteries)

Classification: Adult

Setting: England (mainly England & France)

Era: WWI

Goodreads: Bess Crawford


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