Historical Fiction Reviews: THE PARIS DAUGHTER & THE SPECTACULARThe Paris Daughter Goodreads

Author: Kristin Harmel

Publication Date: June 6, 2023

Publisher: Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


Every time I think Kristin Harmel can’t possibly top her last book, she proves me wrong and she has done it yet again with her latest WWII historical fiction novel, The Paris Daughter.

The story follows Juliette and Elise, two American women who are living on the outskirts of Paris in the late 1930s.  Elise and Juliette are both pregnant at the same time, and when they meet, they immediately bond as expectant mothers and become great friends, each woman giving birth to a little girl.  Juliette and her husband own a quiet but popular bookshop, while Elise is a sculptor and her husband is a famous painter. While they know war is lurking just beyond their country’s borders, neither Elise nor Juliette can fathom that their lives will soon be irrevocably changed, until the unthinkable happens and the Germans invade.  When the Germans suspect that Elise’s husband is part of the French resistance, Elise knows she must flee or be captured as well and she leaves her young daughter in Juliette’s care, thinking she’ll be safer there than on the run with her.  After Elise flees, however, tragedy strikes the little bookshop and when Elise finally returns at the end of the war, all she returns to find is a pile of rubble.

The Paris Daughter is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of each mother.  We follow them both through the war, get inside their heads as they both have to make seemingly impossible choices, and how they find a way to move forward after unfathomable loss.  Both of their journeys are often heartbreaking, but I admired the strength and resilience each displayed.  As a mom myself, I kept trying to put myself in their shoes and wondered if I would have the strength to make the hard choices they made.

The Paris Daughter is of course a well researched WWII historical fiction novel, but at its heart, it’s also a beautifully written, heartwrenching yet inspirational story about love and friendship, resilience and strength, and ultimately about the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect her children.  This is the fifth novel of Kristin Harmel’s I’ve read and it might be my favorite yet, although I also very highly recommend The Book of Lost Names and The Forest of Vanishing Stars5 STARS


Historical Fiction Reviews: THE PARIS DAUGHTER & THE SPECTACULARThe Spectacular Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: June 13, 2023

Publisher:  Dutton

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


I’m a huge fan of Fiona Davis’ historical fiction.  I love how she always centers her stories around New York City iconic buildings. Davis’ latest novel, The Spectacular, was especially appealing to me since this time, her iconic landmark of choice was Radio City Music Hall, the home of the world famous Rockettes.

Set in 1956, The Spectacular follows Marion, a young woman who wants nothing more than to become a Rockette.  When Marion is invited to join the troupe, she is the only one in her family who considers it an honor. Her father is so appalled by her decision to dance instead of settling down to get married and start a family that he actually kicks her out of the house and ends all contact with her.  We follow Marion as she sets out, determined to follow her own dream. Like many others, I’ve always been fascinated by this elite precision dance troupe. It’s truly mesmerizing to watch them perform, so I was very excited to get a behind the scenes look into the world of being a Rockette. It was very eye opening to witness their grueling rehearsals as well as all of the little details that go into creating that illusion of precision, such as the way they sew costumes for taller dancers vs. what they do for the shorter ones.

Marion loves what she does, but occasionally wonders if the cost of losing her family was too high of a price to pay.  That cost grows even higher when the “Big Apple Bomber”, who has been terrorizing New York for over 15 years bombs Radio City Musical Hall.  One of the victims of the bombing is Marion’s sister, who against their father’s wishes, had snuck out to see Marion perform.  Fueled by her grief and the frustration that the police are no closer to catching the bomber after 15 years, Marion goes rogue and enlists the help of Peter, a psychological profiler, to try to find and catch the killer.

What I really loved about The Spectacular was that in addition to having a well researched strong historical fiction narrative, it also features this riveting murder mystery/thriller, a pretty substantial element of family drama, and even the slightest hint of a potential romance.  All of these elements combine effortlessly into a riveting read that I could not put down.  It’s a story that definitely has a little something for everyone.  I highly recommend The Spectacular to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, New York iconic landmarks, suspenseful thrillers, domestic dramas, and especially to anyone who, like me, has always been fascinated by the Rockettes.  4.5 STARS



12 replies
  1. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I love the Rockettes as well. May have to check out The Spectacular. And that cover! Love it 😀

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Me too and in some ways this is my favorite from her since it’s the building I’m most familiar with from what she has chosen so far.

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