What We’re Reading in June

The Word Wenches have been reading the most lovely books.

Mary Jo's recommendations for this month include one of my own old favorites.

Mary Jo:

WwTheIvyTreeI've read some new books this last month, but the only stories that really grabbed me were two oldies.  The first was Mary Stewart's The Ivy TreeWe've discussed Mary Stewart here before–the Wenches are major fans and she shaped the writing for several of us, me included.

The Ivy Tree was the first Mary Stewart I ever read, in a condensed version in my mother's Ladies Home Journal.  I was riveted, and the big story twist was like being clubbed. (I'm harder to surprise now, but it's still one heck of a twist. <G>) 

Stewart is marvelous in her descriptions of story settings, and she makes a Northumberland summer come alive with sensual warmth.  Good suspense and romance, too.  (A lot of smoking goes on, as in most of Stewart's books, a sign of the changing times.)  It's still a wonderful story. 

My other favorite book is Sarah-Kate Lynch's The Wedding Bees, which I learned WwWedding Beesabout on an earlier WWR.  I think it was recommended by Anne Gracie and Pat Rice.  I was a little wary, not being over fond of stinging insects, but within a couple of chapters, I was hooked.  It's kind of magical realism with the heroine, Sugar Wallace, exiled from her beloved Southern home and each year moving herself and her bees to a new city chosen by her queen bee, one of a succession of Elizabeths.  (The current queen is Elizabeth the 6th.)

This time she's led to New York City in an apartment with a great views, a terrace for her bees, and a half dozen other units in the building occupied by miserable people.  Sugar is a healer with both her honey and her warmth, and by the end of the book, everyone in the building is happy, and they and her bees have healed her into happiness and love. A delightful story.


Susan brings us a most interesting mystery series and a rather famous book about writing itself.

WwdyingfallSusan:  This round, I read something new to me and something much-read (I won't mention the stack of to-be-reads, half-reads, meant-to-finishes, and forgot-I-hads that I didn't get through!). I'm leisurely making my way through Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway mystery series, picking one up now and then, and Dying Fall was a very good point in the series, about halfway through so far. Archaeologist and forensic bone specialist Dr. Ruth Galloway–single mom to a toddler she shares with Nelson, a local detective chief inspector–is drawn into a major archaeological discovery by an old friend who is soon murdered.

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Drawing Writing Inspiration from Family History with Elizabeth St.John

ElizabethNicola here. Today I welcome historical author Elizabeth St.John to the Word Wenches. I first met Elizabeth at the Historical Novel Conference in Oxford a few years ago. I confess to stalking her a little (in a completely non-sinister way!) because I knew she had a family connection to Lydiard Park, the glorious 18th century stately home in Swindon near where I live, and I was desperate to meet her and chat about Lydiard and its history. It’s been a huge pleasure to get to know Elizabeth and discover her writing. Her books are set in the 17th century, in an intensely turbulent period of English history, and they are intricate, immersive and beautifully-written. I’ve just started reading Written In Their Stars and I am hooked. Elizabeth evokes a rich historical world that draws you in from the very start of the book. Here she is to tell us more about her writing.

Elizabeth, welcome to the Word Wench Blog! Please tell us about your personal connection to the family you are writing about.

The St.John family in The Lydiard Chronicles share a common great-grandmother with me: Margaret Beauchamp, who was also Polyptych Open with Trees (003) grandmother to Henry VII. The seventeenth century family thought she was a very useful ancestor to increase their standing in society, and didn’t hesitate to use their “royal connection” to further their position. Sir John St.John, the First Baronet, was particularly enthralled, and thus commissioned the Polyptych in 1615, which stands in St. Mary’s Church at Lydiard Park. It’s an extraordinary monument, full of beautiful portraits which inspired my work—plus a gorgeous family tree, complete with Margaret at the top.

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