The Governess Affair

Courtney Milan

13190596

I love that you never know what you’ll get with a Courtney Milan book. Of course, you’ll always get a satisfying story with believable characters and a good plot, that goes without saying, but each one is full of surprises. This one is no different. Serena, a governess, has been raped and impregnated by her former employer, the Duke of Clermont. With no redress, Serena makes a silent protest outside his home. Being a coward, as well as a rapist, he sends his Wolf of Clermont, a tough cookie, to deal with her and send her away.

What could go wrong?

Advertisements

Murder on the Last Frontier

Cathy Pegau

24402672

Warned that the Alaskan frontier is no place for a woman, Charlotte Brody comes to visit her brother Michael, a doctor, in Cordova. Cordova is a rough and ready place, but Charlotte, coming to forget her past, finds it a breath of fresh air. Her feminist views and independent actions soon pit her against her budding attraction to the law in the town, as she meddles in the investigation of the murder of a local prostitute.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the frontier town, and Charlotte’s clash with the local law and her staid brother rang true. I enjoy a strong heroine, and Cathy Pegau delivers.

 

The Winter Crown

Elizabeth Chadwick

25365228

This second book of Chadwick’s proposed trilogy delves deep into the relationship between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. Eleanor has done her queenly duty, bearing Henry several children. She watches helplessly as Henry strips her of her power and blames her for the friction between him and his sons.

The book ends with her imprisonment, but don’t count her out yet. The Duchess of Aquitaine has a few cards to play and years of experience to draw on. She down, but not out.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Kathleen Rooney

29939353

This wonderful title character is the kind of person we all would like to know and would like to become. The setting is New Year’s Eve 1984, and 84-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to take a walk from her home to the site of a party given by a young friend of hers. Along the way, she visits various locations in Manhattan and relives various episodes in her long life. In her prime she was the highest paid woman advertising executive for R.H. Macy’s department store. She also wrote poetry. It all came to an end when she fell in love and married Max and had a child. Of course she lost her job because no one would hire a mother of a child. In what little time she had to herself, she continued to write freelance but it wasn’t the same.

Eventually the conflict between what she was and what she had became began to tell on her and her marriage.

This is a lovely story, lovingly told. I like the writer’s voice and the astringent voice of the character. No one was going to tell Lillian Boxfish what she could do, whether it is live life a certain way or walk around Manhattan on her own on New Year’s Eve.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Absolution

Cora Harrison

Beyond Absolution: A mystery set in 1920s Ireland (A Reverend Mother Mystery) by [Harrison, Cora]

I loved Harrison’s My Lady Judge series so much, set in 16th-century Ireland, that I was willing to give this new series a try, and I’m glad I did. She picked another time of turmoil for Ireland: Cork in the 1920s. The main character is another strong woman, Reverend Mother Aquinas, head of the convent school. She spends much of her time worrying about how to stretch the money to cover the needs of her pupils.

A beloved, gentle priest is killed in the confessional at a time when Reverend MotherĀ  happens to be in the church, and her former pupil Inspector Patrick Cashman investigates the murder. The priest had been much troubled by the sight of a ceramic Japanese hawk in a local antiques shop, and the Reverend Mother thinks she remembers something about this hawk. It takes a gentle reminder of her past from her wealthy cousin, married to a judge, to jog her memory.

Cork in the 1920s is a fascinating setting for this new series, as the battle between the Republicans and the English begins to warm up, and the local citizens are forced to take sides in the conflict. Aside from the puzzle of the murder, Mother Aquinas’ former students on both sides are drawn into this well written mystery.

 

 

 

 

Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders

29906980

I confess before this book came along, I had never heard of Saunders. I don’t particularly like to read short stories, so our paths had never crosses. All of a sudden his name is all over the book podcasts I listen to, so I decided to give it a try. At first I looked at the Kindle version, but the publishers put such an obscenely high price on it, I put my name on theĀ  reserve list at the library.

The book was well worth the wait. It is so original I had trouble at first getting into it. It is unlike any other (but one) book I have ever read. Inspired by a story of a visit by Lincoln to his son Willies grave site, Saunders has woven a tale of grief, self-doubt, and redemption using the voices of the ghosts who inhabit the cemetery.

Prevented by their own fears, desires, and reluctance to let go, they remain in the cemetary, observing the people, living and dead who come to the cemetery. The title comes from an Egyptian term for the undecided state of the dead, between life that was and life to come. It’s meant as a temporary holding place for the spirits of the recently deceased, but some of the entities there, against nature, have been there for years.

The one book this reminds me of is C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. He uses the same device, although not to the same extent, to tell the story of people who are reluctant to face their own death and who are so wrapped up in themselves they are unwilling or unable to help anyone else.

This book lives up to all its hype. It’s hard to read at first, and the reader has to pay attention. The story is not all neatly and nicely laid out, but instead, the reader has to do some work of filling in the blanks. It is worth the work and very rewarding. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Because of Miss Bridgerton

Julia Quinn

25896154

Fluff. Piffle. Light reading. Entertaining, but no substance. These words are frequently applied to romance novels. They completely disregard the craft necessary to write a satisfying romance novel. Nobody mocks a souffle because it isn’t roast beef, and much more art and craft are required to create a souffle. A light hand and a sense of timing are of the essence if you are to have a tasty dish instead of a wreck on your plate.

Julia Quinn demonstrates a light hand and a knowledge of how to keep it light. Her dialogue sparkles. Her characters are likeable and believable even if the situation is not. I particularly like her clear-headed, sensible hero. His straight thinking comes to his aid at the end, but all along it is his friend. In contrast, Miss Bridgerton shows an impetuous nature and an ability to get into trouble. They make a good pair.

Roast beef can be had anywhere, but a perfect souffle is harder to come by.

 

 

 

The Game of Silence

Louise Erdrich

6589847

I didn’t realize that this is a children’s book. I enjoyed it as an adult and was sorry when it ended. The illustrations did not display well on my Kindle, but aside from this, the story was highly enjoyable. A young girl’s memories of hard times for her tribe form the heart of her story. Happy in her island home, she and her family are forced to leave it behind due to pressure from the white people. Aside from this major trouble, her life is full of happy events and minor annoyance. She enjoys making friends, growing up, learning her own gifts, and how she fits in with the tribe.

I grew up in the Southwest, and my knowledge of Native Americans has been limited to the tribes of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It was a real treat to learn about another tribe, this time the Ojibway.

A Shameful Murder

Cora Harrison

25639223

With this book, Cora Harrison starts a new series of cozy mysteries. Set in Cork, Ireland, during the troublesome 1920s, it features the attractive nun, Mother Aquinas. Head of a school for poor children, the reverend mother uses her family background and contacts among Cork’s wealthiest families to further her investigation. It helps also that at age 70, she has years of teaching to extend her contacts to reach into all levels of society.

The story begins with her finding a body at the convent gates. Washed down the river by recent rains, the body is clothed in evening dress. A lovely young girl, cut down in the prime of her life, it is truly a shameful murder. Spared the day to day grind of an investigation, she is able to use a police sergeant to do her footwork. Aided by the skills of a doctor friend, a very wealthy cousin, and a journalist former student, she is able to unravel the mystery of this girls death.

I liked the setting and the character of the elderly reverend mother for this satisfying read.

In Praise of the Bees

Kristin Gleeson

26096994

This would have been a better story if the author had tied up the loose ends and had skipped a few plot twists. I found the use of Irish words intrusive without any translation or explanation. I did have a glossary in the back, but it’s not complete. The ending was abrupt and unbelievable, with little foundation laid for the character’s decisions.

All in all I found it unsatisfying.