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I loved the characters, the descriptions and the historical references that seemed familiar yet were truly unknown to me.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.





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



Spotlight and US Giveaway: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Description: (content provided by the publisher)

Sally Hepworth wrote THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR while pregnant, and edited it with a newborn at her side. So, naturally, being relatively housebound, she spent a lot of time wondering what her neighbors were up to. The result of Hepworth’s guesswork is a more suspenseful, more propulsive, and more secret-laden book than anything she’s written before.

Hepworth’s suburban-set story centers on the people of Pleasant Court. There’s Essie, a young mother grappling with its constant demands. Her mother, Barbara, is the perfect grandmother to her two young daughters, doting, and there to help at the drop of a hat. But it’s new-to-the-neighborhood Isabelle who proves a breath of fresh air for Essie. Their budding friendship, while just what Essie needs, sounds the alarm for those close to her. Because Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident… Then there’s Ange. Is her photographer husband’s client just that, or something more? Fran, meanwhile, is keeping her husband at arm’s length. She made a regretful decision during a lull in their marriage, and is now struggling to cope with the consequences.

You may think you have the people of Pleasant Court all figured out, but Hepworth proves otherwise, throwing in some serious curveballs.

About the author:
Sally Hepworth is a former event planner and human resources professional. A graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, Sally started writing novels after the birth of her first child. Sally has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the UK, and Canada, and now writes full-time from her home in Melbourne, where she lives with her husband and three young children. She is currently working on her next novel.

US Giveaway

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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.


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


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.






Discussion Guide:


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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Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

  • Title:  Poison
  • Author:  Galt Niederhoffer
  • Genre:  Thriller
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  November 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids, a cat, and a yard, they are living the modern family dream. A recent move to Portland, Maine is the perfect fresh start – a fixer-upper Victorian, new jobs for Cass and Ryan, a good school for the kids, and the shimmering bay in sight. But trouble begins imperceptibly, first with the white lies told in every marital bedroom.

Was he really “stuck at the office”?

Did he delete a text?

The lies seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a swirl of denials, explanations, and confusion. The tables are turned.

Is he lying? Or am I losing my mind?

With life-and-death consequences, Poison is a chilling reminder that the ties that bind can also be instruments of torture. And that breaking trust is the most toxic betrayal of all. (publisher)

My take:  When widowed mother of two young children and former award-winning investigative reporter Cass meets Ryan he seems an answer to her prayers. After a whirlwind ‘courtship’ they marry and their son is born several months later. After a few concerning occurrences they move to Maine for a fresh beginning. Life is great. Until it isn’t. Cass has suspicions that something has flipped in their marriage.  Cass will find out just who (if anyone) she can trust and where she’ll get help for her dire situation. I thought the author did a good job building drama and even suspense. She makes her point of the challenges women face in the legal/criminal system. Most of the novel I wasn’t certain Cass was a reliable narrator – not because of what her husband said but because of her self-doubt. That bothered me but I’m guessing it’s not unusual for abused women to feel that way. Recommended to fans of psychological thrillers.


Spotlight on: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

I’m pleased to shine the Bookfan Spotlight on POISON by Galt Niederhoffer. Today is publication day and I can’t wait to read it!


Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids, a cat, and a yard, they are living the modern family dream. A recent move to Portland, Maine is the perfect fresh start – a fixer-upper Victorian, new jobs for Cass and Ryan, a good school for the kids, and the shimmering bay in sight. But trouble begins imperceptibly, first with the white lies told in every marital bedroom.

Was he really “stuck at the office”?

Did he delete a text?

The lies seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a swirl of denials, explanations, and confusion. The tables are turned.

Is he lying? Or am I losing my mind?

With life-and-death consequences, Poison is a chilling reminder that the ties that bind can also be instruments of torture. And that breaking trust is the most toxic betrayal of all.

About the author:

Galt Niederhoffer is a writer and producer. She has written several novels, including The Romantics and A Taxonomy of Barnacles, and has produced more than thirty indie films, twelve of which were selections and award-winners at the Sundance Film Festival. Niederhoffer has also been published in Vogue, New York magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar. She lives in New York City with her three children.

Praise for POISON:

“The novel is ominous from Page 1, and with its slow-burn peril – both psychological and physical…the suspense is sustained until the very end.” – Kirkus reviews

“This gripping, insightful work dissects a marriage in which Cass, a wife and mother of three, believes she is under attack from her perfect-to-the-outside-world husband. Throughout the novel, Cass’ racing thoughts, tormenting self-doubt, and fear for her family’s safety lay bare the torture of being gaslighted by a lying narcissist. Readers will be gripped by the did-he, didn’t-he plot: the mental gymnastics portrayed on the page are so spot-on that it is difficult to imagine that the novel isn’t autobiographical.” – Booklist

“[E]ngrossing…this is a chilling and entertaining novel. ” – Publisher’s Weekly

“It will grab you…unsettle you…make you question the things you hold dear – family, marriage, and sanity. And it won’t let go until the very end.” – Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street

“With gripping, nuanced style, Galt Niederhoffer has written a novel – think of Gone Girl – that delivers an unbelievable reality, with twisty, turn-y, modern-day noir panache. Poison is both entertainment and a warning – and that is saying a lot.” – Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us

“Haunting.” – Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of Class 


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.