The Last Correspondent by Soraya M. Lane

If you follow the blog, then you know I enjoy historical fiction quite a bit. But it can’t be just any historical fiction book, there has to be a hook for me. The Last Correspondent by Soraya M. Lane (Amazon) (AbeBooks) has that hook: as a former journalist, I often read books about fictional journalists to see how accurate or way off base the stories are. This story is set during World War II, when female journalists were few, and certainly even fewer were war correspondents. That’s the hook that got me. That and the book was an Amazon First Reads book, meaning FREE. Even now, the ebook and audio versions are only $1.99 each, and I have to say well worth the money.

“When journalist Ella Franks is unmasked as a woman writing under a male pseudonym, she loses her job. But having risked everything to write, she refuses to be silenced and leaps at the chance to become a correspondent in war-torn France.”

“Already entrenched in the thoroughly male arena of war reporting is feisty American photojournalist Danni Bradford. Together with her best friend and partner, Andy, she is determined to cover the events unfolding in Normandy. And to discover the whereabouts of Andy’s flighty sister, Vogue model Chloe, who has followed a lover into the French Resistance.

When trailblazing efforts turn to tragedy, Danni, Ella and Chloe are drawn together, and soon form a formidable team. Each woman is determined to follow her dreams ‘no matter what’, and to make her voice heard over the noise of war.

Europe is a perilous place, with danger at every turn. They’ll need to rely on each other if they are to get their stories back, and themselves out alive. Will the adventure and love they find be worth the journey of their lives?”

In 1943’s London, Chloe is a model for Vogue. Previously, she had a photo shoot in France and met a photographer named Gabriel and they had a fling. At least Gabriel thinks it’s a fling, but the two continue to write to each other in their absence. Despite the fact that the Germans are occupying France, Chloe decides to visit Gabriel and cleverly disguises herself as a can can girl from the Moulin Rouge to pass by the Germans unnoticed. I thought Chloe’s story was the weakest, as it didn’t show a strong woman at all. Once she meets up with Gabriel, he refuses to let her leave the house and is frequently gone for hours on end and is very secretive. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out he’s working with The Resistance in France.

Across the world in Illinois, Ella Franks has been writing articles using her initials, essentially disguising herself as a man. Soon she’s caught and fired. What she really wants to do is go overseas and be a war correspondent. Through a chance meeting, she gets her wish and is offer a new job in England. When she gets to London, she discovers women journalists are not allowed to be anywhere near the front line and is supposed to cover stories of how women are coping with the war.

In Italy, photojournalist Danni Bradford is working with her best friend Andy, a journalist, and taking photos of the war. The two soon find themselves in England under the care of Major Robert Cameron, who can’t stand the idea of a woman on the front lines and forbids it. But as can be expected in novels like this, there’s a sexual tension going on between Cameron and Danni. Now it’s simply a matter of will they or won’t they.

Both Ella and Danni are barred from going along with the press corps at Normandy, but both women are plucky and resourceful and find a way to get there. Then, they break from camp, steal a jeep and try to find Andy’s sister Chloe, who, it turns out, is pregnant and helping the resistance.

The thing I appreciated the most about The Last Correspondent is that Lane makes the story realistic in the sense that both minor and major people in the story get injured or killed. Too often when there’s a war story, all the principal players are untouched by the ravages of war. I won’t tell you who or when, but several key figures suffer. I thought that was important to the narrative the author chose to tell. However, I did not like the stereotypical Alpha male love interests for the women. You could take those parts out of the book and still have an interesting story about women breaking gender barriers during World War II. Still, all in all I recommend this book to anyone who like World War II historical fiction with a touch of romance.

This is the 28th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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