Book Review: Annie’s Apple by John A. Heldt

book review annies apple john a heldt

Title: Annie’s Apple (Second Chance #2)

Author: John A. Heldt

Publisher: Self-published

Publication date: April 1, 2023

Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga

One Sentence Summary: A few years after the events of The Fountain finds the growing Carpenter family in NYC with Annie taking a job as a society writer after surviving one of the city’s devastating disasters in 1911, Bill retiring from teaching with his wife to start a family, and Paul finishing his time in the military and dreaming of the future.

annies apple john a heldt

Annie’s Apple is set a few years after the events of the first book, The Fountain. Bill, Paul, and Annie have acclimated to living several decades in the past after having jumped into a Fountain of Youth in Mexico and emerged in the early 1900s in younger, healthier bodies. Bill, his wife Cassie, and Annie have relocated from the San Francisco area to New York City while Paul and Cassie’s younger brother Andy have joined the military and are at the US-Mexico border at the start of the present story.

It’s now 1911 and Annie is a journalist undercover at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. She knows a terrible tragedy is on the horizon and hopes a story about the unsafe work environment will prevent it from happening, but, without the Internet handy to look up exact dates, she gets her timing wrong and ends up traumatized when she gets caught in the fire. Unwilling to return to that kind of reporting, she becomes a society writer, jumping head first into writing stories about the wealthy. It offers her the opportunity to meet new friends, and even a new love interest while Andy tries to put her off in favor of his military career, but another tragedy looms close.

In the meantime, Bill and Cassie work hard to start a family, settling into domesticity and having adventures of their own, some sweet and some funny and some serious. Paul has decided a second go in the military isn’t what he wants, and meeting a special lady opens his world in ways he could have never foreseen.

I am not a fan of historical fiction, family sagas, and time travel, yet I adore this Second Chance series. I find the siblings charming and fun, and the historical events written in a very compelling way that makes me feel like I’m there, too. My favorite part is how these siblings sometimes bring in bits and pieces of the future in the way they speak about things and mention things that don’t exist yet that just bewilder the people around them. It’s so much fun to see them in an historical setting and adjusting to a very different way of life, but I also love when they sit down and it’s just them and they have the freedom to be who they are and talk the way they would in the present day.

Annie’s Apple, as the title suggests, is mostly Annie’s story, but her brothers get their fair share of page time. I did, once in a while, feel like one of them was being left out a bit as chapters would go by without much about them, but they more than made up for it, and I liked that I completely understood why there hadn’t been chapters for them. But I adore Annie. She’s fun and spunky with a delightful light to her. She’s fantastic in the context of her family, very warm and loving and lighthearted while also free to feel the pains life throws at her. But she’s just as delightful when she’s out on her own, meeting so many new people and having to acclimate to being around the wealthy and powerful. I loved her relationship with her boss, and the sisters of the man who catches her eye. I think what I liked most about her was she was always painted as charming and witty, but she also felt like she had the freedom to be anything but. She was a complex character with a great deal of depth.

Bill and Paul are much more than supporting characters; they’re two-thirds of this group of siblings that this series follows, and just as important as Annie. Their lives take interesting turns in this book. Bill’s was fun and sweet, and I loved every moment of it. He and Cassie are a delightful couple. Even though there isn’t as much of a focus on them as in the first book, I never felt like they were left out; their story just had a different, more domestic trajectory that didn’t quite have as much drama as the other story lines. I liked that it was softer as it felt like something of a safety net for Paul and Annie. I really felt for Paul in this story. He’s a bit lost, not wanting to go back in the military for a second tour, but loving that he and Andy are sent back to New York City for the duration of their current enlistment. He just doesn’t know what life has in store for him next, and I just want him to find that happiness that Bill has and to have the opportunity to feel settled. Of all the siblings, I feel like my heart rests mostly with him because he’s just put through so much. Annie’s Apple does give him a very special romance, one that I absolutely delighted in. There were so many hints about this lady’s past, and I wanted to scream at Paul to recognize certain signs, so the reveal was very satisfying.

Annie’s Apple is so much more than just the siblings and their new chance at life. It’s also about historical events that have shaped society and our country. It was fun to experience these historical moments, no matter how heartbreaking they are. This is set in 1911 and 1912, so history tells us we can expect the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the sinking of the Titanic. These aren’t just historical events, they’re lived experiences these siblings know about where they already have some of the horror of what it might have been like. But now they get to experience what it really was like, and that just creates some interesting follow up for them as they have to actually navigate what comes next. It must be excruciating knowing what’s going to happen, and still be powerless to do anything about it. I loved getting these glimpses into history and feeling the trauma and heartbreak these siblings felt.

I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like about Annie’s Apple. I felt like events were realistic considering the times, and I loved the intentional anachronisms the siblings brought in. They were fun, and I enjoyed how they made everyone else think the siblings were strange yet charming. I recall that in my review of the first book I wasn’t a fan of all the repetition in the characters’ speech and thoughts. I was delighted that either these had been edited to occur much less frequently or I had acclimated to Heldt’s writing style. I didn’t feel slowed down at all, and, indeed, felt like I was flying through this book. I couldn’t wait to pick it back up, dying to know what was going to happen next and how they were going to deal with the next major tragedy, even if I had an inkling of what was likely to occur. Bill, Paul, and Annie did not disappoint me, and I’m eager to see what the future holds for them.

Annie’s Apple is a delightful novel that deals with heavy tragedies with a thoughtful, caring hand. I fell in love with these characters even more, and really loved how their stories wrapped up in this book. The story progresses at a very nice pace, and the characters’ stories evolve naturally. I loved that they were in New York City and the reader gets a taste of high society. It was fascinating and fun, and I think The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale, which follows the beginning of journalist Nellie Bly’s career, would be an excellent companion to Annie’s Apple. The former is set a number of years before the latter, but Nellie Bly really helped pave the way for journalists like Annie, and it just feels like having read The Mad Girls of New York added a little bit to my reading experience with Annie’s Apple. Overall, I really loved Annie’s Apple. It sometimes wasn’t easy to read through some of their experiences, and there are other heartbreaks outside of these, but the love between the siblings is really special and I absolutely adore all of them.

How many cups of tea will you need?

5 cups of tea

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Thank you to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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