Friday, February 24, 2017

The Tip of My Wish List - Pretty Dress But No Head

If you're anything like me you've got a book wish list so long there is no way you will ever be able to read through it all. And, on top of that, it's never ending because you just can't stop adding more books to it! To try and organize myself I'm sharing 5 books from my wish list that I'm most excited to get to, usually with a common theme, on the last Friday of each month. I know a number of excellent bloggers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new books to your own wish list. I'll also link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy of the books if they sound like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have others you would add to the list.

For this month's wish list post I thought I'd address the overabundance of historical fiction novels with women in beautiful dresses but no heads on the covers. Some of them have absolutely no heads while others seem to cut the head in half. I happen to like these covers but I know many readers find them annoying and, either way, I do find it funny that so many have the same thing going on. Here's 5 of my favorites.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.
When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?
With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.





A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams.


World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.

Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.





Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.

Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.

Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era’s notorious institutions—and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage.





An international bestseller, Kate Lord Brown's debut novel The Perfume Garden has sold especially well in Canada, where it was selected as Read of the Month for June 2015 and made it to the Globe & Mail bestseller list. The House of Dreams combines Brown's lovely, lyrical writing and signature interwoven past/present narrative style with an even more commercial time period and a fascinating real-life story.


In 2000, Gabriel Lambert is a celebrated painter who hides a dark secret. Sophie Cass, a journalist struggling to begin her career and with a family connection to Lambert, is determined to find the truth about his past and the little known story of the real Casablanca.

In 1940, an international group of rescue workers, refugee intellectuals, and artists gather in the beautiful old Villa Air Bel just outside Marseilles. American journalist Varian Fry and his remarkable team at the American Relief Center are working to help them escape France, but "the greatest man-trap in history" is closing in on them. Despite their peril, true camaraderie and creativity flourishes - while love affairs spring up and secrets are hidden. At the House of Dreams, young refugee artist Gabriel Lambert changed the course of his life - and now, sixty years later at his home in the Hamptons, the truth is finally catching up with him.





Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati’s epic novel sweeps us into another time and place…and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.


It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered—a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portait of an emerging America.


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Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:





Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cover Crush: Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself!  A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful! 

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.


So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....




This is not the sort of cover that tends to draw my eye, but I have to admit that I can't stop looking at this one! There's just so much to see! I love the skull at the top (that seems to be holding an acrobatic woman) and the brain at the bottom. There are guns and trains and cityscapes going around the border and what looks to be a city map of sorts in the body of the man in the center. To be honest I have no idea what is going on here, but it seems like a dream which I admit is intriguing. I feel like if I keep looking at this cover I'll just keep discovering new things to marvel at!

Let's see what the story is really about:


In Paris in the year 1899, Marcel Despres is arrested for the murder of his wife and transferred to the famous Salpetriere asylum. And there the story might have stopped. But the doctor assigned to his care soon realises this is no ordinary patient: Marcel Despres, Mister Memory, is a man who cannot forget. And the policeman assigned to his case soon realises that something else is at stake: for why else would the criminal have been hurried off to hospital, and why are his superiors so keen for the whole affair to be closed? This crime involves something bigger and stranger than a lovers' fight - something with links to the highest and lowest establishments in France. The policeman and the doctor between them must unravel the mystery...but the answers lie inside Marcel's head. And how can he tell what is significant when he remembers every detail of every moment of his entire life.


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Erin at Flashlight Commentary


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Release Day Spotlight on Death of a Ghost by M.C. Beaton + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date. February 21st, 2017
Pages: 256


Sergeant Hamish Macbeth--Scotland's most quick-witted but unambitious policeman--returns in M.C. Beaton's new mystery in her New York Timesbestselling series


There are many ruined castles in Scotland. One such lies outside the village of Drim. Hamish begins to hear reports that this castle is haunted and lights have been seen there at night, but he assumes it's some children or maybe the local lads going there to smoke pot, or, worse, inject themselves with drugs. Hamish says to his policeman, Charlie 'Clumsy' Carson, that they will both spend a night there.

The keening wind explains the ghostly noises, but when Charlie falls through the floor, Hamish finds the body of a dead man propped up in a corner of the cellar. After Charlie is airlifted to the hospital, Chief Detective Inspector Blair arrives to investigate the body, but there is none to be found. Dismissed as a drunk making up stories, Hamish has to find and identify the body and its killer before the "ghost" can strike again.


Praise for Death of a Ghost



"Longing for escape? Tired of waiting for Brigadoon to materialize? Time for a trip to Lochdubh, the scenic, if somnolent, village in the Scottish Highlands where M. C. Beaton sets her beguiling whodunits featuring Constable Hamish Macbeth.” —New York Times Book Review


"Hamish Macbeth is that most unusual character, one to whom the reader returns because of his charming flaws. May he never get promoted.” —New York Journal of Books


"With residents and a constable so authentic, it won't be long before tourists will be seeking Lochdubh and believing in the reality of Hamish Macbeth as surely as they believed in Sherlock Holmes.” — Denver Rocky Mountain News


"Macbeth is the sort of character who slyly grows on you.” —Chicago Sun-Times


Buy the Book





About the Author



M. C. Beaton has won international acclaim for her New York Times bestselling Hamish Macbeth
mysteries. The BBC has aired 24 episodes based on the series. Beaton is also the author of the bestselling Agatha Raisin series, which is now a television show starring Ashley Jensen, available on Acorn and coming soon to PBS. She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband. 

Find out more about M.C. on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


It's Giveaway Time!!



Thanks to Tiffany Sanchez at Hachette Book Group I have two (2!) copies of Death of a Ghost to giveaway today (US/CAN only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!


I'll use a random number generator to pick two winners on February 28th, 2017 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winners. The winners will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

Good Luck!!



Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Two Empresses by Brandy Purdy

Publisher: Kensington 
Pub. Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction


Synopsis



1779, France. On the island paradise of Martinique, two beautiful, well-bred cousins have reached marriageable age. Sixteen-year-old Rose must sail to France to marry Alexander, the dashing Vicomte de Beauharnais. Golden-haired Aimee will finish her education at a French convent in hopes of making a worthy match.

Once in Paris, Rose’s illusions are shattered by her new husband, who casts her off when his mistress bears him a son. Yet revolution is tearing through the land, changing fortunes—and fates—in an instant, leaving Rose free to reinvent herself. Soon she is pursued by a young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who prefers to call her by another name: Josephine.

Presumed dead after her ship is attacked by pirates, Aimee survives and is taken to the Sultan of Turkey’s harem. Among hundreds at his beck and call, Aimee’s loveliness and intelligence make her a favorite not only of the Sultan, but of his gentle, reserved nephew. Like Josephine, the newly crowned Empress of France, Aimee will ascend to a position of unimagined power. But for both cousins, passion and ambition carry their own burden.

From the war-torn streets of Paris to the bejeweled golden bars of a Turkish palace, Brandy Purdy weaves some of history’s most compelling figures into a vivid, captivating account of two remarkable women and their extraordinary destinies.


What Did I Think About the Story?



If you enjoy historical fiction, or just history in general, as much as I do, then you most likely have at least heard of Napoleon Bonaparte's first wife, Josephine. However if, again like me, you haven't delved much into her early life you might not know the unique background she comes from or the quite interesting tale of what possibly became of her cousin, Aimee. Brandy Purdy's newest novel, Two Empresses, seeks to let both of these young women tell their own stories as the fate laid out for them by a voodoo priestess as children unfolds for the reader to witness. 

The story begins with both Rose (who will later be known as Josephine) and Aimee (who will later be known as Nakshidil) going to meet with a voodoo priestess on their island home of Martinique as young girls. From there the story actually splits into two stories - that of Rose and that of Aimee - and the two girls never cross paths again and only rarely even seem to think about each other. This threw me somewhat as I assumed this was a story about the two cousins while it ended up being more of two separate stories connected loosely by similar themes, but I did enjoy trying to decipher what those similarities were and where the two women's lives took very different paths.

I have to admit that I wasn't a big fan of Rose/Josephine. While her portion of Two Empresses gives the reader a very interesting viewpoint from which to view the turbulence and bloodshed of the French Revolution, she herself came across as quite selfish and vacillating. I found myself getting somewhat bored with her attention to fashion and bawdy behavior and wished for more depth from her character. 

On the other hand, Aimee/Nakshidil was a very sympathetic character and I very much enjoyed watching her strong will to survive in a world so vastly different from the one she was born into and into which she made such a mark on the development of the customs. When the story concluded I was disappointed to not see an author's note explaining what portions of Aimee's story were factual and which were fiction (I read an advanced readers copy so this might be included in the final printing), however, upon further research, I discovered that many believe, as Rose and her family do in Two Empresses, that Aimee actually drowned at sea and that much of what is discussed in this story, namely her being kidnapped by pirates, being sold into the harem of Abdul Hamid, and being the adopted mother of the future Sultan Mahmud II, is widely believed to be legend. While I don't have a problem at all with historical fiction being written around a legend I do prefer an author's note to explain fact from fiction and found it somewhat odd for this very fictionalized story of Aimee to be combined with what I believe is a much more fact based story about Rose/Josephine. 

Where I think Ms. Purdy really shines is in her ability to bring a setting to life. The shifting settings in which these two women live - from the island paradise of  Martinique to dank and putrid prison cells and pirate ships to lavish and colorful ballrooms and harems - is vividly presented and described in such intricate detail that nothing is missed, not even the smallest trinket on a table. I love being fully immersed in the worlds of the characters I read and it is impossible to not fully see, smell, hear, and taste the worlds of these women.

Two Empresses is a unique dual story of two cousins who go on to live extraordinary lives. While they will both end up in two very different worlds, they nonetheless share so much in common: they are both made to change their very names and become wholly new people to survive; they both find - and lose - love in unexpected places; and they both love their children fiercely and do whatever they can to try and make the best life possible for those children. While I found some aspects of the story a little odd, overall I very much enjoyed learning more about these two women and seeing the extreme highs and lows they both had to endure. This novel is not the first of Brandy Purdy's I've read and will definitely not be the last either!
        

What Did I Think About the Cover?



I think it fits the story very well, although the clothes seem somewhat costume-y. I do like that the designer included quite a bit of detail from the story into the design, such as the hair color of each woman, the overall style of the clothes they each would have worn, etc. Overall a very nice cover.


My Rating: 3.5/5.0



I received a free copy of Two Empresses from author Brandy Purdy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Brandy! All opinions are my own. Click on Brandy's name above to be directed to her website to learn more about her and her books. You can also find more information about Two Empresses, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pub. Date: March 21st, 2017
Pages: 320


Synopsis



For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.

In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.

Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can't. She's a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she's been assigned to nab.

Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.


What Did I Think About the Story?



I was blown away by Greer Macallister's debut novel, The Magician's Lie, and have been keeping an eye out for what she released next. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I won a copy of her next novel, Girl in Disguise, and, while I usually try to read an ARC of a book close to it's actual release date, I couldn't wait and dug right in as part of a buddy read with some other blogger friends. While I can't say that I loved Girl in Disguise as much as her debut, I still very much enjoyed this novel of a woman breaking all the rules in a field that doesn't seem to want her while also trying to remain true to who she really is.

Kate Warne is one gutsy woman. She pushes her way into the Pinkerton agency and demands a chance to prove her skills as a female detective when the agency has never had one before. She's smart, resourceful, and determined, and has to be twice as bold and twice as tough to get even a smidgeon of respect or acknowledgement from her male colleagues. However, she makes a powerful and very true point to Pinkerton: as a woman she can go into places and situations where a man never can and has a better chance of being trusted by informants, criminals and associates in situations where a man might seem suspicious. The rest of the novel is Kate's attempt to prove this very point beyond a shadow of a doubt as well as her realization that by being this incredible agent she might just lose touch with who she really is and what she wants from the rest of her life.

My favorite aspect of the story was by far watching Kate struggle to keep a part of herself when she became so skilled as an operative that she wasn't even sure sometimes who that was. I loved the fact that Kate's skills at deception and masquerade came from her wayward parents and the unconventional and sometimes cruel upbringing she was forced to endure. The fact that this comes back into play towards the end of the story makes it that much more intriguing and poignant given the context involved (I don't want to give too much away!).

Another aspect I very much enjoyed was seeing the Civil War from such a unique perspective. These operative are doing their part for the war and in just as much danger as a soldier on the front lines even if they are never known to anyone outside the agency. Seeing the behind the scenes machinations to protect Abraham Lincoln from what would become known as the Baltimore Plot to assassinate him was fascinating and something I had never even heard of before. The whole thing made me contemplate: what else might have happened behind the scenes with these sort of secret operatives that we will never even know about? It's a compelling thing to think about, especially since there is no way to find an answer!

The only real issue I had with the story was the sometimes rapid progression of time and, therefore, lack of detail given to some aspects of the story I would have preferred more deeply delved into. For instance, I would have preferred to learn more details about the actual training Kate and other detectives went through as well as more in-depth discussions of the development of some of the relationships between Kate and Pinkerton and her other associates. These aspects seemed kind of rushed, never more so than with the romantic relationship that develops quickly between Kate and one of her fellow detectives towards the end of the story. It felt rushed and underdeveloped, to the point where I didn't feel I had time to really care about the relationship or the eventual outcome. I really wanted to care, but I found myself caring more about how Kate would progress after than with what had occurred. I fully understand that edits and cuts have to be made before the book is finalized, however I would have preferred a slightly longer novel with more development.

Girl in Disguise is a wonderful piece of American historical fiction about a singular woman trying to make it in a man's world against unbelievable odds. I found her to be a fascinating woman and one I want to know more about. The author's note at the end of the book went someway to explain who she was and how little is actually known about her, so I fully place my appreciation for her in the capable hands of this extraordinary writer. I definitely recommend this to any fan of historical fiction.


What Did I Think About the Cover?



I LOVE IT!!! This cover is simply gorgeous and the painted style and curving letters and swirls on the top half are mesmerizing. The cover art of the woman sitting on a train perfectly represents the story as well. Kate spends so much of the novel on trains, disguising herself as various women in the hopes of discovering the secrets her targets are hiding, so the sort of blurry quality of her face is spot on. I can't think of anything else I would prefer to see on this cover and, in person, it is pretty stunning.


My Rating: 4.0/5.0


I won my copy of Girl in Disguise in a giveaway hosted by the author on Twitter. All opinions are my own. You can find more reviews of the novel, as well as links to where you can purchase a copy for yourself, on Goodreads HERE (please note the novel does not release until March 21st, 2017).


As stated above I read this book as a buddy read with some other wonderful blogger friends. I'll link to their reviews below as they are written:







Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cover Crush: The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself!  A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful! 

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....





I know some people hate the "headless woman" on the cover of a lot of historical fiction, but to be honest it's never bothered me. I actually kind of like it as it allows me to come up with my own image of the main character that the woman typically represents and let's the clothes she is wearing or the background speak more about what the story is about. For instance, from this lovely cover (and the title) and before reading the synopsis, I would imagine the story has something to do with a dressmaker and, I would assume, this pretty purple dress in particular. I love the muted, slightly unfocused background and pop of color from the dress and I think the font for the title and author's name fits in well. 

Now let's see if I was correct about what the story is about:



A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams.

World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing. 

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.

Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Spotlight on ONE GOOD MAMA BONE by Bren McClain + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Story River Books / The University of South Carolina Press
Pub. Date: February 14, 2017

Pages: 280

Foreword by Mary Alice Monroe


Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone,” after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, a woman she calls “Sister.” When her husband drinks himself to death, Sarah, a dirt-poor homemaker with no family to rely on and the note on the farm long past due, must find a way for her and young Emerson Bridge to survive. But the more daunting obstacle is Sarah’s fear that her mother’s words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophesy, “You ain’t got you one good mama bone in you, girl.”

When Sarah reads in the local newspaper that a boy won $680 with his Grand Champion steer at the recent 1951 Fat Cattle Show & Sale, she sees this as their financial salvation and finds a way to get Emerson Bridge a steer from a local farmer to compete in the 1952 show. But the young calf is unsettled at Sarah’s farm, crying out in distress and growing louder as the night wears on. Some four miles away, the steer’s mother hears his cries and breaks out of a barbed-wire fence to go in search of him. The next morning Sarah finds the young steer quiet, content, and nursing a large cow. Inspired by the mother cow’s act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red. And so Sarah’s education in motherhood begins with Mama Red as her teacher.

But Luther Dobbins, the man who sold Sarah the steer, has his sights set on winning too, and, like Sarah, he is desperate, but not for money. Dobbins is desperate for glory, wanting to regain his lost grand-champion dynasty, and he will stop at nothing to win. Emboldened by her lessons from Mama Red and her budding mama bone, Sarah is fully committed to victory until she learns the winning steer’s ultimate fate. Will she stop at nothing, even if it means betraying her teacher?

McClain’s writing is distinguished by a sophisticated and detailed portrayal of the day-to-day realities of rural poverty and an authentic sense of time and place that marks the best southern fiction. Her characters transcend their archetypes and her animal-as-teacher theme recalls the likes of Water for Elephants and The Art of Racing in the Rain. One Good Mama Bone explores the strengths and limitations of parental love, the healing power of the human-animal bond, and the ethical dilemmas of raising animals for food.


Praise for One Good Mama Bone



A Pulpwood Queen May 2017 Book Club Pick

A Southern Independent Booksellers’ Association Okra Pick


“First-time novelist McClain draws on her family’s history in the rural South to create a cast of deeply relatable characters, both human and animal, who readers will find themselves rooting for until the very last page.”—Booklist, starred review

"Emotional bonds between humans and animals have long been written about, but never has the bond between a woman and a mother cow been placed front and center. It’s about time. The world is ready for this true portrait of a mother cow’s compassion and the lessons she has to teach us all. This is an important story whose time has come."—Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary

“In spite of being an animal lover all my life and feeling the centrality of that love in how I see the larger world, I have never directly addressed that theme in my writing. I no longer have to. Bren McClain’s brilliant and ravishingly moving One Good Mama Bone speaks eloquently for all of us who find our deepest humanity intimately connected with all the sentient creatures around us. Humane and universal, One Good Mama Bone is an instant classic.”—Robert Olen Butler

“McClain’s first novel resists predictability and instead weaves together questions about poverty, class, violence, and religion. . . . A thought-provoking story about families and the animals who sustain them.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Bren McClain writes of elemental things with grace, wisdom, and power. One Good Mama Bone speaks with a quiet authority that comes through on every page."—Ben Fountain

“With One Good Mama Bone, McClain captures the rich heritage of her Southern roots. Drawing deeply from the well of her childhood memories she sculpts this story of love, loss, and unexpected redemption with the chiseled precision of a true artist. Mama Bone is a living Epistle of how deeply a mother loves and the sacrifices she will be forced to make to save her child. The perfect novel companion for a chilly day, to read by a cozy fire.” —River Jordan, Parnassus Books

“I LOVED THIS BOOK. I haven’t been so immersed in a place and time since…I dunno, Serena by Ron Rash. Also, thank you for the ending. Bittersweet to be sure, but sweet nonetheless. I can’t wait to get this in the store and hand-sell it. It was heartbreaking and beautiful and so very real.”—Angel Schroeder, Sunrise Books

“I didn't want to put it down.”—NetGalley reviewer
"... southern fiction at its best."—Bookstalker

"Unexpected characters populate this compelling tale about Mama Red, a mama cow, whose maternal instincts toward her own calf influence a human, Sarah Creamer, to become a better mother to her son. Poignant and enjoyable!"—Steph Crowe, Page & Palette Bookstore



Buy the Book




About the Author



Bren McClain was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, on a beef cattle and grain farm. She
has a degree in English from Furman University; is an experienced media relations, radio, and television news professional; and currently works as a communications confidence coach. She is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project and the recipient of the 2005 Fiction Fellowship by the South Carolina Arts Commission. McClain won the 2016 William Faulkner –William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress for TOOK and was a finalist in the 2012 Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Award for Novel-in-Progress for ONE GOOD MAMA BONE. This is McClain’s first novel.

McClain will be touring throughout the South as well as in other parts of the country. To learn more, please visit her author website, her FaceBook page, or connect with her on twitter.


It's Giveaway Time!!!



Thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Marketing I have one paperback copy of One Good Mama Bone to giveaway today (US only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!


I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on February 22nd, 2017 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.


Good Luck!!



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza

Publisher: Bookouture
Pub. Date: June 2nd, 2016
Length: 9 hours and 38 minutes

Series: Detective Erika Foster #2


Synopsis



If the Night Stalker is watching, you're already dead.


In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer's night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head.

A few days later, another victim is found dead in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer - stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike.

The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer?

As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched: Erika's own life could be on the line.


What Did I Think About the Story?



If you read my review of Robert Bryndza's first novel in the Erika Foster series, The Girl in the Ice, you'll know that I was really excited to read/listen to this next installment in the series. I'm happy to report that The Night Stalker lived up to my expectations and not only advanced Erika's character development but introduced a unique serial killer to the mix.

Everything that I loved from the first installment - the main characters, especially Erika and her "sidekick" Detective Moss, the depth given to showing police procedures and politics, the gritty nature of the murders and the cat and mouse presentation that keeps you turning the pages - are all here again and felt like an excellent and accurate continuation of the series. Adding on a deeper exploration of Erika's personal life (or lack thereof) as well as  her trying to better navigate the politics of her job in the hopes of getting a promotion just made me appreciate her even more. The Erika in this installment is just as determined and unbendable as previously shown, just maybe a little wearier and more inclined to want some sort of life away from the force.

What was most intriguing for me about The Night Stalker was the way the killer's identity was unwound for the reader/listener and the time given to keeping us guessing. Interspersed with Erika's hunt for this newest serial killer are online chat room conversations between the killer and someone they are sharing their actions with. These were particularly creepy as the killer shows no remorse and the person they are chatting with seems to egg them on. We also get little peeks into the killer stalking their victims and then the actual attacks themselves. These do so much to keep the tension building and to create a sense of urgency for the police to find the killer and stop them before they strike again. There's also something particularly unique about this serial killer, but you'll have to read the book to figure out what that is!

Regarding the audiobook version, the narrator is once again Jan Cramer and she did just as great a job with this installment as she did with the last. She does an excellent job of giving the characters unique voices and keeping the tension tight when it needs to be and injecting a bit of humor when that is required as well. I really enjoy her as an audiobook narrator and will look for more from her in the future.

The Night Stalker is a wonderful installment in the Erika Foster detective series. It gave me all the elements I loved in the first installment while advancing the narrative and character development appropriately in this one. The ending leaves off with Erika possibly looking to change some aspects of  her life and I am dying to see if she does so in the upcoming story, Dark Waters!
  

What Did I Think About the Cover?



I like it, although it doesn't really give much away in regards to the story it's representing. It has an air of mystery and the blue at the bottom might be a certain kind of bag used by the killer during the attacks, but I might be stretching there. Either way I like it!


My Rating: 4.0/5.0


I purchased a copy of The Night Stalker for my own library. All opinions are my own. You can find more information about the book, including links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.
 
 


Friday, February 10, 2017

TLC Book Tours: Review of A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Publisher: William Morrow PaperbacksPub. Date: January 3rd, 2017
Pages: 352


Synopsis



The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.


As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.


Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

 

What Did I Think About the Story?



Have you ever read the synopsis of a story, opened the pages, and been completely surprised about what you found inside? Whether for good or bad, what you end up reading is different from what you expected? Well this is exactly what happened to me upon reading A Certain Age. I expected some romance, maybe some conflict and backstabbing...sort of a love square between the two women and the two men (although not between Theresa and her brother, Ox). While these things are included in the overall story, page one let's us know that a murder has taken place and all of our various players are somehow connected - whether directly or not - with said murder. Now my interest was really piqued!

After that introduction it's probably not a surprise for me to say that my favorite aspect of the story was the  murder mystery. The way it's initially presented as little gossip columns in the newspaper, sprinkled throughout the larger story, was perfect. Towards the end the narrative begins to coincide with the murder trial and it becomes more of a central theme and I, for one, was completely surprised by what actually happened and the way everything came together at the end. This all being said, I will add that the mystery does take a back seat to the relationship trials of the characters for much of the story and really has more of a cozy mystery presentation than a taut and tense, action-packed sort of feel, but I'm so happy the author decided to add this excitement to what might have otherwise become a little too romance heavy for my general tastes.

Another aspect of the story that I very much enjoyed was just how well the author ensconces the reader in Jazz Age New York. Whether in the grander high society homes and clubs or back alley speakeasies, it's easy to see and hear and feel everything our characters are experiencing and it really drives home the changes to society, industry, and the world at large during this time. This shifting and opposing world is also reflected in the characters and the larger themes at play - youth vs. age, women as wives and mothers only vs. women in the working world, excitement and adventure vs. tradition and normality - and I can't think of a better background for all of this conflict to take place against.

All of the characters are also deliciously flawed. While I wasn't a huge fan of Theresa - she's incredibly selfish and manipulative, at least in the beginning - I did enjoy each of the characters for their own specific quirks (and there are a lot of them!). Sophie and Octavian are a little  more likeable, especially Sophie, and I did enjoy watching their transformations as the story progressed. While I can't say I would enjoy knowing any of them in real life, they definitely kept the narrative intriguing. 

A Certain Age is full of quirky, somewhat likeable characters and enough intrigue and mystery to keep you turning the pages. While I will say that I think those interested in the historical fiction and romance aspects of the story will find more to appreciate then staunch murder mystery readers, I think there is enough to draw the interest of general lovers of reading good stories as well. I have a few more of Beatriz Williams's books on my shelves and I'm now very excited to read them!


What Did I Think About the Cover?


 
It's very pretty, especially in person as the cover has a pearly aspect to it. The style, dress, etc. feels very authentic to the story and from the story within it's easy to see that this young lady is Sophie (which I always appreciate...I hate when characters are described one way and presented on the cover differently). This cover would definitely draw my eye in a bookstore!
 

My Rating: 4.5/5.0



Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for providing me with a free copy of A Certain Age in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Please continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the blog tour.


About the Author



A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a
communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.




Buy the Book




A Certain Age Blog Tour Schedule



Monday, January 16th: Show This Book Some Love
Tuesday, January 17th: Living Outside the Stacks
Wednesday, January 18th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Monday, January 23rd: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, January 24th: Just Commonly
Thursday, January 26th: Back Porchervations
Friday, January 27th: Stephany Writes
Monday, January 30th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, February 1st: Chick With Books
Wednesday, February 1st: Reading to Distraction
Thursday, February 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, February 3rd: Book by Book
Monday, February 6th: The Paperback Pilgrim
Tuesday, February 7th: Art Books Coffee
Wednesday, February 8th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, February 9th: A Splendidly Messy Life
Friday, February 10th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Friday, February 10th: A Literary Vacation



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cover Crush: The Sugar Men by Ray Kingfisher

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself!  A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful! 

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. I've decided to join in this year and will link to their posts down below.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....






Historical Fiction is my all time favorite genre, so when I saw this cover I instantly thought war and love and yay!! The muted colors and simplistic design makes me think the novel deals with stark and serious topics and I just think it's lovely.

Here's the synopsis: 



Sixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.

For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.

Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.


Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week:


Erin at Flashlight Commentary


Created by Magdalena of A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Release: The Truth About Love by Anna Bloom

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pub. Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 87


Eve Harris has always had a point to prove: where you come from doesn't matter, it's what you aim for that counts. She has it all planned; find the perfect teaching job, live with her best friend, Cherry, and never get dragged back into the destructive world of her youth.

The last thing she expects is to bump into millionaire heir Cameron Wallis on her last day on campus. Nor is she expecting to discover that when she gives him a chance to win her over he's nothing like the playboy the newspapers paint him to be.

Will Eve be able to let go of her judgements and embrace a spontaneous affair with Cam that isn't part of her plan? Or will the constraints from both their families prevent Cam and Eve from discovering The Truth About Love?

The Truth About Love Vol.I is the first instalment in a serial about finding love even when you're least expecting it.
 
 
Find out more about the book on Goodreads and buy your own copy at  Amazon.
 
 
Anna is also hosting a giveaway on her author page to win an ebook and signed paperback of your choice - https://www.facebook.com/AnnaBloomBooks/

 
 
 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Release Day Spotlight and Excerpt of THE DRESSMAKER'S DOWRY by Meredith Jaeger

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: February 7th, 2017
Pages: 384

 
An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...


San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O’Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city’s most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna’s future is altered forever. With Margaret’s encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision...one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?
 
 

Excerpt of The Dressmaker's Dowry


Chapter 1


Sarah Havensworth
Present Day

                A doorman ushered me toward the historic garden court inside the Palace Hotel, the sequins on my gold shift dress catching the light. Men in suits mingled with women in cocktail gowns. Beneath the grand crystal chandeliers and arched glass ceiling, I felt like I’d stepped back in time to the turn of the twentieth century. Hunter stood against one of the marble columns under the elegant dome. I admired the cut of my husband’s suit against his broad shoulders. His dark wavy hair was parted on the side.

                “Champagne, miss?” a waiter asked.

                “Yes, please.”

                I took a glass flute from the tray. When I sipped, the sweet bubbles tickled my tongue. With enough champagne, maybe I could relax tonight. My mother-in-law’s charity events often made me feel like a fish out of water. For one, I didn’t do well with crowds, and I could already feel the heat of anxiety creeping up my neck.

                A gust of wind from the open door blew my bangs upward. I quickly brushed them down to hide the thin white scar on my forehead. Had anyone seen it? I took a deep breath through my nose. I was in a safe place. No one was paying attention to my scar. Except for me, of course. I exhaled slowly.

                After walking through the sea of people, I placed my hand on Hunter’s arm, giving it a squeeze. He smiled, dimples on full display, an adorable grin crafted just for me. “Hey, Kiddo. So glad you made it. How’s my favorite young lady tonight?”

                I chuckled. Judging from the number of blue-hairs who’d come out to the arts benefit, I was a young lady—a nice change from feeling ancient around Jen and Nick, my friends and former colleagues at Pulse of the City magazine.

                On my thirtieth birthday last month, I’d realized I liked my ten p.m. bedtime, along with waking up early on weekends to go to the farmer’s market sans hangover. More and more I felt estranged from hip twentysomething girls. Mostly, I didn’t understand Tinder, and had trouble convincing my younger friends that it was possible to get a headache after only two glasses of wine.

                Gwyneth appeared, gliding toward Hunter with a smile. She wore a long, pale blue dress, and a diamond tennis bracelet dangled from her wrist. I tucked my hands behind me, wishing I’d painted my nails for the event. My mother-in-law’s gel manicure was perfect as usual. She kissed Hunter on the cheek and then stepped forward to hug me.

                “Hello, Sarah. You look lovely tonight. I’m so pleased you could make it.”

                “Thank you,” I said, feeling the soft warmth of her arms.

                Hunter leaned down to whisper in my ear. “You do look gorgeous in that dress. I might be the luckiest guy in this place.”

                My body warmed, pleasant shivers working their way down my neck where his breath had touched me.

                “Sarah, you haven’t forgotten about the Canova by Moonlight gala?” Gwyneth asked. “I could use your help setting up the space before the big reveal.”

                Oh no. She’d told me about this. “Of course I’ll help,” I said, even though I had only a few weeks left to finish my MFA thesis, and I’d intended to spend them solely on writing. A hard knot formed in my stomach as I thought about my novel, languishing on my computer—a painful reminder of my writer’s block.

                “May thirtieth. Mark your calendar. The chair of the National Gallery of Ireland is flying in, and we’ll be hosting him.” She smiled proudly. “Walter is also on the board. The minister of arts appointed him for a five-year term. Walter and Colin attended the London School of Economics together many years ago. Old friends, you see.”

                I nodded, my father-in-law’s accomplishments never ceasing to amaze me. As much as I tried to impress him, I’d never live up to his standards. But who could? He was the executive director of his own investment banking firm, Havensworth & Associates, Harvard educated, and the president of Havensworth Art Academy.

                Hunter cleared his throat. “Mom, Sarah’s working on her master’s thesis. It’s due early next month. She’s pretty busy right now.”

                “Oh, hush,” Gwyneth said, winking at me. “She can make a little time in her schedule. We’re going to be serving vintage rosé, and someone has to help me sample it before the big night. You will, won’t you, dear?”

                I laughed. “You won’t have a problem there.” “Remind me again of your thesis project?” Gwyneth asked, smoothing an imaginary flyaway into her sleek chignon. “A novel, right?”

                I looked down at my hands guiltily. My square-cut emerald, set in rose gold, sparkled in the light next to my gold wedding band. Over three carats and wreathed in diamonds, the Havensworth family heirloom garnered compliments from strangers. But as much as I liked telling the story of how my engagement ring was over a hundred years old, the giant, valuable stone held an aura of mystery. No one in Hunter’s family could tell me whom it had once belonged to.

                I twisted the heavy ring upright. Thanks to my husband’s financial support, I’d been able to focus one hundred percent on my writing. Yet somehow I’d managed to squander the opportunity. I forced a smile.

                “Yes. It’s historical fiction set in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, during the late nineteenth century. I’m writing about a widowed innkeeper and the quirky cast of characters who come to stay with her at the boardinghouse.”

                In the pause that followed, my cheeks heated. It was a stupid idea, and I knew it. In fact, I’d been staring at my blank computer screen for weeks, utterly lacking inspiration. My characters no longer spoke to me. I was nothing more than a fraud—a former journalist, wannabe novelist, wasting my time chasing a silly dream. I couldn’t believe Hunter had let me quit my day job to pursue this.

                I began to babble. “I’ve been reading newspaper articles from the 1870s as part of my research. It’s unbelievable the amount of crime that happened back then. I mean, imagine how terrifying North Beach must have been when all of the policemen and politicians were corrupt. To think I bought my beautiful Vera Wang wedding dress in the same place where people got murdered in the street!”

                “Our city certainly does have a colorful past,” Gwyneth said, smiling brightly as she patted my hand. “I hate to interrupt you, dear, but the chair of the De Young Museum has just arrived, and I must go over and say hello.” She waved at a woman with a bouffant hairdo, and walked away.

                “I think it sounds cool,” Hunter said, meeting my eyes with a reassuring gaze. “I know you, Sar. Any story you write will be a good one. You’ve got the talent, and you work harder than anyone I know. I hope you publish your novel someday, so I can tell the world that my wife’s a famous author.”

                “Thanks, honey,” I mumbled as he kissed my forehead. I didn’t have the heart to tell Hunter that I wasn’t a real author, and there would be no future book tours. Anything I typed, I deleted five minutes later. I’d spent my afternoons wandering around Jackson Square, the site of my former magazine office, waiting for inspiration to strike. While looking up at the brick buildings that used to be dance halls, saloons, and bordellos in the last century, I’d never felt so lost.

                I swallowed, realizing how many people had filled the garden court of the hotel. The walls seemed to close in. It was too hot in here. Why was everyone looking at me? I smoothed my bangs to make sure my scar was covered.

                I could still hear the whispers that followed me down the streets of my hometown and through the halls of my high school. I felt the dark, accusatory looks, like daggers in my back. The room spun like I was drunk, even though I hadn’t finished my champagne.

                Don’t think about it.

                “Hey,” I said, meeting Hunter’s eyes, warm brown with specks of green. “I’m going to find the ladies’ room. I’ll just be a minute.”

                “Okay. I’ll be right here.”

                I felt Hunter watching me as I tugged at the hem of my sequined dress, making my way quickly through the crowd. If I took deep breaths and looked at the floor, I wouldn’t think about the screech of the brakes, or the jolt of the impact.

                I stepped inside the ladies’ lounge, appointed with plush velvet and rosewood couches. Crystal chandeliers with gold accents glinted off the shiny marble floors. Walking over to the sink, I turned on the tap to splash water on my cheeks.

                My plain reflection stared back at me: a pale face with large brown eyes, dirty-blond hair, and a slightly too-big nose that sunburned easily. For Wisconsin, I was pretty enough, but I certainly didn’t exude the urban glamour of San Francisco women.

                I’d grown up on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and tuna casserole. On summer vacations, my parents and I camped in an old smelly tent, and “fancy” meant bringing along an air mattress. Hunter brought me into his world of yachts, summer homes, and country clubs. Sometimes Hunter asked me if I’d like to take him to Eagle River, so he could see the town where I’d spent my childhood.

                My parents are dead, I told him. There’s nothing left for me there.

                Honestly, I ached to see the starry sky above the lakes, to spend the night with my husband in a rustic hunting cabin. But I could never go back. Hunter liked the person I was now, because he didn’t know who I had been. I had kept myself from him.
 
 

Praise for The Dressmaker's Dowry



“This gripping read is a satisfying exploration of the timeless nature of love and resilience.” —Booklist (STARRED review)


Buy the Book

 
 
 

About the Author

 
 
Meredith Jaeger has lived and travelled around the world, spending periods in the Netherlands, the
Czech Republic, and Australia. She is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, born and raised in Berkeley, California. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Meredith holds a BA in Modern Literature. While working at a San Francisco startup, Meredith fulfilled a lifelong dream to write a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker’s Dowry. Like the character Hannelore Schaeffer, Meredith is also the daughter of a European immigrant, who moved to California in search of a better life. Meredith lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their infant daughter, English bulldog and elderly cat. 
 
You can learn more about Meredith on her website, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.