MISS ELIZA’S ENGLISH KITCHEN by ANNABEL ABBS

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Eliza Acton, Pioneering Victorian Food Writer

The story of two real-life women who together create a cookbook at a time when women were not expected to even venture into the kitchens. Eliza Acton and Ann Kirby become unlikely friends and brought forth the first cookery book for private homes. They were the first to list ingredients as well as cooking times. Later their work would be ‘borrowed’ for Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook.

The year is 1837 and Eliza Acton has no desire to be anyone’s wife. She is a poet. A very determined poet. But when her book of poems is rebuffed by her publisher, she is crushed. Especially when he suggests she write a cookery book. Eliza is furious. But then things go awry in her family with her father losing everything and fleeing the country. Leaving his wife to depend on Eliza alone to restore the family’s wealth.

As her mother leases a boarding house, Eliza needs to learn to cook. As she collects recipes she finds that she loves cooking. The flavors blending like poetry itself. But she needs help.

17 -year- old Ann Kirby has lived in poverty and uncertainty her entire life. Her mother is supposedly mad and is put in an insane asylum without her knowledge. Her father is a drunk as well as crippled. It’s a dark life and a hungry one.

When Eliza hires her to help her she knows nothing about cooking. However, she can read and write and her palate is spot on and her descriptions of the flavors are poetry itself. They take ten years to perfect their book. In that time they become more than employer/employee. They become friends. They make each other bolder, stronger, and better.

I enjoyed the back and forth viewpoints. No time hopping, just their own perspectives and thoughts. The descriptions of everything they create are much like poetry and I could smell the herbs and taste the tart lemon on my tongue.

After reading this I googled Eliza and Ann and their book. They introduced spaghetti! And Brussel Sprouts.

Very well written!

NetGalley/October 26th, 2021 by William Morrow Paperbacks




THREE SISTERS by HEATHER MORRIS

Three Sisters (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #3)

From the author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, comes the latest from Heather Morris. Three Sisters.

The story of three sisters. Cibi, Magda and, Livia, who in 1929 Slovakia, make a promise to their father that they will always stay together no matter what comes.

It is years later when the youngest, Livia, is told to be at Temple the next Friday night to go work for the Germans. While Magda is in the hospital ill. Cibi is working with a group to get to Palestine and is shocked when she visits home and finds that her little sister is being sent to the German Camps. Remembering their promise to their father, Cibi volunteers to go with Livia. With Magda safe in the hospital, maybe she will be safe.

Loaded like cattle into box cars and stripped of all they own, the girls are only teenagers and have no idea that they are headed to Auschwitz to work for the Nazis. As they struggle to survive and stay strong, Magda is taken as well. The horrors they endure will make you weep. But when they find Magda, they make each other a promise. To live. No matter what they have to do and make it back home.

These girls fought everything the Nazis threw at them and they came out alive. Traumatized, but alive. Now their home is under Communist control and they decide to travel to Israel. To a new home.

This series of Historical Fiction with some facts, is one of the most heartbreaking you will read. But if they could live it, I could read it. I wept, I was so angry on their behalf. The courage of these girls and the unbreakable bonds they shared was inspiring.

With two of the sisters still in Israel with their families, they shared their story with Morris. While a lot of these people were real, and the unspeakable things that were done to them were real, this is Historical Fiction.

It is a wonderful thing when a book is so well done you feel as if you are there. You can smell the awful smells in the camps. You can feel the fear of the people treated so cruelly. While this book is full of heartache it is also full of love, courage, and determination.

Well Done!

NetGalley/ October 5th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press


Darjeeling Inheritance by LIZ HARRIS

Darjeeling Inheritance

Charlotte Lawrence loves living in Sundar. She follows her father around learning all she can about the tea plantation. It’s all she has ever wanted.

After eleven years in England, Charlotte has finished her studies and is coming home by boat with a suitable companion named Ada Eastman. Arriving home to find her father has just died and has left her the plantation with the current manager to stay on.

The current manager, Dan, is everything a good man should be. And while Charlotte’s father may have arranged for his daughter to marry his best friends’ son, Andrew, who is a lazy womanizer and gambler, Charlotte is a stubborn girl and intends to put off marriage as long as she is able to.

Her companion is married within days of setting foot in Sundar. To a much older man with money. And within days she is looking at Andrew like a juicy steak. All the while Charlotte has no idea and really doesn’t care.

She intends to learn everything about tea and follow her heart.

As a tea reviewer, this book was heavenly. I learned so much about growing tea and the history of the area.

A lovely read!

NetGalley/October 1st, 2021 by Heywood Press

HARLEM Shuffle by COLSON WHITEHEAD

Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Between 1959 and 1961.

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…”

Carney sells furniture at a good price at his store on 125th Street. He’s married to Elizabeth and they are having their second baby. Times are tight but they are happy.

People like him. They have no idea that he comes from a line of crooks. He may act normal and talk normal, but that seedy side is still inside of him. He isn’t making big bucks so when his cousin sometimes drops off an item, he doesn’t ask where he got it.

When said cousin falls in with a really bad crowd. They are making plans to rob the Hotel Theresa. Fancy for Harlem. A lot of the book is about them planning crimes that go badly.

Unfortunately for Carney, his cousin has volunteered him for the job. His associates believe he is a fence. These are guys you don’t say no to. And things go bad. So badly that Carney has a lot of new associates. And none of them is the good kind.

Now he has to decide. The businessman or the crook. Can he avoid getting killed? Will he finally have some money? Will he still be able to sell his furniture?

This was less violent than the other books. But the racism and crookedness are all there. It’s painful to read but Ray Carney is a character who has a story worth telling.

NetGalley/September 14th, 2021 by Doubleday

No New Frontier stretched before him, endless and bountiful—that was for white folks—but this new land was a few blocks at least and in Harlem a few blocks was everything. A few blocks was the difference between strivers and crooks, between opportunity and the hard scrabble.’

SCANDAL IN BABYLON by BARBARA HAMBLY

Scandal in Babylon

The year is 1924. Emma Blackstone was barely married to her husband when he was shipped off to war and was killed. Followed by her brother and more tragedy with her parents deaths. So young for so much death.

Emma is a curious and scholarly sort. She cringes at the inaccuracies in the Roman piece they are filming.

While Emma is getting an education in America and Hollywood in particular, she has nothing to go back to in England. And things could be worse.

Such as Kitty’s first husband, Rex showing up unexpectedly in her dressing room with a bullet through the head. Kitty may be flighty and naughty but a killer she is not.

This being the twenties in Hollywood, there are gangsters, slick movie producers, shady cops and insane competition for the title of IT girl. Is that what this is about? A frame? Or has Kitty dallied with the wrong man?

I loved all of the old Hollywood gossip and petty jealousy. These women were so young and vulnerable. They worked hard hours and partied the rest of the time.

I enjoy Hollywood Historical Fiction. I liked Emma, although there was a bit too much quoting of Latin phrases. And I just didn’t feel we really knew her. I am sure she will grow and entertain us as the series goes on.

NetGalley/ September 7th, 2021 by Severn House Publishers

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MURDER MOST FAIR by ANNA LEE HUBER

Murder Most Fair (Verity Kent, #5)

A Verity Kent Mystery #5

It’s always a treat to catch up with Verity and friends. I love that each book picks up right where the other one left off.

It’s 1919 and Verity has spent November with Sidney relaxing and healing from their last adventure.

Hoping things have settled down with the war over, they look forward to some much needed together time.

Until Verity’s Great Aunt llse shows up with her maid from Germany. The same aunt who aided her in sneaking into Germany during the war. But the war hasn’t been good for Germans. They are turning on anyone who aided the enemy and Aunt llse looks to be in very delicate health. Someone is threatening her and she has returned to England hoping to recover and figure out why she is being targeted.

While the family heads to Verity’s parents in Yorkshire, her aunt is still experiencing hostility and someone may be looking to even the score. Using her Secret Service contacts Verity must find out if this is about aiding deserters or something else all together.

Alas, the ever-present Lord Ardmore is a suspect, because, well he usually is a suspect.

This is one of my favorite Historical Fiction writers. Her characters are strong women and men who respect them.

Well Done!

NetGalley/August 31st, 2021 by Kensington Publishing Corporation



THE LAST APOTHECARY by SARAH PENNER *BLOG TOUR* @sl_penner @parkrowbooks

It’s a cold night in February of 1791 and in an unmarked back alley in London, Nella sits awaiting her customer.

Nella is an apothecary, as her mother before her was. Women came from all around for her healing potions and salves. Taking care of women. Nella is carrying on the tradition in another way. Women come to her for poisons that will release them from the men who have done them wrong.

Of course, there are a few rules. The poison must never be used to harm another woman. And the names of the victim, poison, and the killer are to be recorded in a register.

When her next customer shows up Nella is shocked it is a twelve-year-old girl named Eliza, whose employer wishes to engage Nella’s services to relieve herself of her husband. Little does Nella know that this meeting will alter both of their lives as well as the life of present-day historian Caroline, who is spending her anniversary alone after her husband has an affair.

When she finds a mysterious vial with a bear on it, her research instincts kick in and she is determined to find out everything she can about the apothecary shop, Nella and Eliza.

Women had very few options in this London. One had to put up with whatever situation one found themselves as far as philandering spouses or abusive ones. This was a great look at the lengths women would go to seek revenge.

This was disturbing and yet honest. A very good debut!

NetGalley/  March 2nd, 2021 by Park Row

Here is a sneak peek:

Nella
February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I
did not yet know.
I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark
things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a
vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.
But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted
dead.
I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran
my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone
like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.
Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast.
Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her
mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most
suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.
The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet
unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the
parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears.
Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.
But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen
strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the
result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.
I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was
a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest
of apothecary shops.
In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and
resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s
maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.
On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the
words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the
yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s
head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her
remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were
meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren

wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no
suspicion.
On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also
remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register
hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.
Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding,
or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare:
these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines
and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.
Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had
documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name
defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.
I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the
letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though
something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my
fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded
frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not
come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too
cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base
of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.
I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean.
An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held
little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the
appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.
Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in
the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown
so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it
upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open
and expose what lay underneath.
Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and
something inside meant to tear me open.
At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden
room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy
warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I
would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed
inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner.
Published by Park Row Books.

 

 

 

The Day Lincoln Lost by Charles Rosenberg

The Day Lincoln Lost

I love historical fiction. However, there also must be some attempt to follow history in some fashion. There should also be a reliable timeline.

I wanted to like this but it just felt flat and uninteresting. I didn’t feel anything for the characters.

 

NetGalley Review/August 11th, 2020 by Hanover Square Press

 

 

 

 

DARK TIDES BY PHILIPPA GREGORY

Dark Tides (The Fairmile, #2)

The Fairmile #2

This is the follow up to Tidelands.

The year is 1670. Midsummer Eve. On the poor side of London’s wharf area two women work hard to survive. They have both been treated horribly by the men in their lives and they must make their own way in the world.

I really think you should read the first book before this one. I was in the dark most of the time.

London at this time was no place for a woman. Men ran the world and treated women as less than human.

When an old lover shows up no one is happy to see him. There is some backstory there I never got.

Next a brash woman from Italy who claims she has the older woman’s sons child and the son has died.

I have to say I wanted to like this, but it was so depressing and dark. I thought the grandmother and the granddaughter were the only decent characters.

We will give the next one a try however.

NetGalley/  November 24th, 2020 by Atria Books





THE CHANEL SISTERS by Judithe Little

The Chanel Sisters

A novel of survival, love, loss, triumph—and the sisters who changed fashion forever

Abandoned at a convent at a young age, Antoinette and Gabrielle Chanel are kept on a tight leash. While they are good girls all day, at night they sneak out their hidden little novellas and read about fashion and cut out styles and clothes they want.

They dream of making something of themselves. Finally of age to leave they do what they must to succeed. Society may never accept them, but they will be wearing the Chanel label forever!

This was a very interesting book. Part fact part fiction. I have recently read another book about CoCo and found this one to be more well rounded and giving us a look at all the Chanel sisters and what drove them to become a success. These were some brave and admirable ladies whose legacy continues strong today!

NetGalley/December 29th, 2020 by Graydon House