Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Last Christmas in Paris

Summary: 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… -- William Morrow

I don't have a lot of reading time this year now that I've started working, but I wanted to make an effort to read a few Christmas novels. One that caught my eye was LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. At its heart, this novel is a love story written in letters that takes place during World War I. It's not a traditional Christmas story, but I do think its messages embody the spirit of the holiday.

LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS focuses on the stories of Evie Elliott and Thomas Harding. Evie's brother Will and his best friend Thomas enlist in the war believing that they would be home by Christmas. Evie and the guys have made plans to celebrate Christmas in Paris, but they never got the chance because the war dragged on for years.

Evie came from a wealthy family and was desperate to be a part of the war effort. She diligently wrote to both her brother and Thomas, and she even volunteered to help deliver mail; however, she still wanted more. Thomas, on the other hand, had difficulties adjusting to life as a soldier; and he was troubled by the events surrounding his family's newspaper business back at home. Evie and Thomas wrote each other regularly; and as they began sharing more and more of their feelings, they fell in love. Could their love survive the war and everything happening in their lives?

I enjoyed LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS quite a bit. The entire novel is written in letters, and I definitely enjoyed the pace of the story as well as the character development. Both of the authors did a terrific job of bringing Evie and Thomas (as well as a few secondary characters) to life, and I appreciated how they were able to develop the characters through their letter writing. Evie and Thomas were both extremely likable, and I couldn't help but root for them to not only survive the war, but also to have a future together.

Because LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS was a war story, there was a huge amount of sorrow in this book. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say, that both Evie and Thomas experienced some major losses. What I found extremely interesting about this novel was that the authors chose to have both main characters involved in the newspaper business. This allowed them to show some interesting historical aspects of the time. For instance, I had no idea that the British newspapers were spinning the war in a much better light. Their coverage didn't begin to convey to the people the horrors of the war and what the soldiers were experiencing day in a day out.

I'm not a big fan of love stories, but Evie and Thomas' relationship was very sweet. It definitely wasn't a romance novel. Rather it was a love story for the ages, and I enjoyed it. Having said that, I think my favorite aspect of the novel, though, was the history parts. I haven't read a historical fiction book for some time, and I really liked learning some new things about World War I. The authors did a very good job in incorporating historical elements to the novel that just made the story all the more real to me.

It's a little late for this year, but I do recommend LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS for book clubs. It isn't really a Christmas book, so I guess you could read and discuss it anytime! There is a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include the effects of war, family, loss, grief, guilt, love, and secrets. As you can see, there are some universal themes in this novel that are relevant for the holidays... or any time of the year.

LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is a touching story that's perfect for fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love epistolary stories! I bet my book club would like this because we enjoyed another book by that Gaynor.