What follows is just a few of the many books that have recently been or are still on my bookshelf for the spring. I’d also like to remind you of Erica Neubauer’s Intrigue in Istanbul, which I included in my winter list although it came out just last week. Other Spring 2023 highlights include Molly Greeley’s Marvelous, Sherry Thomas’s Tempest at Sea, Kristen Loesch’s The Last Russian Doll, and C.S. Harris’s Who Cries for the Lost—all covered (or due soon to be covered) elsewhere on this blog.
And now, on to the May and June novels I have been enjoying. All forthcoming books this time around, although I've made my way through a fair number of older novels as well in the last few months.
Amy Barry, Marrying Off Morgan McBride
This classic historical romance matches Epiphany Hopgood, better known as Pip, with Morgan McBride—a free-ranging cowhand who has been stuck for years on a farm in Montana looking after his younger siblings. Pip, a fabulous cook whose outward appearance fails to attract the men of Joshua, Nebraska, answers an ad for a mail-order bride, not realizing that the person who placed the ad was not the intended groom but his young sister, Junebug, desperate for help in the kitchen.
When the truth comes out, Pip insists on staying, because the alternative is to return to a place where she’s never felt wanted. And sparks fly, both angry and passionate, as a result. As with all romance novels, we have a pretty good idea of where things will end up, but the road to get there is long and winding, and the antics of the irrepressible Junebug will keep you laughing along the way. You can find out more from my blog Q&A with the author on June 2, just after the book’s release.
Katharine Beutner, Killingly (Soho Press, 2023)
As a Mount Holyoke alumna, I couldn’t resist this psychological suspense novel based on the true-life disappearance of Bertha Mellish, a student, from the campus in 1897. As the author notes in the book, the result is deeply fictionalized—it would have to be, given that the real case was never solved and the little hard evidence that remains of what happened is tantalizing but not conclusive—but that doesn’t make the story any less compelling. On the contrary, Beutner fleshes out the bare bones of the incident, delving into Bertha’s past in Killingly, Connecticut, as well as her relationship with Agnes Sullivan, a would-be doctor from a poor Boston family who has been forced to conceal her Catholic upbringing to gain admission to the college. Through the overlapping stories of Agnes, the missing girl’s sister Florence, Dr. Henry Hammond, and the inspector whom Hammond hires to find Bertha, Katharine Beutner keeps us on the edge of our seats as she unravels their tangle of secrets and lies. I’ll be talking with her on the New Books Network in time for the novel’s release in early June.
Sofia Lundberg, Alyson Richman, and M.J. Rose,
The Friday Night Club (Berkley, 2023)
This co-written novel explores the lives of a little-known group of Swedish abstract painters. Three of the five—Hilma af Klint, Anna Cassel, and Cornelia Cederberg—were artists who drew their inspiration from the seances conducted by the other two during their regular Friday meetings. For reasons explained in the novel, the women’s artworks received so little recognition in their time that Klint secreted her paintings, stipulating that they could be viewed only twenty years after her death.
This story is interlaced with a contemporary timeline featuring Eben Elliott, an employee of the Guggenheim Museum in New York charged with organizing an exhibit of Klint’s paintings—a choice that brings him face to face with his own past. Even more impressive than the interweaving of these disparate story threads is the collaboration of the novel’s three authors. Like their nineteenth-century counterparts, they have created a single, seamless work of art. They will be answering my written questions on the blog the Friday after their book’s release on May 16.
(William Morrow, 2023)
We tend to think of Tiffany’s as a jewelry store, but its founder, Louis Comfort Tiffany, was perhaps best known for his dramatic artworks composed of colored glass. He was also unusual in that he both hired women artists and paid them the same rates as men. This novel juxtaposes the stories of three “Tiffany Girls,” as they were called at the time: Emilie Pascal, who flees France to escape possible criminal charges accrued by her abusive father, an art forger; Grace Griffith, who enjoys the security of her work at Tiffany’s but yearns to use her talents in producing political cartoons for the local papers; and Clara Driscoll, the real-life director of the women’s division and an artist in her own right. The result is a rich portrayal of working-class life in New York around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shelly Noble will be answering my questions here on the blog in just a few weeks, after her novel comes out on May 9.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer, The Seeing Garden
(She Writes Press, 2023)
Nineteen-year-old Catherine Ogden appears to have everything: youth, wealth, birth, breeding, and beauty. No one in New York high society is surprised when she attracts the attention of William Brandt, an up-and-coming business tycoon from California. It’s 1910, and the job of women like Catherine is to marry well and make their families proud.
After a visit to the Brandt estate near San Francisco, Catherine accepts William’s proposal of marriage. But is it William himself who appeals to her, or his house and gardens? As the wedding day draws closer, Catherine must decide whether to fulfill her own expectations of marriage or those of her family.
The author’s descriptions of the landscape and its effect on Catherine are exquisite. I look forward to talking with her about both her setting and her richly realized characters on the New Books Network in July. The novel, though, will come out in May.
(She Writes Press, 2023)
This fictional look at the US immigrant experience in the late nineteenth century follows the life of a young Irish girl, Mary Eileen O’Donovan, whose impoverished family forces her into marriage when Eileen, as she’s known, has barely passed her sixteenth birthday. Giving up her ambitions to become a teacher, Eileen tries to be a good wife to John Sullivan, her much older husband. When the crops fail and her younger brother falls foul of the Fenians, she and John decide their only choice is to emigrate. After considerable effort, they reach the United States, only to discover that their troubles are just beginning. Find out more by listening to my New Books Network with the author, due in mid-May.