Happy Release Day, Lauren!

It’s book launch day for Lauren Willig and The Other Daughter!

Other Daughter

Huge thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for letting me get my hands on an early copy.  If you’re picking up your copy today, you are in for such a treat!  I’m going to include my review below – I am *almost* positive that there’s nothing in it you may consider a spoiler, but if you like to dive into a book knowing only what you’ve read on the jacket, maybe give the rest of this post a miss until you’ve finished the book. Happy reading to one and all!

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When I received an email from NetGalley letting me know that an ARC of Lauren Willig’s The Other Daughter was available for me to download, I did a serious happy dance. But I made myself wait a few weeks to begin it. A new book from Lauren is a thing to be savored, and I knew that when I started it, it would be over all too quickly. True to form, once I did sit down with my Nook, I gulped this book down in two sittings. Once again, and as always, Lauren has delivered an excellent story.

When Rachel Woodley receives a telegram in Normandy informing her that her mother is sick with influenza, she immediately packs her bags for her home in Netherwell, England. But by the time Rachel sets foot on home soil, her mother is already gone. Rachel can’t imagine that her grief could be any worse, but then she finds a newspaper clipping among her mother’s bedclothes. In that clipping is a picture of Rachel’s father – her father who died when she was only four – escorting his daughter, Lady Olivia Standish, to a society function. Suddenly, Rachel’s past is a lie. She isn’t the daughter of a respectable, hard-working widow. She is the other daughter – the illegitimate daughter – of an earl. With no idea how to move forward and no clue how to fill in the gaps in her history, Rachel joins forces with Simon Montfort, a gossip columnist with a past as murky as her own, to find a way to insinuate herself into her father’s set. She makes a daring entrance into London society, masquerading as Vera Merton, and quickly becomes the toast of the Bright Young Things. Her goal: get herself invited to her half-brother’s twenty-first birthday at the family seat and seize the opportunity to confront her father. But as Rachel pushes deeper into Lady Olivia’s social circle, she realizes that she is woefully ignorant of the shared history in this set. And although Simon Montfort has promised to help her, Rachel begins to suspect that his reasons for interfering in her family affairs may not be as straightforward as she thought.

The idea at the heart of this story is a familiar one – what would you do if you found out that your past was not what you’d always thought? But even though this premise is one I’ve read before, Lauren’s variation on the theme is fresh. Rachel is an excellent narrator. I was indignant and angry right along with her when she learned that her father had abandoned her. I celebrated with her when she launched herself into London society without a single person questioning her backstory. I turned up my nose with her at the empty lives of the Bright Young Things with their “too, too sick-making” rounds of parties and entertainments. But then, when Rachel starts losing herself in the façade of Vera Merton, I worried for her. Is she becoming so single-minded that she is willing to hurt the people who are, even though they don’t know it, her family? And if she does manage to get close enough to her father to force a confrontation, what will she do if his reaction isn’t what she’s been hoping for? I started to feel less “in Rachel’s corner” and more disappointed in the person she was becoming, and I was holding my breath to see if Lauren would redeem her in the end.

I loved the relationship between Simon and Rachel. They fling Much Ado about Nothing quotes at each other fast enough to make your head swim. They bicker, but they find genuine comfort in each other’s company. And at heart, they are very similar – two people who are unsure where they belong but brave enough to make a fresh start somewhere new. Watching Lauren peel back the layers to show Rachel the real Simon was like watching a picture resolve into focus. You think you see him clearly, but shift a few things around and see how he’s brought into sharper relief. The revelations are not always good ones, but Simon is a better, more interesting character in the end for the twists that Lauren puts him through.

On a more technical note, this is the first of Lauren’s stand-alone books that does not shift perspective between a modern and historical storyline. I didn’t even realize until halfway through the book that she had made this departure from form, but it didn’t bother me a bit. I loved all the setting detail that she included – the brief glimpse of Rachel’s life as a governess in France, the fancy-dress parties and beautiful flat in London, and the imposing estate at Carrisford Court. The supporting cast she created for Rachel’s story is incredible.

To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Thanks to Downton Abbey, I shouldn’t be surprised at the lengths that the British aristocracy would go to in order to keep a title and an estate intact, but Lauren kept me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what she’s planning for her next book.

Happy Release Day, Simone St. James!

Back in January, Simone St. James was kind enough to stop by the blog for an interview and to give away an ARC of her upcoming release, The Other Side of Midnight.  Well, I am so pleased to say that TODAY is her release day.

silence for the dead

I can’t wait to start this book, y’all.  I discovered Simone’s books through the “If You Like” posts on Lauren’s website, and I am so glad I did!  I’ve read all three of her other books (The Haunting of Maddy Clare, An Inquiry into Love and Death, and Silence for the Dead).  Simone writes a creepy ghost story, but fortunately for me, it’s the kind I can still read – her writing is atmospheric and suspenseful without being gory.  I appreciate that!

Here is what Penguin has to say about The Other Side of Midnight:

London, 1925. Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War. Now she’s been murdered at one of her own seances, after leaving a final message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.

Ellie doesn’t contact the dead – at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items. Still, she can’t refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known. Now Ellie must delve into Gloria’s secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes. Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.

As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria’s life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria’s circle. And as Ellie’s uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues, a force determined to bury the truth, and whoever seeks to expose it…

I’ll be heading to the bookstore after work.  In the meantime, I’ll be browsing Simone’s Pinterest boards.  If you like early 1900s fashion, or you are looking for some spooky scene inspiration, or you want to see Simone’s book recommendations, check them out!

Happy Release Day, Charles Finch!

laws of murder

I read A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch last summer, and I really enjoyed it! It’s the first in his Charles Lenox mystery series. The books are set in Victorian London, and Charles is a “gentleman sleuth.” Even though I’ve only read the first two books in the series, I really want to catch up. Today’s release, The Laws of Murder is the eighth book to come out, so clearly I have some work to do.

Here is what Minotaur has to say about The Laws of Murder:

It’s 1876, and Charles Lenox, once London’s leading private investigator, has just given up his seat in Parliament after six years, primed to return to his first love, detection. With high hopes, he and three colleagues start a new detective agency, the first of its kind. But as the months pass, and he is the only detective who cannot find work, Lenox begins to question whether he can still play the game as he once did.

Then comes a chance to redeem himself, though at a terrible price: a friend, a member of Scotland Yard, is shot near Regent’s Park. As Lenox begins to parse the peculiar details of the death – an unlaced boot, a days-old wound, an untraceable luggage ticket – he realizes that the incident may lead him into grave personal danger, beyond which lies a terrible truth.

With all the humanity, glamor, and mystery that readers have come to love, the latest Lenox novel is a shining new confirmation of the enduring popularity of Charles Finch’s Victorian series.

What do you think?

Happy Release Day, Tasha Alexander

counterfeit

Today is the book-birthday for Tasha Alexander’s new novel, The Counterfeit Heiress. This is the ninth novel in her Lady Emily mystery series, and I’m excited to get my hands on it. These Lady Emily mysteries are another great find that came from frequent recommendations on Lauren’s website.

Here is what Minotaur has to say about The Counterfeit Heiress:

In this thrilling new addition to the New York Times bestselling series, Lady Emily travels to Paris where she struggles to unmask a murderer amid a case of assumed identities and shadowy figures

After an odd encounter at a grand masquerade ball, Lady Emily becomes embroiled in the murder investigation of one of the guests, a sometime actress trying to pass herself off as the mysterious heiress and world traveler Estella Lamar. Each small discovery, however, leads to more questions. Was the intended victim Miss Lamar or the imposter? And who would want either of them dead?

As Emily and Colin try to make sense of all this, a larger puzzle begins to emerge: No one has actually seen Estella Lamar in years, since her only contact has been through letters and the occasional blurry news photograph. Is she even alive? Emily and Colin’s investigation of this double mystery takes them from London to Paris, where, along with their friend Cécile, they must scour the darkest corners of the city in search of the truth.

If you’ve never tried any of Tasha’s books, you should definitely give And Only to Deceive (the first in the Lady Emily series) a try. If you’re already a fan, rejoice with me over the fact that Cécile is back in our lives!

Release Day Tomorrow, and “Ask the Author” with Lauren Willig

thousand stars

Tomorrow is the last day of September, so Lauren Willig will be stopping by the blog to answer any questions we have about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Then on Wednesday, we’ll start Masque of the Black Tulip. I can’t believe it’s almost October!

Tomorrow is also a big day for book releases. Deanna Raybourn’s latest novel, Night of a Thousand Stars, will be available for purchase. Deanna is another author that I found thanks to Lauren’s website. Her Lady Julia historical mysteries were a treat, but my favorite book of hers is A Spear of Summer Grass – a novel set in Kenya in the 1920s, published around the same time as Lauren’s Ashford Affair. If you’ve never read anything by Deanna, her e-novellas are available on Kindle and Nook at super-low prices.

Here’s what Harlequin MIRA has to say about Night of a Thousand Stars:

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

I’ve got my copy preordered!

Happy Release Day, Susanna Kearsley!

Season of Storms

Today, we are celebrating the re-release of Susanna’s novel Season of Storms. It has been out of print in the US for over a decade, but (mercifully) Sourcebooks has been re-releasing several of her older titles with beautifully redesigned cover art to match her newer books. The Splendour Falls had its re-release back in January, and I’m hoping Named of the Dragon will have its turn sometime in the near future…

I owe Lauren Willig a great big thank you for introducing me to Susanna Kearsley’s books. Lauren frequently mentions Susanna on her Weekly Reading Round-ups or If You Like lists. After seeing Susanna’s name pop up repeatedly, I finally decided to give her a try, and now I recommend her books to anyone who will listen. I have read almost all of them, and every single one has been good, but my absolute favorite is The Winter Sea.

Here is what Sourcebooks has to say about Season of Storms:

In the early 1900s, in the elegant, isolated villa Il Piacere, the playwright Galeazzo D’Ascanio lived for Celia Sands. She was his muse and his mistress, his most enduring obsession. And she was the inspiration for his most stunning and original play. But the night before she was to take the stage in the leading role, Celia disappeared.

Now, decades later, in a theatre on the grounds of Il Piacere, Alessandro D’Ascanio is preparing to stage the first performance of his grandfather’s masterpiece. A promising young actress – who shares Celia Sands’ name, but not her blood – has agreed to star. She is instantly drawn to the mysteries surrounding the play – and to her compelling, compassionate employer. And even though she knows she should let the past go, in the dark – in her dreams – it comes back.

If you’ve never tried one of Susanna’s books, head over to her website, where you can read the first chapter of each of her books for free!  Also, Susanna tweeted a link to a Pinterest board of pictures for Season of Storms earlier today – check it out!  I love it when authors share photos that inspire their work.

Happy Release Day, Louise Penny!

long way home

Today’s book birthday is Louise Penny’s The Long Way Home. This is actually the 10th book in Penny’s mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Two of the most consistent comments I see in reviews of Penny’s books are that her characters seem as familiar as your friends and that her setting is so intimate it becomes a character itself. Penny created a village called Three Pines in Quebec for these stories, and the village is based on Penny’s home town. This past Sunday, NPR’s Linda Wertheimer interviewed Penny about her series, and Penny calls her books “great big thank you letters to a place that made me feel at home when I needed it.” If you’re interested in the rest of the interview, there is a full transcript available on NPR’s website.

I’ve only read Still Life, the first book of the series, but I enjoyed it and will definitely continue it when my TBR pile is less outrageous! I’m also going to hear Penny speak at Fearrington Village tomorrow, so that’s exciting.

Here is what Minotaur has to say about The Long Way Home:

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.”

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. “There’s power enough in Heaven,” he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, “to cure a sin-sick soul.” And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

If you like cozy mysteries, you should give Still Life a try.