Ceramist Annemarie Kendall couldn't be happier when WWI comes to an end and her fiance is on his way home, but from his recent letters, she knows the war's changed him. What she doesn't know is if he'll still love her and want to marry her. After an injury that leaves him feeling dependent and less masculine, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard isn't sure he want to return home to Hot Springs. Bitter and in constant pain, the last pill he wants to swallow is pity on his fiance's face.
Johnson sets up a robust conflict when Gilbert talks to Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary about his dilemma over Annemarie while on the ship headed home.
"He studied the girl in the portrait and realized with sudden certainty that if things were different--if he were coming home to a woman like Annemarie--he'd fight harder for her love than any doughboy ever fought on the Western Front."
After hearing Gilbert's intentions, how can Samuel help but fall a little in love with Annemarie before he ever sets eyes on her? And then when he meets her, she's more lovely and sweet than he imagined. But Samuel's suffering his own crisis, a result of the war.
"If he could just be certain God still listened. If he dared to hope the doors of heaven hadn't been barred against him for eternity."
Gilbert tends to be a bit cranky at times, but in my book, he's still a hero because of the pain he's in and the suffering he endured. Samuel refuses to move in on Gilbert's territory, and insists that Gilbert not make any foolish, rash decisions. I won't tell you which man I was rooting for. You can make your own choice. But I will admit to being very satisfied with the ending. :)
While this story is fictional, the characterization was so life-like and the conflict so believable. I can imagine similar scenarios happening back then, even now. Men and women still return home from war, scarred emotionally and physically.
While I'm not a huge history buff, I enjoyed how the author tucked in little nuggets of historical goodies, like how people conserved food during World War I. That, plus the tidbits about Hot Springs and the nice sub-plot that ran through the book made the story so rich and complex.
Although this book is a hefty 338 pages, I finished it in only a couple sittings. After being forced to put it down the first time (you know, sleep, work, life...), I wasn't going to put it down again until I found out who won Annemarie's heart. When the Clouds Roll By is a winner, and I'm excited that there's another two books in the series!
Disclaimer: Sending a big thanks to Myra Johnson, Abingdon Press and NetGalley for sending me an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion. This review is my opinion, and I received no compensation.
No! Stop!!!!!! You really don't want to know how it ends before...well...it ends.
Why do I feel the need to post this warning? Because you will become so emotionally invested in these characters you will be in agony wanting to know how things turn out. You will be squirming in your seat and frothing at the mouth and howling at the moon but you need to reader up and just plow on through. So, no peeking at the last page. Is that clear?
I spent most of the read wanting to smack the author upside the head while screaming "Tell me how it ends already!!!!" That's because Johnson has woven such a compelling and complex story that honestly, I've never been so close to throwing my highly held reader standards out the window and devouring the last page first. LOL. I'm still gutted.
Phew, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I can get on with the review.
Johnson gives a voice to thousands of World War I veterans -- men and women who were grossly misunderstood and under treated. We're just starting to get it now in the 21st century but after World War I -- well, there are parts of this book that are painful to read and parts where you want to lambast the doctors and a certain mother and...I guess y'all are getting the idea that this was an emotional read for me. I don't think my blood pressure is back to normal yet.
I loved Annemarie -- her unwavering faith, her desire to move forward in the midst of intense emotional turmoil, her strength in the face of adversity, the creative spark that brings a whole new dimension to her character. This heroine makes the read a rich and immensely satisfying one.
As to the hero -- that's a more complicated matter that I'll leave up to fellow readers to discover.
And one final warning. You will reach a point of no return and will have to compulsively read until you reach the end so it is best to clear your calendar and send your family on holiday without you so you can enjoy a reading staycation. Would that be a readcation? Whatever you call it, you'll enjoy every minute of it!
Myra Johnson in her new book, "When The Clouds Roll By" Book One in the Till We Meet Again series published by Abingdon Press takes us into the life of Annemarie Kendall.
From the back cover: Sometimes, going home is the worst thing you can do.
World War I has ended, but returning to Hot Springs, Arkansas, means Lt. Gilbert Ballard has to face his fiance, who has no idea how badly he's been wounded. Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary has helped Gilbert confront his postwar anxiety, but both men continue to struggle with the war's aftermath in their lives.
Determined he won't become a burden, Gilbert decides to break his engagement to Annemarie. Samuel does his best to convince Gilbert he's a fool for giving Annemarie up, but he can't deny--at least to himself--his own growing attraction to his best friend's girl.
Caught in the middle and confused, Annemarie searches for the courage that can save them all--the courage for Samuel to reaffirm his faith, for Gilbert to leave the war behind, and for her own journey to become the woman God intended to be.
Stories set during or after World War I are hard to come by and good stories are even scarcer. Ms. Johnson has stepped up to the void and filled it with a winner. The title tells you the story is set after the war when you would think that the storm clouds of the war have passed. Ms. Johnson is writing about the clouds that come after the war when the soldiers came home shell-shocked or having what we call now PTSD or wounded or both and how does everyone deal with those clouds. Gilbert has his issues and really does not know how to cope in his new civilian life, Samuel has his issues and Annemarie is forced to deal with these new components in her life. This story had the potential to become a real downer but Ms. Johnson is a champion and not only kept it from going in that direction but she really kept it interesting and real. Ms. Johnson does an outstanding job of bringing her characters to life and you feel that you know and understand each of them and feel their individual pain. On top of that really want their romance to succeed. What a great way to start a new series. I am already looking forward to the next book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Set directly following World War I, When the Clouds Roll By deals with the scars--physical, emotional, and spiritual--the war left behind. I really appreciated how honestly the problems the soldiers faced upon returning home were portrayed. Gilbert especially had many demons to conquer, and I liked that while he recognized the need to make changes, he still had to deal with the consequences of his choices.
When the Clouds Roll By is a romance, but it's an unpredictable one. The "winner" of Annemarie's affections is not apparent from the first page (in contrast to most romance novels), and I wasn't sure how Johnson would resolve the love triangle until near the end of the book. I definitely enjoyed the unpredictability! I also appreciated that the romance didn't overshadow the rest of the book.
While the book does tend to drag a bit in the middle, overall this is a wonderful story that shows how the wounds of war don't go away when the guns stop firing. I will certainly be coming back for the next book in the series!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advance reading copy of this book for review from Abingdon Press through its early reader program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
But when the war ends and Gilbert returns to Hot Springs with his friend, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickery, Gilbert isn't the man Annemarie once knew. He's suffering shellshock, recovering from losing a leg, and will barely speak to her. Annemarie is left to find out about his progress from Samuel, who is becoming a good friend. But it's not just Gilbert who is carrying scars from the war. Samuel is as well, only his wounds are less obvious.
When the Clouds Roll By is Myra Johnson's first full-length romance novel, and I think she's done a great job. It's not a typical romance with an ending that's obvious from the first page, and I liked that unpredictability. There were times when I got frustrated with Gilbert for doing stupid things, but at the same time I realised that was how he would behave.
It was still definitely a romance, with two strong male leads vying for Annemarie's attention. But it was something more as well, with strong subplots around recovering from shellshock, and the use and abuse of prescription medicines. When the Clouds Roll By is the first book in the Till We Meet Again series, and I'm certainly keen to return to Hot Springs, because there are a few minor characters I'd like to see more of. Recommended.
Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.