Wednesday, October 4, 2017

HFVBT Review: Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor + Tour-Wide Giveaway!

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: October 3, 2017
Pages: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction


New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

What Did I Think About the Story?

Since reading and loving The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a number of years ago, I've kept my eyes peeled for other epistolary novels, especially those that highlight some interesting part of history. I find that viewing a story through letters allows for more intimacy with the characters and provides a rawness and honesty that is harder to find in a strict narrative. Last Christmas in Paris is one such novel, allowing the reader an inside glimpse into what it was like living through WWI, both on the battlefield and on the homefront, through the written communications of some lovely characters.

The bulk of the story takes place during WWI and is told through letters exchanged between a small group of characters, with the vast majority being between Evie Elliot, a young woman living in London, and Thomas Harding, a childhood friend and best friend to Evie's brother, Will. Through their letters (along with letters to and from a few others, such as Evie's brother, her best friend Alice, and Thomas's father and his father's solicitor) the reader is able to really see and feel what it would have been like to be left at home, worrying and mourning for the men fighting in France while being left impotent to do anything about it, as well as what it was really like to fight in the battles, much worse than anything they were prepared for. The story that unfolds gives you a great sense of sadness, renewal, and determination as England's people did what they could to survive with the hope of betters days possibly ahead.

Interspersed occasionally throughout the letters is Thomas's musings at Christmas time in Paris of 1968, where he's traveled, along with all his wartime letters, for what seems to be his last Christmas in Paris. These were very short but served to drive home the feeling of the great amount of time that has elapsed since he fought in the war and the depth of how those years changed him and of how his life progressed after. There's a sense of sadness as we learn from the beginning that the love of his life has recently passed away and has left him a final letter, which he's to read on Christmas Eve. I have to admit I wished for more of these little snippets as they felt very poignant and emotional.  

What came as somewhat of a surprise for me was learning about the press regulations and newspaper restrictions that, surprisingly enough, have never really been discussed in any of the novels I've read from this time period. While I know there was quite a bit of propaganda and bolstering being done for a  number of reasons (including making it sound more appealing to encourage boys to sign up to serve and to cushion those at home from the true atrocities happening to their loved ones fighting) but I honestly had no idea that at least some of this was due to regulations being put into place by the War Office. I found the discussions surrounding Thomas's father's newspaper quite fascinating and am excited that this aspect was included.

I also didn't expect to enjoy the romance aspect as much as I did. I've never been one to seek out novels heavy in romance, which is probably why I enjoyed it in this novel as much as I did because the love and affections taking place through the majority of the story felt like a slow burn, more of a friendship that turns into a great love than a hot and heavy spark of passion. This made it feel more realistic overall and made it very touching and sweet. I didn't expect to become as invested in Thomas and Evie's love affair as I did, but by the time the story was over I was really sad to see it end. It left me with a feeling of deliciously simple sweetness and I loved it all the more for that feeling. 

I am pretty amazed that this story is a collaborative effort between two novelists I have read and enjoyed before - Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor. At no point could I discern a difference that would separate the two authors' contributions and it flowed quite nicely. I'm always amazed when multiple authors write one cohesive story and I need to try and figure out which parts were written by which author, purely for my own amusement and knowledge.

Last Christmas in Paris is a delightful WWI novel that encapsulates so many remarkable feelings and situations: loss, love, tragedy, recovery, redemption, sadness, and so much more. Read it whether you love history, epistolary novels, or just a remarkably touching story. Highly recommended!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's gorgeous! I absolutely love the pop of red color on the ribbon and the woman's jacket, and having the setting as the Eiffel Tower and the packet of letters above it perfectly captures the story. Not much else to say other than it's perfect!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Thank you to the lovely Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and William Morrow Paperbacks for sending me a free copy of Last Christmas in Paris in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue on below for more information about the book, it's authors, and the rest of the blog tour!

Praise for Last Christmas in Paris

"Beautifully told…the authors fully capture the characters’ voices as each person is dramatically shaped by the war to end all wars.”—Booklist

“For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society comes another terrific epistolary historical novel that is simply unputdownable […] this remarkable novel will undoubtedly go on my keeper shelf.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Night the Lights Went Out

“Humor, love, tragedy, and hope make for a moving, uplifting read. A winner!” —Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

“An extraordinary epistolary novel that explores the history and aftermath of the Great War in a sensitive, memorable and profoundly moving fashion. A book to savor, to share and discuss with friends, and above all to cherish.” —Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Goodnight from London

“There is a special talent to writing the epistolary novel and Gaynor and Webb have mastered it. Letter by letter, the complex lives of Evie and Thomas unfold as WWI wages on, bringing with it the heartbreaking news of physical and emotional casualties. And yet, in the midst of such sacrifices, an ever-deepening love surfaces, finding a unique way to live on in this devastatingly beautiful work of historical fiction.”—Renee Rosen, author of Windy City Blues

Buy the Book


About the Authors

HEATHER WEBB is the author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, and the anthology Fall of Poppies, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. RODIN’S LOVER was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, Last Christmas in Paris, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, a re-imagining of the Gothic classic Phantom of the Opera from Christine Daae’s point of view releases February 6, 2018. To date, her novels have sold in ten countries. Heather is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.
HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

It's Giveaway Time!!!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 copies of Last Christmas in Paris! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!

Last Christmas in Paris HFVBT Schedule


Monday, September 25

Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Books of All Kinds

Tuesday, September 26
Review at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, September 27
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, September 28
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, October 2
Review at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, October 3
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 4
Review at A Literary Vacation

Friday, October 6
Review at Library Educated

Monday, October 9
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Suzy Approved Books

Tuesday, October 10
Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, October 12
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, October 13
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, October 16 
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Tuesday, October 17
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, October 18
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Interview at Faery Tales Are Real

Thursday, October 19
Review at A Holland Reads

Friday, October 20


  1. I always enjoy reading both of these Authors. Thank you for your wonderful review. Can't wait to read it.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. You are so very welcome, Carol! I hope you love it!!

  2. Loved your review, Colleen! Thanks so much for hosting Heather & Hazel's Blog Tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

    1. Aw, thanks so much, Amy! And thank you for letting me be a part of the tour!