Historical

Secrets Well Kept – Lynn Ames

Secrets Well Kept - Lynn AmesOne of the wonderful developments which has been made possible by the spread of the “information age” is our access to the hidden histories of women, particularly in the 20th century when their work was recorded and noted, but not publicized. With our ever increasing access to the cinematic and TV reels, the notes and minutes of a dramatic century we are coming to recognize the contribution of so many women to the huge endeavours that have changed the world: Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first algorithm intended to be executed by a computer, Grace Hopper was the first person to design a compiler for a programming language, Hedy Lamarr who developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes which was later incorporated into Bluetooth technology and used in legacy versions of Wi-Fi, Katherine Johnson, the mathematician we met and loved in “Hidden Figures” who took them to the moon and brought them home again.

Lynn Ames latest novel is exactly on point with a fictional historical romance based on the lives of the women who extracted the uranium used for the first atomic bombs. Unrecognized, either for praise or blame, women worked the dials, extracting the uranium the US needed to win the arms race and ultimately to force Japan to its knees. The majority of these women had no idea what they were doing, just did their best to support the war effort. But one woman did know, did understand the enormity of what they were doing, even if she couldn’t have imagined the destruction and human cost of the bombs that were dropped.

In Ames’ first book in the series “Chain Reactions” we meet the elderly Nora Lindstrom and learn of her immense contribution to the US war effort, not least her silence, and her subsequent grief and guilt for the impact of those dropped bombs. In Secrets Well Kept we jump back to 1943, to the reality of being the only woman with top level clearance at Oak Ridge, the site built for uranium extraction in Tennessee, part of the wider Manhattan Project. Alongside the sole woman physicist we meet the girls given training to turn the dials, balance the voodoo science that extracts the uranium.. “girls” who proved more competent at the task than the male PhD’s who always wanted to know why.

But like all Lynn Ames’ excellent stories there is a romance, illicit in many senses; 2 women goes without saying, but compounded by boss/worker and the explicit need for secrecy in terms of sexuality, relationship and war effort, doubled for Nora who knows what they are doing and the likely impact of their work. The romance is sweet and poignant, set in monumental times, which, literally, changed the world.

The history is compelling, given what we now know of the devastation caused to so many millions, and while we can recognize the Allies desperation to end the war with Japan, we will always question the annihilation of a whole city of souls, and then another, to make the point. The emotional impact of that later understanding on the people who made those bombs cannot be imagined, and the girls who worked the dials were purposefully kept in the dark, adding to the shock of discovering what they had been doing.

Overall an impactful book, made human, as always, by Lynn Ames’ excellent writing, her attention to detail and her emotive and sympathetic characters. But for me personally the real impact is that of a bunch of high school graduate level women, with no scientific training, being the instruments – and they were literally the tools – of the war machine that was determined to win the nuclear race and use that victory to end the war.


(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press (15 July 2019)
  • ASIN: B07TBT2212
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Chain Reactions – Lynn Ames

Chain Reaction“Chain Reactions” finds elderly scientist Nora Lindstrom forced, in the face her own mortality, into contacting her long-estranged family. Her great-niece, Diana, convinced her aunt has been dead for twenty years, nevertheless responds to the plea from Nora’s lawyer and visits her beloved aunt, Diana’s inspiration for becoming a scientist and so much more. Shocked into the reality that her parents have lied to her for 35 years, Diana must quickly adapt to both the reappearance and frailty of her aunt as they begin to explore their new relationship.

The 100-year-old Nora needs live-in care Diana can’t provide but her scheming doctor introduces them to Brooke, a burnt-out paediatric nurse who has taken refuge nearby to heal her pain from losing too many cancer patients. Between them, Brooke and Diana care for the wilful old lady, supporting her fading strength and indomitable spirit, and in so doing both become fascinated by the history Nora has been part of, and the unspoken sacrifice of an inspirational woman.

Lynn Ames’ multi-layered romance presents us with a modern-day pathos, an ancient mystery, a slice of untaught history, and a poignant parallel between the generations. Nora is a classic representation of her era; stoic, realist and patriot, who stepped up when called by her country, proud to have served her part, yet plagued by the responsibility for her actions and ultimately sacrificing her own personal happiness as a consequence. Modern-day Diana has taken a similar route, putting medical research above a private life, and Brooke, the more empathic of the three, has made a comparable sacrifice, giving her energy to the care of others.

As the two younger women discover Nora’s personality and uncover her history, they inevitably form a bond, and despite the strain of the situation, lay the foundation for a tense friendship. As the strain of Nora’s final days grows, Diana and Brooke are drawn together, and Nora’s final wishes will push them both into a new reality.

These are three powerful women, exquisitely drawn, each with strength and sadness, each having chosen a path that has put their career first at the cost of personal happiness. Ames cleverly reveals them through the medium of their interaction and their exploration of each other, showing us their hidden pain as they are laid bare on the page. Nora, atoning for her self-imposed guilt, a huge figure in the fight against leukaemia, Diana, battling to find a cure for epilepsy and Brooke, caring for frequently terminal leukaemia patients, each has given their individual strength to the battle they have chosen.

Love suffuses the pages of this romance, love for family however distant, love that hasn’t faded despite the years, and love that grows even through the tension of caring for a dying relative. Nora’s love of her great-niece is a powerful force that neither Diana nor Brooke can ultimately withstand.

Emotional, poignant and touching, “Chain Reactions” will pull your heart strings every which way, leaving you bereft by Nora’s loss, awed by her history, yet buoyed by the overwhelming sense of hope that Diana and Brooke might not repeat her mistakes. Lynn Ames has the ability to pull a historical thread and bring it alive through her characters, women we cannot help but fall in love with. I guarantee you won’t put it down, and I cannot wait for the prequel.

Hiding Hearts – RE Bradshaw

Hiding Hearts – RE BradshawR. E. Bradshaw’s 2x Great Aunt was known as the greatest horsewoman in Wayne County, North Carolina. Wild and untamed, living her life her way, she has inspired Bradshaw to begin a new series which starts at the tail end of the Civil War in Goldsborough, NC. The county is bracing itself for the arrival of Sherman’s troops, the ravages of the bummers and the slow return of the Counties young men, war-weary and damaged in body and mind.

Lottie Bratcher is only 18, but her strong will, fearless nature, and bright mind make her the natural leader of the Bratcher women left to scrabble a survival in their small parcel of land. The men are away fighting a war started by rich men and having little bearing on the poor white families who had never owned slaves and were socially only a step above the free blacks of the area. Scraping a living, guarding their own and protecting the so-called deserters, including her brother Jefferson, Lottie has little time for affairs of the heart and does her best to fight the childhood crush she has for the beautiful heiress Patrice Cole and her twin Patrick. But in times of war allies are frequently thrown together, especially when Patrice is determined that they will be.

This, the first in the Appletree Swamp series, is an intriguing and extremely well-done mix of historical adventure and light-hearted romance, with a delightful twist in the tale for the Bratcher and Cole siblings. The atmosphere created, the action and the setting, are exceptionally well drawn and feel so authentic that you get lost in the lives of the extended family and their neighbours. Full of cameo roles from the illegally literate Medicine Mary, the enchanting ferryman Jacob and even a brief encounter with Sherman himself, Bradshaw has filled the pages with delightful characters who instantly become friends.

The background of the swamp and the detail of the war make this very solidly set in time and place, clearly very familiar territory for Ms Bradshaw who’s eye for detail and love of both family genealogy, Civil War history and the land of her father, shines through in every line. The whole is lightened by the almost comedic attempts of Lottie to avoid the woman who dominates her heart and mind, running like a skittish colt, while Patrice patiently but determinedly chases her down.

Delightful reading, another wonderful example of how an idea can catch the imagination of an excellent writer and a whole world comes to life. From the darkness of the Rainey Bell thrillers through the madcap Decky and Charlie stories and the charming standalone romances such as “Waking up Gray”, R. E. Bradshaw has a real talent for producing deeply felt characters who climb inside our hearts and minds. Her books are always at the top of my reading pile, and the Appletree Swamp series just adds another string to her already full bow.

E-format currently available from R. E. Bradshaw Books



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: R.E. Bradshaw Books (March 29, 2018)
  • ISBN: 978-0998954967
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Hearts Orders – Jaycie Morrison

Hearts Orders – Jaycie MorrisonHelen Tucker wants to drive trucks, it’s her escape and always has been. She also wants Teresa Owens, but that might be harder to achieve as Teresa is an incredibly shy Baptist girl who has secrets she needs to deal with. Helen’s ambitions lead her into dangerous waters with her first posting, but her love for Teresa can help save her from a very dishonourable discharge.

Sergeant Rains and Private Elizabeth Smythe both have issues to overcome as they try to establish a life together in a world that doesn’t accept them on many levels. But Smythe has a secret that could destroy them.

Following directly on from “Basic Training of the Heart” this is a sweet romance set in the Women’s Army Core in 1942 at the height of WWII. It stands alone perfectly well, although “Basic Training of the Heart” is also an excellent read so why not try both.

Jaycie Morrison has captured the mood of an era really well in these novels; the fear of the married women whose husbands are overseas, the attitude of the men who take their place for granted, the hostility of the black ghetto at night, and the determination of the women who have signed up to the WAC to not only do a good job but to forge a place for themselves in the world.

The characters are well drawn and each has a journey to take, learning to do. From the platoon being thrown together for basic through to the rivalry and hostility of the sergeants we get to see a wide range of characters all in a very new situation, finding their way in a man’s world and for many the first time they have not only left home but travelled out of state and away from their family.

The romances are sweet and gentle, the mood is soft focus despite the harsh realities of the time. An excellent follow up in the Love and Courage Series, I look forward to book three.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (October 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B075RNTXSK
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The Liberators of Willow Run – Marianne K. Martin

The Liberators of Willow Run By Marianne K. MartinSome books are just important. Important to read, to feel, to remember. Some books remind us where we came from and how much we have gained. Some books can lift us up in a time of darkness and remind us how strong we are to have gotten where we are. “The Liberators of Willow Run” By Marianne K. Martin is one of those books, and reading it right now reminds us of the giant strides all women have made to take control of their lives, that lesbians have made in fighting to be open and equal.

Set in the Second World War we have two threads, a ‘Rosie The Riveter’ working at the B-24 Bomber plant in Detroit along with her mixed team of men, women, and the wonderfully self possessed Nona, an African American woman determined to make her way in the world despite her skin colour and her gender. Our “Rosie” is Audrey, heartbroken, hidden and determined to keep her independence.

The second thread brings us Ruth, entombed in a home for pregnant girls with a bullying matron and daily doses of moral education meant to teach the girls a lesson and set them on the ‘right’ road to marriage and social acceptability. Ruth is all too aware of the mistakes she has made, but they aren’t quite the ones Matron is bashing them all for.

Audrey feels she will never have the chance of love and settles in with work to fill her life, and friendship with Nona to fill her social time. Ruth escapes the home and family determined to set up on her own. Both have a huge amount of pain to deal with in  a harsh world, where their crimes are simply being who they are. And both have something to prove – that they are strong enough to not only fight their own demons, but help others along the “Willow Run”.

The characters are deep and rounded, the relationships and friendships realistic and well drawn. The story flows, the drama is real and the history detailed and yet not overwhelming with facts and figures but integrated skillfully into these women’s lives

We ache for the pain of the girls in the home, we fight along with Audrey and Nona for their team to not only top the production line figures every day, but to stand up for each other across gender and racial boundaries. And most of all we want Ruth and Audrey to find peace from the pain of their pasts. And yet all along we somehow wait for the other shoe to drop, hoping against hope that nothing will tear their worlds apart.

An enthralling read, a genuine glimpse into life in the 40’s, a world of secrecy, fear and a constant fight for basic self determination. This should be compulsory reading for every lesbian in the US struggling to hold on to hope in the face of a fascist administration. We fought then and we will fight to hold on to those gains. No matter what ‘executive orders’ are signed, we will not be put back into those boxes.


Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (October 17, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01IMJQNT2
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The Lavender List – Meg Harrington

The lavender list - Meg Harrington1950’s thriller romance which finds an ex mobster, Amelia, working in a diner and doing auditions. Her crush is the swarve and sexy Laura who lives in the room next door at their boarding hotel. When Laura turns up at the diner with a bad cut and bruises Amelia starts to wonder quite where she goes all dolled up in the evenings, and her investigations lead her into a world of car chases, gun battles and the ongoing war between the USA and communist Russia.

I enjoyed the plot although it didn’t quite go where the blub suggested, i.e. back into Amelia’s mobster world. It was an interesting idea to explore what happened to the brave women who risked everything to work with the European resistance against the Nazis after the war – the expectation for them to go home and settle into 1950’s normalcy of home and children.

This story is certainly full of suspense. Both the romance and the thrill of the chase, with spies and mobsters and even the ‘good guys’ taking a hand. The first half sets the real characters, the second shows what they have become, far from the women they are perceived to be.

The characters of Amelia and Laura are likable, although I never really felt connected to them, but then that is also an element of those 1950’s stories, cool and slightly distant however much the hearts may be fluttering underneath.

The style worked really well for this plot and period, short, catchy writing, lots of sarcasm, definitely imitation the noir of 1950’s detective stories. At times the POV in the second half was a little difficult to follow, it certainly jumps around a great deal. But my only real issue was some of the language used was decidedly not 1950’s NYC, one phrase threw me out completely, the setting and props all seemed perfect for the era, but the language felt decidedly modern.

Overall I enjoyed it and it was a fun and entertaining read.

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva (November 30, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MQIYTI0
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Night Fires in the Distance – Sarah Goodwin

Night Fires in the Distance - Sarah GoodwinLaura and William have traveled from England to the prairie, making a home and trying to build a life in the as yet unclaimed Indian Territory. With no neighbors closer than the ramshackle town half a day away, no transport but the ox-puled cart, and nothing but backbreaking work, their lives are harsh by any standard. The relentless stresses and strains of surviving begin to show in the cracks that form between them, and Will’s increasing anger at a life with no respite.

When a new settler, James, arrives it is clear that the young man knows nothing about the life he has chosen. He hopes for help and advice from William, but it is Laura who reaches out in kindness to help the young man build his sod house and get set up. James had no idea that life would be this harsh, and even less idea what it would take to survive his first winter. But he has reasons of his own for hiding from the world, and soon his growing friendship with Laura keeps him tied to the spot.

As James and Laura’s attraction grows, William’s jealousy flares and his bullying and brutish nature comes to the fore. As secrets are revealed and emotions deepen Laura and James have to find a way to endure their situation.

This is a page turning historical romance that grabs your emotional attention and doesn’t let go. Laura is a woman who is literally working her fingers to the bone to try and keep her family together. Clearly from a slightly more refined background in England she is nevertheless doing everything she can to make life as good as she can for her husband and surviving children. James has come from a wealthy background, running from cruelty and heartbreak into a world that he will be lucky to survive. Both are struggling to make life bearable both physically and emotionally, and their bond is both instant and the basis of a tragedy waiting to happen.

The setting, the harshness and the natural disaster that brings the climax to the story are of biblical proportions, revealing a harrowing life not shown in the movies and TV shows. The energy sapping slog just to endure is almost overwhelming and becomes the only thing left as literally everything is stripped away.

Totally engrossing. Well written, deeply touching, well-drawn characters, and an evocative landscape that dominates the whole. This is my first Sarah Goodwin and will definitely not be my last. My only complaint is the feeling that there must be more… I want to know what happens next and am hoping she will give us a sequel to tie up all those loose ends.

(publisher review copy received)

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Independent (October 12, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M9AU0AC
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Alaskan Bride – D Jordan Redhawk

Alaskan Bride - D Jordan RedhawkSet in the years after the American Civil War when finding a husband wasn’t easy, Alaskan Bride is an excellent historical lesfic romance.

Old maid Clara is an educated 22 year-old from a wealthy Bostonian family. Fed up with being pursued by businessmen her father’s age, she answers an advert for a mail order bride and heads off to the Alaskan Territory.

Unbeknown to Clara, the man she is set to marry dies in an accident, and his sister, Callie, writes to stop his bride setting off. The letter crosses with Clara on her journey, and the two women find themselves in an unusual situation. Callie insists Clara goes home, Clara is determined to stay and live her adventurous dream.

Clara and Callie are strong, independent women with distinctive voices and very strong wills. They both have a secret they have never revealed, and both have a determination to ‘make it’ in a man’s world, whatever the cost. Their characters clash, yet they are both intrigued and infuriated by the other. As they adjust and compromise, we watch a very slow burn romance unfold, beautifully crafted and befitting the era of the novel.

D Jordan Redhawk has created an interesting set of characters between the more refined Bostonian family and the roughneck frontier folk. She has used the vocabulary of the era to give authenticity to the dialogue and cleverly makes the voices very distinct with tone and language.

The setting of the gold rush era in an Alaskan town is well drawn, with new businesses appearing weekly, and a wide set of society on display. The beauty of the landscape and the harshness of the lifestyle play an important part in the background of the story as we witness Clara’s transformation from Boston debutant to gun-toting frontier homesteader.

I really enjoyed this story and hope there is a sequel, as we can certainly have more of Callie and Clara’s lives together. Excellent writing, unusual setting, passionate characters and very well done realistic storyline. While the attraction is obvious, it is drawn with enough twists to make it interesting and enough humour to entertain, while at the same time the women literally fight to survive in a world where an unscrupulous man can take whatever he wants.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (August 30, 2016)
  • ISBN: 1594935017
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Shaken to the Core – Jae

Shaken to the Core - JaeReturning to US history after a break from her ‘Oregon’ series Shaken to the Core is a romance set around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. From introducing our heroines before disaster hits, through the horror of the earthquake and subsequent fires, and on to the immediate aftermath, Jae leads us through the events that unfolded with her usual brilliant eye for detail and excellent storytelling skills.

Giuliana is a Sicilian fisherman’s daughter who came to ‘Merica with her brother in order to earn a living and send money home. When fate strikes her brother down she is left with few skills and few options other than domestic service to survive on her own.

Kate is the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate who is determined to make her own way in the modern world. Despite her mothers best efforts to make her conform to the expectations of high society, Kate knows in her soul she needs an independent life if she is ever to fulfil her own dreams.

Two strong women from opposite ends of the social scale, drawn together by a mutual attraction, find themselves fighting to survive the events of April 18th. They, along with the indomitable Dr Lucy Hamilton Sharpe, create an intriguing story of how women step up when disaster strikes. Resourceful, capable and determined, they fight their way through whatever is thrown at them, growing stronger as they overcome, finding their place from the opportunity catastrophe brings resourceful survivors.

Jae - biogAs always Jae’s characters are powerful women with a will of their own. Rounded and well drawn they form the core of an intriguing retelling of history from a woman’s point of view. As with the Oregon Series we learn the intimate history of a famous and well-known saga from the inside.

With subtle but commanding attention to detail Jae fills in the background; the unfolding events, the backdrop of turn of the century San Francisco, the people and the sense of emotion that a major disaster cause. She shows us the world as she envisions it, like a film set being slowly revealed, filling in and colouring as she goes.

Jae writes exceptionally good books and this is another excellent example of her skills. Charming romance, strong, admirable women, an unusual setting, great historical storytelling and, as always, with a style which makes the tale unfold with consummate ease.
(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (June 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01GEWY5XA
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Bright Lights of Summer – Lynn Ames

Bright Lights of SummerBright Lights of Summer is a delightful and nostalgic tale that brings together the love of softball and a sweetheart romance set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

Lynn Ames is the queen of story telling. She takes a setting and brings it alive for the reader. She recreates the mood, the feel – the texture of life in a bygone era for us to relive.

Dix and Frannie are young women in Phoenix, Arizona. We join them in 1940’s when their biggest concern it getting to be softball players for the Phoenix Ramblers alongside their heroes like Dot Wilkinson. When America is thrust into the war by the attack on Pearl Harbor their lives begin to change and we watch the impact of war on families, softball and the women themselves.

Lynn Ames BooksAs always, Lynn Ames has done her homework. There is a wide range of historical background as well as the detail of the softball teams, leagues and games. Every detail fits and there is a core veracity which give the sense of docu-drama rather than fiction.

Throughout it all the growing love story of our heroines carries us along. As Diz unfolds their history from her reminiscences, we re-live their day-to-day dramas tenderly retold and tearfully evoked more than 60 years later. Both the main characters and the wide-ranging cast of family and teammates are beautifully evoked and penned with loving detail.

This would, without a doubt, make an excellent movie to bring into focus the real story of women’s softball history and the difficulties of being ‘queer’ in the 1940’s, while showcasing the love story of two amazing women. A lovely read and undoubtedly another great success to add to the Lynn Ames collection.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • First published: 2014
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press (November 12, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1936429101
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