Book Review | “The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley”by Susan Ornbratt My second novel of #SwedishLit by an writer who soulfully stirs the reader’s heart.

Posted Saturday, 20 February, 2016 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: One day in June I ducked inside #LitChat and discovered a hearty conversation about Indie Publishers and the stories they publish. There were two publishers in attendance, with Light Messages Publishing being the one who happily corresponded with me a bit after the chat concluded. Whilst in communication with their publicity department, I was encouraged to look through their beautifully lovely catalogue and see if one of their upcoming Autumn releases might suit my bookish curiosities. I picked two which fancied me the most, one of which was not mentioned to me but I discovered on my own: “Tea and Crumples” by Summer Kinard, who had attended the chat. If your curious about the Small Press Showcase #LitChat I attended you can replay the conversation in whole by visiting the Nurph Channel for LitChat where it’s archived.

I love hosting Indie Publishers and Press on Jorie Loves A Story, as it speaks to the wicked quality of editing and crafting of stories in today’s book market. I nearly read more Indie authors on a yearly basis than I do Major Trade, a credit to being a book blogger whose bookish world has tenfold increased since she started blogging. You get further into the book world as a blogger and I’m incredibly blessed due to the connections I am making in the twitterverse.

This marks my first review for Light Messages Publishing and I will be following it with a review of “Tea and Crumples”. After which I am hoping to make a new selection and continue to support the writers and team behind this inspirational Indie Publisher! I received a complimentary copy of “The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley” direct from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

A bit of an introduction to Light Messages Publishing:

Light Messages is a family run publishing company founded in 1998, and we began expanding to general trade in 2011. We now have close to 100 titles in our catalog and release 6-8 titles per year. We pride ourselves on publishing meaningful books by emerging authors.

This is the official mission statement of Light Messages as a publisher and one that is aptly suited to their publishing house. One of the takeaways I took from my interactions with them in the #LitChat I attended and the research I did on their publishing website, this is a publisher whose entire focus is on crafting uplifting stories rooted in heart and soul story-lines. They give specific attention to their authors and their stories whilst being open-minded about book bloggers and reviewers who are seeking stories to review. They are a gem of a find if your a blogger, as similar to my admiration for World Weaver Press (on my review of FAE and on this post) they give us a lot to work with whilst we’re hosting their authors!

The flexibility to read through their catalogue of front list and backlist titles is one that I appreciate, as this reminds me of my readings of ChocLitUK; where your are not limited to front list selections. I enjoy getting the opportunity to read the stories which nestle into my imagination long before I pick them up as a bit of a precursor of what I might find inside their chapters. Reading for review is a bit like sorting out which writer and which story not only appeals to you in the moment of discovery, but one that will have a lasting curiosity by the time you sit down to read it. Oft-times we’re making selections a bit ahead of our blogging schedules (by three to six months!), and the beauty for me is finding the stories which are uniquely individualistic to both their authors and their publishing house. This is in part why I love reading Indies, they have their own styling and their own written voice which sets them apart from Major Trade.

I have blogged in the past about being a hybrid reader of both Mainstream and INSPY (my shortened endearing name for ‘Inspirational Fiction’ as found via the twitterverse or most directly the INSPY Awards) novelists and the selections I’m making via Light Messages speaks to that particular appreciation of reading across literary boundaries. I love being uplifted by hard-hitting story-lines which speak to the human condition and the state of humanity. (hence why I read a heap of war dramas!) At the very same time, I love the lightness and joyfully blissful story-lines where the drama is lightly touched upon and comic moments intersect the character’s lives. I am eclectically happy experiencing my literary wanderings and I am quite thankful I discovered Light Messages as they are creating a balance of what I appreciate out of both ‘umbrellas’ so to speak of literature.

Equally lovely is how they do not limit the kinds of stories their authors are writing, as I happily found selections in a cross mixture of genre and styles of literature, including science fiction and suspense!

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Book Review | “The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley”by Susan Ornbratt My second novel of #SwedishLit by an writer who soulfully stirs the reader’s heart.The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley
Subtitle: a love story
by Susan Ornbratt
Source: Direct from Publisher

To satisfy her wandering feet, eighteen-year-old Gillian McAllister is sent from Ireland to Canada in the summer of 1932. She arrives with her Irish ways intact, determined not to let the wiles of crop duster Christian Hunter woo her into submission. Yet as the summer unfolds and the sweet taste of love grows,

Gillian’s appeal lures more than she anticipates, shattering the life they’ve built. From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s laid hidden for generations.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

ISBN: 978-1-61153-111-4

Also by this author:

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Time Slip and/or Time Shift, War Drama, Women's Fiction


Published by Light Messages Publishing

on 23rd April 2015

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 318

Published By: Light Messages Publishing (@LMpublishing)

Author Page @ Light Messages Publishing
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

I elected to shorten the title to encourage bookish chatter in the twitterverse!

Converse via: #GillianPugsley

I am not even sure I grabbed all the tweets I referenced over the months I spent with this novel as I used this shortened tag quite a heap as it was a way to convey a short code nod towards what I was reading but also, to bring to light a name shared by two characters!

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

About Susan Ornbratt

Susan Ornbratt

Susan Örnbratt was born in London, Canada and grew up on the dance floor until her brother’s high school rowing crew needed a coxswain. Quickly, she traded in her ballet shoes for a megaphone and went on to compete in the Junior and Senior World Championships and the XIII Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Western Ontario in French and the University of Manitoba in elementary education, as well as attending L’Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II in France while she worked as a fille au pair, Susan has gone on to teach and live in six countries.

Although a maple leaf will forever be stitched on her heart, she has called Sweden her home for the past sixteen years with a recent three-year stint in North Carolina, USA for her husband’s work. It was there where Susan wrote The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley.

Susan lives in Gothenburg with her husband and two children and an apple tree beloved by the local moose population. If she isn’t shooing away the beasts, you can find her in her garden with some pruning shears, a good book and always a cup of tea. If Susan were dried out, she could be brewed.

Time and the moments we tuck inside stories:

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley is a prime example of a novel I’ve been dearly curious to consume and yet the #hoursflewoffclock so quickly, as to forestall my engagement with the novel’s lead character! One thing was for certain, Örnbratt is one writer who knows how to hold her reader within the throes of her narrative by evoking such a centre-focus on the ‘living now’ of her characters. From the moment I first picked up the novel to read, what became such an engaging feast for my eyes is how visceral and realistic Ms Örnbratt was creating my introduction to this world.

Her humour winks out a smirk to my own as she doesn’t limit emotional drama by the severity of circumstance but rather stitches levity inside moments where crying will serve no purpose but to delay living another beautiful day of your life. It’s a delicate balance by half and I find it incredibly inspiring how she created such a remarkable opener to Gillian Pugsley as if she’s mastered the art of back-story and introduction to such an extent that we feel we’ve known Gillian Pugsley longer than the half breath it took to read her first chapter!

As you will take notice of, I originally began musing about the book in October, as I was slated to read this as Autumn began it’s season in earnest (at least for my region; we take Autumn as she arrives as her presence is so very fleeting!) except to say I became a bit flustered and distracted. It wasn’t the ‘right moment’ for me to dip inside this world. I have found as I became a book blogger this solemn truth is even more apparent; there are certain stories of which we’re meant to read at hours wherein their inner core will affect us and give us an experience that imprints itself on our memory. There isn’t a measure of time you can grant to understand ahead of time which story is meant to be read at which time in the future, but it’s a gathering of a sense about your own readerly nature to respect stories find us and we breathe them in at a moment in time right for absorption.

Gillian Pugsley apparently wanted to wait until November before I was to enter her life and world! If I hadn’t taken ill, I would have been able to tuck inside this story at that point in time rather than await the end of January where my heart and mind were once again ready to embrace the story.

My review of The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley:

A woman finds she’s reconciling the truth of her (eighty-nine) years whilst owning to the fact her life has fewer hours left inside it in which she can breathe in a new day. Underlit with compassion and an earnest honesty to seek out levity in lieu of despair, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley pulls you heart-first into her folds as you truly are intrigued by this remarkable woman whose reminiscing about where she is right now and where she’s been. She gives such a warmth of centering to her grand-daughter (named after her, better known as Gilly) of whom is still sorting out her own path and where she belongs; a truly humbling retrospective on behalf of writers. The elder Gillian’s guidance towards Gilly is heart-warming as it is emotional, as it enters into that treasured moment of when a writer recognises their own heart’s rhythm of creativity.

Örnbratt has tapped inside the heart-pulse of writers, giving her Gillian and Gilly a beautiful synchronicity of spirit. Observing the scene where Gillian endeavours to give Gilly her inheritance whilst she’s still able to explain the contents of what she’s giving her, you are struck by the heaviness of the gift and the lightness of how love can reach through time. This story is elegant as it is graceful, it’s strokes of emotional drama delicately etched into the sequencing of how the author unfolds Gillian’s life; inserting a sharpened time slip between memory and life. The poem between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 was a lovely surprise, as I have not seen this done previously, and it acted as a premonitive nod towards where we are inside the story.

I readily will disclose on both my blog and my Twitter feeds my appreciation for time slip (and time shift) narratives, but it’s the art of crafting a time slip which bolsters my appreciation of them. Örnbratt redefines how you can present a slip in time whilst re-inventing how a story can become paced between both it’s opening reality and the one in which we slip inside once it’s heart is fully open to explore. I felt this one was more readily a ‘time shift’ narrative rather than a ‘time slip’ due to the nature of what happens.

We’re taken backwards through time, where Gillian met-up with her sister (of whom she fondly calls Beaty) in London, whereupon she’s employed as a nanny, taking care of two children of whom she worries about whilst they are at school. The schools in question give harsh punishment rather than a kind approach and you can sense that Gillian is affected by how the children are treated. She’s most at home with the family, as they have an estate that proves to be both walkable and homey to be at residence, given that she’s allowed certain freedoms of movement and has a comfortable off-time as well. It’s a respectful line of employment during a downturn in the economy and we start to see Gillian grown in maturity as she was under twenty years when this part of her life began.

There is a time jolt from 1931 to 1946 with only a inkling of a hint of what occurred between the years; as Gillian was bound for Canada a twelvemonth past her stay with the children; as they were meant to return to India and she was unable to join them. Cleverly, the point of view shifts from Gillian to Christian; a bloke we meet whilst he’s lost in reverie over her, a lost love and a lost future of whom he is still very intent on finding to reclaim. You can gather the sense something happened to Gillian whilst she was in Canada; and a curiosity knits to mind on what removed her back to England, rather than home to Ireland.

We are catching up with Gillian near the Isle of Man, where murmurs of Christian are haunting her and her resolve to stand forthwith alone without the company or companionship of men, is one small seedling of what isn’t yet known of her recent past. The layers are pulled out of Gillian’s memory with the stitchings intently being focused upon as there are hidden interior moments that dearly defined her life. It’s a unique way to paint her portrait, as rather than seeing everything unfold straight as it were, we move forward and backward through time; seeing and feeling everything.

Each segue piece is writ so beautifully deep and encompassing, you find yourself drawn to know everything about Gillian, even the bits she’d prefer never to re-surface. She lived a life dedicated to work and barely gave herself credit for much else past one encounter with Christian so long ago; her younger self is in a fix with her elder self trying to survive the best way she knew how. The drama is suited to the era as it’s a tug-of-war of emotional anguish vs the wisdom to know when to trust one’s heart. Even as the story takes a backwards eclipse to highlight hidden portions of the story, we find we are guided by a writer who understands best what to show when and how best it is for it to be known next. The letters included between Gillian and her sister Beaty were quite priceless; especially if you look at Bea’s reply and denote how astonished she is that her sister doesn’t know her as well as she should! It was true sister to sister folly, where one is endeared to share and the other lives through the adventures being told.

Gillian is coaxing Gilly (her grand-daughter) to summon forth her passion for writing by encouraging her to seek the truth out of what is left behind of her own life; cast out into poems which are reflective but not telling of her story. Gilly on the other hand wishes her grand-mother would be more forthcoming; but it’s Gillian who is hesitative to give Gilly too much information as she wants her to discover it on her own, at a point in time I had presumed she felt she’d understand the details. Gillian covets privacy but it’s how she guards her heart and her soul that is more telling. Even with her lovely namesake, Gillian holds back more than she gives, a telling of her resolve and of her manner of survival.

With choking reality absorbing into my very soul as I read the latter quarter of the novel, I realised this is truly a lovingly written novel by a granddaughter in homage to her grandmother. Even before I could confirm this was writ with a strong presence of autobiographical inspirations, I sensed it. Örnbratt has writ her heart so close to the heart of Gilly, she has found a way to step through the story and align directly into it’s narrative core. Gilly is the one who needed to tell Gillian’s story because it’s through Gilly, Gillian’s truer legacy can shine outward and inward for all of time. By truer, here I refer to the realisation that a live lived with the absence of love is only half a life lived; but a life lived where you dare to embrace love and hold onto it with all of your being is living life on faith secured in hope.

I could not leave Gillian and Gilly’s story for long moments of absences because it was their story so strongly entwined that allured me to take up residence in their lives. It’s a historical mystery in many regards; as who was the soul-mate of Gillian and how did Gillian resolve a trauma buried in her past in order to allow herself to be free in the future? Hidden secrets are rampant but the inertia of how everything is pieced together bit by bit is what anchours you so front and center into this novel, you will find it unputdownable. You ache to know more at each junction, and it’s even hard to resolve whose your favourite secondary character – they are each illuminated with such depth and individualism.

Even Gillian’s sister, Beaty is a strong force to reckon with as she is a secondary narrator (at least she was for me) wherein the voice of reason and of solemn truth comes in ripples of sisterly love spun out of maternal instinct. There is a special friendship shared between Gillian and her young charge who had to return to India on the offset of war. Every season of the story has it’s own telling moment of honesty, nothing is left to your imagination nor is any stone left unexamined. Örnbratt has written a testament of the soul to remain true to itself and allow it’s heart to take a chance on a forever love of whom understands without any justifications. She’s written a story for women who are seeking something quite hearty about the journey we take to seek ourselves and the people we love most.

Two ways to read the poems | as they appear and then, together as one:

Threaded in-between the chapters are poems, whose first readings as they are found throughout the novel fit ideally in place from whence they are read. However, after I concluded my reading of the novel as a whole, I went back inside the poems and found they reveal something quite unique. As the entire time your reading about Gillian Pugsley, your wondering – are these the poems of Örnbratt’s own grand-mother? Is she writing the story mentioned inside the novel to pay homage to a grand-mother who only shared part of her own living history?

It’s a moment where a reader starts to question certain things that appear to be running concurrent to reality and a moment where you wonder, what came first? The story or the fictional account? It’s a beautiful hypothesis that may or may not be true but it’s the curiosity of it all that keeps you hugged close to the narrative. How will it knit together in the end? What secrets does Gillian fear to be revealled most? How does this journey end when time seems to have stood still?

As you read the poems at the chapter breaks, they are highly precognitive of the next chapter’s content but if you read them together as a whole, it’s a journalling of a life well lived and deeply loved. It’s the emotional turmoils of living whilst embracing everything that is wonderful and bittersweet; with an injection of hope and a questioning of time; they dimensionally tell their own unique version of the story.

On the writing style of Susan Örnbratt:

A credit to Ms Örnbratt for charming her readers with lovely turns of phrase that strike an immediate connection due to how original and versed her phrases are writ. She pulls you into the scene first by visceral clues, then by heart and finally by the beauty of championing ways in which to treat the reader to ‘seeing the scenes’ through a creative pen. She evokes a poetic gathering of words whose fusion to visualisations is a delight as you can clearly see what is happening as she reveals her story to you.

I love her transitions! The way in which she elevates a simple transition of both time, place, setting and pace is such an incredible delicacy to read. You get pulled straight into the depth of her story because she anchours you so convincingly inside her character’s mind, it’s as though you living inside her shoes. It’s a visceral journey of one woman’s internal retrospective sojourn to remember who she is and how she inspired her namesake to continue where she left off. It’s eloquent as it is real, as her chapters give way to new pieces of the story which have become fragmented and lost to Gillian. It’s as if we’re helping her put back her life’s tapestry with each chapter we read and start to understand who she is and who she became as she lived her life.

She has written a heart-centred story befit for granddaughters who achingly miss their grandmothers whose close-knit connection was a dear part of their lives. This is a story told from a granddaughter’s perception about their grandmother’s story – as Gillian is best understood through the graceful wisdom of Gilly; two women who share not only a name but an old soul mentality about life, living and the circles of love. It has such a powerful thread of story, you do not realise at first how hard-hitting #GillianPugsley will be until you tuck yourself inside it’s chapters and fear for the moment where your fingers turn the ending pages, revealling not only the fuller scope of what you’ve consumed but the theory you first realised when you began reading it.

The ‘particular appeal’ of #GillianPugsley is she’s an ‘every woman’ character, writ solid with a dimensional story arc not limited by time nor country. Hers is a story of fortitude of strength and a zest for adventure; where accepting limitations is not her mantra and where embracing life as it arrives is part of her nature. She’s particularly appealing because of her moxie and her deep commitment to living life on her terms. She softens by love and she is renewed in the spirit of living by the one man she never had to explain herself too as he already understood her quirky nature. If war and time had not been erased of the clock, you start to wonder – would their lives have been writ differently?

This is a story written from the living hours straight through to the resolution of the tomorrow Gilly captures from her grandmother. It’s an ode to grandmothers and granddaughters of whom intrinsically know more than they let on about each other.

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The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley – Official Book Trailer by LMBooks

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This book review is courtesy of Light Messages Publishing.

Note of apology to the publisher and author:

Originally when I accepted to read two titles from Light Messages Publishing I was on the fringes of chaos as my personal life was consumed by a heap of stress over the past year, which blessedly released at the close of Summer [2015]. The events of Summer were best explained on my infamous Bookish Not Bookish No.6, however, more to the point, there were more circumstances that took my mind and heart away from the books I was intending to read and this one in particular has been with me through a lot of ups and downs over the past several months to where it nearly felt the book was an anchour of light. Even though I wasn’t able to fully enjoy dissolving inside it’s chapters until late January/mid February [2016] the moments where I snuck inside a chapter or two were incredibly stirring because Örnbratt writes such evocative women’s fiction! I even mentioned it on my latest #WWWWeds in order to inspire other readers to know why I love reading it.

She knows how to write a convicting portrait of a woman you want to know more of and a story whose genuine heart is so readily known early-on in the novel, you simply feel blessed to have found the novel in the first place! I regret my personal life and my stress levels were so elevated I was not able to properly devout time to sharing my reading experience of this first title I selected to read by Light Messages Publishing. I still find it an incredible gift and blessing I was participating in that Twitter chat last year [2015] as without being present, I might not have found this story at all!

I will be reading my second Light Messages novel shortly hereafter, as I am also hoping to interview Ms Örnbratt whose kindness and generosity of spirit has truly touched me as I kept in touch with her as the hours escaped me and whilst I was enveloped in such a difficult loss earlier this month. Her beautiful compassion and note of shared sorrow is one that I will surely not forget as it meant so much to receive such a warm response when I felt the full weight of my sorrow burdening my own soul. My apologies to both the publisher and author for the time delay in sharing this review, as it truly has become one of my favourite reads as it’s story is one I have appreciated re-picking up as my own life has ebbed and flowed out of extreme stress to a new chapter of hope.

Pls RT: Let's champion #IndiePub @LMpublishing who are publishing stories like #GillianPugsley… Click To Tweet

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Be sure to visit my author interview with Ms Örnbratt!

Where readers will happily find behind-the-scenes information about the writerly process to create such inspiring characters like Gillian and Gilly! You will also be treated to a writer to writer conversation which yields bits and bobbles of what writers face as they create and how we all are dearly passionate about the crafting of stories!

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Reader Interactive Question:

What pulls your mind inside a time slip and/or a time shift narrative where the momentum of the story is spilt into equal portions of timescapes and drama?

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same novel to read.

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NEWSFLASH: dear hearts in case your following me on Twitter, I’ve changed my TWID to @joriestory! Read this tweet for details! This was something that I did around the time I first started composing my thoughts on behalf of Gillian Puglsey. I left this note as a wink towards how time both stopped and resumed whilst I read the novel.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley”, book synopsis, author photograph of Susan Örnbratt, company mission statement and the Twitter promo quotation card were all provided by Light Messages Publishing and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box banner created by Jorie in Canva. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. The book trailer for “The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley”had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Click to Tweet embedded due to a new plug-in I am using to aide the promotion of my blog.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all. "I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story) more >> | Hire me as a betareader | Policies & Review Requests

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Saturday, 20 February, 2016 by jorielov in 20th Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Book Trailer, Bookish Discussions, Bookish Films, Clever Turns of Phrase, Debut Author, Debut Novel, During WWI, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Ireland, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Light Messages Publishing, Modern Day, Poetry, Prior to WWI, the Thirties, The World Wars, Time Shift, Time Slip, War Drama, War-time Romance, Women's Fiction, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Writing Style & Voice

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