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Legion of Honor
Giulia Goes to War
An eBook by Joan Leotta
Published by Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.
Reviewed by Linda Goodman
This enchanting historical romance novel has everything needed to capture a young girl’s heart: forbidden love; intrigue; and interesting historical data. Set during World War II, Giulia, its young heroine, leaves her sheltered life with her staunchly Italian family in Avocatown, Pennsylvania to support the war effort by working with her cousin Carmie and her friend Helen at a shipyard in Castle Hayne, North Carolina.
Giulia must pass tests to get the job she wants and receives such high marks that she is assigned to a top secret project in an area called the “live wire.” This is where the intrigue comes into play – a German spy is desperately trying to infiltrate the “live wire” and steal information about the secret project. Giulia, of course, becomes the means to his end. At least, that is his plan.
Young ladies supporting the war effort are also expected to attend the USO dances, where they are warned not to share more than a few dances with each soldier. All three girls find love, but Giulia suffers the misfortune of falling for an American, knowing that her parents want her to “stick with her kind” and marry an Italian.
Giulia’s love affair with John is all the more tantalizing for its chastity. Their handholding is as passionate as a kiss, their fervor all the more desperate because of the secrets they must keep.
Teens will enjoy the book as much as adults. When I was in the sixth grade, my English teacher used to give me teen romances to read as a way to keep my overly serious mind from dwelling on somber topics. I can see Mrs. Mabry giving me a paperback copy of Giulia Goes to War (no eBooks in 1963). I can just as easily see myself taking it to bed with a flashlight, eager to find out what was going to happen next without rousing my mother in the next room.
Leotta confesses to taking some liberties with history. Avocatown, for instance, is a fictional place similar to small coal towns near Pittsburgh. Dishes served in the book are real, however, and can be found in the Desert Breeze cookbook. The blend of history and imagination is so skillful that the reader forgets that the characters are not real. In fact, they are real enough that they linger with the reader well after the book has been read. This is the mark of a gifted writer.