REVIEW: French Letters (Virginia’s War) by Jack Woodville London
Readers: If you are bothered by period nomenclature (Japs, Krauts, wetbacks), I would advise you to read this book with caution.
Dear Mr. London,
I am so glad that someone from Vire Press contacted Dear Author about reading this book. As one of the blurbs printed in the front said, I was hooked from the prologue. This is one version of “the homefront” that I’ve never seen before.
You drop us straight in on the action. Doc Hastings has died and there is a scene at his funeral that somehow dates back to his time of service in France during WWII. But instead of then starting the story with a scene between Will and Virginia, what comes next is something that was probably played out in countless towns across America then: a group of young boys playing at soldier. Until one gets hurt, is taken to the town doctor/quack and overhears doc telling someone that Virginia Sullivan is “knocked up.”
As he ponders what the term means – he’s only 12 – I start to wonder more and more about this town and its people. Who is Virginia? Who knocked her up? Who is the man doc told about her condition? Who are these boys in this small Texas town?
You take us along, leading us down the path of the tale, slowly introducing more and more of the people here and telling us who they are and what they do. As this happens, small town life in rural Texas during the war comes into focus as clear as if I were standing there and watching it all. Some of the townspeople are kind and helpful. Others are mean as snakes, including Virginia’s brother, and others are thick as thieves as they run the black market in town.
It turns out that the man doc told is Poppy Sullivan, Virginia’s father, who then cooks up a scheme – without telling her – to print an announcement of her elopement months before to a young man now in the army as a doctor. Only by book’s end, Will still hasn’t learned he’s married as Virginia’s SOB brother – and the town’s postman, has kept all Will’s letters from his sister. It’s not all Bart does but like the other do-wrongers in town, comeuppance is just around the corner and you deliver it sweetly and neatly.
However, the book ends with several unresolved issues – not unexpected since this is the first in a trilogy – including the continuing saga of another young soldier and the woman who’d spurned him for years. Well, suffice it to say the small town gossips are setting the grapevine on fire wondering where they were all night. And where’s Poppy and corrupt Sheriff Hoskins? And the town quack? And…and…I’m salivating to find out “what happens next.” B+
This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook format.
This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. The Amazon Affiliate link earns us a 6-7% affiliate fee if you purchase a book through the link (or anything for that matter).
I guess my mind’s in the gutter, but my first thought upon reading the title was *not* WWII…
The HTML of this review ended up badly borked on LJ’s feed. As in “rendering the review illegible.” I don’t know if it’s possible for this to be fixed, but I hope that it is.
There’s a digital copy at the website for $8.99. I bought it. It’s in .pdf which absolutely sucks but hey, you’re my reading twin. Thanks for the review.
@Keishon I didn’t realize that. I figured if it wasn’t in Kindle, it didn’t exist in digital format.
As a ebook reader you go looking ANYWAY. I’ve seen several ebooks not in Kindle format and available everywhere else. Go figure.
I mean me go looking. I always look for a digital copy.
@GrowlyCub: HA! Mine too. I’m not sure if this is deliberate as Will is in France with the D-Day invasion and is writing to Virginia from there. Of course maybe I’ll find out more in the following books.
@Keishon: Yech. Paying that kind of money for Adode – which I loathe. Thanks twin, for your confidence in me!
I’m hazarding a guess that Mr. London has never read a romance novel so he wouldn’t know what French Letters are… he he… :)
@GrowlyCub: Well, since the term seems to date back to WWII, I bet he does.
@Jayne: More like 17th century… :) Although Merriam Webster claims 1856… go figure.
Is Will Doc Hastings?
@GrowlyCub: I would have thought earlier than 1856 too but what I meant to say is that the term was also used in WWII to refer to condoms.
@Kaetrin: Yes. Sorry, should have been more clear on that. The book starts in the present when he’s retired from being the town doctor, which he became after the war. Then the narrative goes back to the war days when he’s fresh out of med school and just been shipped out to Europe.
I just glanced at your review yesterday because I’m not likely to look at anything that involves WWII– entirely too much popular fiction/television/movies/history classes was about WWII when I was growing up. However, this morning the title of the book hit home and was worth a laugh.
It turns out that the man doc told is Poppy Sullivan, Virginia's father, who then cooks up a scheme – without telling her – to print an announcement of her elopement months before to a young man now in the army as a doctor. Only by book's end, Will still hasn't learned he's married as Virginia's SOB brother – and the town's postman, has kept all Will's letters from his sister.
HUH? How does’s Virginia’s father making a FALSE statement in a newspaper ad make Virginia and Will (legally) married????
This review is/was tres confusing
@Kelly C.: Well, that’s exactly it. It’s not legal but her father has enough clout that everyone will believe that the marriage already took place. Even though it didn’t. And Virginia knows it and complains but her father has to see to his standing in the community. So…this is an issue, along with several others, that will need to be dealt with in the coming books.
I thought Doc Hastings had died at the beginning of the book? Is Will a different Dr Hastings? I’m confused.
I’m sorry if I’m being dense, but is this book a romance, or is it more just general/historical fiction with romantic elements? I take it the main characters are Virginia and Will? (If Will dies at the beginning, I’m probably not interested in reading it though…).
I know this is a totally sexist question, but I’m going to ask anyway, as I admit I have a prejudice (probably totally unjustified) about male writers and the romance genre. How did you find the book, being written by a man. Did you find it as romantic? Or, to put it another way, did a male write provide what a woman wants in a romance? (that is, if it is a romance).
Okay, let me see if I can clear up things. In the prologue of the book, which is set NOW, Doc Hastings (Will) has died after, presumablely, a long and happy life. He was a surgeon during WWII and after the war, came home and became the town doctor.
When chapter 1 starts, it’s back during the war years (early 1944). He and Virginia apparently did the deed before he shipped off and Virginia is preggers. Her influential father – who owns the town newspaper – decides to print an announcement of their secret marriage which he says took place last fall. Few in town believe this but no one comes right out and denounces Virginia or her father for doing this as the father basically runs the black market in town and can make life easy or difficult for you.
I would say this is historical fiction with romantic elements. Since poor Will is never present during the entire book, there really isn’t any romance to speak of in this book. But there are 2 more books in the series and I would assume that eventually he’s going to get home and be faced with all the stuff that was done in his absence. There is a subplot about another soldier who’s loved another woman in town from afar for years. She initially still spurns him when he comes home on leave (there’s a reason he comes home on leave but I won’t go into that) but in one of the last scenes in this story, she appears to be facing a change of heart about him.
So…if you’re looking for a traditional romance novel, this is not one. I did put in the tags for the review that it’s historical fiction.
thanks for clarifying Jane. I think I’ll pass on this one.
Dear Jayne: Thank you for your review of French Letters: Virginia's War.
Dear Responses: Thank you for your comments.
Virginia's War is a romance novel written in a historical fiction background. To say it is a World War II novel is somewhat like suggesting that Romeo and Juliet is a play about Italy. French Letters is the novel of Will and Virginia, a couple separated by circumstance, World War II. They do not and cannot know what is happening in each other's lives for an extended period, during which each of them is confronted by decisions that people in love often wish did not present themselves. There is no more lonely feeling in the world than to love someone, to be alone in war, and to think you have been abandoned. Their choices will have consequences on each other and, perhaps, for some children and the future.
May I suggest that a question is not whether I know the colloquial meaning of french letters but whether any of the responders pondered over the meaning of ‘Virginia'? French Letters is, of course, a play on the phrase. It could refer to the colloquial term for rubber contraceptives, a euphemism at that time both for being sexually fast and loose because tomorrow you may die, and for birth control. It could refer to letters from abroad from someone who sends promises but doesn't deliver or, worse, letters that don't arrive at all. ‘Virginia,' on the other hand, was chosen because of the adaptation in Elizabethan England of the Latin word for their beloved unmarried queen, virginia, or ‘virgin for short but not for long.' That might have something to do with Virginia Sullivan. It might have something to do with Will. Time will tell.
Finally, Growly Cub, may I suggest that you read the sequel before deciding whether I have read any romance novels. The working title is ‘Engaged in War.' It is more of a ‘parallel-quel' than a sequel, following the events surrounding Will Hastings, in France, at roughly the same time that Virginia's War follows events in Virginia Sullivan's life at home.
To correct one minor point: French Letters: Virginia's War is available on Kindle from Amazon, as well as PDF from the publisher and in the print edition.
Jack Woodville London
Thanks for stopping by and giving more insight into the title and what’s to come.
I finished this book last night and started looking around to try to find anything about the next book and came across this site.
I really, really, really want to read the next book. Like…NOW! I hope it comes out soon.
I am so glad you enjoyed it, Cindy.
Book Two: tentatively titled, ‘Engaged in War’, is scheduled for release this spring.
I am meeting with my editor today. Here’s to hoping we can stick with the proposed release date.
Please read my comment above for further information regarding ‘Engaged in War’.
Whoo-hoo! I’ll be looking forward to it. Thanks for the news, Jack.