My contribution is Lizzie and Dante by Mary Bly (Eloisa James)
I imagine most of you recognize Eloisa James as a wonderful historical romance writer. This first contemporary under her real name is a romance, but also heartbreakingly uplifting, original women’s fiction. Lizzie is a Shakespeare professor with cancer who agrees to take an all-expenses paid trip to Elba with her gay best friend, a horror writer, and his still-in-the-closet famous superhero actor lover. I suppose everyone in the book needs to be rich and famous and talented to make up for the fact that the protagonist is dying. She is preparing for death throughout the story. What she isn’t prepared for is the rich life she discovers dealing with her friend’s frustration, a twelve-year-old looking for a mother, a brash breast cancer survivor, and the man of Lizzie’s dreams, a brilliant cook who creates food she hates but who pours his joy into living. As this family of friends forms around her, Lizzie is faced with actual life-and-death decisions. And this is still the most romantic, tear-jerking, lovely story you may have ever read.
I've been saving Jennifer Ashley's Victorian-era crime series — there are two — for ages, waiting until I ran out of things to read, and was ready for a crime glom. That time came. I'm a fan of her historicals and her contemporary shape-shifters, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed my first taste of her historical crime series. This is the novella that kicks off the series starring professional cook, Kat Holloway and the mysterious Daniel McAdam. There's also a Regency crime series — Capt. Lacey — but I haven't read any of those yet. I thoroughly enjoyed A Soupçon of Poison.
I also read Elly Griffiths. I'm a big fan of her series with the forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway and I thoroughly enjoyed her most recent book, The Locked Room, which is book #16 in the series. If you haven't read her, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, because though each book has a stand-alone mystery, the character development that occurs through the series is wonderful.
The Helsingør Sewing Club (US title The Day the Germans Came) by Ella Gyland is a gripping story, based on true events that happened during World War II which are not widely known. I was fascinated to learn about the plight of the Jews in a Denmark under Nazi rule, and the enormous risks taken by ordinary Danish citizens to ferry them to safety across the sea to Sweden. They were incredibly brave and it’s fantastic that their efforts are highlighted in this way. This is a dual time novel, and although the main focus is on what happened in the past, I loved the story in the present as well. I was rooting for the heroines of both time lines and hoping that they would find happiness and fulfillment. The author had me turning the pages, on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how events would unfold. Not for the faint-hearted though!
For the past week or so I've been spending time in Alaska, namely in a little place called Lost Harbor where Jennifer Bernard has set a series of eleven books. Each story is a standalone romance, but it helps to read them in order as characters from previous books appear from time to time and the story arc continues. I've become fascinated by life in this out of the way place, seemingly on the edge of the world, where everyone pitches in to help any time danger threatens their citizens. The strong community spirit and the amazing scenery are appealing, and you can't but admire the intrepid spirit of people who live in such a remote location, sometimes snowed in for days on end. The first book in the series is called Mine Until Moonrise and I'm working my way through the rest.
Andrea: I’ve been in an Anglophile state of mind this month, and greatly enjoyed two very different books set in London (though one of them also has much action taking place in the rebellious American colonies.)
On reading the blurb for The Right Sort of Man, the first book in a historical mystery series by Allison Montclair, I wasn’t sure that it would be my cup of tea—two ladies decide to start a matchmaking agency in 1946 London amidst the rubble of the war-weary city. Well, I am so glad I gave it a try because I absolutely loved it! The two heroines are wonderfully interesting. One is a former intelligence operative who enjoys thumbing her nose at every rule of society—she drinks, she swears, she’s having an affair with a married man. The other is an aristocratic war widow recently released from a sanatorium after having a breakdown over the death of her husband. Casual friends, they both find they need some sort of distraction from the their personal demons . . . and so the mismatched pair start their agency. Alas, one of their first clients ends up murdered, and it seems the person responsible was the man they matched with her. But they think the police have got it wrong and set out to find the real culprit. The dialogue is wonderfully sharp and funny, and the characters have rich depth and texture. I highly recommend it. (I am already glomming book two.)
The Howe Dynasty, by Julie Flavell, also features strong and interesting women. It’s a really fascinating, well-researched non-fiction history of the Howe family and how the women of the clan worked behind the scenes to further the careers of
their male relatives—General William Howe was one of the top commanders of the British Army in charge of quelling the American rebellion, and his brother Richard Howe was the top admiral in charge of the naval war. The story gives a wonderful peek into the highest circles of society, and how influence and politics worked on a very personal level. (One of the many great tidbits is learning that Caroline Howe invited Benjamin Franklin to play chess with her . . . which was a cover for arranging secret talks with allies of her brothers for how to prevent war between America and Britain. A very interesting book!
Mary Jo here. While I've always enjoyed fantasy novels, I've generally not been a fan of vampire books: the whole cold undead thing and drinking blood is so squicky. (At least werewolves are warm and furry!)
So it was a surprise to find myself enjoying Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series. I found I really liked her voice when I read The Bright and Breaking Sea, which is a fantasy version of the Napoleonic era with a heroine is a magically Aligned royal navy sea captain.
Since I liked that novel, I cautiously decided to try Some Girls Bite, the first Chicagoland vampires novel, when it showed up on sale. I liked that story, too. This is not a doom and gloomy vampire world where the fanged go around ripping people's throats out. It's more like a college frat house with gorgeous looking vampires who have terrific cheekbones. <G> They are generally great dressers (black Armani is very popular) and they almost always take care of their need for blood with a refrigerated box delivered by a company called Blood4U.
The stories are narrated by Merit (which is her last name, since she dislikes her given name.) She was working on her PhD in English literature at the University of Chicago when she was attacked one night on the university quad. She wakes from chaotic dreams three days later to find that she had been attacked by a rogue vampire and would have bled to death if vampire Master Ethan Sullivan hadn't been nearby.
Ethan saved her life by turning her into a vampire, but it was done without her consent and she is ANNOYED when she wakes up and realizes how completely her life has changed. She's kicked out of graduate school, has a fatal allergy to sunlight, and is now part of Cadogan House, since Ethan is master of that house. He recognizes that she's unusually strong so he appoints her Sentinel of Cadogan House, and all of a sudden she's being trained in all kinds of martial arts, including the use of a Japanese katana sword.
Plus her roommate and best friend, Mallory, turns out to be a sorceress, which is as upsetting to Mal as becoming fanged is for Merit. The action is fast moving but not gruesome, there's plenty of humor, and we can follow along as Merit displays her passion for chocolate and traditional Chicago junk food. (Merit's vampire metabolism means she can now eat whatever she wants without getting fat. A major plus for being changed!) All this along with an intense and unwanted attraction between Merit and Ethan.
If you think you'll like a bookish vampire chick with a passion for her city, Chicago deep dish pizza, and hot beefs, this is the series for you. Best to start with book 1 since the characters, relationships, and story arcs all evolve as the series goes on.
We've all been glomming each other's recommendations and several are free and discounted, so take a look. Then tell us what you've enjoyed recently!