Book Review : The White Lady

It’s 1947 and Rose and her husband Jim Mackie flee to the quiet country English village of Kent with their three-year-old daughter Susie, in search of a life away from London and Jim’s family of ne’er-do-wells. When they are offered work and a place to live by a local couple, Rose thinks they can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

A war-weary 41-year-old, former government operative, Elinor White is also looking to live out her days peacefully in Kent. Upon meeting newcomers, Elinor makes it her business to know their business. When she learns that the Mackie brothers have visited, threatening Rose and Susie if Jim doesn’t return to assist with their next big job, Elinor decides that violence against women and children just won’t do. Coming out of hiding, Elinor vows that she will protect the young family and uses her Home Office connections in to attempt to take on the dangerous and powerful London Mackies. Unfortunately, she may get more than she bargains for when events from her own past catch up to her along the way.

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear is a departure from her beloved Maisie Dobbs’ series. This mystery introduces readers to a deeply affected and damaged, yet likeable and intelligent character in Elinor White, a woman who began a life in espionage while still a teen in Belgium and who is conflicted about her need to commit violence in order to protect others.

Told through alternating time lines, The White Lady is emotional and suspenseful, well-researched historical fiction with plenty of twists that will keep you turning its pages. While the author has said this book is not the start a new series, this reader is left wishing for a bit more time spent with the fascinating Miss White.

Don’t believe me; investigate on your own! Place your hold on The White Lady today and see what you think.


A Story You Can’t Refuse

Five-year-old Dante, son of a wealthy family, is kidnapped from the town square in 1810 Palermo, Sicily, but the corrupt local police refuse to investigate. Gaetano Catalano, a young lawyer and member of the Beati Paoli, a secret society of aristocrats who work in the name of Saint Paul, decides to look for the child – in a search that consumes him for decades.

Meanwhile, power-hungry Franco Fiorvanti, the lemon grower who orchestrated Dante’s kidnapping at his boss’s behest, is tired of working for others. Franco dreams of owning his own orchard and invites his twin Roberto to work alongside of him. The two, along with a host of men who swear blood oaths to them begin to offer protection to orchard owners, becoming what we know today as the “Mafia.”

Set against the backdrop of a mostly lawless Sicily over two decades and starring a wide cast of characters whose lives are upended by the Fiorvanti’s family’s ruthlessness, Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline is well-written historical fiction to savor. This novel about heartbreak, loss, revenge and justice is a departure from Scottoline’s legal thrillers but contains all the trademarks her fans love, including interesting characters, the overarching theme of good versus evil, and a satisfying ending. Place your hold today and prepare to be swept away to another time and place.


Book Review: Coronation Year

It’s January of 1953 and in six months, Queen Elizabeth II will be crowned monarch. All hope to be witnesses. The 400-year-old Blue Lion Hotel is lucky to be on the route Her Majesty will be taking that day – especially since the hotel, left to Edie Howard by her parents who died in WWII, has been struggling financially for years. Edie’s greatest wish is that the celebration will help the hotel regain solvency.

As the months pass, the hotel begins to fill. New guests include James Geddes, a Scottish artist with Indian heritage hired to create a painting of the procession, and Stella Donati, a Holocaust survivor and photographer from Rome. The two, who face mistreatment as foreigners, quickly bond with the kind and generous Edie. And, when it becomes clear that someone is out to sabotage the success of the Blue Lion, Edie will be happy she has such good friends by her side.

Coronation Year by Jennifer Robson is an absorbing read –uplifting, well-researched historical fiction that mixes suspenseful drama with a bit of a mystery and romance. Post-war London comes to life, as realistic and likeable characters who lost everything during the war, learn to live and love again. Coronation Year is the perfect novel for those who couldn’t stop watching this weekend’s coronation of Charles III, or for anyone looking for a lovely story.


New Historical Fiction

The Thread Collectors

Shaunna J. Edwards & Alyson Richman

In 1863, Stella, a black woman living in New Orleans, must say goodbye to William as he leaves to join the Union army. William is an enslaved flutist which saves him from the battlefield most of the time. Stella and William want to marry but cannot since Stella is owned by a white landowner who takes advantage of her on a regular basis. She soon becomes pregnant. Stella has a remarkable talent for using thread over and over again. Nothing is ever wasted. She is able to cleverly reuse thread to create maps that help slaves escape.

In New York City, Lily, a Jewish woman, suffragette, and abolitionist must say goodbye to her husband Jacob, a trombonist, composer, and Union army musician. Lily contributes to the abolitionist movement in New York.

William and Jacob develop a friendship because of their music while serving in the army. They are invited to entertain those in authority. Happily their friendship continues long after the Civil War.

This is an interesting story demonstrating the often degrading treatment of Black and Jewish soldiers during the Civil War.


New fiction

So Long, Chester Wheeler

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Lewis Madigan’s elderly neighbor Chester Wheeler is dying of cancer. Several of his home healthcare aides have quit. Chester is a very difficult person to be around for a variety of reasons, and his family will not take care of him. Chester’s daughter Ellie is desperate to find someone to take the job and finally convinces Lewis to give it a try. Lewis is desperate for money and Ellie has promised a generous paycheck.

Lewis is good with Chester. He ignores a lot and hollers back at Chester. Chester has a final trip in mind and Lewis agrees to drive Chester’s old Winnebago cross county to visit his ex-wife. After many difficult days of traveling, the pair finally make it to Sue’s home, but she refuses to talk to Chester and refuses to allow him in her home. With Lewis’ help, Sue and Chester are able to talk things over. Before heading back home, Sue suggests that they travel to visit Chester’s friend Mike. They served together in Vietnam and have things to talk over.

On the way back home, Chester dies.

Home healthcare aide becomes Lewis’ new profession. He eventually decides to become a nurse but promises not to quit helping another very difficult patient. His schooling is placed on hold for a time to fulfill his promise.


Spring into a Page-Turner

Philip Solomon is an author suffering from writer’s block. He decides to write what he knows and begins to document the disappearance of his friend Jeff’s mother, some 40 years previously.

On November 12, 1975, 10-year-old Miranda Larkin arrives home from school to discover her mother Jane missing without a trace. There is only one suspect – Dan Larkin, Jane’s husband and father to Miranda and her brothers, Jeff and Alex. Dan is an unflappable criminal defense attorney and a narcissist, but as Jane’s body is never found, he is never charged with murder. As years pass, Dan begins to suffer from dementia, and as Phil Solomon begins research for his book, old feelings and suspicion begin to surface once again. Is it possible that the Larkin kids were raised by a man who killed their mother?

William Landay’s All That Is Mine I Carry With Me is the perfect blend of a literary whodunnit and legal thriller and is twisty emotional family drama that keeps you guessing. Place your hold for this (deservedly) popular read and then just try and put it down after the first page.


Book Review: The Ingenue

The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Saskia Kreis is a piano prodigy returning home after her mother’s death. Riding into her hometown of Milwaukee on fumes, Saskia is barely making ends meet by writing SAT questions. Her days of tickling the ivories are long behind her, abruptly ending as she entered adulthood. It wasn’t easy, after all, to be the child genius of an accomplished classical musician and a renowned author-illustrator.

Saskia knows that the family home, named Elf House, will be hers one day soon. A gothic mansion, the house has been in the family for generations and has its quirks. But when her mother’s will doesn’t name Saskia as the inheritor of the home, she has questions. Why did her mother leave the unfinished manuscript in her famous Fairy Tales for Little Feminists series to Saskia? And most of all, why did she leave the house to Patrick Kintner? Patrick is a spectral shadow on Saskia’s young adulthood that she just can’t shake. Elf House is meant to be Saskia’s, and she will do whatever it takes to make sure that her mother’s family legacy is protected.

Author Kapelke-Dale follows her debut The Ballerinas with a #MeToo story that will keep you reading “just one more chapter.”

Request a print copy, ebook, or eaudiobook.


What We’re Reading Now

Maame by Jessica George

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George’s Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong. Linnea 

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins 

 A strange, twisting novel that resists being pigeonholed into one genre. At its simplest, this is the tale of a girl and her adopted siblings trying to find their missing father. A little bit of horror, fantasy, and science fiction are mixed with metaphysical, philosophical ponderings for a truly excellent, one-of-a-kind reading experience. Shannon 

Looking for the Hidden Folk by Nancy Brown

Part memoir, part travelog, part call for conservation, part investigation into the study of belief on a material, spiritual, and conceptual level, Looking for the Hidden Folk is a book that defies sitting in a single genre. Author Nancy Marie Brown share her decades long love of Iceland by giving a historical and literal background along with her own travels and multiple visits. All of this is centered around the belief in elves. Brown takes multiple approaches to this topic but doesn’t offer a solid answer to emerge. This becomes a strength for the book, allowing readers to make their own decision or to maintain a solid position of ambiguity. A great read for someone who has visited/will visit Iceland. Greg 


Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey 

Vera Crowder always loved the house her father built. But the Crowder house was created to hide the secret life of a serial killer. Vera just happened to call him Dad. When her estranged mother Daphne calls to tell her she’s dying, Vera ends up back at the house where it all began. Now a twisted tourist attraction, the house has two occupants: Daphne and Duvall, an artist capitalizing on the family’s dark history. As Daphne packs up the place she once called home, she revisits the haunting moments shared inside the walls. This twisty horror novel gives new meaning to the phrase “home is where the heart is.” Melinda 


The Golden Spoon by Jessica Maxwell 

It’s the 10th season of Bake Week and six new amateur bakers have been selected to compete for The Golden Spoon. As before, they’ll gather under a big white tent in the mountains of Vermont on the grounds of Grafton Manor, family estate of legendary baker and host of the competition, Betsy Martin. Surprised by the addition of a co-host, supposedly to bring in younger viewers, Betsy is unhappy with how the season is going long before murder is committed. Quirky characters, fun pop culture references, and a few surprising plot twists, keep the pages turning. Readers who enjoy The Great British Bake Off and classic closed room mysteries should pick this one up asap! Stacey 

The London Seance Society by Sarah Penner

I loved Sarah Penner’s book The Lost Apothecary so I am eager to crack open her latest The London Séance Society. It opens in 1873, where the unlikely pair of Vaudeline D’Allaire, a renowned spiritualist, and Lenna Wickes, a woman investigating her sister’s death, team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve a high-profile murder. It’s sure to be a spooky and suspenseful read. Carol 

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels: In 1986, Brian, a gay man who has spent the last six years in NYC, comes home to Ohio. The story is about reconciliation, grief, acceptance, and home. 

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark: In 1912, Agent Fatma of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, along with her girlfriend, Siti, must solve the murders of a secret brotherhood. The suspected murderer is Al-Jahiz, who opened the veil between the mystical and earthly realms 50 years ago and is now vowing to destroy the world because of it’s social oppressions. 

Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy: Saint Sebastian’s School is targeted by a serial arson and it’s up to Sister Holiday, of the Sisters of the Sublime Blood, to solve the case. This punk rocker nun must do all of this while confronting her checkered past and not get caught smoking…. Christine 

Exalted by Anna Dorn

Emily, a jaded Instagram astrologer, becomes obsessed with a client after reading his “perfect” birth chart.  She pursues him romantically, with terrible consequences. In a parallel narrative, Dawn’s decades of unhinged dating behavior turn into a reputation that increasingly precedes her.  Nobody is who they want you to think they are in this dark satire about image, excuses, and taking all the bad advice we can get.  Annelise 

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

A psychological thriller about a desperate mother, Isabelle Drake, who’s son Mason has been missing for a year, taken from his crib while he was sleeping, and the case has never been solved. She hasn’t slept for more than minutes at a time since her son went missing, and she is beginning to lose her grip on reality and to wonder what really happened that night. Her marriage has fallen apart and a true-crime podcaster has come to town offering to interview her and help bring publicity to the case. However, Isabelle has secrets in her past that may not stand up to the scrutiny of a podcast. Isabelle is desperate to know what happened to Mason, but will her deepest fears be true? Sara

Book Review: Exiles by Jane Harper

It’s been a year since Kim Gillespie disappeared without a trace from a local festival in South Australia wine country’s Marralee Valley and the trail has run cold. The local police assume the woman walked away from her newborn baby daughter’s stroller before meeting with foul play.

Detective Aaron Falk was visiting friends Greg and Rita Raco at the time Kim disappeared, and a year later, he is in town again to celebrate the christening of their new son. Kim’s family – also relations of the Racos – are using the festival and gathering to reignite the search.

Aaron is drawn to life in Maralee Valley and its close-knit community, its beautiful landscape, and one local woman in particular. Kim’s friend Gemma Tozer has caught Aaron’s interest, but Gemma is still raw, having lost her own husband in a drunken hit and run accident whose driver was never found. As Aaron learns more about the intricacies of Kim Gillespie’s life, he uncovers fractured relationships with her one-time best friends — a group he suspects might be hiding something. Could the two unsolved crimes somehow be connected?

Exiles is a slow-burning mystery with excellent character development, a gorgeous setting and an oh-so-satisfying ending. Exiles is the third (and sadly, final) entry in Jane Harper’s expertly plotted Aaron Falk series. While it can be read on its own, for maximum enjoyment, start with The Dry, which introduces Falk, and follow his emotional character journey from its beginning.