Spotlight: The Duchess by Wendy Holden

Congratulations to author Wendy Holden on the publication of her new novel The Duchess. Tuesday, September 28 is the big day. Fans of novels about British Royalty will want to look for The Duchess.

The Duchess by Wendy Holden

Expected pub. date:  Sept. 28, 2021

Berkley Trade Paperback Original

All content courtesy of the publisher

Description:

It was a love so strong, a king renounced his kingdom—all for that woman. Or was she just an escape route for a monarch who never wanted to rule? Bestselling author Wendy Holden takes an intimate look at one of the most notorious scandals of the 20th century.

1928. A middle-aged foreigner comes to London with average looks, no money and no connections. Wallis’s first months in the city are lonely, dull and depressing. With no friends of her own she follows the glamorous set in magazines and goes to watch society weddings. Her stuffy husband Ernest’s idea of fun, meanwhile, is touring historic monuments.
 
When an unexpected encounter leads to a house party with the Prince of Wales, Wallis’s star begins to rise. Her secret weapon is her American pep and honesty. For the prince she is a breath of fresh air. As her friendship with him grows, their relationship deepens into love. Wallis is plunged into a world of unimaginable luxury and privilege, enjoying weekends together at his private palace on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Wallis knows the fun and excitement can’t last. The prince will have to marry and she will return to Ernest. The sudden death of George V seems to make this inevitable; the Prince of Wales is now King Edward VIII. When, to her shock and amazement, he refuses to give her up–or recognize that they are facing impossible odds–herr fairy tale becomes a nightmare. The royal family close ranks to shut her out and Ernest gives an ultimatum.

Wallis finds herself trapped when Edward insists on abdicating his throne. She can’t escape the overwhelming public outrage and villainized, she becomes the woman everyone blames—the face of the most dramatic royal scandal of the twentieth century.


 

Spotlight: Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; September 7, 2021;

Diverse Women’s Fiction

About:

Jude Andrews is famous. Well, at least on Instagram. Her brand is clean eating, good vibes, Pilates, and casually looking like a sun-kissed goddess. In real life, however, she’s a total disaster. She has a strained relationship with her fame-hungry mom and her latest bad decision emptied out her entire savings account.

Lauren Turner had a plan: graduate medical school and become the top surgeon in the country. But when she became unexpectedly pregnant, those plans changed. And when her fiancé left her, they changed again. Now navigating the new world of coparenting, mom groups, and dating,  she decides to launch a mommy podcast with all the advice she wishes someone had given her.

Jude and Lauren don’t have much in common, but maybe that’s why they’ve been best friends since the third grade. Through ups and downs, they’ve been by each other’s sides. But now? They’re broke, single, and do the only thing that makes sense—move in together, just like they talked about when they were teenagers. Except when they were younger, the plan didn’t include a five-year-old daughter and more baggage than their new townhouse can hold. (publisher)


Advance praise for Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes:

“Alexa Martin is an auto-buy author for me. Her first women’s fiction novel brings the same warmth, humor, and sincerity of her romances. Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is a celebration of the strength, joy, and complications of female friendships that span our lifetimes. I will read anything Alexa Martin writes!”—Lyssa Kay Adams, author of Isn’t It Bromantic?

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is a sparkling novel about female friendship in all its messy glory. The love the characters have for one another practically bursts off the page. If their podcast was real, I’d be hitting ‘subscribe’ immediately.”—Laura Hankin, author of Happy & You Know It

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is Alexa Martin’s relatable story of the perfectly flawed connections between mothers, daughters, and sister-friends that make life crazy and complete. If you enjoy page turning drama, second chance heroines, or relationships that remind you of the ones that got you through life, you will want to pick up this book and then you won’t want to put it down.”—Alli Frank & Asha Youmans, authors of Tiny Imperfections

“I devoured Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes. In this perfectly of-the-moment story, two strong female characters sprung off the page and into my heart. Jude and Lauren, though very different from each other, are both highly relatable women for whom I found myself cheering the entire time. Mom jeans are definitely a mistake… recommending this book is definitely not!”—Elyssa Friedland, author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel 

A story of motherhood, friendship, sacrifice, and self-actualization, Alexa Martin’s Mom Jeans & Other Mistakes is an entertaining and empowering novel that honors family in all its iterations.”—Kathleen West, author of Are We There Yet?


About the author:

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. She lives in Colorado with her husband, a former NFL player who now coaches at the high school where they met, their four children, and a German Shepherd. When she’s not telling her kids to put their shoes on…again, you can find her catching up with her latest book boyfriend or on Pinterest pinning meals she’ll probably never make. Her first book, Intercepted, was inspired by the eight years she spent as an NFL wife.


 

Spotlight: Wait For It

Wait For It by Jenn McKinlay

Description:

A woman looking for a new lease on life moves to Arizona where she rents a guest house on a gorgeous property with a mysterious owner—a man who teaches her about resilience, courage, and ultimately true love, in this funny, bighearted novel about hope and healing from New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay.
 

Stuck in a dreary Boston winter, Annabelle Martin would like nothing more than to run away from her current life. She’s not even thirty years old, twice-divorced, and has just dodged a marriage proposal… from her ex-husband. When she’s offered her dream job as creative director at a cutting-edge graphic design studio in Phoenix, she jumps at the opportunity to start over.
 
When she arrives in the Valley of the Sun, Annabelle is instantly intrigued by her anonymous landlord. Based on the cranky, handwritten notes Nick Daire leaves her, she assumes he is an old, rich curmudgeon. Annabelle is shocked when she finally meets Nick and discovers that he’s her age and uses a wheelchair. Nick suffered from a stroke a year ago, and while there’s no physical reason for him not to recover, he is struggling to overcome the paralyzing fear that has kept him a prisoner in his own home.
 
Despite her promise to herself not to get involved, Annabelle finds herself irresistibly drawn to Nick. And soon she wonders if she and Nick might help each other find the courage to embrace life, happiness, and true love.

My take:

I loved the charming heroine and brooding hero of this contemporary romance. She’s always been a fixer in past relationships and he’s coming off of a major health event that has left him with anxiety and depression. Knowing that, their back and forth and give and take were understandable as well as entertaining.

Written with a lot of heart and humor Wait For It was just the book I needed and left me smiling as I turned the last page.

About the author:

Jenn McKinlay is the award-winning, New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. Her work has been translated into multiple languages in countries all over the world. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars.

Photo credit:  Jacqueline Hanna Photography


 

What a Happy Family

Description:

From the outside, the Joshi family is the quintessential Indian-American family. Decades ago, Bina and Deepak immigrated to America, where she became a pillar of their local Indian community and he, a successful psychiatrist. Their eldest daughter, Suhani, is following the footsteps of her father’s career and happily married. Natasha, their middle daughter, is about to become engaged to the son of longtime family friends. And Anuj, their son—well he’s a son and what could be better than that?
 
But a family scandal shows that nothing is as it seems. Bina’s oldest friendship starts to unravel and she finds herself as an outsider in the community she helped build. Suhani discovers that her perfect marriage isn’t as solid as she thought. Natasha faces a series of rejections that send her into a downward spiral. 
 

As they encounter public humiliation, gossiping aunties, and self-doubt, the Joshi family must rely on each other like never before. But sometimes, family has to fall apart in order to come back stronger than before. (publisher)

My take:

What a Happy Family is the story of the Joshi family. Author Saumya Dave’s second novel continues the themes from her first: cultural, family, societal expectations and the effect on everyone involved. All are relatable no matter what the reader’s background. My heart went out to matriarch Bina as she endures a humiliation that goes to the core of all she holds important. She only wants the best for her family but at what cost? What to do when her daughters make choices that were never considered by her generation. A major topic of the novel, especially in the second half, is depression. When it strikes close to home what does one do? No matter how prepared a person or family is, there’s still the stigma of mental illness. The hope is that it will be faced with courage and faith in the ones closest to them. What a Happy Family is a family drama that had me flipping the pages, completely entertained and wanting to know how things would work out for the Joshis. Recommended to fans of contemporary diverse women’s fiction. And I’m sure wonderful discussion would come from book groups. There are discussion questions at the end.

WHAT A HAPPY FAMILY by Saumya Dave

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 22, 2021; Diverse Women’s fiction

Spotlight: The Break-Up Book Club

Happy publication day to author Wendy Wax!

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Published:  May 18, 2021 – Berkley Trade

Content provided by the publisher

Description:

Breakups, like book clubs, come in many shapes and sizes and can take us on unexpected journeys as four women discover in this funny and heartwarming exploration of friendship from the USA Today bestselling author of Ten Beach Road and My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding.

On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected.

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after.


About the author:

WendyWaxPhoto2021_CR Wendy Wax

 Photo credit:  Wendy Wax

Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the author of sixteen novels and two novellas, including My Ex–Best Friend’s Wedding, Best Beach Ever, One Good Thing, Sunshine Beach, A Week at the Lake, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, The House on Mermaid Point, Ocean Beach, and Ten Beach Road. The mother of two grown sons, she has left the suburbs of Atlanta for an in-town high-rise, that is eerily similar to the fictional high-rise she created in her 2013 release, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.

Continue reading

The Social Graces

The Social Graces by Renée Rosen

Description:

The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Alva Vanderbilt and the Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

1876. In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, women are valued by their pedigree, dowry, and, most importantly, connections. They have few rights and even less independence—what they do have is society. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor. 

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is dizzying wealth when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is the mesmerizing story of two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake. (publisher)

My take:

Calling all fans of historical fiction – especially 1800s American HF. I thoroughly enjoyed Renée Rosen’s story of Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt. Caroline was the head of New York society and Alva wanted to be invited into the select group. Given her wealth, that should have been easy, right? But, not so fast. There was a distinction between Old Money families and the Nouveau Riche thus sparking the feud between Caroline and Alva. Rosen’s story, both factual and fictional, became a bit addicting for me. I’ve never read the details of these families – only casual references in other novels. On more than one occasion I searched for photos, articles, etc. That’s what I love about the genre – when done well I’m motivated to find out more. I thought the author did a great job making these seemingly unrelatable people human – not a simple task, in my opinion. I appreciated the author interview, discussion questions, and bibliography included at the end.

About the author:

Renee is the bestselling author of historical fiction including: PARK AVENUE SUMMER, WHAT THE LADY WANTS, WINDY CITY BLUES, WHITE COLLAR GIRL and DOLLFACE, as well as the YA novel, EVERY CROOKED POT. 
THE SOCIAL GRACES, a novel of Alva Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age, will be published in April 2021 from Penguin Random House / Berkley. 

Most people discover their love of reading first and then decide to try writing. For Renee Rosen, it was just the opposite. From the time she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a writer and by age seventeen had completed her first novel, with what she admits was the worst opening line of all time. Her hopes of being the youngest published author on record were soon dashed when her “masterpiece” was repeatedly rejected. Several years and many attempts later, Renee finally became a reader first.

Since then she has been fortunate enough to study the craft of writing from such esteemed novelists as Michael Cunningham, Susan Minot and Carol Anshaw. 

Renee now lives in Chicago where she is working on a new novel. You can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/ReneeRosenAu…https://twitter.com/ReneeRosen1 or visit her website at www.reneerosen.com

Paperback Release: The Minders

The Minders by John Marrs

Trade Paperback release:  February 16, 2021 – Berkley Books

Description:

In this electrifying near-future thriller, five strangers guard government secrets, but only four can be trusted.

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…


About the author:

John Marrs is the author of #1 Best Sellers The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, Welcome to Wherever You Are, Her Last Move, The Passengers, The Minders and What Lies Between Us.
The One has been translated into 30 different languages and is to be turned into an eight-part Netflix series starting in autumn 2020.
After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.
Follow him on Twitter @johnmarrs1 Facebook: @johnmarrsauthor Instagram: @johnmarrs.author website: johnmarrsauthor.co.uk


 

Spotlight: The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

Published:  February 9, 2021 – Berkley Trade Paperbacks

Content courtesy of the publisher 

Description:

Based on the remarkable true story of an American woman who defied the odds to become the most dangerous Allied spy in France during World War II, comes a gripping historical novel about strength, humanity, and bravery from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl.

March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn’t like the other young society women back home in Baltimore–she never wanted the debutante ball or silk gloves. Instead, she traded a safe life for adventure in Europe, and when her beloved second home is thrust into the dark days of war, she leaps in headfirst.

Once she’s recruited as an Allied spy, subverting the Nazis becomes her calling. But even the most cunning agent can be bested, and in wartime trusting the wrong person can prove fatal. Virginia is haunted every day by the betrayal that ravaged her first operation, and will do everything in her power to avenge the brave people she lost.

While her future is anything but certain, this time more than ever Virginia knows that failure is not an option. Especially when she discovers what–and whom–she’s truly protecting.


About the author:

Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of Receive Me Falling, Hemingway’s GirlCall Me ZeldaFallen Beauty, and The House of Hawthorne. She is a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion and to the Writer’s Digest essay collection Author in Progress. Robuck lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and three sons.


Praise for The Invisible Woman:

“An extraordinary profile of the immense courage and daring of Virginia Hall and an intimate look at the cost of war, The Invisible Woman is a must-read. “–Chanel CleetonNew York Times bestselling author

“[A] captivating, page-turning read. . . . The Invisible Woman shines a light on this courageous historical woman, whose pioneering work as an agent deserves recognition.”–Marie BenedictNew York Timesbestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room

“Erika Robuck shows us exactly how biographical fiction should be written: with respect for the historical record, a deep understanding of the subject, and the empathy to allow the character at the heart of the novel to shine through. . . . If you only read one World War II book this year, make it this one.”–Natasha Lester,New York Times bestselling author ofThe Paris Orphan

“Virginia Hall . . . is the stuff of inspiration and legend . . . [with] feats of human goodness and bravery amid some of modern history’s darkest moments. . . . Breathtakingly beautiful.”–Allison PatakiNew York Timesbestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune


 

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant

Published:  September 2020 – Berkley Trade

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change. (publisher)

My take:  If you love to immerse yourself in foodie fiction, romantic stories and feel-good second chance tales you’ll want to read The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux.

After enduring public humiliation in New York Sophie goes to France when she gets the call that her beloved grandmother is ill. This is the woman who sparked Sophie’s love of cooking from a young age when she still lived at the family Chateau. Sophie will do anything to have more time with her grandmother as well as help at the Chateau. This is a gift because she’ll have a chance to regroup and find the confidence in the kitchen she’d lost in New York.

I enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing about the setting, food and people. This is a sweet story and  Samantha Vérant’s debut novel. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.


 

Review/US Giveaway: Who Slays The Wicked

Who Slays The Wicked by C.S. Harris

Paperback release:  March 3, 2020 – Berkley Trade

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:  When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth’s complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.

Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father’s Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence–ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman’s silk stocking–suggests that Ashworth’s killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth’s life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death. (publisher)

My take:  Who Slays The Wicked is another good historical mystery from C.S. Harris. The intrepid and reliable Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is tasked with solving the ghastly murder of Lord Ashworth, a despicable gentleman who was married to Sebastian’s niece. There’s no shortage of people who are happy that Ashworth is dead but who would go so far as murder? This investigation hits close to home and Sebastian hopes to protect his loved ones while finding out who murdered Ashworth. The atmospheric setting and gritty plot mixed with the upper and lower classes made for a decent whodunit that answered the question in the title: Who Slays The Wicked. I think fans of the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series and historical mysteries in general will enjoy it. This is book 14 in the series but can easily stand alone.

Note: I also listened to the audiobook. Davina Porter’s narration is perfection.


About the author:

Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham, is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series written under the name C.S. Harris, the new C.S. Graham thriller series co-written with Steven Harris, and seven historical romances. She is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of the French Revolution. Her books are available worldwide and have been translated into over twenty different languages.

Candice graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Classics before going on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in history. A former academic, she has taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University in Texas. She also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson’s Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. Most recently, she spent many years as a partner in an international business consulting firm.

The daughter of a career Air Force officer and university professor, Proctor loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad. She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, her two daughters, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

http://www.csharris.net


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Spotlight/US Giveaway: And They Called it Camelot

And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Expected publication:  March 10, 2020 – Berkley Trade Paperback Original

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

An intimate portrait of the life of Jackie O…
 
Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.
 
But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend. (publisher)

About the author:

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with women from history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska.


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Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James

Berkley Hardcover; February 18, 2020; $26.00

About the book:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY. But something isn’t right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and to visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

“Deliciously creepy. A chilling blend of mystery and ghost story that will thrill fans of both.”—Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Lock Every Door

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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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The Perfect Son by Lauren North

The Perfect Son by Lauren North

Published: August 2019 – Berkley Trade Paperback Original

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: When Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital the day after her son Jamie’s eighth birthday, she’s sure of these things: She’s been stabbed, her son is missing, her brother-in-law and her grief counselor are involved. But no one is listening to her. 

After her husband, Mark, died suddenly in a terrible accident a few months earlier, the only thing keeping Tess together is Jamie. As they struggle to make sense of their new life without Mark, they find joy in brief moments of normalcy like walking to school and watching television together. Life is hard without Mark, but Tess has Jamie, and that’s what matters.

But there in the hospital, confused and surrounded by people who won’t listen, Tess’s world falls apart. To save her son, she must piece together what happened between Mark’s death and Jamie’s birthday, but the truth might just be too much for her to bear. (publisher)

My take:  Tess Clarke’s husband died recently and she’s grateful to have their 8 year old son Jamie as she deals with grief and the accompanying depression. She makes a new friend in the grief counselor who soon takes on the role of running interference for Tess from people who don’t seem to have her best interest in mind. And then mysterious phone calls and people begin to make Tess wonder if she can trust anyone. I felt the same way and read with my jaw clenched most of the time. Despite my sore jaw I found the story addictive in a ‘just one more chapter’ way. I liked The Perfect Son but was looking for a little more from the ending. I realize that’s just personal preference so check out other reviews. Still, I’m glad I read it and would definitely read the author’s next book. The Perfect Son is Lauren North’s debut novel.


About the author:

Lauren North studied psychology before moving to London, where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. The Perfect Son is her first novel, and she’s working on her second.


Praise for The Perfect Son:

“North offers an intimate, unbalancing mix of grief, paranoia, gaslighting, maternal protectiveness, and profound compassion.” – STARRED review from Publishers Weekly

“A powerful, unpredictable debut thriller about a mother’s attempt to reassemble her life from the shards of tragedy. Lauren North’s skillful narrative casts everyone as a suspect and keeps the reader guessing until the final, emotion-packed pages.” – David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Layover

“A heart-rending evocation of grief that packs a devious punch. It left me reeling.” – Lesley Kara, author of the international bestseller The Rumor

“As satisfyingly intriguing and page-turning as you could possibly want. An emotional read – the end is a shocker!” – Emma Curtis, author of When I Find You

“Beautifully written psychological suspense about the power of love after a life-changing loss. A sense of impending doom and foreboding gripped me from the first page….The ending is stunning and powerful.” – Mary Torjussen, author of The Girl I Used to Be

“A captivating, suspenseful thriller that draws you in – with a twist that will take your breath away.” – T.M. Logan, author of Lies


 

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 4, 2019

Book provided by the publisher and Tandem Literary

Description:

Ten years ago the unthinkable happened. Lena Donohue experienced the ultimate betrayal by her sister—and on her wedding day, no less. A betrayal so profound and painful that the only way she knew how to survive it was to run, something she hasn’t stopped doing since. Now, having reinvented herself as a travel writer based in New York, it feels like she might be able to avoid her past forever. But of course, history has a way of returning to the present.

When her father’s health begins to fail, Lena must return to her hometown of Watersend, SC, where she has no choice but to put aside her own heartbreak and work with her estranged sister and younger brother to prepare for the worst. As Alzheimer’s rapidly claims their father’s precious memories, the siblings find themselves in a race against time to learn all they can about his life before it’s too late. But things take an unexpected turn when they stumble upon a life-shattering secret from his past that none of them could have predicted. (publisher)

My take:   I’ve read a few novels that touched on Alzheimer’s disease but none made me feel like I did while reading The Favorite Daughter. That may be because I’m now going through what the Donohue siblings experienced. I can tell you it is spot on. My siblings and I have had the same conversations, almost word for word! So I credit Patti Callahan Henry for getting it right.

The Favorite Daughter is an honest look at a terrible disease. More than that, it’s about memories and how we all remember differently. It’s about how our past shapes us. It’s about being willing to forgive. And it’s about home – where it is and who it is.  Recommended.

About the author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels include The Bookshop at Water’s EndThe Idea of LoveDriftwood SummerThe Art of Keeping Secrets, and Between the Tides.

 


 

Why Kill The Innocent by C.S. Harris

Why Kill The Innocent by C.S. Harris

Published February 2019 – Berkley Trade Paperback

Book provided by the publisher

Description:  London, 1814. As a cruel winter holds the city in its icy grip, the bloody body of a beautiful young musician is found half-buried in a snowdrift. Jane Ambrose’s ties to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne, panic the palace, which moves quickly to shut down any investigation into the death of the talented pianist. But Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife Hero refuse to allow Jane’s murderer to escape justice.

Untangling the secrets of Jane’s world leads Sebastian into a maze of dangerous treachery where each player has his or her own unsavory agenda and no one can be trusted. As the Thames freezes over and the people of London pour onto the ice for a Frost Fair, Sebastian and Hero find their investigation circling back to the palace and building to a chilling crescendo of deceit and death . . . (publisher)

My take:  Hero Devlin and her friend Alexi Sauvage are on their way home from visiting a young woman whose story will be integral to the article Hero is writing. The weather is frigid, the worst winter they’ve had in memory, and they are anxious to step into the carriage that awaits them at the end of a lane. Hero suddenly trips on what turns out to be the body of a young woman. When Hero discovers her identity she becomes intent on learning how she ended up on this small lane in a part of town that people of her sort wouldn’t be expected to be found. Hero and her husband Sebastian St. Cyr will make solving this mystery their primary focus but it won’t be easy. Palace interference, politics, family rivalries, and the winter of 1814 will put obstacles in their way as they grow closer to the truth.

The pace was good and kept me turning the pages as I learned quite a bit about that particular winter. Harris’s detailed settings brought me into each scene – from the palace to the Frost Fair on the frozen Thames to the drawing-room in Hero and Sebastian’s home. I enjoyed dipping into this series for the first time. Why Kill The Innocent is book thirteen but I didn’t feel lost. I realize I’ve missed a good deal of main character development which has me adding previous books to my list. Recommended to fans of the author and historical mysteries.