Book Showcase: BLOOMSBURY GIRLS by Natalie Jenner

BLOOMSBURY GIRLS by Natalie Jenner book coverBloomsbury Girls by Natalie M. Jenner
ISBN: 9781250276698 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250276704 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250852328 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09CNDV5GJ (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B09ZVJFBDN (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances—most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time—Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others—these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

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A Message from Natalie Jenner

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards,
Natalie

Read an excerpt:

The Tyrant was Alec McDonough, a bachelor in his early thirties who ran the New Books, Fiction & Art Department on the ground floor of Bloomsbury Books. He had read literature and fine art at the University of Bristol and been planning on a career in something big—Vivien accused him of wanting to run a small colony—when the war had intervened. Following his honourable discharge in 1945, Alec had joined the shop on the exact same day as Vivien. “By an hour ahead. Like a dominant twin,” she would quip whenever Alec was rewarded with anything first.

From the start Alec and Vivien were rivals, and not just for increasing control of the fiction floor. Every editor that wandered in, every literary guest speaker, was a chance for them to have access to the powers that be in the publishing industry. As two secretly aspiring writers, they had each come to London and taken the position at Bloomsbury Books for this reason. But they were also both savvy enough to know that the men in charge—from the rigid Mr. Dutton and then-head-of-fiction Graham Kingsley, to the restless Frank Allen and crusty Master Mariner Scott—were whom they first needed to please. Alec had a clear and distinct advantage when it came to that. Between the tales of wartime service, shared grammar schools, and past cricket-match victories, Vivien grew quickly dismayed at her own possibility for promotion.

Sure enough, within weeks Alec had quickly entrenched himself with both the long-standing general manager, Herbert Dutton, and his right-hand man, Frank Allen. By 1948, upon the retirement of Graham Kingsley, Alec had ascended to the post of head of fiction, and within the year had added new books and art to his oversight—an achievement which Vivien still referred to as the Annexation.

She had been first to call him the Tyrant; he called her nothing at all. Vivien’s issues with Alec ranged from the titles they stocked on the shelves, to his preference for booking events exclusively with male authors who had served in war. With her own degree in literature from Durham (Cambridge, her dream university, still refusing in 1941 to graduate women), Vivien had rigorously informed views on the types of books the fiction department should carry. Not surprisingly, Alec disputed these views.

“But he doesn’t even read women,” Vivien would bemoan to Grace, who would nod back in sympathy while trying to remember her grocery list before the bus journey home. “I mean, what—one Jane Austen on the shelves? No Katherine Mansfield. No Porter. I mean, I read that Salinger story in The New Yorker he keeps going on about: shell-shocked soldiers and children all over the place, and I don’t see what’s so masculine about that.”

Unlike Vivien, Grace did not have much time for personal reading, an irony her husband often pointed out. But Grace did not work at the shop for the books. She worked there because the bus journey into Bloomsbury took only twenty minutes, she could drop the children off at school on the way, and she could take the shop newspapers home at the end of the day. Grace had been the one to suggest that they also carry import magazines, in particular The New Yorker. Being so close to the British Museum and the theatre district, Bloomsbury Books received its share of wealthy American tourists. Grace was convinced that such touches from home would increase their time spent browsing, along with jazz music on the wireless by the front cash, one of many ideas that Mr. Dutton was still managing to resist.

Vivien and Alec had manned the ground floor of the shop together for over four years, circling each other within the front cash counter like wary lions inside a very small coliseum. The square, enclosed counter had been placed in the centre of the fiction department in an effort to contain an old electrical outlet box protruding from the floor. Mr. Dutton could not look at this eyesore without seeing a customer lawsuit for damages caused by accidental tripping. Upon his promotion to general manager in the 1930s, Dutton had immediately ordained that the front cash area be relocated and built around the box.

This configuration had turned out to be of great benefit to the staff. One could always spot a customer coming from any direction, prepare the appropriate response to expressions ranging from confused to hostile, and even catch the surreptitious slip of an unpurchased book into a handbag. Other bookshops had taken note of Bloomsbury Books’ ground-floor design and started refurbishing their own. The entire neighbourhood was, in this way, full of spies. Grace and Vivien were not the only two bookstore employees out and about, checking on other stores’ window displays. London was starting to boom again, after five long years of postwar rationing and recovery, and new bookshops were popping up all over. Bloomsbury was home to the British Museum, the University of London, and many famous authors past and present, including the prewar circle of Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. This made the district a particularly ideal location for readers, authors, and customers alike.

And so, it was here, on a lightly snowing day on the second of January, 1950, that a young Evie Stone arrived, Mr. Allen’s trading card in one pocket, and a one-way train ticket to London in the other.

Excerpt from The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner.
Copyright © 2022 by Natalie Jenner. Published by St. Martin’s Press, New York. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Author Natalie Jenner Headshot

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This excerpt and tour brought to you by AustenProse

Book Showcase: A DISTURBING NATURE by Brian Lebeau

A DISTURBING NATURE by Brian Lebeau book coverA Disturbing Nature by Brian Lebeau
ISBN: 9781953865496 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781953865502 (ebook)
ASIN: B09VYK2NKD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Books Fluent
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Mystery | Suspense

When FBI Chief Investigator Francis Palmer and Maurice Lumen’s paths collide, a dozen young women are already dead—bodies strewn in the woods across southern New England. Crippled by the loss of their families and haunted by mistakes, they wrestle with skeletons and ghosts neither understands. Who is destined to pay for the sins of their fathers, and who will pay for their own?

Under a celebrity veneer, the Beast in Palmer simmers. Called back from an investigation that’s gone dry in Seattle to his field office in Boston, he’s assigned to a case closer to home. Without closure and carrying the scars of every predator he’s hunted down, Palmer’s thrust into a new killer’s destructive path and forced to confront his own demons.

On the surface, Mo Lumen seems an unlikely suspect. Abandoned by the Great Society and sheltered from the countercultural revolution, he’s forced to leave Virginia under the shadow of secrets and accusations. Emerging in Rhode Island, burdened with childlike innocence, reminders of the past threaten to resurrect old carcasses.

Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

A psychological thriller set in the summer of 1975, A Disturbing Nature explores the concept of two deaths, blurring the line between man and monster.

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Read an Excerpt:

Palmer pushes his apartment door open with the key still in the knob. Six months of stale, pent-up air swarms the hallway and infests his nostrils, a bitter greeting following a prolonged absence. Suitcase wheels echo off bare walls and his two daughters smile at him from their easel-backed five-by-sevens as he shuts the door with his foot and heads to the shower.

Water drips from his hair and collects around his feet, the sting of leaving Seattle’s acid rain mixing with the anguish of returning to Boston’s polluted harbor. He wipes the walls and squeegees the glass, clearing the mist, but leaving the grime. Staring into the mirror as he shaves, Palmer sees The Monster. Still in his head. Still on the loose.

It feels twelve hours later than it is. Palmer closes the curtains to shield himself from the unforgiving midday sun, turns on the television to drown out the vehicular fist thrusts and extended fingers of Boston traffic, and props up a pillow to receive his aching head. Nothing worth watching, he shuffles to bed and stares at the phone on the nightstand. He knows he can’t call; she’ll be at work and the girls will be with their friends. He reaches for the receiver, grabbing a cigarette instead. Sitting at the edge and lighting, he takes an extended drag before resting his head in his palms.

The contrived tension of a soap opera playing in the living room and the heated burbles of Mr. Coffee working in the kitchen serve as background noise to Palmer’s rambling thoughts. Why did Osmond have to go on vacation now? Why would he fly home on a Monday? One more day isn’t so bad, he assures himself, but it’s been over a month since Osmond and Ross left Seattle. They’ve talked on the phone once since then, but Osmond didn’t mention anything about a vacation at the time. This is the longest stretch they haven’t worked together in eighteen years, all the way back to when Osmond was hospitalized.

Palmer knows Osmond kept him safe when the nightmares started. He protected Palmer when The Beast tried to take over, succeeding almost every time Palmer sought to explore the darker path. He shared the responsibility with Marilyn for bringing Palmer back to the respectable world of white-collar family man. Palmer walked the edge and Osmond held his hand.

Again, Palmer looks at the phone. This time he knows there’s no point; Osmond’s on a flight back from Antigua. Palmer pulls himself from the edge of the bed and staggers to the bathroom. Dumping several Valium down his throat, he checks the red clouds forming on the outside edges of his eyes and yawns. Are Ted’s eyes bloodshot, too? Juggling law school and nighttime activities? How many more young girls?

Palmer scoops the excess foam from a can of shaving cream on the counter, smearing it across the mirror. He sees the lines in his forehead and the creases in his neck, nothing in between. This time, Ted’s eyes do not stare back. Palmer knows he must have closure and take down monsters like Ted before they get to his daughters. And he needs a new investigation to purge his mind of The Monster’s depravity.

He walks back to bed, his eyelids almost closed, and crawls under the covers. He imagines Osmond poolside, sharing a rum punch with his wife. Marilyn and the girls are swimming in the pool while he lounges under an umbrella with a scotch mist and a crossword puzzle. And he’s himself again, until the Valium wears off. And the demons return.

Excerpt from A Disturbing Nature by Brian Lebeau.
Copyright © 2022 by Brian Lebeau
Published by arrangement with Books Fluent

 

Meet The Author

Author Brian Lebeau

One month after The Beatles arrived, with much fanfare, in America, Brian Lebeau was born, unceremoniously, in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden. After being awarded an “A” in high school English once and denied a career in music for “lack of talent” repeatedly, he taught economics at several colleges and universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island before moving to Fauquier County, Virginia, to work as a defense contractor for two decades. In the psychological thriller A Disturbing Nature, Mr. Lebeau merges three key interests: a keen fascination with everything World War II, a morbid curiosity surrounding the motivations and mayhem of notorious serial killers, and a lifelong obsession with the Red Sox. A Disturbing Nature is Mr. Lebeau’s first book.

Connect with the Author:  Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Website
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Book Spotlight: THE BOOK WOMAN’S DAUGHTER by Kim Michele Richardson

THE BOOK WOMAN'S DAUGHTER by Kim Michele RIchardsonThe Book Woman’s Daughter, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek #2, by Kim Michele Richardson
ISBN: 9781728242590 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728252995 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781728242606 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781665066594 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09HY61WGX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09DTLD7DK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmarks
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction | Southern Fiction

Bestselling historical fiction author Kim Michele Richardson is back with the perfect book club read following Honey Mary Angeline Lovett, the daughter of the beloved Troublesome book woman, who must fight for her own independence with the help of the women who guide her and the books that set her free.

Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive, but the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t as keen to let a woman pave her own way. If Honey wants to bring the freedom that books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (hardcover) | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Advance Praise for The Book Woman’s Daughter

Sara Gruen advance praise

 

William Kent Krueger advance praise quote

 

Ron Rash advance praise quote

The Book Woman’s Daughter combines themes of sisterhood and justice with vivid depictions of the Kentucky landscape, making it a good choice for book groups and readers of historical women’s fiction.” Booklist

“Richardson excels in her descriptions of the people and places of rural Kentucky. Fans will be delighted to find Cussy’s daughter is just as plucky as her mother.” Publishers Weekly

Meet The Author

Author Kim Michele Richardson

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson is a multiple-award-winning author and has written four works of historical fiction, and a bestselling memoir.

Her latest critically acclaimed novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek has earned a 2020 PBS Readers Choice, 2019 LibraryReads Best Book, Indie Next, SIBA, Forbes Best Historical Novel, Book-A-Million Best Fiction, and is an Oprah’s Buzziest Books pick and a Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads selection. It was inspired by the real-life, remarkable “blue people” of Kentucky, and the fierce, brave Packhorse Librarians who used the power of literacy to overcome bigotry and fear during the Great Depression. The novel is taught widely in high schools and college classrooms.

Her forthcoming fifth novel, The Book Woman’s Daughter is both a stand-alone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and will be published May 3, 2022. Born in Kentucky, Kim Michele lives with her family there and is the founder of Shy Rabbit.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Book Showcase: THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM by Claudia Gray

THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM by Claudia GrayThe Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray
ISBN: 9780593313817 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593313824 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593592342 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09JMN3MQQ (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B09L5DFNFZ (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Historical Fiction | Historical Mystery | Cozy Mystery | Austenesque

A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.

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Advance Praise

“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written. Devotees of Austen’s timeless novels will get the greatest possible pleasure from this wonderful book. Immense fun and beautifully observed. Delicious!” —Alexander McCall Smith

“What a splendid conceit! . . . Gray provides plenty of backstory and enough depth to her characters that even those who mix up their Pride and Prejudice with their Sense and Sensibility will delight in the Agatha Christie–style mystery. . . . There’s so much fun to be had in this reimagined Austen world—and the mystery is so strong—that one can only hope, dear reader, that more books will follow.” —Ilene Cooper, Booklist (starred review)

“[An] enchanting mystery. . . . Gray perfectly captures the personalities of Austen’s beloved characters. This is a real treat for Austenites.” Publishers Weekly

“Who would NOT want to read a book in which one of literature’s most notorious rakes meets his final demise? . . . A delightful Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen romp.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Read an excerpt:

 

Chapter Two

 

Three times now, Fitzwilliam Darcy had believed himself permanently rid of the odious presence of George Wickham. Three times, he’d been wrong. The division eight months ago had seemed as though it had to be final, but no. Fate could be pernicious.

“Ah,” Wickham said, strolling forward. “I see my timing is inopportune. In the city, you see, the fashion is for later dinners.”

Knightley stood, pale and drawn. He looked as though he loathed Wickham as much as Darcy did. “You would not have been invited at any hour.”

Wickham’s smile widened. Somehow, in the heart of a confrontation, the man managed to seem even more at ease. “If I waited for an invitation to receive that which is mine in right of law—yes, Mr. Knightley, I imagine my wait would be very long.”

Knightley’s lips pressed together. Emma’s face had flushed with ill-repressed anger. Nor were they the only persons agitated at the table: Wentworth’s expression was dark, and his wife had tensed, as though she expected to have to fly from her chair to hold him back. Worst of all was dear Elizabeth, frozen like ice in her seat; her fingers were wrapped tightly around the hilt of her dinner knife. Jonathan’s distrust of his uncle clearly warred with his concern for his mother.

As for the Brandons, the Bertrams, and the young Miss Tilney: they each appeared deeply confused by the sudden, severe deviation from common civility. Therefore, none of them had ever met George Wickham before. Darcy envied them the privilege.

A loud clap of thunder rumbled through the air, the house, the ground itself. In the next instant, raindrops began to pelt the windows and ground, striking the windowpanes until they rattled.

Darcy could’ve cursed aloud. To judge by the hoofbeats he’d heard outside earlier, Wickham had arrived on horseback rather than by carriage, and not even the most odious company would be thrown out in such weather. Particularly in such hilly country as this corner of Surrey—to attempt to ride in a severe thunderstorm risked the health and nerves of one’s horse, and even one’s life.

Wickham raised an eyebrow, as aware as anyone of the etiquette that imprisoned his hosts. “It seems I shall be staying for a while.”

*

“I fear we cannot accommodate you at the table, Mr. Wickham.” Mrs. Knightley pushed her chair back as abruptly as an ill-mannered child. Jonathan would’ve been scolded for less, as a boy. She said, “Allow me to get you settled, and the servants will bring something up to you for dinner.” With that she strode out of the room. After a moment, Wickham inclined his head to the table—an ironical half bow—then followed her.

Had she done the right thing? The normal rules could not apply to such a situation as this. Jonathan would’ve resolved to ask his parents later had they not appeared so stricken. No, he would be left to interpret this for himself.

A silence followed, empty of words and yet suffocatingly heavy. Finally, Knightley cleared his throat. “My dear guests, I must beg your pardon. The gentleman who has arrived is . . . no friend to this household. Yet there are matters between us that must be resolved.”

“He seemed insolent in the extreme,” said Mrs. Brandon, astonishingly forthright. “What a disagreeable person.”

In any other circumstances, Jonathan might’ve found such a pronouncement rude; tonight, people seemed freed to speak their thoughts—and to the whole table, at that. Understandable, perhaps, but in his opinion it set a dangerous precedent.

“George Wickham is indeed disagreeable,” Knightley agreed, “however skilled he is at pretending otherwise.”

Brandon spoke for the first time at dinner. “Did you say—Mr. George Wickham?”

Knightley nodded. “A former army officer, who now fancies himself an arranger of investments. Bah! Investments that work to his own gain and everyone else’s loss.”

“Certainly to ours,” Wentworth said, his voice hollow.

Jonathan saw Mrs. Wentworth wince.

But she rallied swiftly, turning to Darcy and asking very civilly, “How are you acquainted with Mr. Wickham, sir?”

“We grew up together in Derbyshire,” Darcy said. Brandon’s fork clattered against the dinner plate. Jonathan wondered—How could anyone continue eating at such a time? “He was the son of my late father’s steward. As adults, our ways parted for many years.”

To his surprise, it was Mother who spoke next. “Then Mr. Wickham married my sister Lydia.”

And Lydia and George Wickham had had a daughter.

For a moment, Jonathan remembered Susannah so vividly that she might’ve been sitting at his side, giggling as she so often did, dark curls framing her round, smiling face. To him, she had been more sister than cousin. To his parents, Susannah had been more daughter than niece. He knew himself and his brothers to be dearly loved, but he knew also that for many years his mother and father had longed for a little girl that never came.

Then, eight years ago, Susannah had been born—the belated first and only child of his aunt and uncle. Neither Aunt Lydia nor Uncle George had possessed much interest in the daily tedium of child-rearing; as soon as Susannah had left her wet nurse, she had been packed off to Pemberley for lengthy visits. Indeed, Susannah had spent far more of her short life in his home than she ever had with her parents. This suited everyone: Mother and Father, who doted on the child; Jonathan and his brothers, who were old enough to find her odd little ways amusing rather than irritating; Aunt Lydia and Uncle George, who showed no evidence of ever missing their daughter; and Susannah herself, who wept piteously before each of her journeys home and always ran back into Pemberley as fast as her small legs would bear her.

She would never run through the doors again.

Excerpt from The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray.
Copyright © 2022 by Claudia Gray. Published by Vintage Books, A Division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Author Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs.

Connect with the author via:   BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This excerpt and tour brought to you by AustenProse PR

Book Spotlight: THE FERVOR by Alma Katsu

THE FERVOR by Alma KatsuThe Fervor by Alma Katsu
ISBN: 9780593328330 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593328347 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593552421 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09FW9G5ZX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09B8NJS8C (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction | Gothic & Horror | Suspense Thriller

 

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Advance Praise for The Fervor

One of CrimeReads’ Most Anticipated Crime Fiction 2022
One of Book Mark‘s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of April
One of CNN‘s Most Anticipated Reads of April
One of Crime Read’s Recommended Books of April

Advance Praise for THE FERVOR by Library Journal

“Katsu has no peer when it comes to atmospheric, detail-rich historical horror, but this volume is more unsettling than anything she’s written yet, because its demons attack readers uncomfortably close to home. A must-read for all, not just genre fans.” Library Journal (starred review)

“The action leaps off the page and has a cinematic quality. The Fervor is a stunning triumph and unfurls like a masterfully woven tapestry. It is suffused with secrets, pain, Japanese myths long thought forgotten, and above all the guilt that permeates throughout. . . . The ghosts of this story will haunt readers long after they’re finished reading.” —Booklist (starred review)

“The plot moves at a dizzying pace . . . a balance of incisive detail and steady progression . . . What appears to be a story of supernatural suspense mixed with historical fiction transforms into an important reminder of the United States’ short memory of its own atrocities and its long history of anti-Asian sentiment, violence, and racism. . . . It’s enjoyable to experience the ambitious, weblike weaving of the book’s many elements.” Kirkus Reviews

“No one does historical gothic horror better than Katsu, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in this very creepy tale.” CrimeReads

“Another enthralling historical horror novel.” Book Riot

“Katsu weaves myriad perspectives into a powerful historical horror novel centered on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. . . . The meticulous and compassionate portraiture, placed against the backdrop of what evils humans do to one another, creates a horror that renders even the creepiest spiders merely decorative in comparison. Horror readers looking for sharp social commentary should snap this up.” Publishers Weekly

“I’m in awe of Alma Katsu’s uncanny ability to take historical fiction and infuse it with something so dark and otherworldly. I read this book in two sittings and during the night in between, I dreamt about it. A supernatural story with true heartache.” —Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Meet The Author

Author – Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of seven novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a 35-year career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies, including the CIA and NSA, as well as RAND. Katsu is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. She lives in West Virginia with her husband.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Guest Post: Julie Bates – CRY OF THE INNOCENT

Good day, my bookish peeps. Can you imagine not ever knowing anything about the American Civil War, the Regency period, the Dark Ages, WWII, etc.? With the advent of the printing press and the talents of so many gifted authors (fiction and nonfiction), we can travel to these time periods and learn about and from them. Readers are, in essence, armchair travelers. We are fortunate to travel the globe and beyond with the wonder of the printed word. I’m very pleased to welcome today’s guest, Julie Bates, author of the historical fiction read, Cry of the Innocent. Ms. Bates will be talking about time travel with us this morning. Sit back, relax with your favorite beverage, and let’s see what she has to say on this subject. Thank you, Ms. Bates, for joining us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

You Can Travel Any Time You Like
by Julie Bates

When people ask me why I write historical fiction, I have to say that its one way I can travel time. The written word allows us to be in whatever time period and whatever place we desire. I’ve always had an active imagination peopled with unicorns, faeries, classic cars and interesting characters. I still have a few of my teen age notebooks filled with half written stories of wild adventures and exotic places. They run the gamut from westerns to Tolkienish fantasy to hippy-like Miss Marples. I read through them whenever I feel my ego needs resizing. They make me laugh (they’re really awful). But they also remind me that the travels of the imagination know no bounds.

My current series, of which Cry of the Innocent is book 1, takes place during the American Revolution. I was drawn to this time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that when I looked I could find strong women who overcame the prejudices of the period to have moderately successful lives. As I have read journals and letters from the period, these women became very real to me. They were women I could identify with and could feel comfortable talking too. I realized that the challenges of balancing work and a family have been around for centuries. Laws and customs may change but the need to survive, find fulfillment and care and protect ones family is a universal theme.

Digging into a time fascinates me. I have to know what people wore, what they ate, and what they did to occupy themselves. It can lead to a dizzying amount of rabbit holes that eventually I must drag myself out of, but I regret none of it. It’s the details that make one feel they have transcended time and feel like they have entered another time and place.

Rather than aggrandize historical figures, I strike to make them human. Seeing George Washington on a dollar bill makes him an icon. Discovering how much he loved dogs and how he rescued General Howe’s dog at the Battle of Germantown and returned it unharmed to the British Officer makes him more human. So does hearing some of the names he gave his dogs such as Tipsy and Sweet Lips.

Reading the letters of John and Abigail Adams reveals how deeply they loved and trusted each other. Her admonishment to “Remember the ladies,” as well as her comment during their courtship that “There is a tye more binding than humanity and stronger than friendship.” Their love shines through the over 1000 letters of theirs that survive.

Although my imagination is pretty good, I like to immerse myself in facts so that I can see my characters at home, doing tasks that were every day to them but novel to a modern world. I’ve never cooked dinner over a fire place but my main character, Faith does it every day. I have no idea what herbs to grow for medicine for my family but colonial ladies had to know these things and past their wisdom on to their daughters, much as my mother used to teach me how to identify trees by their leaves.

Armchair travel allows one to explore other places from the comfort of their home. It requires no passport, and you don’t have to worry about maxing out your credit card. It also allows you to draw on the things you do know and that has been shared with you by friends and family.

One day I intend to write about women’s experiences on the home front of World War II, because this was part of my mother story. She worked In Oak Ridge among other places and told me about all the things she and her twin sister did during those years. She told me about being dreadfully homesick at Christmas and getting to experience the novelty of restaurants and indoor plumbing which were not commonly available in rural Kentucky at that time.

I love reading historical mysteries. My Kindle is loaded with stories about Regency England, the Roaring 20’s, India under British Rule and medieval Japan among others. While I read just about anything, my joy lies in sharing the American Experience. It’s a unique culture not often represented in historic fiction. Although I take guilty pleasure in Julie Mulhern’s Country Club series set in the 1970’s, I don’t see a lot featuring American history so I endeavor to fill that gap. I have had great fun learning things I never did in school and finding ways to share what is fun and interesting and mysterious about America.

So you can travel all sort of places by reading a good book. Maybe one day I will meet you in person, all in good time. ♦

Cry of the Innocent

by Julie Bates

April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Cry of the Innocent by Julie Bates

April 1774 – Within the colonial capital of Virginia, Faith Clarke awakes in the middle of the night to discover a man savagely murdered in her tavern. Phineas Bullard was no stranger. Faith’s late husband had borrowed heavily from the man and left Faith to struggle to pay the debt.

With unrest growing in the American Colonies, the British are eager for a quick resolution at the end of a noose, regardless of guilt. Under suspicion for the crime, she must use every resource at her disposal to prove her innocence and protect those she loves. Her allies are Olivia and Titus, slaves left to her by her late husband’s family, individuals she must find a way to free, even as she finds they also have motives for murder.

Faith seeks to uncover the dead man’s secrets even as they draw close to home. Determined to find the truth, she continues headlong into a web of secrets that hides Tories, Patriots, and killers, not stopping even though she fears no one will hear the cry of the innocent.

Praise for Cry of the Innocent:

“An absorbing, fast-paced, and contemplative whodunit.”
Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: June 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 258
ISBN-10: 1953789773 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781953789778 (paperback)
ASIN: ‎ B096KZ5MK3 (Kindle edition)
Series: A Faith Clarke Mystery, #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Julie Bates

Julie Bates grew up reading little bit of everything, but when she discovered Agatha Christie, she knew she what she wanted to write. Along the way, she has written a weekly column for the Asheboro Courier Tribune (her local newspaper) for two years and published a few articles in magazines such as Spin Off and Carolina Country. She has blogged for Killer Nashville and the educational website Read.Learn.Write. She currently works as a public school teacher for special needs students. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Writers of America (SEMWA) and her local writing group, Piedmont Authors Network (PAN). When not busy plotting her next story, she enjoys doing crafts and spending time with her husband and son, as well as a number of dogs and cats who have shown up on her doorstep and never left.

Catch Up With Julie Bates:
JulieBates.weebly.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @julibates1
Instagram – @juliebates72
Twitter – @JulieLBates03
Facebook – @JulieBates.author

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Guest Post: Eleanor Kuhns – MURDER, SWEET MURDER

Good day, book people. Do you enjoy reading series? I have quite a few series that I read and, surprise, these series aren’t restricted to any one genre. Seriously, some of my favorites are in the historical fiction genre, others are romance or romantic suspense, a few are classified as inspirational, and quite a few are mystery or suspense. One of the many things I find pleasurable about reading a series with more than two or three books is the ongoing development of the characters and their relationships, not to mention the world-building. I’m incredibly honored to welcome back an author that has excelled at the character development and world-building, as well as providing intriguing encounters found in the Will Rees Mysteries, Eleanor Kuhns. Ms. Kuhns is here today celebrating the release of the eleventh book in this series, Murder, Sweet Murder and will be discussing building relationships in her writings. Thank you, Ms. Kuhns, for joining us once again at The Book Diva’s Reads, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Guest Post

Although I usually describe the Will Rees Mysteries as historicals, they are also family stories. In every book, I show the relationships between Rees, his wife Lydia, his children, and the wider world.

In Murder, Sweet Murder, I send Rees and Lydia and two children to Boston. Why Boston? Lydia hails from Boston and readers had asked me several times for more about her and her family. But what could I use as a reason for a journey to Boston, especially in January? Lydia has been estranged from her family for years. As a young woman, she’d fled to the District of Maine and joined the Shakers. (See A Simple Murder.) I already had the character of her father in my mind. And, after writing Death in the Great Dismal and Murder on Principle, both concerning different aspects of slavery, I decided to cast Marcus Farrell as a dealer in enslaved peoples as well as the most likely suspect.

So, Lydia receives a letter from her sister Cordelia begging her to come to Boston. Marcus Ferrell has been accused of murder. Lydia is reluctant but her sister’s pleas, the desire to show off the new baby, and the importance of finding a school for Jerusha, persuade her to make the journey. And, of course, Marcus Farrell is still her father, despite the estrangement.

For the first time, Will meets his wife’s family. Since he has grown up on a poor farm in the District of Maine and makes his living as a weaver, he is thrown by the wealth of the Farrell family, and the upper-class customs. Sharon, the baby, is consigned to the nursery, something neither Will nor Lydia are happy about. Jerusha, a quiet studious girl who wishes to become a teacher, is put in the same room as Lydia’s sister. And Cordelia is a social butterfly whose main preoccupation, besides parties and clothes, is making a good marriage.

Rees is eager to leave almost as soon as he arrives.

Then a second murder occurs, that of Lydia’s uncle Julian who runs the family rum distillery. Before his death, however, he gives Rees and Lydia a lead to her brother James. A sea captain, he too is estranged from his father. Farrell accuses his son of weakness because he refuses to captain any of the ships for his father and be in any way associated with the importation of enslaved peoples; ‘that filthy trade’, in his words. Conditions on the ships were horrific (and research in contemporary accounts would make your hair curl.)

Another murder occurs, one seemingly unrelated to the others, in a family-owned tavern. But Rees is sure there is a connection.

At the same time, Rees and Lydia are dealing with Cordelia’s reckless sneaking out at night to meet the young man she is interested in, as well as visiting a possible school for Jerusha.

Like I said, families. Always complicated. ♦

Murder, Sweet Murder

by Eleanor Kuhns

April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father’s name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.

January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus’s brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia’s brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What’s Marcus hiding and why won’t he accept help?

With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN-10: 0727850091 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9780727850096 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781448307326 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781666580891 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09V6GR7TF ASIN: B09GK7Z8C5 Series: Will Rees Mysteries #11
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible audiobook | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads 

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter – @EleanorKuhns
Facebook – @writerkuhns

We’re also having an insta-party! Visit Instagram – #eleanorkuhns to join us!

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Book Spotlight: FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY by Jenny Tinghui ZhangFour Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
ISBN: 9781250811783 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250811790 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250837530 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B092NFT8K8 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08PSDCR4L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction | Asian Literature | Westerns

A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West

Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story.

At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and NobleBookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo eBook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Praise for Four Treasures of the Sky

“Engrossing…Epic…Zhang’s descriptive prose is an arresting combination of earthy and lyric…The resonance and immediacy of these barbarous 19th-century events are testament to Zhang’s storytelling powers, and should stand as a warning to all of us.” —Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review

“Zhang’s transporting story of perseverance in the face of shocking injustice resonates across cultures, and also feels sadly relevant to today’s world.” —Washington Post

“The prides and prejudices of the Old West blaze to life in Zhang’s propulsive, fable-like novel…Zhang skillfully embellishes her novel with Chinese characters, suggesting that language is our most potent weapon against oppression.” —Oprah Daily

“Compelling, tragic, and poetic, this debut is an absolute must-read for literary fiction lovers.” —BuzzFeed

“Radiant…A treasure of a debut…[Zhang’s] first novel reveals storytelling skills both vast and specific, bringing shadowy history to light while also displaying a remarkable talent for sensory detail.” —BookPage (cover story)

“Zhang’s debut novel imaginatively illuminates an often overlooked aspect of American history that resonates powerfully today, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and concurrent anti-Asian violence… Zhang’s blend of history and magical realism will appeal to fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer as well as Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Fierce and moving…Zhang delves into the history of violence and prejudice against Chinese people in the U.S. with her debut, a lyrical and sweeping Bildungsroman…The author skillfully delineates the many characters and offers fascinating details on Chinese calligraphy and literature, along with an unsparing view of white supremacy.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Extraordinary…Those who want to learn about a little-known incident in Chinese-American history will be enlightened by this moving debut.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Jenny Tinghui Zhang uses her considerable talents to illuminate the shocking injustices the Chinese in this country suffered in the 1800s, and in doing so, makes us stop and consider how much of that cruelty and injustice survive to this day. Four Treasures of the Sky is an engulfing, bighearted, and heartbreaking novel.” —Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

Meet The Author

Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a Texas-based Chinese-American writer and the author of Four Treasures of the Sky (released from Flatiron Books on April 5, 2022). She is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the VONA/Voices and Tin House workshops. Her work has appeared in Apogee, Ninth Letter, Passages North, The Rumpus, HuffPost, The Cut, Catapult, and more.

Connect with the Author: Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 3

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

This third installment to my “Best Fiction Reads” list focuses on historical fiction. As with my previous recommendations, this portion of the list includes a little bit of everything within the historical fiction genre. If you haven’t read any of these titles, then I hope one or two (if not all) of these will spark your interest and make it to your 2022 reading list.

I love reading anything written by Beverly Jenkins. (Seriously, if she writes it then I’m reading it!) Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Wild Rain, book two in the “Women Who Dare” series. This book included a character readers were introduced to in book three of the “Old West” series, Tempest. I’m a big fan of books featuring strong characters of color and this particular book introduced me to what has been termed a “cinnamon roll” male character. A “cinnamon roll” character is one that is described as kind and sweet, as well as being strong (physically and/or emotionally) and invested in the well-being of their love interest (yes, I’ve read other books with this type of character but hadn’t heard them referred to as a “cinnamon roll” before). If you enjoy reading historical romance with strong female and male characters, then look no further and grab yourself a copy of Wild Rain ASAP!

Wild Rain, Women Who Dare #2, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861719 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780063075153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062861726 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861733 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZTVKBPW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZP1NLD8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Romance | African-American Historical Fiction

 

The second novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new Women Who Dare series follows a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War.

A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister, Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met.
 
But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love?

 

 Read an excerpt here.


 

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this next book, simply because it has been raved about online all year, Yellow Wife. If you haven’t heard anything about this book, then I’m pleased to introduce you to this amazing fictionalized historical read based upon a real woman and amazing circumstances in Virginia during the 19th Century.

YELLOW WIFE book coverYellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
ISBN: 9781982149116 (paperback – released on December 28, 2021)
ISBN: 9781982149109 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781982149123 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781797118819 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08CM6NJBF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BZFTB1Y (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Coming-of-Age | African-American Historical Fiction

 

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

 

I especially enjoy reading stories about books or people dealing with books. This next book hit on both levels. The Personal Librarian presents the fictionalized story of the woman responsible for crafting the Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle da Costa Greene. This amazing woman of color passed as “White” for almost all of her adult life and had the amazing responsibility of assisting in the development of and subsequent management of one of the largest private libraries in the United States.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
ISBN: 9780593101537 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593101551 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593409701 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9780593409718 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08J8HRWP8 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HL999ZD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction

 

The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

 

There seems to be an underlying theme of “strong women of color” within my historical fiction recommendations, and the next title fits this quite well. I had never heard of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas before reading Island Queen, but I quickly became fascinated by this woman that lived during the 18th and 19th centuries. This is a fictionalized story of a real woman that had great influence in the Caribbean and beyond across two centuries. This is yet another book that I passed to my mother to read. We both enjoyed it so much, we have print copies for our respective home libraries (okay, I also have a digital copy in addition to my print copy). I consider myself fortunate enough to have obtained the author’s signature on my print copy at a regional book festival (I forgot to take my mother’s copy to get it signed, sorry Mom).

ISLAND QUEEN by Vanessa Riley book coverIsland Queen by Vanessa Riley
ISBN: 9780063002845 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780063002869 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063002876 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MLPY619 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KQD5J9T (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction

 

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

 

I had the pleasure of seeing this next author in a presentation with Vanessa Riley and others a few months ago at a regional book festival. And yes I got my print copy signed. This is another fictionalized history story featuring strong women of color. Sisters in Arms presents the story of several African American women in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. For those of you that enjoy WWII stories, I encourage you to grab a copy of this one to read.

SISTERS IN ARMS by Kaia AldersonSisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson
ISBN: 9780062964588 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062964595 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063096837 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TN14WK9 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FJHLBW3 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | African-American History | WWII

 

Kaia Alderson’s debut historical fiction novel reveals the untold, true story of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, who made the dangerous voyage to Europe to ensure American servicemen received word from their loved ones during World War II.

Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve.

As these courageous women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy—everyone is determined to see this experiment fail. For two northern women, learning to navigate their way through the segregated army may be tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza know that there is no room for error; they must be more perfect than everyone else.

When they finally make it overseas, to England and then France, Grace and Eliza will at last be able to do their parts for the country they love, whatever the risk to themselves.

Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion (the Six Triple Eight), Sisters in Arms explores the untold story of what life was like for the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II.

 


The final book on this list is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, coupled with magical realism and time-travel. I’ve read and reviewed a number of titles in the “Found Things” series by Paula Brackston, including City of Time and Magic. This addition to the series is a bit darker than some of the others but it was still an engrossing read and one I hope you’ll enjoy when you read it.

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.


 Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo Books | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


Thanks once again to the authors, publishers, publicists, book tour companies, library systems, etc. that afforded me the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I hope you’ll return to see what books make the fourth part of this list, the contemporary romance reads.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Book Showcase: LOVE AND LAVENDER by Josi S. Kilpack

Love and Lavender, Mayfield Family #4, by Josi S. Kilpack
ISBN: 9781629729299 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781649330345 (ebook)
ASIN: B09DDKF4F7 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B09BK6MRR5 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Historical Romance | Regency Romance | Inspirational Fiction

 
Hazel Stillman is a woman of rare independence and limited opportunities. Born with a clubbed foot, Hazel knows marriage is unlikely, so she devotes herself to teaching at a private girls’ school.

Duncan Penhale thrives on order and process. He has no interest in marriage, so when Elliott Mayfield, his guardian’s brother, offers him an inheritance if he weds, Duncan finds it intrusive. However, an inheritance means he could purchase a building and run his own accounting firm.

Hazel and Duncan believe they have found a solution to both of their problems: marry one another, claim their inheritances, and then part ways to enjoy their individual paths. But then Uncle Mayfield stipulates that they must first live together as a couple for one year.

Over time, their marriage of convenience becomes much more appealing than they had anticipated. At the end of the full year, will they go their separate ways or could an unlikely marriage have found unsuspecting love?

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 4
pages 39-42

 

“Well, then, I am off to the races.”

Duncan looked up from the ledger he was copying to see Mr. Ludwig pop up from his desk on the other side of the room. Mr. Ludwig did not mean actual horse races; rather, it was a phrase he used regularly to explain that he was leaving the office.

Duncan glanced at the clock on the wall. “It is only a quarter ’til six.”

Mr. Ludwig reached for his coat and hat hanging beside the door of their shared office. They had been working together for several months now, but it seemed like a much longer period of time due to the way the man increased Duncan’s workload and continually grated on Duncan’s nerves.

“I have finished my day’s work, old boy, and will return in the morning to start anew.”

Duncan did not like being called “old boy,” but it was an-other phrase Mr. Ludwig liked to utilize in his regular speech. If the man would speak concisely and not force Duncan to translate the meaning behind the things he said, they would likely get on far better than they did. Oh, and it would be nice if Mr. Ludwig cared at all for accurate accounting practices and did not interfere with Duncan’s relationship with the partners.

“Office hours are until six thirty on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Duncan said slowly, as if he were talking to a child or someone for whom English was not their first language. “If you have finished the Carillon account, you may begin tomorrow’s work.”

On Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, office hours for the junior clerks went to 5:30. Duncan had spoken to the partners on seven different occasions about choosing the same time to end each of the five workdays of the week so as to mitigate confusion, but they did not find the varying times inconvenient since they left whenever they wished.

The varying end time of the workdays was only one of several details that Duncan would change if he were the one making the decisions. But since he was not the one making the decisions, he had no choice but to abide by the stipulations enforced by the partners. He was the senior employee on the premises right now, and therefore it was his responsibility to make sure the rules were followed.

“Hmm,” Mr. Ludwig said as he walked to the clock located by the door and opened the glass face.

Duncan shot to his feet. “Mr. Ludwig!” He came around his desk and marched across the room while fumbling in his vest pocket for his pocket watch while Mr. Ludwig moved the hands of the clock.

Duncan was horrified. He wound his pocket watch every evening and checked the time with the clockmaker, Mr. Handlery, every Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Handlery’s clock was kept to Greenwich Time and cross-checked monthly.

Mr. Ludwig stood in front of him, the grin gone from his face. Duncan stepped left in order to move around him, but Mr. Ludwig stepped in the same direction, blocking Duncan’s path to the clock.

“I have an appointment tonight, Mr. Penhale, and I will be on my way, is that understood?”

“Changing the time on the clock does not change the time,” Duncan said, holding up his pocket watch to prove that he had possession of the actual time of day. The watch chain attached to Duncan’s vest pulled tight. He took a breath and forced himself to look Mr. Ludwig in the eye. Catherine had taught him it was an important social protocol he should use whenever possible, and he found it especially effective when he was trying to make a point, even though it made him uncomfortable.

“Office hours are until six thirty on Tuesday and Wednesdays—that is your appointment. Any other personal business you need to conduct must be done outside of business hours or with the stated permission of one of the partners. Since such permission has not been communicated to me, your early departure is a breach of policy.”

Mr. Ludwig grabbed the pocket watch from Duncan’s hand, snapping the chain, and threw it against the wall. The metal casing hit the wood panel like a stone and fell to the ground.

Duncan stared at the watch, his hands tightening into fists at his side.

“Unlike you, Mr. Penhale, I have a life outside of this miserable office,” Mr. Ludwig said, hissing through his teeth, his misty spittle hitting Duncan’s face.

“You are obligated by both employment and ethics to remain working until—”

“Go back to your desk, Mr. Penhale, and leave me be.” He moved to go around Duncan, but Duncan copied Mr. Ludwig’s earlier practice and stepped to the side, further blocking the man’s access to the door.

“You are not authorized to leave early.”

“My uncle owns this firm, Mr. Penhale, and he has about had his fill of you. One more complaint from me and you may very well find yourself on the street, is that what you want?”

“That is not what I want nor is it worth my concern. Terminating me would be a serious error in judgment, as you are a very poor clerk and I am a very skilled one.”

Mr. Ludwig laughed, but it was an odd sound that did not reflect amusement. He tried to step around Duncan a second time, and Duncan, fueled by his growing temper, once again blocked his passage.

“Take your place at your desk and finish the workday, Mr. Ludwig.”

Mr. Ludwig growled low in his throat and shoved Duncan’s right shoulder to move him out of the way. Upon the violent contact, Da’s voice sounded in Duncan’s head: Never start the altercation, Dunny, but if a bloke hits you first, hit back twice as hard.

Duncan caught himself mid-stumble, looked into Mr. Ludwig’s face to take aim, and punched the other man straight in the nose.

Excerpt from Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack.
Copyright © 2021 by Josi S. Kilpack. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Josi S. Kilpack has written more than thirty novels, a cookbook, and several novellas. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Best Novel 2015 for “Lord Fenton’s Folly, and has been a Utah Best of State winner for Fiction. Josi loves to bake, sleep, eat, read, travel, and watch TV–none of which she gets to do as much as she would like. She writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Jessica Pack.

Josi has four children and lives in Northern Utah.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

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