WWR for March

What We’re Reading

Our ever-popular monthly WWR has the usual delicious assortment of history, romance, magic, and of course, murder. <G>  There’s also a fair amount of Wenches enjoying stories by other Wenches.  First up:

Christina:  The Other Gwyn Girl by Nicola Cornick

Wow! I have no other word for this story which has totally blown me away – it is a master-class in time slip writing by fellow Wench Nicola and I loved it! Excitement, adventure, romance and historic authenticity, together with a touch of the paranormal and magical, all perfectly blended to create a story I simply couldn’t put it down. And as always, the author has loosely linked the characters to those of her previous books, which is an added bonus for me as I love to get a glimpse into their lives, however brief.

The Other Gwyn Girl is partly the tale of Rose Gwyn, sister of the famous Nell who was King Charles II’s mistress in the 17th century; and partly of Jess Yates in the present century, introverted sister of famous TV presenter Tavy. The two stories are expertly intertwined as mystery and romance unfold, and I quickly became immersed in their lives and love stories. I find this period of history fascinating as there aren’t enough books set in this era – there definitely should be – and it is vividly brought to life in this story. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, as that would ruin it for other readers, so I can only say – read it for yourself, it’s absolutely wonderful!

Mary Jo here, and I’d intended to recommend The Other Gwyn Girl, but Christina beat me to it!  I won’t repeat what she said, but I will say though I’m not particularly a time slip reader, I found Nicola’s book masterful and compelling. Highly recommended.

Deprived of my first recommendation, I’ll now recommend Christina Courtenay’s Marry for Love, an early Regency novella of hers that has just been reissued with a bright and charming new cover.  I’ve a fondness for tales of twins, and this is a deliciously over the top good twin/evil twin story.  Deborah and Delilah are identical but Deborah is sparkling, utterly selfish, mean, and she loves tormenting Delilah her quiet, honorable sister. Since Delilah silently loves Hamish Baillie, Deborah will do whatever it takes to get the earl to the altar. I read Christina’s excerpt in her recent blog about her novellas and was immediately hooked.  Marry for Love is a delightful quick read.

Pat Rice:  The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges

Every so often—not very often—I venture into literary fiction and find a gem, which means it probably isn’t literary fiction. In this case, it probably isn’t because it has a happy ending, despite all the tragedy and the fact that there’s no explanation for anything. But I can’t really call it romance or women’s fiction, so let’s just call it magical realism.

We have several related stories happening, in different eras and on different sides of the continent, but it’s never difficult to tell exactly where we are because we’re in the soul/spirit of a woman/house that lives on through the generations. In the present day, we have a sadly damaged woman who hides her scars in an attic, playing with a miniature house. But her soul shines so vividly in her writing, that when she blogs about how she decorates the house, she garners millions of viewers. Eventually, her message reaches a man living in the original house, one who desperately needs the love and understanding and magic she offers.

I know, it sounds strange. But I loved the two houses and the protagonists and all the secondary characters, and even the tortured villain has a persona we can understand. The detail may have gone a wee bit overboard, but then, I’m not someone who likes detail. Myra is. Check it out for something a wee bit different.

Nicola Cornick:  This month I’ve enjoyed a couple of great historical reads. The first was The Falcon Laird (That’s the US link. Here’s the UK link. by our very own Wench Susan, which I absolutely loved. I’ve read a number of Susan’s Scottish-set books and she always conjures up the atmosphere and magical setting of her stories so beautifully. Lady Christian, chatelaine of Kilglassie Castle is mortally ill, imprisoned in a cage by her English foes, when Sir Gavin Faulkener rescues her. A knight in the service of King Edward of England, it is Gavin’s task to rebuild Kilglassie and hold it for the English.

When Christian first sees him, she believes in her fever that he is an angel set to save her but when she realises his true identity she feels betrayed and cannot trust him. I sympathised with Christian’s divided loyalties and the way she grew to love and trust Gavin was a delight to read. Gavin is a fabulous hero – it’s impossible not to fall in love with him for his integrity, kindness and many other swoon-worthy characteristics. The tenderness of the relationship between the two of them was beautifully and emotionally written and I loved the secondary characters who added so much depth and humour to the story. Thank you, Susan, it was such a lovely reading experience.

I also very much enjoyed Brandon – Tudor Knight by Tony Riches which tells the story of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and closest friend of King Henry VIII. (Here’s the UK link.) I was particularly interested to read about Brandon’s early years before he married Henry’s sister Mary; his scrabble to achieve status and fortune was something I knew less about than his later rise to the heights of wealth and the nobility. It was impossible to read without picturing Henry Cavill as Brandon in the TV show The Tudors but that was no bad thing. The developing friendship between Brandon and Henry was also a fascinating element of the story. Tony Riches has the ability to take the historical facts and turn them into a compelling, highly- authentic but fast-paced narrative that is a real page-turner. There is romance as well!

Anne here.  I’ve been reading mostly mysteries this month — firstly by Louise Douglas, who I picked up initially when Wench Nicola mentioned her books. I started with The Lost Notebook, and found it sufficiently engaging to go on to buy and read more of her books. They’re not traditional mystery/crime novels. Often there is a mystery or mysterious death and ordinary people investigate it for personal reasons. Her prose is lovely, her characters intriguing, the mysteries are good and it’s no surprise that she’s a bestseller. I will be reading more of her books.

I’ve also started reading a traditional crime series by Rhys Dylan. These are crime stories with a police DCI investigator, and are set in Wales. The location is refreshing, even though I don’t know how to pronounce some of the places mentioned — actually most of the places. I started with The Engine House and have now read the next six books.

One historical I read was Carla Kelly’s The Unlikely Gunwharf Rats. Carla Kelly is unusual in that she generally writes about ordinary, even very poor people — no dukes and earls for her. This story is part 4 of a series, and the “gunwharf rats” are young foundling lads raised to be of use to the navy, by a naval man with a good brain and a heart and his motherly wife. This story begins when bright young ‘gunwharf rat’ Davey, is sent on a scholarship to train in a hospital in Edinburgh. But the students and faculty members, having been informed of Davey’s early workhouse years, his questionable parentage, and his lowly status have condemned him by silence, which is killing his spirit.  It’s an excellently written and researched story, grim in parts but with a satisfying ending.

Susan here:  I didn’t do a lot of reading this past month between two book delivery dates and a bout of family flu, and when I’m on a deadline my reading time is swallowed up by research tidbits and edits to my own pages (endlessly, it seems like, until the book is done!). But I did find a delightful read in Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett, the follow-up to Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries.

In this blend of fantasy and romance set in 1910, Emily Wilde is a Cambridge academic researching the faery world, which openly exists, as she writes an encyclopedia, then creates a comprehensive map while pursuing her academic career. Professor Wendell Bambleby works beside her as they travel to the Alps to pursue an eccentric scholar who was designing just such a map and mysteriously disappeared. Wendell, a charming, secretive, exiled faery king trying to find a way back to his lands, is mad for Emily. But she keeps him at bay, knowing too well the trouble that can brew when a human and a faery fall in love.

Their Alpian adventure continues as they involve Emily’s niece along with a grumpy professor and a host of faery creatures–not all friendly in the least–and otherworldly mischief and threats while the search for Wendell’s kingdom–and the considerable enemy determined to keep him from returning–ratchets up. The characters are endearing and complex, and while the stakes are often high–the faery world in these stories has a dark side that sometimes startles–there is humor and romance as well. The scholarly Edwardian tone, the level of detail and depth, the charm and naturalism in each character, and the twists and turns in a constantly moving plot make up another story in this series that is intelligently and beautifully done. I’ll be watching for the next book!

Andrea:

I read something a little different this month. I’m not usually into paranormal/ghost stuff, but the reviews were so interesting for The Dead Romantics  by Ashley Poston, that I decided to give it a try.  Florence, the heroine, is the ghostwriter for a very famous romance author. But after struggling with a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, she’s lost her mojo and finds herself at deadline time with nada to turn in. The  truth is, she doesn’t believe in romance anymore. Her old editor had let her slide. But she’s recently retired, and her new editor—an exceedingly handsome, hunky guy—refuses to give her an extension. That’s bad enough, but the very same night, she learns her beloved father has passed away—and now she’s forced to face the ghosts of the past.

She’s been estranged from her quirky family, who run a funeral home, and hates the idea of returning to her small Southern hometown. There are reasons, which readers quickly learn are, um, complicated. That’s because there are more than mental ghosts involved. Florence left town because as a child she helped solve a murder because she can see and talk to ghosts. (She was ridiculed for claiming such powers and thus left home as soon as she could.)

Deciding she can face the old memories for a few days, she reluctantly returns for her father’s funeral . . . and well, the craziness begins—including the sudden appearance of her hunky editor in ghost form, as he was hit by a car the night she left town. One of Florence’s powers is the ability to help ghosts solve unfinished business so that they can move from the netherworld to the great beyond. So the two of them are forced to hang out together and figure out why he is there. What follows is a delightful romp through the foibles of family, friends and Love. It’s laugh-aloud funny in parts, and ultimately fun and uplifting. I highly recommend it.

Mary Jo winding up: I hope you’ve found some intriguing new stories you’d like to try. What lovely new books have you found lately?

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “WWR for March”

  1. I read “Daughters and Rebels” which is Jessica Mitford’s memoir of her youth(the UK title is “Hons and Rebels”). She is, of course, one of the famous/notorious Mitford sisters, and eccentric doesn’t even begin to describe the family. She writes wonderfully about events that are often funny, and occasionally horrifying. This was during the 1920’s and 30’s, and I was surprised to realize that peer’s daughters were still being presented to the Queen in the same way we read about in Regency romances, all dressed in white with ostrich feather headdresses. Her description of running away to Spain to elope at age 19 is wilder than any fictional romance elopement I’ve read. I recommend it, but I have to warn that it ends on a melancholy note, at the start of World War II.
    I snapped up Christina’s book, “Marry For Love” which was on sale, and it was a very fun read. I was also highly entertained by 2 early Loretta Chase Regencies, “Isabella” and “The English Witch”. They are connected, so it was great to read them back to back.
    I also read a couple of old D.E. Stevenson novels. “Summerhills” was a perfect comfort read. I was so soothed by it that I followed it up with “Spring Magic”. Summerhills has a couple of love stories in it, but it’s more of a family saga. Spring Magic has a single central romance, and more action. Both are very enjoyable.
    And I’ve just started Jennifer Ashley’s latest Below Stairs mystery, “A Speculation in Sin”. I hear there is finally progress on the romance front in this book, so I’m looking forward to that, besides the mystery and all the wonderful descriptions of food and cooking!

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    • What a lovely collection of books, Karin! I’ve read Nancy Mitford novels so I knew about Ostrich Feathers & Being Presented, but I really need to read Jessica’s memoir since she was such a great rebel.The English Witch is a favorite on mine, and you can’t go wrong with Jennifer Ashley. Thanks for all the great possibilities here!

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    • interesting to hear from someone else who likes D.E. Stevenson. I discovered her about 55 years ago when I visited England and have most of her stuff on kindle. I have re-read them many times; they are so soothing!!

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  2. Just finished the Peshawar Lancers by Stirling. What a fun read! I was sorry to see it end. An old fashioned swashbuckling adventure romance set in an alternate world with an amazing cast of characters, A real page turner! Below is a description …

    “This is a very readable tale of daring heroes, of beautiful and gutsy heroines determined to foil the dastardly plots of abominable and traitorous baddies —-
    In the mid-1870s, a violent spray of comets hits Earth, decimating cities, erasing shorelines, and changing the world’s climate forever. And just as Earth’s temperature dropped, so was civilization frozen in time. Instead of advancing technologically, humanity had to piece itself back together…
    In the twenty-first century, boats still run on steam, messages arrive by telegraph, and the British Empire, with its capital now in Delhi, controls much of the world. The other major world leader is the Czar of All the Russias. Everyone predicts an eventual, deadly showdown. But no one can predict the role that one man, Captain Athelstane King, will play…”

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  3. Thanks for all the books to find and read. I am now to the point that I figure I will have to live to be 213 years old in order to finish all the books I want to read.

    I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.

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  4. The list of recommendations is superb. I will dive in to them.

    I just finished Deanna Raybourn’s latest Veronica Speedwell novel, “A Grave Robbery.” A fun and poignant read.

    On the non-fiction side, “Normal Women: 900 Years of Making History” by Philippa Gregory, is a very strong presentation of how women in England dealt with patriarchy.

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  5. Wow – some great recommendations as usual. I read a couple that really stood out to me this month. Simone St. James new one, Murder Road. I just love her blend of mystery, thriller, romance & ghosts. Also None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell. You’re still questioning that at the end.

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  6. I have added Nicola’s and Christina’s books to my TBR. I also love D E Stevenson’s books. Summerhills was one of my favourites.
    This month I read Mrs McGintys Dead by Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin for group reads.
    Also The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden which is set in World War I but has a ghostly element to it.
    At the Stroke of Midnight by Jenni Keer which I loved. Set in the 20’s it has a ground hog day effect which wouldn’t normally appeal to me but this was done very well.
    The Mystery of Haverford House by Rachel Burton, another great read. Set in an old country house back in 1933 and present day it tells the story of a maid who works in the house and mysteriously disappears. In the present it’s opened to the public and Viola is running events. She’s fascinated about the disappearance and sets out to discover what happened. It was a wonderful read.
    Finally The Lost Memories by Lorna Cook. Another dual timeline. Quite a good read.
    Onwards to April! Can’t believe it’s here already!!

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  7. What a wonderful collection of books above and in the comments. This is always a dangerous post!

    Week by week since last month ~

    — read Bride by Ali Hazelwood. The author has previously published contemporary romances and this is her first paranormal romance; I enjoyed it. The story features a female Vampyre who marries a Were (her people’s long time enemy) to forge an alliance. She also has an ulterior motive as she is trying to find her human friend who has disappeared.
    — read Rise by Keira Andrews which was a pleasant gay fairytale retelling of Jack and the beanstalk.
    — reread The Protector and Mismatched both by Cooper West; these are paranormal m/m romances.
    — reread (and then immediately reread again) the contemporary romance, Lucky by Gigi DeGraham. It featured three teens in their last year of high school who have a polyamorous romance. This was a favorite find last year.
    — enjoyed a couple of short male/male romance stories — Out in the Cold by Kiki Clark and Catching Starlight by Lisa Henry.

    — stayed up late to read the latest book in a favorite series, Murder in Reproach by Anne Cleeland. I enjoyed it until it stopped with a very abrupt cliffhanger. I initially thought that I had downloaded a corrupt Kindle copy as I twice tried to continue reading. Then I checked the Table of Contents and saw that the book did indeed finish at that point. Drats.
    — for my book group, read The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I enjoyed this non-fiction work that is about the massively destructive 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. It’s also a history of that library and has much to say about libraries in general. Everyone in the group liked or loved the book.
    — A favorite author (Nathan Lowell) recommended A Space Girl from Earth by Christina McMullen. I found it a pleasant science fiction novel but am not compelled to read on in the series.
    — read two more books by author Gigi DeGraham which I quite enjoyed. The first, Prisoner (Steele Pack Book 1), seems to be a contemporary novel until a revelation in the last chapter. The story is about a teenager found guilty of murdering a man who is raping his sister. He serves some years in a juvenile facility (where he befriends/falls in love with another inmate) before being transferred to a prison. When the story begins, he is escaping. After finishing Prisoner, I read and enjoyed the sequel Fugitive (Steele Pack Book 2). Now I need to wait for the next book to be published.

    — a lovely picture book, Big by Vashti Harrison. This is about a young girl who, as she grows, is deemed to be too big. She is ridiculed, and her feelings are hurt. She comes to realize that her size is right for her and returns to their speakers the unkind words that had hurt her. The book is a Caldecott Medal Winner and Coretta Scott King Honor Title.
    — quite enjoyed the contemporary romance Something Wild & Wonderful (Nashville Love Book 2) by Anita Kelly which features two men who meet while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. I can imagine rereading this at some point and look forward to reading more by the author.
    — enjoyed the historical male/male romance novella The Mistletoe Kiss by Ruby Moone which featured a bookseller and his assistant after the Napoleonic war.
    — enjoyed All The Colors of Life by Lisa Aisato which has lovely art by the author who is a professional artist/illustrator and a nice storyline to accompany it. It covers life from childhood through old age.
    — for my local book group, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I found this book, about members of two families over some fifty years, to be a quick read. The time jumps surprised me though, and I could have benefited from a list of characters as many are introduced in the first chapter. This is not a happy book and contains infidelity, divorces, death of a child, cancer, and more.

    — read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh as I am planning to make a bookmark featuring it. I would have enjoyed this a lot more at about age ten or so, but it was good to read a book I’ve seen mentioned so many times.
    — two scifi/fantasy books by author Barrie Farris, Ingenious and Intuitive. These were set in an intriguing world where men outnumbered women about ten to one and where women were the ruling class. Women typically had three husbands and were required to have four children. Males were required to enter an academy at age eight; at eighteen they could enter the army if they met the qualifications, become a concubine (via a lottery) to an unmarried man for three years, or marry if asked. This was a male/male romance. I enjoyed the first book and quickly read the sequel which featured a second couple.
    — enjoyed The Anonymous Hookup by Jax Calder in which a relationship develops between two men who plan only to have a one time liaison. It had me laughing. I then read The Unforgettable Hookup which is the sequel and is written from the viewpoint of the second main character.
    — When Glory Wrote to Collin: A Pen Pal Romance by Lola Winters was a pleasant read. I enjoyed the first part of the book most as it included the letters of the two leads from fourth grade through college.

    — read Collage Lost and Found: Creating Unique Projects With Vintage Ephemera by Giuseppina Cirincione which has given me a couple of ideas to try in the bookmarks that I make.
    — also read Vintage Collage Journals: Journaling with Antique Ephemera by Maryjo Koch. This was a lovely book to look at but perhaps less useful to me than the one above.
    — read “The Loch Moose Monster”, the first long story in Janet Kagan’s Mirabile. I really wanted to like this linked collection of stories because the author’s Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song is a long-time favorite of mine; however, the story did not speak to me.
    — reread, for the nth time, Linesman and Alliance by S. K. Dunstall.

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    • A great list, Kareni. I haven’t read The Library Book, but I love Susan Orlean. She can make any subject fascinating. I always read her pieces in The New Yorker, and I just found out she has a Substack called “Wordy Bird”, for any one who wants to take a short dip into her writing.

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  8. “Hello there! I recently noticed that you’ve taken the time to visit my website, and I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude for your interest. Your support means a lot to me. In return, I would like to extend my support by visiting your website as well.

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  9. I read ‘Always Remember’ by Mary Balogh as it was on offer on Kindle. Despite some not great reviews, I actually thought it was the best of the series so far. Definitely rather too many family members and the resolution was a bit short but otherwise the H&H’s issues to be overcome worked for me.

    I read the fifth part of the Gabriel Taverner series by Alys Clare – it might be the final one. Interesting as set at the turn of 17th century but no resolution for the romances sadly.

    Christina’s ‘Shadow in the Ashes’ was interesting as set in a period I haven’t read before particularly. I have been wanting to go to that part of Italy for many years and it really whetted my appetite. ‘Marry in haste’ is waiting on my Kindle

    And same with Annette and Karen, my TBR list is very long. I am looking forward to retirement in the next decade, when I can make serious inroads in to it!

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