Monday, April 25, 2016

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF JERUSALEM - Sarit Yishai-Levi

The #1 International Best Seller!

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling novel of mothers and daughters, stories told and untold, and the ties that bind four generations of women. Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips. Desperate to understand their relationship, Gabriela pieces together the stories of her family's previous generations―from Great -Grandmother Mercada the renowned healer, to Grandma Rosa who cleaned houses for the English, to Luna who had the nicest legs in Jerusalem. But as she uncovers shocking secrets, forbidden romances, and the family curse that links the women together, Gabriela must face a past and present far more complex than she ever imagined.
Set against the Golden Age of Hollywood, the dark days of World War II, and the swinging '70s, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem follows generations of unforgettable women as they forge their own paths through times of dramatic change. With great humor and heart, Sarit Yishai-Levi has given us a powerful story of love and forgiveness―and the unexpected and enchanting places we find each.

REVIEW

The stunning cover definitely attracted me to this novel. This emotion-evoking, multi-generational story is set in Jerusalem. It's about a troubled mother and daughter relationship. Lush prose against the turbulence of life in Jerusalem made for a vividly sensual tale. There is plenty to laud - secrets, unrequited love, ambition, aspiration, and love and death grace each page. The story is serious, made for contemplation and reflection, while describing a beautiful culture in a difficult decade. I highly recommend this novel for book clubs as it will spur wonderful discussions. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

KING'S FOLLY - Jill Williamson

An Epic New Fantasy Series from Fan Favorite Jill Williamson. The gods are angry. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers--everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father's superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful First Arm of Armania. When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

REVIEW

If you like epic fantasy, then this is one of the better books. In a crumbling world kings, princesses, warriors, and others vie to survive. During the first half of the book, we are introduced to the characters, of which there are many, but although it may feel overwhelming at first to remember them all, soon I became familiar with them all. 


What impressed me most was how real the characters seemed, so human with all our frailties and strengths. An ever evolving plot with several subplots reveal sacrifices, concubines, evil, murder, and magic. A lush, rich, evocative read.


THE MOON IN THE PALACE and THE EMPRESS OF BRIGHT MOON - Weina Dai Randel

There is no easy path for a woman aspiring to power. A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor's attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget. Mei's intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive. In the breakthrough first volume in the Empress of Bright Moon duology, Weina Dai Randel paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China―where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death―and the woman who came to rule it all.

The time for taking hold of her destiny is now
At the moment of the Emperor's death, everything changes in the palace. Mei, his former concubine, is free, and Pheasant, the heir and Mei's lover, is proclaimed as the new Emperor, heralding a new era in China. But just when Mei believes she's closer to her dream, Pheasant's chief wife, Lady Wang, powerful and unpredictable, turns against Mei and takes unthinkable measures to stop her. The power struggle that ensues will determine Mei's fate–and that of China.
Surrounded by enemies within the palace that she calls home, Mei continues her journey to the throne in The Empress of Bright Moon, the second book in Weina Dai Randel's acclaimed duology. Only by fighting back against those who wish her harm will Mei be able to realize her destiny as the most powerful woman in China.


REVIEW

It is important that I review these two books together as the full story of Empress Wu cannot be told without them being read one after the other. 

There is no other way to describe these two books, but to say they are sensational. Truly, I cannot stop raving about them. 

In Book 1, The Moon in the Palace, we are introduced to a young, intelligent young woman named Mei from humble beginnings who is swept into the emperor's court as a concubine. There she must weave her way through a a maze of treachery by other concubines who are equally struggling to claw their way to the top. 

There is danger, betrayal, enduring love, and plenty of intrigue and unusual circumstances around every corner, on every page. Book 1 hooked me with a powerful grip at the start and kept me engrossed until the fabulous ending. The best part is that I was thrilled that the story continued in Book 2, The Empress of Bright Moon. Beautifully described surroundings, fashions, and every day items add to the enchantment, bringing to vibrant life the Chinese court of the Tang Dynasty.

These two books have become some of my very favourite books, along with the author. I will be eagerly awaiting future releases. These are definitely 5 star reads!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.


Friday, April 22, 2016

FIRE - C C Humphreys

First came Plague, now comes Fire. The epic tale of the hunt for a serial killer threatening London's rich and poor during the Great Fire of London. Perfect for fans of S J Parris and C J Sansom. 1666. The Great Plague has passed. Londoners celebrate survival in different ways. They drink. They gamble. They indulge in carnal delights. But 666 is the number of the Beast, the year foretold when Christ will return. A gang of fanatics - the Saints - choose to hasten that prophesied day. They will kidnap, rape, murder. Above all, they will kill a king. Two men - the highwayman William Coke and the thief-taker Pitman - are recruited to stop them. Then in the early hours of September 2nd, 1666, something starts that will overtake them all...London's a tinder box. Politically, sexually, religiously. Literally. It is about to burn.

REVIEW BY ANITA DAVISON

This novel is the second which features the adventures of former highwayman Captain Coke, who is haunted by his experiences during the English Civil War, and a thief-taker named Pitman, both once on opposing sides, but become partners, joined by Sarah Chalker, an actress and the Captain’s betrothed. An attempt on King Charles II takes place at the theatre, orchestrated by a fanatical group of Fifth Monarchists who read God’s instructions to rid the country of its sovereign into various signs, omens and compilation of numbers.

The language and banter between Coke and Pitman is delightfully authentic, without being difficult to read, and the character of King Charles is exactly as one would imagine him. He consults his timepiece during a meeting saying he must go because, ‘I am late for. . . something.’

Coke and Pitman thwart the naive, would-be assassin, but Blood and his cohorts have a scheme to not only bring their fanatical views to fruition, but make life unbearable for Coke and his new wife, which they manage with heart wrenching lack of pity.

Mr Humphreys takes the author’s rule to ‘put your character in a hole and throw rocks at them’ very seriously in this book as he takes the reader into the gritty, merciless side of 17th Century London life played out with its corrupt infrastructure, disease and dirt ridden streets where despair is never far away, then complicates everything when the great fire begins on September 3rd A thrilling roller coaster of a story with some engaging characters, all of whom I hope to read more about.


Anita Davison author of ‘Royalist Rebel’ under the name Anita Seymour and Murder on the Minneapolis, a Victorian cosy mystery.  

Anita's Blog: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.co.uk
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A GOWN OF THORNS - Natalie Meg Evans


Hidden within the wardrobe’s embrace, she rifled through the folds of cloth until her fingers stopped at a gown of violet, lavender and silver-grey pleats. She lifted it off its hanger and turned towards the mirror…

Shauna Vincent arrives in the little French village of Chemignac after accepting an offer to be an au pair to the grandchildren of an old family friend. As she begins to explore her new home at the ancient Chateau de Chemignac with it’s beautiful vineyards, she discovers a locked tower room where she unearths a treasure trove of exquisite vintage dresses. One gown feels unsettlingly familiar. When Shauna falls asleep one afternoon in a valley full of birdsong, she has a strange dream of a vintage aircraft circling threateningly overhead. So when she suddenly awakes to find charming local landowner Laurent standing over her - Shauna wonders if he might be just the person to help her untangle this unexpected message from the past. A Gown of Thorns draws you into a richly evocative world steeped in secrets that will mesmerize fans of Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress, Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale and Adriani Trigiani.

REVIEW 
by

MODERN GIRLS is a novel that takes place in New York City in the 1930's. It evokes the struggles faced by a Russian Jewish mother, Rose, and her daughter, Dottie who both find themselves pregnant at the same time. She keeps her pregnancy secret from her daughter.

Dottie becomes pregnant by a young man named Willie with who she had slept with only once, despite the fact she is engaged to another young man named Abe. When all attempts to arrive at a solution fail, her mother steps in and convinces her to have an abortion. But plans often go awry and for both these women, the answer to their problems arise unexpectantly and is not what they had originally planned. Their plights in the restrictive era in which they live rendered this tale poignant and heart-wrenching.

The first third of the story is definitely interesting, but a little slow paced. Once the groundwork was laid, however, the plot became engaging and interesting and I was fully immersed, eager to read on to learn what came next.

The story is based on the Jewish religion and adds a strong flavor to the story. The use of Yiddish words in italics sometimes pulled me from the story to look up their meanings, but added learning and authenticity. A glossary would have been helpful and I hope the publisher has added it to the final sale version of the book.

Rosie and Dottie portray a profound love for each other, one in which will bind them forever. The ending is only the finale of part 1 of the story. It will obviously be continued with a sequel. I eagerly look forward to it as it will take reader into Europe and the dangers of World War II and the risks Dottie will face.

Definitely a 5 star read - wonderful Women's Historical Fiction. I recommend it for mothers and daughters and for book clubs.


Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THE CIVIL WARS OF JULIA WARD HOWE - Elaine Showalter

The first full biography of Julia Ward Howe—the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and an early and powerful feminist pioneer—a groundbreaking figure in the abolitionist and suffrage movements.

Julia Ward (1819–1910) was a heiress and aspiring poet when she married Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, an internationally-acclaimed pioneer in the education of the blind. Together the Howes knew many of the key figures of their era, from Charles Dickens to John Brown. But he also wasted her inheritance, isolated and discouraged her, and opposed her literary ambitions. Julia persisted, and continued to publish poems and plays while raising six children. 
Authorship of the Battle Hymn of the Republic made her celebrated and revered. But Julia was also continuing to fight a civil war at home; she became a pacifist, suffragist, and world traveler. She came into her own as a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and social reform. Esteemed author Elaine Showalter tells the story of Howe’s determined self-creation and brings to life the society she inhabited and the obstacles she overcame.

MY REVIEW

Heiress, poet, and suffragette, Julia Ward Howe became famous as the writer of the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC. Written in 1861, it was the most famous patriotic anthem of the Civil War, and remains highly popular to this day. Thereafter, for her entire life, she was asked to read or sing it wherever she went. Her life, and the story behind this infinite song is recreated in the novel, THE CIVIL WARS OF JULIA WARD HOWE.

It is not often that I switch from historical fiction to historical non-fiction, but in the case of this book, THE CIVIL WARS OF JULIA WARD HOWE, I'm glad I did. This book truly read like a novel at times and it was so interesting, that I eagerly flipped pages. Julia was born into wealth, but married a man of the middle class. What began as a loving relationship, slowly turned into a relationship of restriction and oppressiveness for Julia. Her talent as a poet/writer was continually suppressed by her husband. And although he didn't want to have anything to do with her money at first, that changed too, and he began to take advantage by purchasing and selling property with her funds. She was rarely happy and the marriage continued to deteriorate. Nevertheless, despite all her struggles, all the suppression, all the suffocation and stifling she endured, Julia rose courageously. She gained resounding success with her poem THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC, and acquired great fame as a suffragette fighting for women's rights. She worked tirelessly for her charities too. 

I completely came to admire this wonderful woman and am so proud of her achievements. This book is definitely recommended for women everywhere as it gives us all hope that we can endure and persevere no matter the adversity we may face!

THE SUN KING CONSPIRACY - Yves Jego and Denis Lepee

A tale of religious brotherhoods, corruption, romantic intrigue and political scheming at the court of Louis XIV. 1661 is a year of destiny for France and its young King, Louis XIV. Cardinal Mazarin, the Chief Minister who has governed throughout the King's early years, lies dying. As a fierce power struggle develops to succeed him, a religious brotherhood, guardian of a centuries-old secret, also sees its chance to influence events. Gabriel de Pontbriand, an aspiring actor employed as secretary to Molière, becomes unwittingly involved when documents stolen from Mazarin's palace fall into his hands. The coded papers will alter Gabriel's life for ever, and their explosive contents have the power to change the course of history for France and the Sun King himself.


REVIEW

In this fast paced historical thriller, we are swept into the court of France's Sun King, King Louis XIV. The authors introduce us many of the characters who lived at the time - the king, queen, mistresses, and Cardinal Mazarin and his nieces. But Cardinal Mazarin is near death and members of the secret society to which he belongs enact some dastardly and powerful maneuvers to take his place. Thus begins an exciting story of political intrigue, espionage, murder, and betrayal. I liked the fast-paced, intricate plot and how more and more of the story was revealed a little at a time. The tale kept me engaged to the end. The characters were well drawn, as were the many historical descriptions of locations, clothing, and occurrences. This was one of the most decadent periods of French History. and the authors present a spectacular yet private glimpse into the wealthy and opulent court of the handsome and virie King Louis XIV and his many lovers.  

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Monday, April 18, 2016

LOST AMONG THE LIVING - Simone St James

England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex's wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie's husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him.  Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever. And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…

REVIEW


There's a lot to love about this gothic style novel - a haunted mansion, murder mystery, and a cantankerous old aunt. This is the first book by Simone St James that I've read and I will definitely read more of her work because this story was great!

The setting is England during World War I. Jo Manders' RAF pilot husband went off to war, but never returned after his plane went missing. Neither a wife or a widow, Jo had to fend for herself and for her mother who lives in an insane asylum. She is forced to accept a position as a paid companion to her husband's aunt and they end up at the family estate, Wych Elm House. It is here that Jo encounters the ghost of her husband's dead sister and stumbles upon an unsolved murder mystery. 


This page-turner is spooky, atmospheric, and gripping. Filled with edgy, complicated characters. There is something going on in each and every chapter. It was so good that I read the book in one sitting. Yup, this book has it all - intrigue, surprise, a gothic setting, and an endearing warm story, and more. Definitely worth reading! I loved it.


Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

MODERN GIRLS - Jennifer S Brown

A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935...


How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls.



In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.
As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….

REVIEW


MODERN GIRLS is a novel that takes place in New York City in the 1930's. It evokes the struggles faced by a Russian Jewish mother, Rose, and her daughter, Dottie who both find themselves pregnant at the same time. She keeps her pregnancy secret from her daughter. 

Dottie becomes pregnant by a young man named Willie with who she had slept with only once, despite the fact she is engaged to another young man named Abe. When all attempts to arrive at a solution fail, her mother steps in and convinces her to have an abortion. But plans often go awry and for both these women, the answer to their problems arise unexpectantly and is not what they had originally planned. Their plights in the restrictive era in which they live rendered this tale poignant and heart-wrenching.  

The first third of the story is definitely interesting, but a little slow paced. Once the groundwork was laid, however, the plot became engaging and interesting and I was fully immersed, eager to read on to learn what came next. 

The story is based on the Jewish religion and adds a strong flavor to the story. The use of Yiddish words in italics sometimes pulled me from the story to look up their meanings, but added learning and authenticity. A glossary would have been helpful and I hope the publisher has added it to the final sale version of the book. 

Rosie and Dottie portray a profound love for each other, one in which will bind them forever. The ending is only the finale of part 1 of the story. It will obviously be continued with a sequel. I eagerly look forward to it as it will take reader into Europe and the dangers of World War II and the risks Dottie will face. 

Definitely a 5 star read - wonderful Women's Historical Fiction. I recommend it for mothers and daughters and for book clubs. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.



Friday, April 15, 2016

THE GUARDIAN - Jack Whyte

Some men strive for greatness. And some men find themselves thrust into the role of their nation's saviors. Such are the two heroes who reshaped and reconfigured the entire destiny of the kingdom of Scotland. Wallace the Braveheart would become the only legendary, heroic, commoner in medieval British history; the undying champion of the common man. The other, Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick, would perfect the techniques of guerrilla warfare developed by Wallace and use them to create his own place in history as the greatest king of Scots.
In the spring of 1297, the two men meet in Ayr, in the south of Scotland, each having recently lost a young wife, one in childbirth and the other by murder. Each is heartbroken but determined in his grief to defy the ambitions of England and its malignant king, Edward Plantagenet, whose lust to conquer and consume the realm of Scotland is blatant and unyielding. Their combined anger at the injustices of the invading English is about to unleash a storm in Scotland that will last for sixteen years-and destroy England's military power for decades-before giving rise to a new nation of free men.
Jack Whyte is a master of the sweeping historical epic and The Guardian is the latest in his evocative chronicle of the formation of his beloved Scotland.

REVIEW

Jack Whyte has always been a favorite author of mine. In the novel THE GUARDIAN, Jack Whyte delves deep into 13th century Scottish history.

At the heart of the story are William Wallace (Braveheart) and Robert Bruce (Earl of Carrick), which the author skilfully brings to vivid life. They seemed so real, so credible, that I became very attached to them, emotionally connected even. For those of you who regularly follow Jack Whyte, then you know you can expect a richly written story that is immaculately researched with plenty of fascinating primary and secondary characters. And for those who are not familiar with Jack Whyte, then you can be assured that you are in for a treat. Especially if this is the first book of his you read.

THE GUARDIAN is pure historical fiction that strictly follows the path of history. Historical details are written in to conversations to make it more interesting and easy to understand. Battle scenes and military tactics are always a specialty of the author. He writes them with such clarity, I envisioned them perfectly - including the sights, smells, and sounds. Whyte knows the 13th century well, expertly weaving fact and fiction seamlessly together to recreate history in a larger than life faction. His prose is immensely readable, engaging, and simple, keeping a steady interesting pace throughout.

For these reasons and more, Jack Whyte is always a reader's favorite - definitely mine for sure!

Many thanks  to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

MRS HOUDINI - Victoria Kelly

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife Bess from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. When a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.

In surprising turns that weave through the uncertain days of the dawn of the twentieth century and continue into the dazzling 1920s, Mrs. Houdini is a thrilling tale that will take you deep into the heart of one of history’s greatest love stories—asking what drives people to believe in something bigger than themselves—even as it reveals the famous magician’s most remarkable feat of all.

REVIEW

Harry Houdini has fascinated numerous generations of magic lovers. His life and rise to fame, along with his great love for his wife, Bess, has intrigued many, but I liked that the focus of this story was on Bess instead of her famous husband. The novel covers her life from when she first met Harry until long after he died, and her tumultuous life thereafter. 

Told through several points of view, I found the novel inclusive of many factors in this couples lives - Harry's great love for his mother, Bess's wisdom when dealing with her husband's controlling personality, their fascination with spiritualism, to name a few. Bess's grief is explored as she desperately anticipates that he will reach out from beyond the grave to communicate his secret code as per their pact. There were numerous settings too from New York to Europe and ocean liners. 

Filled with compelling characters, exciting locations, and eloquent prose, this is a lovely way to learn more about the woman behind the great escape artist, Harry Houdini! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.


Monday, April 11, 2016

The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Brooklyn, 1947: In the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage: dutiful, quiet Rose, who wants nothing more than to please her difficult husband; and warm, generous Helen, the exhausted mother of four rambunctious boys who seem to need her less and less each day. Raising their families side by side, supporting one another, Rose and Helen share an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic winter night.
When the storm passes, life seems to return to normal; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and the once deep friendship between the two women begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost, but not quite, wins. Moving and evocative, Lynda Cohen Loigman's debut novel The Two-Family House is a heart-wrenching, gripping multi-generational story, woven around the deepest of secrets.

REVIEW

This is a brilliantly written novel about two young sisters-in-law, Rose and Helen, living on two separate levels of the same house. Their brothers are two very different men - Helen's husband, Abe, is outgoing and happy and Mort is married to Rose. Mort is very serious and an introvert. The two women find themselves pregnant at the same time, and they enter into a secret pact, not realizing the impact it will have upon them, and their families. The character are vividly drawn and fascinating in personality. As the story progresses, relationships change, some deteriorating, others strengthening, and some of the characters slowly evolve into very different persons. The changes kept me fascinated, eager to read more about their evolving development, often surprised.

The setting was also very interesting - Brooklyn New York in the 1950's. It set the stage for the struggles and heartbreak that ensued. There is a great deal of depth and plenty to discuss, so I highly recommend this book for book clubs! Definitely a 5 star read!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham


The untold story of Lincoln's Assassination
1864, Washington City. One has to be careful with talk of secession, of Confederate whispers falling on Northern ears. Better to speak only when in the company of the trustworthy. Like Mrs. Surratt.
A widow who runs a small boardinghouse on H Street, Mary Surratt isn't half as committed to the cause as her son, Johnny. If he's not delivering messages or escorting veiled spies, he's invited home men like John Wilkes Booth, the actor who is even more charming in person than he is on the stage.
But when President Lincoln is killed, the question of what Mary knew becomes more important than anything else. Was she a cold-blooded accomplice? Just how far would she go to help her son?
Based on the true case of Mary Surratt, Hanging Mary reveals the untold story of those on the other side of the assassin's gun.


Review

Author Susan Higginbotham has written an very real, in-your-face, interpretation of the events leading to President Abraham Lincoln's assassination told through the point of view of Mary Surratt and the conspirators. From start to finish, she captured the historical era brilliantly. We see how easy it was to walk to the White House to stroll its lawns and pathways to wait for the president to appear with a speech. She describes how the aftermath of the Civil War affected Americans, both in the north and south, while capturing societal norms and rules. 

To say this novel stirs up the reader's emotions would be an understatement. I could not help but feel empathy for Mary whose son was conspiring to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. He brought his co-conspirators into her home, and without telling her much, preyed on her good nature and kindness to do them some favors which turned out to cause her great harm, and which ultimately saw her hung. In the aftermath of the assassination, her cowardly son fled to Canada, and while his mother faced execution, he did not return to aid her in her defense. His word could have saved her. But he didn't do anything on her behalf. When he finally was caught, he was acquitted and did not suffer the same fate as his mother. 

Of all Susan Higginbotham's books, this is by far her best. Unlike some of her other novels where there are sometimes too many characters to fully keep the story straight, this story is the opposite. There are slightly more than a handful of characters, and she brings them to life with great clarity and immense understanding. I loved this book and learning about Mary Surratt's dreadful story which continues to haunt me. It is one of the best books I've read this year and I rate it with a very strong 5 stars! 

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland

The acclaimed author of Mistress Firebrand and The Turncoat continues “her own revolution in American historical romance”* with another smart, sexy, swashbuckling novel set during the American Revolution.

Manhattan and the Hudson River Valley, 1778.
 The British control Manhattan, the Rebels hold West Point, and the Dutch patroons reign in feudal splendor over their vast Hudson River Valley estates. But the roads are ruled by highwaymen. Gerrit Van Haren, the dispossessed heir of Harenwyck, is determined to reclaim his inheritance from his decadent brother, Andries, even if that means turning outlaw and joining forces with the invading British. Until, that is, he waylays the carriage of beautiful young finishing school teacher Anna Winters…

Anna is a committed Rebel with a secret past and a dangerous mission to secure the Hudson Highlands for the Americans. Years ago, she was Annatje, the daughter of a tenant farmer who led an uprising against the corrupt landlords and paid with his life. Since then, Anna has vowed to see the patroon system swept aside along with British rule. But at Harenwyck she discovers that politics and virtue do not always align as she expects…and she must choose between two men with a shared past and conflicting visions of the future.
Review

Although this is th 4th book in the Donna Thorland's Renegades of the American Revolution series, it is the first book I have read from this author. I was pleased that I did not have to read the earlier books to fully understand and enjoy this one. It can definitely be read alone. 

It's a bit of a swashbuckler / spy historical story set in New York in the 18th century and is about the Dutch who helped settle the Hudson Valley in New York -- the patroons and the Dutch West India Company in the Hudson. The author did a fabulous job of intertwining history with a good plot and a touch of romance.

The main characters are Annatje Hoppe who is a childhood friend of Gerrit Van Haren who is the true heir of his father's estate and is set on winning it back on his own terms after his brother Andries usurped it. 

I would classify this novel as a fast-paced romantic historical fiction with plenty of action and intrigue. Nicely done!


Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Speakers of the Dead by J Aaron Sanders

Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City's body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena's behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her. 

Walt's estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham's murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham's involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena's deaths. 

Fast-paced and gripping, Speakers of the Dead is a vibrant reimagining of one of America's most beloved literary figures.


Historical fiction Author J Aaron Sanders brings to life Walt Whitman, a journalist who stumbles upon a mystery involving medical dissections. It is the year 1843 and in New York City, a medical school has just been founded for women. To teach the human body, cadavers are needed for dissection. Enter the black market traders of dead bodies, men who would dig up the newly deceased and sell them to the school for profit. Walt Whitman is determined to break up this notorious group of men.
The novel is interesting and highlights the New York of olden days. It was an interesting read from start to finish, despite its morbid topic of body snatching. Murders, intrigue, and history blend seamlessly into an engrossing story. The beginning chapters were exciting and the prose easy to read with a steady pace. For lovers of historical murder mysteries, this is surely a winner.
 
Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.