Thursday, May 25, 2023

Mini Reviews: WWII Edition


If you love historical fiction, you won't be let down by these two historical novels that take place during WWII, which is one of my favorite time periods to read about. Both novels involve female spies and/or codebreakers, so it's always interesting when authors highlight strong women from the time period.


The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly
Pages: 528
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 18, 2023
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Lilac Girls
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Two former female spies, bound together by their past, risk everything to hunt down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II—an extraordinary novel inspired by true events from the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls. American Josie Anderson and Parisian Arlette LaRue are thrilled to be working in the French resistance, stealing so many Nazi secrets that they become known as the Golden Doves, renowned across France and hunted by the Gestapo. Their courage will cost them everything. When they are finally arrested and taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with their loved ones, a reclusive Nazi doctor does unspeakable things to Josie’s mother, a celebrated Jewish singer who joined her daughter in Paris when the world seemed bright. And Arlette’s son is stolen from her, never to be seen again. A decade later the Doves fall headlong into a dangerous dual mission: Josie is working for U.S. Army intelligence and accepts an assignment to hunt down the infamous doctor, while a mysterious man tells Arlette he may have found her son. The Golden Doves embark on a quest across Europe and ultimately to French Guiana, discovering a web of terrible secrets, and must put themselves in grave danger to finally secure justice and protect the ones they love. Martha Hall Kelly has garnered acclaim for her stunning combination of empathy and research into the stories of women throughout history and for exploring the terrors of Ravensbrück. With The Golden Doves, she has crafted an unforgettable story about the fates of Nazi fugitives in the wake of World War II—and the unsung females spies who risked it all to bring them to justice."


Former resistance fighter, Josie Anderson, should be starting her life over now that WWII is over, but she finds herself working undercover at Fort Bliss, Texas. She has been offered the job of tracking down Nazi physician, Dr. Snow, who experimented on people at Ravensbruck concentration camp. This is very personal for Josie as Dr. Snow "worked" on Josie's mother. Then there's Arlette, a former resistance fighter who partnered with Josie, who had her son taken from her during the war. She hopes to be reunited and heard that there is an orphanage in French Guiana for children that were separated from their parents during the war. After so many years apart, she gets a tip that her son might be there, but once she arrives at the orphanage, things aren't as they seem and something sinister lurks in the shadows. Martha Hall Kelly's The Golden Doves is another historical home run, but it is very heavy at times, so readers should be in the right frame of mind before they pick it up.

One thing I can count on Kelly for is a well-researched historical novel. I always learn something when I read her novels and they always really move me. Whether I am experiencing anger at the atrocities committed during WWII, extreme sadness for the victims, or both, Kelly always packs an emotional punch. Readers that enjoy stories based on real-life events, as well as female spies, will especially enjoy this one. I know I was personally blown away by learning the details surrounding Operation Paperclip as well as the Catholic involvement in transporting Nazis to South America. My mind was blown! And even though it was tough to read at times, isn't that the point of a good historical novel? I am glad that Kelly took the time to shed light on some details of the war that often get forgotten.

The Codebreaker's Secret by Sara Ackerman
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: MIRA
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads says, "A brilliant female codebreaker. An “unbreakable” Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. The Codebreaker's Secret is a dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour. 1943. As war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own. 1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai'i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller's newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack."



It's 1943 and Isabel Cooper has enlisted in the Navy as a codebreaker. She initially enlisted, because her brother died at Pearl Harbor, and since then has been so good at breaking the Japanese naval codes, she is sent to the Big Island to work at the Dungeon, an underground facility, and she is the only woman. While there, she spends her time off learning more about her brother through his best friend, Matteo, hiking the island, exploring the lush landscape, surfing, and attending some parties with friends. The more time she spends with Matteo, a pilot, the more she can't deny her strong feelings for him, even though he has plans of his own. Told in an alternating storyline in 1965, journalist Lu, attends the opening of Mauna Kea Beach Resort to write an article for Sunset magazine. The two storylines slowly connect surrounding the disappearance of two women twenty-two years apart. Sara Ackerman's The Codebreaker's Secret is a wonderful historical novel that brought Hawaii to life and gave readers an inside glimpse into codebreaking during the war in the Pacific.

I really enjoyed the character of Isabel right from the start. I found her storyline to be a little bit more intriguing than Lu's, but once the stories started to intersect more, mainly with the disappearance of two women, I was intrigued. One thing Ackerman does so very well is bring Hawaii to life. I felt like I was there - the atmosphere and imagery were breathtaking at times despite the war raging in the background and the sinister undertones in 1965. It's another hit from Ackerman and I am not sure I'll ever tire of her WWII stories set in Hawaii.

So, are you a fan of WWII novels? Have you read Kelly or Ackerman's novels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



  1. I read a book by Ackerman awhile ago, and I really liked it! I think I got a little burned out on WWII historical fiction, though, so I haven't been keeping up with her books.

    1. It does get to be a lot - I have to space them and be in the right frame of mind before I pick up a WWII book. Ackerman's aren't as heavy as Kelly's though, so keep that in mind. The setting of Hawaii always lightens it up a bit. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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