Mary, Queen of France

Jean Plaidy


I have been reading Jean Plaidy for years, since I was a teen. She never fails to deliver an easy well-researched read. This story of the younger, petted sister of Henry VIII is no exception. Spoiled from birth, Mary is used to getting her own way, until the matter of her marriage comes up. Then she learns the hard way that being a royal princess has its downside. Married off to the aging king of France for political reasons, she has to grow up in a hurry. At his death, she risks all to marry the love of her life, Charles Brandon, depending on Henry’s promise, and his love for her and Charles.

This intriguing story follows the facts of history, and at the same time delivers a satisfying novel with insight into Mary’s feelings. A good read.


The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane

Colin Falconer

The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane: A Novel

An engaging account of a tough and resilient woman. Kitty pulls herself up from a Dublin slum to find happiness at last with the man who was her childhood sweetheart. Along the way, she survives the sinking of the Titanic, the Bolshevik revolution, participation in the suffragette movement in New York, and the beginnings of the Irish rebellion. Her presence at each event is believable and credible.

Kitty is a wonderful and believable character with a strong drive to survive that helps pull her through all her adventures.

Off the Old Head of Kinsale

Mike Enfield


This was an interesting take on a m/m romance. Their relationship begins on the Lusitania, bound for England. One passenger is Edmund Blessing, a naive young man fresh out of divinity school, off to assume the post of chaplain in the army. Unfit for duty because of his poor eyesight, he wants to serve any way he can. During the voyage, he is attracted to David, his Welsh cabin steward. Lame from a childhood injury, David is lucky to have his position, which was ordinarily filled by an able-bodied man.

The two discover a mutual attraction and are drawn closer and closer, until their relationship cannot be denied. The most interesting thing about the book was knowing the fate of the ship and wondering how that would affect their relationship.

The Governess Affair

Courtney Milan


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?

Murder on the Last Frontier

Cathy Pegau


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


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


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


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


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.