Do you enjoy Hallmark type stories? If so, you’ll love Julia’s Gifts, a new historical Catholic romance by veteran author Ellen Gable. As the story opens in December 2017, Philadelphia resident Julia Marie Murphy is twenty years old and buying a pocket watch for her beloved. The only problem is that she doesn’t know who that person is yet. Meanwhile, Major Peter Winslow is fighting for Canada in France in World War I.
In March 1918, both Julia and her best friend Ann sign up to be medical aid workers and are sent to France to help the war effort. All too quickly they are immersed in the horrors of war. Major Winslow arrives to interrogate a German officer at the hospital where Julia is working on her first day and finds her painfully slow at her task. Their initial meeting is far from pleasant, but as life continues to throw the two together, their feelings toward each other soften.
Gable has done a first-rate job of describing the painful injuries and horrors of war. Julia’s Catholic faith is an important theme in the book, but it is woven into the story and does not come off as preachy. While the ending is never in doubt, this is a sweet romance perfect for enjoying on a lazy afternoon. Julia’s Gifts is the first book in the Great War, Great Love series. After reading this one, you’ll be looking forward to Gable’s next books!
December 17, 1917
The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved.
Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.
In a few short weeks, it would be 1918. All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year. But 1918 held far more significance for Julia. This would be the year that she would turn 21.
She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.
Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal. Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.
After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”
“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”
His eyebrows lifted. “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece. Don’t you agree?”
“Well, yes, I imagine he would. But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”
The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered. “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand. You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”
Julia sighed. She shouldn’t have said anything.
“Please just use the words I gave you.”
The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.
“How long will it take?”
“For the engraving? Ten days. Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”
“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl. Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”
Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop. If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.
This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet? Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him. Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.
Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.
That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband. After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met. With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.
The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.
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If you are interested in checking out the other spots on the blog tour, please visit:
November 1 (Open Book) Plot Line and Sinker
November 2 Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith
November 4 Karen Kelly Boyce
November 5 Christopher Blunt
November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
November 7 Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire
November 9 Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You
November 10 Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom
November 11 Plot Line and Sinker Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post
November 12 You are here!
November 13 Mike Seagriff, Harvesting the Fruits of Comtemplation
November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists
November 15 Theresa Linden
November 16 Barbara Hosbach
November 17 Barb Szyszkiewicz Catholic Mom
November 18 Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media
November 19 Erin McCole Cupp
November 20 Virginia Lieto
November 21 Elena Maria Vidal Tea at Trianon
November 22 Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller
Prints of Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter.