Received for Review:
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.
Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style.
The Antiquarian by Julian Sanchez
In this gripping historical thriller, the search for a mysterious and powerful object hidden in the heart of Barcelona leads to ambition, desire, love—and murder
An intriguing letter from his adoptive father, Artur, turns novelist Enrique Alonso’s world upside down. Artur, a well-known antiquarian in Barcelona, reveals that he has discovered an ancient manuscript, but he feels uneasy, as though he’s in over his head. But before Artur can piece together the final part of the puzzle, he is attacked and murdered. Enrique rushes to Barcelona to investigate his father’s death and retrieve the book. His ex-wife, Bety, a philologist, comes to his aid and the two set about translating and deciphering the encrypted text. Written in Latin and Old Catalan, the manuscript holds the key to the location of a priceless object dating back to the Middle Ages, and a secret closely guarded by the Jewish community living in the city’s Gothic Quarter. When Enrique and Bety realize they are not the only ones following the trail, it becomes a race against time to find the mythical object that has the power to transform lives.
The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark
Since accepting a teaching position at remote Fairwick College in upstate New York, Callie McFay has experienced the same disturbingly erotic dream every night: A mist enters her bedroom, then takes the shape of a virile, seductive stranger who proceeds to ravish her in the most toe-curling, wholly satisfying ways possible. Perhaps these dreams are the result of her having written the bestselling book The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. Callie’s lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature—which is why she’s found herself at Fairwick’s renowned folklore department, living in a once-stately Victorian house that, at first sight, seemed to call her name.
But Callie soon realizes that her dreams are alarmingly real. She has a demon lover—an incubus—and he will seduce her, pleasure her, and eventually suck the very life from her. Then Callie makes another startling discovery: Her incubus is not the only mythical creature in Fairwick. As the tenured witches of the college and the resident fairies in the surrounding woods prepare to cast out the demon, Callie must accomplish something infinitely more difficult—banishing this supernatural lover from her heart.
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .
When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.
Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.
The Summer Before the Storm by Gabriele Wills
It’s the Age of Elegance in the summer playground of the affluent and powerful. Amid the pristine, island-dotted lakes and pine-scented forests of the Canadian wilderness, the young and carefree amuse themselves with glittering balls and friendly competitions. The summer of 1914 promises to be different when the ambitious and destitute son of a disowned heir joins his wealthy family at their cottage on Wyndwood Island. Through Jack’s introduction into the privileged life of the aristocratic Wyndhams and their social circle, he seeks opportunities and alliances to better himself, including in his schemes, his beautiful and audacious cousin, Victoria. But their charmed lives begin to unravel with the onset of the Great War, in which many are destined to become part of the “lost generation”. This richly textured tale takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from romantic moonlight cruises to the horrific sinking of the Lusitania, from regattas on the water to combat in the skies over France, from extravagant mansions to deadly trenches - from innocence to nationhood. The Summer Before The Storm, the first of the epic “Muskoka Novels”, evokes a gracious, bygone era that still resonates in this legendary land of lakes.
Note: All book descriptions courtesy of amazon.com
The Relentless Weekly Wrap-Up 04/19/15
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