The French Letters Trilogy
The multiple award-winning French Letters trilogy is the intimate portrait of a twentieth century American family. It is praised for its meticulous research and how it has captured the language, attitudes, and moral culture of the stories’ settings, reaching from small town World War II America in the 1940s to complex and complicated America in the 1980s. Reviewers describe the books as “beautiful and not pretentious, stories that are riveting and real.”
The three volumes follow the lives of Will and Virginia Hastings and their sons, Peter and Frank. Theirs was a family created out of an unlikely marriage entered into during the chaos and uncertainty of World War II, only to be slowly torn apart over the next forty years as the United States, and the family, prospered, grew, and lost touch with how it came to be.
The first two novels, set during World War II, are written in parallel, with the events in Virginia’s life on the home front and in Will’s life in the war in France mirroring each other, occurring at the same time, and affecting each of them in very unexpected ways. The third novel is set approximately forty years later when Will and Virginia near the ends of their lives. It focuses on their children’s long-simmering feud that finally erupts with Peter’s accusation that younger brother Frank is in truth a bastard who Will brought back as an infant from the war in France for Virginia to raise as their child.
Book One: Virginia’s War
Virginia’s War is a poignant novel that received uncommon critical acclaim, being named as a finalist for “Best Novel of the South” and Romantic Novels with a Twist. It focuses on Virginia Sullivan, a beautiful young woman who lives in small-town Texas in 1944.
Her story is revealed through the eyes of twelve-year old Sandy, a precocious boy who overhears through a doctor’s examining room walls that Virginia is pregnant, presumably by her longtime boyfriend Will Hastings, who is away in the army.
Virginia’s father announces in the town newspaper that she and Will had eloped just before Will shipped out, a lie that her father declared to be the truth unless Virginia wanted the entire town to know what she had done. Neither her father nor the town suspect that Will might not be her baby’s father.
Virginia’s scheming brother Bart, who runs the post office, does not deliver the letters Will and Virginia send each other, which means not only does Virginia does not get the letters Will writes to her, he does not know that he is married….
Awards and Recognition for Virginia’s War
- #1 Best Seller in War Fiction on Amazon Kindle
- #8 in Historical Fiction on Amazon Kindle
- Finalist for Best Novel of the South
- Medalist for the Romantic Novels with a Twist contest
- 2011 Honorable Mention – Fiction from the London Book Fair
- Spent several weeks on the Austin American-Statesman bestseller list
- 2009 Finalist for the Military Writers’ Society of America’s Best Historical Novel of the Year
- 2009 Finalist for the Williams Foundation’s Willie Morris Best Novel of the South
- 2010 Finalist for Dear Author’s Best Novel with a Romantic Element
- Virginia’s War was featured in the Amarillo Globe-News, Texas Bar Journal, and London has been a guest on “Great Day SA,” the morning news shows on KFDA-TV and KVII-TV, out of Amarillo, Texas, and News 8 Austin
Book Two: Engaged in War
Engaged in War is the parallel story of Virginia’s boyfriend, Will Hastings, who is an army doctor caught up in the D-Day landings and the drive to capture St. Lô, France. in Normandy during and after D-Day in 1944.
Will, utterly unaware that he supposedly eloped with and is now married to Virginia, finds himself without any family in the world when on D-Day his brother, Peter, is killed in combat. Will writes Virginia frequently, the same letters she eventually reads in the first novel, but since he hasn’t received any letters from her in months and concludes that she has given up on him.
Will is gravely wounded and cared for by Géraldine Dupré, a French farm girl…
Awards and Recognition for Engaged in War
- 2011-2012 Military Writers Society of America’s Author of the Year
- 2011 Honorable Mention – Fiction from the London Book Fair
- 2012 Silver medal in Historical Fiction from the Stars and Flags Book Awards Program
Book Three: Children of a Good War
The last book in the trilogy is Children of a Good War, the novel of Peter (born at the end of Virginia’s War) and younger brother Frank.
Some bombs lie buried for decades before they blow up and hurt someone. Now, forty years after World War II, one such bomb explodes in the form of a cache of faded wartime letters discovered in a cellar. Peter and Frank have grown up to mirror their parents: Peter, like Virginia, is magnetically attractive, popular, unforgiving, and very short-sighted. Frank, like Will, is introverted, has an exaggerated sense of justice, or injustice, and is restless to create a place for himself in life.
At Will’s funeral, Peter loudly accuses Frank of being a bastard who Will brought back from World War II. The brothers’ lifelong feud continues as Peter sets out to prove the claim and rid the family of Frank, while Frank tries to prove he is not a bastard. Will’s letters from the first two novels surface; they seemingly prove Peter’s accusation and compel Frank to set out for France to find his real mother…
Awards and Recognition for Children of a Good War
- 2018 Gold Medal Winner for the Best Novel of the Year in the war and military category – Foreword Reviews
- Best Novel of the Year — Military Writers Society of America
- Best Novel of the South — Willie Morris, Finalist
- Best Novel with a Romantic Element — Dear Author, Finalist
Jack loves to hear from veterans, their families, readers and others who have a question, comment or story to tell. If you have questions or other thoughts, please send Jack a message here.
A Novel Approach: To Writing Your First Novel, or Your Best One
I wrote A Novel Approach about the craft of writing to help budding authors with their first books. It is short, light-hearted, and I’m very proud to say it has helped a lot of authors complete their first books. Both fiction and non-fiction.
I revised A Novel Approach in 2019 to make it an even better reference for all of us who are trying to write our first book, our next one, or our best one.
Winner of the 2015 E-Lit Gold Medal