News and Reviews

August Newsletter – Prepping for PennedCon and A Man Called Smith

Fear and Love are so similar. We can do some indescribably regrettable things due to either.

~ From Twisted River (Hope or High Water Book 2)

IMG_0974It feels like this summer flew by, doesn’t it? Much of my time this month has been spent getting back into the swing of regular school days and the excitement of matron of honor duties for my friend’s upcoming wedding. For part of her bachelorette party, we painted wooden signs, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Latest News

The writing life is … well, the writing life. Exciting and frustrating in all the best ways.

You know that feeling when you have a solution to a problem, but for the life of you can’t get your brain to tell you what it is? That’s been me this month working on the final climactic outline for Broken Lines. I have about four different ways that the novel might go and none of my characters are telling me which one to use. Instead, an unrelated character shuffled in and suggested quite calmly, “Maybe you could let me speak once in awhile. Just a thought.” As a result, four new chapters were added and I discovered some brilliant research that will be perfect for Book #4. I still don’t have the initial problem resolved, but my character’s suggestion gave the story the unexpected boost it needed. Hopefully by next month’s newsletter, my other outlining questions will all be answered.

When not reprimanding my characters, I’ve been preparing for the upcoming book conference, PennedCon, on September 12-14, 2019 at the Red Lion Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. I will be signing books with all those authors listed below, so if you’re looking for a lot of reading material in one place, grab a ticket and come join us! I designed some fun new free swag items, so swing by my table in the Colannade Ballroom to pick up a couple and say hi. If you haven’t read my books yet, grab them at a two-book paperback bundle discount, and ebook readers, I also have signed swag just for you.


Last but not least, interested in attending for FREE? I have two more tickets that I’m looking to give away which include entry on Friday and Saturday plus the Red Coat PR party on Friday night. First person to comment or send me a note via the contact page wins!

Recommended Reads

Man Called SmithA Man Called Smith by Tanya E. Williams was my most anticipated read of the summer and left me with so many mixed emotions. The story begins with the aftermath of John Smith losing his beloved first wife, Violet, and quickly escalates through his time married to the heinous and conniving Bernice. Due to horrors witnessed in World War II, he has become a man bent on avoiding personal conflict, most often at the cost of his children’s happiness. As a result, his sixteen-year-old daughter, Calla, spends life planning for the day when she can escape and build a better life. But when that day finally arrives, it results in a question with no perfect answers and no turning back.

I can almost guarantee that at some point this book will leave you in an emotional puddle on the floor. At least it did to me. Throughout the story, you’re rooting for John, praying that he’ll pull his life together and save what’s left of their family. You’re rooting for Calla that she’ll finally find the love she’s always longed for and a place to call home. You’re rooting for the belief that, no matter how far gone life seems, we all have an opportunity to rise from the ashes. It is an experience as hopeful as it is heartbreaking, right up until the novel’s moving final chapters. Definitely Ms. Williams best work yet.

Although this novel is the third in a trilogy, it can be enjoyed as a standalone. If you haven’t yet, I would recommend reading the first two books as it will give you a full perspective on the Smith family and the choices they make. My reviews on the first two novels can be found here: Becoming Mrs. Smith and Stealing Mr. Smith.

For more information visit:

Upcoming Events

Do you know of an organization, book club, fair, coffee shop, book store, etc. that would be interested in hosting an author talk, book signing, or needs an event speaker? I’m working on my schedule for the upcoming year and would love to meet some new faces! If so, send me a note via the contact page.

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Read it? Loved it? Tell others by writing a review!

Need a copy of either book in the Hope or High Water series? Click the photo below.Website Books

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PennedCon Marketing Materials Copyright © Red Coat PR. Used with permission.

July Newsletter – Soulard, The Golden Hour, and a Giveaway

“What are you afraid of?” he asked.

That was a seriously loaded question—as in a loaded revolver ready to blow her life away. This was no game of Russian Roulette. All the chambers of this gun were equally deadly. If she pulled the trigger, there was no going back.

~ From Across Oceans (Hope or High Water Book 1)

Happy belated Independence Day to my American readers and Canada Day to my Canadian readers!

Thank you all for your feedback on the back cover blurb for Broken Lines. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with several instances of, “Where is it? I need to read it now!” Such enthusiasm is exactly why writers write and I am writing as fast as I can. If you missed last month’s blurb reveal, you can read it here.

Latest News

This month, in addition to writing, I attended a two-hour walking tour of the historic Soulard neighborhood with the Facebook group, St. Louis History and Architecture. Soulard neighbors Benton Park, the area where the Kisch family lives in my novels, Twisted River and Broken Lines. While middle class and working folks like the Kischs typically resided in Benton Park, Soulard was home to the wealthy, including several of St. Louis’s famous beer barons. Over the course of the tour, we saw architecture dating back as far as 1830 in a multitude of styles, but there was one particular house that really caught my eye.

A home worthy of a novel (maybe someday), this mansion was constructed in 1875 by Dr. Franz Arzt, an immigrant from Austro-Hungary. A bit of a Renaissance Man, his interests and talents were far reaching, from architecture to botany to the study of languages, of which he knew five. His house had a system of radiator heating and air conditioning, an indoor toilet, and a greenhouse to grow citrus fruits year round, at a time when such inventions were simply not available. In addition, he crafted his own personal “cave” underneath his home, importing stalactites and stalagmites to mimic the natural cave system underneath St. Louis. During the 1940’s, the home was turned into individual family apartments, but is currently undergoing renovation to be restored to its original construction. For more information on the renovation with original photographs, visit STL Magazine.

Recommended Reads


Beatriz Williams’ new novel, The Golden Hour, released on July 9, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Especially when I learned that the author herself would be speaking at the St. Louis County Library. So, like a good reader, I showed up with my books in tow and heard some juicy tidbits about the factual and fictional mystery, murder, and romance within the novel.

The Golden Hour is a dual timeline novel switching between Elfriede’s story in 1900 and Lulu’s story in 1941. The story follows these two women around the globe from peaceful Swiss mountains to stunning German castles to Nassau’s gorgeous beaches and all the way to the edges of America as they navigate the experiences of World War I, World War II, and the hidden wars within their lives. To use the book’s own tagline, “Sooner or later the war will find you.” Every page holds a difficult decision, ones that change themselves or the ones they love, and sometimes even the potential to affect the greater humanity. There’s no hiding from it, and when they do set off on a path, it doesn’t necessarily take the direction you might expect. It was interesting to see real life events intricately molded with the fictional stories of these women, in particular the still-unsolved murder of Sir Harry Oakes and the governorship of the Duke and Duchess of IMG_0767Windsor, a couple who according to the novel, often seemed more interested in parties and appearances than the problems of their people.

Lastly, if you’ve read Along the Infinite Sea, you’ll enjoy seeing a familiar character make a reappearance, but nothing is spoiled by reading The Golden Hour first. Even though I knew where that part of the story was headed, Ms. Williams shares an entirely new world of detail with the reader, making it easy to forget where the story will end up. This is the fourth novel I’ve read by Ms. Williams and I can still recommend every single one.

For more information, visit:

Upcoming Event and a Giveaway!

42592060_10155819110990835_9216321882398130176_oThis fall I will be attending PennedCon, a three-day writers and readers conference and two-day book signing that takes place September 12-14, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. This conference helped me navigate the beginnings of wide world of publishing and introduced me to many new authors, several of whom I’ve had the chance to connect with personally. This will be my fourth year attending, but the first as part of the signing room, and I’d like to offer you and a friend the chance to attend for FREE.

These 2-Day tickets allow access to the 1980’s themed conference including Friday and Saturday book signing with over 150 authors, panels, keynote speakers, and the Friday night Red Coat PR dance party. It does not include the Saturday night awards party or free books.

For a chance to win, simply reply to this post with a comment/gif of what you loved about the 1980’s. Winners will be chosen at random and announced Sunday, July 28.

Share the Book Love

Read it? Loved it? Tell others by writing a review!

Need a copy of either book in the Hope or High Water series? Click the photo below.

Website Books

The best way to receive this newsletter is through e-mail. If you were directed to this site via social media or a search engine, you can subscribe to updates by entering your e-mail in the box at the bottom of this website. E-mail addresses are never sold or distributed. You may unsubscribe at any time.


June Newsletter – Back From the Beach

“I need someone who wants to live. The good, the bad, and the really really horrible days. The ones so trying they feel like an ocean we can never cross. And in the midst of it all, she smiles because she believes I’m worth it.”

He raised his gaze back to hers. “You were worth it to me.”

~ From Across Oceans (Hope or High Water Book 1)

Welcome readers! I’m thrilled to introduce you to the first issue of my new monthly newsletter. This is where I’ll provide updates related to all things in my world from progress on my latest novel to my recommended reads and upcoming events. I want you to be as excited to receive this newsletter as I am to send it, so feel free to send your comments and suggestions my way!

Latest News

The past few months have been busy, busy, busy, and the next several are proving to keep me equally engaged. Summer in St. Louis is always a hot, humid, allergy filled place, but it also means family fun, camp for the kids, and vacation. Two weeks ago, we took a road trip down to Gulf Shores with my husband’s family for some time on Alabama’s beautiful beaches. We also saw history happen when the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever and watched the Blue Angels perform at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. If you’ve never had a chance to see these amazing pilots fly, you should make time to do so. It’s absolutely incredible.

The view from our bedroom window

I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to complete some in-person book research as the Naval Aviation museum contained an entire section dedicated to World War I. Ah the joy and curse of a writer—we’re always writing even when we’re not.

WW1 Field Hospital Vehicle

While I did take a break from actually putting pen to paper during vacation, I worked tirelessly during the months prior to get as much completed on Broken Lines as I could. I’m about halfway through the first draft of the third novel in my Hope or High Water series and determined to finish before the summer is through. Broken Lines gives two side characters from Across Oceans and Twisted River their own story set amidst the months of fear and indecision leading up to America’s entrance into World War I. It has certainly required a different mindset to bring life to this novel, but I’m enjoying every minute of the creativity and especially the research.

So without further ado, here is the back cover blurb for Broken Lines:

With the threat of the Great War looming at America’s doorstep, fear of immigrant disloyalty has become enough to divide the nation. So when German-born Amara Müller’s brother decides to join the fight, he leaves her behind in St. Louis with one final directive: Stay safe. There’s only one certain way to keep herself out of suspicion’s spotlight, but will she have the courage to see it through?

Accustomed to a strict diet of cigars and spirits, Emil Kisch has become the master of a worry-free good time. And as one of St. Louis’s best morality squad detectives, he’s able to skirt the drinking laws as easily as he arrests others for breaking them. To him, war is a problem for other men. Until one night he makes a mistake that even a glass of whiskey can’t wash away. Is it too late to reverse the course set in motion?

As their lives are intertwined with the fate of the war, Emil and Amara must fight to save what they both hold most dear. But which side of the line do you stand on when your allegiance belongs to both?

So, what do you think? Love the synopsis? Think it could be better? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Recommended Reads

While in Gulf Shores this month, I read Kate Breslin’s most recent novel, Far Side of the Sea, the third in her series of WW1 spy novels. I read the first two earlier this year (Not by Sight and High as the Heavens), but was waiting for the third to be released so I could review them all together.

First of all, the covers are simply lovely and give a good idea of what to expect from these novels. All three stories keep fairly light as they have a strong romantic lean (but are non-explicit), making them good summer reads, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have plenty of moments of intrigue. Kate does a great job with her research, providing so many little details as to make us feel like we’re really part of the war scene. She also includes many lesser known elements of The Great War such as the Women’s Forage Corps in Not by Sight, German-occupied Brussels in High as the Heavens, and the French/English government’s use of carrier pigeons in Far Side of the Sea.

High as the Heavens was probably my favorite of these three as I love seeing a story about a troubled/estranged marriage finding redemption. There are so many novels about how to fall in love, but so very few about how to stay that way, so I really enjoy it when I come across one done well. Not by Sight also had a unique viewpoint in that the main hero, Jack, is struck blind during a mission and as such, it results in a growing romance based entirely on personality rather than physical attraction.

These three novels do not need to be read in any particular order; however, characters from Not By Sight are mentioned in Far Side of the Sea, which leads to some spoilers if you haven’t read the first book.

For more information on Kate Breslin’s novels, visit:

Recent Events

In April, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Junior League of St. Louis. It was a chilly rainy day, but I still had a fantastic time discussing my books with such a fun group of women. Another huge thank you to them for inviting me!


Share the Book Love

Read it? Loved it? Tell others by writing a review!

Need a copy of either book in the Hope or High Water series? Click the photo below.

Website Books

The best way to receive this newsletter is through e-mail. If you were directed to this site via social media or a search engine, you can subscribe to updates by entering your e-mail in the box at the bottom of this website. E-mail addresses are never sold or distributed. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Text and Photographs Copyright © Kelsey Gietl 2019

Friday Fic Pick: The Alice Network

Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Historical Fiction – 1917 (World War I) and 1947 (Post-World War II) England and France

From the Author: In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

My Take: The Alice Network is in one word, phenomenal. At times it is also dark and gritty and emotionally draining. That is the nature of war. But above all it is about conquering the darkness both outside and inside of ourselves, about friendship and family, love and life—about what is worth fighting for. From the minute I picked this book up until the last of its nearly 500 pages, I was blown away.

Charlie and Eve are two quite different women; however, their differences become two sides of the same coin. Both are on similar quests to find answers to the lives they left behind. Except Charlie still believes that there is hope for the future while Eve does not. These two women’s stories flow in and out of one another, switching between 1917 and 1947 until they finally merge and continue to the story’s final climactic moment. Often in dual-timeline novels, one time period is more captivating than the other, but I didn’t feel that with The Alice Network. Both stories held my attention equally. Even the secondary characters drew me in.

As discussed in the author’s note, the amount of research put into accurate depiction of these women’s lives is astounding. I especially enjoyed how Kate Quinn brought together experiences from both world wars. Most novels that I have read fail to mention that WWI ended only twenty years before WWII began, which isn’t much time for personal or economic recovery. Kate Quinn does not shy away from this aspect, acknowledging in detail the ramifications of WWI on her characters’ decisions within and after WWII. She brings forth raw emotions and lays them bare for us to see, creating characters that are both strong and vulnerable and very much humans we can relate to. Simply put, this novel is a beautiful example of what all historical fiction should be. Kate Quinn’s writing is completely spectacular.

Kate Quinn also recently released The Huntress, about WWII Nazi Hunters. More information on her novels can be found here:

Content Advisory: Due to the thematic nature of this novel, the story did contain a higher level of mature content than I typically include in books reviewed on this site. Please be advised that there are scenes containing graphic elements related to war, scenes of sexuality (although not explicit enough for me to consider erotica) and some instances of strong profanity. That being said, I found these elements to be, for the most part, used appropriately within the context of the story, and often I felt the gritty nature actually added to its authenticity.


Friday Fic Picks: Best Historical Fiction of 2018

Welcome to a special new year’s edition of Friday Fic Picks! It seems like everyone is posting their favorites lists: favorite movies, music, television shows, celebrities,  hairstyles … you name it, there’s probably a list for it. Books are no exception. My writing communities have been posting their top ten, so I figured I should probably jump on the bandwagon before it drove off and left me.

So, here are my top 10 historical fiction reads from 2018, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name because I used to be a librarian, and I also don’t want to pick favorites out of my favorites. They’re all worth reading! Click on each title for my full review and please note that not all of these were published this past year.

After you’ve looked over my Top 10, let me know yours. Maybe I’ll add them to my reading challenge for this coming year.

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren


Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke


The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck


The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck


The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series by Julie Lessman

Technically this is 7 books and 2 novellas (with a third recently released), but I read them all at once so they’re being counted as one.

Julie Lessman

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard


The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy


The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White


Stealing Mr. Smith by Tanya E. Williams


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate







Book Launch this Weekend!

Twisted River Cover Final - hiresWell, readers, it’s almost here. Only one day until the official launch of my second book, Twisted River. I loved crafting the second half of the Across Oceans story and am truly thrilled and honored to be able to share it with you. While it holds the same charm as Across Oceans, in many ways I believe you’ll love this one even more. My favorite part of researching this story was that it takes place in my own hometown of St. Louis allowing me to insert many familiar locations and historically accurate details throughout. There are also a number of new characters including a snarky newspaper reporter who barged his way into my book without asking and a brother/sister photography duo who will take you to where I hope are unexpected places. And of course all your favorites are back from Book 1 … but I’m not mentioning their names just in case you haven’t read Across Oceans. No spoilers here.

To celebrate the launch, I am hosting a Very Merry Christmas book signing tomorrow, December 15, at Half Price Books in St. Charles, Missouri from Noon until 3 p.m. A few fantastic reasons to swing by the sale:


  1. Just to chat. I love my books and I love my readers. Put them together and I could talk all day. So stop by to say hi and ask anything about … well, anything.
  2. Pick up a book. Across Oceans and Twisted River will both be available for purchase and signing for $12 each or snag both books for $20 (nearly $8 off online prices). There are also limited copies of the old cover edition of Across Oceans available for $10. They make great Christmas gifts!
  3. Bring a book. Already purchased a copy of either of my books online? I’m still happy to sign them.
  4. Win four books. At the end of the event, I’m raffling off four wonderful historical fiction novels: The Forgotten Room, Becoming Mrs. Smith, Salt to the Sea, and The Book of Speculation. There’s three ways to win: show up, buy one of my books, and/or subscribe for updates. Complete all three – that’s three entries. (Sorry, in-person entries only.)

So there you have it, folks. I hope to see you at the sale! Now, off to continue work on Broken Lines. An early hint at things to come in book 3: What is the cost of loyalty in the midst of war? How do you define enemy when the enemy is you? The lines may not be so clear anymore.

Copyright 2018 Kelsey Gietl

Friday Non-Fic Pick: Dead Wake

91JMtxRBVTLLast week in my review of The Glass Ocean, I mentioned also reading Dead Wake, but then realized that I never shared a review outside the world of Goodreads. So without further ado, here is this Friday’s recommended non-fiction read.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Historical Non-Fiction (World War I)

From the Author: On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship – the fastest then in service – could outrun any threat. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small – hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history. 

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

My Take: It is my opinion that few authors are able to write truly spectacular nonfiction. It is a challenging goal to lay down a set of (mostly) unbiased facts within an intriguing story. Harder still is the ability to form those facts as a fictional writer would in order to leave the reader feeling a personal attachment with the characters. It is difficult, but Erik Larson has accomplished it.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is much more than an account of one ship’s sinking in May of 1915. It encompasses the world before, during, and after the ship, creating an intricate tale of political plots, military tactics, and ordinary lives come to life on paper. A multitude of subplots are represented from every viewpoint including: Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger of Unterseeboot (U-boat) 20, Britain’s top secret Room 40, officials of the Cunard Line, American President Woodrow Wilson, and multitudes of the Lusitania’s passengers. The detail is absolutely astounding. Drawing from a number of sources including letters, diaries, news articles, transcripts, and autopsy reports, the author immerses the reader in an incredible retelling of the World War I era. Descriptions of nautical engineering, intimate romances and family relationships, political subplots and outrageous warfare. What they ate, what they wore, who was doing what when – who lived, who died, and how – it’s all included. This was, far and away, one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Recommendations of the highest regard!

For more information visit:

Review text copyright 2017 Kelsey Gietl