The Other Windsor Girl

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock

Princess Margaret is 19 when Vera Strathmore’s cousin Rupert introduces them. Vera, who lost her fiancé in the war, writes romance novels under a pen name and dreams of moving to New York City to write. Swept up in Princess Margaret’s social set, Vera becomes a lady-in-waiting to the temperamental princess. In Blalock’s novel, the princess enjoys dancing, drinking, smoking, flirting, and Captain Peter Townsend. Vera puts her writing dreams on hold indefinitely, and her work for the princess gets more demanding over the years. Viewers of The Crown will be familiar with the plot and setting, but Vera’s viewpoint has both clarity and empathy. A fun, escapist read, with plenty of gorgeous gowns.

Brenda

The Lost Jewels

The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

Long buried treasure. An American historian specializing in jewels, Kate Kirby. Her great-grandmother, Irish immigrant Essie Murphy. An antique pendant worn by Kate’s cousin Bella. All of these, along with a handsome photographer, are linked to the true story of the Cheapside Jewels, over 500 pieces of jewelry buried in a cellar sometime before the Great London Fire of 1666, and uncovered in 1912. They include a diamond from India, an emerald from Columbia, and a cameo of Queen Elizabeth I. Kate and photographer Marcus search for the story of these jewels and find long-hidden secrets of Essie and her sister. A page-turner that’s occasionally bittersweet but ends happily in two time periods, this is a good readalike for historical novels by Beatriz Williams, Kate Morton, and Fiona Davis.

Brenda

The Exiles

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The author of Orphan Train returns with a novel set in the 1840s, in England, on a perilous ocean voyage aboard the Medea, and on an island in southeastern Australia. This is not the sort of book I was in the mood to read, yet I couldn’t put it down. Naïve governess Evangeline is transported as a convict to Australia along with young Hazel, an herbalist and midwife, who delivers Evangeline’s baby on the ship, along with a sympathetic doctor. Also on the island unwillingly is Mathinna, orphaned daughter of an Aboriginal chief, who is taken from her stepfather by the governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). Hardship, the abuse of power, the resilience of women, opportunity, and hope fill this well-researched epic novel. This is an August LibraryRead selection.

Brenda

Three Mysteries

A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth, & Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Travel back in time with me to three mysteries set in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921, Inspector Ian Rutledge travels to Avebury in Wiltshire, to investigate a death by a standing stone, part of the largest stone circle in England. Since then, many more of the stones have been uncovered, but even then it was apparently an uncanny place. Rutledge, having solved a similar crime in Shropshire, is asked to take over Chief Inspector Brian Leslie’s case. When some new evidence, painstakingly discovered, contradicts Leslie’s report, Rutledge has to decide where his loyalty lies. There are many twists and turns along the way, an atmospheric setting, and even a pursuit at night on horseback. One of the best in this long-running series.

In 1929, Charles Moray has come home to England to his inherited house, only to hear voices and see a light in the supposedly vacant house. His former fiancée Margaret, is mixed up in a gang of criminals, but is willing to help Charles save the life of a lovely but naïve young girl, Margot. This is the first mystery featuring Miss Maud Silver, retired governess turned sleuth, and the mystery was suspenseful and fast-paced. I found the book hard to put down, surprising me as this book was published in 1929. Perhaps a new mystery with a similar setting and plot would have more violence, but maybe not. Miss Silver was a contemporary of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, but is not as well known.
The first Inspector de Silva mystery is set in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in the 1930s. Shanti de Silva is enjoying his work in the town of Nuala, driving his Morris car and picnicking with his wife, until a complaint is made against an English tea plantation owner, and then a body is found at the plantation. Shanti’s wife Jane, a former governess, befriends the plantation owner’s wife. A lovely setting, a cricket game, and some fine detecting add to the reader’s pleasure. Dark Clouds Over Nuala is the next book in the series.
I enjoyed all three mysteries, and plan to read more by these authors.
Brenda

 

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful mystery, a sequel to The Right Sort of Man. Widowed Gwen Bainbridge and former intelligence operative Iris Sparks run The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, where their diverse talents make them successful matchmakers in post World War II London. When Gwen’s cousin asks for help in vetting a suitor for Princess Elizabeth, the adventures begin. Wonderfully witty dialogue, appealingly complex characters, and lots of action scenes put this mystery on my list of sure bets for summer reading. A July 28 publication date is planned.

Brenda

A Useful Woman

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

This is the engaging first book in a mystery series set during the Regency period in London. In 1817, a few years after her family’s fortunes changed for the worse, Rosalind Thorne lives on the fringes of London society as a personal secretary for fashionable ladies, helping to organize events, shop, and plan debuts for young ladies. When Rosalind’s godmother, Lady Blanchard, is late leaving a meeting with the other patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms, Rosalind finds a body in the ballroom. The dead man’s sister asks Rosalind to look into his death, along with Adam Harkness, a Bow Street Runner. A former beau reappears in Rosalind’s life, and she must balance uncovering secrets with keeping her good reputation. A pleasantly diverting read, followed by A Purely Private Matter, then And Dangerous to Know, which I plan to add to my reading list. All of these titles are available from Media on Demand, our Overdrive/Libby collection. A fourth book is expected in November.

Brenda

Light Changes Everything

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner

Readers of Turner’s historical novels These Is My Words and Sarah’s Quilt will be eager to read about Sarah’s niece, Mary Pearl Prine. Mary is 17 in 1907 and lives on her family’s pecan farm in Arizona Territory. She loves to read and draw, and is invited to study art at Wheaton College in Illinois. May’s mother would rather see her get married, and Mary does have a likely suitor. Family life on the frontier contrasts strongly with life at Wheaton College, where society girls care more about parties and dresses than studying. Mary, with her horse and pistol, doesn’t exactly fit in. She discovers a talent for photography, and a photograph of lightning becomes especially valuable to her family. A personal crisis sends Mary home straight into a ranger war, with her younger brothers in grave danger. Full of drama and adventure, Mary’s coming-of-age story is a memorable, compelling read.

Brenda

 

The Operator

The Operator by Gretchen Berg

Vivian Dalton, a telephone operator in Wooster, Ohio, is jealous of rich Betty Miller and hopes she’ll hear some juicy gossip when she listens in on her phone calls. Devastated to hear gossip about her husband Ed, Vivian is embarrassed but determined to find out the truth. Vivian’s daughter Charlotte is puzzled by her mother’s attitude to her father, and wonders about the poems she finds in the attic and the money tucked into a hat box. Life in small town Ohio in 1952 is vividly described in this first novel inspired by the life of the author’s grandmother. While not a very pleasant character at first, Vivian, who inadvertently finds a lead in a Wooster bank robbery, gains the reader’s sympathy as the story develops, and the heartwarming conclusion is quite satisfying, especially as the snobbish Betty Miller gets her just desserts.

Brenda

 

Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

The author of the acclaimed novel News of the World returns to Texas in 1865 for another beautifully told adventure. Simon the fiddler has three goals in life: to protect his precious fiddle and his hands, to save enough money to buy a piece of land, and to win the heart and hand of Miss Doris Dillon, an Irish immigrant. The story is bookended by a pair of brawls; one gets Simon conscripted into the Confederate Army at the end of the Civil War while the other lands him in jail. Simon and a mismatched group of musicians, including drummer boy Patrick, travel through post-war Texas, playing music in bars, hotels, and at parties, starting out in rented white shirts. The many fans of News of the World will welcome this colorful tale, to be published April 14, and won’t want Simon’s story to end.

Brenda

The Case of the Wandering Scholar

The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders

While this is the second book in the Laetitia Rodd series, this is an excellent place to begin this thoroughly enjoyable Victorian mystery series. Laetitia is a middle-aged widow of an archdeacon, and sister to Fred, a criminal barrister. Fred occasionally finds Laetitia assignments as a discreet private investigator. She moves in a variety of society circles, has a wide acquaintance among the clergy, and can certainly use the money. A dying man is looking to be reconciled with his brother Joshua, once a scholar at Oxford, who now wanders the countryside. Mrs. Rodd’s search becomes tangled with a series of murders and a long-ago theft. When two young friends are arrested for murder, Laetitia investigates, along with the gruff Inspector Blackbeard. 1851 London and Oxford really come to life, the mystery is intricately plotted, and Laetitia is absolutely wonderful company. I look forward to her next assignment. The first book is The Secrets of Wishtide.

Brenda