Title: Julia’s Story
Author: J Mary Masters
Published: March 29th 2015
Publisher: PMA Books
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
It’s 1942. The world is at war. Julia Belleville, the headstrong only daughter of the wealthy Belleville family, falls hopelessly in love with American Army surgeon Dr Philippe Duval. When he is suddenly posted away, Julia is devastated, fearing she will never see him again.
Half a world away, Julia’s elder 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, Jane, the woman he left behind?
Brought up in Richard’s shadow, William Belleville resents the popularity of his older brother and when there is an unexpected death in the family, it is William who attempts to usurp his older brother’s authority and take charge of the family fortune.
And then there is 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.
Into this mix comes James Fitzroy, handsome and charming, who sets his sights on Julia. But can she ever really love him?
Across the Belleville series, J Mary Masters has created a compelling story of a family whose lives are entwined in a web of secrets and lies that bind them together until one by one the secrets are painfully and ruthlessly revealed.
NOTE: Julia’s Story was first published as The House of Secrets: Julia’s Story.
Julia’s Story, penned by Australian author J Mary Masters, is the spectacular opening piece to the Belleville family series. Book one in this historical fiction based family saga was also my introduction to the work of J Mary Masters. A story filled with choices, love, loyalty, family and duty, I can easily recommend this novel to fans of grand inter-generational sagas.
When Julia’s Story opens, we are thrown amidst the chaos of World War II, which has touched Australian shores. J Mary Masters captures the feelings of this time with sensitive insight and accuracy. Masters highlights the sacrifices, duty and obligations of those who travel to bravely fight for our country. Masters also covers the feelings of those left behind on the home front. At all times I felt that the author adequately captured the correct period detail. This extends to the dialogue, customs and typical expectations of decades past.
Family drama and politics are at the centre of this novel, but it is not melodramatic, or overly sentimental. I could easily envisage these kinds of issues arising in the situational context J Mary Masters has based Julia’s Story directly in. There are some great conflicts that the reader is able to sink their teeth into. The emphasis on class, position, fulfilling expectations and lineage are some major points of contention in the novel, which is covered very well by the author.
There is a nice layer of romance in Julia’s Story and it doesn’t seem to dictate the overall proceedings of the novel. I enjoyed following the respective love stories in this book, there were definitely some strong matters of the heart to attend to! Again, matters of class, wealth and social standing come to the floor. Many of the characters in Julia’s Story must negotiate these issues on their pathway to happiness. I appreciated that each character did not always get what they wanted in the love stakes, which made this aspect of the tale much more authentic.
Overall, I found the approach Masters took to her characterisation to be nice and clear. The assistance of a cast of characters overlay at the opening of this book did wonders. I liked how Masters separated this list by country, family and location. It was a helpful touch. As much as I enjoyed the characters, I also appreciated the rich presence of Prior Park, which looms heavily over the proceedings of this book with pride.
Julia’s Story works as a fabulous introductory piece to an engaging historical fiction saga, which is rich in Australian flavour. The cliff-hanger ending had me turning to my copy of book two, To Love, Honour and Betray, quick smart!
Julia’s Story by J Mary Masters was published on 29th March 2015. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Julia’s Story, J Mary Masters, visit here.
*I wish to thank the author, J Mary Masters, for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Julia’s Story is book #91 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge