Pat here: I think this is our favorite post every month. The wenches all madly grab up each other's recommendations, then eagerly await what our readers are loving. Good thing for credit cards!
This month I'm recommending INTERVIEW WITH A DEAD EDITOR (Book#1 in the Lucky Lexie mysteries.) I’ve always enjoyed Shanna Swendson’s books, and I was delighted to realize she was writing mysteries now.
Lexie had just been laid off from her reporter’s job when she surprisingly gets a call for an interview for an assistant editorship in the most perfect small town in Texas one could ever find. Sure, half the town is descended from a freak show that got side-railed there a century ago. And unfortunately, the editor who was supposed to interview her is dead upon arrival. But the food is great. The ghosts—well, the original newspaper owner from the 1930s smokes too much. When a snowstorm and a mysterious car ailment prevent Lexie from turning around and leaving, she gets caught up in solving the former editor’s murder, of course. Shanna is a great writer with a sense of humor, and even though I figured out the killer early on, it’s a fun tale, and I’ll be back for more.
I was also given the opportunity to read our own Nicola Cornick's THE LAST DAUGHTER Of YORK. It’s a delightful timeslip version of King Richard and the missing princes combined with a contemporary murder mystery and a long-lost love romance. With Nicola’s wonderful writing to make the shift from one era to the other and back again, fans of timeslips will delve in and not come out! It’s a November release but if you pre-order now, you won’t forget it later!
Anne here. I've been in somewhat of a reading slump lately, with quite a few books not hitting the spot for me. Luckily I did read a couple of books I'm very happy to recommend. The first is a debut novel by Joanna Lowell — THE DUKE UNDONE. It's a historical romance, set in the Victorian era, that I was lucky enough to read before it came out. My editor sent it to me to see if I'd like to "blurb" it. I generally approach these requests with caution, as I don't write a recommendation unless it's genuine. Reader, I loved it.
THE DUKE UNDONE is a rich and heartwarming historical romance that plunges you into the Victorian era with all its levels and complications — into the art world and among aristocrats and slum-dwellers. The research is good, the romance is heartwarming and there is a rich cast of characters. And the story sucks you in. It starts when the heroine comes across a naked duke — and at that point I admit I braced myself, expecting some kind of bonk-fest to follow — but no. Instead the author took me on a wonderful adventure. I'll definitely be buying her next book.
Last month I recommended a contemporary romantic comedy by Kirsty Greenwood — HE SHALL BE MINE. This month I read another of her books, BIG SEXY LOVE. She has a unique style, and one I've decided I really like. In both books, there are zany scenes and crazy elements, but even if they're not exactly realistic, they do make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. But what she does, which makes her a stand-out author for me, is to build into what ends up as a heartwarming and totally convincing romance.
BIG SEXY LOVE is about Olive Brewster, a young woman so badly affected by the break up of her parents that she doesn't risk anything. She's never been in love, she doesn't date, she has a dead-end job and she lives in her UK family home with her brother and his bossy girlfriend. She does however have a best friend — Birdie, an expat American who is dying. Birdie lives every moment she can, and when she asks Olive to fly to New York to deliver a letter to her ex-boyfriend who is uncontactable via the usual channels, Olive is terrified. She's never been anywhere. But it's her best friend's dying request, so she takes the letter and goes. And the craziness starts. I laughed and watched and cheered as Olive was forced out of her comfort zone and became the person she needed to be. And though there's the underlying tension of Birdie dying, it's handled beautifully. The friendship and love between Birdie and Olive is wonderful, and of course, because it's a romance, Olive finds her own big sexy love, and a new life. An absolute delight to read.
Christina here: A couple of books really stood out for me this month and THE SUMMER SEEKERS by Sarah Morgan was one of them. It is a truly feel-good summer read and I loved it! Ms Morgan’s characters always feel so real and I was drawn into their lives right from the start. This is the story of three women – 80-year old Kathleen who is desperately trying to cling on to her independence, despite aching bones and a growing fragility, and craving adventure; her daughter Liza, who (in contrast to her mother) is trying too hard to be dependable, organised and sensible – to the point where she’s lost sight of her own wishes and needs – until she feels as if she’s drowning; and Martha, who always seems to be second-best in her parents’ eyes, living in the shadow of a successful older sister, and having recently gone through a divorce from her cheating ex. All three are in for a summer of surprises and changes, set off by Kathleen’s decision to travel to America and drive along the famous Route 66 – 2,400 miles from Chicago to California. As she can’t drive, she hires Martha to do it for her, and they form an unexpected friendship. They also pick up a hitch-hiker along the way, who proves to be an absolute rock. And meanwhile, Liza has a mini meltdown and escapes alone to her mother’s house in Cornwall where she tries to figure out her future … This was a wonderful story and I didn’t want it to end!
The second one was THE DREAM WEAVERS by Barbara Erskine. This book kept me spellbound right from the start, and although I had a terrible feeling of foreboding where the main characters were concerned, I couldn’t stop reading. Real history of 8th century Mercia, Wales and Wessex is interwoven exquisitely with fiction, to the point where I fell head over heels in love with the fictional Welsh prince Elisedd and wished he had been a real historical character. The love story between him and princess Eadburh is so poignant it makes you want to cry. The atmosphere throughout is menacing with dark forces always threatening in the background, but the heroine in the present, Bea, has powerful allies and I hoped for a positive ending. The writing is superb as ever and since I live near Hereford, where a lot of the action takes place, I had the added pleasure of knowing setting well which helped me visualise it even more. A fantastic story! (Just a small note of caution – although I know that for some timeslip stories the story in the past has to be tragic, this one verged on the too sad for me but I still couldn’t stop reading.)
Mary Jo here. My fun reads for June: THE HONEY-DON'T LIST by Christina Lauren
This talented writing duo come up with very fresh plots, and in the book, the romantic protagonists, Carey and James, are personal assistants to the Tripps, a married couple who are superstars in the design and remodeling reality show world. The Tripps are role models for the perfect family, and women wish their husbands would look at them as adoringly as Rusty looks at Melly. They are about to board a coach to start a West Coast tour for their new book about how to have a loving marriage and family.
The problem is that Melly is a crazed perfectionist and Rusty is an unfaithful lout and they can't stand each other anymore. It's up to Carey and James to get the Tripps through the tour without a massive public meltdown that will destroy the whole Tripp empire. Carey and James bond over the impossible task, and the story is interspersed with social media comments about the Tripps, plus bits of a police officer interviewing Carey and James about What Happened That Night. Entertaining, and a portrait of the horrors of celebrity. <G>
A FATAL TWIST OF LEMON by Patrice Greenwood
Patrice Greenwood is the mystery writing pseudonym of the versatile and talented Pati Nagle. I've known Pati for years and enjoyed her science fiction and fantasy novels, but had somehow overlooked her Wisteria Tearoom cozy mystery series. The narrator, Ellen Rosing, is a native of Santa Fe, and she created the tearoom after the death of her father. Her tearoom is beautifully Victorian with marvelous food and assorted teas, and an unfortunate tendency to attract bodies. <G>
I love the Santa Fe setting as well as Ellen and her employees and friends. It's worth starting with the first book, A Fatal Twist of Lemon, because the characters and relationships grow through the stories. There's also a slow burn romance that develops through the series. It's a lovely world to visit, and I yearn for some of Ellen's scones and clotted cream!
Nicola here: It’s been a quiet month for me as I’ve mainly been reading entries for the Historical Writers Association Gold Crown awards. However in between I’ve also read The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan and like Christina, thought it was a fabulous book full of warmth and sunshine, the epitome of uplifting and feel-good!
I’ve also read Clare Marchant’s new dual time book, THE QUEEN'S SPY which is set in the present and the Tudor era, and which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m interviewing Clare here on the Wenches next month though so I’m not going to say any more now other than that The Queen’s Spy is a beautifully descriptive book that really conjures up the Tudor era and pairs it with an intriguing contemporary story.
Finally, inspired by Christina’s wonderful Whispers of the Runes, I fancied some more Vikings and turned to an old favourite, Ellis Peters, THE SUMMER OF THE DANES. First published in 1991, it’s one of her later Brother Cadfael historical mysteries, and I hadn’t read it for ages but found myself completely engrossed. The story takes place in 1144 when Cadfael leaves Shrewsbury Abbey to accompany Brother Mark on a mission of church diplomacy into Wales. Along the way he uncovers a murder, gets caught up in the story of Heledd, a young woman who is desperate to escape an arranged marriage, and is kidnapped by Vikings. The Vikings are a fantastic bunch, especially the dashing and handsome Turcaill, and on the Welsh side, Prince Owain Gwynedd is the absolute epitome of a hero. The descriptions in this book are stunning and evocative, and it’s a proper adventure and romance. Wonderful.
Andrea here: This month I’ve been in a Wenchly state of mind! I was lucky enough to get ARC copies of Pat and Christina’s new books, which both just released—and I loved both of them!