Hugging his ribs against the pain, he turned toward Adele, taking in her pale beauty with anguish. He knew what she saw: his face smeared with blood, his eyes bloodshot from exertion, his shirtfront drenched. He’d dreamed so many times of seeing her again, but never like this.
“Jerry,” she whispered, disbelief sparkling in her blue eyes. “I can’t believe it.”
Genevieve Graham writes an ambitious and danger-filled novel of love, sacrifice and family that I couldn’t put down.
Cassie Simmons, a museum curator, is enthusiastic about solving mysteries from the past, and she has a personal interest in the history of the rumrunners who ferried illegal booze across the Detroit River during Prohibition. So when a cache of whisky labeled Bailey Brothers’ Best is unearthed during a local home renovation, Cassie hopes to find the answers she’s been searching for about the legendary family of bootleggers…
Corporal Jeremiah Bailey of the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company is tasked with planting mines in the tunnels beneath enemy trenches. After Jerry is badly wounded in an explosion, he finds himself in a Belgium field hospital under the care of Adele Savard, one of Canada’s nursing sisters, nicknamed “Bluebirds” for their blue gowns and white caps. As Jerry recovers, he forms a strong connection with Adele, who is from a place near his hometown of Windsor, along the Detroit River. In the midst of war, she’s a welcome reminder of home, and when Jerry is sent back to the front, he can only hope that he’ll see his bluebird again.
By war’s end, both Jerry and Adele return home to Windsor, scarred by the horrors of what they endured overseas. When they cross paths one day, they have a chance to start over. But the city is in the grip of Prohibition, which brings exciting opportunities as well as new dangerous conflicts that threaten to destroy everything they have fought for.
Genevieve Graham has cemented herself as an instant-buy for me with Bluebird. The story switches between Jerry and Adele, World War 1 vets who are trying to find their purpose in a world that looks very different than what they left behind, and present day Cassie who is forced to examine her past and look to her future when a chance discovery shakes her foundation. I loved this book and gobbled it up greedily. It has everything: a sweeping historical fiction romance, a window into an interesting part of Canadian history and a heart-stopping climax that will make you gasp, cry and maybe even put the book down for a moment.
The main story is between Jerry and Adele: two people who meet in a field hospital and discover that they are both from the Windsor area in Ontario, Canada. But Jerry is a tunneller, and Adele isn’t sure he’ll survive the war.
Spoiler alert: they do both make it back home to Windsor, but they don’t run into each other for a few years. Instead we readers watch them rebuild the lives they left behind and struggle to adapt to a world that had rapidly changed while they fought for freedom halfway across the world. I loved the insight Genevieve shared about what veterans – both the soldiers and the nurses – fared when they came back home. Not everyone welcomed them back with open arms. Jerry and Adele of course are back home during the beginning of prohibition, and living in a city renowned for its rumrunning enterprise. Their chemistry is palpable when they do finally meet up again in Canada and they are one of my favourite couples I’ve read this year: strong, loyal, independent and filled with mutual respect for each other. Yes, please.
Genevieve always fills her stories with delightful secondary characters who fill out her hero’s tapestry, and there is a delightful cast of family, friends and villains who colour Bluebird. I especially love Adele’s war-time friendships. One main theme throughout the book is the bond and sacrifice of families. Bluebird is filled with different types of families that struggle, fight and love. How far does the bond of brothers go? Can you build your own family? How does familial love (or the lack thereof) shape a person? Genevieve asks these questions throughout Bluebird and will push the reader to think about their own family bonds long after the book is finished.
Bluebird is an action-packed book filled with fast pacing and strong character development. While I adored the romance Genevieve writes, I also loved the vivid, research-filled details in the present day she adds that helps readers understand the time period a little better. This book is an all-around winner for me: it tackles prohibition, PTSD, and The Spanish Flu while still being packed with emotion and intensity.
If you like the danger and action of Peaky Blinders mixed with some Canadian history, then you’ll love Bluebird.
Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Hear what Genevieve herself has to say about Bluebird when she discusses it and more at our Evening with Genevieve Graham Event