Spotlight: The Last Night in London

The Last Night In London by Karen White

Pub. date:  April 20, 2021 – Berkley

Content from the publisher

Description:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her.  Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew.  As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love. (publisher)


About the author:

Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, Dreams of FallingThe Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of The Forgotton Room and The Glass Ocean with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.

Spotlight: The Women of Chateau Lafayette

Happy publication day to author Stephanie Dray!

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

Published:  March 30, 2021 – Berkley

Content courtesy of the publisher

Description:

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.
 
Most castles are protected by men. This one by women.

A founding mother…

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.


About the author:

Stephanie Dray is the New York Times bestselling co-author of America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. Now Dray turns her eye towards the French founding mother Adrienne Lafayette, in an epic generational saga based on Lafayette’s extraordinary castle in the heart of France, and the remarkable women bound by its legacy through revolutionary upheaval and two world wars.


Those Who Are Saved

Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

Published:  February 2021 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Finished copy courtesy of the publisher 

Description:

As a Russian Jewish émigré to France, Vera’s wealth cannot protect her or her four-year-old-daughter, Lucie, once the Nazis occupy the country. After receiving notice that all foreigners must report to an internment camp, Vera has just a few hours to make an impossible choice: Does she subject Lucie to the horrid conditions of the camp, or does she put her into hiding with her beloved and trusted governess, safe until Vera can retrieve her? Believing the war will end soon, Vera chooses to leave Lucie in safety. She cannot know that she and her husband will have an opportunity to escape, to flee to America. She cannot know that Lucie’s governess will have fled with Lucie to family in rural France, too far to reach in time.

And so begins a heartbreaking journey and separation, a war and a continent apart. Vera’s marriage will falter under the surreal sun of California. Her ability to write–once her passion–will disappear. But Vera’s love for Lucie, her faith that her daughter lives, will only grow. As Vera’s determination to return to France and find Lucie crystalizes, she meets Sasha, a man on his own search for meaning. She is stronger with Sasha than she is alone. Together they will journey to Lucie. They will find her fate.  (publisher)

My take:  This novel about people fleeing to what they hope will be a safe place touched my soul. As a woman, a mother, a human being – I couldn’t imagine being faced with the decision of leaving my only child with her trusted governess.

It’s clear from the start that Vera and her husband are wealthy but that doesn’t protect them from the changes in their life in France. We follow their life in America where Vera meets a man who will soon mean a lot to her. He has ghosts in his past that he doesn’t quite understand. When things come together in that regard he is driven to learn more about his start in life while at the same time, help Vera.

It seemed the story was a series of impressions, scenes that moved the plot. That worked for me and I grew to appreciate the author’s evocative writing. This is the third novel of WWII I’ve read in 2021 and, although all very different from the other, I’m very glad I had the chance to read Those Who Are Saved. Recommended.


 

Surviving Savannah

My daughter Katie is back with a guest review today! 

 

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

Finished copy courtesy of the publisher 

Description:

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving. (publisher)

Katie’s take: Patti Callahan’s newest novel ‘Surviving Savannah‘ kept me up reading long past my bedtime and demanded to be finished the next afternoon.  Her vibrant descriptions of both present day Savannah and the antebellum South seemed to pulsate with color, scent, life and love.  I was enveloped by this delightful novel.  I enjoyed the dual timeline thoroughly and could not pick which story line I liked better.  She developed rich characters and gave them room to stretch and grow through tremendous tragedy.  I also appreciate that Ms. Callahan includes an author’s note detailing which parts of her beautiful novel are factual and which are inspired or imagined.


 

Spotlight: Those Who Are Saved

Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

Published:  February 23, 2021 – Putnam

Content provided by the publicist

About:

In the summer of 1940, as the Nazis prepare to occupy France and force its foreign inhabitants into internment camps, wealthy Russian Jewish émigré Vera has just hours to make an impossible choice: does she subject her four-year-old daughter Lucie to the horrors of the camp, or does she send her into hiding with her trusted governess until safe to retrieve her? Believing the war will end soon, Vera chooses to leave Lucie in safety. She could not have known that she and her husband would have an opportunity to escape to America—or that Lucie and her governess will have fled to family in rural France, too far to reach in time. Five years later, with her marriage faltering and her writing stalled, Vera—safe under the surreal sun of California—is haunted by her love for Lucie and her faith that her daughter still lives. As her determination to return to France and find Lucie crystallizes, she meets Sasha, a man on his own search for meaning. Together, Vera and Sasha will journey to Lucy and find her fate. Undeniably powerful and gorgeously written, THOSE WHO ARE SAVED recounts a mother and daughter’s heartbreaking journey and separation, a war and a continent apart.


About the author:

Alexis Landau is a graduate of Vassar College and received an MFA from Emerson College and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Empire of the Senses and lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.


Advance praise for THOSE WHO ARE SAVED:

“Powerful. . . Landau brilliantly explores the blurred lines between good and evil as the characters wrestle with their own dire decisions and the choices of those they love. Once this magnetic book takes hold, it doesn’t let go.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

“With muted power, this book plumbs the role privilege plays in fate.”

Kirkus Reviews

 

Those Who Are Saved is a stunning tale of indestructible love, of sacrifice and faith, and of one woman’s fierce determination to find her lost daughter in an unrecognizable, war-ravaged France. Imbued with vivid, lush imagery and written with enormous sensitivity and heart, this gem of a novel has everything that I love in historical fiction, and it is one of the best I’ve read this year.  I treasured every page.”

—Roxanne Veletzos, bestselling author of The Girl They Left Behind

 

Those Who Are Saved is a gorgeously written, emotional novel about the unshakable bonds of mothers and daughters, even in the darkest times. Spanning characters and continents during WWII, Alexis Landau’s vividly drawn book swept me up into the lives of Vera, Sasha, and Lucie. An unforgettable story of heartbreak, but ultimately of hope, resilience, and love – I could not put this book down!”

—Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time and Half Life

 

“A profound and engaging story—Landau writes of the endurance of parental love in the face of Nazi occupation and terror, of finding those who were lost. I loved it.”

—Paulette Jiles, author of National Book Award finalist News of the World

 

“With poetic, mesmerizing prose, Alexis Landau creates a heartrending story of the unbreakable bond of maternal love. Those Who Are Saved brings to life a moment in history when all that is familiar disappears and every choice is potentially tragic. This gripping and compassionate novel continues to haunt me.”

—Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire, recipient of the National Jewish Book Award

 

“Such subtle and skilful writing, so evocative of the Second World War and the period following. We are drawn deep into the story of a mother who, escaping to America, had no choice but to leave her daughter behind in the heart of Nazi-occupied France. Absolutely haunting.”

—Frances Liardet, New York Times bestselling author of We Must Be Brave

 

Those Who Are Saved is an achingly beautiful epoch about love’s endurance. I was hooked from the start by the chance meeting of Sasha and Vera who are driven by creative energies to remake their fractured worlds. This tense journey encompasses exile from Eastern to Western Europe, then across the ocean to the glittering promise of Hollywood, only to be haunted by whispers of what was left behind. Alexis Landau is an amazing storyteller and her novel will whisper to you long after you finish.”

—Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner


THOSE WHO ARE SAVED · By Alexis Landau · G. P. Putnam’s Sons

· On Sale: February 23, 2021 · ISBN: 9780593190531 

· Price: $27.00 ·

Also available in e-Book & audio


The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Published:  February 2, 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. (publisher)

My take:  The Nature of Fragile Things is a captivating story about a young woman in New York City who answers an ad to become the wife of a man in California. Within a month she becomes his wife and step-mother to his five year old daughter. The year is 1906 and Sophie Whalen can’t believe her good fortune: a handsome and quiet man, a step-daughter she adores and a beautiful new home. She feels content and safe for the first time in a very long while.

But everyone has secrets. And those secrets soon become known. Add in the horrendous San Francisco earthquake and you’ve got the makings of a compelling novel that is quite the page turner! Once again, Susan Meissner has written a novel I didn’t want to end. Recommended to fans of Historical Fiction, stories about family and friendship, and Susan Meissner.


 

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 Paris Library

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Published:  February 9, 2021 – Atria Books

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal. 

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them. (publisher)

My take:  It seems I read a few novels set in the WWII era each year. The Paris Library is quite unique in perspective.

Before reading this book I was not aware of the American Library in Paris. That is the setting for much of the novel and allowed for several interesting characters. It is Odile’s dream as well as her first job. When she is hired she can’t imagine anything better. Her co-workers become like family and she finds herself involved in their lives and situations. She also helps to get books to soldiers and people unable to leave the city – a godsend to so many people in unspeakable circumstances.

There’s another storyline featuring Lily, a young girl in Montana in the 1980s. Lily is Odile’s neighbor and we observe her years after losing her mother to cancer and getting to know Odile. I found their relationship lovely and endearing.

If you’re looking for a different kind of WWII novel I think you’ll find it in The Paris Library. I’m glad I had the chance to read it!


Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa, which was published in 10 languages. Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. Janet first became interested in the incredible true story of the librarians who stood up to the Nazi “Book Protector” when she worked as the programs manager at the American Library in Paris. Her novel The Paris Library will be published in 18 countries. She divides her time between Montana and Paris.


Praise for The Paris Library:

As a Parisian, an ardent bookworm, and a longtime fan of the American Library in Paris, I devoured The Paris Library in one hungry gulp. It is charming and moving, with a perfect balance between history and fiction.” —Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key

 

“A fresh take on WWII France that will appeal to bibliophiles everywhere. I fell in love with Odile and Lily, with their struggles and triumphs, from the very first page. Meticulously researched, The Paris Library is an irresistible, compelling read.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

 

“The Paris Library is a refreshing novel that celebrates libraries as cradles of community, especially when we need them the most. It shows how literature can be a means of escape, a catalyst for human connection, and a moral center in grim times. A thoroughly enjoyable read, kind-hearted and brimming with delightful bookish allusions.” – Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore


The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Expected publication date:  February 23, 2021 – Ballantine Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition and the four women who enter for a chance to better their lives.

Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart? (publisher)

My take:  The Kitchen Front is a look at life on the home front in a British village during WWII. I’ve read more than a few historical fiction novels about this era and always admire what citizens did to serve their country during wartime. If living in England during this time wasn’t challenging enough, our four main characters have that and then some.  Two women, sisters at odds with each other since childhood, a young maid who thinks life outside of servitude has to be better, and a young pregnant and single woman who relocates to the village, all find themselves in a cooking competition that could be life changing. The winner’s prize is becoming host of a BBC radio cooking show. Yes, there are recipes included! Jennifer Ryan’s novel will appeal to fans of historical women’s fiction. I adored her novel The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a few years ago. The Kitchen Front is different but similar in setting and era. I appreciated the information shared in the author’s note at the end where Ryan describes the inspiration for her novel.


 

Paris Never Leaves You

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

Published:  August 4, 2020 – St. Martin’s Griffin

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Living through World War II working in a Paris bookstore with her young daughter, Vivi, and fighting for her life, Charlotte is no victim, she is a survivor. But can she survive the next chapter of her life?

Alternating between wartime Paris and 1950s New York publishing, Ellen Feldman’s Paris Never Leaves You is an extraordinary story of resilience, love, and impossible choices, exploring how survival never comes without a cost.

The war is over, but the past is never past.  

My take:  Charlotte survived occupied Paris, managing to protect her child because of choices she made. Those choices resurface years after she and her daughter moved to America. Feelings of shame return as a letter brings about memories of a time she wants to forget. The theme of survivor’s guilt runs through the novel – not just for Charlotte but also the man she works for in New York. They both learn lessons of forgiveness, acceptance, and finding the courage to move forward in life.

I think because half of the book is about Charlotte’s life in New York, Paris Never Leaves You is different from other WWII era novels I’ve read. Ultimately, it’s an emotional story that I’m glad I had the chance to read.


About the author:

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Terrible Virtue, The Unwitting, Next to Love, Scottsboro (shortlisted for the Orange Prize), The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (translated into nine languages), and Lucy. Her last novel, Terrible Virtue, was optioned by Black Bicycle for a feature film.

Buy Links:

Praise for Paris Never Leaves You

 

“A memorable, thought-provoking moral conflict, and dialogue [that] crackles like a duel… Paris Never Leaves You succeeds as a meaty moral tale.” —Historical Novel Society

“Fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale may want to pick this up.” —Booklist 

“Nothing is quite what it seems… Wartime Paris is described in vivid, sometimes harrowing, detail… [An] engrossing page-turner.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The best works of historical fiction have a way of illuminating the present, allowing readers to better understand themselves through well-defined characters reflected in the prism of time…. Feldman does this beautifully in a multi-layered, tender story that explores the emotionally charged, often parallel terrains of truth, deception, love and heartbreak.” —Shelf Awareness

“A nuanced WWII story of love and survival in Occupied Paris… With its appealing heroine and historically detailed settings… a dangerous secret gives Feldman’s story a gasp-worthy spin.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Things are seldom as they seem in this engrossing tale of identity, survival, loyalty, and love…Recommend with enthusiasm.” —Library Journal

“Ellen Feldman’s writing is riveting in this beautiful novel that tells the bittersweet story of a young mother’s strength and survival during WWII. From a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris to a post-war New York publishing house, Feldman effortlessly captures the terror, immediacy, and inextinguishable human spirit.” —Noelle Salazar, author of The Flight Girls 

“Completely compelling. I tore through it. This novel pivots on how we manage to survive surviving… Charlotte’s visceral story will stay with me.” —Naomi Wood, New York Times best-selling author of Mrs. Hemingway and The Hiding Game

“Feldman’s powerful exploration of some of the most profound questions about love and loyalty resonates strongly today: What would you do to save your child? What is morality in wartime? How do we make peace with the past?” —Christina Lynch, author of The Italian Party

“This is an exquisite novel – one that gives us what we’re hungry for: an intelligent, complex female character who challenges our ideas of right and wrong, morality and immorality. We’re reminded, too, of the dangers of drawing easy, swift conclusions. Feldman achieves all of this with wholly admirable precision and wit; she takes aim and does not miss.” —Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love and All the Beautiful Girls

“A fluid, rich, and nuanced novel, expertly crafted, guaranteed to follow you around long after you’ve turned the last page. I gulped it down.” —Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra, Vera, The Witches, and A Great Improvisation 

“Feldman’s characters—in the Paris bookstore that harbors many secrets or the Manhattan publishing house with its marvelous cast of misfits—are both terrifying and utterly engaging. With more twists and turns than the back streets of Paris, the story is as propulsively readable as a spy novel, and as rich and psychologically rewarding as only the finest literature can be.” —Liza Gyllenhaal, author of Local Knowledge and Bleeding Heart

“…a vivid and precise portrait of that city under German occupation during the Second World War, but it is also an exploration of the courage and cowardice of those bitter years, as well as offering a slyly persuasive love story. The swift, engrossing narrative conceals, in the best way, the fact that Feldman is also giving us a wise and troubling lesson about the great moral crisis of the last century.” —Richard Snow, author of Iron Dawn

“A thrilling achievement…I was thoroughly drawn into a deep, rich, vivid world of engrossing characters and emotional and moral crises…a great piece of writing in every way.” —Fred Allen, Leadership Editor, Forbes


 

The Woman Before Wallis

The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull

Pub. date:  July 21, 2020 – MIRA

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale—even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales.

In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.

Bryn Turnbull takes readers from the raucous glamour of the Paris Ritz and the French Riviera to the quiet, private corners of St. James’s Palace in this sweeping story of love, loyalty and betrayal. (publisher)

My take:  The Woman Before Wallis is the story of Thelma Morgan. Thelma was raised in a world of privilege but that didn’t protect her from disappointment. She lived a grand life and when life was good it was good and when it wasn’t she did her best to rise to the challenge. She and her twin sister Gloria almost raised themselves from their teen years. Because of that they made some decisions that weren’t always the best. But they were always there for each other. Perhaps Thelma more than Gloria. They usually landed on their feet. They had some truly amazing experiences and some life-shaking disappointments. The Woman Before Wallis is about their ups and downs.The dual-storyline moves between Thelma’s relationships and Gloria’s infamous custody case. I enjoyed learning about the two sisters and would pause occasionally to search online for pictures and more info about the principals, residences, etc. Recommended to fans of historical fiction.


About the author:

Bryn Turnbull is a writer of historical fiction with a penchant for fountain pens and antique furniture. Equipped with a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews, a Master of Professional Communication from Ryerson University, and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from McGill University, Bryn focuses on finding the stories of women found within the cracks of the historical record. When she’s not writing, Bryn can be found exploring new coffee shops, spending time with her family in cottage country, or traveling. She lives in Toronto, and can generally be found with a book in hand.

photo credit: Louise Claire Johnson

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @BrynTurnbull

Instagram: @brynturnbullwrites

Facebook: @brynturnbullwrites

Goodreads


THE WOMAN BEFORE WALLIS

Author: Bryn Turnbull 

ISBN: 9780778361022

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Publisher: MIRA Books

Buy links:



 

Spotlight: Belladonna by Anbara Salam

Belladonna by Anbara Salam

Berkley Hardcover; June 9, 2020

Spotlight content courtesy of the publisher 

Description:


About the author:

Anbara Salam is half-Palestinian and half-Scottish, and grew up in London. She has a PhD in Theology and now lives in Oxford.

Tidelands

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Trade paperback published:  February 2020 – Washington Square Press

Review book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

On Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the Tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.

England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor’s suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliament, and Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her as a woman who doesn’t follow the rules. They have always whispered about the sinister power of Alinor’s beauty, but the secrets they don’t know about her and James are far more damning. This is the time of witch-mania, and if the villagers discover the truth, they could take matters into their own hands. (publisher)

My take: These are the days of uprising in England (the late 1640s). Feeling betrayed by their king, men are out for change and that begins with bringing him to trial and then transferring power. That is what’s going on in the greater world. What’s happening on a local level is the core story of Tidelands. We meet Alinor who is an herbalist/healer/midwife in a tiny island village. I thought the author did a great job of showing the challenges of being a woman during those days. At one time or another she is needed by all who live there but no one truly trusts that she is like them. Rumors of her being a witch run quietly through the area. Alinor’s husband left for war and has been gone over a year. This leaves her eking out an existence for her two children and herself. When James, a tutor for the Lord’s young son, turns up one night Alinor’s life might change for the better. Tidelands is about a time of change and what that means for the people of a tiny village as well as the country. It is a strong start to the Fairmile series and I can’t wait to read what happens next!


 

The Light After The War

The Light After The War by Anita Abriel

Published:  February 2020 – Atria Books

Finished copy provided by the publisher

Description:

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss. (publisher)

My take:  This is the remarkable story of two young women finding their way in post WWII Europe. Their amazing journey took them to Italy, America, Venezuela (to name only a few places) as they came to grips with life after unspeakable losses. Their indomitable spirit opened them to opportunities that many people found irresistible. Synchronicity seemed to play a part in their story as well. I’d been thinking that at about the time the author made the point!

The story is inspired by the author’s mother which I thought added heft to the story. Anita Abriel’s story and descriptive writing kept me turning the pages as I had to know where life would take Vera and Edith. And it took them far. I’d love to know “the rest of the story”!

Recommended to fans of romantic Historical Fiction.


About the author:

Anita Abriel was born in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program. She lives in California with her family and is the author of The Light After the War which was inspired by her mother’s story of survival during WWII.

 

 


Praise for The Light After The War

“Set against the vividly drawn backdrops of Naples, Caracas and Sydney in the aftermath of WWII, The Light After the War by Anita Abriel is a beautifully written and heartfelt novel. I was completely swept up in Vera’s and Edith’s lives, their friendship, their heartbreaks and their triumphs. An unforgettable story of strength, love, and survival.”

—Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of The Lost Letter and In Another Time

 

“There is so much in The Light After the War that truly shines:  Unforgettable love, family, faith—and the courageous resolve of two young women to mend their lives and seek new beginnings in a world tragically changed. Fans of historical fiction are sure to devour this tale of hope, reinvention and the power of friendship to heal the heart’s deepest wounds.”

—Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind

 

“Anita Abriel sweeps the reader around the world in this true tale of survival, endurance, and triumph. The Light After the War is a feast for the mind and the heart, not soon to be forgotten.”

—Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and The Sisters of Summit Avenue

 

“A finely-woven story of post-war romance, second chances, and resolve that refuses to give in or give up. The setting details are evocative and inviting. Well done!”

—Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Last Year of the War

 

“Fans of Georgia Hunter’s We Were The Lucky Ones should race to grab Anita Abriel’s The Light After The War, spanning continents and set against a vividly drawn canvas of World War II and the post-war period. Based on Abriel’s own family history, The Light After The War is a heartfelt and memorable tale of family, love, resilience and the triumph of human spirit.”  —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

 

“I was utterly moved and transfixed by The Light After the War, a beautiful novel that spans a decade across four continents in the wake of World War II. You’ll be swept away by this fast-paced, heartbreaking, and hopeful tale of friendship, family, second chances, and the enduring power of love, based on the true story of author Anita Abriel’s mother and her fascinating journey away from war-torn Europe in the 1940s. A must-read for anyone interested in the emotional toll of the Second World War.”

—Kristin Harmel, international bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amelie

 

“Inspired by her own mother’s remarkable life, Anita Abriel takes readers to four continents as she celebrates the power of hope, optimism and female friendship in The Light After the War. If you are a reader who believes in embracing life and love—even after unspeakable loss—you will treasure this book.” — Sally Koslow, author of Another Side of Paradise

THE LIGHT AFTER THE WAR by Anita Abriel

Atria Books / ISBN: 9781982122973 / Pages: 320 / Format: Hardcover /

Price $27 (US) / $36 (CAN) / eBook: 9781982122997 / On Sale: 2/24/20


Miss Austen

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Published:  April 7, 2020 – Flatiron Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was?

England, 1840. For the two decades following the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen has lived alone, spending her days visiting friends and relations and quietly, purposefully working to preserve her sister’s reputation. Now in her sixties and increasingly frail, Cassandra goes to stay with the Fowles of Kintbury, family of her long-dead fiancé, in search of a trove of Jane’s letters. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames?

Moving back and forth between the vicarage and Cassandra’s vibrant memories of her years with Jane, interwoven with Jane’s brilliantly reimagined lost letters, Miss Austen is the untold story of the most important person in Jane’s life. With extraordinary empathy, emotional complexity, and wit, Gill Hornby finally gives Cassandra her due, bringing to life a woman as captivating as any Austen heroine. (publisher)

My take:  I’m not an Austen scholar by any stretch of the imagination but I am a fan of her novels. I loved reading about Jane and her sister Cassandra in Miss Austen. They had such a dear relationship. Jane fought bouts of depression and Cassie took care of her as well as their mother. Cassie had deep compassion for others and ultimately lived to serve members of her family instead of focusing on her losses. It was easy to feel sympathy for her all the while hoping for some romantic happiness to land at her door. The novel moves back and forth from her time as a daughter and sister to her days of relying on the charity of relatives. She visits one relative with hopes of reclaiming letters that could reveal Jane’s personal feelings/thoughts if they were to land in the wrong hands. I enjoyed Gill Hornby’s novel and found myself smiling quite a bit while reading. It was a satisfying read for this casual fan.


Praise for Miss Austen

“For readers who enjoy Austen’s novels and wish to know more about her life and for those seeking excellent English historical fiction.”

Library Journal, starred review

 
“[Miss Austen] strikes gold….Echoing Austen’s sardonic wit and crisp prose without falling into pastiche, Hornby succeeds with a vivid homage to the Austens and their world.”
Publishers Weekly


“Austen fans will enjoy Hornby’s nuanced, fresh portrayal of Jane….Cassandra herself is similarly fascinating, a woman who never ceases her efforts to carve out a life of her own in a world that is not kind to unmarried women.”

Booklist

 
“[A] gift to the world of Austen lovers….A deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts.” 
—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
 
“Unputdownable. So good, so intelligent, so clever, so entertaining—I adored it.”
—Claire Tomalin, author of Jane Austen: A Life  

 
“Extraordinary and heart-wrenching, Miss Austen transported me from page one. A remarkable novel that is wholly original, deeply moving, and emotionally complex.”
—Lara Prescott, author of The Secrets We Kept


The Yellow Bird Sings

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

Published:  March 2020 – Flatiron Books

Digital Ebook courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope—a whispered story, a bird’s song—in even the darkest of times. (publisher)

My take:  Having already experienced unimaginable loss Róza and Shira find shelter in a barn. It’s a challenge to expect a young child of five to live almost silently but Róza finds a way. When it seems inevitable they’ll be discovered Róza sends Shira to the safety of a convent. She hopes to find her when the war is over. I couldn’t imagine being forced to do this, yet there was no other choice. As you might imagine The Yellow Bird Sings is an emotional story of loss, separation, survival and moving forward during the most desperate times. Jennifer Rosner’s tale moved me to tears more than once.  I loved the theme of music woven throughout the novel. For me it added emotional depth and I listened to a few of the works mentioned after turning the last page, feeling those emotions a second time. Recommended to fans of World War II historical fiction.


 

US Giveaway: Becoming Mrs. Lewis paperback release

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Paperback release:  March 24, 2020 – Thomas Nelson

Giveaway copy courtesy of Tandem Literary

The new expanded edition includes:

  • a map of Oxford
  • an expanded discussion guide with 20+questions for book clubs
  • a timeline of Jack and Joy’s lives
  • Joy’s (imagined) letter to Jack
  • 10 Things You May Not Know About Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis’s Love Story
  • A behind the scenes essay: Oxford – The City

Description:

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. 

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. (publisher)

My take:  Becoming Mrs. Lewis is about Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis – how they met, became friends (kindred spirits, really) and eventually married. It’s a fascinating story that pulled me in and left me a bit emotional as I turned the last page. Theirs was a cerebral relationship that grew passionate in time. Davidman and Lewis had much in common, not the least being a spiritual conversion – the reason for Davidman’s first letter to Lewis, which he answered, much to her surprise. When she travels to England on the advice of her physician Davidman finally meets Lewis in person. The rest, as they say, is history. Patti Callahan’s novel is well-researched (as detailed in her author’s note at the end of the book). I’m a fan of historical fiction and love when an author motivates me to read more about the subject. That was the case with Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I’ve added titles by Davidman and Lewis to my TBR list. Recommended to fans of the genre and Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. (originally posted on Bookfan on December 26, 2018)


About the author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times best-selling author of fifteen novels, including the (Historical Fiction) BECOMING MRS. LEWIS – The improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Now a USA TODAY, Publishers Weekly, and The Globe and Mail bestseller. Her latest novel, THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER, (Southern Contemporary Fiction) was released June 4, 2019, and is available now. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Connect with Patti Callahan

Website:  patticallahanhenry.com

twitter:  @pcalhenry

Instagram:  @pattichenry

Facebook:  @AuthorPattiCallahanHenry


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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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The Girl In White Gloves

The Girl In White Gloves by Kerri Maher

Expected publication:  February 25, 2020 – Berkley

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.

Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks—her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back. (publisher)

My take:  Kerri Maher has a knack for taking an historical figure and telling her imagined story. She did it for Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy in The Kennedy Debutante and now gives readers her take on Grace Kelly’s story. From Grace’s strict Catholic upbringing to her years in Hollywood playing opposite some of the biggest stars of the day to becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, Maher’s story is a touching and thought-provoking portrait of a woman who seemed to have it all. Of course, appearances are one thing and reality is another. I found myself often searching online for photos of different aspects of Kelly’s life and I have a list of her movies I want to watch. I think fans of Grace Kelly and books about the days of old Hollywood will enjoy The Girl in White Gloves.


About the author:

Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People magazine described as “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.

Praise for The Girl In White Gloves:

“With royal families once again in the gossip columns, this will be a good choice for readers curious of the inner life of a royal family. It’s an absorbing take on a complicated life.” —Library Journal

“There is much to relish about this well-researched, riveting tale.” —Booklist

“The stunning and very human story of a beloved icon…. Full of nuance and poignancy—this novel is gorgeous.”— Allison PatakiNew York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune

“[A] fascinating, deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly … establishes Maher as a true force in biographical fiction.”—Beatriz WilliamsNew York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour


 

Spotlight: Tidelands – Paperback release

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Paperback release:  February 18, 2020 – Washington Square Press

Courtesy of the publisher

Description: This New York Times bestseller from “one of the great storytellers of our time” (San Francisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, living in a dangerous time for a woman to be different.

On Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the Tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.

England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor’s suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliament, and Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her as a woman who doesn’t follow the rules. They have always whispered about the sinister power of Alinor’s beauty, but the secrets they don’t know about her and James are far more damning. This is the time of witch-mania, and if the villagers discover the truth, they could take matters into their own hands. (publisher)


About the author:

Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her most recent novel, The Last Tudor, is now in production for a television series. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She founded Gardens for the Gambia, a charity to dig wells in poor rural schools in The Gambia, and has provided nearly 200 wells. She welcomes visitors to her website PhilippaGregory.com.


Praise for Tidelands:

“Superb…a searing portrait of a woman that resonates across the ages.” People

“This is Gregory par excellence. A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A gripping novel…with her usual meticulous attention to detail, the author easily elicits the chaos and dangers of the mid-17th century…this book will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series. Fans of Gregory’s works and of historicals in general will delight in this page-turning tale.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“History buffs and Gregory’s fans alike will be anticipating the next installment.
–Publishers Weekly
“a welcome topical pivot from gifted Gregory”
Booklist
 
“Richly detailed and brimming with secrets (personal and political), Tidelands is a captivating portrait of a brave woman and a compelling start to a new series.”
–Shelf Awareness
“The first in a planned series, Tidelands has moved on from the Tudor and Plantagenet era of Gregory’s previous novels, and the author crafts her material with effortless ease. Her grasp of social mores is brilliant, the love story rings true and the research is, as ever, of the highest calibre.”

Daily Mail