The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas

St. Martin’s Press; June 5 2018; $26.99

My copy was provided by St. Martin’s Press

Description:

“Both heartwarming and emotional…As we see Nell search for happiness and grow into a mature woman, we are reminded of the importance of love, family, and the memories that we hold dear as we age. A touching and romantic tale by a talented storyteller.” – Historical Novels Society


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The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

  • Title:  The Italian Party
  • Author:  Christina Lynch
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. date:  March 20, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher―a teenager with secrets of his own―disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party
is a smart pleasure. (publisher)

My take:  This novel grew on me – little by little – until I couldn’t put it down. It’s about secrets and lies in a marriage, in government, in cultures – and the nuances involved in all.

It’s about Italy during the 1950s (post WWII years) when other governments (communists and democracies alike) vied to influence change in the country. Intrigue, mystery and glamour combine for a look at important changes that could have far-reaching effects throughout the continent.

I loved the characters, the descriptions and the historical references that seemed familiar yet were truly unknown to me. I would see the film if one is made. This was a nice change-of-pace novel for me and I find myself craving a Campari and soda. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending a copy.


About The Author:

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias. The Italian Party is her debut novel under her own name.

 

Website: http://christinalynchwriter.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinalynchauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/clynchwriter


Praise for The Italian Party:

“Set in Siena in 1956, this debut novel is a spy thriller, comedy of manners, and valentine to Italy, spiked with forbidden sex and political skulduggery…The ending is unexpected, with the author displaying a sophisticated, nuanced view of love and marriage that feels very modern. Or maybe it’s just Italian.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

“[Lynch’s] affection for and knowledge of the Italian people and way of living are evident: her food descriptions in particular are droolworthy. Readers will be rooting for Michael and Scottie through the story’s many adventures and intrigue, while political and social commentary add an extra layer of depth.” —Booklist

 

“The story plays like a confectionary Hollywood romance with some deeper notes reminiscent of John le Carré and Henry James. Scottie is a resilient main character who might have been played by Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn in a 1950s movie adaptation of this entertainingly subversive take on that seemingly innocent period.” —Publisher’s Weekly

 

“In her gracefully written debut, as effervescent as spumante, Lynch dramatizes the allure and power of secrets – in politics and in marriage – while depicting with sly humor the collision between the American do-gooder naïveté and Italian culture. Italophiles and anyone interested in spying and the expat experience will love the spot-on social commentary.” —Library Journal (Starred Review)

 

​”This novel is dashing, fun, sexy and witty—a fun read on multiple levels.”​—The Historical Novel Society

 

“Imagine Beautiful Ruins plus horses; Toujours Provence with spies, a mystery and sex. The Italian Party is a fizzy, page-turning delight that begs for a Campari and soda!” —Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank With Me

 

“Christina Lynch has accomplished a rare American literary feat with this captivating novel whose keen political edge and historical resonance feel very timely.  Her grasp of mid-century Cold War culture, of sexual identity, the world of personal secrecy and intimacy, trust and betrayal, naive patriotism and profound national identity, are swirled into a page-turner that is both a genuine romance and a thoughtful spy story.” —Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter

 

“Tremendous fun! Wives with big secrets, husbands with bigger ones, swirling around a 1950s Siena teeming with seduction and spycraft.” —Chris Pavone, New York Times bestselling author of The Travelers and The Expats

 

“Christina Lynch’s hapless American newly-weds give us plenty to worry about as they dig their way into the dark heart ofItaly (1956) and into the even darker heart of the CIA. They give us plenty to laugh about, too, in this volatile mixture of old-world charm and cold-war politics.” —Bob Hellenga, author of The Fall of a Sparrow


 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

  • Title:  The Tuscan Child
  • Author:  Rhys Bowen
  • Pages:  329
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now… (publisher)

My take:  The Tuscan Child is the story of two families who never would have met if not for WWII. Lord Hugo Langley’s plane was shot down over a tiny town in Tuscany. He was eventually discovered by a young woman from the town, Sophia Bartoli.

The story unfolds in a dual-timeline told from the perspectives of Lord Hugo and his daughter Joanna. I thought that worked well in the development of the plot. I liked the story well enough but I didn’t feel connected to the characters until the last few chapters. That could all be on me though so don’t let that dissuade you from reading the book.

The descriptions of Tuscany and the food especially are lovely. The mystery involving Lord Hugo and Sophia was interesting and all seemed to be solved at the end. I think readers who like the era of WWII in Italy and a story of survival against all odds will find The Tuscan Child an interesting novel.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including the 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com.

Photo credit: John Quin-Harkin


Praise for Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

“This well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller from Agatha Award-winner Bowen follows the lives of three childhood friends…. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic and stylish.”

—Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”

—Louise Penny, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

The Royal Spyness Mysteries

“Wonderful characters…A delight.” —Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author

“This is a pitch-perfect book, which will charm you in one sentence, chill you in the next.” —Laura Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha Awards

“Georgie’s high spirits and the author’s frothy prose are utterly captivating.” —The Denver Post

“The perfect fix between seasons for Downton Abbey addicts.”
—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Broken Glass

“A smashing romp.” —Booklist

The Molly Murphy Mysteries

“Perceptive and poignant writing… make us look forward to Molly’s return.” —Chicago Tribune

“A charming combination of history, mystery and romance.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well written and fast paced, with a twist that will leave readers truly surprised. This novel is not to be missed.”
―RT Book Reviews


Other Titles by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

Molly Murphy Mysteries

  • Murphy’s Law
  • Death of Riley
    For the Love of Mike
    In Like Flynn
    Oh Danny Boy
    In Dublin’s Fair City
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
  • In a Gilded Cage
    The Last Illusion
  • Bless the Bride
    Hush Now, Don’t You Cry
  • The Family Way
    City of Darkness and Light
  • The Edge of Dreams
  • Away in a Manger
  • Time of Fog and Fire

Royal Spyness Mysteries

  • Her Royal Spyness
  • A Royal Pain
  • Royal Flush
  • Royal Blood
  • Naughty in Nice
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas
  • Heirs and Graces
  • Queen of Hearts
  • Malice at the Palace
  • Crowned and Dangerous

Constable Evans Mysteries

  • Evans Above
  • Evan Help Us
  • Evanly Choirs
  • Evan and Elle
  • Evan Can Wait
  • Evans to Betsy
  • Evan Only Knows
  • Evan’s Gate
  • Evan Blessed
  • Evanly Bodies

 

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

  • Title:  As Bright As Heaven
  • Author:  Susan Meissner
  • Pages:  400
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it. (publisher)

My take:  After suffering a heartbreaking loss, Thomas Bright decides his family should move from their small town to Philadelphia where he will join his uncle’s mortuary business. It will greatly improve their quality of life and the change will be good for them all.

The Bright family settles in nicely at Uncle Fred’s beautiful home. They like their neighbors and slowly become used to the large city. That said, they won’t remain untouched by tragedy for long. These are the harrowing days of WWI and the Spanish Influenza.  As Bright As Heaven is a dramatic and emotional novel that taught me a good deal about the epidemic as well as the life of an undertaker and his family. Susan Meissner conveyed a lot from that unique perspective alone.

I grew to care about the characters – it seemed no one was untouched by the War and/or the flu. Learning and feeling what transpired during important times in history is what I love about Historical Fiction. The Bright family were inspirational in their ability to keep looking for the good in life – doing the best they could with what life handed them. Susan Meissner’s novel is a must read for fans of the genre.


 

Spotlight on: The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam. Plus a US/Canada giveaway

St. Martin’s Griffin; on-sale January 2, 2018

Description:

The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.

At the beguiling age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. At her first public ball during the Christmas of 1828, she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya is swept up in a courtship and then a marriage full of passion but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads Alexander to defend his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, he tragically succumbs to his injuries. Natalya finds herself reviled for her perceived role in his death. In her striking new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Jennifer Laam helps bring Natalya’s side of the story to life with vivid imagination―the compelling tale of her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court and that of her greatest love.

 


About the author:

JENNIFER LAAM is the author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Tsarina’s Legacy. She earned her master’s degree in History from Oakland University in Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, traveled in Russia and Europe, and worked in education and non-profit development. She currently resides in Northern California.

 

Website: https://jenniferlaam.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferlaam.writer/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenlaam?lang=en

 

Discussion Guide: https://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/discusion-guides/9781250121882DG.pdf


Excerpt:

From The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam. Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted with permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

________

A man says he will die for you. A woman is taught to lower her gaze and blush before hiding once more behind a silken fan. Men are given to self-aggrandizement, while women flatter egos and keep men tied to this earth. Such is the way of the world, or so I was taught in the days before I gained a reputation as the villain of St. Petersburg.

I know better now.

When a man declares he will die for you, sometimes a woman must take him at his word. For to allow one’s husband to perish on the field of honor is a shameful affair, worse even, than murdering him by your own hand.

The solemn men who gather at our flat fall silent as my husband draws his final breath. A prickly chill, like the first wave of a fever, washes over me as I realize my husband is gone. The sorrow tightens my chest and clamps down, squeezing until I think my body will snap in two. I sway on my feet and believe I will faint. Only the invisible force of my will keeps me upright. Dark blood still seeps from his abdomen and a sharp metallic scent clings to the air.

For two days my husband had been one of the waking dead, suffering a cruel and lingering death. Though I was not present at the duel where he fought to defend my honor, the image of Alexander collapsing, his blood staining the snow crimson, haunts my every thought. I have slid into despair, veering between hysteria and hopelessness, while Alexander’s wound festered and his once vibrant face distorted with agony.

His friends stand in a semicircle around his body, backs erect, mouths set in stern lines, and expressions stoic even as their eyes dampen with tears.

“What a waste,” I hear one of them mutter. “A genius lost over a woman.”

The words echo in my head. I was the wife of a distinguished man of letters, the greatest in our land, and I let his life slip through my fingers. These men suppose I care only for material comforts and romantic diversions and don’t believe I possess the wits about me to appreciate my husband’s talent. Rumormongers have convinced them I love the empty-headed Georges d’Anthès or have fallen prey to the advances of our iron-jawed tsar. They consider my behavior traitorous, as terrible in its own way as if I had joined the ranks of the Napoleonic soldiers who once threatened our very heartland.

I will confess to basking too long in the attention of Georges and even the tsar himself, yet I am no Jezebel, merely human, as vulnerable to flattery as any other creature. Much as I may wish to do so, I cannot change the past. The damage is done. A fresh wave of tears threatens and subsides, as though nothing remains inside me to expel. I wonder how long I will live with the torment of my guilt and the censure of those who claim to love my husband.


US/Canada Giveaway

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GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED


 

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

  • Title:  The Stolen Marriage
  • Author:  Diane Chamberlain
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  October 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love―and the life―she was meant to have? (publisher)

My take:  The Stolen Marriage is the story of Tess DeMello and how the life she’d dreamed of changed in the course of one night. She was about to get her RN degree and then marry the man she’d loved her whole life. When those plans go awry, she ends up in North Carolina and married to a virtual stranger. His family (as well as the entire town) are dismayed by her appearance and are far from welcoming. Tess relies on her inherent good nature and will do her best in her new life as wife and soon-to-be mother. Diane Chamberlain’s 1940s war era story is well-crafted combining the polio epidemic as well as social/racial issues of the day resulting in a good, multi-layered novel.  I was completely immersed, learned a lot about pre-polio vaccine years, and recommend it to fans of the author and historical fiction. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Chamberlain’s novels – The Stolen Marriage was my first.