October 3rd, 2022
Home | Log in!

On Top Shelf
Fresh Pick

New Books This Week

Latest Articles

Video Book Club


Slideshow image

Since your web browser does not support JavaScript, here is a non-JavaScript version of the image slideshow:

slideshow image
"A GEM OF A STORY" ~ Kirkus Reviews

slideshow image
A passion-and angst-charged story about a woman caught between a secure relationship and a once-in-a-lifetime spark with her muse.

slideshow image
My Hot Summer Fling…Just Became My Student

slideshow image
Running from her past leaves her standing in her future…

slideshow image
A Christmas bargain…
Becomes a promise of more

slideshow image
When Riley Hunt—a beautiful, smart, popular student at Easton College in Manhattan—is brutally murdered, it becomes a big story for TV newswoman Clare Carlson.

Fall into October Best Books

Barnes & Noble

Fresh Fiction Blog
Get to Know Your Favorite Authors

Julia Justiss | WINTER IS COMING

Switchboard Soldiers
Jennifer Chiaverini




Barnes & Noble

Powell's Books


Indie BookShop

A Novel

July 2022
On Sale: July 19, 2022
384 pages
ISBN: 0063080699
EAN: 9780063080690
Kindle: B09HSCYKMT
Hardcover / e-Book
Add to Wish List
Add to review list

Also by Jennifer Chiaverini:
Switchboard Soldiers, July 2022
Add to review list
The Women's March, June 2022
The Women's March, June 2022
The Women's March, August 2021


Although the Great War lasted four years and included summer and winter campaigns, the image that symbolizes that conflict is one of the soldiers huddled in freezing, mud-filled trenches and civilians in shattered villages, desperately short of food and fuel, sheltering in the basements of bombed-out buildings.  This month’s selections feature stories about intrepid women who tried to help both the soldiers and the civilians caught up in that miserable conflict.

Switchboard Soldiers by Jennifer Chiaverini

We begin with two books that feature a little-known group of women who made an immense contribution to the war effort in the Army Signal Corps.  Jennifer Chiaverini’s SWITCHBOARD SOLDIERS tells the tale of a group of elite women volunteers who answer their country’s call for highly skilled telephone operators to work on the front lines in World War I.  When General Pershing brought Americans to join the fight in June 1917, he immediately recognized the need to establish reliable communication between headquarters and field units.  At the time, most trained telephone operators were women—who were not allowed to join the Army.  As often happens, desperation overrode convention, and the U.S. Signal Corps started recruiting operators fluent in French who were willing to work under dangerous conditions and would guarantee to maintain complete secrecy about the calls they handled.  Of more than 7,600 volunteers, 233 were enrolled. Chiaverini follows the stories of one actual and two fictional “Hello Girls:” (the real) Grace Banker, a Barnard College alumna; transplanted Frenchwoman Marie Miossec; and Valerie DeSmedt, a native Belgian wanting to strike back for her occupied country.  After rigorous training, the women proceeded to France, where they braved bombing, Spanish flu, and initially skeptical Army colleagues.  Over the two years they served, it’s estimated they connected 26 million calls.  Through the detail and drama of the lives of Grace, Marie, and Valerie, we get a vivid picture of the danger and squalor of the front, the perilous position of the locals, but also the strong camaraderie that developed between the women and the respect they eventually earned.  Although they wore Army uniforms and served with distinction, after the war they were considered “civilian employees” and denied medals and veterans benefits, a travesty not corrected until 1977.

Girls on the Line by Aimie K. Runyan

GIRLS ON THE LINE by Aimie K. Runyan presents another (entirely fictional) picture of the “Hello Girls.”  Although she defies her Society mother to work as a telephone operator, Philadelphian Ruby Wagner follows convention to become engaged to a proper Main Line suitor.  But after her beloved brother is killed in combat and she learns the Army Signal Corps is calling for experienced telephone operators to serve in France, grieving and wanting to do more, she feels compelled to volunteer.  After making it through the grueling training, Ruby lands in France gets established in a boarding house near the headquarters with other girls who will become life-long friends—and encounters Brooklyn army medic Andrew Carrigan, who dreams of becoming a doctor after the war.  As she works to earn the respect of her Army colleagues, dodges shelling on the roads, pitches in to work extra shifts for her friends, and even does some nursing when the Spanish flu decimates their numbers, eventually, she will have to choose between the privileged life her parents want for her and the independence of following her own path with the man she loves.

The Woman at the Front by Lecia Cornwall

Another woman whom the war compels to do more is Eleanor Atherton in THE WOMAN AT THE FRONT by Lecia Cornwall.  As is the case in the previous story, Eleanor’s proper English family wants her to give up her career, marry a suitable man and resume her proper role.  But after graduating from medical school in 1917 at the top of her class, Eleanor wants to use her training to help those most in need—on the front lines of battle. After her offer of service is turned down by every military authority, the local landowner, the Countess of Kirkwall, agrees she will use her influence to help Eleanor continue her medical career if she will first go to France, tend the countess’s wounded son until he is well enough to travel, then bring him home to assume the title of earl he’s just inherited.  On her way to the front, Eleanor is befriended by stretcher bearer Sergeant Frasier McCloud, who protects her from rowdy soldiers and tutors her about the realities of life on the front lines.  At the casualty clearing station, Eleanor encounters resistance not only from her patient and the medical officer in charge but also the Matron, who disapproves of women doctors.  However, when floods of casualties overwhelm the staff, Eleanor is at last allowed to pitch in, demonstrating both her grit and her skill as she cares for the wounded in the same grueling conditions as the male doctors.  But will it be enough to earn her the career she craves?

Half in Shadow by Gemma Liviero

Our final selection, HALF IN SHADOW by Gemma Liviero, shows life on the civilian side.  After the Germans occupy her native Belgium in 1915, Josephine Descharmes’s family loses their home and flees to Brussels.  In her waitress job by day, she must appear to tolerate the invaders, serving German officers at the Hotel Metropole.  But at night, she works underground with her brothers to help Allied soldiers and civilians cross the border into Holland.  One of these, badly wounded English soldier Arthur, finds healing, hope, and purpose working with Josephine and her brothers.  But she also attracts the attention and affection of German officer Franz, who wants to offer her protection. The author brilliantly depicts the nightmarish tightrope walk the civilians faced, living with an enemy who could take over one’s business or home, who could arrest, imprison, or execute one with no recourse.  In Josephine’s difficult choices we see played out the moral dilemma of how much to cooperate to survive, and how much to risk by resisting.  War brings Josephine horror, but also moments of bravery, loyalty, and love.


Ready to explore more of this fascinating period?  Any of these stories illuminating the lives of these women of skill, determination, and courage will prove stimulating fall reading!

About Julia Justiss

Julia Justiss

Real, intense, passionate historical romance


Award-winning romance author Julia Justiss, who has written more than thirty historical novels and novellas set in the English Regency and the American West, just completed her first contemporary series set in the fictional Hill Country town of Whiskey River, Texas.

A voracious reader who began jotting down plot ideas for Nancy Drew novels in her third grade spiral, Julia has published poetry and worked as a business journalist.

She and her husband live in East Texas, where she continues to craft the stories she loves. Check her website for details about her books, chat with her on social media, and follow her on Bookbub and Amazon to receive notices about her latest releases.


Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues | Whiskey River Christmas | Sisters of Scandal | Wellingfords | Cinderella Spinsters | Heirs in Waiting | The McAllister Brothers





No comments posted.

Registered users may leave comments.
Log in or register now!


© 2003-2022 off-the-edge.net  all rights reserved Privacy Policy