New Historical Fiction

It was 1942 in Bergen when Rumi Orlstad’s future husband Magnus drowned at sea. He was part of the Norwegian resistance movement along with Rumi. Resistance duties included smuggling British agents, supplies, and fugitives across the North Sea into Scotland (nicknamed the Shetland Bus, a permanent link between Mainland Shetland in Scotland and Norway). Rumi’s fisherman father Peder, her almost-brother Rubio, along with her best friend and neighbor Marjit assist in their own ways with the goal of ridding Norway of the Germans.

Rumi helps rescue two SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents, and Jens Parks was one of them. He and Rumi eventually work together to free Anya, who was date raped by a German officer. She lived at one of the Lebensborn maternity homes. Hitler wanted to enhance Aryan genes and Norwegians matched his ideals. Many Norwegian women had consensual sex with Nazis or were raped. Some of those women were housed in a Lebensborn location until they gave birth. Those babies were given to childless German families to raise as their own.

I was unaware of much of the above information regarding the occupation of Norway. I was also unaware of Lebensborn which was begun by Heinrich Himmler. (There were multiple Lebornsborn locations in Germany, Norway, and occupied northern Europe, including Poland.)

An interesting story for historical fiction readers! (The Nazi German occupation of Norway began on April 9, 1940 and continued until May 9, 1945.) .

~Emma

A Clever Little Story

The village of Prometto, Italy (population 212) is in big trouble. It will cost 70,000 euros (nearly $71,000) to repair the town’s failing water system and their treasury is depleted. Signor Speranza, a vacuum repairman and the town’s part-time mayor must come up with a plan to save their beloved town.

Speranza starts a rumor that the Italian movie star, Dante Rinaldi, is coming to Prometto to film a movie. He convinces the local butcher, Signor Maestro, to give him most of 70,000 euros as long as at least one of his 15 sons gets a part in the movie. Thanks to social media, the rumor spreads quickly. Everyone wants a part. Speranza decides to start filming the movie with no knowledge and little equipment while waiting for Dante to arrive. He employs his assistant, Smilzo, to provide the screen play, help with auditions, and film the movie. Unfortunately, all of the above is a lie and Signor Speranza gets buried deeper and deeper with all his lies.

The debut novel by Christine Simon is a quick fun read.

~Emma

New Historical Fiction

With vastly different backgrounds Lizzie and Sophie settled in Huntsville, Alabama in 1950. Their husbands were part of the rocket program sponsored by the U.S. government.

Sophie’s husband, Jurgen, became part of “Operation Paperclip” which was a secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII. (1,600+ Nazi German scientists, engineers, and technicians were taken from former Nazi Germany to the U.S. for government employment after the end of World War II in Europe between 1945 and 1959.) Sophie was left in Berlin with their children for 5 years before she was able to come to the United States. The transition to the United States was difficult. Learning English was hard, customs were different, and local citizens were suspicious of the Germans even though the U.S. government went to great lengths to hide the pasts of the scientists they brought to America.

Lizzie and her brother Henry grew up on a farm during the Depression. To survive, they were forced to abandon the farm after their parents died. They were accustomed to fending for themselves. Henry served in the military in Europe and came home a different man. Lizzie married Calvin, a wealthy widower, who gave her everything she could ask for and more. She quickly became bored with her pampered life. As a newlywed Lizzie had to suddenly become someone who was interested in clothes, hair, makeup, and her fancy home. She wanted to be back on the farm.

Early in the novel a picnic took place to welcome the German families to Huntsville. There Sophie and Lizzie quarreled Over time, their encounters continued to deteriorate.

This is a terrific book for fans of historical fiction with a lot of drama. I love it when I learn something new, namely “Operation Paperclip.”

~Emma

Historically Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists transformed Huntsville in the 1950s into a technology center. Today it is home to the second largest research park in the United States and to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) with its world-class educational program, Space Camp®.

A Fairy Tale Romance

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

In this contemporary retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” 25-year-old Izzy has been biding her time as an editorial assistant at the “Tale As Old As Time” publishing company, waiting for a promotion that isn’t on the horizon. Izzy’s boss is having a tough time of getting bad-boy Hollywood star Beau Towers to deliver on the tell-all memoir he has promised. Izzy sees an opportunity to dazzle and volunteers to visit Beau unannounced and convince him to fulfill his obligations.

Beau is certainly handsome but is as beastly as they come personality-wise, and he certainly does not appreciate Izzy’s arrival or her pep talk. Nevertheless, Beau challenges her to move into his Santa Barbara mansion for a week to see if she can get him writing. Beau soon must admit that Izzy is very good at her job. As Izzy starts to crack Beau’s tough exterior and gets him to put pen to paper, the two discover they have more in common than expected. As their deadline nears, an attraction forms and they each begin to panic about losing their time together.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory is a sweet and funny, well-paced romance with a cute premise, great chemistry between the characters, and a swoon-worthy final scene. This is the second book in the “Meant to Be” series by Disney Books. Fans of “Beauty and the Beast” will appreciate all of the book’s hidden Easter eggs, including the character “Kettle,” Beau’s assistant and chef. If you are looking for a fairy tale romance this summer, read By the Book, and then pick up the series starter, Julie Murphy’s Cinderella-inspired If the Shoe Fits.

-Carol

Cozy up with a new book

It’s November 2016 when a staff member is found dead near the swimming pool at Buckingham Palace. The victim is an unpopular member of the housekeeping staff. Senior staff tries to shield the Queen from the awful news, but she inserts herself into the investigation along with her assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi. In addition to the murder, the Queen realizes that one of her favorite paintings, Britannia, is missing and has been for some time. Apparently there have been a string of missing items (dubbed the Breakages Business) from the palace since the 1980’s. In addition to all of the above, there has been a poison pen campaign. Some palace employees have been threatened causing some to leave and three have turned up dead.

The Queen and Rozie make good partners in solving crimes and at giving helpful hints. They manage to convince the Palace staff chiefs, managers and police into thinking they solved the crimes on the Queen’s behalf.

This is the second entry in the “Her Majesty the Queen Investigates” series following The Windsor Knot (2020). Murder Most Royal is scheduled to be published in November 2022. I look forward to the next one. These are fun stories.

~Emma

A Good Book for Book Club

The Foundling
by Ann Leary

In 1927, Mary Engle is a bit naïve for her 19 years, likely due to being raised in an orphanage. When she graduates from a secretarial course, she is thrilled to be offered a job at the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Mary is impressed by the institute’s head psychiatrist and (female!) superintendent Dr. Agnes Vogel and thinks if she saves money and goes to college, she might become a powerful woman in charge one day. Vogel is a believer in eugenics, and therefore is interested in controlling reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable, “desirable” characteristics. She leads Mary to believe that Nettleton’s residents have been confined because they are not fit for society, due to low IQ or loose morals, and that they deserve to remain incarcerated until they are no longer of childbearing age.

At first, Mary does not question Vogel’s practices, which include keeping wages from women who work outside of Nettleton, not allowing residents to correspond with their family and enabling bored husbands to institutionalize their wives.

Things change when Mary spots Lillian, a woman around her age that attended the same Catholic orphanage where Mary spent her childhood. Mary is sure Lillian has no mental disorder but is afraid she will lose her job if she admits to knowing her. Lillian, the title’s “foundling,” sees Mary as her way out but must first convince her how corrupt Vogel’s program really is. Can Mary save Lillian, whose life has taken a bad turn? Or does Mary have her own reasons for wanting to keep her past friendship with Lillian a secret?

The Foundling by Ann Leary is fascinating historical fiction that is based on the author’s own family experiences. Readers of well-researched novels and book clubs will appreciate this look at a dark chapter of our history and the crimes committed against women in the past by those in power. This novel kept me reading until the end to learn the fate of Leary’s characters who come to life between its covers.

-Carol

Cozy up with a new book

Olivia (Liv) Green is a wife, mother, aspiring writer, and housekeeper. She cleans house for her favorite author, Essie Starling. Reclusive Essie is working on the 20th installment of her Georgia Rory adventure series and asks for input from Liv which she readily gives. When Essie suddenly dies, she leaves the completion of the novel to Liv with stipulations. The book is to be released along with the news of her death on November 1st, and no one is to know that Liv finished the book. That gives Liv 6 months to complete the project. To complete the novel Liv needs to understand Essie better. She decides to go back in time and visit Essie’s two ex-husbands to try to understand why Essie lived such a reclusive life for 10 years. Liv eventually discovers a personal connection with Essie that she does not understand at first.

This is a heart-warming, uplifting story not to be missed.

~Emma

Cozy up with a new book

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

There are three narrators to the story. Fashion designer Cressida Westcott faces the loss of her business and home destroyed in the London Blitz. She moves back home to Aldhurst with nothing but the clothes on her back. Violet Westcott, Cressida’s niece, is a living a carefree life dreaming of marrying a titled man until her conscription letter arrives. Grace Carlisle plans to marry the local vicar and quietly support his career. She wants to wear a white dress on her wedding day. With the help of the village sewing circle and Cressida, Grace’s mother’s wedding dress is transformed into a beautiful gown once again.

Grace does not marry the local vicar after all but offers the use of her wedding dress to others. With clothing and fabric rationed, it’s the only way many women can wear a white dress on their wedding day. The sewing circle receives donations of used wedding gowns. They repair and update them for new brides.

There is so much more to the story. Cressida wants to get back to work in London. Grace ends up working for Cressida as a creative assistant and model. Violet marries an American serviceman and is moving to the States. All three women find love in unexpected places.

This is a charming tale not to be missed.

~Emma

Get Cozy, with a Mystery

Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross

Jane Darrowfield is in her 60s and after just a year of retirement from her job as a corporate executive, she’s already bored. She’s put her extra time to good use, however, and has managed to help a few friends out of some delicate situations, and word has got around in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. When the director of a nearby senior living community asks Jane to help solve a problem among its residents – and get paid to do it – Jane agrees, even though it means she’ll be temporarily relocating to a place she feels she’s not old enough to live in.

Jane goes undercover as a prospective resident and quickly figures out who the bullies behind the pranks and rivalries are at Walden Springs. Before she is there a full 24 hours, one of the residents is found dead on the golf course and Jane finds herself in the middle of murder investigation. Have these seniors’ juvenile shenanigans gotten out of hand or is there something more sinister afoot? Don’t worry, Jane will get to the bottom of things.

Jane Darrowfield, Professsional Busybody is the first in a series and Jane is the perfect sleuth – smart, level-headed, and a good observer who is unafraid to stick her nose into other people’s business. With plenty of humor, the promise of possible new romance, and plenty of red herrings that will keep you guessing, why not take a break from the heavy stuff and pick up this cozy mystery? And then, reward yourself with its sequel, Jane Darrowfield, and the Madwoman Next Door.

-Carol

“Once Upon a Crime” June 6th – 7:00-8:00

You are invited to attend a discussion of the following novel

in the Community Room on June 6th.

Hope to see you there!

The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer

On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by museum worker Vincent Peruggia. The theft was not discovered immediately. In truth, many thought the painting was taken to the roof where others were being photographed due to better lighting. After two days, an international hunt was on to recover the stolen work. Peruggia’s scheme was to have forgeries made of the painting and have them sold as the original. Along with the forger and go-between, Perrugia would become rich. (There were nine forgeries.) In 1913, Perrugia returned the Mona Lisa to the Louvre. Was it the real thing or a forgery?

Vincent Peruggia is the great-grandfather of art professor Luke Perrone. Luke is obsessed with the story behind the theft. He travels to Florence, Italy. His great-grandfather’s journal is available at the Laurentian library in Florence. Others seem interested in the truth behind the theft including an INTERPOL agent and a young American woman.

A terrifying and thrilling multi-layered novel.

~Emma