Friday, August 2, 2019

Bookshelf, August 2019

How did it get to be early August already? Feels like I blinked and Midsummer turned into late summer without my even noticing. It’s not as if I’ve done nothing with the time: I finished all but one of the books on this list, as well as Kate Braithwaite’s The Girl Puzzle, Lauren Willig’s The Summer Country, Gill Paul’s The Secret Wife and The Lost Daughter, and all the other books on my April bookshelf.

In addition, I worked with Gabrielle Mathieu on her forthcoming Girl of Fire and typeset Joan Schweighardt’s second Rivers novel, Gifts for the Dead. Both of those are due out from Five Directions Press this fall. I also wrote up an incomplete outline and did some preliminary research for the joint project I’ll be writing later this year or sometime in 2020 with P. K. Adams. 

Alas, then I landed in editing jail, a durance vile I expect to emerge from the week before Labor Day—in time for my planned writing vacation, I hope. That planned vacation may also be the next time I can return to Song of the Sisters, which is just 5,000 words short of half a first draft.

So, what’s left on the bookshelf? More or less in order of appearance, since most of these are  advance review copies, I have these five, as well as a couple of others that I won’t mention until I’m sure I’ll have time to read them.

G. P. Gottlieb hosts New Books in Literature, another podcast channel in the New Books Network. A baker and musician, she has put her cooking skills to work in her debut novel, the first in a cozy murder mystery series about a café owner and her favorite detective. In Battered, due Aug. 6, the heroine, Alene Baron, has her hands full running a business, supporting her three kids and elderly father, and dodging her obnoxious ex-husband. But when one of her neighbors winds up dead, Alene gets drawn into the investigation—in part because she knows everyone involved, but in part to protect her own family. 

Check the NBL link above around the time of the release to hear us chatting about the characters, the setting, and G. P.’s own path to becoming a writer. And don’t miss the recipes at the end of the book, all taste-tested by the author and her friends.

Silent Water, due Aug. 6, kicks off another new murder mystery series, set in Renaissance Poland. It’s Christmas Eve 1519, and King Sigismund I the Old and his Italian wife, Bona Sforza, are celebrating in style when a prominent courtier is found stabbed in an out-of-the-way passage. Caterina, another Italian noblewoman in charge of Queen Bona’s ladies-in-waiting, becomes caught up in the investigation as the queen’s eyes and ears. In addition to the “whodunnit” aspect, this book stands out for its beautifully described and unusual historical setting and its portrayal of the cultural conflict that followed King Sigismund’s political marriage. This is the novel that led to the collaboration between myself and its author, P. K. Adams. I’ll be running a blog Q&A with her soon. 

Linnea Hartsuyker’s The Golden Wolf, due Aug. 13, builds on 2017’s The Half-Drowned King and 2018’s The Sea Queen to complete the story of Ragnvald, his sister Svanhild, and their chosen king, Harald the Fair-Haired, who is determined to unify Norway under his crown. 

In this third installment, the principals have all attained middle age (in ninth-century terms) and have grown or near-grown children set on creating their own destinies whatever their parents have planned for them. In particular, Harald—with at least eight wives—has produced more than twenty sons, a few of whom believe they, not he, should be the ones taking the reins of power. 

A gritty and uncompromising tale that shines a light on the often brutal values of an ancient past yet manages to keep its characters both sympathetic and complicated. Check back in mid-August for the link to my interview with the author. 

When Karen Brooks released The Locksmith’s Daughter last year, I was all set to interview her for the New Books Network until we realized that the time difference between my home on the East Coast and hers in Tasmania was guaranteed to make life difficult for one of us. So instead we settled on a blog Q&A. At the end of that interview, she mentioned The Chocolate Maker’s Wife, due Aug. 20, then in its final edit, and I was happy to see it arrive on my doorstep almost a year later. (Who doesn’t love the idea of a chocolate maker?)

When Sir Everard Blithman offers to marry Rosamund Tomkins, she jumps at the chance to escape her abusive stepfather, distant mother, and obnoxious cousins. At first, life in Sir Everard’s house exceeds her expectations, and she becomes fascinated with his project of establishing a chocolate house in London, one of the city’s first. But only as she dives into mastering the complex spicing and preparation of this imported product does Rosamund realize that Sir Everard has a hidden agenda, and he sees her as just a pawn in his scheme for revenge.

Of the five books mentioned here, Duchess by Design (2018) is the only one already in print—and, oddly, the only one I’ve yet to read. The first book in Maya Rodale’s Gilded Age Girls Club series, it precedes Some Like It Scandalous, the subject of my “Summer Romance” post a couple of weeks ago. Here the heroine is Adeline Black, set on becoming an haut couture dressmaker despite the attentions of the handsome duke of Kingston. He persuades her to accompany him to society parties and show off her designer gowns, attracting new customers while advising him on which women he should approach as his future duchess. 

Even without having read the book, I can guess how it ends, but the point with romances is never the “what” but the “how,” and my past experience with this author gives me hope that it will be the perfect ending to summer, now only five weeks away.

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