The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Published:  Oct. 29, 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words BookshopThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out. (publisher)

My take:  Take one completely engaging lead character (Ailsa), add a life-threatening condition, a sparkling cast of characters with issues of their own, and tango – well that’s a recipe for a novel that made me happy I’m a reader.

Ailsa was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and has managed to stay alive until the age of twenty-eight when a compatible heart becomes available. She thought the journey to that day was hard. And it was. But she learns that living with her new heart has a new set of challenges, not the least being brave enough to put herself out there in this new life.

The story is told through the blog she set up related to her condition, emails and texts with various people, and the story of past relationships. I hesitate to expand but I can say I’m very glad to have had the chance to read Stephanie Butland’s second novel. It’s an emotional novel and one that left me with a happy heart.


About the author:

Photograph by Elliott Franks

STEPHANIE BUTLAND lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet and the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop.

Book-buy link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250242174


 

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Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain

Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain

Published:  September 2019 – HQN

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Holly Gibson has one wish this Christmas season: to find her young niece’s father. And she’s traveled hundreds of miles to the small town of Safe Haven to make that wish come true. But the mysterious Cash O’Dwyer is nothing like she expected. Strong and kind, he makes her heart beat faster. And suddenly that little secret she’s keeping about her sister stirs up all kinds of guilt…

Cash is stunned—and more than a little wary—to discover he’s a father. Having a family of his own was never part of his plan…until sweet baby Penny and her fiercely independent aunt Holly arrive in town. Now he’s trimming trees and stuffing stockings for three. But when the ghosts of Cash’s past threaten the future of his fragile new family, he’ll do whatever it takes to be the father Penny needs—and the man Holly deserves—for more than just the holidays. (publisher)

My take: At first glance Cash O’Dwyer seems to have everything. He has a successful career and a great relationship with his brothers and their families. That has always been good enough until the day he finds out he has a daughter. That’s a game changer he hadn’t expected. What will he do now that life has thrown a curve ball?

This is a story about figuring out what’s important and why. As in the previous novels in the series there’s a little romance, a little drama and a warm, cozy ending. Although Low Country Christmas can stand alone I’m glad I read all three in order because there are a few secondary plot points that continue throughout the series.


 

Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery

Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery

Published:  October 22, 2019 – HQN

Digital galley courtesy of HQN and NetGalley

Description: In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love? (publisher)

My take:  Meant to be Yours is book 5 in the Happily Inc series. It’s the first one I’ve read and I wasn’t lost so don’t be afraid to jump in here. This is a story of two people who know they are not candidates for marriage but they want to take a chance on a relationship. This trope can go either way in my experience but I have to say I liked how Susan Mallery brought her characters along. Renee works at a wedding event business and Jasper is a famous author. He also deals with PTSD from his time in the military. Renee has her own demons from a former relationship that went bad. So these two have to go through some challenges to get to a possible happy ending. I enjoyed the wedding event theme and the rescued dog and cats that end up rescuing their humans. All in all, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the series and Susan Mallery.


Author Bio:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @SusanMallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Goodreads

MEANT TO BE YOURS

Author: Susan Mallery

ISBN: 9781335041494

Publication Date: 10/22/19

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo


 

A Texas Kind of Christmas

A Texas Kind of Christmas by 

Jodi Thomas  Celia Bonaduce   Rachel Miles

Expected publication:  Oct. 29, 2019 – Kensington Books

Book courtesy of the Kensington and NetGalley

Description:

It’s Christmas Eve, 1859, and everyone who’s anyone is headed to the glorious St. Nicholas Hotel for the most talked about ball of the season. It’s the kind of Texas night where anything can happen—even love . . .
 
ONE NIGHT AT THE ST. NICHOLAS
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jodi Thomas
 To escape her stepmother’s plot to marry her off, Texas heiress Jacqueline Hartman spends Christmas Eve sharing a hideout with an accused bank robber. After a night in Nathaniel Ward’s arms, Jacqueline is certain she has met her match after all. But will his heartfelt promise of love lead to his demise at the hands of the law?
 
BIRDIE’S FLIGHT * Celia Bonaduce
Seamstress Birdie Flanagan gets the surprise of her life when she receives a beautiful gown—and a sudden invitation—for the ball of the season! Birdie creates a stir from the moment she arrives, capturing the eye of the dashing Captain Douglas Fairbanks.  But will a secret from her past keep her from her long-awaited happily-ever-after?
 
SPIRIT OF TEXAS * Rachael Miles
When lovely spinster Eugenie Charpentier makes a trip across the Texas frontier with former Texas Ranger Asher Graham, she dreams of an adventure, and the rough-and-tumble cowboy is happy to oblige. But both Eugenie and the rugged lawman are keeping secrets. Can they find each other—and love—on the dance floor at the Christmas ball?  (publisher)

My take:  What initially sold me on this book was seeing Jodi Thomas’s name. I think it’s the first time I’ve ready anything by Celia Bonaduce and Rachael Miles. It turned out to be a great introduction because I’ve added them both to my TBR list. I’m a fan of historical romance of this era and a US setting and I’m glad to have found new-to-me authors. I enjoyed their writing style.

The connection shared by the three novellas is a Christmas Ball hosted at the grand Dallas hotel, The St. Nicholas. It is the destination and main setting for the characters but Christmas plays a minor role. At the forefront are well-to-do fathers looking to marry off their daughters, a financially independent spinster who might have found her soul mate, and the terrible beauty that is the Texas terrain. I enjoyed each story and recommend the book to fans of the authors and historical romance.


THE HISTORY BEHIND A TEXAS KIND OF CHRISTMAS: 

➢ Sarah Horton Cockrell opened the St. Nicholas Hotel in 1859 under her own management, one year after her husband, Alex Cockrell, died at the hands of a Dallas sheriff. It was known as one of the most fashionable, grand hotels of its time until it burned down in the Dallas Fire of 1860. It was the first building constructed taller than two stories and the crowning social event Dallas society was the grand ball with which it made its debut. Sarah Horton Cockrell named the hotel after the man she chose as its manager – Nicholas H. Darnell, a captain in the Indian wars of 1839, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Texas Congress of 1842, and Lieutenant Governor elected in the first state election of 1846. 

Sarah Horton Cockrell (1819-1892) 

➢ An astute businesswoman, real estate maven and transportation pioneer whose wealth and power defied gender conventions of the time, Sarah Horton Cockrell went on to own nearly 1⁄4 of Downtown Dallas, opening the Dallas Hotel (later known as the St. Charles), a number of flour mills and other businesses. She constructed the first iron bridge across the Trinity, leading to enormous economic development for the state. 

➢ After Sarah Horton Cockrell’s death in 1892, The Dallas Morning News’s obituary stated that her funeral procession and floral tributes were among the largest ever seen in Dallas.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS 

Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and her historical anthology, A Texas Kind of Christmas (Nov. 2019). The first book in her new series with Kensington, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, comes out May 2020. Please visit her at http://www.JodiThomas.com.


Celia Bonaduce, also the author of The Venice Beach Romances and the Welcome to Fat Chance, Texas series, has always had a love affair with houses. Her credits as a television field producer include such house-heavy hits as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; HGTV’s House Hunters and Tiny House Hunters. She lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband and dreams of one day traveling with him in their own tiny house. She can be found online http://www.CeliaBonaduce.com

Rachael Miles is an acclaimed romance novelist and historian specializing in the 19th century, as well as a professor of literary history. A fifth-generation Texan and native of Dallas, she now lives and teaches in New York. Visit her online at http://www.RachaelMiles.com.


Meet Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce at these Upcoming Events! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 @ 6pm DALLAS WOMAN’S FORUM at the Alexander Mansion of Dallas Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres with Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce (Author Talk, followed by Q&A and Book Signing) 4607 Ross Avenue Dallas, Texas 75204 

Thursday, November 21, 2019 @ 11am DALLAS WOMAN’S FORUM at the Alexander Mansion of Dallas Luncheon with Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce (Author Talk, followed by Q&A and Book Signing) 4607 Ross Avenue Dallas, Texas 75204 

Thursday November 21, 2019 @ 6pm INTERABANG BOOKS 10720 Preston Rd #1009B Dallas, TX 75230 

Saturday, November 23, 2019 @ 11am DALLAS ARBORETUM – Rosine Hall 8525 Garland Rd. Dallas, Texas 75218


 

 

One Wish: A Christmas Story by Jodi Thomas

One Wish: A Christmas Story by Jodi Thomas

Expected publication:  Oct. 29, 2019 – Zebra

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take: Maggie has a journal where she has recorded wishes over the years. Ranging from flowery, hopeful wishes to now – when she wishes to spend a day with a good man. She doesn’t hold out much home that she’ll get her wish.

On a night just before Christmas she’s the only person in her mercantile when three men with bad intentions come in and threaten her. They don’t realize there’s another person in the shop and he upsets their plan. He is a man from Maggie’s past. She and Sam knew each other as children. Twenty years have passed and they have an opportunity to get re-acquainted.

This is a novella about finding friendship and possibly love. It’s a warm story peppered with Jodi Thomas’s trademark humor. I enjoyed it! The format is perfect when you need a little escape during a busy day.


 

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The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Paperback release:  September 2019 – Gallery Books

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side. (publisher)

Guest Review by Bookfan daughter:

I devoured this enjoyable book in short order. When I first noticed the author employed the alternating narrator technique, I was not thrilled. I have had my fill of juggling two voices in different time periods. However, this story was woven together with the vehicle of the diary and that helped provide continuity. There is a bit of mystery as Cara attempts to find the author of the diary and I loved that I could not figure it out. I was pulled along with Cara in her search. I wish I could follow these characters further in their story.


 

 

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Published:  October 8, 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:  Kate Moreton is in Ireland on sabbatical from her teaching position at Dartmouth College when she meets Ozzie Ferriter, a fisherman and a veteran of the American war in Afghanistan. The Ferriter family history dates back centuries on the remote Blasket Islands, and Ozzie – a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States – has retreated to the one place that might offer him peace from a war he cannot seem to leave behind.

Beside the sea, with Ireland’s beauty as a backdrop, the two fall deeply in love and attempt to live on an island of their own making, away from the pressures of the outside world. Ireland writes its own love stories, the legends claim, and the limits of Kate and Ozzie’s love and faith in each other will be tested. When his demons lead Ozzie to become reckless with his life―and Kate’s―she flees for America rather than watch the man she loves self-destruct. But soon a letter arrives informing Kate that her heroic husband has been lost at sea, and Kate must decide whether it is an act of love to follow him or an act of mercy to forget.  (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of Kate and Ozzie. They meet, fall in love, and then life takes unexpected turns. I was surprised that everything seemed to happen quickly where these two were concerned but decided it was the author’s story to tell and I was along for the ride.

I loved the setting. I know Ireland is wonderful and magical because I’ve been there more than once. Monninger did a beautiful job with description. I also liked learning a bit about the Blasket Islands. Although set mainly in Ireland the story travels to Italy, Canada and the US.

There were a few times when I felt lost because of ‘time gaps’  but I quickly got up to speed. The seven letters serve to catch the reader up as the story progresses and by the time I’d read the seventh I was satisfied with the resolution. As I read I felt a bit of a folktale tone – something I didn’t know I liked. I enjoyed Seven Letters and recommend it to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


About the author:

J.P. Monninger, author of The Map That Leads to You, is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.


 

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Published:  October 15, 2019 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

Description: Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, is back solving new cases in the Victorian-set mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of The Hollow of Fear.

As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
 
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
 
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake… (publisher)

My take:  Since Sherlock Holmes is always indisposed, his sister Charlotte fills in for him – much to prospective clients’ chagrin. Soon they find the confidence to hire Charlotte to solve their problems.

In a world that adheres to strict social rules life isn’t easy for a young woman on the fringes of society. In The Art of Theft we get to know more about Charlotte’s sister Olivia. She’s a writer and is hoping to finish a Sherlock Holmes mystery. She’s also worried about turning thirty years old with no prospects.

This novel takes Charlotte and her ‘team’ of friends to France in search of a painting and other assorted items that pose a threat to an important client. Sherry Thomas uses subtle humor and great pacing to advance the plot culminating in an exciting event that placed me in the middle of the scene. I loved that! The epilogue foreshadows the next book which made me happy and anticipating where Charlotte and her friends’ next task will take them. Recommended to fans of Sherry Thomas, historical mysteries, and a good story.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Once Removed by Colette Sartor

Once Removed by Colette Sartor

Published: September 15, 2019 – University of Georgia Press

Book provided by the publisher and Tandem Literary

Description: Women drive the narrative in ONCE REMOVED. They carry the burdens imposed in the name of intimacy: the secrets kept, lies told, disputes initiated and the joy that can still manage to triumph. A singer with a damaged voice and an assumed identity befriends a silent, troubled child; an infertile law professor covets a tenant’s daughterly affection; a new mother tries to shield her infant from her estranged mother’s surprise Easter visit; an aging shopkeeper hides her husband’s decline and a decades-old lie to keep her best friends from moving away. With depth and an acute sense of the fragility of intimate connection, Colette Sartor creates characters that resonate with familiarity and emotional complexity. Some of these women possess the fierce natures and long, vengeful memories of expert grudge holders. Others avoid conflict at every turn, or so they tell themselves. For all of them, grief lies at the core of love. #onceremovedstories.


About the author:

COLETTE SARTOR teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program as well as privately and is an executive director of the CineStory Foundation, a mentoring organization for emerging TV writers and screenwriters. Her writing has appeared in Carve magazine, Slice magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Kenyon Review Online, Colorado Review, and other publications. Among other awards, she has been granted a Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, a Glenna Luschei Award, a Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, and a Truman Capote fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA.

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/colettesartor
https://twitter.com/UGAPress

Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/colettesartor/
https://www.instagram.com/ugapress/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/colettesartorauthor/
https://www.facebook.com/UGAPress/

Praise for ONCE REMOVED:

“Colette Sartor’s stories shimmer with a radiant, unsettling light. She strips away the veils that we hide behind and exposes our deepest fears and desires, revealing who we inescapably are. The stories are laced with dark humor and raw, earned emotion, and they proceed from page to page with a beautiful urgency. Her prose sings and her wounded characters linger in readers’ memories like people you’ve known, people you could have been had luck gone the other way. This is trenchant, gorgeous fiction, the voice of a writer you’ll follow anywhere, everywhere.” —Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This

“These are short stories the way they were meant to be told, from a writer who, tale after tale, proves her mastery of the form. Peopled with characters that are bracingly complex, these stories tease out the subtleties of human relationships, especially when they’ve gone awry. I was absorbed and moved from every first sentence to the last.” —Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

“Lordy, what a wallop each of these stories delivers—to the heart and the head, sure, but also to the conscience and the soul, not to mention to the myths of family that we embrace and to the vital lies peculiar to love that we cleave to. Equally stunning is Ms. Sartor’s command of craft—no cleverness for its own sake, no peekaboo, no ‘Look, Ma, no hands.’ Instead, with enviable humility and no little grace, she has subordinated herself to the needs, wishes, desires, and dreams of characters who have galvanized her imagination and engaged her empathy. Bravo.” — Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once: New and Selected Stories

Once Removed is that rare book that succeeds on both micro and macro levels; the stories focus on the specific intimacy of individual lives yet also participate in the larger project of a whole world made of these stories—dependent on them, in fact, supported and enlarged and sustained by them. Sartor’s women suffer the internal and external scarring of the dangerous terrain they navigate: love, family, self, community. They ask uncomfortable questions, both of themselves and of the reader; it’s hugely satisfying to reach the end of the book and feel the resonant strength of the answers it proposes.” — Antonya Nelson, author of Bound


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The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Expected publication date:  Nov. 19, 2019 – Random House

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

The Confession Club
is charming, heartwarming, and inspiring. And as in the previous books that take place in Mason, readers will find friendship, community, and kindness on full display.
(publisher)

My take:  I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth Berg’s Mason series. The Confession Club is book three and although I suppose it could stand alone I highly recommend reading the books in order. At the forefront in this book are some familiar characters: Iris and Maddy. Iris meets a handsome stranger who becomes important to her. But he has secrets. Maddy is back in Mason and feels haunted by her previous demons. She and her young daughter stay with Iris and she winds up joining the Confession Club. It’s a group of women of a certain age. At each meeting one person reveals something about herself that she’s never shared before. These women are mostly north of fifty and have regrets, hopes, and secrets. Ultimately the meetings become an exercise in trust and compassion. The women find courage they didn’t know they had and also discover the power of forgiveness – of others and themselves. Berg used a fairly light touch addressing some serious issues. As the novel drew to a close I wished it could have gone on for a few more chapters. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye! Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Berg, women’s fiction and small town fiction.


 

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US Giveaway – Trade Paperback release: The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George

The Splendor before the Dark by Margaret George

Paperback publication:  October 8, 2019 – Berkley Books

Description:

Ascending to the throne was only the beginning… Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome’s most infamous emperor cements his place in history.

With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero’s complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace–and the politicians…

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome’s–and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible.

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known. (publisher)

My take:  (originally posted November 2018 – Hardcover edition)

I confess to knowing virtually nothing about Nero going into this novel – save a visual of him playing the fiddle while Rome burned. As usual, Margaret George brought me up to speed in a most entertaining way. Her historical fiction novel played out in the form of Nero’s autobiography with additional viewpoints from his first love, Acte, and Locusto, his poisons consultant. It’s a story of political plots and intrigue, living with rumors and innuendo, and never quite knowing who was worthy of Nero’s trust.

I’ve read Margaret Georges’s previous novels about Cleopatra and Helen of Troy so I was unsurprised by the 500+ pages it took to tell Nero’s story. I also knew it would be meticulously researched and presented in her usual engaging style. The Afterword is very interesting and I appreciated the family tree and maps included at the beginning of the book. I think fans of the author and historical fiction will enjoy and learn from this story. I certainly did.


About the author:

Margaret George is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels of biographical historical fiction, including The Confessions of Young Nero; Elizabeth I; Helen of Troy; Mary, Called Magdalene; The Memoirs of Cleopatra; Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles; and The Autobiography of Henry VIII. She also has coauthored a children’s book, Lucile Lost.


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