Review of A Star For Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Star For Mrs Blake banner

Happy Wednesday. I can’t believe the week is almost half over. Not that I’m complaining. Today, I’m reviewing A Star For Mrs. Blake, which is on tour with France Book Tours. Here’s the link for all the tour stops.


Star For Mrs Blake cover

Release date: January 14, 2014 at Knopf

Hardcover, 352 pages


Author’s website | Goodreads

Purchase the book


In 1929, The U.S. Congress passed legislation that would provide funding for the mothers of fallen WWI soldiers to visit the graves of their sons in France. Over the course of three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made this trip.  Smith imagines the story of five of these women, strangers who could not be more different from each other. One of them is Cora Blake, a librarian and single mother from coastal Maine. Journeying to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the lives of these women are inextricably intertwined as shocking events – death, scandal, and secrets – are unearthed. And Cora’s own life takes an unexpected turn when she meets an American, “tin nose,” journalist, whose war wounds confine him to a metal mask.


I have to admit, I’m a sucker for historical fiction. Many, many years ago it was all that I read. When I read the blurb for this novel I was intrigued. I had never heard of the pilgrimages made by mothers and widows of members of the armed forces who died in World War I. This is the type of history that fascinates me: the history of everyday life.

The story follows five women on their pilgrimage. Each woman is an individual and this adds a wonderful degree of tension in the story. However, Smith wisely focuses on one of the mothers, Cora Blake. She’s the glue holding everything together.

Right from the start I liked Cora Blake. She’s tough, determined, and broken. Not many mothers ever get over the loss of a child. As the story progressed I wanted to know more about Cora. It’s great to have an intriguing character that pulls you into a story.

My one complaint about this novel is the second half started to include too many revolving parts. Smith introduces some characters, while they play pivotal roles, I still have to wonder if they were completely necessary. I know this sounds odd, but I have to wonder if there was another way of telling the story and keeping the focus on Mrs. Blake and her four companions. I won’t say too much since I don’t want to give away anything. For me, having so much going on diminished the sense of loss all the women endured when they first heard the news and then on the pilgrimage. The novel wasn’t as emotional as I expected it to be.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the story. I did. I really did. I just feel that it could have been trimmed some to enhance the flow of the story.


April Smith

April Smith is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey mystery series,
starting with North of Montana.

She is also an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television.

She lives in Santa Monica with her husband.

Visit her website.
Get in touch with her on Facebook and Twitter

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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33 Responses to Review of A Star For Mrs. Blake by April Smith

  1. I’m a sucker for historical novels too :). Adding it to my list LOL!

  2. Thanks for introducing us to April. Her book sounds exciting!
    Yes, the week is half over and you’re that much closer to your trip to Paris! 🙂

  3. cheriereich says:

    Thanks for the review! I hadn’t heard of this book before.

  4. Pingback: updated France Book Tours stops for May 4-10 | France Book Tours

  5. Pingback: April Smith on tour: A Star For Mrs. Blake | France Book Tours

  6. thanks for your honest review. glad you liked it even though it didn’t work perfectly for you

  7. April Smith came to the college where I work for a talk about this book a month or so ago. I enjoyed her talk and have had the novel on my TBR list since. I love historical fiction as well. Thanks for sharing your review!

  8. Wonderful review. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wow. I can’t even imagine being in that position or place in life. Dagger to the heart. What a beautiful concept for a story, and goodness, I would love to read it.

    • TBM says:

      Dagger to the heart is correct. And for moms and wives to visit, it’s so moving and I’m glad the US government put this program in place.

  10. great, honest and constructive review!
    you’d make a great critique partner! (if you are, your partner is lucky!)
    and thanks for commenting on my cover reveal (i noticed you showed off stephanie’s too, so cute!)

    • TBM says:

      I loved your cover! Let me know if you want any help promoting your book.

      I’m not a critique partner currently. One too many projects going on, but I do love helping.

  11. cleemckenzie says:

    I love stories that bring strangers together for a common purpose and if that story is set in a period of history, it really gets my attention. This one definitely does.

    • TBM says:

      It’s a great foundation for a story since you never know how strangers will get on. And to have people from all walks of life: fireworks, potentially.

  12. KimberlyAfe says:

    I am fascinated by history as well (but have to be in the right mood for reading it). I didn’t think about how some of our veterans are buried overseas and that family would very much like to go there and visit. That’s such a good point. There’s so much we don’t consider, know, or think about until someone enlightens us. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’m a history nerd and have been since the 5th grade. We learned about the Boston Tea Party and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

      Losing a loved one is difficult already, but not having closure with a funeral would be even harder I think. I learned much from this book.

  13. Beth Ann says:

    Another great review! Thanks!

  14. I think a lot of historical books tend to feature many characters. But there is a point of too many to follow the story.

    • TBM says:

      That’s the problem with history, so many places, people, events. I love novels that have a huge cast of characters. Thorn Birds popped into my mind. I don’t mind following several stories, however, if an author wants to accomplish that, then each character needs to be fleshed out and this novel seemed a bit rushed at the end. Saying that I still enjoyed this novel very much. It’s a beautiful story and I’m glad I read it.

  15. Another enticing review. ❤ I like historical fiction as well because I like learning about real events as I enjoy an intriguing story. Sigh. Another one for the trailing list. 🙂

  16. fictional100 says:

    I liked the book very much myself, and I felt the last portion worked well enough to be justified. But your review makes me think more about each of the mothers–I too would have welcomed even more time spent with them, with their experience at the graves. And I also wondered about Mrs. Selma Russell, who we met in the beginning. Even though she was moved to a different party, it would have been interesting to follow her a little more in parallel.

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