New Year means new reads and, for me, 2022 has so far proved to be very productive in that respect.
Those of you who read my newsletter know that I’ve recently returned from quite an eventful holiday in the sun, where in spite of the drama, I had a lot of time to read.
Below are the best reads form my holiday. They are, as usual, in various genres, including Nordic Noir, Thrillers, Historical, Psychological and Women’s Fiction. A mixed bag, you could say!
The Second Mrs Astor by Shana Abe
Those of you who are already looking forward to watching Julian Fellows‘ The Gilded Age on TV, should read The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe. This novel, set in New York in the early 1900s follows a young socialite, Madeleine Force, as she meets and falls in love with a much older man, Colonel Jack Astor. (His mother, Mrs Lina Astor, is featured in the TV series). Causing a scandal, the two marry and go on an extended honeymoon to Egypt.
If you know your history well, it won’t be a spoiler to tell you that this is also a story of the sinking of the Titanic – in fact, the book’s subtitle mentions the fated cruise liner. The novel is, however, so much more than just another book about the Titanic. This story is about love, tolerance (or the lack of), equality and humanity.
Madaleine is acutely aware of her inadequate social standing compared to the Astors’ Knickerbocker ancestry. What’s more, Jack Astor is more than 25 years her senior and the richest man in the country. After their marriage, Madelaine is shunned by society and haunted by the press. To escape the scandal – and the freezing New York winter – the pair decide to take a trip to warmer climes. Having met the Chairman of the White Star Line, Bruce Ismay, during their journey, Jack is keen to travel home on the maiden voyage of the new Olympic-class ocean liner. Needless to say, it’s a fated decision.
The Second Mrs. Astor is a very engaging read and one that kept my mind off our own troubles at sea.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
A Reese’s Book Club novel, The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is a slow-burn psychological thriller, but not a particularly fast-paced one.
Hannah and Owen are newly married and living, on the surface, a perfect life in Sacramento. The only fly the ointment is Owen’s 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Bailey is a typical teenager, whose affections Hannah is yet to gain. The girl lost her mother at the age of only 11, so Hannah knows it will take time for her to get used to Owen’s new love. Besides, Hannah knows what it’s like to live without parents. Her own single mother abandoned her at an early age.
When Hannah receives a cryptic note from Owen, who promptly disappears without a trace, she immediately knows what she needs to do: Protect Bailey, whether the girl wants her to or not.
But first, she needs to find out why Owen has left her alone with Bailey. When the news breaks that the CEO of the company he worked for, a software start-up, has been arrested for fraud, Hannah is even more confused. Why wouldn’t her honourable husband stay and face the music to show that he wasn’t involved in any criminal activity? Because, surely, he is innocent?
When she is interviewed by the FBI and a mysterious U.S. marshall pays her a visit, Hannah begins to investigate Owen’s past to find clues to where he might have fled to. Her investigations lead to Austin, Texas, and to some very dangerous people. Suddenly, it becomes very clear why Owen asked her to keep Bailey safe.
The Last Thing He Told Me keeps you reading in spite of its slow pace. At first, you think the story is straightforward, but twist after twist keeps you guessing and turning the page. A great read, whether you are on the beach or enjoying a book by the fire.
To Love And Be Loved by Amanda Prowse
I’m a huge fan of Amanda Prowse’s books. She’s a master at telling stories of ordinary people with extraordinary lives.
To Love And Be Loved is set in Cornwall, in a small fishing village swamped by tourists in the summer and overtaken by second-homers. Merrin’s family have lived in Port Charles for as long as anyone can remember and she plans never to leave her beloved village. Unless it is to find a husband since eligible men are thin on the ground in such a small place.
When Digby Mortimer, a boy who spends his summers in Port Charles while running the family biscuit empire with his father in Bristol, asks her to marry him, she’s over the moon. Unlike the rest of her family, who are suspicious of the short courtship and the two families’ different standing in the community. After all, Merrin’s ma works as a cleaner for Digby’s stuck-up mother in the Mortimers’ large house in the village.
Blinded by love, Merrin doesn’t see the looming disaster. Devasted by events, she flees the village to avoid humiliation and scandal, only to return six years later after the loss of a close family member. She realises how much she has missed Port Charles, and how much she needs to be with those that truly love her.
To Love And Be Loved is a heartbreaking story of love and betrayal. It’s a great portrayal of a close family, its complicated relationship and sibling rivalries, as well as the strength of friendships. There’s also a great lesson in this book about the changing face of love. How a passion can turn into a friendship and vice versa.
If you love a heartbreaking story with a happy end, you cannot go wrong with this latest novel by Amanda Prowse.
Worst. Idea. Ever. by Jane Fallon
This is what it says about the book on Amazon, and I could not have put it better myself:
Georgia is lying to her best friend Lydia.
Just a little white lie – a fake Twitter account to support Lydia’s struggling business. No harm meant. But maybe this wasn’t Georgia’s best idea ever.
Because Lydia wants to confide in her new (fake) Twitter friend. About Georgia and her husband Nick, who might be having an affair.
Georgia wants out. Except what if it’s true? She needs to trick Lydia into revealing all.
But there’s another possibility. Lydia could be lying right back . . .
Has Georgia’s worst idea ever turned out to be Lydia’s best idea ever?
White Heron by JJ Marsh
Those of you who read my blog regularly, know that I’m a huge fan of JJ Marsh. I’ve read all the books in her Beatrice Stubbs series, set in various European cities. Those stories, although crime thrillers are of the gentler kind – more in the vein of modern Miss Marple stories than blood-curling Nordic Noir novels.
White Heron, a much darker tale, is the first in a new series by JJ Marsh. Set in Brazil, it follows a runaway cop Ann, who has chosen a remote beach in the rainy season to flee from her enemies. She has to remain anonymous to protect herself. When she gets embroiled in the death of a local youth, Ann meets a smart policeman. A policeman who is curious about her past. Just what she doesn’t need to remain hidden.
But Ann cannot help herself. She soon begins her own investigations into the young man’s demise, which takes her deeper into the murky underworld of her new neighbourhood. Will Ann be able to find the truth behind the death while still saving herself from her own enemies?
I loved the slow, menacing pace of the White Heron and cannot wait to read the second book in the series, Run And Hide.