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

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



The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin plus a US Giveaway

  • Title:  The Queen of Hearts
  • Author:  Kimmery Martin
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  February 2018 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.  (publisher)

My take: Kimmery Martin’s debut novel is the story of two friends, betrayal, and the possibility of forgiveness. Zadie and Emma meet in medical school and become dependable friends as they experience the ins and outs of their medical training.

There are highs and lows that I imagine only people who’ve worked in a hospital or shared the common bond of med school can truly understand. Martin’s descriptive writing kept me interested, especially when I didn’t have a clue if what was happening during procedures, etc. was realistic. Given her real life experience as an ER doctor I trusted and went along with the story. I was completely engaged in what transpired in the hospital setting and on a personal level with Zadie and Emma.

I think fans of medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy will enjoy The Queen of Hearts. I look forward to Kimmery Martin’s next novel.

US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form


Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

  • Title:  Not That I Could Tell
  • Author:  Jessica Strawser
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Publication date:  March 27, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher, NetGalley

Description:  An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn in Not That I Could Tell, the next page-turner from Jessica Strawser.

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.  (publisher)

My take:  It’s a mystery to her neighbors what exactly happened to Kristin and her young twins. The night before all the neighbor women were enjoying a rare night “out” around a backyard fire-pit and the next day Kristin and her kids had disappeared. Each woman will examine her own version of what transpired as they, along with the local PD, try to solve the mystery.

The background of each neighbor is examined. This sometimes had me hoping the pace would step up a bit but the author held it steady as the plot unfolded. There were times, interactions at the local school – to name one, when I laughed. Relatable kernels of real life I guess. It really seemed like more of a character study for most of the novel until things revved up near the end. I’m ok with that and smiled as I turned the last page. I enjoyed Jessica Strawser’s style of telling her story and look forward to her next novel.


The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

  • Title:  The Neighbors
  • Author:  Hannah Mary McKinnon
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Publish Date:  March 13, 2018 – MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in across the street—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying… (publisher)

My take:  The Neighbors is the story of Abby and Nate and Nancy and Liam who are new neighbors. The remarkable thing about that is Abby and Liam share a past. They knew each other many years ago but don’t let on to their spouses. Both are equally shocked to find themselves living near each other. You can imagine the various directions the plot could go. And it does. So much so that near the end my neck felt sore from all the twists and turns! I kid about my neck but not about the twists and turns. This book has all the makings of a night-time tv drama. As it played out I just shook my head and thought “really?!” That said, if you’re looking for an entertaining read you might want to pick up a copy of The Neighbors. Even though I found it more than a bit far-fetched I looked forward to picking it up each time to see what would happen next.


The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

  • Title:  The Flight Attendant
  • Author:  Chris Bohjalian
  • Genre:  Thriller
  • Pages:  368
  • Pub. Date:  March 2018 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  Cassie has been a flight attendant for a major airline for almost 20 years. She’s also a functioning alcoholic which has given her a reputation among her co-workers and the few friends she has. When she works the first class section on a flight to Dubai she meets a handsome and charming American hedge fund manager who she agrees to meet later at his hotel. That decision, followed by a series of really bad decisions, sets her life on an unexpected course that is in turn horrifying and intriguing.

Told mostly from Cassie’s (unreliable) perspective the novel made me feel anxious – and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t want to risk a spoiler but I can say that if an international, of-the-moment thriller is a genre you enjoy you will want to read The Flight Attendant.


A Bella Flora Christmas by Wendy Wax

  • Title:  A Bella Flora Christmas
  • Series:  Ten Beach Road #5.5
  • Author:  Wendy Wax
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  November 2017 – Intermix E-book Original
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Although their lives have changed since their first desperate renovation of Bella Flora, friends Madeline, Avery, and Nicole have always been there for each other. Now they’re returning to Bella Flora for Christmas—where Maddie’s daughter Kyra isn’t feeling particularly celebratory.
Kyra was hoping for a peaceful holiday at Bella Flora—a last gathering before a wealthy, mystery tenant moves into the home she’s been forced to rent out. Instead, she must make a life altering decision by New Year’s — a decision that becomes even more difficult when unexpected guests arrive at Ten Beach Road on Christmas Eve. Now Kyra, Maddie, Avery and Nikki will need to pull together to secure Bella Flora’s future, as well as their own. (publisher)

My take:  If you’re up to date with the Ten Beach Road series this novella will tide you over until the release of Best Thing Ever next May. If you’re not, you’ll get to know the principal characters and a basic idea of how they fit into the storyline of the series. It’s the week before Christmas and all is not calm. Bella Flora, the gorgeous home that brought the women together in the first place, is filling up with Maddie and daughter Kyra’s friends and family.They’ll celebrate the holiday together and then move out so the home can be rented. The rent will help save Bella Flora from going into foreclosure. A Bella Flora Christmas is told from Kyra’s POV which made me feel her anxiety over a decision she has to make by the first of the year. That decision will impact all of her friends – so no pressure there! Since I’ve read the entire series I know the history and cause of her indecision. I expect that thread will carry through the next book. It was fun to find out what was going on in each woman’s life and I’m eager to see the direction Wendy Wax steers them next. Recommended to fans of the Ten Beach Road series.


Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

  • Title:  Seven Days of Us
  • Author:  Francesca Hornak
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  358
  • Published:  October 2017 – Berkley Hardcover
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.  
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive… (publisher)

My take:  Seven Days of Us is an entertaining and deceptively light novel about a family. The Birches are an interesting group. Andrew, the father, is a snarky restaurant reviewer for a newspaper. Emma, the matriarch, just wants everyone to have the kind of Christmas holiday she remembers from childhood. Altruistic eldest daughter Olivia is a doctor just returned from relief work in Liberia and the reason for the family quarantine. Younger daughter Phoebe is completely self-absorbed and more than a bit annoyed at being forced to spend the holidays with her family instead of her new fiancé. Told from the perspective of each family member, plus a couple of other characters, the chapters are short and follow a day-by-day form that made the novel easy to stop and start reading. This was also a great way to lay out the Birch family’s messy dynamics. It ended up being an emotional read for me – that was unexpected and very much appreciated. Recommended to fans of novels about imperfect families. I loved the setting(s) and the holiday-ness to which I think most readers will relate on one level or another.


Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday TimesThe GuardianElleMarie ClaireCosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. Visit her online @FrancescaHornak.