December 6, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Lauren Willig Follows-Up Band Of Sisters With Two Wars And A Wedding

Two Wars And A Wedding Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig: a dramatic coming-of-age story with a dual timeline and a single heroine—a bold and adventuring young woman who finds herself caught up in two very different wars on both sides of the Atlantic.

September 1896: As an aspiring archaeologist, Smith College graduate Betsy Hayes travels to Athens, desperate to break into a very male-dominated field and find work at some of the world’s most famous excavation sites. In the midst of the heat and dust of Greece, she finds an unlikely ally in philanthropist Charles Baron de Robecourt, one of the few men who take her academic passion seriously. But when a simmering conflict between Greece and Turkey erupts into open warfare, Betsy’s archaeological sites become battlefields, and she falls into the grim and heroic task of nursing the wounded. As the world around her is irrevocably changed, Betsy finds her heart pulled in multiple directions.

June 1898: As the Spanish-American war begins, an older and wiser Betsy Hayes is searching for her former best friend Ava, who she last saw in Greece during the Greco-Turkish War. She believes that Ava might be with the Red Cross headed to Cuba, so Betsy herself joins the Red Cross and follows Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders straight to the heart of the fighting. As she enters the war zone, dark memories of her last war resurface and her need to protect old and new friends intensifies.

With an unforgettable cast of characters set against two often overlooked but dramatic periods of history, Lauren Willig spins a compelling and heartwarming story about friendship, falling in love at the most inopportune moments, and fighting for what is right.


Two Wars And A Wedding Review

Put some respect on Lauren Willig’s name. In Part Two of my best-read book round-up, I featured her last novel, Band of Sisters. Please check out how I drooled over it like a puppy. Moreober, here is my interview with Lauren Willig. In Lauren Willig’s follow-up and prequel to Band of Sisters (reading them in order is unnecessary), Two Put some respect on Lauren Willig’s name. In the follow-up and prequel to Band of Sisters (reading them in order is unnecessary), Two Wars And A Wedding displays the same spectrum of emotions, writing talent, and historical insights readers have come to expect from Lauren Willig. 

Two Wars and a Wedding is set between two timelines and two wars. Willig pens both timelines effortlessly. The timelines are only two years apart and share some characters. Yet, each time period and character have unique voices that showcase the arc of relationships, character changes, and the overall story. At once heartbreaking and soaring with hope, Two Wars and a Wedding executes many life-altering themes. 

Lauren Willig

Thank you to HarperCollins and Harper Audio for an Advanced Copy in exchange for an honest review.


Two Wars And A Wedding Themes

Lauren Willig tackles relatable themes of loss (friendships, love, dreams), grief (lovers, comrades), and the brutality of war. In the throws of these situations, characters are capable of desperate, bold, decisive decisions. Decisions they are both proud of or ashamed to make. It is sometimes cut and dry whether decisions are shameful or accomplished. The intricacy of the story and contextual situations often land these choices in a gray area, much like life.

Yet, the abundance of hope in the face of such stricken times never falters. The characters often remind us how we find our fight in exhaustion, strength during extraordinary times of weakness, and humor in the face of uncertainty while finessing a thread of hope throughout Two Wars and a Wedding.

Two Wars And A Wedding Characters

Two Wars and a Wedding feature characters Willig delicately brings to life. Starting with a base, Willig takes these characters on carefully crafted journies that change them and readers alike. While it is easy to focus on Betsy, another character captured my heart while challenging my thoughts. This isn’t to say Betsy doesn’t carry the story. She absolutely does carry it!

I just fell in love with Kit. And no, it is not because she is from St. Louis, writing for a St. Louis paper!

Kit is a journalist for the St. Louis Star-Ledger, desperate to send news home about the war Spanish-American war. To access the front lines, Kit promises to assist the nurses in any way she can. Throughout her journey, she demonstrates the strength and resilience Betsy needs to lean on. Kit and Betsy fight a condescending, patriarchal society that doesn’t take their career ambitions seriously.

Betsy could hear the anger underneath. Betsy could feel the anger burning, spreading; they were all burning with it, all of them, every single one who had been told she couldn’t do a man’s work, couldn’t dig for antiquities, couldn’t write for the papers, couldn’t nurse on the front. Catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Keep your voice down. Don’t let the men know you are smarter.

However, Kit is also a mother sacrificing time with her children and her family. She is risking her life with people at home that need her to come home. The balance between the humanity and calm of a mother crosses deftly with the determination and doggedness of a professional looking for respect. And when asked to step up her nursing, Kit will do what is demanded, through sheer force making up for knowledge.

Two Wars And A Wedding Final Thoughts

I can only let this end by discussing Betsy and Ava. Friendships like theirs are like sisterhoods. And as such, they are layered. Over time best friends become thick as thieves and then grow apart, fight, and separate. Yet, nothing they face could ever make them stop caring about each other. And the extremes both go to survive for each other are inspirational.

In both timelines, Betsy is confronted with her failures, life patterns, and triumphs. She demonstrates a willingness to fight for her place in the world. And through all this, she finds out that sometimes, you trample people along the way. Lauren Willig’s main character takes heroic and questionable action throughout Two Wars and a Wedding. All of it together, making a wonderful and tangible reading experience.

While Two Wars and a Wedding is marketed as historical fiction, mysteries, pivots, and surprises are enthralling. However, that historical part? Willig is a master of interweaving the truth of history with literary license. Lauren Willig’s love for the Red Cross shines through both Two Wars and a Wedding and Band of Sisters. It isn’t hard to see why when their importance throughout history is unquestionable.

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