With Phil the Punxatawny Groundhog predicting six more weeks of winter as of February 2, I figure it’s not too late to run my Winter 2020–21 bookshelf post. A little less jam-packed than the fall version, not least because I already got through at least half my winter books and posted interviews with their authors (Judithe Little, Connie Palmen, Barbara McHugh, Natalie Haynes, and Kathleen Williams Renk) before I had space for this roundup. But there are still a few selections here for you to peruse, some from better-known authors and others not.
F. M. Deemyad, The Sky Worshipers (History through Fiction, 2021)
This multigenerational saga of three foreign princesses—Chinese, Persian, and Polish—and their influence on the court of Genghis Khan and his descendants is such a natural match for me and my research/writing interests that it’s no wonder I lobbied the publisher to let me interview the author for New Books in Historical Fiction. That it comes from a startup press, the owner of which is also a host at the New Books Network, was icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve had the book on my tablet for months and have been forcing myself not to dig into it too soon, but another few weeks I can get started, in time to talk with the author for April. The book releases on March 2, 2021.
Julia Fine, The Upstairs House (Harper, 2021)
This contemporary story of a woman navigating a troubled marriage while severely affected by postpartum depression is not my usual cup of tea, but what hooked me was the subplot involving Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight, Moon fame and Margaret’s temperamental lover, the famous socialite and actress Michael Strange. That 1940s scandal was previously unknown to me—unlike Goodnight, Moon, which like many, many other mothers I read to my son until the book fell apart—and watching Fine expertly blend past and present kept me turning the pages. The book comes out on February 23, and Fine will be answering my questions for this blog next week, so check back to find out more.
Julia Quinn, Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Avon, 2015)
Years ago, when The Duke and I first came out, I read it and loved it. I read several of the sequels but got distracted by other authors before completing all nine books. When I stumbled over the smash Netflix hit Bridgerton, I enjoyed it, but I had this nagging feeling that I’d liked the novel better. In preparation for an interview with Julia later this year, I decided to read the entire Bridgerton series. This one is the next in line—and features two of my favorite characters, giving it a particular draw. I’m just waiting for Avon to release the next e-book box set (4–6) in early March before I dig in.
Lauren Willig, Band of Sisters (William Morrow, 2021)
I’ve written elsewhere about my affection for Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, although my interview with her last year was about a different novel altogether—The Summer Country, set in nineteenth-century Barbados. Here Willig follows the little-known story of a true-life relief unit composed of Smith College alumnae who set off to restore French villages near the end of World War II. The New Books Network operates out of Smith College, and I myself graduated from nearby Mount Holyoke, so this book was a natural fit. It’s also a great read. Due out on March 2, 2021, it will become the focus of my conversation with Lauren Willig next month.