The Second Sleep

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Robert Harris has written books set in ancient Rome (Pompeii), in 1938 (Munich), and in the near future (Conclave), so I was intrigued to see a medieval setting. Young priest Christopher Fairfax travels to a small town to bury their priest, but all is not as it seems, for Christopher or for the reader. Very hard to put down, with plenty of unpredictable plot twists. An antiquarian society is deemed heretical by the Church in this often dark, thought-provoking thriller.
Brenda

Goodnight from London

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

In June, 1940, Ruby Sutton, a young reporter in New York City, accepts an assignment to report on the war from London at Picture Weekly magazine. Ruby, as an American, brings a fresh perspective to stories of home front England and the Blitz, mentored by veteran photographer Mary Buchanan and editor Kaz. Ruby is befriended by Captain Bennett, who has a secret wartime job; a romance seems likely. Over the next few years, Ruby, raised in an orphanage, finds a new family and home in London. A very compelling read, there are naturally some poignant scenes, but this is more heartwarming than many novels set during the war. If you’re in the mood for an excellent historical novel with memorable characters, this is a sure bet. For more about Ruby, Kaz, and Bennett, read The Gown, which we’re discussing Tuesday night at the library. Readalikes include books by Jennifer Ryan, Lissa Evans, Beatriz Williams, and AJ Pearce.
Brenda

 

Downton Abbey

Books and Videos for Fans of Downton Abbey

Fiction

Bradford, Barbara Taylor. Cavendon Hall
Follett, Ken. Fall of Giants
Galsworthy, John. The Forsyte Saga
Goodwin, Daisy. An American Heiress
Harper, Karen. American Duchess
Hollinghurst, Alan. The Stranger’s Child
Ibbotson, Eva. A Countess Below Stairs
Ishiguro, Kazuo. Remains of the Day
Kinghorn, Judith. The Echo of Twilight
Morton, Kate. The House at Riverton
Steel, Danielle. Beauchamp Hall
Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited
Weldon, Fay. Habits of the House; Long Live the King; The New Countess
Wharton, Edith. Buccaneers; The House of Mirth
White, Roseanna. The Lost Heiress

Mysteries

Arlen, Tessa. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
Eccles, Marjorie. Heirs and Assigns
Fellowes, Jessica. The Mitford Murders
Maxwell, Alyssa. A Murderous Marriage

Non-Fiction

Carnarvon, Countess of. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
Fellowes, Jessica. Downton Abbey: A Celebration
Gardiner, Juliet. Manor House
Livingstone, Natalie. The Mistresses of Cliveden
Moran, Mollie. Minding the Manor
Powell, Margaret. Below Stairs; Servants’ Hall
Rowley, Emma. Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey
Warwick, Sarah. Upstairs and Downstairs

Videos

Brideshead Revisited
The Forsyte Saga
Gosford Park
Howards End
Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate
Remains of the Day
The Shooting Party
Secrets of Iconic British Estates
Secrets of the Manor House
Upstairs, Downstairs

Enjoy some of these titles before, after, or instead of watching the new Downton Abbey movie. Enjoy!

Brenda

The Right Sort of Man

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

Despite the title, this appealing first novel is a historical mystery, not a romance. In 1946, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow, have combined their unique talents to open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in Mayfair, London. Iris can’t talk much about her work during the war, but she has all sorts of contacts and can pick locks. Wealthy Gwen has a young son and a gift for matchmaking. After their latest client, shop clerk Tillie La Salle, is found dead and her match, accountant Dickie Trower is charged with her murder, Iris and Gwen team up to save their business. They investigate Tillie’s connections to the black market and Gwen learns to travel around London by bus, visiting Dickie in prison, where he’s worried about his goldfish. The postwar London setting is richly detailed, the characters are likeable and believable, and the dialogue is witty. I’m already looking forward to Montclair’s next book, A Royal Affair, to be published next June.

Brenda

A Single Thread

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

At 38, Violet Speedwell is one of England’s surplus women, her fiancé one of many young men who died in the Great War. Weary of her mother’s demands and complaints, Violet takes a position as typist and moves to the cathedral city of Winchester in 1932. Barely making ends meet until she speaks up and gets more hours, Violet finds a satisfying hobby when she joins the Broderers’ Guild, embroidering kneelers and cushions for the cathedral, often while listening to the bell ringers. The story is compelling and absorbing rather than fast-paced, with a strong sense of place and the wonderfully imperfect Violet, who has to talk herself into taking a planned walking holiday. Sure to be popular with book groups, I enjoyed this book more than any of Chevalier’s books I’ve read since Remarkable Creatures.
Brenda

A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

In a land much like Renaissance Italy, only in a world with two moons and no Greece, the ripple effects of decisions made by a tailor’s son and a pagan healer have lasting impact. Kay is known for his epic fantasy; this book reads more like historical fiction. Not fast-paced except for a few notable scenes including two horse races, this is a novel to savor. The setting is gorgeously drawn without being overly detailed and the numerous characters are realistic. Strong female characters such as a duke’s daughter turned assassin add appeal. If you haven’t discovered Kay, who’s published a novel every two to three years since 1984, then you’re in for a real treat if you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy. Start anywhere, perhaps with Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Ysabel, or Under Heaven. His previous book, Children of Earth and Sky is set twenty-five years after A Brightness Long Ago.

Brenda

 

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