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.


 

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

  • Title:  Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
  • Author:  Ruth Emmie Lang
  • Genre:  Fantasy; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  352
  • Publication date:  November 7, 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places, jeopardizing not only his own life, but the life of Mary, the woman he loves.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell: great storms that evaporate into thin air; fireflies that make phosphorescent honey; a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door. (publisher)

My take:  When I began reading Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel I felt a bit lost and unsure if I was the intended audience. But not one who gives up on a book easily, I kept reading. And I’m so happy I did. It’s about a boy who lived in a forest with wolves and his journey through life. It’s about the people (and the animals) he meets along the way. It’s about human nature, the ability to be kind, the willingness to be kind, and seeking and embracing the possibilities life has to offer. I know this is kind of scattered and brief but allow me to end by saying I finished reading the novel with that delicious feeling of wishing it could go on and on. I love when that happens. It’s on my 2017 Favorites List, for sure.


Advance Praise:

“Ruth Emmie Lang dazzles with her inventive and magical debut. Told with brains and heart, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance introduces a protagonist who is both mythical and relatable. Weylyn Grey leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets, and he will on readers too.” —Michelle GableNew York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, and The Book of Summer

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a brilliant button on the coat of American magical realism. Think Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.” —Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

“Ruth Emmie Lang’s prose has the earthy warmth of a campfire story, best enjoyed in the woods and under the stars. Her contemporary spin on the American folktale, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, bristles with charm and curiosity, and its oddball hero, Weylyn Grey, will make you want to follow him into the forest.” —Winston GroomNew York Times bestselling author of Forrest Gump

“A wholly original and superbly crafted work of art, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a masterpiece of the imagination. Intelligent, witty, and brave, Ruth Emmie Lang takes us on an uplifting and unforgettable adventure of love, magic, friendship and fate. An extraordinary work of fiction by a truly gifted author. ” —Lori Nelson SpielmanNew York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness 


 

The Trust by Ronald H. Balson

  • Title:  The Trust
  • Author:  Ronald H. Balson
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle’s funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm. (publisher)

My take:  Liam Taggart gets more than he bargained for when he returns to Northern Ireland for his beloved uncle’s funeral. He accepts the request to act as trustee for the estate, much to his relatives’ dismay. He will have to untangle a knot of family secrets, old grudges (both political and familial), and nefarious activities before he can return to life with his wife and young son in Chicago.

Ronald H. Balson’s story was interesting and grew in intensity with each chapter building to an exciting climax that was cinematic in scope. The setting and historical circumstances were intriguing as were the characters. I grew quite fond of Inspector McLaughlin and Officer Megan Dooley. I enjoyed this legal thriller and look forward to reading more of Balson’s novels.


About the author:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

 

 

Praise for Ronald H. Balson:

“A heart-wrenching…triumphant story.” —The Chicago Tribune on Karolina’s Twins

“Secrets, friendships, survival, and the Holocaust are woven together in Ronald H. Balson’s haunting Karolina’s Twins.”—Family Circle on Karolina’s Twins

“A new look at an old story…will stay with you long after you have finished it.” —The Huffington Post on Once We Were Brothers

“Uplifting and moving, intelligently written…an unusual insight into human character.” —Library Journal, starred review on Once We Were Brothers

 “A page-turning read filled with despair and anger but with hope, love, and humanity at its core.” —Jewish Book Council on Saving Sophie


Jane Austen At Home by Lucy Worsley

  • Title:  Jane Austen at Home
  • Author:  Lucy Worsley
  • Genre:  Biography
  • Pages:  387
  • Published:  July 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  On the two-hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the world in which one of English Literature’s best-loved novelists lived.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the rooms, spaces, and possessions that mattered to her, and the way in which home is used in her novels to mean both a place of pleasure and a prison. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms; in fact, her life was often a painful struggle.

Jane famously lived a “life without incident,” but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.  (publisher)

My take:  I’ve enjoyed Jane Austen’s novels so reading Lucy Worsley’s biography of the revered author was a pleasure. It’s a compelling look at Austen’s life and, more specifically, how she lived. The impact of what was going on at any given time in her life was apparent in her heroines’ circumstances. The day-to-day minutiae landed on the pages of the novels that readers, then and now, recognize and can relate. That’s why there are so many Janeites still today. I found the book easy to read and, honestly, difficult to put down. I especially loved learning about Jane’s endearing relationship with her sister Cassandra. I appreciated the extensive research made apparent by the bibliography, notes and index. The photos and illustrations included in two sections enhanced the reading experience. I can say with confidence Jane Austen at Home would be a perfect gift for Austen fans.


 

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

  • Title:  The One That Got Away
  • Author:  Melissa Pimentel
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  400
  • Published:  August 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back. Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Ten years later, Ruby’s single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past… (publisher)

My take:  Persuasion holds a special place in my heart so, while I was excited for the chance to read a retelling of the story, I was also a bit reluctant. I don’t consider myself an Austen purist, but still…

The chapters alternate between Now and Then which fleshed out the story of Ruby and Ethan who find themselves in England for the wedding of her sister to his best friend – ten years after Ruby and Ethan broke up. So, will they find a second chance or have too many years gone by? I had fun finding out. I loved the setting but what I enjoyed the most were the secondary characters – people in the village pub, members of the principal characters’ families, etc. Some of them could be members of my own family – which endeared them all the more to me. The One That Got Away is recommended to fans of modern takes on Austen novels. I’m glad I read it and am tempted to pick up the original one day soon.


About the author:

MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing and is also the author of Love by the Book.

 

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

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

Buy Links: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250130389


 

 

 

 

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin plus US Giveaway

  • Title:  Best Intentions
  • Author:  Erika Raskin
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  August 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Marti Trailor is a mother of three, a New York congressman’s daughter, and wife to a successful obstetrician. Tired of playing the dutiful stay-at-home mom, she jumps at the opportunity to return to her stalled career as a hospital social worker. The catch? The job is at the same hospital where her husband works, and the doctor is not so keen.

As Marti gets enmeshed in the world of the hospital—long hours, overworked doctors, entrenched and dangerous politics—she witnesses something that she cannot unsee. Marti takes it upon herself to do the right thing. But the right thing comes with unintended consequences, and before she even has time to plead innocence, Marti finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight.

Peeling back the layers of one woman’s precipitous journey from stay-at-home mom to murder trial defendant, Best Intentions is Erika Raskin’s sophomore gem, a domestic mystery set against a captivating emotional backdrop. (publisher)

My take:  Marti is the beleaguered wife of a successful doctor in Richmond. She is almost single-handedly raising their three children and is getting kind of fed up with the whole deal. When she’s offered a job in her chosen profession of social worker at the same hospital where her husband works, she grabs it. He’s less than thrilled but knows better than to try to change her decision. When something happens at the hospital to one of Marti’s clients her life is turned upside down and she finds herself facing a murder charge.

I thought this whodunit was okay but I had a few quibbles:  pacing – it didn’t take off for me until almost half-way in; Marti’s snarky (mostly) inner dialogue got old fast; there are a lot of stereotypes in this novel. Even though I had a good idea of what happened I wanted to see how Erika Raskin wrapped it all up – and I thought she did a decent job. Fans of a mysteries that involve hospital politics, social work, and the law might want to give Best Intentions a try.


About the author:

Erika Raskin’s debut novel, Close, was nominated for a Teen Choice Book of the Year award. Her work has appeared on public radio and publications including The Washington Post, Salon, and Washingtonian Magazine. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a panelist at the Virginia Festival of the Book.


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