BOOK 1 OF THE BELLEVILLE FAMILY SERIES
By J Mary Masters
Published by PMA Books
$24.95 in paperback
"I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this novel. It’s difficult for me to say what I loved the most, because multiple strengths synergistically worked together to make this an enjoyable read. The characters were well-developed and showed vulnerabilities. ..."
Julia's Story (first published as The House of Secrets: Julia's Story)
Book 1 in the Belleville family series
By J Mary Masters
Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, this is the heartbreaking story of a young girl in love, the secret she must never reveal and the family who betrayed her trust.
It’s 1942 and the world is at war. Yet the wealthy Belleville family appear untouched and secure in their grand Australian home Prior Park. That is until daughter Julia, on the cusp of womanhood, falls desperately in love with an American Army officer against her family’s wishes. For Julia, it is life-changing.
Half a world away, her brother Richard is fighting for Britain, flying dangerous missions across the Channel knowing the next mission could be his last. He meets the beautiful Catherine Cavendish whose aristocratic parents disapprove strongly of the brash young Australian officer. Is he destined to find happiness with Catherine or will he be haunted forever by the memory of Jane, the woman he left behind?
Brought up in Richard’s shadow, William Belleville resents the popularity of his older brother. In Richard’s absence, William attempts to usurp his older brother’s authority and take charge of the family fortune.
Into this mix comes James Fitzroy, handsome and charming, who sets his sights on Julia. But can she ever really love him?
And what of the matriarch Elizabeth Belleville, whose preference for her elder son is well known, but who must endure the fecklessness of her husband, Francis, and the disappointment of a failing marriage.
Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Julia's Story" by J Mary Masters.
4 out of 4 stars ****
All I have to say is, “Nooooooo!” Not, “No, don’t read this book,” or, “No, it isn’t any good.” “Nooooooo,” because the book ended. It ended and so many plot lines are achingly unresolved. You just can’t do this to me J Mary Masters. I have to know what happens next! Forgive me for a second while I throw an unattractive grown-up fit. I want the next book and I want it now. Phew! At least there is a next book, two actually, and they are already released. Okay. I believe I can calm down now. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Let’s see, where was I? That’s right. I was getting ready to tell you all about the engaging book I just finished reading, Julia’s Story, Book 1 in the Belleville Family Series, by J Mary Masters.
So, here’s the scoop. The high-society Belleville family resides in Australia, and we are introduced to them during WWII. The culture described had many parallels to the antebellum period in the American South; fancy dresses for the well-to-do ladies, cattle farms instead of cotton plantations, house servants instead of slaves, and was complete with societal expectations shaping accepted public behaviour. These expectations played a large role in fuelling the conflict in this story.
Within the walls of Prior Park we meet Francis and Elizabeth Belleville’s family. Elizabeth is a strong-minded woman who is in charge, especially in regard to her children’s marriage prospects. Francis on the other hand is painted as a lazy, pampered man who drinks too much and never lives up to his full potential.
They have three mostly-grown children; Richard, William, and Julia. Richard, the oldest and favourite son unexpectedly joins the air force. He departs for training immediately after he drops the bomb that he plans to marry someone of lower-station who, of course, doesn’t meet with his mother’s approval, leaving a severe rift between himself and his parents. Will Richard’s love outlast the war? Meanwhile, with Richard away, William finds himself in the lime-light and uses this time to power-play his way up within the family ladder. When Richard returns, will William be willing to relinquish his new-found control? Julia, not long after her eighteenth birthday, falls in love with the American soldier, Dr. Philippe Duval. Knowing that her family would never approve, they keep their relationship a secret. Soon the American gets posted in Hawaii, and Julia finds her virtue in precarious standing. Will Julia and Philippe ever be reunited? As the tale unfolds and scandal ensues the Belleville family members must make decisions with consequences that could ruin their treasured reputation in society or tear their family apart.
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this novel. It’s difficult for me to say what I loved the most, because multiple strengths synergistically worked together to make this an enjoyable read. The characters were well-developed and showed vulnerabilities. Elizabeth’s domineering ways could be easily imagined. Her actions were frustrating and yet at times a softer side of her character was shown and she was endearing.
Julia experiences heartbreak, and this wasn’t overdramatized or underplayed. I really appreciated the way the author meted out information and used foreshadowing to build suspense. We know in advance that Julia and Dr. Philippe Duval face heartache, but we don’t know of what nature.
Also, we find subtle clues to Francis’ on-going affair well before it is concretely revealed. Then, there was the cliffhanger ending. When I swiped left and found no more story, the plummet into panic I experienced told me that the author had done her job. I wanted more. And isn’t that a sign of good storytelling?
Due to the depth of characters, an intricately complex plot, and suspenseful writing, I happily give this book a 4 out of 4 rating. If you enjoy family dramas set in historical time periods with romance elements woven throughout, this one’s for you. If plot lines centred on character relationships don’t sound appealing, steer clear.
This book was an amazing ride. Just be prepared for the sudden stop. Better yet, go ahead and snag a copy of the next one in the series. You’ll be happy you did.