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Letters From Home

Letters From Home, March 2011
by Kristina McMorris

Kensington
Featuring: Morgan McClain; Liz Stephens
352 pages
ISBN: 0758246846
EAN: 9780758246844
Kindle: B004IWR3RO
Trade Size / e-Book
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"Three friends find love and face loss against the backdrop of World War II."

Fresh Fiction Review

Letters From Home
Kristina McMorris

Reviewed by Lenore Howard
Posted January 7, 2011

Historical | Fiction Women's Fiction

Liz Stephens is planning to marry Dalton Harris, an up-and- coming politician in Chicago, when a chance encounter with a soldier at a dance throws her carefully ordered life into confusion. Liz's roommate, Julia Renard, is engaged to Christian Downing, who is already overseas. She is impatiently awaiting their reunion until she finds that Christian's brother, Ian, has returned from battle drastically changed. Even as she realizes her dream future could turn out to be a nightmare, her sympathy for Ian begins to turn into something deeper. Meanwhile, Betty Cordell, the free-spirited third roommate, makes a rash decision to be part of the war effort that will not only change her life but endanger it.

The soldier at the dance, Morgan McClain, was enjoying one more night of freedom with his brother, Charlie, before shipping out. Content with life on the family farm, he had signed up mostly to keep tabs on his impulsive sibling, which he has done all his life. Morgan's only connection to home becomes the letters he receives from Betty -- but unbeknownst to him, the letters are actually written by Liz, and in a Cyrano-like twist, Morgan falls in love with Betty's image but Liz's words. What will happen when he gets back home? That is, if he gets back home...

This book weaves the stories of the three roommates and two brothers seamlessly, going back and forth between home front and battle front. Interspersing unflinching images of combat with more intimate, emotional scenes personalizes this historical period and will touch your heart. The period details draw you in, but it's the characters' personal journeys that are the heart of the story -- especially the women, who are getting a taste of their changing roles in society and learning to take charge of their own lives. The poetic, heartfelt letters between Morgan and Liz provide a shimmering thread that ties everything together. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end.

Learn more about Letters From Home

SUMMARY

Inspired by the true story of her own grandparents' courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in LETTERS FROM HOME,an award-winning debut novel that is timeless, tender and unforgettably moving.

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation—cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty—but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

Beautifully rendered and deeply felt, LETTERS FROM HOME is a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love and war—and the chance encounters that change us forever.

Excerpt

Chapter One

July 4, 1944
Chicago, Illinois

Silence in the idling Cadillac grew as suffocating as the city's humidity. Hands clenched on her lap, Liz Stephens averted her narrowed eyes toward the open passenger window. Chattering ladies and servicemen flocked by in the shadows; up and down they traveled over the concrete accordion of entrance steps. The sting of laughter and music drifted through the swinging glass doors, bounced off the colorless sky. Another holiday without gunpowder for celebration. No boom of metallic streamers, no sunbursts awakening the night. Only the fading memory of a simpler time.

A time when Liz knew whom she could trust.

"You know the Rotary doesn't invite just anyone to speak," Dalton Harris said finally. The same argument, same lack of apology in his voice. "What was I supposed to do? Tell my father I couldn't be there because of some dance?"

At the condescension, she snapped her gaze to his slate gray eyes. "That," she said, "is exactly what you should've done."

"Honey. You're being unreasonable."

"So it's unreasonable wanting us to spend time together?"

"That's not what I meant." A scratch to the back of his neck punctuated his frustration, a habit that had lost the amusing charm it held when they were kids. Long before the expensive suits, the perfect ties, the Vitalis-slickening of his dark brown hair.

"Listen." His square jaw slackened as he angled toward her, a debater shifting his approach. "When I was asked to run my dad's campaign, we talked about this. I warned you my schedule would be crazy until the election. And you were the one who said I should do it, that between classes and work, you'd be -"

"As busy as ever," she finished sharply. "Yes. I know what I said." With Dalton in law school and she a sophomore at Northwestern, leading independent but complementary lives was nothing new; in fact, that had always been among the strengths of their relationship. Which was why he should know their separate activities weren't the issue tonight.

"Then what's the problem?" he pressed.

"The problem is, anything else pops up, campaign or otherwise, and you don't think twice about canceling on me."

"I am not canceling. I'm asking you to come with me."

Liz had attended enough political fundraisers with him to know that whispers behind plastered smiles and greedy glad- handing would be highlights of the night. A night she could do without, even if not for her prior commitment.

"I already told you," she said, "I promised the girls weeks ago I'd be here." The main reason she'd agreed, given her condensed workload from summer school, was to repay Betty for accompanying her to that droning version of Henry V last week - just so Dalton's ticket hadn't gone to waste. "Why can't you make an exception? Just this once?"

He dropped back in his seat, drew out a sigh. "Lizzy, it's just a dance."

No, it's not. It's more than that. I have to know I can depend on you! Her throat fastened around her retort. Explosions of words, she knew all too well, could bring irreversible consequences.

She grabbed the door handle. "I have to go." Before he could exit and circle around to open her side, she let herself out.

"Wait," he called out as she shut the door. "Sweetheart, hold on."

The plea in his voice tugged at her like strings, halting her. Could it be that he'd changed his mind? That he was still the same guy she could count on?

She slid her hand into the pocket of her ivory wraparound dress, a shred of hope cupped in her palm, before pivoting to face him.

Dalton leaned across the seat toward her. "We'll talk about this later, all right?"

Disappointment throbbed inside, a recurrent bruise. Bridling her reaction, she replied with a nod, fully aware her agreement would translate into a truce.

"Have a good time," he said, then gripped the steering wheel and drove away.

As she turned for the stairs, she pulled her hand from her pocket, and discovered she'd been holding but a stray thread. The first sign of a seam unraveling.

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