Posts tagged with: World War I

The Last of His Kind

I’ve always been fascinated by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French nobleman who came to what were then colonies in rebellion in 1777.  He was just 20 years old and had defied his king’s wishes in coming.

Lafayette was not the only European nobleman to take an interest in the American rebellion. So many had come to offer their help that the Continental Congress initially turned down Lafayette’s offer, having wearied of ambitious foreigners looking for glory.  The young marquis persisted, though, and was eventually made a major general.  He became one of George Washington’s closest confidantes.

He was not the only foreign nobleman to find a place in the American forces.  Lafayette was the youngest, though, and that made him, to my adolescent mind when I first read about him, the most dashing. He survived the war and returned to France, initially supporting the French Revolution but later turning against its violence.  He lost most of his fortune and many of his relatives and was imprisoned for several years in Austria.

SavGa_R-O-ThosHouseIn 1824-25, at the invitation of President James Monroe, he made a final visit to the nation he had helped launch. The itinerary for this visit took him to Savannah, Georgia, where he stayed at the Richardson-Owens-Thomas House, which was then a boarding house.  It’s a beautiful house, designed in the English Regency style.  The dh and I toured it on a recent visit to Savannah.

Visiting the house spurred me to do a bit of research–in part because I wanted to be sure, with our limited time, that we were planning to tour the correct house. I learned that Lafayette’s visit to the city included laying the cornerstones for monuments to General Nathaniel Greene and General Casimir Pulaski.

SavGa_GreeneMonument_apr14These men are historical figures to me, but I don’t have any idea what kind of men they were–what they liked to do when they weren’t plotting campaigns, whether they liked music or art, or what their relationships with their families were.  Lafayette, though, would’ve known all those things.  Their names as well as those of George Washington, Baron von Steuben, and others would’ve evoked not only military deeds but personal details.  Memories there was no longer anyone to share.

The Mount Vernon website says that Lafayette visited Washington’s grave on that last trip, returning to his carriage with tears in his eyes.  In Camden, South Carolina, the marquis laid yet another cornerstone, this one to commemorate de Kalb, who had served with him but was killed at Camden. Once again, he must’ve been reminded of days gone by.

LafayetteBalconyLafayette is said to have spoken to the citizens of Savannah from this balcony.  It opens off of a large, beautiful bedroom, the master bedroom during the time the Owens and Thomas families occupied the house.  It must’ve been an elegant room in 1825, too, or the city officials surely would not have housed their distinguished guest there.

Looking around that room and, later, looking at the balcony, I wondered what the 68-year-old nobleman was thinking and feeling.  Was he proud of the nation he helped make possible, or was he disappointed?  Was he lonely for the men who had ridden at his side when he’d last visited this continent?  Was he saying farewell to them as well as to their great joint achievement?

I’ve always thought being the last anything must be difficult.  My uncle was the second eldest of his generation but the last to pass on.  He had no one left who remembered his childhood or knew what his parents were like when they were young.

Telling someone about something isn’t the same as dropping back into a joint memory.  Lafayette’s son, who was named after George Washington, accompanied him on this trip, and the marquis had other friends in his party.  There doesn’t seem to have been anyone, though, who could nudge him and say “Do you remember when…?”

The evening after the dh and I took our tour, I took this picture of the sunset from the balcony of our hotel room.  And I wondered whether Lafayette and his comrades would ever, in their wildest imaginings, have visualized the Port of Savannah looking like this.  What would they think if they saw it now?

SavGa_SunsetSep14

 

According to the History Channel website, there is American soil in Lafayette’s grave in Paris at his request.  The website also says that American troops who had recently arrived in France during World War I marched through the city to the grave on July 4, 1917.  There, one of the American officers announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”

Before the United States entered that war, a group of American pilots volunteered to fight in France.  They became known as The Lafayette Escadrille.  So maybe I’m not the only American who has a soft spot for this particular Frenchman.

Was there a character in a book or movie you liked who was the last of his or her kind?  If so tell us about it.  Do you know someone who was?  

If you’re interested in Revolutionary War America, what draws you to the subject?

 

The 2014 Summer Reading List

Did you participate in a summer reading program as a kid?  I did.  Our local library passed out green, lined cards.  We wrote down the books we read and turned full cards in for new ones.  Whoever read the most books got a certificate.  I never did, believe it or not.  There were people who read even more, and faster, than I did.

PecanTreeAs summer approaches, I always remember those reading cards and think of what I’ll read in my spare time when the hot weather forces me in doors.  I can tell that time is coming.  This Memorial Day has been hot and muggy.  The only thing missing from the trifecta of outdoor summer annoyances is the mosquitoes.  They haven’t arrived yet.  When they do, sitting outside to read will become a mere memory until the fall.

Some people prefer lighter books, ones that require less focus, during the summer, especially if they’re going to the beach.  That doesn’t make a lot of difference to me, as I have trouble reading in the glare on the beach and would be appalled if I got sand in a book (Yeah, I know that’s weird.).  

Summer’s arrival doesn’t change my preference for books in that have happy endings, stories where good triumphs over not-good.  It can be HEA romance or bad guys getting their just desserts in other genres.  The muggy, hot, mosquito-y weather does encourage me to stay inside, where it’s air conditioned, which leads me to make an exception to the TE (triumphant ending) rule by  reading history or other nonfiction.

Like most of you, I have a towering TBR mountain.  I’m always on the lookout for new titles, though.  So let’s talk summer books.  These are the ones on my list.  I hope you’ll look at them and then share some of your prospects.

Clean-Sweep-Cover-Small-e1397775212366I’m having a new reading experience because of fantasy author Ilona Andrews, whose Kate Daniels books I love.  This husband-and-wife author team is writing a serialized novel on their website.  I bought the first book in this series about an innkeeper with magical powers because it as complete by the time I discovered it.  I love it so much that I’m reading the sequel online, something I haven’t done before.

In this universe, inns are neutral ground for all the non-human races, and innkeepers occupy as special position of respect.  Andrews puts a unique, science fiction-based spin on vampires and other shifters that quickly captured my imagination.  The books also feature strong, sometimes steamy, romantic elements.  

Y’all may remember that I don’t read a lot of vamp or shifter books because they don’t generally call to me.  These–and the Kate Daniels books–are different enough that they do.  For info or to check out the sequel, to http://demo.ilona-andrews.com.  Or click the cover at right and read the blurb on Amazon. 

kate1lgIf you like shifters, vamps and magic and enjoy continuing characters, you really should check out the Kate Daniels books.  I totally love them and was ready to cheer over certain romantic details I won’t reveal lest I spoil things for you.  It’s best to read them in order.  The first book, Magic Bites, is pictured at left.

The next Kate Daniels adventure (with Curran, the were-lion playing, a biiig supporting role, I hope), Magic Breaks, will be out July 29.  You can find info at the Ilona Andrews website.

Pure-Heat-300Already out and available is M. L. Buchman’s Pure Heat.  I loved Buchman’s military RS series about the Nightstalkers helicopter crews.  

This is the first in a new series based around wildland firefighters.  I didn’t think it was coming out until next month and was delighted to see a May release date on his website.  I’ll be reading this one soon, and there’s a sequel coming in a few weeks.

For more on Buchman and his books, check out his website.

 9780425270172_CL-250x403Jill Shalvis’s next Animal Magnetism release, Then Came You, is coming July 1.  As with the other books in the series, this forthcoming one involves the vet clinic in Sunshine, Idaho.  It involves a vet who comes to the clinic to fulfill a scholarship obligation, only to find that her new boss is the same sexy guy she had a one-night stand with at a conference.  Oops. *g*  

I’m so looking forward to it.  

Shalvis has a busy rest of the year ahead, with several scheduled releases, including three in the Lucky Harbor series, featured on her homepage.

Since today is Memorial Day, it’s a fitting time to talk about my new reading project.  This year marks the centennial of the beginning of the First World War.  The Great War, as it was known until a conflagration even broader ripped across the world a couple of decades later.  The men who returned from this conflict helped usher in America’s Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties, a favorite era of mine.

So I’ll be shuffling novels and nonfiction about the Great War into my reading list. 

This hasn’t been a popular period for romance writers.  It’s too far in the past to be relatable, some people say, yet too modern to be historical.  Mystery readers and writers have been much more welcoming.

nogravesyet_usAnne Perry deserted Victorian England to write a five-book series on the Great War. The first, No Graves as Yet, will be start my fiction reading.  Opening before the start of the war, it features two brothers, a college professor and a British intelligence officer, who become involved in espionage and a blackmail case while investigating their parents’ deaths in a car crash.

I enjoyed Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries and read the first couple of William Monk ones before I drifted away from reading mysteries so much.  Both of these series are installed on my keeper shelf, though.

The blurb on Perry’s website indicates that No Graves as Yet is about the runup to the war and then about its early days.  The final book in the series is about the last days of the war.  I suspect this series is another that should be read in order.

A friend introduced me to a mystery series set in London in the years immediately after the War.  Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, a former housemaid, was a nurse on the western front.  Now the war is over, but the man she loved is a tragic casualty.  Maisie must build a life for herself and so starts her own investigations agency.

maisie-dobbs-2014I’ve read two of the ten books in this series and will be reading more this summer.  One of the other bandits likes this series–I think it may be Anna Campbell–and I understand Maisie finds a new love as the series progresses.

Winspear weaves her stories around the war’s aftermath for the people in London, using the losses and resulting social changes to enrich the mysteries Maisie solves.  Her website has a moving essay about her visit to the battlefields at The Somme and Ypres.

Those are a few highlights from my summer reading plan.  What categories of books do you enjoy in the summer, and which particular books do you plan to read this year?

Donna and I will be at the Lori Foster Reader & Author Get Together in West Chester, Ohio, June 5-8.  If you’re there, stop by to say hello.