OUR KIND of PEOPLE by Carol Wallace

Our Kind of People

Welcome to the Gilded Age in New York City. The war is over and the elite of the city are getting back to balls and debuts and other pursuits. In Helen Wilcox’s case, it means finding suitable matches for her two daughters on a shoestring budget.

While Helen comes from money, She has married for love. And boy were those people snobby and just plain mean.

But it is 1874 and the times were different. Classes were important and old money trumped the new money. So how will Helen find suitable men for her two daughters? Her husband has dreams of an elevated rail in NYC. It’s a genius idea but it will take a lot of money! When it lead to financial ruin, Helen is questioning her husband’s dream but not his love for her or hers for him.

And as their fortunes change, they along with daughters Jemima and Alice must take a hard look at the world as it is, not as it was and think long and hard about what they want.

To Marry an English Lord was written by Wallace. The inspiration for Downton Abbey so if you are missing it or Bridgerton, this should hold you until Mr. Fellowes brings us more! And thank goodness he will bring The Gilded Age to life!

NetGalley/January 11th, 2022 by G P Putman’s Sons

A Man of Honor by Barbara Taylor Bradford

A Man of Honor

A prequel to A Woman of Substance

A Man of Honor tells us the story of Balckie O’Neill at 13. His future in Ireland seems bleak. His family is dead except for his two cousins, and he is now sailing to England to see his Uncle Patrick who has a job lined up in his building company for his nephew.

So, off he goes to Leeds. A much different place from where he has come from. Obsessed with building and money, Blackie learns his trade well and is soon very successful at it. Blackie is a smart man who knows what he wants and what he will do to make it happen. He has good friends in this story and it is here that he meets Emma Harte. Like Blackie she has dreams of making it big as well.

Telling Blackie’s story gave us insight into his future character and what has shaped his decisions. He is just a really good man.

I read A Woman of Substance long ago and it stuck with me. There was some confusing language uses in this one. And I failed to see how Robert’s story was pertinent.

No matter what, it is always a good day to read BTB!

NetGalley/ November 28th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

THE SISTERS SWEET by ELIZABETH WEISS

The Sisters Sweet

The Sisters Sweet is a vaudeville act. Cooked up by twins Harriet and Josie’s parents.

The father is really worthless and the mother is cold and distant. No one can keep a job so the father thinks up an act for the girls. Dancing and singing siamese twins. Only they are not siamese twins. So he comes up with a contraption they wear under their dress that keeps one of each of their arms cinched to the suit. It is painful but they are making money. Until they are found out.

Josie runs away and they don’t exactly try to find her. She turns up in Hollywood making pictures but doesn’t want anyone to know her past.

They rely on family to take them in and give them jobs and Harriet just tries to be good and out of sight. But at what cost? In the end will she be true to herself or settle for a husband?

I am sorry to say not a one of these characters was the least bit enjoyable. There were no high points or low points. Just a bit dull.

NetGalley/November 30th, 2021 by The Dial Press

City of Time and Magic by PAULA BRACKSTON

City of Time and Magic (Found Things #4)

Book Four in the Found Things Series finds our Xanthe still upset about Liam who was snatched in time by Mistress Flyte. She is determined to find a way to get him back in his own time and by her side.

I was thrilled that Xanthe gets to meet Elizabeth from Brackston’s The Witch’s Daughter!

Out of the blue, she is summoned to a home where not one but three things are singing loudly to her. But which one will take her to Liam? The writing slope is definitely loud but the mourning brooch and a beautiful hat pin are vying for her attention.

, Unable to take all three, she chooses the writing slope and ends up in the home of a Time Stepper and Elizabeth! From there, things get very complicated. By finding Liam, Xanthe also finds out that Lydia may have stolen Liam, but it was for a good reason. There are Spinners who are using their gift to enrich themselves and others. They are a ruthless group that has plans for Liam to help make more money.

This was such a good one! Elizabeth crossing over to Xanthe and the story of her life with Erasmus intersects nicely with Lydia’s story. Which is a shocker. For this case, she needs to bring in the big gun. Harley! Oh my, what a time I had with Harley in Regency England!

Brackston’s vivid descriptions are spot on and her attention to detail is exceptional. I can honestly say this is my favorite Historical Fiction/Time-Slip Series.

NetGalley/November 16th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

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


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

.

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