Book Review: A War of Her Own by Sylvia Dickey Smith

A War of Her Own is a novel set during World War II in the summer of 1943 in Orange, Texas, a sleepy little town overrun with tens of thousands of new workers.  With jobs galore at the wartime shipyards, the workers are rich with cash, eager for excitement, and looking for a good time.

In the midst of this, Bea Meade, mother of an infant son, finds her life shattered when her philandering husband announces he is leaving her for another woman.  to make ends meet, Bea takes a job at one of the shipyards as a riveter.

Life is good for everyone in Orange---except Bea, who has to fight her battles against a no-good husband, the prejudice facing women in the workplace, and the mysteries of her past that keep her awake at night.

A War of Her Own offers a story of wartime passions on the homefront as Bea seeks to discover who she really is. 

Publication Date:  September 2, 2010
Publisher:  Crickhollow Books
Age Group:  Adult
Pages:  280

Historical fiction is my favorite genre.  I am also a big fan of Sylvia Dickey Smith (Dance on His Grave, Dead Wreckoning).  So it was with great excitement that I sat down to read Sylvia Dickey Smith's new novel: A War of Her Own, set in Orange, Texas in 1943.

I was expecting a story about a strong woman in that "Sylvia Dickey Smith style": lots of background information, great supporting characters, a page-turning mystery, and a woman realizing she doesn't need a man to be complete.  I was not disappointed!  A War of Her Own had all of those elements and more.  This was my favorite Smith book to date, and the most emotional, heart-rending story I've read in a while.

Yes, this novel is set in WWII times, but this is not a "war" story---it's a story about love, family, self-discovery and self-empowerment with a war going on in the background.  I can tell that Smith did a lot of research for this book.  I really appreciate that, especially the attention to detail all of her books employ.  I don't like a book to preach or teach to me, but I do like to learn a little bit while reading and this book does just that. 

I never thought about how Orange being a major shipbuilding area due to the location, and how after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the population exploded from 7,500 to over 65,000 due to the increase in shipbuilding jobs.  People had money due to the good jobs, but there was nowhere to live---people were literally living in the streets due to the lack of housing!  I also never thought about women taking many of those jobs since so many of the men were fighting. And these weren't "women's jobs"---women were doing heavy labor right alongside the men.

But my favorite thing about A War of Her Own was Bea's story and growth.  She lives under impossible circumstances, but manages to flourish despite her hardships.  I was so emotionally invested in Bea's story that I read the book in one sitting: I knew I couldn't go to bed without finding out how Bea's story ended. Below is my favorite quote from the book:

"Perhaps it was impossible not to hate or to love God, or anyone else, when you had no idea who you were."

Fans of The Help, fans of historical fiction, or people wanting to read about a strong woman will love A War of Her Own
Just One Gripe: 
I wanted more details on the love story.  

The Best Thing About This Book: 
I loved the character growth.  Bea changes so much from the beginning of the book to the end.  I loved taking that journey with her.

Appropriate for a younger audience: 
Probably not.

Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Setting/Imagery: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Ending: 5/5
Total Score: 25/25


  1. This does sound good. I like historical fiction but don't read a lot in this time period. I'll have to add the author and this book to my wishlist. Happy reading!

  2. Kelli, Your review was excellent. I loved The Help and I can't wait to read A War Of Her Own!

  3. Thanks for all your support with CEP! You grils are awesome!

    I thought this was just a war book from the cover. Great to hear it is much more! I am a sucker for self-discovery stories. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  4. Woops! That was supposed to be a *girls, not grils. lol :D

  5. Sounds like an interesting read. I love character growth as well. Can't have them going nowhere out the experiences they have. ;) Sounds as though I should look into reading this one. Thanks for a great review.

  6. Excelent review! I don't usually read historical fiction but I might give this a try! You convinced me with your review =) Great job!

  7. Very nice review and it sounds like a really good book.

  8. I am going to have to pick this up, Orange is so close to me. And I sent your review to my friends Mom who is from Orange.

    Have you read City on Fire? It's about the Grandcamp explosion in Texas City. WONDERFUL book!

  9. This sounds like a very good read. Congratulations! I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please access it at your convenience and be sure to pass it on to other deserving bloggers. Enjoy!

  10. Sylvia is seems so nice, I can't wait to meet her!

    @ Jami, you better sign up for a shirt :)

    @ Nerdy Katie, I am going to the book signing since Kelli will be on vacation! Hope to see you there :)

  11. Hey, ladies. Just had to stop by and say I really do look forward to meeting all of you when I'm in the Orange area the end of this month and hope you can make one of the events. (The list of events can be found at

    If you do, please let me know your from this review site!
    Sylvia Dickey Smith

  12. Hi Sylvia - My name is Pamela Mouton and I was born and raised in Orange, TX and my Mom was from Orange - I have heard many, many times how Orange grew by thousands in a matter of days - with my Mom's family sometimes waking up to find tents in their side yard.

    My Dad was in the Navy and actually saw my Mom's photo in a photographers studio and shared with his navy buddies that he was going to marry that lady - they of course all got a BIG kick out of that. And it was a small world.....he was actually from Port Arthur and most sailors that my Mom had met were from points much farther than a few miles, as they say.....the rest is history.

    Back in the 40's Orange was such a beautiful little city - wish you could have seen it then - palm trees lining the boulevards - vibrant and bustling downtown - wish all of that could be recaptured again.

    I look forward to reading your book about my home town and will be sharing with all of my friends that this is a MUST read - since most of my friends families share a similar time frame and stories from Orange.

  13. Actually, Pam, I did see Orange in the 40s. I was born and grew up there in the 40s and 50s. And you are so right. It was a beautiful town. Actually, I knew some Mouton's there. I also remember the sailors there in the 50s. Even dated one once! LOL

    I do think you and your mom will enjoy the book because it will be a walk down memory lane! Those days must be remembered. Orange folks made a significant contribution to the war effort, and in turn, changed the whole world!

    You might enjoy which has some information about those years.

    Thanks for writing. Look forward to hearing from you again!


    Sylvia Dickey Smith

  14. Great review! Just added another to my TBR list (I don't think it ever gets smaller).

  15. Sylvia, It was a pleasure to meet you at the book signing at Barnes Noble. I've never meet an author and that was such a treat for me. I loved the book but with one complaint, I didn't want it to end. I look forward to reading another of your books!


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