Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Patchwork Bride

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas

Paperback publication: August 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Giveaway book courtesy of the publisher

From Sandra Dallas, the best-selling author of A Quilt for Christmas, comes the irrepressible story of one woman’s quest to find love without losing herself in the American West – now available in paperback.

Ellen is putting the finishing touches on a wedding quilt made from scraps of old dresses when the bride-to-be—her granddaughter June—unexpectedly arrives and announces she’s calling off the marriage. With the tending of June’s uncertain heart in mind, Ellen tells her the story of Nell, a Kansas-born woman who goes to the High Plains of New Mexico Territory in 1898 in search of a husband.

Working as a biscuit-shooter, Nell falls for a cowboy named Buddy. She sees a future together, but she can’t help wondering if his feelings for her are true. When Buddy breaks her heart, she runs away.

In her search for a soul mate, Nell will run away from marriage twice more before finding the love of her life. It’s a tale filled with excitement, heartbreak, disappointment, and self-discovery—as well as with hard-earned life lessons about love. Another stunning, emotional novel from a master storyteller.

Sandra Dallas is the author of fifteen novels, including A Quilt for Christmas, Fallen Women, True Sisters, The Bride’s House, Whiter Than Snow, Prayers for Sale, Tallgrass and New Mercies. She is a former Denver bureau chief for Business Week magazine and lives in Denver, Colorado.


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Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Published: July 2, 2019 – Berkley Books

Book courtesy of the publisher

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

My take:  Milady is the lively adventure story of Milady de Winter (you’ll recognize the name if you’ve read The Three Musketeers). Told from her POV we learn how she became a legendary spy for Cardinal Richelieu. The Musketeers make appearances but this is Milady’s story. And what a tale it is.

Growing up in the English countryside Clarice, daughter of the mostly absent Lord Paget, is doted on by her mother. She also teaches Clarice about the potency of various herbs and flowers and how to avoid catastrophe when using them. As she grows Clarice learns the manners of a lady and eventually is presented at Court. That marks the end of her childhood. Clarice now learns of palace intrigue and the problems that result when placing one’s trust in the wrong person.

A dual timeline (ten years apart) served to develop the characters and made for some incredible situations that had me reading ‘just one more chapter’! There are some scenes of violence that had me skimming a bit – that’s a warning. That aside, I liked this novel and would love to see Laura Sullivan take other secondary characters and make them the star of their own novel. She succeeded with Milady.


 

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

Published:  June 25, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: The historical adult debut novel by # 1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Kate, The Orphan’s Song is a sweeping love story about family and music–and the secrets each hold–that follows the intertwined fates of two Venetian orphans.

A song brought them together.
A secret will tear them apart.

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

After a declaration of love ends in heartbreak, Mino flees the Incurables in search of his family. Known as the “city of masks,” Venice is full of secrets, and Mino is certain one will lead to his long-lost mother. Without him, the walls close in on Violetta and she begins a dangerous and forbidden nightlife, hoping her voice can secure her freedom. But neither finds what they are looking for, until a haunting memory Violetta has suppressed since childhood leads them to a shocking confrontation.

Vibrant with the glamour and beauty of Venice at its zenith, The Orphan’s Song takes us on a breathtaking journey of passion, heartbreak, and betrayal before it crescendos to an unforgettable ending, a celebration of the enduring nature and transformative power of love. (publisher)

My take:  The Orphan’s Song is a lush tale about two orphans who meet at an orphanage in Venice. They have an immediate connection that will ebb and flow over the next few years. Violetta grows to be a gifted singer with a future that is set by the people who’ve cared for her and nurtured her talent since her arrival at the orphanage. Mino, also an orphan, hopes to gain an apprenticeship to ensure a good future. Being orphans has left them with strong feelings about marriage, family, etc. As they grow into young adults their priorities change in ways they never anticipated.

This is a novel for fans of historical fiction. I enjoyed the theme of music and its importance to all people of this time. The Hospital of the Incurables trained young girls to sing in church. They were famous and revered throughout the city. I loved reading about carnevale and how it figured in Venetian society and culture. Lauren Kate’s descriptions put me into each scene. With all the drama of Mina and Violetta’s story the novel seemed like an opera – which, in my estimation, is perfect. I enjoyed The Orphan’s Song very much and hope Lauren Kate will continue to write historical fiction.


About the author:

Lauren Kate is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of nine novels for young adults, including Fallen, which was made into a major motion picture by Sony. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter Matilda, and son Venice (named after the city where The Orphan’s Song is set). 


 Behind the Book by Lauren Kate

“I found this story when I was lost. It was the winter of 2015, and I was in Venice promoting another novel. It was the first book tour where I had my two young children with me, and I remember racing home from events to nurse my son, to kiss my daughter before she went to sleep, to relieve my husband of caring for two jet-lagged toddlers under the age of three. On this cold night my event ran late, and by the time I left the bookstore, the wind was brutal, the city flooded with aqua alta – high tide. I splashed toward what I hoped was my flat, turning down one narrow alley, then another, everything almost familiar.

At last, I saw three words chiseled on a building’s stone façade’s – Ospedale degli Incurabili. Hospital of the Incurables. I looked up at this hulking structure, for which the surrounding streets had been named. What is it? Who were they? I circled the compound and, eventually, three more deserted Dorsoduro alleys led me home. But long after my children were tucked into bed, I was still thinking about the Incurables.

Research revealed the the Ospedale degli Incurabili – which now houses a fine arts college – was originally a hospital and orphanage for foundling children, dating back to the sixteenth century. For hundreds of years the Incurables took in orphans and raised them to be musicians. The orphanage attracted the most famous Baroque composers as teachers, and many of its musicians became famous, drawing audiences from around the world. The Incurables was the original music conservatory – and each one of its students had been abandoned as a child.

A novel appeared at my door, begging to be let in.

…To write it, I returned to Venice and spent ten days with Venetian historians, musicians, and caretakers of the former orphanage. I took violin lessons and became a constant patron of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I read Casanova’s memoirs and Vivaldi’s musical theory. I fell more deeply in love with Venice than I imagined possible.

None of my novels has ever come to me so fully formed. Blame it on the Serene Republic and on these characters, still falling in love.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy The Orphan’s Song.”

Praise for The Orphan’s Song:

“Kate’s enchanting story brings the canals and backchannels of Venice to vivid life and will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Chadwick.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“An operatic and opulently detailed tale of longing, secrets, and high-stakes quests for freedom, love, art, and home…Kate vividly conjures a city of beauty and pain, piety and criminality, helplessness and ruthlessness, while choreographing a suspenseful, soaring love story of anguish, ecstasy, risk, and stunning reversals.”

Booklist

 

“Kate mesmerizes in a tale that brilliantly recreates 1700s Venice—a city of high-stakes intrigue and earthly delights…A tangled knot of betrayal and love, lies and redemption.  Marvelous.

—Fiona Davis, author of The Masterpiece

 

“Gorgeous… Kate uncovers the intriguing, little-known origin of the era’s most famous Baroque musicians…Brimming with love, deception, and ultimately, surprising truth.

—Marie Benedict, author of The Only Woman in the Room

 

The Orphan’s Song plunges the reader into the streets and canals of eighteenth-century Venice, where the world of Carnivale roils with music, love, and intrigue. Lauren Kate is a masterful storyteller, with a stunning command of her rich historical material and the ability to draw forth the beautiful and intimate songs of the human heart.—Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling author of Sisi


Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Publication date:  July 9, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Following her father-in-law’s sudden death, Joanna Rafferty Collier begrudgingly moves into her husband’s family home – the venerable and imposing Brynmor – hoping to get her marriage back on solid ground and provide comfort to her grieving mother-in-law, Susannah Parrish Collier. But her mother-in-law is less than welcoming, enigmatic, and intimidating, and the months of living at Brynmor in forced companionship and congeniality, largely without her husband by her side, have begun to take their toll on Joanna. She’s been greeted, instead, by hints of tragedies past: Whose baby is buried in the unmarked grave? And what happened to Susannah’s one true love? Slowly, Joanna comes to understand that her mother-in-law is not the impenetrable woman she thought she was, but a fragile one, harboring a lifetime of secrets.  (publisher)

My take: The publisher’s description tells everything you need to know. At least it was all I wanted to know going in. What I found is a really good story that kept me reading long into the night. Told in alternating perspectives of Joanna in the 1960s and Susannah in the 1920s, Bethlehem is the story of two women and their secrets and the cost of keeping those secrets. Not wanting to risk a spoiler I will just say I would recommend Bethlehem to fans of romantic historical fiction, family sagas and, ultimately, a well-told tale. I really liked it and won’t hesitate to read whatever Karen Kelly writes next.


Praise for Bethlehem:

“Mystery, first love, and long-held secrets fold together in this atmospheric tale of a family coming to a long overdue reckoning… and finding a way to rise from the aftermath.” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“With delicate and insightful prose, Karen Kelly sweeps us into the psyches of two deeply entwined families as their lives – and secrets- unravel. A haunting debut, Bethlehem will pull you in from start to finish, and leave you grappling with the timeless quandary of when to bury the truth, and when to confront it.” – Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones


About the author:

Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University, and lives in Edina, Minnesota. She is also the author of Prospice.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Published:  May 21, 2019 – Algonquin Books

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When Gus arrives in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, as a first time teacher, his inexperience is challenged by the wit and ingenuity of the Stewart sisters. Then one impulsive decision and a cataclysmic blizzard trap Elise and her horse on the prairie and forever change the balance of everything between the sisters, and with Gus McQueen. With honesty and poetic intensity and the deadpan humor of Paulette Jiles and Charles Portis, Parker reminds us of the consequences of our choices. Expansive and intimate, this novel tells the story of characters tested as much by life on the prairie as they are by their own churning hearts. (publisher)

My take:  During the harsh winter of 1916 the Stewart sisters (Elise, 15, and Lorena, 17) ride their faithful horse to school no matter the weather. Their young teacher, Mr. McQueen, meets them and helps them off the horse and into the school room every day. The three are the central characters of the novel and we’ll see how their lives intertwine and go off in different directions according to the choices they make. I was drawn in by Michael Parker’s storytelling – the humor he injected in the day-to-day as well as the brutality of life on the prairie that many didn’t survive. I laughed when the sisters recited stories from the local newspaper. It reminded me of my own small, hometown newspaper that often had a younger me rolling my eyes at the headlines and articles considered newsworthy. Overall, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction.


About the author:

Michael Parker’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, the Oxford AmericanRunner’s WorldMen’s Journal, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. He is the Nicholas and Nancy Vacc Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and divides his time between Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.

Photo credit:  Tasha Thomas

 


Praise for Prairie Fever:

“Parker’s chimerical slipstream of a novel asks, Is it better to hew to that which is, or to see the world as you wish? Readers will surely be pulled deep into the strange and wild river of Elise’s fanciful peregrinations.”

 Booklist starred review

 

“In the tradition of Katherine Ann Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Let me just say that Prairie Fever—concerning the lives of the Stewart sisters of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early years of the twentieth century—is the most beautiful novel I have read in quite some time. Taking a cue from the irrepressibly inventive younger sister, Elise, I soon began reading it aloud to someone I love, and the novel more than rewards such a shared experience. The language is that graceful and original, the events and characters (horses included) that spellbinding and funny and moving; and always the melancholy beauty and mysterious power of the open prairie shine through. To borrow a phrase from Mr. McQueen—first encountered as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse—one comes away from the novel with a keener sense of ‘how one ought to go about living one’s life.’”
Tom Drury, author of Pacific

“That a love story of this strangeness and rightness can come out of the event of a girl nearly dead in a storm is a testament to the wonder that is Michael Parker’s talent. Not least, he’s invented a language, a formal way of speaking that is perfectly suited to his people and to this dreamy novel.”
Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards

Prairie Fever is an exceptionally charming novel about the wonders and troubles of love, land, and language. Witty and poignant, the novel is as elegantly constructed as a poem, and it features the best dialogue this side—or any side—of the Natchez Trace. Yet another wonderful book from Michael Parker.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special

“What a terrific book this is, wonderful and strange . . . a whole family acting out what can and can’t be forgotten, against the backdrops of prairie and range—characters so magnificently and sometimes comically stubborn I really couldn’t put the book down. And what other novel has a character writing letters to a dead horse? I was completely taken by this book.”
Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. Prairie Fever is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.”
Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos


 

US Giveaway: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

 Trade Paperback published by St. Martin’s Griffin – May 21, 2019

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA

Review galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Caroline is the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army, no one anticipates he will not return. Then Caroline gets word that her husband is wounded, and she must find her way alone to Washington City and search among the thousands of casualties to find him.

When Jacob succumbs to his injuries, she brings his body home on the eve of the deadliest battle of the war. With troops and looters roaming the countryside, it is impossible to know who is friend and who is foe. Caroline fights to protect those she holds most dear while remaining compassionate to the neediest around her, including two strangers from opposite sides of the fight. Each is wounded… Each is drawn to her beauty, her kindness. Both offer comfort, but only one secretly captures her heart. Still, she must resist exposing her vulnerability in these uncertain times when so much is at risk.

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that women experienced as their men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War. My (3x)great grandfather left his family and farm to fight with the northern army. His portrait hung on the wall in my parents’ home. I didn’t truly appreciate the extent of his sacrifice until I began to read accounts of the war – told from various perspectives. Linda Lael Miller’s novel The Yankee Widow is the story of Caroline, a young widow from outside of Gettysburg, PA. Her husband left his young family and farm to fight in the northern army only to succumb to injuries incurred at Chancellorsville. Caroline is left to carry on which is no small task. The war is brought to her front yard as she is grieving the loss of her husband. She must step outside her grief and help with injured men from both sides of the war. Two such men will become central to her story and could very well decide her future. One thing she is certain of: she will make the decision. Showing a strength of character from the beginning of the novel we see even more growth in Caroline as she becomes aware that there are no easy answers except the decision to treat others with compassion – no matter where they are from. The story is filled with vivid battle descriptions that put me in the middle of those scenes. Heartbreaking, to be sure.

Linda Lael Miller swept me along with her story, turning the pages and wondering how Caroline would prevail. For once I was happy a novel ended with a cliff-hanger – I can’t wait to read what happens next. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction with a dose of romance.


 

Spotlight: The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

I’ve been waiting for this book to publish for a long time. Over the past few years Linda Lael Miller would update, hint about it, etc. on her blog which put it firmly on my wish list. I’ll post my review soon. In the meantime, here’s what we have to look forward to in THE YANKEE WIDOW.

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA Hardcover

Description:

A richly layered saga is set against the backdrop of the Civil War

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that families experienced as men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life.

Told in a smart, assured and compelling voice, this is the story of Caroline, the young wife and childhood sweetheart of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter, Rachel, just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army to do his duty and help save the Union, no one anticipates he will not return. Caroline gets news that he is wounded and has been taken to Washington, DC, with his regiment, and so she must find her way there and navigate the thousands of other wounded soldiers to find him.

Thus begins this novel that focuses on the strong women and men of both sides and both races who sacrificed so much and loved so well during this critical juncture in American history.

You can purchase this book at these online retailers:
Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | B-A-M
Book Depository | Chapters | Harlequin
IndieBound | iTunes | Powell’s


About the author:

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, Linda pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a spacious property outside Spokane.

Linda traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold Fletcher’s Woman in 1983 to Pocket Books. Since then, Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, mysteries and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Long a passionate Civil War buff, Linda has studied the era avidly for almost thirty years. She has read literally hundreds of books on the subject, explored numerous battlegrounds and made many visits to her favorite, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she has witnessed re-enactments of the legendary clash between North and South. Linda explores that turbulent time in The Yankee Widow, a May 7, 2019 MIRA Books hardcover, also available in digital and audiobook formats.

Dedicated to helping others, “The First Lady of the West” personally financed fifteen years of her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women, which she awarded to women 25 years and older who were seeking to improve their lot in life through education. She anticipates that her next charitable endeavors will benefit four-legged critters.

More information about Linda and her novels is available at http://www.lindalaelmiller.com


 

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

March 2019 – Berkley Books

Review copy provided by the publisher

Description:  Alice may be the president’s daughter, but she’s nobody’s darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves–oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it’s no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument–and Alice intends to outlast them all. (publisher)

Guest Review by Bookfan daughter:

Alice Roosevelt was an extraordinary woman who had an untold influence on the history of our country.  As a president’s daughter, another president’s (and first lady’s) cousin, the wife of a Speaker of the House and hostess of tony weekly salons, she seemed to be the definition of a Washington insider for over six decades.  However, Alice felt like an outsider for as long as she could remember. American Princess sweeps the reader though the 20th century with Alice near the center of the action.  Her adventures, scandals, friendships and romantic entanglements all tie back to her complicated relationship with her famous father. For me, the novel was emotionally draining.  Alice endured so much heartache and the author made it easy to share in her pain. I both cheered for Alice and I cringed at her choices but ultimately I shed tears of happiness for how her story ends.


Praise for American Princess:

“As juicy and enlightening as a page in Meghan Markle’s diary.”InStyle

“Presidential darling, America’s sweetheart, national rebel: Teddy Roosevelt’s swashbuckling daughter Alice springs to life in this raucous anthem to a remarkable woman.”—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress


 

Spotlight on: American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

American Princess – A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt

by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; March 12, 2019

Description

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

Published February 2019 – Atria Books

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:  When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full-scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion. (publisher)

My take:  It’s been a while since I visited 16th century Italy in a historical fiction novel so when I had the opportunity to read The Chef’s Secret I was excited to begin the adventure. Author Crystal King’s novel is replete with opulent settings, rich and detailed food descriptions, and the passion of her characters.

I liked the dual-storylines of Italy’s most famous chef (he served Popes, Kings and other notables of the time) and the heir he hoped would follow in his culinary footsteps. Upon the death of his uncle, Giovanni received boxes that contained journals. The mostly encoded journals of Bartolomeo Scappi not only developed the characters but also unleashed long-held secrets that would put Gio in certain danger. All combined for an entertaining read that I can recommend to fans of historical fiction and the Renaissance era.


 

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Lake Union Publishing – February 2019

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  While World War I rages on the European continent, young Emily Bryce is getting restless under the thumb of her over-protective parents in Devonshire. Her best friend Clarissa is serving as a nurse at the front while Emily has been kept at home visiting wounded officers at a local convalescent hospital. There she meets a young rough-around-the-edges Australian pilot and falls in love with him, much to her parents’ chagrin. What’s more, Emily decides to finally set off on her own and contribute to the war effort, becoming a member of the Women’s Land Army, a post her mother finds most unsuitable. (publisher)

My take:  Emily Bryce has led a sheltered life. When she turns 21 she’s determined to do more to help her country which is in the midst of WWI. She joins the Women’s Land Army and learns to work with her hands. She meets a vast array of women who will become more family than acquaintances.

There’s a character who, near the end of the novel, says “We’ve no idea what we can do until we try.”  For me, that was the underlying tone of the novel. It’s a story about people who rose to the occasion. I loved Emily’s spirit and felt her emotional highs and lows throughout the story. She possessed an admirable strength of character.

Rhys Bowen’s novel explores the personal losses experienced during the war, new paths to travel in life, and a bit of a mystery to be solved. I loved learning about the Women’s Land Army. The Victory Garden is a satisfying work of historical fiction that I’m happy to recommend to fans of the genre and Rhys Bowen.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 40 mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field and The Tuscan Child, both standalone novels about 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, and In Farleigh Field was a 2018 Edgar Award nominee and Lefty Award winner. Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com


Praise for Rhys Bowen:

“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.”
Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author


 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Published:  October 2018 – Thomas Nelson

Free book provided by Thomas Nelson

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.


 

The Splendor Before The Dark by Margaret George

The Splendor Before The Dark by Margaret George

November 6, 2018 – Berkley Hardcover

Book courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

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:  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.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Master Of His Fate

Master Of His Fate by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publication date:  November 20, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford comes the first book in a stunning new historical saga.

Victorian England is a country of sharp divides between rich and poor, but James Lionel Falconer, who spends his days working at his father’s market stall, is determined to become a merchant prince. Even as a child, he is everything a self-made man should be: handsome, ambitious, charming, and brimming with self-confidence. James quickly rises through the ranks, proving himself both hardworking and trustworthy, and catching the eye of Henry Malvern, head of the most prestigious shipping company in London. But when threats against his reputation – and his life – begin to emerge, James will have to prove that he truly is the master of his fate.

Through scandal and romance, tragedy and triumph, the Falconer and Malvern family’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways in this expansive and intricately detailed new novel filled with drama, intrigue, and Bradford’s trademark cast of compelling characters. (publisher)


About the author:

Barbara Taylor Bradford was born and brought up in England and started her writing career as a journalist. She has written thirty international bestsellers. MASTER OF HIS FATE is her thirty-third novel. In 2007, Queen Elizabeth awarded her the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her literary achievements. She lives in New York with her husband, TV and film producer Robert Bradford.


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The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Published October 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

An antique shop haunted by a ghost.
A silver treasure with an injustice in its story.
An adventure to the past she’ll never forget.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life, threatening to take Flora’s if she fails.

While Xanthe fights to save the girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave. (publisher)

My take:  Xanthe and her mother are moving to Marlborough and opening an antiques shop – hoping for a major reboot of their life. When Xanthe buys a beautiful chatelaine she finds that not only is it a lovely piece but it will transport her to another time (1600s Marlborough) and the reality of a young girl who needs her help. Xanthe will make good use of her highly developed intuitive sense – at least that is the hope of one contentious specter who inhabits the antiques shop. Will Xanthe be able to accomplish her task and save her own mother from the wrath of the spirit? You’ll have to read to find out.

The Little Shop of Found Things is the first in a new series and recommended to fans of time travel and novels about fresh starts.


 

The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

Published October 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.(publisher)

My take: When Catherine and Liam (married attorney and investigator) go to Italy to help a friend’s aunt with a property dispute they wind up with a decades old mystery to solve in addition to the original reason for travel. The story moves back and forth from 1930s Germany and Italy to 2017 Italy slowly winding it’s way to the solution of the mystery. The plight of the Jews in Germany plays out in the storyline of a young musician, Ada and her family. I knew where the story would go but was unsure of the Italian connection. I’ve read many historical fiction novels written about this era. The Girl From Berlin is a bit different but also similar in its heartbreaking events. The legal mystery was interesting. I especially appreciated the music aspect of the plot. Recommended to fans of historical fiction and the author. This book is the 5th installment of the Liam Taggert and Catherine Lockhart series but easily stands alone.


 

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

Published Oct. 2, 2018 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:  When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors. 

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo’s The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won’t erase. (publisher)

My take:  I put off reading The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel until October because I expected it to be a good one to read near Halloween. I liked it but didn’t find it at all spooky. Alyssa Palombo’s romantic tale involves forbidden love between two young people of different classes, the Sleepy Hollow legend, and a bit of imagined magic – all from Katrina’s point of view. I think that is what I enjoyed most about this retelling. She’s a young woman with admirable temperament, high intelligence, and a good heart. Her parents love their only child but they expect her to marry well. She’s an heiress so only suitors of means are welcome. Poor Ichabod Crane doesn’t stand a chance. They love each other and hope to change her father’s mind. If you’re familiar with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow you know where the story goes. I’d recommend this version to fans of romantic retellings of classic tales.


 

Spotlight: The Collector’s Apprentice by B.A. Shapiro

 

THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE
by B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books / Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Price: $27.95; Hardcover; 352 pages; ISBN: 978-1-61620-358-0

Description: (provided by the publicist)

New York Times bestselling author B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own with such novels as The Muralist and The Art Forger, which The Washington Post praised for its “skillful balance of brisk plotting, significant emotional depth and a multi-layered narration rich with a sense of moral consequence.” With THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE—her third, boldest, and best book with Algonquin—Shapiro takes readers to Paris in the 1920s and the ever-fascinating world of Gertrude Stein’s salon and the artists, such as Matisse and Picasso, with whom she surrounded herself. These and other real-life icons are deftly integrated into a gripping mystery involving love, intrigue, murder and, of course, art.

When she is accused of playing a role in a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by her erstwhile fiancé, Paulien Mertens seeks solace and sanctuary in Paris, where she creates a false identity as a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby. As Vivienne attempts to recover her father’s art collection—stolen along with all her family’s assets—and prove her innocence, the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Edwin Bradley offers her a job. She is soon immersed in the world of expatriates and post-Impressionist art, becoming Matisse’s lover, and traveling between Paris and Bradley’s native Philadelphia, where he is building an art museum. But her exciting new life is abruptly interrupted when Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.

“THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the lives of the art collector Albert Barnes and his assistant, Violette de Mazia, as well as the history of the Barnes Foundation, which he founded and they both nurtured,” Shapiro explains. From this raw material, she has invented a tantalizing story that draws on extensive research into not only the lives of Barnes and de Mazia, but of the many historical characters in the book. The evolution, principles, artists, and works of the post-Impressionist movement that are central to the story are drawn with particular accuracy and appreciation.

The result, like all of Shapiro’s much-loved work, is a seamless blend of art history set against a wider historical backdrop, and all wrapped in an impossible-to-put-down fictional narrative.


About the Author:

B. A. Shapiro is New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is http://www.bashapirobooks.com.

Photo credit: Lynn Wayne


Praise for THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE:

“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!” —Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us

“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprenticeshe has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.” —Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia

“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“A seamless blend of art history set against a wider historical backdrop.”—Detroit Jewish News

“B. A. Shapiro is back with a platinum potion of art, love, and scandal, set against the big backdrop of Paris between the wars. If you can put The Collector’s Apprentice down, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am. I read it in one sumptuous sitting. This is a big story, from a big talent.”—Jacquelyn Mitchard, bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean


THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE
by B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books / Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Price: $27.95; Hardcover; 352 pages; ISBN: 978-1-61620-358-0 Follow Algonquin books on Twitter at @algonquinbooks or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/algonquinbooks


Spotlight on: The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Pub. date: October 16, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Publisher’s description:

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter, Paula Brackston, returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to start a new series that will enchant her audience more than ever before. THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS tells the captivating story of a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical journey.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS is set to be a strong, whimsical start to this new series.


About the author:

Paula Brackston is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch, The Midnight Witch, The Silver Witch, and The Return of the Witch. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Lancaster University in the UK. She lives in Wales with her family.


Praise for Paula Brackston and THE LITTLE SHOP OF FOUND THINGS:

“A solid, enjoyable read with a hint of magical time travel.” – Booklist

“Brackston wonderfully blends history with the time-travel elements and a touch of romance. This series debut is a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments.” – Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander collection will delight in Brackston’s new series and eagerly await its second installment. A bewitching tale of love across centuries.” – Kirkus