This book by first-time novelist, Anna Jean Mayhew, had a hold on me that wouldn’t let go. The Dry Grass of August
shares similarities with the knock-out best seller The Help
by Kathryn Stockett which is a film in production and scheduled to be released in August. It also tells a story of the south in the 1950′s and 1960′s when black family helpers were essential to running homes and raising children.
Jubie, a thirteen year old girl from North Carolina, narrates a tragic story of racism that changes her world with it’s personal and horrific impact. Her mother, siblings and black maid, Mary, are heading to visit an uncle in Florida. Signs of racism are experienced by Mary which are upsetting for Jubie, who loves Mary and is ashamed that she must endure scorn and primitive conditions in motels and at rest stops. On the return trip a tragedy occurs that forever changes the family.
The history of race relations in the south is painful to experience through Mayhew’s book. As a young teen during the 60′s I remember viewing some of the same unfair conditions on a trip through the south to visit an aunt and uncle in Florida. The truth of the hate exhibited toward blacks in the south during that time is a dark blot in my memory.
Lady Duff Gordon journeyed from England to Egypt in 1862, leaving behind her husband and family, to attempt a cure for her consumption. Accompanied only by her Lady’s Maid, Sally Naldrett, Gordon told of her experiences settling in the town of Luxor, where she mingled with both locals and travelers and learned to speak Arabic, in her book Letters From Egypt.
Mistress of Nothing
is a fictionalized account of Gordon’s time in Egypt, told from the perspective of the Lady’s Maid, Sally, who accompanied Gordon on her travels. Sally embraces the country and people of Egypt and discovers a freedom that would have been impossible for her in England. Sally is loyal to and cares for Lady Gordon and believes that care and loyalty is returned until she finds herself in unexpected circumstances and is shunned by her employer. Through Sally’s eyes we see the beauty of the Egyptian landscape, it’s fascinating history and the kindness of its people. The story explores issues of race, class, friendship and loyalty in Victorian times. Sally’s character changes and grows in the face of adversity–learning Arabic, finding work to support herself, learning to rely on no one else, she takes control of her destiny and carves out a new life for herself in a foreign land. The appeal of Sally’s character as she makes her way in the world and the descriptive power of the author to evoke the sights and sounds of Egypt make this a very satisfying story.
A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried
is unique in it’s ability both to evoke emotional response and empathy for its characters and to reveal the complex, awful and terrifying experience that is war. O’Brien tells the story of his unit in Viet Nam, blending stories of before, during and after their time in the war zone into a gripping and realistic account of how war affects those involved. O’Brien is a Viet Nam veteran and by inserting himself into the story, he blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. The author challenges the reader to think about what is real and not real, how stories are altered and passed on based on the tellers perception of truth and reality and how stories can help heal souls wounded in times of trauma.
This is a thought-provoking, creative, elegantly written work–infused with realism and truth about the nature of war and its effects on those we call upon to fight–revealing that the things they carry are sometimes carried only during war and sometimes carried with them for forever. A powerful, unforgettable story, The Things They Carried will remain with you long after finishing the final sentence.
History comes alive in Here Be Dragons
by Sharon Kay Penman. This book has everything: royalty, battles, politics, adventure, betrayal, genealogy and love triangles. Joanna, daughter of King John of England, is promised in marriage to Prince Llewelyn of Wales. As in most royal marriages during the twelfth century, alliances were forged for political reasons. Very small daughters were promised in marriage to king’s sons in order to protect land or gain it. Fourteen year old Joanna is fearful of leaving her home and marrying a stranger in a foreign land where the language is even stranger. Her husband, Llewelyn, eighteen years her senior, treats her with much kindness and Joanna eventually falls deeply in love with him.
Forging this bond between England and Wales does not mean they live in harmony. Her father and husband are constantly battling over land rights and power. At one point Joanna must beg her father to spare her husband’s life. Joanna and Llewelyn’s love is not without additional complications. Llewelyn strays at times and Joanna falls into adultery. This wrenching love triangle ends with her lover’s death by hanging and forgiveness given to Joanna because of the deep love her husband has for her.
The history is carefully researched and detailed in this first book of a trilogy. We learn so much of the culture and minds of the medieval people. The difficult Welsh names and pseudo-period language that Penman uses makes this a novel that takes much concentration. The plots are complex and involve many different real monarchs that lived during that time period but the writing is excellent and worth the time necessary to truly absorb this period in history.
Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love, one of the classic works of Christian fiction that has held a spot on the Christian Bestseller Association’s top-selling titles, was a romance writer for a decade before encountering Christ and turning to Christian fiction. She has written numerous novels since then with Christian themes and won many accolades and awards.
Her Mother’s Hope is the first of a two part series that is a semi-autobiographical history of her mother’s family covering several generations. A rift between her mother and her grandmother that was never known to be mended was the idea that Francine has explored in the first book of Marta’s Legacy. Many miles of geography are covered as Marta travels from her home in Switzerland, escaping a hard, abusive father, to London where she cares for Lady Daisy, a lonely but loving woman who encourages Marta to do more with life by moving to Canada, a land of promise. Here she meets and marries a devoted man and begins her family. Her first child is a healthy son, Bernhard. Her second, a small daughter, Hildemara Rose, who fights to live. This begins the story of Marta’s struggle to raise Hildemara in a way that will help her be strong and independent. She sees her own weak, late sister in Hildemara and fears her daughter may come to the same end that Elise did. How can efforts to teach and disciple become so complicated that love is hidden? We leave Hildemara and Marta at the end of Her Mother’s Hope at a crossroads. The story continues in Her Daughter’s Dream, now available at Manhattan Public Library.
>William Doyle, an English spy stationed in revolutionary France, finds Marguerite de Fleurignac hiding in the remnants of her burned out chateau. She is the key to completing his mission of finding her father and a list of names of English military men he put together. Marguerite is determined to find her father and reunite with her family after the burning of the chateau, which fits right into William’s plans, so he maneuvers himself into escorting her to Paris. Along the way, Marguerite and William meet with other members of Marguerite’s network, La Fleche, that spirits people condemned to the guillotine out of the country. The two also come to admire each others’ intelligence and cunning in navigating the dangerous world of revolutionary France. Their attraction grows as they near Paris and the increased danger therein during the height of Robespierre’s Great Terror.
Bourne has created a wonderful romance between two strong, charismatic characters in The Forbidden Rose. The backdrop of revolutionary France and the Great Terror adds a sense of urgency and suspense to an already strong plot. The depth and relationships with the secondary characters also increases the appeal of this sensual love story.
> All About Romance is one of the oldest and most robust websites for romance readers on the web. They’ve been putting together a Top 100 Romances list based on a poll of members every two to three years since 1998. The 2010 list came out not too long ago, so I picked up one of the newer books from the list, Married by Morning (number 98) by Lisa Kleypas. I’d never read anything by Kleypas before, but since she wrote 15 of the top 100, I thought it was about time I tried one of her titles.
Catherine Marks is a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters, a position she enjoys and finds fulfilling. She loves her charges and her work, except for one thing. Their older brother, Leo, is a thoroughly exasperating man who seems to take perverse pleasure in arguing with her and trying to ruffle her collected exterior. Catherine is a woman with a past, and Leo also seems to be bent on finding out all of her secrets.
Leo also has a painful past and a period of his life he would rather forget. He adores his family, but has decided that he will never marry and have a family of his own.
A surprising kiss shared by Catherine and Leo shakes their beliefs about one another and their indifference to each other. The question is whether they will each be able to overcome their private reservations and pain to accept each other.
I’ve written about this series before, but this book was so sweet I just couldn’t resist revisiting. I also want to note that this book would be perfectly understandable even if you haven’t read any of the others. In the Pink Carnation series
Willig has continued to provide hilarious, suspenseful, and romantic fare that will leave you clammoring for the next in the series.
In The Mischief of the Mistletoe
we finally get to hear the story of Turnip Fitzhugh, the bumbling and lovable character that has accidently thwarted many an evil plot throughout the series. When visiting his mischevious sister at school to deliver her Christmas basket, he literally stumbles into Miss Arabella Dempsey, drawing the two of them into an intriguing plot involving suspicious Christmas puddings. Miss Dempsey was merely making starting a teaching position in an attempt to support herself after her aunt suddenly dashed her expectations. She wasn’t expecting to stumble into an evil plot or the man who guilelessly babbles his way into her heart.
With a cameo appearance by Jane Austen, this delightful romance will have you cheering for justice, true love, and the quest for a quality Christmas pudding.
The history of the miracle drug, penicillin, that helped the U.S. efforts to win World War II is the subject of Lauren Belfer’s new novel, A Fierce Radiance
. She has written a gripping fiction read blending enough fact to create a desire to learn the truth about the history of this important medicine.
Claire Shipley is a single mother and photojournalist for Life magazine. She is sent on assignment to document a promising new drug made from molds. So begins the story that draws us into romance, love, murder and intrigue during a period in our nation’s history like no other. Medicine was deparately needed to help our wounded soldiers. Our enemies also were willing to go to great lengths to procure such important secrets.
The War department took over control from all researching pharmaceutical companies and prevented any one company from profiting from this medicine. These companies secretly continued to research into alternate antibiotics so they could make huge profits from people desperate for something to save their loved ones. Lauren Belfer shares in an epilogue, (Historical Note) the true facts she put into her novel and a list of recommended books for learning more about the development of antibiotics.
Angus McKettrick has worked hard all his life, raising himself from poverty to the owner of one of the largest ranches in the Arizona Territory, only to raise the three sorriest sons around. Rafe, Kade, and Jeb work the ranch as little as possible, spending the majority of their time drinking, fighting, and carousing. Deciding that something must be done, Angus declares that the first to get married and produce offspring will get the ranch, producing a mad scramble of activity. Rafe takes action by ordering a bride through the mail.
Emmeline Harding has had a loving if lonely life as the neice of a madame in Kansas City. She has somehow managed to be raised as a respectable lady while surrounded by a life of sin. As she gets older, however, that sin starts to come closer and she suddenly finds it necessary to get out of town as soon as possible.
Rafe is a rascal who loves to fight more than anything and Emmeline is a sweet girl who is determined to make this marriage work, even if that means keeping a few details from her past secret from Rafe. In High Country Bride
, Miller creates a story filled with drama, humor, and love.
Tatiana de Rosnay has written ten books in her native French and the first one to be written in English was her smash hit Sarah’s Key that has sold over 2 million copies.. In that book she jumps between two time periods to tell the story of a secret hidden during the 1942 round-up of Jews in Paris and discovered 60 years later.
This newest story follows a similar premise of a family secret kept hidden for decades. Antoine, a divorced architect, wants to surprise his sister on her fortieth birthday with a trip to a special vacation place from their childhood. Together they experience mixed feelings as sights and people remind them of their mother who died when they were small. As they travel back to Paris Melanie remembers a startling repressed memory that disturbs her to the point of driving off the highway and rolling their auto. Melanie is hospitalized with a broken back and no memory of the event.
A Secret Kept delves into family relationships that mold us into the adults we become. Do we really know who our parents were and why they relate to us as they do? What are our expectations of each other and how can we forgive those we love when they don’t meet our expectations.
Cassie Griffin is standing heartbroken and pregnant over her husband’s freshly dug grave when the suitors start fighting for her hand in marriage. Montana territory in 1875 is a harsh place for a woman on her own, but Cassie wasn’t expecting to have to choose a new husband when the old one isn’t even cold in the ground. Through the crowd she sees Red Dawson, maybe not the man of her dreams, but kind and hardworking. Neither of them wants to get married, but they know it must be done to save her from men who are more interested in her land than her well-being.
Although the story starts with a sad and brutal theme, Montana Rose
becomes the hopeful and often humorous tale of a woman learning to trust her instincts and her husband, as well as a reluctant husband learning to appreciate his wife’s previously untapped talents for being a good ranch wife and a loving companion.