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Two Wars and a Wedding

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History tells the story of Roosevelt's Rough Riders and their battles in Cuba from the male perspective.  "Two Wars and a Wedding" reveals the history from a female perspective and sheds new light on the human costs of battle.  The female protagonist goes to great lengths to save a friend from making a dangerous mistake and finds herself in the middle of one instead.  This story isn't a frolic through the world of war, it's a trip through a "man's" war with all of the danger and unplanned consequences. 

 It's not a light read and takes a bit of time to build the story but it's worth the time to see the unglamorous side of life for males and females in war who are convinced they are doing the right thing for maybe the wrong reasons.
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It’s 1898 and Betsy is trying to get to her estranged friend to stop her from being a nurse in the Spanish American war. She knows war having witnessed the devastation of the Greco-Turkish war. Fascinating history, fully developed characters, and a compelling story combine to make an incredible book.
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Amazing read! I loved the story and the characters were perfect. I couldn't put this book down! It always amazes me how these wonderful real life stories have almost been lost to history. I am so thankful for historical fiction writers!
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Lauren Willig’s new novel blooms from one of her recent books, Band of Sisters (2021) which followed a group of Smith College grads as they made their intrepid way to France to lend a hand during WWI in 1917.  Willig became intrigued with their leader and this book’s central character is based on her – another Smith grad who trained in archeology, was denied “dig” time in Greece because of her sex, and turned to humanitarian work and war nursing.  

Willig’s fictional creation, Betsy Hayes, has just arrived in Athens in 1896 hoping to excavate.  The classicist in charge tells her to try being a librarian; she finds lodging with a swanky titled Greek woman who knew her father, gets around town on her bicycle, and manages to get on some archaeological tours with the male students.  Along the way she encounters a dashing French Count and falls hard even though (gasp, though not a surprise) he’s inconveniently married.  Ultimately, her frustrations become so great she decides to try war nursing.  Recommended by the Queen of Greece, she heads to the front, in what was the short lived Greco-Turkish war of 1897.  Short lived, but with no shortage of horror.

Betsy ends up running a small hospital, working about 24 hours a day, and seeing scores of wounded men, some of whom she can’t help.  Willig has structured the book so it goes back and forth in time, and slightly in the future, she’s serving as a nurse during the Spanish-American war in Cuba, on the heels of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  This is not a mystery but there is a mystery in the plot – why is Betsy in Florida, headed to Cuba?  Why didn’t she stay in Greece?  The book spools out the answers but it takes until near the end for the reader to put the pieces together.

The war in Cuba seems almost worse, though there are certainly commonalities.  Betsy is more confident in her nursing skills, and she needs them, as the US Military are no more enlightened than Classics professors when it comes to women on the field of battle.  Clara Barton is leading the charge and she’s refused by the US military, so she sets up shop with the Cubans.  Necessity eventually finds its way as the battle intensifies, however, and it’s not long before Betsy is tending to some of the Yale boys she’d known in college.

While Willig has based her character on a real woman, she’s a powerful writer and a wonderful portraitist, so much so that Betsy Hayes practically leaps off the page and into your soul.  She’s so alive.  When Betsy eventually heads home from Cuba it’s on a ship that’s not at all equipped for any kind of medical transport, and the patients they are transporting are stuffed into hellishly hot cubicles below decks.  It’s Betsy who is able to organize and drag the men back to the states, alive, and to actual medical care, and if you aren’t practically cheering for her when she disembarks in New York, there’s something the matter with you.

This is a true epic, and there’s of course also a romance involved (see the title).  As the ultimate love of Betsy’s is not at all obvious, I won’t give things away, but will let the lucky reader discover for themselves where Betsy’s heart ultimately takes her.  There’s a nice historical afterword (my knowledge of the Spanish American war was very small), and it’s fun to see how Willig wove history into fictional gold.  This is a spectacular read.
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Lauren Willig's new historical fiction story dives deeper into one of her character's back stories from her last novel, Band of Sisters. In this story, we have two timelines, one in 1896 and another in 1898 at two different times of war, one in Cuba, the other in Greece. I appreciated her expanding out of the normal historical fiction focus of WWI and WWII and exploring her main character, Betsy Hayes, as a nurse in these two conflicts. I loved the supporting cast of characters in both timelines, but enjoyed the Cuba just a bit more. I did feel like I wanted more depth in Greece, which I felt was a bit lacking. Overall, this is a great story for those lovers of historical fiction that are a bit burned out by the world wars and wanting to learn more about America and women at other points in history.
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Lauren Willig’s latest is an utterly fascinating, intelligent tale of the odyssey of a privileged, well educated, plucky and ambitious young woman who is striving to find purpose and meaning as she pursues her dream of becoming an archaeologist in Greece and instead finds herself nursing ‘round the clock in the Greco-Turkish and Spanish-American wars.  Not only does Willig’s often delicious, erudite prose craft a sublimely researched and written story from which I learned a vast amount; it manages to convey at once the horrors of war in the late 19th century and the biases against women in academia and medicine alike - and yet prove riveting, propulsive, and thought-provoking.  

I really enjoyed Band of Sisters, but found it occasionally mired in distracting details (and mud; so much mud) and rambling.   From my vantage point, Two Wars better integrates historical facts, is better plotted and paced - and is very well deserving of the early accolades and buzz it is receiving.  I have read all of Willig’s published historicals, and this is among her best.  Highly recommended!

Many thanks to William Morrow and to NetGalley for a complimentary e-ARC.  Opinions are entirely my own.
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I always enjoy Wittig's books so was very happy to receive an EARC for this one. It started a little slowly for me, which surprised me because Betsy, our heroine wanted to become an archeologist, something that I also considered. I actually spent a summer in Isreal during college on an archeological dig. As the story continued, I became more invested in Betsy's story. I896 in Greece and She has graduated from Sith college, yet the professor in charge of the dig will not accept her because she is a woman. No matter how she rails against the system, it is to no avail.
Then something I had not expected, Greece goes to war against the Turks and Betsy volunteers as a nurse. It is the making of her.
The book goes between Betsy in Greece and then 2 years later we are in the Spanish American War, with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. Betsy volunteers to go to Cuba as a nurse with Clara Barton, one of my childhood heroes. From this point on I could not put the book down. In the author's note we find out that Betsy is based on a real person, and that many of the characters are historical figures. The history of both of these wars comes through so well, and one of the reasons historical fiction is my favorite genre is because I learn so much. Betsy is a heroine in the real sense of the word. I highly recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book.
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This is a very well written, compelling, sweeping story of one of the lesser known of America’s wars, told through the story of Miss Betsy Holt. Betsy is a wonderful character, strong and likeable even when she makes mistakes and can’t see a way ahead. Her intelligence, principles, and hidden vulnerability shine through. Focused on her education and love of archaeology, Betsy ends up nursing through two wars and their horrors and deprivations. She  tries to keep friends safe and save as many as she can while holding leaders accountable. That said, the book is a very engaging and entertaining read. I highly recommend it. Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
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Two Wars and a Wedding by Lauren Willig is told in dual timelines between 1896 and 1898. The book focuses on Betsy Hayes, a recent graduate of Smith College and an aspiring archeologist who travels to Greece with the hope of joining an archeological dig. However, women are considered too delicate to survive the conditions of an archeological dig. But Betsy is determined to prove them wrong. Soon those archeological sites become part of the war zone between Turkey and Greece and she finds herself tasked with helping the wounded. Betsy must make a difficult decision and decides to volunteer for the Red Cross at the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish war. 

Two years later Betsy finds herself on a train heading towards the Spanish-American War in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. She is searching for her best friend, Ava. While in Cuba, Betsy is haunted by the similarities between the war in Cuba and that in Greece. Both wars are led by incompetent leaders in the medical services. and the conditions there are awful.

It was difficult reading about the needless suffering of the wounded, and those who cared for them. The author's note at the end is definitely a must read where the author explains that Betsy is based on a real person, and that many of the characters in this story are real historical figures. 
I really liked this book and the story was so fascinating to me. It was very well written and you can tell the research is impeccable.

Thank you to the Publisher, William Morrow and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.
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NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you netgalley and William Morrow. Publication Date: March 21, 2023. Awarded three stars on Goodreads. 

This novel follows a strong, female protagonist as she pursues her life's desire to become an archaeologist and, along the way, provides nursing support in both the Greco-Turkish War (1897) and the Spanish-American War (1898).

As you will read in the Historical Note at the end of the book, the heroine, Betsy Hayes, is a composite of two actual historical figures: Harriet Boyd Hawes and Janet Jennings. (Readers of other Willig books may recognize Harriet Boyd Hawes from BAND OF SISTERS.) Willig however has added her own significant fictional events to Hayes' story.

A secondary (but interesting) character, Kit Carson, is a female journalist, struggling to cover "serious" stories in another industry with widespread gender discrimination. She too is patterned after two women who covered the Spanish-American war, Kathleen Blake Watkins Coleman and Katherine White. And there are a host of other soldier characters, most based on actual participants.

What I thought the book was best in providing was a picture of wartime medical care in the late 1800s and the reluctance of military officers to accept help from women nurses, no matter what the actual needs and conditions of the soldiers under their command. Remember much of the fighting takes place in tropical Cuba -- before vaccines for measles and typhoid, before effective treatments for malaria and tuberculosis, and before antibiotics. It's quite a grim picture!

Also included are the much forgotten stories of transport ships taking wounded soldiers home with inadequate supplies, food, and medical staff. If you want to know more, read about the Seneca, later investigated by the Dodge Commission.

In Willig's Historical Note, she speaks to loads of research she did to write this novel and the many early sections she cut out. And that gets to the reason I assigned the book 3 stars. I don't think she cut enough. I felt the book was trying to include too many aspects from this time period, particularly in the first half of the book. Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, Ivy League participation and rivalry, Clara Barton, President William McKinley, the Queen of Greece, archaeological study in Greece, and much more. All touched upon, but briefly. The result for me is that the story too often felt unfocused and rambling. The pacing DOES pick up in the second half of the novel. So perhaps 3.5 stars would be a more accurate rating.

In addition to the emphasis on discrimination against skilled women eager to help, I found Willig's anti-war message a bit heavy-handed. Especially toward the end. Agreed, there is often a childlike eagerness in men who enlist, expecting great adventure, glory, even fame. But it's a point that that could have been made with greater subtlety.

This is also another novel that uses that popular, dual-timeframe construct (already a cliche in my opinion!) The time frames are two years apart and I do NOT see what that structure added.

Having read other historical fiction by Willig, I remain a fan. I just don't think this is her best.
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Lauren Willig is writing some of the best historical fiction out there. I constantly recommend her, and have all her books. She is witty, pithy, and funny. As you read her novels, you are enjoying every page, yet you are learning about the time period and historical facts without even knowing it. Lush, romantic, and incredibly well-researched, this novel tells of a character who grows into her true self as she endures two wars that I have never seen featured in historical fiction. If you want something new (that isn't WWII) and want a delicious dual time saga, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction. And the great part is, she is a prolific author, so there is so much more excellent reading to follow! 10 stars!
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My review from Goodreads: THANKS Netgalley!

First I loved how author Lauren Willig takes real letters from Smith College and weaves them into these stories based on real events and real people. This case of a brave young woman who finds herself working as a nurse during two wars. Two Wars that tend to be lesser known to history.

As usual woman in the 19th and early 20th century found themselves fighting for a seat at the table. I could read stories every day that describe strong woman and what they had to do succeed in the men's world, and Lauren Willig captures that every single time. This wonderful story is enhanced by the romance of Betsy and Holt. She is surrounded by other extraordinary women, seeking to have careers. This is truly the start of the feminist revolution that isn’t complete, over a 100 years later.

The story starts off slow, and takes awhile to unfold, but totally worth the read in my opinion! I've always loved Lauren's stories and how she puts them together!
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Two Wars and a Wedding by Lauren Willig.

Lauren Willig is an "automatic purchase" author for me. Her latest book, Two Wars and a Wedding did not disappoint.  Told in dual timelines between 1896 and 1898, the book focuses on Betsy Hayes, an aspiring archeology and classics student. In 1896, Betsy travels to Greece with the hope of joining an archeological dig. However, being a woman, her dreams are constantly thwarted. Women are deemed too delicate to survive the harsh conditions of an archeological dig. Betsy, determined to prove them wrong, volunteers for the Red Cross at the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish war. Betsy is appalled by what she sees and the lack of preparation on the medical side. 

Two years later Betsy finds herself on a train heading towards the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Betsy has again volunteerd to nurse with the Red Cross. While in Cuba, Betsy is haunted by the similarities she sees between the war in Cuba and that in Greece. Both wars are beset with incompetent leadership in medical services. During each time period, the help of female nurses is refused. Betsy vows not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Willig uses third person narrative interspersed with letters to Betsy's best friend Ava during her time in Greece in 1896, and newspaper articles written by fellow nurse (and journalist) Kit during her time in Cuba. The chapters alternate between the 1898 and 1896 storylines. It was a little confusing for me at first, but I soon got the hang of it, and was fascinated as the relationship between Betsy and Ava unfolded to reveal Betsy's underlying reasons for going to Cuba.

The back story of the two different wars were fascinating to me. I really didn't know much about either one. I'd heard about Teddy Roosevelt and The Rough Riders, but I didn't really know what they did. I feel like the Spanish-American War was really never taught in school. It fascinating to learn about the time period, and the author's notes at the end suggest further reading.

I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed seeing Betsy's character unfold and develop into a strong woman and humanitarian.

#TwoWarsandaWedding #LaurenWillig #historicalfiction #dualtimeline
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A beautiful follow-up to the Band of Sisters, show-casing some more amazing women lost to the tides of the patriarchy. From the sunny hills of Greece to the tropical jungles of Cuba, Betsy is haunted everywhere by her desire to make a difference and do as the men do, except the men hold all the power and won't let her join their ranks. While frustrating at times, her stubbornness is endearing for anyone who is tired of the patriarchal world we live in. It was also really interesting to read a historical fiction novel not set during WW1 or WW2 for a nice change of pace.
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I wanted to read this book because I am a Lauren Willig fan. I also enjoy historical fiction with a romance element. I expected this to be a good read,, and it was. 

Personally, there are some elements in this book that don’t naturally entice me as a reader, namely archeology, war, or nursing. Yet, this was still ultimately a satisfying read because of the author’s skill.  The characters and the era came alive. The interweaving dual timelines were admittedly a bit confusing for awhile because they only took place two years apart.. But after some initial struggle at the beginning of the book, this was no longer an issue for me. 

Readers who enjoy historical details related to archeology or the practice of medicine are going to especially enjoy this book. I believe that Willig has a special talent for creating memorable leading men. The character Holt confirms my belief and I am excited for more readers to meet him. Never fear, this takes nothing away from the focus on Betsy and this book is centered on her. 

Calling all historical fiction lovers. You are going to want to read this one.
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This is quite an amazing historical fiction that highlights two little know conflicts, the Greco-Turkish war of 1896, and the Spanish-American war of 1898. Betsy Hayes, a recent graduate of Smith College, travels to Greece in hopes of joining an archeological dig. As a woman, her dreams are thwarted at every turn. When war breaks out, she volunteers for the Red Cross, as she does again at the start of the Spanish American war. The book alternates timelines, with Betsy as the narrator. Betsy is a character I loved! Brave, intelligent, determined, a bit flawed, but caring, always seeking the best care for her patients. Betsy refused to concede that being a woman relegated her to the background! The book is both well researched, and extremely well written. The needless suffering of the wounded, and those who cared for them in both conflicts was heart-wrenching. The author's notes at the end are definitely a must read, where Lauren Willig details the history of the conflicts, and the real women who inspired her characters of Betsy, Ava and Kit. While the history of the two wars is, at time, disturbing, the story of Betsy, Ava, and Kit and those they served, are full of caring, love and hope. I thoroughly loved the book! The opinions in the review are completely my own. Thank you to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for my advance copy.
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Thank you to Net Galley and William Morrow for the chance to read and review this book. All opinions are my own.
I must admit, I had a little trouble getting into this book. It was a good story, but sometimes it was confusing because it switched back and forth between 1896 and a898. The time periods seemed so close together. Once it got going, I liked the story. I learned a lot about this time period, and how hard it was for the fighting men, the nurses and the doctors. I also liked the romantic parts of the story. I also liked all the notes at the end where the author told more about the characters. It was interesting to learn that some of the characters were real people, or they were based on real people.
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Although this is a fictional story about a made up person (Betsy Hayes), she is based on two different real historical figures (Harriet Boyd and Janet Jennings). Reading Betsy's story, which alternates between Greece in 1896 and Cuba in 1898, certainly intrigued me enough that I want to learn more about the real life Harriet and Janet and which pieces of Betsy's story are pulled from their lives.

Willig is a master at writing stories that switch between two different time lines that slowly throughout the book become more and more intertwined, and that's no different in this book, although the timelines are only two years apart and involve the same person, it's interesting to see how the Betsy of 1896 becomes the Betsy of 1898.

Although this book is titled Two Wars and a Wedding, and Betsy does find herself falling for a few different men, this is not a romance story but rather a story about Betsy growing into herself.
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Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for this ARC.  As an aspiring archaeologist, Betsy Hayes enrolls in the American College in Athens.  When she was told she could not go on a dig because women weren't strong enough, she became a nurse during the war in Greece to prove herself.  While recuperating from the war, she receives a letter from her closest friend that she is to train with the Red Cross and go be shipped to Cuba to nurse the soldiers in the Spanish-American war. Betsy, wanting to save her friend, runs to do the same while running from her own issues.  While in Cuba, she saves then men as much as they save her and found love in the process.  Good book!  #TwoWarsandAWedding #LaurenWillig #Mar2023
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Lauren Willig did a tremendous amount of research to develop this story. In one story line set in Greece, 1896, Betsy Hayes wants to be an archeologist in a man's world, but the Greek Revolution has different plans for her. Using her Red Cross knowledge from that war, Betsy will also become part of the Spanish-American War and aiding men wounded in Cuba in 1898 which is the second setting for Two Wars and a Wedding. For me the first half of the story was flat. It wasn't until I was 50% in did the conflict and rising action lure me to want to read more. 
Overall, I would give the first half a 3/5 and the second half 4/5 for a total score of 3.5. I am anxious to hear what others think of this novel when it comes out on March 21, 2023.
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