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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Just Once

January LaVoy, Kirby Heyborne

Simon & Schuster Audio

ISBN: 9781982104443

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: 11/14/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

The #1 New York Times bestselling author “known for her deeply heartfelt novels” (Woman’s World) writes a sweeping World War II love story about a young woman torn between two brothers.

In 1941, beautiful Irvel Holland is too focused on her secret to take much notice of the war raging overseas. She’s dating Sam but in love with his younger brother, Hank—her longtime best friend—and Irvel has no idea how to break the news. Then the unthinkable happens—Pearl Harbor is attacked. With their lives turned upside down overnight, Sam is drafted and convinces Hank to remain in Indiana, where he and Irvel take up the battle on the home front.

While Sam fights in Europe, an undeniable chemistry builds between Irvel and Hank but neither would dare cross that line. Then, two military leaders pay Irvel a visit at the classroom where she teaches. The men have plans for her, a proposition to join a new spy network. One catch: She can tell no one.

With Irvel caught between two brothers thousands of miles apart, can love find a way, even from the ashes of the greatest heartbreak?

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My Review

Karen Kingsbury, the bestselling author of the Baxter series, returns with her first foray into historical fiction with JUST ONCE —a moving story with dual timelines from the 1940s to the present. When a granddaughter discovers past secrets, there is more to her grandmother than she knew.

A heartfelt story for fans of Nicholas Spark's The Notebook, a love story during WWII, a young woman torn between two brothers, and a woman with Alzheimer's telling her story before her memories are lost.

Irvel Myers has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and is making a video for her son, Charlie, and his wife, Peggy, and granddaughter, Audra. It is the story of her life and love for Hank Myers, whom she married.

Hank is taking the video. She also tells about something that happened forty-seven years ago that her family did not know—only her husband.

Irvel was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services in the US Military as a spy during WWII. It all began in the summer of 1940.

With dual timelines, the author tells the earlier story of Irvvel as a young woman in 1941. She is dating Sam but is in love with his brother, Hank. Pearl Harbor is attacked, and Sam is drafted.

Hanks stays home with Irvel in Indiana to teach at the local high school. They have chemistry and fall in love. Then Irvel is recruited and begins posing as a nurse on a Navy ship while working as a code breaker. Will the three make it back home?

The present timeline is when Audra and her husband, Tom, find a series of tapes about her grandmother. No one knew her grandmother's secret, and they were proud of her.

A heartfelt multi-generational heroic love story of family, courage, memories, spirituality, and Christian faith. Beautifully written for fans of the author and those who enjoy engrossing WWII historical fiction, spies, and romance. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions. (Book Club questions included).

JUST ONCE is an important reminder to share your personal and family stories with the next generation.

My parents loved Karen Kingsbury books and read them all before they passed—they would have enjoyed this one!

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced reading review copy. The audiobook should be captivating, narrated by January LaVoy and Kirby Heyborne.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Nov 14, 2023


“In a novel that is part romance, part historical text, and part Christian fiction, Kingsbury tells the story of two average people from Bloomington, Indiana, who do extraordinary things together and apart during an extraordinary time, supported by their families and their faith throughout their entire lives.”


“Reminiscent of timeless romantic tales such as The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller; librarians should hand this to fans of closed-door romance. While Kingsbury is best known for her long-running ‘Baxter Family’ series, her stand-alones showcase her range as a writer, and her first foray into historical fiction is a fast and worthwhile read.”

—Library Journal

About the Author

Photo Credit: 2014 Dean Dixon Photography

Karen Kingsbury,#1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books were developed into a TV series. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University.

She and her husband, Donald, live in Tennessee near their children and grandchildren.







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