The English Wife by Lauren Willig
“They say he’s bankrupted himself rebuilding the house—all for her
, of course.”
Summary: When Bayard Van Duyvil is found dead with a knife in his chest and his wife, Annabelle is missing, speculation starts around the happy couple. Did Annabelle kill her husband? Who is she anyway? The whirlwind romance and quick marriage to an English woman brings gossip and questions to the New York society. Janie, Bay’s sister, is determined to find out who killed her brother and clear her sister-in-law’s name.
Highlights: I am a huge fan of Lauren Willig and her books. She can write a good mystery with well-developed characters. I really liked the character of Georgie/Annabelle. She has a twisted past that is slowly revealed through the story. Her relationship with Bay was one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed their interactions and the way that their relationship changed. The rules and etiquette of society were so annoying but I believe very real for the time. Divorce and gossip were game changers for people of the upper classes. The old money hated the new money. There is a plenty of detail about the period making it easy for me as a reader to understand and be transported into the story. The ending shocked me. I was not expecting the story to wrap up the way it did but it was perfect. As I read another review, they compared it to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this is a great comparison.
Lowlights: The switching between 1899 and 1894 got a little confusing at different points. I am not always good about reading the little notes at the beginning of the chapter detailing when and where the story is taking place. It is very important in this book. In the middle, the story seemed to hit a lull. It was all about building up to the climax at the end.
FYI: Another win for Lauren Willig! If you like this, check out her Pink Carnation series. They are fantastic.
The Visitors by Catherine Burns
First line: Like a white bird, the scream flew up from the depths of the cellar, then became trapped inside Marion’s head.
Summary: Marion, a spinster, living with her brother in their cluttered childhood home, is scared of the secret that is hidden in the cellar. When her brother has a heart attack, she has to face the reality of what he has been hiding. Told through flashbacks and snippets of their past lead you to believe that people are not always what they seem.
Highlights: A slow burning thriller. Little pieces of information are scattered throughout the book leading to theories. I kept thinking I had figured out who and what was happening but then I would second guess myself. Marion and John’s relationship and lifestyle oddly transfixed me. Who are these people? How have they lived this long like this and no one has ever discovered their secret? The end leaves you with a sense of “what happened?” Very unsettling but in a good and spooky way. I had a very tough time putting this down.
Lowlights (or what could have been better): The only problem I found was I kept waiting for some big reveal at the end but it didn’t come. But I wasn’t really disappointed because I still am thinking about the story and the ending and wondering. Who is to blame? Who was the scarier of the siblings?
FYI: Not fast paced but worth every page.
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
First Line: Sofia, the year 2008.
Summary: When Alexandra takes a summer job in Sofia, Bulgaria she thinks that it will be the perfect way to heal the loss of her brother who disappeared on a hiking trip. But things do not turn out the way she had planned. She meets a group of three people outside a hotel but when they go their separate ways she notices that she has kept one of their bags. Inside are human ashes. With the help of the friendly taxi driver, Bobby, she is determined to find the group and return the remains. Everything is not as easy as she expected when threats and warnings start to appear as they dig deeper into whose ashes are in the urn.
Highlights: I love the pieces near the end when you get to look into the life of Stoyan Lazarov. He details his time after the war and living in Communist controlled Bulgaria. The strength that he possesses is astounding. I have read a lot about prisoners during the Holocaust and it always scares me plus amazes me the will power and strength these people have.
Lowlights: The middle is slow moving as they are traveling around Bulgaria looking for the relatives of Stoyan. It was a lot of detail gathering and talking that leads up till the ending but it got long.
FYI: Read her other book, The Historian! Amazing read. But make sure you keep the lights on.
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
First Line: I didn’t set out to lose myself.
Summary: Madeleine is a married woman who is bored and unhappy with her life. Her husband is controls everything from the money to what she
is allowed to do with her day. She loves to paint but he has made it clear that he does not think that this is something she should be spending her time doing. When she goes home to visit her mother she finds her grandmother’s journals in a trunk in the attic. Through the writings of a woman she barely knew she finds out more about herself and what she wants from life.
Margie is a young woman in 1924. She was a debutante but remains unmarried making her practically an old maid. When the chance to chaperone her younger cousin around Europe is presented she jumps at the chance to see the world before she settles into marriage with one of her father’s business partners. But the trip doesn’t turn out as planned. Her cousin ditches her in Paris leaving Margie with the question of what to do alone in Europe. Rather than take her parents advice and return home she decides that Paris has more to offer her, even if it’s only for a little while.
Highlights: Paris! It has been 11 years since I visited the City of Lights but I want to go again. This book took me back to the 4 days I got to spend there in college. The monuments, cathedrals and the food were magical! I envy Margie the chance to live in this beautiful city. I liked the flashbacks. It made the story richer as you found out more about each woman. I was able to connect with them and became invested in each of their lives.
Lowlights: Most of the story was very predictable. I knew what was going to happen in most of the book but that is not always a bad thing. It felt like a safe and comfortable read.
FYI: You will want to visit (or live) in Paris after this!
Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen
First Line: Kelsea Glynn sat very still, watching the troop approach her homestead.
Summary: Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. She was raised away from her mother, the capital city and the life of a queen. When she returns to New London she knows that she has the right to rule but it comes with more challenges than she expects. There are enemies everywhere plotting her downfall. The neighboring Red Queen who has been taking Tear slaves for years, the ministers in her cabinet and even the church leaders have expectations from the new queen but Kelsea is not an ordinary queen. The magical Tear jewel gives Kelsea new powers that she has no idea how to harness. Visions of the Crossing, the exodus from a distant land of advanced technology, begin to invade her mind and show her the vision of what the Tearling was meant to be. As she learns more about the past, the present is creeping in from all sides as the enemies advance on her and her kingdom.
Highlights: The detail is fabulous. Everything is beautifully written and the characters are complex and filled with secrets. You think you know what is going to happen but then it is turned upside down. There are little twists that keeps the reader guessing. I loved the flashbacks. All the books were amazing and highly recommended.
Lowlights: The one problem I had was the time in between reading each book led to me forgetting facts or confusing events and names. There is so much detail that it is hard to remember it all but each book does a good job of summarizing the last and ties it up at the end.
FYI: There is violence, sex, magic and language but it doesn’t deter from the story but only enriches it.