Thursday, September 5, 2019

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily, #1) by Tasha Alexander

Emily hastily agrees to marry London's most eligible bachelor in a desperate attempt to get out from underneath her overbearing mother. Before she even has a chance to get to know her groom, he dies on a hunting expedition. Feeling guilty at her lack of grief (she barely knew the man), she begins to discover him through his journal, stories from his friends and family, and by learning more about his interests and hobbies, like art and antiquity. In the process, the young widow begins to discover herself too, and eventually, uncovers her late husband's potential involvement in a crime. Who was he really? And which of his friends can she trust?

Coincidentally, this bore some resemblance to "Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey #1)" by Deanna Raybourn - a young and headstrong widow in Victorian times discovers some threatening notes in her late husband's books and papers and realizes he wasn't the man she thought he was. Since I read them almost back to back, I can't help but compare them. Alexander's novel is certainly slower paced and earns the tagline of "a novel of suspense" but I found it a touch more realistic. Emily doesn't go pursuing an investigation, teaming up with a P.I., and barreling headlong into dangerous situations like Julia did, in fact she largely ignores the clues that drop in her lap until she can't deny them any longer. While amateur sleuthing novels are fun, they can come across as somewhat fabricated sometimes and this one didn't feel that way.

Although slow paced, I really enjoyed watching Emily discover herself through her discovery of her late husband. With a few amusing stumbles and a touch of pretension, Emily evolved from a naive blank slate to a fully formed independent woman - and, oh yeah, uncovered and righted a crime too.



Friday, August 9, 2019

Review: Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey #1) by Deanna Raybourn

After her husband dies suddenly but not entirely unexpectedly, Lady Julia Grey is approached by a private investigator who claims it may have been murder. She refuses to believe him until a year later when she finds a threatening note while clearing out her husband's old things, but has the trail gone too cold to find the killer?

A little bit of a character/scene spoiler warning (not a crucial plot spoiler).

I think I would have enjoyed this more if the main character's love interest hadn't drugged her without her consent. I realize it wasn't for any malicious purpose, but even so, it made it difficult to understand her interest in him after that point, especially given her more modern and feminist beliefs. I suppose the author was trying to make him daring and a bit dangerous but I think there are ways to do that without violating consent like that, especially given that it served no purpose for the plot.

I am still debating whether to carry on with the series or not. With this one exception, I did enjoy the characters, the witty dialogue, and even the plot, although I must say I called whodunit from very early on (though I admit for not the reasons I originally thought). I am a bit curious to see where Lady Julia goes from here.



Monday, July 15, 2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Review: Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Kat makes fast friends with a Chinese gentleman the police suspect of the murder next door, but she is adamant it couldn't have been him. Suspicious people surround the widow and her home, while Kat fights her own battles in the house of her employment.

Based much on the prejudice towards the Chinese in London at the time, and how the English unjustly pillaged goods from China, every time you think you have this mystery figured out, something happens to prove you wrong or throw you off!

But the characters are what make this series so great. As swoon-worthy as Daniel and Kat's relationship is, I've also enjoyed watching Lady Cynthia and Mr. Thanos's budding relationship too, as well as seeing how Kat and Cynthia try to navigate the socially complicated friendship between Lady and servant. At first, I wasn't too keen on Tess, but even she has grown on me now. The latest antagonist within the household had me wanting to scream.

Just as with the Captain Lacy series, this story just keeps getting better and better with each installment.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.




Sunday, April 21, 2019

Review: The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Written in the style of a memoir, this is a novel about Joseph Stalin's only daughter, who defected to the US.

Perhaps due to the memoir style, there is a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", and the narrative feels very disjointed, hopping from one thing to the next and only briefly detailing important events in Svetlana's life that could have been used to really flesh out the characters and story.

I was really hoping this novel would give me great insight into a historical figure and subject matter I don't know much about but I feel like it didn't tell me much more than I could have learned from reading Svetlana's Wikipedia page.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Upcoming Releases

The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate 


Release Date: June 25, 2019



Venice, 1736. When fate brings Violetta and Mino together on the roof of the Hospital of the Incurables, they form a connection that will change their lives forever. Both are orphans at the Incurables, dreaming of escape. But when the resident Maestro notices Violetta's voice, she is selected for the Incurables' world famous coro, and must sign an oath never to sing beyond its church doors.

(Full description at Goodreads)



In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark 


Release Date: July 9, 2019



Hedonistic and politically turbulent, Berlin in the 1920s is a city of seedy night clubs and sumptuous art galleries. It is home to millionaires and mobs storming bakeries for rationed bread. These disparate Berlins collide when Emmeline, a young art student; Julius, an art expert; and a mysterious dealer named Rachmann all find themselves caught up in the astonishing discovery of thirty-two previously unknown paintings by Vincent van Gogh.

(Full description at Goodreads)


The Chelsea Girls: A Novel by Fiona Davis


Release Date: July 30, 2019



From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.


The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell 


Release Date: August 6, 2019



In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements had seen enough of the world to know that it was unfair. She’s spent her whole life in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan where men risk their lives for meager salaries—and had barely enough to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. The women labor in the houses of the elite, and send their husbands and sons deep underground each day, dreading the fateful call of the company man telling them their loved ones aren’t coming home. When Annie decides to stand up for herself, and the entire town of Calumet, nearly everyone believes she may have taken on more than she is prepared to handle.

(Full description at Goodreads)


The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel


Release Date: August 13, 2019



Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.

New York, 2019: Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.

(Full description at Goodreads)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Review: American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Thornton

Release Date: March 12, 2019

As the title says, this is a novel of Alice Roosevelt, the eldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Always having a complicated relationship with her father, she adored him but he kept her at arms length since she reminded him too much of her deceased mother, the love of Teddy's life. Yet she was easily the most like him in personality; unapologetically strong willed, strong minded, and outspoken with a quick wit, she was likely trying to emulate him to gain his approval, and in the process made herself into one of the most fascinating characters in American political families. The daughter of this larger-than-life American president is often in her father's shadow, but deserves her own spotlight, and this book more than does her justice. I knew from the moment I started reading this, from the very first paragraph, that I would love this book and Thornton's portrayal of Alice, and I did. So well written with such great characters, this is definitely not one to miss.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Upcoming Releases Historical Fiction

The Falling Sword (Clash of Empires) by Ben Kane


Release Date: May 2, 2019



Reeling from his defeat at the hands of the Macedonians, Rome's furious General Flamininus gathers his legions for the final strike on King Philip's mighty phalanx. Both leaders know the victor will rule Greece, and both armies will do everything in their power to claim the ultimate prize.

Fighting on opposing sides, Felix and Demetrios think they have survived the worst of the campaign. But between vicious infighting, unruly locals, and intense battle, both will be tested as the final showdown between two great civilisations begins . . .



The Royal Secret: A Novel by Lucinda Riley


Release Date: May 21, 2019



When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five, he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, it could rock the English establishment to its core.

Joanna Haslam, an up-and-coming reporter, is assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral, attended by glitzy celebrities of every background. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind—the contents of which many have been desperate to keep concealed for over seventy years. As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that she’s close to uncovering something deadly serious—and the royal family may be implicated. Before long, someone is on her tracks, attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.



City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert 


Release Date: June 4, 2019



"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are."

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin


Release Date: June 25, 2019



Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress—a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Fled: A Novel by Meg Keneally


Release Date: July 2, 2019



Based on the life of an incredible historical heroine, a harrowing journey in search of love, justice, and freedom, told by the daughter of best-selling author Thomas Keneally (Schindler's List)

Tall and lanky, more suited to sailing and fishing than to keeping a house, Jenny Gwyn has proven herself a survivor. When she's caught stealing to support her impoverished family, she and dozens of other convicts are sent across the world to help settle England's newest colony in Australia.

(Full description at Goodreads)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

July 2019 Historical Fiction Releases

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan


Release Date: July 2, 2019



From the glittering ballrooms of 17th Century England to the dangerous intrigues of the French court, Laura L. Sullivan brings an unlikely heroine to the page, turning on its head everything we’ve been told about The Three Musketeers and their ultimate rival.

I’ve gone by many names, though you most likely know me as Milady de Winter: Villainess. Seductress. A secondary player in someone else’s tale. It’s finally time I tell my own story. The truth isn’t tidy or convenient, but it’s certainly more interesting. Before you cast judgment, let me start at the beginning, and you shall learn how an innocent girl from the countryside became the most feared woman in all of Europe. Because we all know history was written by men, and they so often get things wrong.



The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar


Release Date: July 2, 2019



1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Golden Hour: A Novel by Beatriz Williams


Release Date: July 9, 2019



The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

(Full description at Goodreads)



Dragonfly by Leila Meacham


Release Date: July 9, 2019



At the height of WWII, five idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the OSS, asking them if they are willing to fight for their country. The men and women from very different backgrounds--a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and a wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer, and a ravishingly beautiful female fencer -- all answer the call of duty, but each for a secret reason of his or her own. They bond immediately, in a group code-named Dragonfly.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


Release Date: July 23, 2019



Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique to fend off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

(Full description at Goodreads)
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