Category Archives: Historical (70s)

Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (70s), Literary Fiction
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A searing and compassionate new novel about a young Black nurse’s shocking discovery and burning quest for justice in post-segregation Alabama, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench.

Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.

Because history repeats what we don’t remember.

Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.

Review:

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a poignant literary novel that is loosely based on real life events.

In 2016, Dr. Civil Townsend travels back to her hometown in Montgomery, Alabama after learning someone dear to her has been diagnosed with cancer. During her drive, she reflects on the events that changed so many lives during her first job as a nurse in 1973. Although she is from a middle-class Black family, Civil decides to work for a birth control clinic that services poor women in the area. Her first patients are India and Erica Williams, whose living conditions shock Civil. The young girls live with their father Mace and grandmother Patricia in a ramshackle shack out in the country.  Although harboring doubts about giving birth control shots to girls of such young ages, Civil follows her boss’s orders. She is also moved by their plight and she successfully finds them a better place to live and assists Mace in finding employment. After a discussion with her childhood friend, Tyrell “Ty” Ralsey, Civil realizes she might be doing more harm than good by giving those shots. She then makes a decision that sets in motion events that define and haunt her throughout her life.

Civil does not realize how privileged she is until she meets the Williams family. Although aware poverty exists around her, her father has shielded her from witnessing it firsthand. Civil’s questions are not welcomed at the clinic and she quickly leans to keep her thoughts to herself. But after she learns the troubling information about the birth control shots, she and her friend Alicia take matters into their own hands. This sets off a chain of events that eventually exposes and alters common practices in federally funded birth control centers across the United States.

Take My Hand is an emotionally compelling novel that seamlessly moves back and forth in time. Civil is a compassionate young woman who firmly believes that women should be in charge of their reproductive health. India and Erica are wonderful young teenagers who quickly adapt to the changes in their lives. From the Williams’ filthy shack to government housing to the courtroom, the settings spring vividly to life. The storyline is incredibly moving and fully captures readers’ attention from beginning to end.  With impeccable research, Dolen Perkins-Valdez shines a bright light on a shameful period in American history.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Dolen Perkins Valdez, Historical, Historical (70s), Literary Fiction, Review, Take My Hand

Review: Moon Lake by Joe R. Lansdale

Title: Moon Lake by Joe R. Lansdale
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Genre: Historical (60s & 70s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From an Edgar award-winning author comes the gripping and unexpected tale of a lost town and the dark secrets that lie beneath the glittering waters of an East Texas lake.

Daniel Russell was only thirteen years old when his father tried to kill them both by driving their car into Moon Lake. Miraculously surviving the crash—and growing into adulthood—Daniel returns to the site of this traumatic incident in the hopes of recovering his father’s car and bones. As he attempts to finally put to rest the memories that have plagued him for years, he discovers something even more shocking among the wreckage that has ties to a twisted web of dark deeds, old grudges, and strange murders.

As Daniel diligently follows where the mysterious trail of vengeance leads, he unveils the heroic revelation at its core.

Review:

Moon Lake by Joe R. Lansdale is an atmospheric Southern mystery set in West Texas during the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

Daniel Russell has been an orphan since his father drove into Moon Lake and his mother walked out on the family. Daniel was in the car with his dad but he was rescued by Veronica “Ronnie” Candles. He lived for a brief time with her family which caused a bit of an uproar since he is white and they are Black. After his mother’s sister is located, he lives with her through the rest of his teen years. Now in his mid-twenties, Daniel learns his father’s remains have been found. And intriguingly, there are also bones in the trunk of his father’s car. Daniel returns to his childhood hometown of New Long Lincoln in hopes of finding out who the bones belong to.

Daniel is surprised to discover Ronnie is now the lone Black and female police officer. Chief Dudley is in charge of the local police department and he is quite solicitous with Daniel. While Daniel accepts the bones inside the car are his father’s, he insists the bones in the trunk do not belong to his mother. She had gone missing before his dad drove them into Moon River. With Moon River dried up due to drought, Daniel and Ronnie decide to explore Moon Lake, which is also an old town that was flooded to create the lake.  They also find other cars and a rather grisly discovery.

Someone makes it obvious to Daniel that he is not welcome in Long Lincoln. He is not one to take kindly to threats or physical violence so when newspaper owner Christine Humber offers him a job, Daniel agrees to write a few pieces about the town. Deciding to look deeper into New Long Lincoln’s history, Daniel uncovers shocking corruption and a horrific legacy that stretches back through a few generations. With the help of Ronnie, his temporary landlady, a kindly tow truck operator, and the town’s loner, will Daniel unearth the truth about what has been occurring in Long Lincoln?

With slight horror elements, Moon Lake is a riveting mystery with a unique voice and clever storyline. Daniel is tenacious as he tries to find out exactly what has been going on in New Long Lincoln. The plot is intriguing and does not downplay the underlying racism in the small Texas town. , Joe R. Lansdale brings this engaging story to an adrenaline-laced conclusion.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Joe R Lansdale, Moon Lake, Mulholland Books, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: The Unwilling by John Hart

Title: The Unwilling by John Hart
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (’70s), Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in New York Times bestselling author John Hart’s singular style.

Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.

Review:

Set in Charlotte, NC in 1972, The Unwilling by John Hart is a family-centric novel  that is also quite suspenseful.

Following the death of his brother Robert, Gibson “Gibby” French’s parents are over-protective and controlling. On the cusp on graduating from high school, he is torn between following in both of his older brothers’ footsteps and joining the military. However, his parents expect him to go to college.  When his other brother, Jason, returns home, Gibby is finally ready to break free of his parents’ tight grip.  

A day with Jason and two young women, Tyra and Sara, is full of carefree fun but as the brothers know all too well, life can turn on a dime.  After Tyra is brutally murdered, Jason is the chief suspect.  His detective father is forbidden to work on the case, but his best friend, Detective Ken Burklow provides him with information about the investigation. When Jason is arrested and moved to the local prison, Gibby, his new girlfriend Becky and his best friend Chance try to find evidence of his innocence. However, unbeknownst to Gibby and their father, there is much more to Tyra’s murder than meets the eye.  Will Gibby save Jason before it is too late?

After Robert’s death in Vietnam, the French family has never been the same. The boys’ mom Gabrielle is not coping well and she alienates Jason while holding onto Gibby too tightly.  Hoping to keep his wife on an even keel, William does everything he can to placate her. Gibby readily agreeds to everything his mother insisted upon, but Jason’s return highlights just how little freedom he has. Gibby is thrilled to spend time with his brother but he is frustrated by Jason’s inability to reveal anything about himself. Jason is content to allow his family to think the worst of him, but will the truth about his past finally be revealed?

Set against the backdrop of unrest, The Unwilling  is an intriguing novel with a cast of colorful characters and plenty of action. While Gibby is a vibrantly developed, three-dimensional young man, some of the other characters are under-developed. While  the first half of the story is interesting,  the storyline quickly becomes overly complicated and unrealistic. The story arc in the aftermath of Tyra’s murder is violent and extremely far-fetched.  Despite the slow pacing, John Hart brings the novel to an exciting, yet somewhat unsatisfying, conclusion.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (70s), John Hart, Rated C, Review, Suspense, The Unwilling

Review: The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere

Title: The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere
Christmas Hope Series Book Eleven
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’70s), Inspirantional
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From Donna VanLiere, the New York Times bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series comes another heartwarming, inspirational story for the holidays, The Christmas Table.

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?

Review:

The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere is a heartwarming inspirational novel that is very uplifting. Although this newest release is the eleventh novel in the Christmas Hope series, it can be read as a standalone.

Lauren Mabrey and her husband Travis are surprised but happy to find they are having a baby.  But Lauren, who grew up in foster care, is a little nervous about becoming a mom. She is also fretting over the fact that she seems to be missing the home decorating gene. Luckily her close circle of friends are thrilled to help her decorate the house. 

While their house is mostly furnished, Lauren and Travis are lacking a kitchen table.  With her friends assistance, she locates and purchases a beautiful table that has been refurbished. Lauren and Travis are astonished when he finds a bunch of recipe cards in a drawer under the table. Lauren begins making some of the recipes but she strongly feels she needs to locate the previous owner of the table.  With very little information to go on, she and Travis set out to see if they can locate the family.

In 1972, Joan and John Creighton are happily married with two young children.  While John is making a kitchen table for his wife, Joan is finally using the recipe cards her mom gave to her. She includes the kids as she prepares delicious meals and makes scrumptious desserts.  But a stunning breast cancer diagnosis soon turns their world upside down. As Joan undergoes treatment for the devastating disease, John finds faith and comfort in his newly discovered faith.

The Christmas Table is a heartening novel of family, friendship and faith. The characters are likable but Joan and John are more fully developed. The storyline is engaging with the narrative shifting back and forth in time. Both story arcs are interesting, but John and Joan’s story is more compelling. Donna VanLiere brings this charming inspirational novel to lovely conclusion that readers are going to love. A lovely holiday read that old and new fans of the Christmas Hope series will enjoy.

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Filed under Christmas Hope Series, Contemporary, Donna VanLiere, Historical, Historical (70s), Inspirational, Rated B, Review, The Christmas Table

Review: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

Title: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical ’90s, 70s, 80s Mystery, Suspense
Length: 330 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.

Review:

The Heatwave by Kate Riordan is an atmospheric domestic mystery set in the French countryside.

In 1993, Sylvie Durand and her thirteen year old daughter Emma return to the family estate in France. Sylvie has not been back since fleeing from the home ten years earlier.  She and her now ex-husband Greg were at one time blissfully happy but their marriage eroded due their oldest daughter Elodie’s disturbing behavior.  Emma has no memories of the older sister she idolizes and Sylvie fears her youngest daughter’s forgotten few  years in France will rise to the surface.  What is Sylvie keeping from Emma?

Chapters flashback to various times spanning from the late sixties to the early eighties.  After their marriage, Sylvie and Greg are excited about the impending birth of their first child. But over the years, Sylvie becomes more and more troubled by Elodie’s actions but Greg does believe there is anything to worry about. But Greg is gone more often than he is home and Sylvie is exhausted by Elodie’s exploits. And she is very careful to keep a close eye on Emma.

Narrated by Sylvie, The Heatwave is a slow burning (in more ways than one) mystery. Sylvie’s account of their years in France are harrowing and a heavy pall hangs over her return with Emma. With unexpected plot twists and plenty of tension,  Kate Riordan brings this mystery to an intriguing conclusion. I enjoyed and recommend this suspenseful mystery to readers of genre.

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Filed under Grand Central Publishing, Historical, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Historical (80s), Historical (90s), Kate Riordan, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Heatwave

Review: The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase

Title: The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 365 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

An isolated forest estate.
A family with a terrible secret.
The discovery that changes everything.

England, 1970. On the one-year anniversary of the Harrington family’s darkest night, their beautiful London home goes up in flames. Mrs. Harrington, the two children, and live-in nanny Rita relocate to Foxcote Manor, ostensibly to recuperate. But the creeping forest, where lost things have a way of coming back, is not as restful as it seems. When thirteen-year-old Hera discovers a baby girl abandoned just beyond their garden gate, this tiniest, most wondrous of secrets brings a much-needed sunlit peace, until a visitor detonates the family’s tenuous happiness. All too soon a body lies dead in the woods.

Forty years later, London-based Sylvie is an expert at looking the other way. It’s how she stayed married to her unfaithful husband for more than twenty years. But she’s turned over a new leaf, having left him for a fresh start. She buried her own origin story decades ago, never imagining her teenage daughter would have a shocking reason to dig the past up–and to ask Sylvie to finally face the secrets that lead her back to Foxcote Manor.

Review:

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase is an atmospheric, twist-filled mystery.

In 1971, Rita is the Harrington family nanny. She is young but she loves thirteen year old Hera and six year old Teddy Harrington. Following a tragedy, Walter Harrington insists she, his wife Jeannie and the children spend a few weeks at Foxcote Manor, the family’s dilapidated house in the forest. Much to her discomfort,  Rita is expected to keep detailed notes about Jeannie’s behavior for Walter. The forest is eerie but the children love spending time exploring their surroundings. Rita is concerned about Jeannie but an unexpected visitor helps raise her spirits. As does the discovery of an abandoned baby girl that  she insists on keeping despite Rita’s unease.  With Walter’s visit fast approaching,  Rita grows increasingly concerned about the situation at the Manor.

In the present, Sylvie Broom is making much needed changes in her life. Unfortunately eighteen year old Annie is not exactly pleased with her mum’s choices. Just as she is trying to settle into her new routine, Sylvie is devastated when her mum is seriously injured in an accident.  At the same time, changes in Annie’s situation lead to an exploration of their family’s past.  After years of avoiding delving into her  history, Sylvie finally decides it is time to look into the secrets her mum has been very reluctant to reveal.  But is she prepared for the revelations awaiting her?

Weaving back and forth in time, The Daughters of Foxcote Manor is a compelling mystery. Rita is a delightful young woman but she soon finds herself out of her depth. Sylvie is finally breaking free of the inertia that has prevented her from finding happiness.  The suspense builds with each passing chapter and  Eve Chase weaves past and present into a very satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Eve Chase, GP Putnams Sons, Historical, Historical (70s), Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Daughters of Foxcote Manor