Book Review:  I Like Supporting Local Authors, And Here Are Three

I live in San Diego County, and when I hear about a book author who also lives in San Diego County, it makes me a little extra-curious about the author and their book.

“They live here,” I’ll think, “and they wrote this here.  Cool!”

The book may be set in San Diego or not, but either way, I have an added incentive to look into it.

My reactions to books are many and varied, and here are three:

Reaction #1:  I was entertained.
Reaction #2:  I learned something new.
Reaction #3:  I learned something new and was prompted to do my own research and learn more.

Here is one of each, from three San Diego authors:

Publication date:  October 2022

Category:  World War II Historical Fiction, Women’s Literature and Fiction.

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

Jennifer Coburn’s Cradles of the Reich is my Reaction #3 novel:  I learned something new that prompted me to do my own research and learn more.

Going in, I knew reading a book with “Reich” in the title – referring to the Nazi regime in Germany and its role in World War II – wasn’t going to be a fun day at the beach. 

How could anything that’s Reich-related be anything but grim?

Cradles is set in Germany and begins in 1939.  The lead characters are Gundi, 20; Hilde, 18; and Irma, 44.  The three women don’t encounter each other until they separately arrive at Heim Hochland, a Nazi breeding home in Bavaria.

Lebensborn children, Poland.

Yes – a Nazi breeding home.  This was Heinrich Himmler’s Lebensborn program, where young, pregnant, mostly single women could give birth in comfort and secret, then give their child to the Nazi’s who would take charge of its education and adoption.  Himmler’s goal was to ramp up the birth rate of racially “pure” Germanic babies, to create a “super-race” of Lebensborn children who would grow up and become the next leaders of Hitler’s “thousand-year Reich.”

But the quantity of babies didn’t meet Himmler’s expectations, so in 1942 German soldiers were encouraged to fraternize with women in the countries the Nazis were conquering.  When those women became pregnant, if they were deemed “racially fit,” they were invited to give birth – and give up their babies – at Lebensborn homes.

According to this article in the Jewish Virtual Library:

“Ultimately there were 10 Lebensborn homes established in Germany, nine in Norway, two in Austria, and one each in Belgium, Holland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark.”

Author Coburn’s Gundi and Hilde characters are the pregnant women, and Irma works as a nurse at Heim Hochland.  Their lives intersect and then separate, with uncertain futures for all three.

Cradles of the Reich gave me an introduction to what the Jewish Virtual Library called “one of the most secret and terrifying Nazi projects.”

There’s so much to learn about the Lebensborn program, and now – because I read Cradles of the Reich – I’m learning it.


Publication date:  May 2022

Category:  Biographical Historical Fiction, 20th-Century Historical Romance.

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

The Blue Butterfly by Leslie Johansen Nack is my Reaction #2 novel:  I learned something new.

Yes, something new, from a story that’s as old as the human race:  a single woman’s affair with a married man.

The “new” part was that the woman and man were real people, really high profile, and – according to author Nack – really in love.

She was Marion Davies (1897-1961), a Broadway performer who would become a hugely popular silent film actress.  He was William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), a powerful newspaper publisher and one of the richest men in America.

Hearst and Davies (center) with guests at San Simeon (Hearst Castle).

I knew about their relationship, but I thought Butterfly – as a novel – might give me some insights into Davies’ character that you may not get with biographies.  When Davies met Hearst in 1916 she was 19; he was 34 years older, and married with five children. 

Was she attracted to Hearst?  Attracted to his wealth and power?  Was she in love with him…or his money…or perhaps both?

And what motivated Davies to continue the “living-in-sin” relationship for 34 years, until Hearst’s death, when she might have married another man, might have had children…

According to author Nack, Davis and Hearst were deeply in love.

Simple as that.

In May 2022 this website…

…published an article by Nack, in which she unequivocally stated,

“…Hearst loved Marion and was devoted to her…She loved him deeply.”

And at the end of Butterfly, as Hearst lay dying and Davies is at his side, the thoughts Nack wrote for Davies leave no doubt that Nack believed Davies and Hearst were deeply in love:

“He was a towering figure, possessing the heart of a kitten around me – a warm and soft heart filled with love, kindness and generosity.  He was my lover, my benefactor, my best friend.  I couldn’t manage a deep breath without a pain in my chest at the thought of facing a day without him…

“William Randolph Hearst made me feel loved, valued, and worth something in this life.  You can’t put a price on that.”


Published:  July 2022

Category:  Feel-Good Fiction, Contemporary Women Fiction, Romantic Comedy.

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version: 

I find the above book categories on Amazon and though I’ve seen many, I’d never seen the category “Feel-Good Fiction.”

I’d agree with that assessment of Holly James’ Nothing But the Truth, which is my “Reaction #1:  I was entertained” novel.

I had that feel-good feeling every time James’ lead character, Lucy Green, speaks the truth.  And she can’t help but speak the truth, because – for mysterious reasons – Lucy wakes up on her 30th birthday and realizes that she can’t lie.

She can’t lie to her clients, to her (loser) boyfriend, to her (sexually harassing) boss, and most importantly – she can’t lie to herself.

I read about Truth in this article…

…and in it, James shared her story about the book, which she began writing during the pandemic:

“‘I had been working at home for five months, and I remember distinctly lying in bed thinking how much time I was saving by not doing my hair and my makeup and wondering what to wear.  And it struck me that it was really nice,’ said James, who is the head of scientific research for a local tech company.

“‘I started thinking how a story could be framed around that.  What would happen if a woman decided to stop going along with these expectations?  That was floating around in my head for a few weeks.  One day, my husband was watching [the movie] Liar Liar and I thought, What if a woman spent an entire day not being able to lie about anything?’”

James’ book, says the article, …

“…is a life-changing, nail-biting ride, as heroine Lucy Green finds personal and professional fulfillment by liberating herself from spin class, diets, catcalls from doofus men, and petty workplace dramas that are all drain and no gain.”

Lucy turns her life upside down and inside out – in one day – and it’s unbelievable fun.

And I mean “unbelievable” literally – nobody could make all these life changes in a day.

And I’m OK with that.

I don’t read fiction to read about real life. 

I get plenty of that on a daily basis online, on TV, in my newspaper, in my face.

If you spend Lucy’s 30th birthday with her I think you’ll enjoy (and perhaps reflect upon) what she – and author James – have to say about…

“…being a woman in a male-dominated world and the satisfaction that comes from making yourself seen, heard and respected, despite the odds.”


So those area my three San Diego authors.

And it turns out my three “reactions” aren’t as clearly delineated as I’d thought.

I was entertained by Nothing But the Truth, but also learned from it.

I learned from The Blue Butterfly but also enjoyed the love story.

And as for Cradles of the Reich, I did learn from it, and I’m learning more from my own research.  And while I didn’t “enjoy it,” I can say reading it…

Reading all three books…


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