From World War I to the Cold War, the courageous protagonists in these two new family saga novels will inspire you. #inspy #netgalley #familysaganovels #WWI #WW2 #ColdWar #BerlinWall #spy #amreading #bookreview #booktalktuesday

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.

From World War I to the Cold War, the courageous protagonists in these two new family saga novels will inspire you.

From World War I to the Cold War, the courageous protagonists in these two new family saga novels will inspire you. #inspy #netgalley #familysaganovels #WWI #WW2 #ColdWar #BerlinWall #spy #amreading #bookreview #booktalktuesday

I’m Picky About Family Saga Novels

In my youth, I loved reading family saga novels such as The Thornbirds. I no longer enjoy wading through hundreds of pages to find the end of the story. Now that I have a grandchild, the relationships between generations fascinate me. But, I don’t have the time and energy to wade through 700 or more pages in a typical family saga novel.

So when I find an author who can encapsulate a family saga in under 400 pages, I make time to read it! These two family saga novels span three generations in each. The British Booksellers starts pre-World War I and ends during World War II. The Berlin Letters starts during World War II and ends when the Berlin Wall falls.

The British Booksellers

By Kristy Cambron, Thomas Nelson, April 2024, 384 pages.

Young Charlotte Terrington loves playing her cello and reading books. Her parents only approve of one of those activities. After all, heiresses in England must adhere to strict guidelines of propriety in all they do. Even if those guidelines go against their nature. Amos Darby, son of a tenant farmer, becomes her conspirator in music—he reads while she plays. Together, they have an idyllic childhood. As they mature, both acknowledge their friendship has blossomed into something more profound.

But as the world careens toward the Great War, each has a choice. Choose each other or choose duty. Charlotte’s parents want her to marry the heir to their neighbor’s estate, the future Earl of Harcourt. If she chooses duty, Charlotte will forego love. Duty wins when Amos fails to meet her at the blacksmith shop in Gretna Green.

For the past 25 years, Charlotte, a war widow within a year of marriage, spends her time raising their daughter, running a quaint bookshop in nearby Coventry, and scheming ways to keep her husband’s estate solvent. Now, another war looms.

Her first love has opened a rival bookshop across the street and spends his time as a recluse, eager to hide his horrific battle scars from curious friends and neighbors. Although they work in the same village and live near each other, Charlotte and Amos haven’t exchanged a kind word since the Great War.

Lady Eden, Charlotte’s daughter, schemes to save her inheritance with her mother. When a young, handsome, brash American lawyer shows up on her doorstep questioning her right to receive part of his inheritance, Eden doesn’t know what to think.

When Hitler decides to drop bombs on Coventry, everyone must put the past aside to survive the present.

What I Loved About This Book

Cambron has mastered family saga novels and knows precisely when to leave storylines hanging and readers wondering what will happen next. Each story unfolds seamlessly, revealing secrets at just the right time. The historical details help readers understand the pathos of the period and the deprivations faced by ordinary citizens who must step up in extraordinary ways during times of war or disaster.

Fans of Roseanna M. White will enjoy this latest beauty from Kristy Cambron.

The Berlin Letters

By Katherine Reay, Harper Muse, March 5, 2024, 368 pages.

Washington, DC, 1989

Luisa Voekler misses her beloved Opa and her life before he died. The life where she lives alone, works as a code breaker for a super-secret branch of the CIA, and visits her grandparents. But she promised her Opa she would move back home to care for her Oma when he died.

While she doesn’t regret her decision, her grandmother’s hovering and worrying have restricted her life. Her friends want her to join them more often and revive her social life. Luisa doesn’t know why she resists—she feels close to no one, has horrible dreams, and feels like a failure because she didn’t make the cut as a CIA agent.

When a coworker brings her the Berlin letters—pieces of coded correspondence from an agent in Berlin, a small mark on one of the envelopes sparks a memory of a long-ago conversation with Opa. All the games they played in her childhood have a new meaning, and Luisa races to crack the code and discover the truth about her parents.

Does she still have time to save one of them?

East Berlin, Germany, 1961

Haris Voekler, star reporter for the party newspaper, mourns when his wife, Monica, does the unthinkable. Rather than stay in East Berlin as the party builds a wall separating the city, she passes their three-year-old daughter over the concertina wire to her parents. Haris and Monica cannot escape the ever-restricting community and the ever-intrusive Stasi.

After Monica dies of a broken heart, Haris begins a coded correspondence with his father-in-law, Walther. The game of hiding the truth in banal pleasantries gives him a challenge his job no longer provides. Demoted at work, watched on every side, and living with the devastating realization that he chose the wrong side, Haris needs the correspondence to maintain his sanity.

As friends and coworkers suffer through arrest and face death for their courageous decisions, Haris must decide what he will do.

By 1989, Haris had joined the resistance, and someone had betrayed him. His father-in-law hasn’t written for months, and he wastes away in a Stasi prison. Hope dries up. Then, the unthinkable happens in the middle of a prison transfer.

What I Loved About This Book

This book intrigued me as someone who grew up hearing about the Berlin Wall and reading stories in the Reader’s Digest of daring escapes over it. I don’t usually read historical books set in my lifetime (I feel like a relic), but The Berlin Letters quickly grabbed my attention and kept it.

Reay explores how the missing pieces of our lives impact us more than we realize. Luisa has no firm memories of her early life, and those missing pieces cause nightmares and a vague sense of loss. Only as she works to uncover her past does she start to awaken. Haris discovers a way to fight against the society he once touted as perfect by writing to his father-in-law. His small rebellion keeps a spark of hope inside him because it fills in the missing pieces of his daughter’s life. 

Thoughtful, thorough, and swirling with mystery and intrigue, The Berlin Letters will take you on a journey through despair and hope.

From World War I to the Cold War, the courageous protagonists in these two new family saga novels will inspire you. #inspy #netgalley #familysaganovels #WWI #WW2 #ColdWar #BerlinWall #spy #amreading #bookreview #booktalktuesday

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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