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Women at War

A recommended reading list by the bestselling author of The Secret Keeper

Book Cover The Secret Keeper

I’m thrilled to present my latest (my eighth!) novel of Canadian historical fiction, The Secret Keeper! This World War Two-based story revolves around twin sisters, Dash and Dot Wilson from Oshawa, Ontario. The inseparable but completely different sisters join the war effort and find their purposes in very different capacities—one as a codebreaker and the other as a pilot. Since she is working with top-secret information, Dot is forced to take an oath of secrecy, meaning she must keep secrets from everyone in her life for the next 40 years. When tragedy strikes the family, those secrets threaten to tear the sisters apart.

The Secret Keeper is a story of love, courage, and loyalty, and it also shines a spotlight on Canadian women during this incredible moment in our history. World War Two was the first time Canada officially included women as part of the war effort. By taking traditional “male” jobs so they could “free a man to serve,” women stepped out of their homes and opened their lives to new opportunities, changing the possibilities for Canadian women forever 

While their stories are not always set in Canada, the following Canadian authors have written incredible novels including women during wartime. These stories have stuck with me, no matter how many other books I read, and I highly recommend them.


Book Cover Someday I'll Find You

Someday I’ll Find You, by C.C. Humphreys

Based loosely on the lives of Humphreys' parents during WW2 (his father was a pilot, and his mother was a spy!), Someday I’ll Find You is an absolutely wonderful novel, rich with fascinating historical gems, driven by fast paced adventures and intrigue that held me spellbound the entire way through. Oh! And it is so romantic! A story of survival against all odds, and of true love despite it all. I have read a LOT of historical fiction, most of which are set during WW2 (as is this one), and each book has its own story to tell in its own unique way, but this … This is a book I will read again and again. 

Book Cover The SEcret History of Audrey James

The Secret History of Audrey James, by Heather Marshall

Since it’s the focus of my own novels, obviously I have a soft spot for books set in Canada or inspired by Canadian stories. Heather Marshall’s beautiful upcoming novel (publishing June 2024), The Secret History of Audrey James begins in pre-WW2 Berlin and was inspired by the incredible life story of Canadian war heroine Mona Parsons. Like so much of our country’s history, so few Canadians know about her, and they should! 

Book Cover The Spoon Stealer

The Spoon Stealer, by Lesley Crewe

I loved The Spoon Stealer so much, for so many reasons. Emmeline and Vera were the most delightful lead characters I have read in a long time. As we read about Emmeline’s wild and many-adventured life, I laughed, I cried through scenes both charming and horrifying, and I was emotionally attached to every character. Like with every one of Ms Crewe’s books, each scene and character was expertly crafted, and though the ending was perfect in every sense, I was left wishing the story would never end. An absolutely wonderful, heartfelt story of family and redemption, forgiveness and love. The Spoon Stealer will leave you longing for more.

Book Cover When the World Was Silent

When the World Fell Silent, by Donna Alward

I am well acquainted with the epic story of the Halifax Explosion, the largest manmade explosion in human history before Hiroshima. It’s the reason I started writing about Canadian history in the first place. How had I not been taught about this in my youth? To learn about the Explosion in 1917 means you learn about Nova Scotians before, during, and after the event, which means you will be immersed in their lives during WW1. This is a beautiful, meticulously researched story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. The novel is about two very different women struck by the tragedy and their separate struggles to survive. When their lives cross unexpectedly, they are forced to make an impossible decision that will change lives forever.

Book Cover Our Darkest Night

Our Darkest Night, by Jennifer Robson

No list of Canadian authors writing historical fiction would be complete without Toronto’s Jennifer Robson being included. A gripping tale of devastation, love, and hope set during the darkest days of the Second World War, Our Darkest Night takes readers on a shocking journey through war-torn Italy all the way to the chilling brutalities happening in Poland. The story is based on the lives of Ms. Robson’s husband’s ancestors, and the author’s passion for the story and love of the people come alive in her beautifully crafted characters, all of whom must become so much stronger than they ever believed they could be. Jennifer Robson’s books are always a delight, giving readers so much in both story and history.


Book Cover The Secret Keeper

Lear more about The Secret Keeper

Twin sisters Dot and Dash Wilson share many things, and while they are practically inseparable, they are nothing alike. Dot is fascinated by books, puzzles, and Morse code, a language taught to both girls by their father, a WWI veteran. Dash’s days are filled with fixing engines, dancing with friends, and dreaming of flying airplanes. Almost always at their side is their best friend Gus—until war breaks out and he enlists in the army, deploying to an unknown front.

Determined to do their duty, both girls join the WRENS, Dash as a mechanic and Dot as a typist. Before long, Dot’s fixation on patterns and numbers takes her from HMCS Coverdale, a covert listening and codebreaking station working with Bletchley Park in England, to Camp X, a top-secret spy school. But when personal tragedy strikes the family, Dot’s oath of secrecy causes a rift between the sisters.

Eager to leave her pain behind, Dash jumps at the opportunity to train as a pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary, where she risks her life to ferry aircraft and troops across the battlefields of Europe. Meanwhile Dot is drawn into the Allies’ preparations for D-Day. But Dot’s loyalties are put to the test once more when someone close to her goes missing in Nazi-occupied territory. With everyone’s eyes on Operation Overlord, Dot must use every skill at her disposal to save those she loves before it’s too late.

Inspired by the real-life stories of women in World War II, The Secret Keeper is an extraordinary novel about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood and the light of courage during the darkest of nights.

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