Weekly Reading Round-Up
August 18th, 2017

On tap for this week have been:

— Eva Chase’s Black Rabbit Hall, a dark Gothic (think echoes of The Thirteenth Tale), with a surprisingly upbeat ending, set in a moldering manor house in Cornwall;

— Barbara Michaels’s Wait for What Will Come, because once you read one Gothic set in a moldering Cornish manor house, it generally leads to another (Wait for What Will Come is the archetypal “house” book: American heroine unexpectedly inherits ancestral home in England complete with attic full of antiques, quirky family retainers, and, of course, a family curse);

— Francine Matthews’s Death on Nantucket, the fifth and most recent in her Merry Folger mystery series (which means that I now have to find a new mystery series to binge read…);

— Barbara Michaels’s Here I Stay, because once I start re-reading Barbara Michaels, it’s hard to stay away. My favorite parts of this novel have always been the bits about the heroine’s ups and downs turning an old house into an inn, rather than the ghost story plot.

What have you been reading this week?

 

Writer’s Digest Conference– This Weekend!
August 14th, 2017

When we were teenagers, many of my friends had subscriptions to Seventeen Magazine. I had a subscription to Writer’s Digest. Back in the days before the internet, I remember the thrill of the magazine’s arrival, eagerly reading through articles on viewpoint, pacing, research, publishing nitty gritty (back when it was more nitty than gritty). Because isn’t that what every thirteen year old cares about?

So I’m especially delighted to be participating in this year’s Writer’s Digest Conference!

The conference takes place this weekend at the midtown Hilton in New York (6th Avenue between 53rd and 54th). On Saturday at 10:15, I’ll be speaking with Heather Webb, Stephanie Cowell, Nancy Bilyeau, Crystal L King, and Jessica Strawser (our fearless moderator), about Writing about Yesterday, Today: The Art & Business of Historical Fiction.

Here’s the official panel blurb: In this insightful session, our panelists will examine the peculiar difficulties associated with researching and crafting convincing, artful historical fiction that sweeps readers away without bogging them down with too much detail and description.

Peculiar is, indeed, often the word….

If you’re already planning on attending the conference, come find our panel at 10:15 Saturday on the second floor of the Hilton! If you haven’t registered yet, I hear there may still be spots.

We’ll be signing books (and I have snazzy new English Wife bookmarks and postcards to hand out!) starting at 11:20 on the Promenade next to the bookstore.

To see the other panels and authors, check out the full conference schedule, here.

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
August 11th, 2017

The first half of this post was originally meant to go up last week– but the arrival of a small person intervened. So let’s call this fortnightly round-up instead of weekly round-up today? (Also because I just love the word “fortnight”.)

I started last week old school, with a murder mystery from the early 80s: Isabelle Holland’s Flight of the Archangel. Many of the Holland books tend to be in the Elsie Lee mode– first person narratives in which the 1970s career women heroines find themselves taking on international conspiracies, drug cartels, and the like– but this was not one of my favorites, for various reasons. For vintage Isabelle Holland, I much prefer the somewhat spookier Tower Abbey, which has less distressing gender politics.

Needing something a little less grim, I moved on to Jenny Colgan’s The Cafe by the Sea, in which a London paralegal finds herself heading back to the remote Scottish island she’s avoided since her mother’s death– and finds, unexpectedly, that you can come home after all. The Colgan books have become my happy place (who doesn’t want to move to Scotland… or Cornwall… or wherever else?)– so lots of thanks to whoever it was over here who first recommended them!

Then it was back to Francine Matthews’s Nantucket mystery series for Book Four, Death in a Cold Hard Light. There’s only one more left in the series now, so I’m going to have to pace myself– in the hopes she’ll write more!

And since I have a great deal of reading time right now at odd hours of the night, I decided to revisit some old favorites, starting with Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion— which is one of those books that never stales however many times I read it. It’s like a more upbeat Game of Thrones, or, possibly, Game of Thrones with a moral center, and less violence, where you can trust that good will eventually triumph. Court intrigue, curses… what’s not to love?

Moving from pseudo-medieval court intrigue to Parliamentary scheming, I picked up another fat old mass market paperback: Jeffrey Archer’s First Among Equals, the story of four men as each vies for the ultimate place in British government. I’d read and loved it back when I was in college. What struck me about it now is what a period piece it is, set primarily in the 60’s and 70’s, with the fictional politicians woven into the real political issues of those days. (You can just picture the hair and clothes of the day as you read it.) Definitely a read for people who have been enjoying House of Cards or who have chortled over Yes, Minister re-runs.

And that’s it for me for the moment! What have you been reading this week?

 

More Pink on Sale!
August 10th, 2017

It’s the summer of cheap e-Pink! For a limited time, the third book in the Pink Carnation series, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, is available for only $1.99 in e-book.

1803. Ireland. Intrigue. Plots. Spies. And one accidental marriage of inconvenience….

Here’s the official blurb:

Emerald PaperbackEloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she started spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip—two of the deadliest spies to saunter the streets of nineteenth-century England and France. Not only has she unearthed secrets that will rearrange history, she’s dallied with Colin Selwick and sought out a romantic adventure all her own. Little does she know that she’s about to uncover another fierce heroine running headlong into history.

The year is 1803 and England and France remain at odds. Hoping to break the English once and for all, Napoleon backs a ring of Irish rebels in uprisings against England and sends the Black Tulip, France’s most deadly spy, to the Emerald Isle to help. What they don’t know is that also in Ireland is England’s top spy, the Pink Carnation, who is working to shut the rebels down.

Meanwhile, back in England, Letty Alsworthy intercepts a note indicating that her sister, Mary, is about to make the very grave mistake of eloping with Geoffrey Pinghingdale-Snipe (second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian). In an attempt to save the family name, Letty tries to stop the elopement, but instead finds herself swept away in the midnight carriage meant for her sister and is accidentally compromised. Geoff and Letty, to each other’s horror, find themselves forced into matrimony. Then, Geoff receives word that he is to travel to Ireland to help the Pink Carnation and disappears immediately after their wedding ceremony. Letty learns of Geoff’s disappearance and, not to be outdone by her husband, steals away on a ship bound for Ireland, armed and ready to fight for her husband…and to learn a thing or two about spying for England.

You can find The Deception of the Emerald Ring for $1.99 on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks.

Emerald Ring on sale

In the meantime, the first Pink book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, is still on sale for $2.99 in e on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, and iBooks.

Because summer is for floral spies?

Happy reading!

 

If You Like….
August 8th, 2017

A large chunk of The English Wife takes place in the unique environment of the Hudson Valley, just about an hour or so out of Manhattan. Having spent a significant portion of my childhood there, I’d always been fascinated by how different upstate New York feels from New England, shaped as it was by the Dutch settlers who carved out vast estates in the seventeenth century and left a cultural mark that persisted even after the power of the patroons themselves had dwindled.

Unlike the other “if you likes”, where I’ve been trying to stick with the late 19th century, this If You Like looks at books set in the Hudson Valley more generally, from the eighteenth century to the present day.

So, if you like books set in the Hudson Valley, you’ll probably like…

— Donna Thorland’s American Revolution-set novel, The Dutch Girl, in which the daughter of a tenant farmer takes on both the Brits and the patroons– but finds none of it is quite so simple as she’d expected;

— and while we’re talking about patroons, Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck, in which a simple farmer’s daughter goes to live with her patroon cousin at his estate, Dragonwyck. But is it all luxury and romance, or are there dark secrets beneath the rich facade?

— moving away from the patroons, Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness, which will make you think a great deal of The Last of the Mohicans. How much do I love the book? Let me count the ways– in hours of lost sleep. If you’re an Outlander fan, keep an eye out for a Claire Fraser mention;

— Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, which opens with the heroine at Grand Central on the way to a house party at a Hudson Valley estate, Bellomont (possibly based on Ruth Livingston Mills’s country house at Staatsburg);

— Isabelle Holland’s Tower Abbey, an Old School modern gothic (and by modern, think late 70s, with that whole 70s gothic vibe) set in a mansion on the Hudson (see also Holland’s Flight of Archangel, a murder mystery also partly set around a decaying mansion on the Hudson);

— Carol Goodman’s Hudson Valley-set mysteries, including The Widow’s House, which has light supernatural elements a la Barbara Michaels, and River Road, which doesn’t;

— Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Adirondack-based Claire Fergusson mysteries, about an Episcopalian priest and the local police chief, who find themselves thrown together in Book I, In the Bleak Midwinter, when a baby is left on the doorstep of the church. They then go on to solve many excellently crafted mysteries together.

What are your favorite novels set in the Hudson Valley?

 

If You Like….
August 1st, 2017

No Gilded Age novel would be complete without a stop in Newport. So, naturally, my characters (and I) had to spend a bit of time there.

But when I sat down to make this “If You Like” list, I was surprised by how hard it was to think of books set in Newport in the 1880s and 90s. There are certainly plenty of books with Newport interludes– Wharton’s The Age Of Innocence, for one– but it was harder to think of books that took place primarily in Newport. Do you have suggestions? Please feel free to add your own favorites.

In the meantime, if you like books set in Gilded Age Newport, you’ll probably like….

— John Jakes’s The Gods of Newport, in which the author of North and South takes on the rarefied air of 1890s Newport in the story of a robber baron determined to win acceptance for himself and his daughter;

— Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress, which, like Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers, takes place largely in England, but opens in Newport;

— on the mystery front, Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport mystery series, beginning with Murder at the Breakers, in which a Vanderbilt cousin turns sleuth;

— and along the same lines, Shelley Freydont’s A Gilded Grave and A Golden Cage, featuring an heiress turned sleuth in 1890s Newport.

Where I’m really drawing a blank is romance novels. I’d vaguely remembered Jill Barnett’s Carried Away starting in Newport, but it turned out not to be. There must be at least one 80s-era romance set in Newport, no?

What are your favorite late nineteenth century Newport-set novels?

 

Pink Carnation: $2.99!
July 29th, 2017

They seek him here; they seek him there… and, in e-book, the Pink Carnation is currently $2.99 everywhere!

I’m not quite sure how long this price drop will last (the author is always the last to know), but, for the moment, the first book in the Pink Carnation series is $2.99 on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, and iBooks.

So if there’s someone you know who has been wanting to give the series a try, now may be the time….

Pink 1 cover

And while you’re in a swashbuckling mood, the first of Donna Thorland‘s Renegades of the Revolution series, The Turncoat, is also on sale for $2.99 in e on Kindle, Nook, et al. You can find out more about The Turncoat here.

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
July 28th, 2017

I’ve been having such a good run of new books recently. On tap for this week was:

— Francine Matthews’s Death in Rough Water, the second of her Nantucket-set Merry Folger mysteries. The more I read this series, the more I love it– particularly the developing relationship between the detective and another character, which reminds me so much (in the best possible way) of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey;

— Lynda Cohen Loigman’s The Two-Family House, a book that kept me up reading long, long after I’d meant to go to sleep, set in 1950s and 60s Brooklyn, about the way one decision made on one snowy night shapes the fate of two families for a generation to come (and don’t you love those books where you can absolutely understand and sympathize with why characters do something or other, but also the unexpected repercussions that fan out from it?);

— and did I mention that I’m a little obsessed with the Merry Folger books right now? I’d meant to do some work reading after my Two-Family House book binge, but instead couldn’t resist moving on to Book III, Death in a Mood Indigo.

What have you been reading this week?

 

THE ENGLISH WIFE Tour!
July 27th, 2017

Because who doesn’t want to be thinking about January in the middle of July?

As the sun blazes overhead, let’s get ready for the season of frost and reading snuggled up in a warm blanket by marking your calendars for the English Wife tour, coming to a bookstore (possibly) near you in January.

Here’s what’s on the calendar so far:

New York, NY
January 9, 6pm
English Wife Launch Party!
Talk & Signing
The Corner Bookstore
1313 Madison Avenue

Woodstock, GA
January 13, 1pm
Talk & Signing
with super special guest, Karen White!
FoxTale Book Shoppe
105 E Main Street

FoxTale English Wife

There will also be events at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, and Murder by the Book in Houston, TX, among other places– more details to come as we get closer to launch date!

You can pre-order a signed copy of The English Wife from The Corner Bookstore, FoxTale Book Shoppe , The Poisoned Pen , or Murder by the Book.

The English Wife is also available for pre-order from all the usual suspects: in hardcover from from your favorite local bookseller, Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, and Powell’s; in e-book on Kindle and Nook; and on audio CD.

Here’s the official blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

“Lauren Willig has made a name for herself writing the finest historical intrigue and The English Wife does not disappoint – it is her best yet! Written with keen detail and subtle nuance, The English Wife is a dark and scintillating tale of betrayal, secrets and a marriage gone wrong that will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final breathtaking twist.” -Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

Let the countdown to January begin!

 

If You Like….
July 25th, 2017

Maybe it’s all those postcards of the Eiffel Tower, maybe it comes of watching Gigi at a susceptible age, but there’s just something about Belle Epoque Paris.

Even though The English Wife is set largely in New York and London, I couldn’t resist sending my characters on a little excursion to Paris, where they got to picnic in the Jardin des Tuileries and visit the first ever exhibition of the brand new Photo-Club de Paris.

Do you also like to vacation in late 19th century Paris?

If you like books set in Belle Epoque Paris, you’ll probably like…

— Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-Ami, a dark story of social ambition about a personable man who sleeps and marries his way up in fin de siecle Paris (now also a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, and that guy from Twilight);

— Proust’s Swann’s Way— because, really, how can we talk about the Belle Epoque without including Proust?

— Edith Wharton’s Madame De Treymes, an American eye’s view of the gratin (or upper class) of Belle Epoque Paris, told through the lens of the unhappy marriage of a New Yorker to a French aristocrat;

— M.J. Rose’s The Witch of Painted Sorrows, in which a young woman flees an unhappy marriage in New York to seek refuge with her grandmother, once a notable Paris courtesan, and to take classes with Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. But as she explores her artistic talent and family history, she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into supernatural forces beyond her control;

— Alyson Richman’s The Velvet Hours. Remember that Paris apartment that was closed up during World War II and rediscovered, untouched, in 2016? The Velvet Hours goes back and forth between the life of the original owner of the apartment, Marthe de Florian, a Belle Epoque courtesan, and her granddaughter’s experiences on the eve of World War II;

— Michelle Gable’s A Paris Apartment, also inspired by that same apartment, but going back and forth between Marthe de Florian in the late 19th century and a Sotheby’s employee in the present day;

— Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Painted Girls, inspired by Degas’s painting, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen”, about two sisters struggling to survive in 1880s Paris;

— Carole Nelson Douglas’s Chapel Noir. This is several books along in Carole Nelson Douglas’s amazing Irene Adler series (which began with Good Night Mr. Holmes, later reissued as The Adventuress), but you can certainly read it by itself. Irene Adler and her companion, Nell, now living in the suburbs of Paris, are called in to examine a grisly murder at a brothel patronized by the Prince of Wales, leading them into an investigation that takes them to the darkest corners of Paris;

— Madeleine Brent’s A Heritage of Shadows, which takes place in both Paris and London in the 1890s, involving Paris’s seedy underworld and one young woman caught up in it (very much a 1980s period piece!);

— Claude Izner’s Victor Legris mysteries in which a young bookseller finds himself drawn into solving murders in 1890s Paris;

— and, of course, that gem among made-for-TV Barbara Cartland movies, The Flame is Love, which manages to combine every possible cliche about fin de siecle Paris, including a spot of diabolism.

I have a feeling I’ve missed several very obvious books– and many that aren’t obvious at all. Help! What are your favorite novels set in Belle Epoque Paris?