‘Under Palombo’s skillful hand, the entangled world of the Borgias comes vividly to life, exposing the dark facets of class structure and the all-consuming greed that comes with ambition–and love.” – Heather Webb, internationally bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris and Meet Me in Monaco
This is my favorite type of historical fiction. The players are real and the facts are real. Palombo has taken the players and the facts and woven them together with what could have happened and created a book I couldn’t put down.
Rome, in 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has been named Pope Alexander. Never mind how he got the job when he had multiple illegitimate children and a mistress living next door. The Borgia family was known for being greedy, ambitious to a fault, and eliminating the competition as this mockery of a pope is intent on one thing. Making sure his children, as well as himself, are all-powerful and wealthy is the goal.
There have been many attempts to explain the Borgias. And while Lucretia is in reality not such an awful person, she has been painted with an ugly brush as a lover of both her brother and her father. Although I nor the author saw any evidence of that.
There was not one redeeming character in this story. They were all equally easy to hate.
Even so, the writing was superb and the story, while not pretty, was fair and informative.
I loved it and would have no problem recommending it.
NetGalley/February 11th, 2020 by St. Martin’s Griffin
A well-researched look at Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina.
I am not sure that people really understand the different slave classes. This work gives us as much information as can be found about this city of refuge for runaway slaves. People today would call it living off the grid. HIding in a swamp, creating their own forms of currency and working closely with slaves and white people.
The amount of information is really quite extraordinary, as these men/women tended to leave no tracks. I can’t imagine how long this work took, but I am better for having read it.
As a descendant of the man who wrote the runaway slave act, I was deeply moved by this book.
NetGalley/ University of Georgia Press; February 8th, 2020
A Secret, Bone, and Scone Society Novel #3
Nora Pennington is beginning to wonder if this rain is ever going to end. Owner of Miracle Books, Nora isn’t complaining about the business packing the towns inns and her bookstore but it would be nice to have a dry day here and there.
Along with the new shoppers, she makes a new friend. Sheldon is like a fairy godmother who swoops in and makes everything interesting and as long as he is stranded at the inn, Nora intends to make full use of his talents!
And rain or not she needs some things for the shop so it’s off to the flea market. Nora finds local artisan, Danny, and falls in love with one of his bowls she believes her sweetie would love.
When the next day finds rain and floods and a body, Nora smells a mystery! When she believes she has found a clue in of all places The Inn of Mist and Roses. What does Danny have to do with the legend of the inn?
And now there is a second body and Nora knows it’s time to call on the Secret, Bone and Scone Society to help find out who did what and why!
Another hit for Ellery!
NetGalley/ January 28th, 2020 by Kensington
It’s 1910 in New York and wealthy socialite, Vera Garland is determined to make it as a reporter. Not the society page, but real, honest and investigative reporting.
Going undercover as Vee Swan, she uncovers the abysmal conditions in the tenements on the Lower East Side. And almost loses her life in the process. Recovering from her injuries and dealing with her father’s sudden death so soon after her Uncle Percy, she is taking a break from both of her identities.
While working on the mystery of her father’s death as well as marching for equal rights and pay for women, she hears that the Hope Diamond is in New York at Cartier’s! The rumors surrounding the stone are legendary. But how much is just hype to entice a better price?
Vera is intent on proving the bad luck theory or disproving it. It doesn’t hurt that it has brought her to an obnoxious magazine publisher who is also a blackmailer and could be responsible for her fathers’ death.
For her plans to all come together she will need help. When she goes to Cartier’s to visit Pierre’s Russian jeweler for assistance, she finds out there is even more intrigue to come and she may not come out of this with the story she wants nor the man.
First, let’s talk about this cover! Absolutely stunning. The story was so real, with all of the ugliness of the women’s rights movements and the men who were violent and did their best to keep the women where they belonged. Allegedly. This is a historical fiction book that speaks to many of the same issues today. Still no equality across the board. But there will always be a Vera out there pulling us along and shouting until our voices are heard.
I loved all of the historical bits about Cartier and the Hope Diamond. It has a long and well-documented history.
Very Well Done!
NetGalley/ January 28th, 2020 by Atria Books
In The Founding Fortunes, historian Tom Shachtman reveals the ways in which a dozen notable Revolutionaries deeply affected the finances and birth of the new country while making and losing their fortunes.
In times of war, the rich usually do get richer and the poor are still poor, yet free. Somewhat. This well-researched telling of the well known and not so well known who put their money into biting the very hand that was feeding them. In order to have control over what they grew and who they sold to this young country and its leaders were far from perfect and often put their own interests above the country.
The British wanted total control and the John Hancocks and George Washingtons of the time wanted the opposite. To control their own taxes, representations, to settle their own disputes and have free trade. We also meet a lot of people who were less well-known but never the less played significant roles in this time period.
Several things struck me reading this book. One, these guys did not have, as a rule, long lives. So what they accomplished as very young men was astounding. They were determined to define their own destiny in this new world. They had left England for a reason and that was the freedom to determine their own fate.
Excellent research and a much-needed history lesson for the times!
NetGalley/ January 21st, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press
The Girls with No Names pulls readers into the gilded age of New York City in the 1910s when suffragettes marched in the street, unions fought for better work conditions—and girls were confined to the House of Mercy for daring to break the rules.
Life in the early 1900s was very confining for women and girls. Even the wealthy families who live in their mansions just down the road from the mysterious House of Mercy.
Luella and Effie belong to one of those families. Their father is charming but away a lot and their mother comes off as cold and a bit distant. Effie was born with a heart defect that will eventually kill her. Her older sister Luella has always looked after her. They are good girls with very little to do.
One day playing by the forest they hear beautiful music playing and their curiosity gets the better of them. What they find is a gypsy camp. Luella, a dancer is amazed and never wants to leave, but Effie needs her. All summer they hang out with the gypsy camp and it is here Luella runs after she and Effie find out a secret their father is keeping.
Feeling betrayed and angry Luella has no intention of obeying her father or ending up like one of the girls at school being sent to the Mercy House. She just needs a plan.
And just like that, she disappears. Effie is devastated and believes her father has finally had enough of his rebellious daughter and parked her in the Mercy House.
Effie is determined to find her sister and the way she gets into the house is brazen and fearless. But once behind that door, the house is anything but merciful. This is just another workhouse for girls who won’t knuckle under to society’s rules. How will she get out of this place where no one and nothing is what it seems. Not even their names.
Effie meets a girl named Mabel and we hear her story as well. With all the lies everyone is telling it will take a miracle for her to find her way home. If she doesn’t die in the process.
Historical Fiction with a lot of facts. These places existed everywhere. Magdalene Laundries, all more of the same. If a girl has an opinion she could easily never see the light of day again. Everyone in this book was suffering in some way. Secrets and lies told to protect reputations and instead simply end up making things so much worse.
NetGalley/January 7th, 2020 by Park Row
Set in London and covering a decade in the life of Selina Lennox, one of the bright young people whose life is one party after another without thought to consequences or propriety, and whose life is turned upside down by a chance meeting with Lawrence Weston. A painter who aspires to be a famous photographer.
Selina has a wild affair with the man but she understands that she must marry for money and not love. And she does. But she has a special gift from Lawrence that will forever change all of their lives.
There was a lot of truth in this beautiful and moving story of love, loss, and redemption. I am not ashamed to admit I cried more than a little. The characters were flawed and real, with a backdrop of one war over and another about to begin.
A truly beautiful story from a talented author!
NetGalley/ December 10th, 2019 by Thomas Dunne Books
Gareth Russell has done his research. Uncovering previously unpublished sources and including photographs. Russell tells the story not just of the sinking of the Titanic, but of six well-known and well-heeled passengers and the role they played in history.
He is a gifted writer and puts the event in context with what was going on in the world. Especially the Americans and the British. With the Edwardian Era ending, war on the horizon and changes in the social norms, technology, politics, Irish Home Rule, the class system, this was a major time of change for the world.
We follow the stories of six of those passengers on the Titanic and how their lives changed. The description of the sinking, minute by minute, the different ways Americans and the British handled the tragedy. Not everyone was chivalrous or brave. And for some that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
For me personally, this was the best book I have read on the subject. And that was because it was so well researched and written. Myths were shown for what they were. Facts and journals told stories never heard before. The pictures were priceless in creating an image in your head of who these people were and how they behaved.
I would have no problem recommending this book as a definitive look at this point in our history.
Extremely Well Done!
NetGalley/ November 19th, 2019 by Atria Books
Kate Moreton is in Ireland on sabbatical from her teaching position at Dartmouth College when she meets Ozzie Ferriter, a fisherman and a veteran of the American war in Afghanistan. The Ferriter family history dates back centuries on the remote Blasket Islands, and Ozzie – a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States – has retreated to the one place that might offer him peace from a war he cannot seem to leave behind.
As soon as I read the first letter I knew I was going to love this story. And oh I did!
This isn’t a traditional romance story in beautiful Ireland. It is a deep, soulful, character-driven story of love, loss, brokenness, sin, and redemption. Kate is Irish through and through. Her dream of seeing the Blasket Islands and finishing her dissertation is finally coming around. She will be able to live by the sea and finish her research regarding the islands and how even her own family had been evacuated.
But life is never as tidy as that. When Ozzie comes along, it’s as if their souls knew each other at once. There was a palpable feeling of connection in the way the author told this story. The descriptions of the sea, the saltiness you could almost taste, the wild beauty of the islands and the warmth of the people. Ozzie and Kate are an island in a vast sea of people.
I don’t want to give anything away with this review. Just read it. And now I shall make myself a nice cup of tea and read it slower and savor all of the feels it has to offer.
NetGalley/ October 8th, 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.
Edmund Morris is the author of the three Theodore Roosevelt biographies as well as the really good Ronald Reagan one. I am very sad to say he passed away just this past May.
Thomas Edison was a driven man. He was constantly inventing and patenting new ideas or as he would say, he brought them out in the open, they were always there. He had a new invention about every 11 days, with over 1,000 in his lifetime.
Best known for bringing us into the light, he was a man with a singular need to invent, to experiment, to push the boundaries of what was known. He was a man who needed little sleep or food and expected those around him to work the same punishing hours as he did. He did not suffer fools lightly and like a lot of geniuses who are laser-focused on what they see as their calling, his family life suffered.
We see the husband, the father, the friend. A man who was headstrong. He started 250 businesses, so you can imagine he might have been a distant father. He made no secret that he thought his children were lacking in every way.
I have read many biographies of Edison, most of which centered on his works and patents. I don’t think he was a deliberately cold man, he was a man possessed with a need to create, to push boundaries and with that type of mind, relationships and family take a back seat.
The research that went into this work is astounding. This is a book I will have and re-read for a long time.
NetGalley/Random House (October 22, 2019)