My family and friends on the East Coast are currently being hammered with snow, severe winds and some sort of Arctic vortex that’s been in the news all week. Meanwhile, I am on the West Coast where we apparently have a severe wind warning just north of us, and people lying on the beach a few blocks from us. But my heart is still buried in the snow with everyone back in Toronto, and as such I have reverted to my snow-bound ways: soup, hot tea and book lists.
So while I settle in with my clam chowder and lemony tea, here are the books I am currently looking for at the bookstore:
The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .
What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.
Lauren Willig is a gem that shines out from the rest of the books on the bookshelf whenever I walk by the romance section. She is smart and witty and wry, and everything that should be in an English spy-romance thriller type. I fell in love with her work through my friend, Lauren Smith, who introduced me to the Pink Carnation series. The series is Regency-set about spies in the Scarlet Pimpernel like, but with daring female spies, too! Willig has been immersed in her spies and loves for quite a few years now, and so she’s also branching off into new writing territories: The Ashford Affair was published a while ago, but I hate hardcovers, so I have bide my time until the paperback was released – and now that it has, I will run out and get it on my way to the market tomorrow!
The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb
When a mysterious letter lands in Hallie James’s mailbox, her life is upended. Hallie was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire decades earlier. But it turns out that her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie’s father have taken her away from Madlyn? What really happened to her family thirty years ago?
In search of answers, Hallie travels to the place where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. The stiff islanders fix her first with icy stares and then unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks so familiar, and Hallie quickly realizes her family’s dark secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place. But not everyone greets her with such a chilly reception—a coffee-shop owner and the family’s lawyer both warm to Hallie, and the possibility of romance blooms. And then there’s the grand Victorian house bequeathed to her—maybe it’s the eerie atmosphere or maybe it’s the prim, elderly maid who used to work for her mother, but Hallie just can’t shake the feeling that strange things are starting to happen…
I just finished the eerie gothic, The Fate of Mercy Alban, by Wendy Webb and was so impressed that I wanted immediately to start on Webb’s other books. I checked my local bookseller and Halcyon Crane is at the store – so I will be picking that one up tomorrow too! I love a good gothic novel, and if she writes in the same vein as she did with Mercy Alban, I fully expect to enjoy each turn and twist of the story!
Down London Road by Samantha Young
It has always been up to Johanna to care for her family, particularly her younger brother, Cole. With an absent father and a useless mother, she’s been making decisions based on what’s best for Cole for as long as she can remember. She even determines what men to date by how much they can provide for her brother and her, not on whatever sparks may—or may not—fly.
But with Cameron MacCabe, the attraction is undeniable. The sexy new bartender at work gives her butterflies every time she looks at him. And for once, Jo is tempted to put her needs first. Cam is just as obsessed with getting to know Jo, but her walls are too solid to let him get close enough to even try.
Then Cam moves into the flat below Jo’s, and their blistering connection becomes impossible to ignore. Especially since Cam is determined to uncover all of Jo’s secrets…even if it means taking apart her defenses piece by piece.
I have been a fan of Sam Young since she was self-publishing her YA series – but I have been lax in getting onto this series. For my birthday last year, I grabbed a copy of On Dublin Street and read it while on the way down to Massachusetts for the Boy’s little brother’s graduation. Seriously, guys, I read the book in like a few hours. I was enthralled. Down London Road picks up the story of a secondary character of ODS and I am actually looking forward to seeing where it goes.
And here are a few that are in a pile next to my bed, waiting for me to pick them up:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.
Four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The four lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.
This one has been on my pile for way too long. It followed me from the end of law school, to my parents house, to my first home with the Boy, across the continent to our new home here. And yet, I keep pushing it to the back, other books taking precedent. This is an unjust insult to Alice Hoffman – an author I have loved to read since I first picked up Practical Magic, having watched the movie (Spoiler Alert: the two are not alike in the least …). A story that blends the history and mythos of ancient women is a call to me – it’s what first attracted me to The Red Tent, and it is what first prompted me to pick up this one. I look forward to finally reading the story!
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.
Again – I love anything that smells like it may be a gothic novel. Anything. Even comedies. This is most assuredly not a comedy though. I think. The best comedies fool you, you know? Anyways, This was a pick up at a used bookstore that was down the street from our house in Toronto, and it just spoke to me – possibly because it reminded me of the Secret Garden of my childhood, or maybe because I have been hearing such great things about Kate Morton!
The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Bracksston
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?
I am a fool for a witchy story – any witchy story. I love the dynamic of witches as an expression of female power, and a symbol of the universal violence against women. It’s a powerful concept, and the good witch stories always touch on the injustice of it. This one follows a modern-day witch who happens to be a few centuries old, and still running from someone or something. Also, it’s set in England. And I think everyone knows I am a mighty Anglophile!
So there you have it! I will be spending my evenings sipping tea and soup, curling up on the couch and getting my novel on. That, and watching the new series of Sherlock…
What are you doing to beat the cold?