Andrea here, posting this month’s eclectic (as always!) array of books we’ve been reading this month!
Pat: I hate WWII books. I know the horrible, depressing history and simply don’t need to wallow in it. But I cannot resist bookshop books, and Anne recommended this one, so I gave The Last Bookshop In London, by Madeline Martin, a try. I almost quit after the first chapter—boring, formulaic, whatever the excuse. But I was in a crummy mood and didn’t like anything else either, so I kept on reading. The heroine is timid and never does anything unless pushed. It takes the death of her parents, and her aunt shoving her out of the house, to accept the offer of her mother’s best friend to live in London. It’s 1939. We know what’s going to happen.
Even though this is not great literary prose but simple sentences, the author, with her detailed descriptions and realistic characters, drags us into pre-war London and the lives of the people surrounding Grace Bennet. My love of books and bookstores allowed me to sink into Grace’s excitement—even though she’s never read a book—as she organizes the shop of an elderly curmudgeon manipulated into hiring her. When she meets an interesting guy and finally starts reading. . . I’m well hooked.
The last half of the story, of course, is how she grows and becomes courageous through the travesties of war. The story is predictable enough that we’re not surprised by much, which is a good thing when war brings so much death. And amazingly, it’s a wonderful comfort read. If you’re looking for a trip out of time to snuggle down with on a cold wintry evening, give this one a try! (it's currently $2.99
Nicola: After a month of not picking up a book (too much happening, too much stress) it was a Wench recommendation that got me reading again. I love the WWR! I picked up Mine Until Moonrise, Book 1 in the Lost Harbor Alaska series by Jennifer Bernard, and I was hooked. I always enjoy series set in small communities and if there is an ocean thrown in as well, so much the better! Having stayed in a small town in Alaska I found this even more appealing. I’m now on book 6 in the series, Love at First Light. The characters are all well drawn and dealing with meaningful emotional dilemmas, the heroes are seriously hot, as is the romance. The series has been a perfect escape for me and I’m so glad there are more books to go! s://www.amazon.com/Love-First-Light-Harbor-Alaska-ebook/dp/B08H84CB5T/wordwench-20
I also picked up Violet and the Bow Street Runner by Wench favourite Emily Larkin, which is another in her Baleful Godmother series. Violet Garland is the daughter of a Duke and her faerie godmother has given her a wonderful magic gift. It enables her to “assist” Perry Wintersmith, son of an aristocratic family who has fallen on hard times and become a bow street runner, in his latest case to track down a strange series of thefts in society. I adored Perry, who is so reliable and honourable, a quiet sort of hero who is irresistible. To start with I found Violet rather persistent and irritating but I soon warmed to her honesty and combination of innocence and daring. The romance was particularly appealing. It was beautifully balanced, the sort of relationship where Perry and Violet were stronger together and each gave the other something invaluable. I loved this story!
Christina: This month I read A Cottage Full of Secrets, the latest novel from Jane Lovering, and yet again she has penned a story that had me gripped from start to finish. It is a romance but it also deals with the very serious issue of domestic abuse. This is handled in a wonderfully poignant and sensitive way. The hero and heroine both have a lot of emotional baggage and are slow to trust anyone. And they definitely have good reasons for that! I absolutely loved how these two damaged souls started to form a bond and I was rooting for them all the way, hoping they could vanquish their demons and emerge victorious. They stayed in my mind for a long time after I put the book down. Highly recommended!
Then I read No Judgments by Meg Cabot. I have liked Ms Cabot’s novels for a long time, starting with the YA ones, and when I saw this series I jumped at the chance to read more of her work. No Judgments is the first book in a series set on a tiny island called Little Bridges, part of the Florida Keys. It’s a tropical paradise with sun, sea and beautiful beaches … except when it’s hurricane season. The heroine Bree Beckham has fled to the island to get over an abusive ex and the recent death of her father, and so that she can decide what she really wants to do with her life. When the hurricane warnings start she decides to stay and weather the storm, despite all advice to the contrary. It turns out to be a lot worse than she thought, but although she is safe, the island ends up being cut off from the mainland. That’s when she finds out that a lot of people had fled, leaving their pets behind as they thought they’d only be gone for a short while. Bree loves animals and is appalled. She feels she has to help so she offers to look after the pets until the owners can return. This is a much bigger job than she’d imagined and she has to turn to her boss’s gorgeous nephew Drew Hartwell for assistance. She’s been avoiding him as she’d been warned he's a player, but he is as much of an animal lover as she is and she starts to realise he is not at all the way he’d been portrayed. They have sizzling chemistry, something Drew seems to have realised long before Bree did, and she can’t help but fall for him. But she’s not sure if it’s just a fling because of their forced proximity or if it could be a lasting thing. It takes a visit from her ex and her mother to make up her mind … I loved this story and Drew is a fantastic hero – laid-back, adores dogs, and he’s not fazed by Bree’s indecisiveness. A feel-good summer romance of the best kind!
Andrea: My reading this month has all been non-fiction. First of all, I’m starting to do research on a new book project, so have been engrossed in Star of the Morning, by Kirsten Ellis, a fascinating biography of Lady Hester Stanhope, one of the truly remarkable women of the Regency era. She is best known for her eccentric later life when she left England to become “Queen of the Desert “ in the Middle East, where she adopted wearing men’s clothing, so flummoxed the local rulers with her outspoken and strong-willed behavior that they accepted her as an equal, and became the most famous adventurer of her time. (Intrigued by an ancient map, she also became interested in archeology and because of her careful excavation techniques, she is considered one of the pioneers of modern archeology.
However, my interest in Hester is her earlier life. Her grandfather was William Pitt, and her uncle was William Pitt the Younger, two of the most famous prime ministers in British history. Hester served as “hostess” and private secretary for her uncle, as he never married, and thus was intimately involved (in a number of ways!) with the inner workings of the powerbrokers and decisionmakers during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars. She was a woman who was fearless in breaking the rules and being true to herself, despite the sacrifices such strength of character demanded. Stay tuned for more on Hester! (Sorry, the book is out of print, so difficult to find. One can get a copy at used booksellers online, but you have to hunt to find a decent price!)
And just for fun, I read The Species Seekers by Richard Conniff, a delightful exploration of the early men of science in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who were travel the globe, braving all manner of danger and intolerable living conditions, to collect plant and animal specimens in order to begin to understand the workings of the natural world. I love this type of non-fiction narrative, and Conniff writes with with great humor as well as scientific expertise about the oddball cast of characters drawn to this pursuit. I laughed a lot (there are some hilarious anecdotes) but also learned a great deal about the subject.
Susan: On a recent trip to an actual bookstore, I stocked up on new books (did I really need more books? why yes, yes I did!), including a few mysteries. One from the new stack is The Unkindness of Ravens by M.E. Hilliard, a debut novel and the first in a series, and I'm very much enjoying it.
Wanting to escape city life–a happy existence until it ended in her husband's murder–librarian Greer Hogan settles in the small NY town of Raven's Hill to start over. Now working in the town's busy library, located in the sprawling, spooky old mansion, Greer, an aficionado of class mysteries, enjoys her job and the small-town atmosphere. She protects her secrets, especially concerning her husband, but when she stumbles on the body of another librarian in the building's archives, she is thrust into another murder investigation. Despite police activity, Greer is determined to find out what happened to her friend and begins sleuthing around on her own. She follows a few clues and uncovers an older mystery that needs unraveling before the truth can be found. But when someone discovers that Greer knows too much, she becomes the latest target–and the path begins to lead to her husband's murder, complicating things. Hilliard, a librarian herself, packs the novel with interesting characters, fascinating detail about libraries and books, and fun references to cozy and classic mysteries. The writing is breezy and good, the pace moves well, and the level of detail is consistently interesting. I'm a sucker for a book about books and libraries, and this one, with elements of cozy as well as classic, is a good fit. I'm looking forward to the next in Hilliard's new series.
Anne: and while I've been madly sorting through books and culling them (sob) by day I've also been reading at night. Nicola beat me to the recommendation of Emily Larkin's latest, Violet and the Bow Street Runner. The latest in her "Baleful Godmother" series, it's a Regency-era tale with one little magic element. Emily Larkin's historical detail is spot on, and this is a delightful romantic adventure. In fact I enjoyed it so much I went back and reread the previous book in the series, Primrose and the Dreadful Duke. Both highly recommended, as is the whole "Baleful Godmother" series.
Unbreak Me by Michelle Hazen was an Amazon and Booklist recommendation. The back cover blurb begins: "Andra Lawler lives isolated at her family’s horse ranch, imprisoned by the memories of an assault in college. When she needs help training her foals, she hires a Haitian-Creole cowboy from New Orleans with a laugh as big as the Montana sky." The story takes place in both Montana and New Orleans, where first the hero and then the heroine were fish out of water. A very interesting read that deals with racial prejudice from both sides.
I've also been doing quite a bit of rereading, and have reglommed (is that even a word?) Mary Jo's "Fallen Angel's" series. I started with Angel Rogue (because I love that hero) and then I went backwards in the series, and since it's been quite a few years since I first read them, I thoroughly enjoyed them all over again. Such an excellent series.
Lastly I read an anthology that contained stories from a few of my UK friends — Sophie Weston, Liz Fielding and others. In Beach Hut Surprise each story is connected to a beach hut in the town of Little Piddling. It's very much a feel-good collection with some surprises, as several authors broke out of their usual subgenre — very successfully, I might add. I read it in breaks, sitting in the sun. Most enjoyable.
So, what have YOU been reading lately? As always, please share! (As if our TBR piles aren't towering enough—ha, ha!)