SPOTLIGHT/EXCERPT: The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman


Publishing May 30, 2023-Berkley-Historical Fiction-Mystery & Thrillers-464pp

A high society amateur detective at the heart of Regency London uses her wits and invisibility as an ‘old maid’ to protect other women in a new and fiercely feminist historical mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Alison Goodman.


“We should have worn half boots,” I said. “I can feel every pebble through my slippers.”

“One cannot wear half boots with full dress,” Julia said firmly. “Even in circumstances of duress.”

I stifled a smile. My sister’s sense of style and occasion was always impeccable, and rather too easy to poke.

Julia glanced sideways at me. “Oh, very funny. Next you’ll be suggesting we wear unmentionables.”

“If only we could,” I said. “Breeches would be far more convenient than silk gowns.”

“How would you know?” Julia demanded. “Heavens, Gus, you haven’t actually donned Father’s clothing, have you?”

She knew I had kept some of our father’s clothes after his death; he and I had been much the same height and wiry build. By all rights, the clothes belonged to our brother on his succession to the title-as all our father’s property did-but I had taken them, anyway. A connection to him and a memento mori of sorts.

“Of course not. I am only surmising.”

Julia settled back against my arm. “To even try them would be ghoulish.” She nudged me gently and angled her sweet smile up at me. “Even so, you would look rather dashing in, say, a hussars uniform. You have the commanding height for it, and the gold trim would match your hair.”

I snorted. Julia was, as ever, being too loyal. My brown hair did not even approach gold-in fact, it now had streaks of silver-and my five foot nine inches had so far in my life proved to be more awkward than commanding. She, on the other hand, had been blessed with the Colebrook chestnut hair, as yet untouched by age, and stood at a more dainty five foot two inches.

When we were children I had once cried because we were not identical. Our father had taken me aside and told me that he found such duplications unsettling and he was well satisfied with his two mismatched girls. He had been a good father and a better man. Yet in the eyes of society, his sordid death atop a rookery whore five years ago had become the sum of him.

It had nearly tainted my sister and me, too, for I had recklessly gone to the hovel to retrieve my father-I could not bear to think of his body gawped at by the masses, or as a source of their sport. As fate would have it, I was seen at the brothel. An unmarried woman of breeding should not even know about such places, let alone debase herself by entering one and speaking to the inhabitants. I became the latest on-dit and it was only the staunch support of our most influential friends that silenced the scandalmongers and returned us to the invitation lists.

A small group of middlings-the women with shawls clasped over dimity gowns and the men in belcher neckerchiefs and sober wools-clustered around a singer at the side of the path. The woman’s plaintive ballad turned Julia’s head as we passed.

“‘The Fairy Song,'” she said. “One of Robert’s favorites.”

I quickened our pace past the memory; fate seemed to be conspiring against me.

We attracted a few glances as we walked toward the gloomy entrance to the Dark Walk, mainly from women on the arms of their spouses, their thoughts in the tight pinch of their mouths.

“Maybe we should have brought Samuel and Albert,” Julia whispered. She had seen the matronly judgment too.

“Charlotte does not want our footmen knowing her business,” I said. “Besides, we are not quivering girls in our first season. We do not need to be chaperoned all the time.”

“Do you remember the code we girls made up to warn each other about the men in our circle?” Julia asked. “The code based on these gardens.”

“Vaguely.” I searched my memory. “Let me see: a Grand Walk was a pompous bore, a Supper Box was a fortune hunter . . .”

“And a Dark Walk was the reddest of red flags,” Julia said. “Totally untrustworthy, never be alone with him. It was based on all those awful attacks that happened in the Dark Walk at the time. Do you recall?”

I did-respectable young girls pulled off the path and assaulted in the worst way.

“That was more than twenty years ago, my dear. We are women of forty-two now, well able to look after ourselves.”

“That is not what Duffy would say.”

Indeed, our brother, the Earl of Duffield, would be horrified to know we had gone to Vauxhall Gardens on our own, let alone braved the lewd reputation of the Dark Walk.

“Duffy would have us forever hunched over embroidery or taking tea with every mama who saw her daughter as the new Lady Duffield.”

“True,” Julia said, “but you are so vehement only because you know this is beyond the pale. Not to mention dangerous.”

I did not meet her eye. My sister knew me too well.

“Well, we are here, anyway,” I said, indicating the Dark Walk to our right.

Huge gnarly oaks lined either side of the path, their overhanging branches almost meeting in the middle to make a shadowy tunnel of foliage. One lamp lit the entrance but I could see no other light farther along the path. Nor any other person.

“It lives up to its name,” Julia said.

We both considered its impenetrable depths.

“Should we do as Duffy would want and turn back?” I asked.

“I’d rather wear dimity to the opera,” Julia said and pulled me onward.

I knew my sister just as well as she knew me.

Excerpted from The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman Copyright © 2023 by Alison Goodman. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Alison is the author of seven novels, with her eighth, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, due out in May/June 2023.

Alison can dance a mean contra-dance, has a wardrobe full of historically accurate Regency clothes and will travel a long way for a good High Tea. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and was recently awarded her PhD at the University of Queensland so can now call herself Dr Al.

Photo courtesy of Tania Jovanovic

All the Pretty Places by Joy Callaway


Publishes May 9, 2023-Harper Muse-Historical Fiction-400pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Joy Callaway’s All the Pretty Places transports readers to the Gilded Age of extravagant Fifth Avenue, New York mansions surrounded by elaborately landscaped gardens and terraces overflowing with palms, roses, peonies, and lilacs. The setting is Charlie Fremd’s Rye Nurseries, famous on the East Coast for rare and exotic plants but as the result of an economic downturn known as the Panic of 1893, his nursery is in peril. Main character Sadie Fremd is Charlie’s 22-year-old daughter, whose love and lifelong study of horticulture has prepared her to take over the nurseries when he retires. At the center of the family business crisis is that neither of Sadie’s brothers is interested in running the nurseries. The oldest son Charlie Jr., an adventurer, has been lured to Florida to design gardens for Hotel Royal Poinciana, and younger Freddie has gone to Chicago to follow political aspirations. Sadie’s father does not see her as a viable successor, believing “men should be about men’s work,” and she should be about getting married.

Meanwhile, Sadie develops her own strategies to save the family business. Stubborn and loyal, she rejects the debutante’s duty to marry and refuses several matches. Her heart belongs to Sam, a nursery worker who shares her love of horticulture, but left the area after a heartbreaking decision.  Readers will cheer Sadie on as she boldly confronts and rebuffs suitors her father continues to present. Anger literally seeps through the prose as he issues an ultimatum for her to marry or be sent to family in Germany until she consents.

Callaway creates emotional and familial conflict as true love, Sam, returns to Rye Nurseries. After life-changing experiences and much soul-searching Sadie confronts the fact that a mere five miles from the 5th Avenue mansions are tenements reeking of garbage and sewage. The vivid descriptions of the sights and smells capture the vast contradictions in the lifestyle and beauty surrounding the privileged as exquisite gardens and greenhouses bring their owners and readers a quiet, calming peace. But Sadie empathizes with those in the tenements dying of hopelessness. Don’t they deserve to appreciate the beauty of gardens in public parks?

The revelation that gardens and parks are beacons of hope for everyone blooms verdantly in the hearts of readers of All the Pretty Places.  

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry


Publication May 2, 2023-Atria Books-Historical Fiction-364pp

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Patti Callahan Henry’s dual time-line novel begins with the 1939 evacuation of children out of London known as Operation Pied Piper. Hazel Linden and her five-year-old sister, Flora Lea, have travelled by train to Oxford to escape the predicted London bombings. The lush description of the cottage at Binsey, the surrounding woodlands near the Thames, and the warm reception by Bridgette Aberdeen and her son Harry, allow readers a deep breath of relief. The sisters are distracted from the fears of war by “Bridie’s” daytime adventures, but at night with love and warmth, Hazel creates a fairy tale with a secret realm to comfort Flora Lea. The late-night imaginings whimsically named Whisperwood and the River of Stars, become the sisters’ personal, secret lifeline to survival. Patti Callahan Henry has created a mystical, magical, mystery within a mystery. In the depths of this novel’s soul is the disappearance of a fairy tale, Whisperwood and the River of Stars, along with Flora, into the river Thames.

Patti Callahan Henry transports readers from the banks of the Thames in 1940 to Hogan’s Rare Book Shoppe in Bloomsbury, London, 1960. Hazel has spent these last twenty years working and searching for Flora Lea, never giving up hope that she was alive.  Then on Hazel’s last day at the book shop before her dream job at Sotheby’s Auction House begins, a parcel arrives from America, an illustrated children’s book with the exact title of her secret realm; Whisperwood and the River of Stars.

The characters PCH creates make surprising choices and keep secrets out of love and protection from the truth. Realizing that “grief, confessions, and memories remain long, and dark and cold,” Henry’s readers learn the fear of discovering truth and who to blame creates trauma and its effects called memory reframing. As the mystery unfolds readers hopes are lifted and dashed as Hazel attempts to find the sender of the parcel, hoping, and praying the creator is Flora Lea. This novel is filled with heartbreak and hope; how to overcome fear, loneliness, loss, and find renewal, but most of all to hold tight and “never surrender to anyone else’s idea of who and what you should believe.”  

The beloved, elderly owner of Hogan’s Rare Book Shoppe once told Hazel, “Stories and books always find their rightful owners.” Life will become magical as rightful owners discover Patti Callahan Henry’s The Secret Book of Flora Lea.  

Highly recommended; 5 magical stars!

A New York Times Bestselling Author
Co-creator and co-host of the weekly web show and podcast  Friends & Fiction. Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. A full-time author, mother of three, and grandmother of two, she lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband, Pat Henry. Her newest novel, The Secret Book of Flora Lea, is set outside Oxford in the hamlet of Binsey, and will be released on May 2nd, 2023 with Simon & Schuster Atria.

Shadows We Carry by Meryl Ain


Publication April 25, 2023-SparkPress-Historical Fiction-296 pp

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

In Shadows We Carry, Meryl Ain continues the life stories of Second-Generation Holocaust Survivors introduced in The Takeaway Men. “Second generation” refers to the children of Holocaust survivors who were born after the great cataclysm and grew up in its shadow.” Meryl Ain’s sequel is set in the U. S. during the turbulent ‘60’s and ‘70’s as the fraternal Lubinski twins, Bronka and JoJo, navigate marriage, family expectations and face quotas for women in professional careers. Readers are enveloped in the social and political unrest after the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the implications of the Viet Nam war. These events have a great emotional impact on Bronka, JoJo, their work cohorts, friends, and neighbors. The theme of gender identity is also dealt with through Bronka’s longtime boyfriend Ned as he searches for answers and portrays only the socially acceptable side of being gay in the 1970’s. 

 Meryl Ain weaves the heavy inherited guilt of these young men and women with the emotional trauma their parents and neighbors have survived. How do the daughters deal with the family responsibilities, the guilt, and the truth of their lineage? Through layers of emotionally charged dialogue between parents, father-daughter, and budding relationships, the prejudices of the times come to the surface. Catholic and Jewish concepts are treated with an empathetic, omniscient view, as Father Stan, a Catholic priest explores his Jewish heritage.  The common themes of captivity, freedom, and covenants in the Christian and Jewish religions are highlighted.

Meryl Ain deftly weaves the rich tradition, culture, and beliefs of a Jewish family throughout the narrative but especially poignant are the Seder meal and Passover celebrations.  A glossary of Jewish terms along with a cast of characters and background from the first novel is included.

Meryl Ain’s novel finally transports Bronka and JoJo, as second-generation survivors, to the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in 1983 for a Lubinski reunion. As Aron Lubinski reminds his family, “Each generation must learn to live with the Shadows We Carry.”

Meryl Ain is a writer, author, podcaster, and career educator. The Takeaway Men, her award-winning post-Holocaust debut novel, was published in 2020. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications and she is the author of two nonfiction books. A member of The International Advisory Board for Holocaust Survivor Day, she is the host of the podcast People of the Book, and the founder of the Facebook group “Jews Love To Read!” She holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Columbia University, and a doctorate in education from Hofstra University. She and her husband, Stewart, a journalist, have three married sons and six grandchildren and live in New York.



Publishing April 25, 2023-SparkPress-Historical Fiction-296pp

“In this eagerly anticipated sequel to Meryl Ain’s award-winning post-Holocaust novel The Takeaway Men, we follow Bronka and JoJo Lubinski as they find themselves on the cusp of momentous change for women in the late 1960s. With the United States in the grip of political and social upheaval, the twins and a number of their peers, including a Catholic priest and the son of a Nazi, struggle with their family’s ancestry and how much influence it has on their lives. Meanwhile, both young women seek to define their roles as women, and as individuals. 

Enlightening and evocative, Shadows We Carry explores the experience of navigating deeply held family secrets and bloodlines, confusing religious identities, and the scars of World War II in the wake of revolutionary societal changes.”


“So, Miss Lubinksi, you want to be a journalist?” he asked after they sat down.

“Yes, very much, Dean Atkins.”

“Well, I have to say you would make a very attractive journalist. Do you have any clips?”

While always pleased with a compliment, Bronka wondered what her physical appearance had to do with her skills as a journalist. She took out the red faux-leather scrapbook where she had lovingly scotch-taped all her articles — beginning with her piece on President Kennedy’s assassination in the high school newspaper and the one on the space program that landed in the Long Island Press. The dean looked through pages of her work, including all of our contributions to the Queen’s College newspaper and literary magazine.

“Well, you certainly are a prolific writer. But do you think you have what it takes to be a journalist? Do you think you’re assertive enough — actually aggressive enough to do what it takes to chase down a story?

“Yes, I do,” Bronka answered, mustering every bit of confidence she had. “I’ve done it numerous times on many assignments for the school newspaper. And I’m also very competitive; I want to be the first one with the breaking news.”

She knew — deep in her heart — that she absolutely would be able to get over her shyness when pursuing a lead. Even in school, when she was on an assignment for the paper, it enabled her to do and ask things she couldn’t do in real life. Sitting in the dean’s office at the Journalism School made her forget Ned and all her troubles. When she was running after a story and writing it, nothing else mattered.

“Well, you are a very impressive young woman, Miss Lewinsky. And your credentials are top notch — stellar grades and a track record of performance in the field. And I did mention earlier that you’re easy on the eyes. I do have to tell you, though, we only admit 100 graduate students a year — that’s from the whole country — actually the entire world; you know, we have foreign students too, Out of the 100, we have a quota for women — it’s about 20 percent. So, we will only be admitting 20 women this year. So, here’s my last question. I ask every woman this question — and I must ask it of you too.

“Do you plan on getting married and having a family? You see, because our enrollment is so limited, we want the women we admit to stay in the field. It’s been our experience that women don’t have the same staying power as men in the profession once they have a family. It’s a fact.”

“But things are changing,” Bronka retorted.

“Maybe so dear, but change is always slow. And right now, that’s what the statistics tell us. We make a serious investment in all of our students and we want to see the results. So please answer the question. “Do you plan on getting married and having a family?”

Bronka’s face turn red, and she scowled. This is patently unfair, she thought to herself.

About Meryl Ain-Author-New to the Grateful Reader!

Meryl Ain is a writer, author, podcaster, and career educator. The Takeaway Men, her award-winning post-Holocaust debut novel, was published in 2020. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications and she is the author of two nonfiction books. A member of The International Advisory Board for Holocaust Survivor Day, she is the host of the podcast People of the Book, and the founder of the Facebook group “Jews Love To Read!” She holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Columbia University, and a doctorate in education from Hofstra University. She and her husband, Stewart, a journalist, have three married sons and six grandchildren and live in New York.

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly


Publishes April 18, 2023-Ballantine Books-528pp.-Historical Fiction

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Martha Hall Kelly once again explores the astounding, haunting, immeasurable consequences of World War ll, the Holocaust, and experimentation at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Readers of Kelly’s Lilac Girls will recall the horrific experiments to which women and children were subjected at the all-female camp where Dr. Herta Oberheuser was working. The saga continues as two female spies known as the Golden Doves are arrested and sentenced to Ravensbrück to endure unspeakable things. The Golden Doves are Josie Anderson, an American whose mother is a famous Jewish singer and Arlette La Rue, a Parisian. The survival of Josie’s mother and Arlette and her son, Willie from the Kinderzimmer, are central to the plot set at Ravensbrück. A decade later Josie’s mission for the U.S Army is to track down an infamous Nazi doctor and Arlette is led to believe her son, Willie, may have survived. The former Doves risk their lives to seek justice for Josie’s mother and hopefully reunite Arlette with her son.

This novel is based on an inordinate amount of research, so typical of MHK’s previous books. There’s an unbelievable amount of history that’s certainly not taught in schools or revealed in many World War ll novels. She seamlessly weaves an introduction to “Operation Paperclip” here in the U.S. and the Ratline in Germany to give readers a host of nonfiction reading and research to pursue after The Golden Doves. The emotional tension, fear, and guilt are palpable on every page as the plot alternates from 1944 (Before) to 1952, taking readers from Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas where Josie is stationed, to Arlette’s Parisian café, and then following them both to South America to Camp Hope. Readers may not be aware of Colonia Dignidad, an entire “world in the aftermath” of World War ll.

From camp experiments at Ravensbrück to working on vaccines to alleviate a ‘germ bomb’ by the World Health Organization in French Guiana, readers will be spellbound by this compelling narrative and mesmerized by the revelations based on an inconceivable time in our history.  

OPERATION PAPERCLIP: In a covert affair originally dubbed Operation Overcast but later renamed Operation Paperclip, roughly 1,600 of these German scientists (along with their families) were brought to the United States to work on America’s behalf during the Cold War. The program was run by the newly-formed Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), whose goal was to harness German intellectual resources to help develop America’s arsenal of rockets and other biological and chemical weapons, and to ensure such coveted information did not fall into the hands of the Soviet Union. More information here:

RATLINES were systems of escape routes for German Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe from 1945 onwards in the aftermath of World War II.

There are many more references and books to read if searching Ratlines, World War ll.

BURST By Mary Otis


Publishes April 4, 2023-Zibby Books #3 – 280pp.- Literary Fiction

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

A debut novel that spins the relationship between Charlotte and her daughter Viva like a tilt-a-whirl, slowly spinning at a sluggish speed then slamming the reader into the atmosphere. Bizarre behavior, sobering, accurate analogies, painful consequences, rare musical ear syndrome MES; rolled into a mother-daughter relationship over a lifetime of connection, mistakes, fond memories, and a mysterious missing father. Themes of mother-daughter relationships, mistakes, and seeking control intertwined at a maniacal pace. Triggers: addiction, abandonment


Viva has always found ways to manage her mother’s impulsive, eccentric, and addictive personality. She’s had to—for her entire life, it has always been Viva and Charlotte against the world. 

After accidentally discovering an innate ability for dance, Viva chases her new passion with the same fervor with which her mother chases the bottle. Over the years, Viva’s talent becomes a ticket to a life of her own, and as she moves further away from home to pursue her dream, Charlotte struggles to make peace with her own past as a failed artist and the effects of her addiction. When tragedy strikes, Viva begins a downward spiral and must decide whether she will repeat her mother’s mistakes or finally take control of her life. 

Mary Otis is the author of the novel, Burst, from Zibby Books, as well as the short story collection, Yes, Yes, Cherries (Tin House Books). Her stories and essays have been published in Best New American VoicesElectric Literature, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, and in many literary journals and anthologies. Originally from the Boston area, Mary lives in Los Angeles.

Coronation Year by Jennifer Robson


Publishing April 4, 2023-William Morrow-400pp

A royal-adjacent historical novel: Check out Jennifer’s Facebook page for all her posts and research:

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Jennifer Robson’s Coronation Year captures the thrill and majesty of the year leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Day, June 2, 1953. Readers view the approaching day from three different perspectives. Main character Edie Howard, proprietor of the 400-year-old Blue Lion Hotel, is desperately trying to keep the hotel in the “black.”  News that the floundering hotel is right on the Coronation Day route might be the business boost Edie needs.  Two other Blue Lion residents that play an important role in the year leading up to Coronation Day are Stella Donati, Italian photographer and Holocaust survivor, and Jamie Geddes, a Scottish artist of Indian heritage, a war hero. Robson seamlessly threads their personal stories into Blue Lion activities and the planning of royal events.

Robson’s novel, like an English trifle, is one delicious layer after another. The foreboding nightmares, compelling memories, and catastrophic situations Stella and Jamie have endured are sweetened in the narrative by the genuinely compassionate, supportive nature of Edie. Robson convincingly reveals Edie’s anxiety and stress as Coronation Day plans begin to unravel. With the receipt of anonymous threatening letters, what was at first a hectic but jolly lead up to the big day takes a sinister, mysterious turn. Readers endure the weight and tension of the impending deadline stretching right up to Coronation Day.  

Robson’s descriptions of the parks, iconic buildings, and statues bring London to life as readers are swept into the hysteria and mass of humanity surrounding preparations and the ceremony itself.  As the new “telly” is installed in the Blue Lion lobby for residents and millions from around the world to view, throngs of royal followers are packed right out front, madly waving the Union Jack in wild anticipation of the queen in her golden coach.

Put on a pot of tea and get a glimpse of royal pageantry as a menacing mystery unfolds on June 2, the biggest day in 1953, Coronation Year.

“An academic by background, a former editor by profession, and a lifelong history nerd, I’m the author of seven novels set during and after the two world wars: Somewhere in FranceAfter the War is OverMoonlight Over ParisGoodnight from LondonThe Gown, Our Darkest Night, and Coronation Year. I was also a contributor to the acclaimed anthology Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War.

I was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. I studied French literature and Modern History as an undergraduate at King’s University College at Western University, then attended Saint Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, where I obtained my doctorate in British economic and social history. While at Oxford I was a Commonwealth Scholar and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow.

I live in Toronto, Canada, with my husband and children, and share my home office with Bonnie the sheepdog and her feline companions Mika, Rachel and Obi.

My photograph was taken in September, 2022 by Megan Preece.”

Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters


Publishes March 28-Berkley-Historical Mystery-320pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Mary Winters sets her newest novel, Murder in Postscript, in Victorian England. Amelia Amesbury, the lovely widow, mother, and countess, is the main character in the first of the Lady Agony Mystery Series.  Amelia, pen name Lady Agony, writes secretly for a London penny paper dishing out advice on topics from fashion to social faux pas. She waits anxiously for the post each day so she can retreat to the two-story library in the home she shared with her late husband Edgar and his young niece, Winifred, now like a daughter. The day Lady Agony receives a letter from a lady’s maid pleading, “I think my mistress was murdered,” is the day Lady Agony turns to solving a murder instead of giving advice.

Mary Winters’ characters are either likeable or unlikeable. Readers meet Amelia’s Aunt Tabitha, who is mostly unlikeable due to her overbearing attitudes regarding widowhood and constant comments to behave; reminding Amelia she has married into gentry and must meet certain expectations. Nagging and disapproving looks are her specialty. In contrast to Tabitha is the extremely likeable Lord Simon Bainbridge. He’s easy going, well mannered, and has a surprising, even unnerving sense of humor. As Winters “who done it” plot unfolds, she cleverly weaves an intricate trail for Amelia and Simon to follow as they attend costume balls, traipse to the London docks, and visit a crazy aunt in her English garden. While tracking down clues the Simon/Amelia relationship continues to ebb and flow while visiting chocolate shops and in carriage rides, keeping readers hopeful as they share empathy for each other’s pasts.

Each charming chapter opens with a letter to Lady Agony and the pearls of wisdom she so forthrightly imparts. With Winnifred’s recital to host and a killer still on the loose, Lady Agony’s last bit of advice is “do less and enjoy more!”  So, mind your manners and read Murder in Postscript, the first in The Lady Agony Mystery Series.

“Trust me.” Yours in Secret, Lady Agony

Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters


Publishes March 28-Berkley-Historical Mystery-320pp.


Winifred gave Amelia an impulsive hug, and Amelia breathed in the beautiful strawberry scent of the child. Edgar hadn’t given her love—­he wouldn’t risk passing on his degenerative condition— ­but he had given her his dear niece, and for that, Amelia would always be grateful.

When the girl was gone, Amelia took the letters into the library, her favorite room in the house. It was something else Edgar had given her that she’d enjoyed very much—­a home with books. While the Feathered Nest had plenty of room for dining and entertaining, it did not afford much room for books, just the special theatricals the family loved and performed. One of her favorite performances was Romeo and Juliet, probably because she and Grady were central characters. Most times her eldest sister, Penelope, took the lead roles. Indeed, Penelope was better at memorizing lines, but Amelia was better at improvising.

She stopped and inhaled a breath. The room smelled of cloves and paper and past cigars. Hundreds of leather-­bound tomes filled the wooden bookshelves that lined the two-­story room. She bypassed the books and made for the large rosewood desk, situated in a bright alcove of windows. It faced a dark green couch, striped chairs, and an ornate oval table. In a nearby corner was a smaller table, with heavy crystal glasses and fine liquor. And on the far wall was a grand stone fireplace, surrounded by two soft damask chairs, comfortable enough for reading and dozing. She’d spent many nights there doing just that.

Slice went the letter opener, revealing the contents for her eyes only. She scanned the penmanship: hurried, sloppy, and slightly smudged from tears. Definitely a relationship problem. Settling into her chair, she began to read the letter.

Dear Lady Agony,

You are a lady of repute. Please tell me what to do. I love the boy next door, but he’s unaware of my feelings. I am certain we possess a special bond, for he smiles at me so. But he’s going to ask another girl to marry him. He told me his plan on the way to the well. I stumbled away, confused, but how I longed to tell him the truth of my feelings. Am I too late?


Too Late for Love

Amelia dunked her quill in the ink. This one was easy, a drop in the bucket of love letters. She began her response, which would be printed in the magazine. Readers’ letters weren’t included, and a good thing, too. Amelia had a feeling many writers would be embarrassed later by the emotion they’d poured into their requests.

Dear Too Late for Love,

It’s never too late for love. In fact, I prefer the old, and perhaps wiser, adage, Better Late than Never. In your case, it cannot be truer. You love the boy and are late to admit it. Yes. However, there is still time. He hasn’t asked anyone to marry—­yet. Best he knows your true feelings before he proceeds. Even if he does not reciprocate them, you will feel secure in the knowledge that you told him. And that is a feeling you can live with. The other is not.

Yours in Secret,

Lady Agony

The next letter was just as clear-­cut. It was from a reader who was jealous of her friend’s hair, though she didn’t say so outright. The letter accused the friend of spending too much time dressing her long, blonde, thick locks, but it was obvious to Amelia that the letter writer wished for the hair herself.

Another dunk into the inkwell, and Amelia was poised to respond.

Dear Hair, There, and Everywhere,

Some women are born with great hair. Others are born with great wit, vivacity, or kindness. Cultivate one of the latter. Or purchase a wig. The choice is just that simple.

Yours in Secret,

Lady Agony

She waited a moment before opening the last letter, savoring the unknown contents. It would be tomorrow afternoon before she received more letters, the mysteries that made up her day. Because of the popularity of the column, Grady made certain the letters arrived daily so that she wouldn’t fall behind.

She turned the envelope over in her hands, positioning it in front of the light. A few drops of spring sunshine shone through the windows, making burgundy flecks on the wall as it bounced off the nearby decanter of brandy. Soon a housemaid would be in to start a fire, to warm the chill brought on by the late afternoon. Then Amelia would enjoy a glass of sherry before dressing for dinner, a complicated affair that she had never quite mastered.

She noted the seal of the envelope had been hastily done. Dashed out at the last minute, perhaps, the letter might contain time-­sensitive information. Amelia unfolded the paper. The handwriting, no better than chicken scratch, was hard to decipher. Written at a slant, possibly in this morning’s rain burst, it was wrinkled and marked. Yet the writer’s desperation was clear from the first sentence. Amelia scanned the letter twice before dropping her quill, splattering ink on the desk. She grabbed her spectacles and read it a third time. Her eyes must be deceiving her. It was indeed dated this morning.

Dear Lady Agony,

You are my last hope, for I have nowhere else to turn. Could you meet me at St. James’s Park at nine o’clock this evening? Make sure no one follows you. I believe someone is following me. I’ll be at the bench by the pond. You will know me by my red hat. Please make every effort. I’ve witnessed something dreadful, and I fear the worst.



Postscript: I think my mistress was murdered.

Excerpted from Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters Copyright © 2023 by Mary Winters. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. 

Two Wars and a Wedding by Lauren Willig


Publishes March 21, 2023-William Morrow-448pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Lauren Willig’s dual timeline novel is set during the 1896 Greco-Turkish War and the 1898 Spanish-American War. Betsy Hayes, a Smith College graduate, and aspiring archaeologist is denied a place on the excavation team at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The director suggests she become a librarian instead. This ignites Betsy’s quest to prove that women can indeed, dig and involves “two wars and a wedding.”

These two wars are the backdrop for Lauren Willig’s coming of age story. Through reams of research Willig sinks readers into the prejudices true to the late 1800’s. Main character, Betsy Hayes is an amalgam based on real life women Harriet Boyd Hawes and Janet Jennings. At the emotional core of the novel are Betsy, her best friend Ava, and aspiring journalist, Kit. Willig focuses on how these American women are striving to take their place in the world and how each responded socially and politically to war. Keeping readers aware of the timelines and actions are the especially appealing openings of each chapter; Kit’s dispatches to the St. Louis Star or Betsy’s letters to “Darling Ava.”

Adept at conflict that reveals winners and losers Willig exposes political conflict between the U.S. Army and Clara Barton. Compelling details of dire situations on ships and battlefields, supported by newspaper accounts and reports by doctors who traveled with Clara Barton and the American Red Cross, are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Amazing, true accounts of Clara Barton being snubbed, turned away while soldiers were dying, or told women didn’t belong in the field were taken from the historical record. Willig’s meticulous research also documents the Rough Riders and Roosevelt in various battles depicting the experiences and confusion of the men in the field during the Spanish-American War.

Lauren Willig masterfully tells the story of women fighting for what is right by sharing a saga of friendship and love woven through Two Wars and a Wedding.    

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty works of historical fiction, including Band of SistersThe Summer CountryThe English Wife, the RITA Award-winning Pink Carnation series, and four novels co-written with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages, picked for Book of the Month Club, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best, and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.

Strangers in the Night by Heather Webb


Publishes March 21, 2023-William Morrow-432pp

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Heather Webb’s Strangers in the Night paints a portrait of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner’s tumultuous relationship with bold, startling strokes layered with tender, revealing highlights. With massive amounts of resources and meticulous research Webb creates a biographical novel that reads like a diary, told alternately from Frank and Ava’s point of view. Readers cross countries with Ava, Frank usually following, from America, to England, Africa, and Spain. The years spanning the 1940’s to 1960’s cover their individual highs; marriages, movies, and enormous achievements, and lows; deaths of friends, divorces, and attempted suicides.

Heather Webb’s characters are portrayed in situations with intense emotional dialogue and interactions, including fights, breakups, and making up! It’s exhausting to imagine that Frank and Ava lived and loved for so many years riding on such a rollercoaster of feelings and events. Webb entwines the drastic swings in their relationship contrasting heartwarming strolls along the sidewalks of NYC at Christmas with loud, disturbing arguments in restaurants along with pages, and pages more of loving or volatile adventures; all of which involve copious amounts of alcohol.

Heather’s recounting of Frank and Ava describing each other is especially inciteful for readers. Frank on why he fell in love, “It was how she wore her beauty; her intelligence, wit, and generous laugh.” And Ava described Frank as “raucous and edgy but tender, passionate, loved music, books, and art.” Both really simple and tender at heart.

While strong, independent Ava’s career is blossoming Frank’s is faltering. Hollywood friends like Howard Hughes, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Grace Kelly have positive and negative impacts on their relationship and careers.

Frank and Ava made over sixty movies each, so plenty of viewing choices. After reading Strangers in the Night, do add Frank’s From Here to Eternity and Ava’s Mogambo to your watch list. Next choose a Frank Sinatra playlist to imagine Frank telling Ava one more time, “I love you, baby”. 

Women Are the Fiercest Creatures by Andrea Dunlop


Zibby Books #2- Publishes March 7, 2023-272pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Andrea Dunlop’s Women Are The Fiercest Creatures, set in Seattle, opens with a quick overview of Jake Sarnoff’s life as CEO of STRANGERS, a startup company on social media connecting people through common community engagement. Dunlop quickly engages readers with a “missing baby” scene and then flashes back 8 months to complete the backstory of Jake’s company, his college friend and cofounder, and the woman involved in helping to build the company. Dunlop creates suspense and anticipation as the women in Jake’s life deal with remorse over past and present decisions, conviction believing they’ve done the right thing, and coping with the outcomes. At the novel’s heart is making choices and proving that author, Andrea Dunlop is indeed correct, Women Are the Fiercest Creatures.

Book Summary

In this wildly addictive novel, three overlooked women take on the charming, manipulative tech CEO who wrote them out of his startup’s history.

Anna Sarnoff is still reeling from her quickie divorce from tech wunderkind Jake Sarnoff. Forced out of the company that she helped Jake build, Anna is trying to pick up the pieces of her life, navigating the waters of solo parenting their two teenage boys and adapting to her new role of ex-wife. To make things more complicated, Jake seems to want her back…and his persuasiveness tempts her to say yes.

Across town, the brilliant and striking Samanta Flores-Walsh, Jake’s college girlfriend, is busy raising her teenage daughter and running her thriving yoga studio. Although their relationship ended years ago, unanswered questions from their time together gnaw at her, and when she learns that Jake is planning to take his billion-dollar company public, she starts to wonder if perhaps it isn’t too late for justice.

Finally, there’s Jake’s much younger new wife, Jessica, who’s struggling to stay afloat as a new mom while her high-profile husband grows increasingly distant.

Set in the wealthy enclaves of Seattle’s tech elite, the lives of these three women grow entangled as long-held secrets are forced to the surface, threatening to destroy their families. Written with razor-sharp intelligence and heart, Women Are the Fiercest Creatures is a searing look at the complexities of family and the obstacles women navigate in every aspect of their existence.

Order WATFC:

Andrea Dunlop:

Andrea Dunlop is the author of We Came Here to ForgetShe Regrets NothingLosing the Light, and Broken Bay. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, where she works as a social media consultant.

The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly


Publication March 7, 2023; Gallery Books, 416pp, Historical Fiction

An epic saga of love, motherhood, and betrayal during World War II

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly is based on a family story handed down through her British mother’s side of the family. Set in Liverpool, England, on the brink of World War ll, Kelly examines the daily life and choices of Viv Byrne, Catholic, and Joshua Levinson, Jewish, in alternating points of view.  Viv wants to escape her strict mother’s scrutiny and Joshua dreams of playing saxophone in a band, not becoming a tailor like his father.

At the emotional core of the novel readers are immersed in the social and religious situations facing Viv and Joshua. Each family plays a prominent role in how independent decisions impact others as Viv and Joshua deal with responsibility and duty. The internal and external conflict of Kelly’s characters builds as the war continues. Viv is dealing with separation, becoming a “bread winner” and finding her voice while Josh copes with being a foreigner in the U.S.  and guilt related to his decisions.

Beginning September 1, 1939, approximately 1.5 million children were relocated to the English countryside for protection from bombing strikes. Known as Operation Pied Piper this political and historical account of parents sending their children away connects readers to Viv as she is faced with making gut wrenching decisions. Kelly explores the psychological impact of the evacuation on children through the lens of Catholic and Jewish families. She sites abandonment issues, including anger, rejection, disappointment, and the pains of family reunification after years of separation.

Through the war years Viv and Joshua grow and change in many ways readers will appreciate. Kelly introduces conflict between characters that creates emotional angst; specifically, a priest that Viv’s family relies on and actions of Viv’s sister, Kate. Their questionable choices are in direct contrast to Joshua’s father. Kelly’s depiction of Mr. Levinson’s empathy and extreme sensitivity to Viv and her feelings makes him an absolute role model and a bridge to current social and religious climates.

Through this harrowing story readers will feel empathy for families fleeing the Ukraine when Russia invaded in 2022. The Lost English Girl– a story of choices and how much the human spirit can withstand to find ways back to those we love.


#1: The children assembled at school at 5am on Friday 1 September 1939. This photograph shows evacuees and adults walking along a street carrying suitcases and gas mask boxes. Some of the adults are wearing arm bands which identify them as volunteer marshals. © IWM (D 1939A)

#2: A small boy carrying his luggage as he left London for the country with a party of other evacuees on 5 July 1940. © IWM (HU 55936)

#3: Evacuees wearing their gas masks in Montgomeryshire, 1939


The evacuation of children during the Second World War:

Child Evacuees in the Second World War: Operation Pied Piper at 80:

The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel


Publication February 21, 2023-Revell Christian-Historical Fiction, Romance-352 pp

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

An enchanting Cinderella story that keeps readers hoping for that ‘happily ever after.’ The setting for Jennifer Deibel’s The Maid of Ballymacool is Ireland, 1935. She has included all the necessary characters for a fairy tale set in the twentieth century. Main character, Brianna Kelly is the abandoned baby left on a doorstep with directions for her care. The stepmother role is played by rejected Maureen Magee, headmistress of the Ballymacool House and Boarding School for Girls; where baby Brianna is condemned to a lonely, rootless life of solitude. Brianna’s only friend is Finnuala, a wise, auld woman who lives in the woods where Brianna escapes to find peace and beauty; away from the beatings and abuse she receives from the dreaded Magee. From what seems like another world and yearning for a purposeful life, comes the handsome prince, kind, compassionate, book lover Michael Wray of nearby Castle Wray. Michael is sent to help discipline his obnoxious, ill-mannered cousin, Adeline, a boarder at Ballymacool; a well written bratty character to dislike.  The only link to Brianna’s past is a chain with a pendant bordered with fleur de lis and hand carved letters on the back.

Jennifer Deibel deftly weaves mystery and romance into this tale along with lush descriptions of Castle Wray; its history, its grounds and Ballymacool’s aging, dreary interiors but peaceful surrounding woods. As the mystery unfolds between the House of Ballymacool, the guest cottages, and the woods, the characters slowly develop fresh hope, trust, and a need for forgiveness.  Securing the bonds of family and the importance of finding one’s true identity are key themes that make The Maid of Ballymacool a delightful, fulfilling Cinderella story.  

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic Magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona.

A Mother’s Hope for the CORNISH GIRLS


Publication February 16, 2923-Avon Books UK – Avon, 382pp

Preorder Book #4:
Links to Books in the series below

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The lasting impact war and motherhood has had on the beloved girls of Cornwall is the focus of book #4 in Betty Walker’s Cornish Girls series. The Cornish girls are ‘doing their bit” at home in 1943 while sons, fathers, lovers, and friends have left to serve Britain during World War ll. Walker quickly engages readers with Lady Symmond’s announcement of her impending marriage and move to Scotland. From this point on readers are immersed in the lives of the Cornish girls; their angst, fears, worries, nightmares, and dreams for a future with their loved one at war. Some marry and become expectant mothers, some find purpose in caring for orphans or for wounded soldiers in the convalescent home. One is a mother with a son whose father is missing in action. Each of Betty Walker’s endearing mothers of Cornwall find hope in supporting one another. The mothers and the readers learn that “Love is what we fight for. That, and the next generation.” A heartwarming way to spend an afternoon with a cup of tea, while looking forward to Book #5: A Wedding for the Cornish Girls.  


Can the bonds of motherhood give them the strength they’ll need to get through the war? St. Ives, Spring 1943. After having given up her baby at seventeen, Sonya is inspired by her work at the orphanage to discover what happened to her daughter twenty-five years ago. Reunited, they struggle to bond whilst braving the war together. Nurse Lily has returned to St Ives to finish training as a midwife. But when old flame Tristan is brought in wounded, she realises she must put the past in the past to care for him, and perhaps then she’ll realise her own dreams of motherhood… And working at Tristan’s convalescent home, Mary longs for the romance she reads of in her novels. But her overprotective mother is making that hard for Mary at every turn…In times of war, the Cornish Girls can rely on one another to make it through. But can they lean on the bonds of motherhood for support too?

SPOTLIGHT/EXCERPT: The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel


Publishing February 21, 2023, Revell Books, 352 pp, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction

Purchase links below


Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.

When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.

Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.

The Maid of Ballymacool Excerpt

The table hadn’t been set? Of course, it wouldn’t have been. That was always the last thing Brianna did before retiring for the night. Mary would have done it, she was sure, so Magee must have instructed her not to. Brianna stood in the corridor looking from the kitchen door back to the direction of the dining room, torn on whether or not to deliver the food first or go back and bring the dishes and food all at one time. A stirring of footsteps overhead caught her attention. The girls were lining up and would be marching down the stairs any moment.

She scurried back to the kitchen, set down her tray, and loaded a second one with plates, cutlery, teacups, and serviettes. She propped the door open and then lifted the food and settled that tray into the crook of her right arm. Then, she carefully finagled the tray of dishes onto her left arm. The weight of them both nearly toppled her, but she steadied herself and made for the servants’ quarters. Taking care to roll her feet smoothly from heel to toe so as not to jostle anything, she kept her gaze on the entryway at the end of the long corridor.

Suddenly, the back door slammed open, and Brianna was flung against the wall. By some miracle, she managed to hang on to the tray of dishes, but the food toppled onto the floor with a sickening splat.

“Oh, good gracious me. I beg your pardon.” Mister Wray cupped her elbow with his hand and inclined his head to look at her face. “Are ya alright?”

She puffed at a strand of hair that had fallen over her face. “I’m fine.” She puffed again, but instead of helping, it frayed the strands, some of which curled into her eye. She clamped them shut against the sting.

“Allow me.” Tender fingers brushed the hair from her face, gently grazing her forehead and temple. Goose bumps prickled her skin at his touch. “There. Can you see now?”

Brianna blinked hard and forced herself to meet his gaze while heat crept up her cheeks. “Aye, thank you.” She knelt down, setting the tray of dishes carefully on the floor, then started picking up the broken pieces of pottery.

“No, no, please let me.” He knelt beside her and started scooping handfuls of porridge and eggs back onto the fallen tray. “’Tis my fault,” he added. “I was rushing to not be late to breakfast and carelessly neglected to look where I was going.”

Brianna opened her mouth to respond, but Magee flew around the corner and shrieked. “What have you done now, you amadán?”

Brianna blanched at the word. Being called a fool stung, but no more so than Magee’s use of Irish. Irish Gaelic was only allowed in certain circumstances within the walls of Ballymacool. “As a center of decorum and propriety, we will speak only proper, civilized English,” the headmistress had said when one of the boarders deigned to converse in her first language. Magee’s slip into her native tongue belied just how furious she was.

“My apologies, marm,” Brianna said. “Twas an accident.”

Magee’s lips clamped into a thin line. She planted balled fists on her hips. “I’m growing quite weary of hearing that from you, Brianna. And to add insult to injury, you’ve forced Mister Wray to help you.” She turned her attention to the man. “Please, sir, you mustn’t help her. This is a problem of her own making.”

Mister Wray stood, hands held in front of him, porridge dripping from his fingers. He studied the headmistress for a moment before responding. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken. It was I who ran into Brianna in my haste to be on time for breakfast. Therefore, ’tis only right that I be responsible for cleaning this mess.”

Fire flashed behind Magee’s eyes, and she scowled at Brianna. She opened her mouth to retort but closed it again when she looked back at her guest. A guest who, Brianna noticed, somehow still managed to be blindingly handsome even while covered in porridge.

Chapter 6, pages 62-65

From The Maid of Ballymacool © 2023, Jennifer Deibel, published by Fleming H. Revell Company

Jennifer Deibel is the author of A Dance in Donegal (winner of the Kipp Award for Historical Romance) and The Lady of Galway Manor (a Parable Group bestseller). Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and in other publications. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children




The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail


Published May 31, 2022- A John Scognamiglio Book, 304 pages

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 1900, is the sultry setting for Diane C. McPhail’s novel, The Seamstress of New Orleans. Howard, a Chicago cotton broker has mysteriously disappeared, and Benton, a New Orleans gambler has fallen to his death from a train trestle. The deaths of these two men and their widowed wives, Alice, and Constance, are intertwined like the moss hanging from the sprawling oak trees, and as murky as the Mississippi River delta. Unraveling the details of these mysteries is complicated by the social demands and politicizing of Mardi Gras balls and accounts of clandestine visits to Storyville, notorious for prostitution and crime. McPhail bases her mystery around the first all-female Mardi Gras Krewe and the gangsters known as the Black Hand. The Mardi Gras revelers and the gangsters are participants in the grand affair of death and disappearance that only Alice and Constance can unmask.  A Mardi Gras ball gown is slowly pieced together and as it nears completion, symbolizes the growing independence of Alice and Constance. Bonds of friendship and secrets of the heart are tested as the Mardi Gras festivities begin. This is a delectable, intriguing jaunt behind the beaded curtains and the iron gates of the famous New Orleans Garden District. For a turn of the century peek at the “Big Easy” read The Seamstress of New Orleans.

Diane C. McPhail is an acclaimed artist as well as an award-winning author. Diane is a member of the Historical Novel Society, at whose national conference she has presented, and the North Carolina Writers’ Network. A popular retreat leader and teacher, Diane keeps herself busy in Highlands, NC, with writing and painting, with her husband, Ray, and a fuzzy white dog called Pepper.


“The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.
Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all‑female krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control in their interactions with men, and upend social convention. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.
But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . ” Thanks to NetGalley for the book description and digital access.

My What If Year-A Memoir by Alisha Fernandez Miranda


Publishes February 7, 2023-Zibby Books

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab


Last night, while I lay thinking here,

Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear

And pranced and partied all night long

And sang their same old Whatif song.

Shel Silverstein

My What If Year is a humorous, witty memoir.

Alisha “had it all.” An expanding business, a family, a dream life in London. She thought she was happy, but she really, really wasn’t. She was stuck.

Hurtling towards forty during the pandemic Alisha Miranda feared turning into a middle-aged woman whose best years were behind her. As CEO of I.G. Advisors, she and her husband helped connect companies and foundations with charitable organizations, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, and UN Women! So yes, Alisha was successful, but unsatisfied, riddled with guilt. During a much needed night out with her friends, Alisha admitted she wasn’t sure she was “living the dream.”   What resulted was a conversation centered around becoming an intern in careers she had harbored in her dreams. All the “what ifs.” The year of 2020 became Alisha’s “what if year.”

The internships included a Broadway theater, a virtual fitness studio, a London art gallery, and a luxury hotel in Scotland. Learning life lessons along with Alisha during her four internships are treats to be treasured. Just a few: How to be uncomfortable in not being the expert in the room, how to do small tasks carefully and find joy in completing them, pay attention to intentionally seeking joy, look for right brained, creative activities, find confidence in applying skills in completely different fields. And many more!

Be entertained and enlightened. Read Alisha Miranda’s My What If Year and know: “It’s never too late to say yes to second chances and explore the roads untraveled throughout your life.”

The hardcover, paperback, ebook or audiobook (oh my!) can be bought at this very moment:

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester


Published January 10, 2023-Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Alix St. Pierre is back in Paris-again. The man who had broken her is still lurking- somewhere.

Natasha Lester’s newest release weaves the threads of ill-fated love, a secret agent for the Resistance in Italy, World War ll and the House of Christian Dior into a masterpiece of spectacular descriptions layered with emotional revelations.  Alix St. Pierre’s journey takes her to Paris, Switzerland, Italy, and eventually New York City. Readers are treated to Natasha’s deep character development spanning the pre and post war years of Alix’s life. Alix becomes the Director of Publicity at the House of Dior and the famous spiral staircase, Christian Dior, and stunning gowns for Rita Hayworth are laced into Natasha Lester’s plot like a “knot of tangled ribbon.” Fans of Natasha Lester’s previous novels will be thrilled at the privilege of untangling the ribbon and placing a designer bow on Alix St. Pierre’s life story.

Sit back with a French 75, a chocolate tart, and savor The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre.

Book Description by Forever

New York Times bestselling author Natasha Lester delivers an unforgettable story of an orphan turned WWII spy turned fashion icon in Paris—perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Fiona Davis.

Alix St. Pierre. An unforgettable name for an unforgettable woman. She grew up surrounded by Hollywood glamor, but, as an orphan, never truly felt part of that world. In 1943, with WWII raging and men headed overseas to fight, she lands a publicity job to recruit women into the workforce. Her skills—persuasion, daring, quick-witted under pressure—catch the attention of the U.S. government and she finds herself with an even bigger assignment: sent to Switzerland as a spy. Soon Alix is on the precipice of something big, very big. But how far can she trust her German informant…?
After an Allied victory that didn’t come nearly soon enough, Alix moves to Paris, ready to immerse herself in a new position as director of publicity for the yet-to-be-launched House of Dior. In the glamorous halls of the French fashion house, she can nearly forget everything she lost and the dangerous secret she carries. But when a figure from the war reappears and threatens to destroy her future, Alix realizes that only she can right the wrongs of the past …and finally find justice.

“When I’m not writing, I love collecting vintage fashion, travelling and practicing the art of fashion illustration. I live with my husband, three children and two chickens in Perth, Western Australia. “

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz


Published January 3, 2023-Revell Books-Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction-416 pp

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Religion and politics, taboo topics at social gatherings unless discussing The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz! The English Lady Blythe Hedley, a brilliant linguist, too tall and willowy to be seen as beautiful; would rather spend money “on books rather than silks and ribbons.” Due to Jacobite/Catholic sympathies her father is considered an enemy of the British crown and rumored to be hiding in France. With Blythe’s protection and possible matrimony in mind, he contacts Lord Hume, Blythe’s godfather, a long-lost connection between families.  The request is for Blythe to be sequestered at Wedderburn Castle across the border in Scotland- a protestant stronghold.  There you have it-the Catholic Tories vs. Protestant Whigs. Laura Frantz weaves the vast history of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion and the unwanted arrival, but undeniable chemistry between Lady Blythe and hero, Everard Hume, into a luscious romantic tapestry.

Everard Hume declares he is seeking a Scottish lass to marry, not an Englishwoman. In emotionally charged scenes with his dying father, immensely tall and foreboding Everard, slowly evolves into a thoughtful, caring Lord of Wedderburn Castle. Frantz’s tender portrayal of the new Lord Hume, carrying youngest brother, Orin, on his shoulders at his father’s funeral, and giving generous bonuses and support to the castle staff, lends depth to Everard’s changing feelings, endearing him to readers.   

Blythe is involved in a tug of war between heart and head as she cannot let go of her mother’s past as a courtesan in the court of King Charles II. Frantz combines this past memory with Blythe’s longings to be loved for herself, not her assets. The blossoming connection between Lady Blythe and young Orin adds to the suspense involved with her father and the coming rebellion.

From chapters opening with quotes from the Bible, former kings, and famous poets to the vivid sensory descriptions of Edinburgh, Highlands and the Lowlands, readers are immersed in the Scottish landscape. England’s white rose, embroidered into hems and handkerchiefs and Scotland’s thistle, a badge of honor and symbol of heraldry for over 500 years, are royally and historically represented in Laura Frantz’s The Rose and the Thistle.


In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley’s father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems–a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies–and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.


The Rose and the Thistle Chapter 1, pages 11-14

“How fetching you look in your pale green gown, La Belle Hedley. Akin to a stalk of
celery,” Catherine teased, knowing Blythe didn’t give a fig for fashion and lamented her
height, exceeding most of the court’s gallants. “And though you may roll your eyes at
me for saying so, there’s no doubt you are the best-dressed woman here and have set
French society afire.”
’Tis not my fashion sense but my mother’s reputation that has done so. “I would rather
spend it all on books than silks and ribbons,” Blythe replied. But her dear father wouldn’t
let her. The duke was far more matrimonially minded than she. And given she lacked
any outward beauty save her garments, fashion was her one asset.
“You are unquestionably a la mode.” Catherine openly admired Blythe’s flawless
coiffure styled into pale coils over one bare shoulder and adorned with beribboned
rosettes. “I’ve heard the Duchess d’Orleans covets your hairdresser while Mary of
Modena covets your gems.” Her hazel eyes slid to the choker of sapphires around
Blythe’s throat and the ones set in silver and pearl adorning her ears. “Not paste gems
but true brilliants. I suppose they were your mother’s. Such a blinding, bewitching blue.”
Blythe touched an earring absently. “But how ridiculous I feel in red heels.” She looked
down at her new slippers in bemusement before reaching into her pocket. With a
practiced snap of her wrist, she unfurled a painted fan encrusted with tiny precious
stones, a gift from Catherine’s aunt, lady of the queen’s bedchamber.
Blythe tallied how many days she’d been exiled to—visiting—France. Sixty-three?
She and Catherine strolled on with no apparent aim beneath the strengthening spring
sun, their hooped, colorful skirts swaying in the breeze. “We’ve walked these paths for
weeks now.” The lament in Catherine’s tone was telling. “And not one glimpse of my
kindred, the ousted prince.”
Blythe’s gaze swept the manicured grounds as though James Francis Edward Stuart
would materialize before their eyes. Charming and highly polished, the would-be James
III of England and James VIII of Scotland was the catch of the continent—if he could
only regain his crown.
His Royal Highness remains in Lorraine,” Blythe said quietly. Much could be learned by
listening, as gossip and intrigue buzzed. at every turn. “He seeks a royal bride. One who
is wealthy and polished and—”
“That would be you.” Catherine cast her a knowing look.
“Alas, I lack the requisite curves and double chin, plain as I am,” Blythe replied with a
flutter of her fan. The foremost courtiers were voluptuous, sensuous women with heavily
rouged cheeks and lips, sporting beauty patches in myriad places.
“Ha! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not?”

“Most men of my acquaintance seem preoccupied with face, form, and fortune, in that
order. Yet I long to be loved for myself and nothing else.”
A shadow passed over Catherine’s porcelain-perfect features. “Though you profess to
being plain, there is no denying you are the Duke of Northumbria’s daughter.”
Blythe squinted as the sun strengthened. Not just his daughter. His only daughter—and
only child. The whole weight of the Northumbrian fortune and future was upon her. If
she failed to marry, failed to provide an heir . . .
“Alas, a duke’s daughter of scandalous lineage.”
Catherine raised slender shoulders in a shrug. “’Twas long ago and best forgotten.”
“Then needs be I find a man of dim memory and even greater purse than my beloved
“How few nobles fit, including our impoverished if dashing Stuart prince.” Catherine
sighed. “I fear we shall all be branded spinsters if we leave France unaffianced.”
“Marriage is not a right, nor is singleness a curse.” Blythe’s fan fluttered harder. “I’ve
been pondering other paths, like becoming a nun and joining a convent in Flanders or
Chaillot. Perhaps a contemplative order like the English Augustine nuns at Bruges.”
“Don’t you dare!” Catherine gave a vicious pinch to Blythe’s arm as if to bring her to her
senses. “You have too much to offer to shut yourself away so.”
Stung but in no mood to argue, Blythe made no reply.

From The Rose and the Thistle © 2023, Laura Frantz, published by Revell




Christy Award-winning author, Laura Frantz, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Proud of her heritage, she is also a Daughter of the American Revolution. When
not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State.

Fable & Fire: A Bookshop Bistro


Book Store Visit #21: Rockwall, Texas, -December 15, 2022

Rockwall, Texas is now home to this beautiful, unique bookshop & bistro. The vibe is warm and cozy-everything a book lover wants, all in one place: coffee & pastries, a bar for cocktails and a chat, an ever expanding menu for lunch or dinner, and best of all? BOOKS, VINYLS, and more BOOKS! There are comfortable chairs and sofas, conversation areas for book club discussions, even an outdoor patio for warm weather!

Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden


Published October 11, 2022 by Crooked Lane Books -Historical Fiction, Crime Mystery, 336pp.

An Inspector Corravan Mystery

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Fans of crime mystery set in Victorian London will be thrilled with Under a Veiled Moon, a sequel to Karen Odden’s Down a Dark River. The mystery is based on the fatal disaster of the sinking of a pleasure steamer on the River Thames in September,1878.  The steamer, Princess Alice collided with coal carrier, Bywell Castle, with only 130 of 600 passengers surviving. This tragedy is shrouded in mystery and known as the worst maritime disaster London had seen at that time.

Under a Veiled Moon, book #2 in the Inspector Corravan Mystery Series, is easily read as a stand-alone novel. Odden transports readers to Victorian London through sensory descriptions of the deserted warehouses, tunnels, and cathedral priest holes as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Corrovan follows leads up and down the dark, twisting streets of East London’s Whitechapel. Odden connects readers to present day issues of fake news in current media by weaving the history of racism and persecution of the Irish with how “distortions and manipulations” in the press drastically impacted anti-Irish sentiment and public opinion. This created doubt and suspicions on all sides of the political issues. Odden couples the inspector’s frantic quest to uncover the possible instigator of the horrific disaster with the background of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the push for Irish Home Rule, and the secret societies formed by powerful Conservative MP’s.

The murder suspects are motivated by fear, love, revenge, and greed, while Corrovan is overcome at times with grief, regret, shame, and pain.  Filled with wise, insightful characters along with those not so likeable, readers will be fascinated with the clues to this mysterious tragedy that happened late one night on the Thames Under a Veiled Moon.

Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Under a Veiled Moon, her fifth mystery is the second book in the Inspector Corravan series.

Angels of the Resistance by Noelle Salazar


Publishing November 29, 2022, by Mira, 393 pp.

This review for Angels of the Resistance was honored as EDITOR’S CHOICE in the Historical Novels Review Magazine’s November 1, 2022 Issue.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Dutch sisters, known as “the angels,” become the superheroes in Noelle Salazar’s Angels of the Resistance. Lien and Elif Vienke, teenagers responding to grief, feel called to serve the Netherlands in 1940. Inspired by the true story of Truus and Freddie Oversteegen, Salazar conjures a heart-thumping, riveting narrative with main characters that grow from sullen, angry teenagers to women of courage and strength. Their assignments start simply with distributing pamphlets, delivering messages, and forging identification cards then move on to training with pistols and daggers.  Superb research into the planning of missions, then intricate details and gut-wrenching descriptions of frightening situations, evoke a range of emotions as readers follow the Angels to train stations, barns, and safe houses. The wins and losses of the missions resonate deeply with the friends and families associated with Lien and Elif. Throughout the novel feelings of betrayal and guilt are mixed with triumph and relief.

Salazar has created characters with relatable human traits, relationships that dissipate then rebuild, and those that believe in something and prove it. The description and development of family friend and mentor, Aunt Liv, gives readers insight into the social settings and advantages of the wealthy, but also the cunning, daring, bravery of those who took risks to save families and soldiers. Noelle Salazar slips in American comic creation, Wonder Woman, and Lien admiring this superhero’s boldness, is determined not to repeat past decisions that caused hesitation and failure. Like Wonder Woman, she wants to become fearless, strong, determined. In Angels of the Resistance Noelle Salazar successfully creates a triumphant celebration of real-life Wonder Women!

Book Description:

Netherlands, 1940

As bombs fall across Europe, fourteen-year-old Lien Vinke fears that the reality of war is inescapable. Though she lives a quiet life with her mother and older sister, Elif, in their small town of Haarlem, they are no strangers to heartache, having recently suffered an immeasurable loss. And when the Nazis invade the Netherlands, joining the Dutch resistance with Elif offers just the atonement Lien craves.

Trained to shoot by their late father, the sisters are deadly wolves in sheep’s clothing. They soon find themselves entrenched in the underground movement, forging friendships with the other young recruits, and Lien even discovers a kindred spirit in a boy named Charlie. But in wartime, emotional attachments are a liability she can’t afford, especially when a deeply personal mission jeopardizes everything she holds dear—her friendships, her family, and her one shot at redemption.

The Sunshine Girls by Molly Fader


Publishes December 6, 2022 by Graydon House, 356 pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Molly Fader’s The Sunshine Girls is the story of BettyKay and how five buttons purchased as a practical joke linked students “filled with possibility” for a lifetime.  The lives and emotional perspectives of first year nursing students and their limited social choices in the 1960’s are woven with the politics and aftermath of survivors of Viet Nam and the glittering emptiness of Hollywood.

The Sunshine Girls begins at the end: the funeral for BettyKay Beecher in 2019, Greensboro Iowa. The appearance of Hollywood star Kitty Devereaux at the visitation throws the small-town into a tizzy. Kitty quickly brings BettyKay’s adult daughters, Clara and Abbie, into her Hollywood aura to share memories of nursing school days with their mother.

Fader deftly alternates timelines between 2019 and 1967 going forward; recounting the past years from alternate points of view through the eyes of farm girl BettyKay, her roommate, Kitty Simon, and Jenny, who volunteered to serve in Viet Nam to protect her brother. Fader’s compelling prose and emotional dialogue gleams through relationships; Jenny with her dad over serving in Viet Nam, angst of sisters Clara and Abbie, and BettyKay’s revealing diary entries. Characters’ mixed feelings on the war in Viet Nam and individual relief or repercussions from decisions are disclosed to form the politically historical backdrop. Fader infuses music and movies of the times, such as Star Wars, as touchpoints for readers, adding “life twists,” as puzzle pieces fall in and out of place.  

When all five buttons are located and BettyKay’s secrets revealed, healing must take place between Kitty, Clara, and Abbie.  After exposing the truth. is reconciliation possible for The Sunshine Girls?  

Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sister’s Book Of Secrets. As Molly O’Keefe she is the USA Today Bestselling author of over 50 contemporary romances. She lives in Toronto Ontario with her husband, two kids and rescue dog.

Death on a Winter Stroll: A Merry Folger Christmas Mystery by Francine Mathews


Published Nov. 1, 2022, by Soho Crime, 288 pp.


No-nonsense Nantucket detective Merry Folger grapples with the aftermath of the
COVID-19 pandemic and two murders as the island is overtaken by Hollywood
stars and DC suits.
Nantucket Police Chief Meredith Folger is acutely conscious of the stress COVID-19 has placed on the community she loves. Although the island has proved a refuge for many during the pandemic, the cost to Nantucket has been high. Merry hopes that the Christmas Stroll, one of Nantucket’s favorite traditions, in which Main Street is transformed into a winter wonderland, will lift the island’s spirits. But the arrival of a large-scale TV production, and the Secretary of State and her family, complicates matters significantly.
The TV shoot is plagued with problems from within, as a shady, power-hungry producer clashes with strong-willed actors. Across Nantucket, the Secretary’s troubled stepson keeps shaking off his security detail to visit a dilapidated house near conservation land, where an intriguing recluse guards secrets of her own. With all parties overly conscious of spending too much time in the public eye and secrets swirling around both camps, it is difficult to parse what behavior is suspicious or not—until the bodies turn up.
Now, it’s up to Merry and Detective Howie Seitz to find a connection between two
seemingly unconnected murders and catch the killer. But when everyone has a motive, and half of the suspects are politicians and actors, how can Merry and Howie tell fact from fiction?
This latest installment in critically acclaimed author Francine Mathews’ Merry Folger series is an immersive escape to festive Nantucket, a poignant exploration of grief as a result of parental absence, and a delicious new mystery to keep you guessing.

Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She
attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going
on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and
left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written thirty books, including six
previous novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough
Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, Death on Nantucket,
and Death on Tuckernuck) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the pen name Stephanie Barron. She lives and
works in Denver, Colorado.

Purchase Links:

Death on a Winter Stroll

Chapter 1, pg. 5-7

From Death on a Winter Stroll © 2022, Francine Mathews, published by Soho Crime

The first weekend of December had been Meredith Folger’s favorite time of year for as long as she could remember. People often say that about holiday traditions, of course, but Merry was convinced that nowhere on earth was the winter solstice heralded with such enthusiastic conviction as during the three days of Nantucket’s Christmas Stroll.

Anticipation started to rise all over the island in late November. The day after Thanksgiving, crowds gathered at the head of Main Street for the ceremonial lighting of the massive ever- green tree that shed its glow throughout the darkest hours of the year; the following weekend, Santa would arrive at the end of Straight Wharf by Coast Guard cutter. Waving from the back of an antique fire truck, he’d follow the Town Crier and a drum section of grade-school kids who’d been practicing with Ms. Benton the music teacher for weeks, parading up from the harbor and winding through town. Everybody standing on the curb—islanders, tourists, daytrippers—would fall in behind and follow the truck with guttural cheers. Eventually Santa would be enthroned next to the lighted town tree and take requests from a long line of children. This was what gave Christmas Stroll its name. It had been going on for half a century now, and although imitated by towns all over New England, Nantucket’s weekend remained unrivaled. People who loved the island arrived each year by land and sea, from all over the country and the world, to celebrate.

Over time the holiday had morphed into three full days of permission to wander amiably around town with steaming cups of cheer and weird hats, bells jangling from the ankles of elf booties. Over ten thousand tourists crowded the sidewalks of downtown. The shops and restaurants were full. People laughed freely and called jokes to friends across the brick sidewalks and paused in the middle of the morning to sit on available benches. They bought things they didn’t need, simply because they wanted them, then gifted them to others without a thought.

Costumed carolers sang on street corners. Tourists took selfies in front of window boxes and beneath mistletoe balls. A few of them found someone to kiss. They jostled each other good-naturedly, butting armfuls of colorful bags, as they trailed down the streets in their red and green Stroll scarves.

In lucky years, it snowed.

In less fortunate ones, it rained.

This year, the forecast was for Windy and Gorgeous.

Uniformed members of Merry’s police force would be up early and out on Main Street Saturday morning with sawhorses, barricading the heart of town against vehicular traffic. They’d stand in the crosswalks and near the sundial planter that sat right in the middle of the cobblestoned street. The Garden Association decorated the urn each year with fresh greens and red bows and tiny white lights. The police were there to maintain order and most of the Strollers were orderly, except for the occasional drunken jerk who vomited without warning on the uneven brick side- walk. Merry had observed the rhythms of Stroll her entire life, she reflected, and usually it never got old.

But this year, she was clenching her teeth and grinding her way through the holiday. This year, she was struggling to find the Joy of the Season. This year, she barely had time to care.

This year, she wasn’t merely another happy reveler hiding mysterious boxes on the top shelf of the spare bedroom’s closet, the scent of vanilla and cloves in her hair. She wasn’t pausing to rub pine or spruce branches on her early morning walks, so that the resinous oil lingered on her fingertips, or losing track of time while she snapped pictures of festive window boxes. This year, she was the Nantucket Police Department’s chief of police. And Christmas Stroll, to be completely honest, was shaping up to be a royal pain in the ass.

That Summer in Berlin by Lecia Cornwall


Publication September 2022, Berkley, 464 pp.

In the summer of 1936, while the Nazis make secret plans for World War II, a courageous and daring young woman struggles to expose the lies behind the dazzling spectacle of the Berlin Olympics. 

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Written for The Historical Novels Review Magazine, Historical Novel Society, Nov. 1, 2022

Lecia Cornwall’s That Summer in Berlin is a close-up view of the 1936 Berlin Olympics through the lens of two debutantes on a holiday filled with terrible risks but great rewards. This compelling novel immerses readers from the beginning of the well-staged opening of the 1936 Berlin Olympics through the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk. Readers are submerged in different societal classes, opposing familial expectations, and varying political views and goals.

In the 1930’s, the expectation of young upper-class women was to marry and produce heirs, not pursue careers. Cornwall explores this expectation through the main character, Viviane Alden. A secretly aspiring photographer, Viviane meets journalist Tom Graham, a well-educated Scotsman hired to appear as a Fascist sympathizer, who presents her with risky career choices in Germany.  Viviane chooses to accompany stepsister Julia to Count von Schroeder’s castle in Bavaria for the opportunity to follow her dreams. Viviane is settled in the politically divided household with the Count and Countess, and three sons.  Viviane’s interactions uncover the prejudices of each member’s involvement in the politics of Germany and the rising Nazi regime.

Cornwall’s narrative transports readers from London’s society balls and mob riots to nerve wracking, bone chilling missions in Germany, as careers and lives are risked in conflicts involving a clearly defined Nazi enemy. Enthralled readers will be shocked as the plot twists and Viviane takes more risks with her camera. The well-researched prose immerses readers in politically charged Germany with captivating dialogue and ominous reactions in clutch situations. Viviane’s balancing act exposes political and religious tensions as she nimbly walks a fine line with members of the von Schroeder family.  An engrossing, absorbing picture of the 1936 Olympics from the perspective of a “pretty young tourist taking holiday snaps.”

Lecia Cornwall, acclaimed author of numerous historical romance novels, lives and writes in the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies with four cats and a wild and crazy ninety-pound chocolate Lab named Andy. She has two grown children and one very patient husband. When she is not writing, Lecia is a dedicated volunteer at the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Alberta. That Summer in Berlin is her latest novel of historical women’s fiction.

The Unlocked Path by Janis Daly


Published by: Black Rose Writing Release Date: August 25, 2022 Pages: 346

Meet a “New Woman” of the early 20th century: educated, career-minded, independent Eliza Pearson Edwards. In 1897 Philadelphia, after witnessing her aunt’s suicide, Eliza rejects her mother’s wishes for a society debut, and enters medical college. With the support of a circle of women and determined to conquer curriculum demands, battle sexism, and overcome doubts, Eliza charts a new life course.”

Reviewed for Historical Novels Review Magazine, Issue #102 Published November 1, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

In 1897 Laura Edwards is steamrolling daughter Eliza’s debut into Philadelphia society. Eliza wonders “is there more.” She soon discovers her grandfather was founder of the Female Medical College of Philadelphia and that the women in her life had “devoted themselves to following their hearts and helping others.”  Is medical school on Eliza’s path?

Janis Daly quickly creates confidence in both Eliza’s skills and ability and the wisdom and guidance of medical student Anandi. Experience Eliza’s sheer joy as she befriends wealthy classmate, Olga from Russia, and becomes enamored with a professor from Ireland. Olga’s humor adds levity and her attachment as a sister develops over the years. Daly’s portrayal of the medical students’ resourcefulness in support of each other and Laura’s progression of ideals and realizations are aligned with the times and so uplifting as graduations, marriages, and births take place.

Additionally, Daly’s descriptions of surgeries and procedures of the early 1900’s are supported by vast medical research. The prejudices and attitudes of male doctors and pharmacists, along with exhausting daily schedules are central to the emotional core of the novel. The amazing Bone Boxes and vivid descriptions from the physiology lab add sensory details connecting readers to the era.

Eliza’s world comes alive for readers as she experiences the ratification of the 19th Amendment, World War, a pandemic, and the sinking of the Titanic. She travels from the tenements of Philadelphia to the cottages of Newport searching for love, contentment, agreeability and hopefully, motherhood. Follow The Unlocked Path for the key to results and answers.

“Discovery that my great-great grandfather was a founder of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania inspired my next career direction: unearthing the stories of women whose lives have remained in the shadows. My debut novel, The Unlocked Path, balances authenticity and rich historical detail with deep emotional connections to create engaging fictional characters.”


A Christmas Deliverance by Anne Perry

Publication: November 8, 2022 by Random House Publishing/Ballentine Books

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Anne Perry’s annual Victorian mystery is a holiday gift readers receive with great expectation. A Christmas Deliverance bustles readers into Dr. Crowe’s toasty warm London clinic caring for the poor near the muddy banks of the Thames, with a bubbling pot of soup ready to serve the next patient and no expectation of payment. Over a year ago Dr. Crowe cared for Eliza Hollister, only daughter of wealthy widower, Albert Hollister, after a nasty carriage accident near his clinic. Realizing he’s in love and drawn to her street, Crowe witnesses Eliza being bullied by Paul, son of shipping magnate, Silas Dolan. Overhearing the two are to be wed right after Christmas ignites Crowe’s desire to find out WHY Eliza doesn’t walk away from Paul and his troubling behavior. What is the connection between Albert Hollister and Silas Dolan?

The well-drawn characters include Will Monk, Crowe’s assistant, admired and respected for his determination and perseverance to become a doctor. Known as Scuff, he reminds Crowe that some patients only need “a listening ear, kindness, and to be believed.” An endearing patient is five-year-old Mattie, street wise, intuitive, and loveable beyond all bounds. The perfect Christmas glow that Crowe and Scuff need in their lives.

Anne Perry’s mystery of a debt between two families involving fraud and murder reminds readers that the people we love are vulnerable and possess human frailties. Dr. Crowe’s quest to unwrap a case that seems to be tied up whisks readers from the surgery table to the blustery docks, barges, and warehouses on the River Thames. Dr. Crowe is reminded that Christmas is about family and love so get cozy near a crackling fire and revel in Anne Perry’s A Christmas Deliverance.

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of fifteen previous holiday novels, as well as the bestselling William Monk series, the bestselling Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, the new Daniel Pitt series, five World War I novels, and a work of historical fiction, The Sheen on the Silk. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles.

Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby


Publication November 1, 2022- Pegasus Books: 416 pp. Historical Fiction, Biographical Historical Fiction, “Austenesque”

A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go.

Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny
Austen—Anne’s arrival is all novelty and excitement. The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the “upstairs” and downstairs” members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen’s family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane’s brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the
lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne’s days at Godmersham Park are

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

In Godmersham Park Gill Hornby shares Anne Sharpe’s abrupt entrance into the Victorian world of working women. After the death of her mother, Anne is informed by her family’s “man of business” that she must vacate her home and live on a stipend of 35 pounds per year. Readers are immediately drawn to this emotional truth and curious how this beautiful, charming, indulged, only child will deal with such news. The solution is the position of governess in the Austen household. As Anne meets the mistress for the first time, her constant second guessing of responses and possible implications of appearing “forward, impertinent or grasping” reveals the sensibilities of the time and the insecurities Anne harbors. Her anxieties and excruciating headaches are another emotional tug for readers.

Upon entering the palatial Godmersham Park, Anne is excited to see the grand rooms so perfect for ‘theatricals’ until she realizes, not being a real part of the family, her quarters are in the attic. This insightful foreshadowing of Anne’s role in planning activities and writing scripts for plays involving the other eight children is evidence of Hornby’s superb prose.  Hornby brings the Victorian home to life by gently weaving Anne’s hectic daily schedule with the delicately balanced interactions of the household staff and the children in their care.  

Gill Hornby’s characters are richly drawn from her own research and diaries kept by Fanny Austen. The deep bond Anne forged with twelve-year-old Fanny over two years as governess is a forever balm for her grieving heart. Anne’s friendships and activities with Jane Austen and her very popular brother, Henry, reveal angst, suspense, and later her playful wit and writing skills. These relationships within the Austen family keep readers sipping tea and turning pages; thrilled with Gill Hornby’s engaging glimpse into Victorian life at Godmersham Park.

Order Here: Barnes & Noble

Amazon: Kindle:

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now,
as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives
in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.

#22in22Challenge Buxton Books & Charleston Preservation Society


Visit #18 and #19- Charleston, South Carolina

We were in Charleston for the South Carolina vs. Texas A&M game at the invitation of dear friends who live in Charleston. There were 9 couples; some traveled to the game in Columbia, while some stayed in Charleston to visit bookstores, attend the Zibby Owens event at the Charleston Library Society and shop on King Street. On this particular day the bookish events won out over Aggie game day for this “grateful reader.” Also, I do admit that shopping had a bit to do with the decision. It was a great trip with lots of walking, shopping, and eating! Here are the two bookstores I was able to visit, both on King Street!



#22in22Challenge Muddy Water Bookstore


#17 Navasota, Texas

For visit #17 we stopped in at this quirky small town Texas bookstore called the “best little bookstore in Texas!” Owner, Suzie Linnenbank was on site during our visit. The inventory is diverse and covers many genres. Suzie explained that she deals mostly in used books, but there was a selection of new books in the front window display. As usual I’m drawn to the children’s section and new historical fiction. Luckily for me, Suzie’s neighbor loves historical fiction and had read the 2022 release The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin, so I snapped it up! A fun bookstore I’ve been meaning to visit on our many trips through Texas. I’m glad I finally got there! Isn’t that corrugated steel awning the cutest?

Muddy Water Bookstore, Navasota, Texas

The Belle of Belgrave Square: Belles of London-Book 2


Publication October 11, 2022-by Berkley Romance Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Belle of Belgrave Square, book 2 in The Belles of London series, is a treat for fans of Historical Romance with a splash of fairy tale elements. Reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, watch for good vs. evil, problems to be solved, supernatural beings, and the element of three. Don’t forget the moral and happy ending!

Main character, Captain Jasper Blunt, a battle-scarred soldier from the Crimean War, is considered a war hero, but is he good or evil? Mimi weaves in just enough of his hidden past to keep readers guessing. The beautiful Julia Wychwood, critically impaired by anxiety and her wealthy, invalid parents is imprisoned at Belgrave Square. Deprived of pets, except for her beloved horse, Cossack, Julia gains confidence through riding. Her anxiety is relieved by reading, stashing a novel into her reticule and escaping into libraries when attending parties. Readers will admire this Victorian girl’s resourceful spunk!

Problems are twofold. Captain Blunt needs a wealthy wife’s dowry to restore his dilapidated estate in Yorkshire, and Julia is desperate to escape the evil Dr. Cordingley, whose bloodletting is slowly killing her. Mimi Matthews’ tale is filled with the harrowing details of Julia’s daily life and the heartwarming descriptions of Captain Blunt’s eventful life with children and limited, aging staff at Goldfinch Hall.

Captain Blunt’s children fulfill the element of three and his allegedly haunted Goldfinch Hall, the supernatural.  Like the thick, luscious plaits in Julia’s hair, Mimi has braided the Captain’s secrets into the plot and readers will be as anxious as Julia while searching for reasons to believe in him. Seeking lessons learned and hoping for a happy ending make The Belle of Belgrave Square as fulfilling as a favorite fairy tale.

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.





Wherever the Wind Takes Us by Kelly Harms


Happy Publication Day- October 18, 2022 by Lake Union Publishing

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Kelly Harms delivers another “sink or swim” adventure of a woman on the brink of a new life. Her main character, Becca, is newly divorced and faced with her past but willing to brace for the future. This tale of a mother and daughter sailing from Maine to Miami takes on a wide range of watery emotions. Becca’s learning to sail hardly compares to the gritty truths and grief at letting go of 22 years of marriage or the ecstasy and joy of discovering the real person below all those layers of the past. Kelly Harm’s novel brings new meaning to finding “the wind in your sails!” The forecast is smooth sailing ahead with Wherever the Wind Takes Us.

Other Books by Kelly Harms:

Life is short. Read Deliciously.

That’s the message that guides Kelly as she writes what Booklist dubs her “Witty, lively, and au courant,” novels set in the lives of everyday women living outside their everyday circumstances. Combining her trademark “spunky leading ladies you can take to the beach” (Fitness Magazine) with “an honest look at weighty topics (Kirkus Reviews), Kelly keeps readers laughing and thinking year after year, across a dozen languages and every imaginable format. Her works have been #1 bestsellers at Amazon and Audible and garnered more than 40,000 reviews.

A former literary agent and associate editor at HarperCollins Publishers, Kelly speaks on creative living and a life in publishing from both sides of the editor’s desk, at libraries, book clubs, festivals, and wherever good books are sold. She also enjoys working with young adult writers through partnerships with public schools and libraries.”


In The Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore


Publication Date: October 4, 2022 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Are Free-Spirited Royals Your Cup of Tea?” When this question appeared as the subject line in an email from Laurel Ann Nattress, Director at Austen Prose PR, I HAD to read this novel! Readers will adore Princess Louise! Here’s my review:

In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather Moore opens with a journal entry from Queen Victoria on the birth of Princess Louise, her sixth child. Now it’s 1861, and that beautiful baby girl is twelve years old. Moore provides readers with an immediate emotional touchpoint as a personal letter or journal entry is shared at the beginning of each chapter.

Heather Moore’s use of comparison biographies is highly evident as she shares details of Princess Louise and her eight siblings. Readers gain insight into birth order, rivalries, and conflict.  Moore focuses on individual reactions to father, Prince Albert’s death, marriages, political relations, and the women’s suffrage movement.  She also brings out Louise’s likeable, relatable personality through her relationship with Sybil Grey. The young girls become “true friends” and Louise gains access to media, experiences in social settings, and honest conversations.

Princess Louise’s quest to become a sculptor flares to life as she convinces the Queen to allow a studio for sculpting and art teachers are hired, not a traditional path for young ladies. Princess Louise is coming of age so finding a marriage partner becomes the novel’s focus and the Queen’s quest. The parade of eligible men at breakfasts and dinners, plus sibling intervention wreak havoc on the royal plans and is quite entertaining. There is much suspense with the impending match and marriage contract; a reminder that one is “marrying into a complicated family and royal dynasty with traditions and expectations.”

Fans of all things Royal will thoroughly appreciate the accomplishments of Princess Louise as she becomes an independent thinker, a champion of change, and develops her own opinions despite being “in the shadow of a queen.”

LINK HERE TO A GORGEOUS WEBSITE : “Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than that of any previous British monarch and is known as the Victorian era.”

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than
seventy publications, including The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. She has lived on
both the East and West Coasts of the United States, as well as Hawaii, and attended
school abroad at the Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican School of
Jerusalem in Israel. She loves to learn about history and is passionate about historical





A Place to Land by Lauren K. Denton


Publication: October 4, 2022 from Harper Muse Publishing


For sisters Violet and Trudy, a hidden past isn’t past at all.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Lauren K. Denton is a Southern author whose wonderful stories of love, belonging, and finding home are set in fictional towns with characters richly drawn from her own life and imagination. In the South “your people” are the link to the past and a key to the present! Lauren’s “people” are written with deep, meaningful lives that evoke a wide range of emotions.  

A Place to Land is the story of how love and a promise to a mother impacts the lives of sisters Violet and Trudy Figg.  Violet, whose life is on hold to protect her sister, fills her days surveying birds for the Coastal Alabama Audubon Society.  Trudy, who only communicates by writing notes, silently creates artwork for their shop, Two Sisters Art in Sugar Bend, Alabama. Now the past Violet and Trudy have tried to bury bumps right into the present when after forty years a sunken boat resurfaces on the muddy, weed filled banks of the winding Little River.

Lauren K. Denton’s plot is filled with secrets and winds around as many bends as the Little River. Denton’s novel is chocked full of stories of bird watching, lost love, hurtful tales of the “friendliest guy in town’, and a teenage victim of the foster care system. With a mysterious boat, teens Maya and Tyler searching for courage to leave their present life to forge a future, and the Figg sisters hoping love transcends past decisions, readers will get a warm, safe sense of Southern belonging and what it truly means to finally find A Place to Land.

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent

Tastes Better from Scratch by Lauren Allen


Publishes September 27, 2022

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Remember the cartoon of the confused young bride searching the grocery aisles for “scratch”? Lauren Allen can help with that! She hosts a popular food blog and website, Tastes Better from Scratch, and now her well tested fan & family favorites are available in her debut cookbook. Lauren believes that “good food is essential for our physical and financial health and our social well-being.”

This cookbook is well organized with 116 recipes, colorful photos, and step-by-step instructions. Tips for key kitchen tools, ideas for getting kids or grandkids to eat the same meals as adults, and even QR codes that connect to how-to videos make this cookbook the perfect choice.

Categories include Breakfasts, Muffins & Breads, Dinners, Soups, and Desserts. The alphabetical index is also helpful with live links if using the digital edition. Tastes Better from Scratch makes a wonderful wedding gift, but also a beautiful addition to a seasoned cook’s collection.

I tried the German Pancakes. Next time I’ll use a bit smaller pan and lower the oven temperature. Delicious, as voted by my family!

German Pancakes by Dorothy

When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner


Publishes October 18, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

When We Had Wings is a riveting account of the Japanese takeover of the Philippines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 1941, told seamlessly by three authors through the lives of three nurses.

The three nurses representing the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and the Filipina community, Penny, Eleanor, and Lita, experience hospitals with few supplies, orphans facing starvation, and the horrors of prisons and internment camps in Manila, the Bataan Peninsula, and Corregidor Island.  The Philippine assignment was considered ‘paradise’ at the time each enlisted but after the declaration of war they must come to grips with atrocities and realities of warfare.

The history of the Philippines, the political and social upheavals, along with demolished cities and details of conflicts add to compelling personal accounts as the three nurses are separated for years and wonder who survives. The detailed descriptions of their personal contributions, experiences and sacrifices evoke feelings ranging from pure disgust to extreme delight, as they became the first female prisoners of World War ll.

General MacArthur pledged “I shall return!” This commitment keeps hopeful readers interned with the “Angels of the Bataan and Corregidor” until the tanks roll in, hatches open, and they hear in a distinct American accent, “Hello, folks”. God Bless America!

#22in22Challenge The Wild Detectives


Visit #16 Dallas, Texas-Bishop Arts District

“Two birds with one stone.” We had an appointment at The Book Doctor in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas, so decided to visit The Wild Detectives Bookstore in the same trip. This is an independent bookstore with tables & seating for those wanting to read or work using the WiFi, outdoor patio seating in the backyard for cooler weather and author events, and a bar for cocktails or coffee for cozy reading inside. Everything from Fiction & Nonfiction to Poetry & Books in Spanish is available, along with online ordering. Located in the beautiful Bishop Arts district with lots of boutiques on tree lined streets to wander in and out of along with restaurants aplenty!

Sunflowers Beneath the Snow by Teri M. Brown


Published January 5, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Like sunflower seeds that rest dormant under winter snow, Teri M. Brown’s Sunflowers Beneath the Snow reveals the underlying strength of three generations of women living in Ukraine between 1973-2021. Ivanna, a grandmother, Yevtsye, her daughter, and Ionna, the granddaughter share their stories of survival and accomplishments despite political upheaval, economic hardships, and social and religious disparities.

In the opening pages Ivanna’s husband, Lyaksandro, is abducted for his efforts to squash Communism and restore the traditions of Ukraine his father instilled in him as a youth. Teri Brown weaves the history of the USSR and the customs and culture of Ukraine with the personal beliefs of Ivanna as she stays true to the Party. Readers are treated to descriptions of Christmas celebrations of the past as hunger pangs continue for parents and children as they forage for food and burn furniture to stay alive.  

Themes of forgetting and forgiveness fill the emotional dialogue and personal religious conflicts between Ivanna and her daughter, Yevtsye, as they navigate tumultuous decades of personal separation, political unrest, and Ukraine’s declaration of independence. Through Ionna’s experiences truths are exposed and a timeline of historical developments helps the reader internalize the reality behind personal and political struggles.

Based on true events, the individual decisions and reactions to situations create “astonishing solutions more powerful than fiction.” In the fall of 2022 as the media reports daily on military progress in Ukraine, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow is an extremely emotional, currently relevant educational novel presented through the lens of one family and their extraordinary sacrifices over a lifetime.  Highly recommended.

Sunflowers are easy to find in Ukraine. The sunflower seeds brought by early explorers from America, provide food, oil, medicine, and dyes. Fields of flowers, carved into furniture or embroidered on clothing; the sunflower is the national symbol of Ukraine.

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M. Brown now calls the North Carolina coast home. In 2020, she and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. Teri’s debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is a historical fiction set in Ukraine. Learn more at


#22in22Challenge Galveston Book Shop

Visit #15: Galveston Island, Texas

This was my second visit to The Galveston Book Shop. I purchased a book on the Maceo family who plays a large part in The Last Dance on the Starlight Pier by Sarah Bird.

So a trip to Maceo’s Spice & Import was a must! It’s a step back in time with a vast array of spices, and a restaurant, too! The muffuletta was recommended and a treat for lunch at the beach.

The Portraitist – A Novel of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap


Publication August 30, 2022

This novel is the result of seven years of research, writing, and revising. I’m excited to share it with you! Kirkus Reviews called it “an imaginative work that brings the story of a little-known artist to vivid life.” Susanne Dunlap

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

In The Portraitist Susanne Dunlap explores the sumptuous world of art in Paris in the 18th century during the tumultuous years leading to the French Revolution. Readers are introduced to the current social and political issues through struggling female artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guitard, and her rival Vigée Le Brun, well known for her royal connections and commissioned portraits.

Dunlap’s impeccable research shines a light on the historical backdrop of the storming of the Bastille and the world of the Royalists and the Jacobins. The sounds of angry chants, loud drumming, and marching feet keep readers seeking an end to the bloodshed as the Revolution comes alive on the pages. Dunlap weaves the details of the artists’ lives and attempts at reform of women’s acceptance in the Académie Royale with studios at the Louvre and the palace of Versailles. Marie Antoinette, the Guillotine, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Robespierre add to the suspenseful political intrigue.  

The spicy details of Adélaïde’s desperate, dangerous solution to earning money, decisions she makes to survive and ideals she’s willing to fight for, make her a character that women will connect with emotionally and socially.  The pressures of women in the 18th century are not so unlike those women face today.  The Portraitist is filled with luscious period details, the French Revolution and Adélaïde’s attention to advancing women in the arts while seeking equal rights in the Académie Royale. Truly a French masterpiece. C’est très magnifique!  

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (French, Paris 1749–1803 Paris) Self-Portrait with Two Pupils, Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761–1818) and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788), 1785 Oil on canvas; 83 x 59 1/2 in. (210.8 x 151.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Julia A. Berwind, 1953 (53.225.5)

History is my muse. I love writing, dogs, cycling, and writing. Did I say writing already?

I’m fascinated by the women of the past, how they lived, how they negotiated with the conditions of their time to thrive as best they could.

I’ve written about real historical women and invented characters who might have lived then.

The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul


Published August 18, 2022

It’s a 1920s version of Sex and the City, as Dorothy Parker—one of the wittiest women who ever wielded a pen—and her three friends navigate life, love, and careers in New York City.”

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Gill Paul’s Manhattan Girls takes readers behind the desks of New York publishers, into speakeasies, and onto Broadway in 1921, as she chooses a bridge group to connect the lives of four real New York career women, each with their own individual style. Gill Paul wins the hand by developing dialogue and moving the plot through four “players”: Dorothy Parker, writer, and Jane Grant, a reporter at the New York Times; kindred spirits of journalism, and Broadway actress Winnifred Lenihan and Margaret (Peggy) Leech, an advertising sales agent for Condé Nast. These women never saw swapping fashion tips at beauty salons or looking after a husband as their sole purpose in life. Gill Paul surrounds the main characters with husbands, lovers, friends, editors, newspaper columnists, authors, playwrights, actresses, and bootleggers! Seems a lot, but readers will be intrigued with the character interactions and entanglements. Her juicy descriptions of gatherings read like newspaper society columns.  

Due to the war and more women in the work force, the four women are on the cusp of social change as the decade ends. Readers will be invested in how Gill Paul interprets the ideals and dreams of the four women and their relationships in this challenging time in history.  The Manhattan Girls support each other’s strengths as they bid and win with the cards they’ve been dealt.   

Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and UK kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages. She specializes in relatively recent history, mostly 20th century, and enjoys re-evaluating real historical characters and trying to get inside their heads.

With LOVE from WISH & CO. by Minnie Darke


Publication: August 16, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

What are we prepared to give-and give up-in the name of love? Minnie Darke proves relationships are tricky in this captivating tale of Marnie Fairchild, professional gift buyer, and how her one mistake causes the implosion of the Charlesworth family. Marnie’s goal as owner of Wish & Co. is to build-up her clientele and finances so she’s fiscally able to purchase the historic building where her grandfather’s shop was once located. After one uncharacteristic mistake her dreams may be dashed and the families are in a knotted mess, complicated on all levels.

The well-developed characters will charm or worm their way into readers’ hearts. So many relationships to evolve or dissolve while Marnie seeks to build her unique business. One simple mistake wreaks havoc on relationships between husband/wife, father/son, father/daughter, and even old/new budding romances! What a tangled web Minnie Darke weaves; sticky with several targets captured.  Dealing with disappointment, moral dilemmas, forgiveness, and pride hits readers squarely in the gut then the heart, all while reading through laughter and tears. A favorite line: “Love’s the hokey pokey! You’ve got to put your whole self in.” Readers will be all in reading Minnie Darke’s With Love from Wish & Co.

Minnie Darke writes smart, contemporary stories about love … of all kinds. Minnie Darke is a lover of freshly sharpened pencils, Russian Caravan tea and books of all kinds. She lives on the beautiful island of lutruwita/Tasmania, at the bottom of the world.

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong


Published August 9, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

A remarkable story about “the magic and power of words to give comfort and effect change.” Addison Armstrong weaves this dual timeline of the upbringing and youth of Emmaline Balakin and Kathleen Carre into a tale of women who are filled with stamina, courage, and leadership.

Emmaline’s story set in 1918 France during WWl is based on the letters of real-life war librarian Mary Frances Isom. With Armstrong’s deeply researched details of soldiers in the trenches and sensory filled descriptions of the war-ravaged French countryside readers are truly “mired in the muddy lanes” and politics of war as Emmaline delivers her wheelbarrow of books to soldiers.  Emmaline draws strength from memories of her parents and why they left Russia; not because the Czar was banning weapons, but because he was banning books. “Ideas are more dangerous than war” energizes her passionate belief that books are for everyone, no matter race, religion, political beliefs, or economic standing.  Armstrong’s depictions of the colored soldiers’ treatment places readers squarely into the remote crowded tents with no heat and lack of prompt medical care. The scenes of Emmaline reading aloud to the colored soldiers “being more comforting than mama’s blackberry pie and like a magic carpet” caused tears of joy as she shared the love of reading.  Emmaline’s beliefs and courage to do what’s right has a life changing effect on her service as a war librarian.

Emmaline’s war experiences are alternated with Kathleen Carre’s 1976 experiences in the first class of females at the United States Naval Academy. Kathleen’s grandmother, Nana, having served in the WWl Motor Corps, is her hero and the driving force for Kathleen to serve her country.  Armstrong creates strong conflict and presents the prejudices of females intruding in a “man’s world” as Nana so aptly warns her. The insecure male cadets, hoping to force the women to leave, were relentless in their cruel treatment, slurs, and ransacking of rooms; only considered hazing by the USNA. This maddening harassment and the collective strategies of the female plebes truly sets these women apart and makes them heroes for exposing the truth. This emotionally challenging read requires some calm down breaks! Addison Armstrong’s The War Librarian accurately depicts racial injustices without being offensive and focuses on obvious gender biases. Read for satisfying justice in the end.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a five-year old writing stories about talking school supplies and ants getting their revenge on exterminators. While a junior at Vanderbilt University studying elementary education, I wrote my first historical fiction novel, The Light of Luna Park, and sold it to G.P. Putnam’s Sons in January of my senior year. Now that I’ve graduated with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Language & Literacy Studies, as well as a Master’s in Reading Education with an ESL endorsement, I’m teaching third grade English language learners in Nashville and continuing to write.

Courage for the Cornish Girls by Betty Walker


Publishes August 4, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

War changes people and in Courage for the Cornish Girls readers catch up with the changes coming to Cornwall, England in 1942.  Betty Walker keeps readers up to date on the charming characters from books # 1 & #2 while providing ample backstory of past happenings in Porthcurno for new readers.  Aunt Violet, her nieces Lily and Alice and new chum, Demelza, are each being called to serve “king and country” while now living in Penzance. Personal relationships build but the war heats up, air raids increase, and Aunt Violet, Lily, and Demelza each must “do their bit.” Will their hearts be broken in the midst of war? The mystery of Lily and Alice’s father, sibling evacuees to protect and raise, and possible weddings to plan will keep readers anxiously waiting for Betty Walker’s continuation of the Cornish Girls series.

Betty Walker lives in Cornwall with her large family, where she enjoys gardening and coastal walks. She loves discovering curious historical facts, and devotes much time to investigating her family tree. She also writes bestselling contemporary thrillers as Jane Holland.

By Way of the Moonlight by Elizabeth Musser


Publication: August 2, 2022

Visit Elizabeth’s beautiful website

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Elizabeth Musser’s By Way of the Moonlight will gallop away with your heart. This is a story of love and horses and how each can define a life. The dual timeline opens in present-day Atlanta with flashbacks to the 1930’s and 40’s, highlighting the involvement of the U.S. in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War ll.  Allie, a physical therapist, is all set to marry the love of her life, veterinarian, Dr. Austin Andrews, and open Hickory Hills Horse Therapy. Her grandmother, known as Nana Dale, recently passed away and had always promised Allie she would inherit the house, barn, acreage and money to open an equine therapy center. Readers saddle up for a wild ride as the trusted family lawyer shares the latest life changing revelations regarding Nana Dale’s property.

In the 1930’s time-line Elizabeth Musser takes readers back to Nana Dale’s idyllic Georgia childhood growing up with horses, competitions with her champion filly, Essie, and the love of her life, Tommy.  Through skillful dialogue, intriguing characters and weaving of the two love stories, the time-line alternates back and forth between Dale and Allie.  Demolished dreams and letters from Nana Dale send Allie desperately searching for a carved wooden chest that holds the key to possibly saving Hickory Hills and the long-hidden details of Nana Dale’s secret life during World War ll.

Elizabeth Musser’s narrative is laced with defining historical markers. The 1940 Olympics, tankers torpedoed off the coast of Georgia, the building of Liberty ships, and the U.S Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol known as Sand Pounders all play key roles in the 1943 Battle of the Atlantic; the backdrop for Dale Butler’s riveting love story.

By Way of the Moonlight is filled with ricocheting emotions, feelings of accomplishment, and plenty of nerve-wracking suspense. Key themes are obsession and its impact on lives, along with pride’s effect on decisions. Elizabeth Musser shares optimism and hope through her emotional and suspenseful tale of two spirited women bound by the love of family, the power of prayer and gratitude, and the indisputable, therapeutic healing of horses.  Like Dale’s winning ribbons and trophies for her champion Essie, By Way of the Moonlight is Southern historical fiction worthy of a silver cup in Elizabeth Musser’s own ‘ribbon room.’

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years (Georgia Backroads).

All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and have been international best-sellers. Two Destinies, the final novel in The Secrets of the Cross trilogy, was a finalist for the 2013 Christy Award. Her new novel, The Long Highway Home, has already been a bestseller in Europe and was a finalist for the Carol Awards.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford


Publishes August 2, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Jamie Ford transports readers across continents and centuries with an epic saga of the descendants of Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to step foot in America. With the artful and masterful skill readers of Jamie Ford have come to love and appreciate each of the ‘many daughters” shares her own life story, how she bears inherited trauma and its effects on family and social relationships. The narrative encompasses social and economic mores, racially acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and historical events impacting the daughters’ lives spanning the 19th-21st centuries. Generationally inherited trauma becomes very real when main character Dorothy Moy’s 5-year-old daughter, Annabel begins to recall details from ancestors’ lives. Now Dorothy fears Annabel also has inherited trauma, so hoping to find a way to cure her daughter, seeks an unproven treatment for herself from Dr. Shedhorn. The doctor’s analogy of inherited trauma being like a perennial plant: “A part of us comes back each new season, carrying a bit of the previous floret,” helps clarify transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. A novel to enlighten and heighten readers’ understanding of being different, feeling unworthy, and “otherness.”

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Hoiping, China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name Ford, thus confusing countless generations. His debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to win the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. His work has been translated into thirty-five languages. Having grown up in Seattle, he now lives in Montana with his wife and a one-eyed pug.


The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Publication Day: July 19, 2022

Katherine’s website: Look for the video of the real Texas ranch setting in the novel!

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Hannah Brooks is an Executive Protection Agent, aka Bodyguard. She is assigned to a famous move star on hiatus due to a family crisis; the death of the brother that was a buffer for the family. Protecting one famous brother while he follows his mother’s wishes is in this recipe for a romantic comedy! Katherine Center, known as the “queen of comfort reads,” blends ingredients of witty banter, inner workings of a protection agency, and Hannah’s goal of remaining professional while in the presence of a handsome movie star with layers of childhood memories and disappointment, betrayal, and grief. The icing on the cake is swirled with Center’s delicious toppings of restoring friendships, the power of kindness, and refusing to give up on hope and optimism. There are plenty of relationship twists and tweaks to the recipe and readers will cheer for Hannah when she discovers that ‘love is something you do.”

The Bodyguard is also a treat for the senses: exploring the views of the Brazos River and the ranch in Texas, delving into the harshness of brothers revealing disturbing feelings and tensions, to hugs that prove to Hannah she is lovable. A favorite sprinkle of wisdom: “People loving you for your best qualities is not the same as people loving you despite your worst.” Thanks, Katherine, for whipping up The Bodyguard during the Pandemic; a “satisfying, delectable dessert” for fans of romantic comedy.

Secrets of the Italian Island by Barbara Josselsohn

Publishes May 11, 2023-Bookouture-Historical Fiction-Sisters of War-Book #1-393pp.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Barbara Josselsohn’s  foray into historical fiction begins with Secrets of the Italian Island. Based on a true story, this dual timeline is book #1 in the Sisters of War series. Main character Mia, grieving her grandmother Lucy’s recent passing in 2018, receives a letter claiming her grandmother is connected to an object of historical significance stolen from a castle on an island off the coast of Italy in the early 1940’s. Known as the Castle of the Poets for centuries, it had become a sanctuary for inventors, scientists, writers, and artists from all over the world. In the 1940’s the castle was stormed and overtaken by Nazis to house high ranking officials. The dual timeline continues with the saga of three sisters on a quest in 1943 to save their dying father. Papa, a Jewish tailor, should be leaving Italy, but due to his health must remain at home in his small village south of Rome. Annalise, oldest sister at 18 years old, has devised a daring plan to travel to the island, secure jobs in the castle kitchen, and find the owner, Patricio Parissi, who she hopes will help save her father.

Barbara Josselsohn’s well developed characters bridge the timelines for readers. In the current timeline, Mia’s boyfriend, Ryan, lacks empathy for her search to understand how the grandmother that raised her is somehow connected to a wedding dress found in a closet. When Mia travels to Italy, Ryan’s questioning phone calls and lack of support creates tension and distrust as the story progresses. Mia’s island tour guide, Leo, links readers to the latter timeline, as he shares the Parissi’s family history of the castle and the gruesome details of the Nazi takeover. Readers will also appreciate the impressive head of the castle kitchen, Signora Russo, and her intricate system of record keeping for guests in the castle.

Josselsohn’s prose is filled with anticipation, hope and fear in the sisters’ plan and her dialogue evokes emotions ranging from infuriating reactions to soul-stirring feelings shared on a dance floor. Along with analysis of the grandmother/granddaughter relationship readers can follow the sisters for an historic discovery and the threads of connection between artists and musicians of years past. Notes in walls and secrets leading to a love story on the Isola di Parissi, will be discovered in Secrets of the Italian Island.