Death Comes to Bath

Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd

I loved the beautiful setting of this Regency-era English mystery, and the ability to easily start this series at book six. After a war wound received at Waterloo becomes infected, Sir Robert Kurland and his wife Lucy rent a house in Bath so that Robert can enjoy the healing properties of the Roman baths. Bringing Lucy’s sister Ann, their doctor Fletcher and his pregnant wife Penelope, it’s a lively household. Lucy and Robert get to know the mismatched couple next door, Sir William Benson, an older man from Yorkshire who spends time at the baths with Robert, and his younger, beautiful wife. When William dies suddenly, suspicion falls on his sons and stepsons, especially when his will can’t be found. After a second suspicious death next door, amateur sleuths Lucy and Robert work together to uncover the truth. Colorful characters and a clever plot make me want to spend more time with Robert and Lucy, who first appear in Death Comes to the Village. This novel is a good readalike for the Stephanie Barron mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth.

Brenda

We Must Be Brave

27We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

This is a splendid, moving novel about a young woman and the girls she mothers in southern England in the mid 20th century. Ellen Parr, born well-off, struggles when her father loses his money. Trying to cope in a run-down cottage with her impractical mother, Ellen finds unexpected kindness from her schoolmate Lucy’s family and a local handyman. Ten years later, recently married Ellen finds young Pamela asleep on a bus after Southampton is bombed in December, 1940. Although Ellen’s husband, a miller, doesn’t want to keep Pamela, they do. Eventually, they have to give Pamela back to her relatives in a heart-wrenching scene. Much later, schoolgirl Penny needs somewhere to stay after a flood and during school holidays. This first novel, while a tearjerker at times, is a compelling, satisfying, and ultimately heartwarming read.
Brenda

Washington Black

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

A remarkable book to savor, about the remarkable journeys made by young Washington, from boyhood on a sugar plantation in Barbados, fleeing by airship and boat to Virginia then following a scientist to the Canadian Arctic. A young slave born in 1830 who doesn’t know his mother’s name, Wash is loaned to his master’s brother Christopher, a scientist building an airship. Pursued by a bounty hunter to the United States, Wash becomes a gifted illustrator and develops a fascination for marine life. Wondering why he was chosen and abandoned propels loyal, curious Wash from the Canadian Artic to Nova Scotia and eventually to London, Amsterdam, and a desert to find his answers. Compelling but not a fast read, character-driven but with a wonderful sense of place, this award-winning novel is one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.

Brenda

 

That Churchill Woman

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

Jennie Jerome visits Europe with her mother and sisters in 1873 and catches the attention of Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill. She will become best known as Winston Churchill’s mother, but this book just covers her childhood and marriage to Randolph. Jennie is vividly shown here as glamorous and scandalous, but also smart, sympathetic, and complex. She can definitely keep a secret, had a fascinating childhood, and is a distant but loving mother. Jennie falls in love with a diplomat, finds that an old friend is not to be trusted, and is surprisingly loyal to Randolph in her own fashion. Colorful and sensational, this biographical novel is sure to please readers interested in the sumptuous Gilded Age.

Brenda

The Gown

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Residents of postwar London are still dealing with rationing and a slow recovery. Ann Hughes, an embroiderer for designer Norman Hartnell, is thrilled to be chosen to work on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown, along with French immigrant Miriam. Decades later in Toronto, Heather seeks to learn more about her grandmother’s past. This is a sure winner with wide appeal, especially for Anglophiles and royal watchers, with appealing characters and a compelling plot. I could not put this book down, and really enjoyed reading about life in 1947 London, and how Miriam and Ann dealt with their challenges.

Brenda

Paris for One

Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

A thoroughly enjoyable collection of eight short stories and a novella, set in England and Paris. All the stories are told by women, while the novella gives two points of view. Nell, who gives talks on risk assessment, splurges on a long weekend in Paris, surprising her boyfriend Pete. When Nell arrives in Paris alone, she would prefer to stay in her hotel room all weekend, except that she’s unexpectedly sharing her room with an American woman, and there’s no room service. With help from a hotel receptionist and handsome waiter Fabien, Nell takes a chance and explores Paris. An employee stays calm during a jewelry store robbery with startling results, another woman finds someone has switched gym bags and left her expensive high heeled shoes behind, and Chrissie finds a kind London cabbie giving her a new perspective on Christmas shopping for her unappreciative family. I really enjoyed the novella and hope that the author turns some of the short stories into novellas or novels. I listened to the audiobook, and enjoyed Fiona Hardingham’s narration of these appealing, humorous, and heartwarming stories.
Brenda

 

Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Tina lives on a farm in East Anglia where she cooks, does bookkeeping, and enjoys her young grandchildren. She writes a letter to the author of a book about  prehistoric Tollund Man. The author has died, but her letter is answered by Anders, a widowed Danish museum curator. Tina had always planned to visit the Tollund Man exhibit with her friend Bella. Life got in the way, and Bella has recently died. The pair continue to exchange letters, then emails, and the reader learns about their lives and recent losses. Bittersweet and utterly charming, I didn’t want this book to end. Readalikes include Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole and Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Brenda