The Excitements
January 16, 2024

Book Review

The Excitements

reviewed by Sandra Hoover


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The Excitements is a delightfully charming tale of two elderly sisters who are forever in search of their next “excitement” aka adventure.  The ladies are well-preserved, ninety plus year old WWII veterans chock-full of life and dark secrets with a knack for finding trouble . . . or does it find them?  The sisters depend on their gay nephew Archie to plan their excitements and get them where they need to be on time. 

The odd trio travels the world where the sisters are in demand to make appearances at festivals and fundraisers, often giving speeches and receiving recognition and awards for their service.  Now, they’re off to Paris, France to receive the revered Légion d’honneur medal awarded for their heroism in liberating France.  At least that’s why Archie believes they’re going; however, as they often do, these ladies have a secret agenda to right some wrongs, and this may be their last shot at doing so.

Author CJ Wray has penned a witty tale featuring two eccentric characters unlike any others you’ve ever met.  Penny and Josephine Williams are Britan’s war treasures, adored and loved by the masses as war heroes who were part of the famous WREN’s and FANY’s, working for the Royal Navy and the nursing corps.  At least that’s the official word; however, what the world doesn’t know is that Josephine was an undercover intelligence operative and Penny a spy in their younger days, and they developed several interesting skills rumored to involve grand larceny and hand-to-hand combat. With the trip to France, they have one last chance to settle old scores and pull one last heist.  It may be their last big hurrah, so they intend to make it a memorable one and go out with a bang.

For the most part, The Excitements is narrated by Pennie and Archie with the timeline constantly shifting between past and present. The dialogue is entertaining with several tales shared by the sisters about their past adventures.  The constant shifting of time may be problematic for some readers as it isn’t always in chronological order, often swinging forward and back.  While I found myself having to back up on occasion and reread passages to ground myself again before proceeding, it was easy to settle back in quickly.  The story relayed in present time is often humorous with the banter between Archie and his aunts a delight to read.  Readers will enjoy joining the two spry nonagenarians as they scheme and plot with poor Archie working double-time to stop their shenanigans from landing them in trouble yet again.  While the story flows at a nice pace and the tone is overall light, there’s a dark undercurrent of suspense ebbing throughout as readers wait for the other shoe to drop to discover what really happened to the sisters in Paris all those years ago that led to the score they’re dead set on settling. Sometimes, a plot line is so convoluted, pulling readers in so many directions that the focus tends to get lost in the shuffle, and the story suffers.  To a lesser degree, this is what happens in The Excitements in my opinion.  At times, it’s a comedy – hilarious and fun, other times it’s a super spy mystery – intriguing and mysterious.  It’s most certainly a historical fiction story brimming with interesting information from the time period with a brief side of romance.   One thing’s for sure . . . it’s a smorgasbord of reading pleasure if readers take their time and consume it in small bites, enjoying each part.

The Excitements is a tale of two resourceful nonagenarians with a secret agenda traveling the world, leaving havoc in their wake.  The characterizations are pure gold even though the plot line is occasionally a bit muddled.  Author CJ Wray excels at incorporating pertinent WWII history into this tale of two elderly, highly decorated veterans gone wild.  Prepare to laugh aloud as the Williamson sisters attempt to pull off one final heist.  Recommended to history buffs as well as fans of mystery and comedy. 

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