The Call of the Wrens
WRITTEN BY JENNI L. WALSH
REVIEW BY TRISH MACENULTY
From its intriguing cover to the author’s note at the end, this book will captivate readers. Alternating between the story of Marion, a “Wren” in the Great War, and Evelyn, who serves in World War II, the story delves into the important and often overlooked history of the British women who risked their lives to serve their country.
Marion is an unwanted orphan, who refuses to speak to anyone until she finds acceptance and love with Eddie, an orphan like herself. When she ages out of the orphanage, she has only one option: join the Women’s Royal Naval Service. But Eddie isn’t about to let her go without him, so he joins the Navy and makes sure they are always in close proximity. When tragedy befalls them, Marion becomes a bitter recluse until an old friend convinces her to come back to the Wrens, just in time to become a mentor to Evelyn, a young woman who has overcome a physical disability and familial disapproval to become a motorcycle messenger for the resurrected service.
The characters (including a brave pigeon) are sympathetic and believable, the plot has plenty of surprises, and the history of these heroic women is fascinating. I read this book on the beach and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, but it would be also be an ideal read in a cozy chair with a cup of tea in front of the fireplace.
Review appeared in HNR Issue 102 (November 2022) and can be found online at https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-call-of-the-wrens/
From its enticing cover to the turn of the last page, this novel is engrossing. A fabulously entertaining story about a remarkable woman who just wanted to be herself.
WRITTEN BY JENNI L. WALSH
REVIEW BY FIONA ALISON
From its enticing cover to the turn of the last page, this novel is engrossing. Alongside other historical women way ahead of their time, Simone Jules was the first female professional croupier. Her tale dabbles in love and revenge, but her game of choice? Vingt-et-un, which she introduced to the West in 1849.
After a family tragedy overtakes her life, Simone arrives in San Francisco, determined to reinvent herself, no longer a daughter or twin sister or fiancée. The miners flock to her table to spend their gold. Simone is striking, intoxicating, with a feminine allure, made even more so by her silky French accent, which she uses to advantage. She is well-mannered, intelligent, and business-savvy. She never allows a client to touch her. Her gambling houses are respectable—no cussing, no brawling—and she doesn’t hire girls! After another tragedy, she joins a mule train for a few years, reinvents herself as Eleanor Dumont, and sets up Madame Dumont’s with her own hard-earned money. Until the inevitable happens and the miners move on again, drawn to the seductive whispers of gold.
Simone is a drifter, a very successful one, a survivor with the will to overcome anything life throws at her. She sets up in many places from San Francisco to Kootenay, always dealing vingt-et-un, her specialty. We experience her wanderings, her hardships, and loneliness with her. The commotion and cacophony of noise in a place being built from the ground up and the subsequent quiet of the foothills are exactingly rendered. Many memorable characters come and go, but what stands out is Simone’s autonomy, her self-reliance, her freedom to go where she likes and do what she likes. A fabulously entertaining story about a remarkable woman who just wanted to be herself.
First published on the HNS Website (May 6, 2021): https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/a-betting-woman-a-novel-of-madame-moustache/