A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

This entertaining Victorian mystery is perfect summer reading for fans of British mysteries or Georgette Heyer’s witty Regency romances. Set in 1899 in Surrey and London, American-born Frances Wynn, the elder Countess of Harleigh, is just finishing her year of mourning for her husband Reggie. Frances and her young daughter Rose are moving to London, over the protests of her brother and sister-in-law, who want Frances to fund repairs to their manor house.

Frances’ aunt and younger sister Lily arrive for the season, and Lily acquires three suitors. After a stolen bracelet is found in Frances’ bag, Frances and her neighbor George Hazelton are concerned that one of Lily’s suitors may be responsible for recent thefts at society balls. If that wasn’t enough, Inspector Delaney calls to ask Frances questions about Reggie’s death. Lighthearted and fast-paced, this first novel is a delight. I enjoyed the audiobook narration of Sarah Zimmerman, and look forward to reading A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, which is available now.

Brenda

Promise

Promise by Minrose Gwin

Many secrets are revealed in the aftermath of a devastating tornado that struck Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936. Judge McNabb’s daughter Jo, already dealing with a broken arm, struggles to help her mother and baby brother. Their washerwoman, Dovey Grand’homme, is looking for her granddaughter Dreama and baby Promise. In flashbacks, we learn how Jo’s violent older brother connects the two families. Dovey’s story is the most interesting, and the different way her family is treated after the storm shows the racism of the time. Lyrical writing and vivid descriptions of the tornado are highlights of this memorable novel.
Brenda

 

Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I found this first book in the Sixth World post-apocalyptic Navajo fantasy series to be a compelling read. After a great flood, walls have risen around the Dinétah, the southwestern Navajo lands. Gods and monsters have appeared, and some Diné have developed special powers. Maggie Hoskie has been trained to fight monsters, but lacks self-confidence and is reluctant to trust after some bad experiences. The Dinétah world is vividly described, and the story is fast-paced and exciting, if a little violent. Maggie is asked to help Coyote, and reluctantly partners with young medicine man Kai, who refuses to use guns, but has some hidden powers. A finalist for two major awards, this novel has already won the Locus Award for best first novel. The sequel, Storm of Locusts, is available now.
Brenda

 

Ellie and the Harpmaker

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

On the anniversary of her father’s death, Ellie Jacobs goes for a long walk in the Exmoor woods and finds the Harp Barn and Dan Hollis, the harpmaker. Dan, very happy in his work and in the beautifully described countryside, is apparently on the autistic spectrum. Ellie slowly learns to play a harp, but hasn’t yet told her husband Clive, who’s a bit of a bully. Ellie and especially Dan are very appealing characters while Phineas the pheasant, Tom the postman, and young Edward add color and charm. This heartwarming debut novel is sure to be popular. The author plays the harp, and her love of music and Exmoor shine through.

Brenda

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Except for weekly breakfasts with best friend Andy, young widow Evvie mostly stays in her house. Andy encourages Evvie to consider renting the apartment attached to her house to his friend Dean, a former major league pitcher. Evvie and Dean are attracted to each other, and I really enjoyed their interactions, complete with laugh-out-loud dialogue, especially when Evvie describes a cereal box race at the local minor league baseball park in coastal Maine and when Dean buys an old pinball game. Evvie wallows in misery a bit too much, especially as she was planning to leave her husband the day he died. Dean’s struggles to figure out what happened to his pitching career lead to an interesting agreement with Evvie: she won’t ask about his arm and he won’t ask about her husband. Overall, a charming first novel that’s full of heart and humor, not too predictable, and is a great summer read.
Brenda

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Cussy Mary Carter, 19, is a pack horse librarian in the hills of eastern Kentucky in 1936. She is known as Book Woman or Bluet. Cussy is one of the last of the blue-skinned Fugates, and is treated as a colored person. Despite her coloring, her coal miner father wants to see Cussy married and provided for. Cussy and her mule deliver books, magazines, scrapbooks, and newspapers, along with letters and occasionally food to the isolated mountain folk on her route. Hope and heartbreak mingle here, and the story has some very dark scenes. The power of reading to inform, comfort, and enlighten is emphasized in this memorable and moving novel. Very well researched by the author, a Kentuckian, this book is a good choice for book groups interested in Depression-era America. I am looking forward to reading more about the pack horse librarians in The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes, to be published this October.

Brenda

 

Meet Me in Monaco

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

In 1955 actress Grace Kelly takes refuge from a photographer in Sophie Duval’s perfume boutique in Cannes, France. Sophie then meets James Henderson, the British photographer desperate for a photo. Sophie and James’ stories, including their work, are framed by the love story of Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco. The settings are gorgeously drawn, the storyline is not predictable, and the epilogue in 1982 is short but very satisfying. The Gown by Jennifer Robson is a good readalike.

Brenda