Updated: Jun 13, 2021
Unsettled Shores (War Across Waters Book #2) by Kelsey Gietl
Publications Date: May 15th, 2021
Publisher: Purple Mask Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Weary from London's air raids and the loss of her father at the Battle of the Somme, Josie Harrington wonders if The Great War will ever end. Determined to bring hope to her country's bleak existence, she joins an underground postal service, delivering soldiers' letters in order to avoid censorship on both sides of the line.
After being driven from their home under false accusations, German-American Amara Kisch has finally found peace with her new husband, Emil. But when she receives a desperate letter from her brother fighting overseas, it turns her quiet life upside down and leaves her with more fears than assurances.
As Amara sets out to learn the truth about her brother, she finds herself drawn into Josie's secret world, discovering that sometimes the most difficult battles are the ones fought within yourself.
From the outskirts of New York to the air-raided streets of London, from the French countryside to its German-occupied villages, Unsettled Shores is a story of love, redemption, and the enduring power of hope.
*I was gifted this book by the author in exchange for an honest review*
I will be totally upfront and say that I have never accepted an unsolicited book for review before but when Kelsey Gietl reached out to me and gave me the premise of the book, I couldn’t say no! Everything about this story called to me; historical fiction, based during The Great War, an underground letter delivery operation, love that spans an ocean, and characters that are deeply realistic? Yes, please!
When I discovered that this was book 2, I immediately ordered book 1 so that I went into it knowing where our characters’ story began. Broken Lines (book 1) was such a fresh-take for a book based in this time in history that I became even more excited to get to Unsettled Shores.
I do want to mention that there are trigger warnings for these books that I highly recommend looking into but I am going to try and reduce chances for spoilers here so I will only elude. That being said, if you’ve read book 1, the same themes are there with the addition of PTSD.
We pick up a few months following the events of Broken Lines with Amara and Emil living in New York in hopes of returning home once the war is over. During this time they are dealing with some animosity towards each other and are continuing to work through what they dealt with in book 1. They are still our main POVs and I love how we get to see their struggles and their growth both separately and together.
The other POVs we get are from Peter and, the newest POV addition, Josie. I really liked Josie’s character and wish that we actually got more of her. She is a classic independent woman of the time and you can’t help but want to know more. The storyline for her and Peter was done in an interesting manner with a mix of flashbacks and present day. I did think that this would seem disjointed but it was able to flow with everything very well. The way that Josie and Peter’s chapters transitioned to and from Amara and Emil’s were smooth and managed to get me even more invested in both. It was a really smart move to intermix the time-lines in this way.
The place that I find these books really shine though is in the characters. Truly, these are some of the most layered and honest characters that I have come across in a while. They are all dealing with some serious trauma and personal trials and it actually affects them as well as those around them. Each have to develop and learn from their past along with how to handle the situations that they are put in (or put themselves in).
I have become so used to being frustrated at characters in books who could resolve so much if only they just TALKED to each other. Those books, however, would be over far too soon because there usually isn’t enough character development and plot to sustain the book if they were to just talk it out.
This, however, is where Gietl shines.
Her characters talk, discuss, argue, disobey, shut out, love, and so much more which furthers the depth of them. Even when they are open with each other, that doesn’t solve everything but it certainly gives the opportunity to flush them out more and lets you see just how human they are.
The whole book I was along for the ride to see what would become of Amara, Emil, Peter, and Josie. While I did not get everything I wish I had out of the Peter/Josie time-line (I understand the difficulty to do so though), and wanted to experience more with the Fides et Spes, I really can’t complain. There was so much going on that deserved to be on page that I couldn’t imagine cutting any of it to make space for what I was somewhat missing.
Unless maybe adding another book haha.
All that being said, the last quarter of this book had me on the edge of my seat. I was so still and holding my breath much of the time while reading those chapters out of fear of what was happening on page. Events could have gone in so many different directions and I had absolutely no idea what the outcome would be. I applaud Gietl for how she wrote these events.
I am so grateful to have learned about these books and will definitely need to pick up more from the author. She really knows how to immerse you in the lives of her characters and sets the stage brilliantly. Just enough detail to ground you but not too much to become overwhelming.