Books To Read If You Love Historical Fiction

 

This is a lovely, well-written book! City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is delightful. The story centers around Vivian a young woman sent to live with her aunt in New York City in the 1940s.  I absolutely love stories that take place in NYC during these years. The picture the author paints really puts you in the center of this time and I enjoyed every second of reading about the details!

Here’s what you need to know:

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

If you love historical fiction, a witty main character, NYC, and losing yourself in a fantastic story, this book is for you!

Coming to you June 4.

 

 

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera is not to be missed. It’s an extraordinary novel that takes place in the south during the 1920’s.  If you love southern fiction- I do- then make sure you get your hands on this one. I especially love books where I have not seen the plot a million times before.

Here’s what you need to know: 

It’s 1924 South Carolina and the region is still recovering from the infamous boll weevil infestation that devastated the land and the economy. Gertrude, a mother of four, must make an unconscionable decision to save her daughters from starvation or die at the hands of an abusive husband. Retta is navigating a harsh world as a first-generation freed slave, still employed by the Coles, influential plantation proprietors who once owned her family.

Annie is the matriarch of the Coles family and owner of the Branchville Sewing Circle, a business left to her by her father when he passed. She must come to terms with the terrible truth that robbed her of her young son’s life and has ripped her two daughers from her side. These three women seemingly have nothing in common, yet they unite to to stand up to the terrible injustices that have long plagued the small town. As they come to help each other, they find strength in the bond that ties women together.

This is an intense, gripping, fascinating novel that you won’t forget. If you want to sit down with a book and lose yourself in the story, this is one that will do the trick!

Out on June 11.

 

 

 

Do you ever wish that you would stumble upon something from the past that sends you on an adventure? That’s what happens in Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler. Told in the present/past points of view, the story centers around Cate, a librarian who discovers a cemetery and takes an interest in learning about what happened to the people buried there. She finds out about the Berachah Home, a place that gave shelter to homeless women and unwed mothers.

Synopsis:

In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she’d let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

I liked learning about the home for these young women, it’s interesting to read about places like the Berachah Home. The characters are very sympathetic and well written, this is a great piece of historical fiction.

Due out July 30.

 

 

 

1950’s Monaco? YES PLEASE.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb was just as fantastic as I hoped it would be. I had no trouble seeing this story play out in my imagination as I read it. This book is glamorous and fun and fabulous!

Here is what you need to know:

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and unforgettable wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second chances.

Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique to fend off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

As you read this fun story, you will be swept away to the fragrant fields of lavender, the beauty of Cannes, and the gorgeous setting of Monaco. This book  is pure entertainment mixed with history and I loved every second!

Due out July 23.

 

 

If you enjoy a good novel set during World War II, Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin needs to be on your MUST READ list. This is a story about the real-life Blanche Rubenstein, a beautiful young woman from New York who longed for a glamorous life. While in Paris, she met Claude Auzello, who became the assistant manager of the Ritz Hotel which hosted many well known and famous people from around the world.

Synopsis:

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi “guests,” spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

I had never heard about Blanche and Claude and found their story very interesting. I like that the author created a whole story about these fascinating people. Well done!

Due out May 21.

 

 

I have enjoyed every book Fiona Davis has written so I was eager to get my hands on The Chelsea Girls.  I like how the author takes a famous landmark and explores this history of it, creating characters and settings that puts the reader right in that time and place. In this novel, the setting is the Chelsea Hotel. It sounded like a wonderful, bohemian place that was home to many interesting characters.

 

The details:

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

 

I didn’t expect this book to go as deep as it did, politically. There is a combination of war, communism, and spying that makes the story more serious than the other ones Fiona has written.  When the book begins, Hazel and Maxine are young, innocent women who meet during a USO tour. After the war,  Hazel heads to NYC where she writes a play that ultimately stars Maxine. Hazel lives at the Chelsea Hotel while she enjoys some success as a female playwright and after the play, Maxine heads to Hollywood where she becomes a famous actress.

During this time, people in Hazel and Maxine’s world are under investigation and are watched, accused of being communists. Who can the women trust and most of all, can they trust each other? I enjoyed this novel and more than anything made me want to learn more about the Chelsea Hotel! I can’t wait to see which landmark Fiona Davis writes about next.

Due out July 30.

 

 

If you love fashion as I do, you will want to read The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin which is a wonderful story about the rivalry between powerhouse designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. I know of both designers and am well familiar with their clothes. There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a fashion designer and am still very much interested in design. Right away I was interested in this book!

Synopsis:

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress—a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.

I love how The Last Collection tells a compelling tale based on two real women who made their mark on fashion around the world.  Lily is a neutral character who allows us to live vicariously through her, we see what goes on between Chanel and Schiaparelli, all against the backdrop of an imminent war.  This is a beautifully written book!

Due out June 25.

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