Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2014. Today it’s time for crime and historical crime fiction books. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them! Read More …
Today’s interview is one I’m quite excited about. I was really pleased to be approached about being part of the blog tour as I’ve been eyeing Tim Powers’ works for a while and Hide Me Among the Graves with its links to the Rossetti’s was especially intriguing as I love both Christina Rossetti’s poetry and Dante Gabriel’s painting. Unfortunately, due to the timing with my upcoming house move and World Fantasy Con coming up, a review wasn’t in the cards, but I was lucky enough to be able to do an interview and Tim Powers’ answers were even better than I could have hoped for. So I’m definitely going to try and say thank you in person at WFC! I hope you enjoy this interview. Read More …
Murder, mayhem, sleuthing… who doesn’t like a good crime story every once in a while? Today my Anticipated Books post focuses on crime and historical crime fiction. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice.
Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined.
Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life.
Chris Kuzneski – The Hunters (Headline)
Chris Kuzneski, bestselling author of the Payne and Jones series, including Sign of the Cross and The Death Relic, moves to Headline for his brand new series, The Hunters.
The Hunters: a team of renegades, an ex-military leader, a historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert and a thief – financed by a billionaire philantropist are tasked with finding the world’s most legendary treasures.
A.K. Benedict – The Beauty of Murder (Orion)
Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge. Then he finds the body of a missing beauty queen and thinks he’s found the reason why. But the police go to retrieve the body and find no trace…So begins a trail of tattooists, philosophers and scholars as Killigan must question how a corpse can be found before someone goes missing…
Jonathan Kellerman – Guilt (Headline)
When a young couple takes possession of their dream home, they can’t wait to remodel the neglected mansion. That is until they make a gruesome discovery of a rusted metal strongbox containing two rotting leather doctor’s bags. And inside each bag, swaddled in sheets of sixty-year-old newspaper, lies a tiny human skeleton. The case hits the media, and theories abound. The most likely culprit is a mysterious woman, employed as private nurse to wealthy L.A. families during World War Two and Lieutenant Milo Sturgis consults psychologist Alex Delaware for insight into the perpetrator’s motives. But the horror is just beginning. Two more bags are discovered, but this time the infants inside have been dead less than a month. Is a copycat at work? Or is there a link between the two finds which goes back decades? By the time both cases close, Alex and Milo will have confronted unprecedented narcissism, cruelty, deceit and a cold but fiendish objectification of the human spirit that shakes both men to the core…
Becky Masterman – Rage Against the Dying (Orion)
In her hey-day, Brigid Quinn worked serial killer cases. Small and blonde, she was the perfect bait to catch a killer. But as Quinn got older, she realised she needed to find a protégé. So Quinn trains a twenty-two year old to take her place. The plan works, Until the killer not only takes the bait, but kills it.
Mark Roberts – The Sixth Soul (Corvus)
London is in the grip of a barbaric serial killer. Four women have been abducted in quick succession, their bodies mutilated and dumped. When a fifth woman is taken from her home, DCI David Rosen knows that time is running out…
Then Rosen gets a mysterious phone call from Father Sebastian Flint, an enigmatic priest who seems to know rather too much about the abductions. But it isn’t until Rosen discovers the existence of an ancient text – said to be the devil’s answer to the bible – that the true horror of Herod’s plan begins to unfold.
Lachlan Smith – Bear is Broken (Headline)
Leo Maxwell grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Teddy, a successful yet reviled criminal defence attorney, who racked up enemies as fast as he racked up acquittals.
The two are at lunch when Teddy is shot, the gunman escaping through a crowd. As Teddy lies in a coma, Leo realises that the search for his brother’s shooter falls upon him, as Teddy’s enemies are not just among his criminal clients but embedded within the police department as well…
Leo must navigate the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, but the deeper he digs into his brother’s life, the more questions arise: about Teddy and his estranged ex-wife, about the ethics of Teddy’s career, and about the murder that tore their family apart decades ago. And somewhere, the person who shot Leo’s brother is still on the loose, and there are many who would happily kill Leo in order to keep it that way.
Today, twelve golden tablets sit in museums around the world, each created by unknown hands and buried in ancient times, and each providing the dead with the route to the afterlife.
And archaeologist Lily Barnes, working on a dig in southern Italy, has just found another. Then Lily vanishes. Has she walked out of her job, her marriage and her life – or is the explanation more sinister? Her husband, Jonah, is desperate to find her.
But not everyone who journeys to the hidden place where Lily has gone can return.
Julia Keller – A Killing in the Hills (Headline)
Nestled in the breathtaking beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, Acker’s Gap is a town rife with problems. Bell Elkins is a single mother with a sister in prison and a background full of secrets. She has returned to Acker’s Gap to become Raythune county’s prosecuting attorney and is desperate to bring stability to the town. But when her daughter is witness to a multiple murder, Bell must work fast to find the truth before her daughter pays the price.
If you believe in God, you’ve got to believe in the Devil.’
Deepest winter. Darkest Philadelphia.
A murder shocks the frozen city – the most spectacular homicide in its 300-year-old history: an ex-cop has been lured to the basement of an abandoned chapel, wrapped in barbed wire – and kept alive for ten days.
Twenty-four hours after the discovery, Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano find another victim in another church, encased in a pristine block of ice.
Someone is transforming the city’s cathedrals into killing rooms, someone who is determined to raise hell on earth.
Roberta Kray – Bad Girl (Sphere)
It’s 1959 and Lynsey Quinn has done the unthinkable. She’s got herself pregnant by a cop. Rejected by her criminal family, she will pay the price for her betrayal, and so too will her daughter.
At the age of eleven, Helen is returned to the clan. Hated by her grandfather, loved only by her uncle, she struggles to fit into a world she doesn’t understand. As warring factions battle for control of the East End, tragedy is about to strike again.
How can she survive? And who can she trust as the murderous past comes back to haunt her?
Andrew Pyper – The Demonologist (Orion)
Professor David Ullman, an authority on Christian religion and myth, accepts a mysterious offer to visit Venice with his teenage daughter in order to offer his expertise in an undisclosed case. But what he experiences when he gets there is horrifying beyond belief and leaves him with the unshakeable feeling he isn’t alone…
1930’s America: Lee Curtis Harper is a delusional, violent drifter who stumbles on a house that opens onto other times.
Driven by visions, he begins a killing spree over the next 60 years, using an undetectable MO and leaving anachronistic clues on his victims’ bodies.
But when one of his intended ‘shining girls’, Kirby Mazrachi, survives a brutal stabbing, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery behind her would-be killer. While the authorities are trying to discredit her, Kirby is getting closer to the truth, as Harper returns again and again…
Historical Crime Fiction
After five years in an Australian penal colony, the Artful Dodger returns to London in search of a hidden fortune. Unaware of the fate that befell Twist, Fagin and Sykes, Dodger revisits the criminal underworld of Dickensian London to seek out his old comrades, any of whom might possess the key to the treasure.
He finds the city a changed place from his youth: with law and order upheld by a new police force, Fagin gone to the gallows, his old gang scattered and danger around every corner.
Alex Connor – Isle of the Dead (Quercus)
In 15th Century Venice it is a dangerous time to be alive. A permanent winter has rolled in over the canals and bodies keep washing up on the banks of the city, especially hard to identify, since they have been skinned.
In the present day, a famous portrait by Titian has been discovered of the 15th Century murderer Angelico Vespucci. It is rumoured that when the portrait arises, so will the man. And when flayed bodies start turning up all over the world, it looks like this is more than just a superstition.
Based in real historical events: mysterious poisonings, in which victims died, often unaware they had been attacked. Albia is now twenty-eight and an established female investigator.
We meet Albia’s personal circle, glimpse old haunts and hear of old friends, but the focus is on Albia herself, a tough, witty, winning personality who fearlessly tackles inhumanity and injustice, braving any risks and winning the friendship of unexpected allies.
A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.
Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.
Fear stalks the town of Aberdeen as a ship recruiting for the wars lies at anchor in the river mouth. A sinister figure watches from the shadows as apprehension grows and culminates in the disappearance of the son of a Highland chief – a student of Alexander Seaton.
When the frozen body of a young woman is found in the garden of a prominent citizen, Alexander becomes more deeply embroiled. He realises that the figure in the shadows is known to him and has come for him. He can hide from his past no longer.
Steven Saylor – The Seven Wonders (Constable & Robinson Crime Fiction)
Steven Saylor, the bestselling author of Empire and Roma, turns the clock back to 92 BC, where Gordianus, just turned 18, is set to embark on the adventure of a lifetime: a far-flung expedition to see the Seven Wonders of the World, the most spectacular constructions ever devised by mankind. Accompanied by his tutor, the celebrated poet Antipater of Sidon, he will journey to the fabled cities of Greece and Asia Minor, to Babylon and Egypt.
In this compelling prequel, Gordianus is not yet called ‘The Finder’ – that title still belongs to his father. But at each of the Seven Wonders, the wide-eyed Roman encounters a mystery to challenge his deductive powers. Here is a portrait of a master sleuth in the making, the earliest exploits of the man who will become Rome’s most sought-after investigator.
Today we’re doing some time travel for my Anticipated Books posts by looking at historical fiction. I rediscovered historical fiction in 2011 and 2012 only strengthened my love for the genre, so here’s another list that’s become a little longer. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
Isabella was the notorious warrior-queen who, along with her husband Ferdinand, transformed Spain forever. Popular belief has her as a religious fanatic persuaded into the horrific excesses of the Inquisition by her confessor, Torquemada; but C.W. Gortner paints a picture of her early life, showing us a headstrong, passionate girl who grew into the most powerful queen Spain ever knew and whose vision and imagination allowed Columbus to discover America.
Katherine Keenum – Where the Light Falls (Berkley)
At the dawning of the Belle Epoque, Paris attracts artists from everywhere, including Jeanette Palmer, daughter of a prominent Ohio family, who has left Vassar College under a cloud of scandal.
Amid the city’s great bohemian neighborhoods and studios, Jeanette meets an American Civil War veteran named Edward Murer. As she begins to achieve artistic success, Jeanette’s relationship with Edward begins to flourish—but he is plagued by addiction and personal demons. Just as the world opens its arms to Jeanette, she finds herself torn between pursuing a burgeoning career or following her heart.
Annabel Lyon – The Sweet Girl (Atlantic Books)
Pythias is her father’s daughter, right down to her hard, slate-grey eyes. Aristotle’s child should be content with a life of childbearing. But she is smart, able to match wits with a roomful of Athenian thinkers. Is she a freak or a harbinger of what women can really be?
When Aristotle finally dies, however, the orphaned sixteen-year-old Pythias quickly discovers that the world is not a place of logic, but one of superstition. To reach her full potential, Aristotle’s daughter will need every ounce of wit she possesses, but she must also learn, quickly, to nurture her capacity to love.
Perkin Warbeck is an ordinary young man in fifteenth-century Tournai. The son of a port official, he loves nothing more than swimming, singing and fishing with his father. But Perkin has a secret. His real name is Richard, and he is the rightful Prince of England.
Thought to have been murdered with his brother, Edward, in the Tower of London, he was covertly taken to the continent and placed with an adoptive family under an assumed identity. But when his enemies seek him out he must flee, and embarks on a new life of derring-do, sailing the high seas with the era’s greatest adventurers. But Richard cannot avoid his fate forever. He knows he must return to England, to assume the throne that is his birthright. But what for Richard is a homecoming, for the new king, Henry Tudor, is nothing less than an invasion, and ‘Perkin’ slowly comes to learn that the price of his goal is the blood of innocent men.
Tara Conklin – The House Girl (William Morrow)
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.
It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?
Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.
Elizabeth Gill – Miss Appleby’s Academy (Quercus)
Emma Appleby’s ordered and loving existence in New England comes to an abrupt and painful end with the death of her father. Emma plots her escape to the town in England where he was born. Opening an academy, she sets herself up in competition with the local school, provoking a savage response from the community. But she will not be deterred – even when her past catches up with her.
When young, aspiring playwright William Shakespeare encounters Lucy Morgan, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting, his life is turned upside-down as the two fall passionately in love, He declares Lucy the inspiration for his work, but what secret is Will hising from his muse?
Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secret – and one that could destroy her world if exposed. For she bore witness to the clandestine wedding of the Queen’s cousin Lettice Knollys to Robert Dudley, rumoured to be the Queen’s lover. In a court where any slight against the monarch is considered treasonous, what will happen if Lucy’s secret is revealed?
With England in perilous times, Queen Elizabeth’s health begins to deteriorate, her throne under siege from Catholic plotters and threats of war with Spain. Faced with more than she can cope with, she longs for a confidante. But who can she turn to when those closest to her have proved untrustworthy?
Times have never been so precarious. And these two women, with polar-opposite lives, soon find that they are both in danger…
Lynn Shepherd – A Treacherous Likeness (Corsair)
This compelling follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s sees the return of Charles Maddox in a new literary mystery that is inspired by the Young Romantics – the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife, Mary, author of Frankenstein, and Lord Byron, famously ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’. Beginning in London in 1850, the story takes the reader back through time and across Europe, to reveal the dark secrets and tangled lives of a dazzling but doomed generation. Drawing on rigorous research, Lynn Shepherd finds new and explosive answers to questions that even modern biographers of the Shelleys still cannot explain.
He is Queen Elizabeth’s last, perhaps her greatest, love – Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general…and the man that John Lawley, England’s finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl – the reckless melancholic – and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many.
All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen’s affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
But John is doomed by his three devils: whisky, women and Mad Robbie Deveraux. Despite every effort to evade the clutches of Elizabeth and her cohorts, John is soon enmeshed in the intrigues of court and dragged into the seemingly hopeless war in Ireland, forced to play his part in a deadly game of power and politics, conspiracy and rebellion.
From the scaffold of the Globe to the one in the Tower. From ambush in Ireland to even greater menace in Whitehall, John Lawley must strive to be – or not to be – the man who might just save England.
Richard Blake – The Ghosts of Athens (Hodder & Stoughton)
It is 612 AD and Aelric &8211; senator of the Roman Empire, fresh from a bloodbath in Egypt – is forced to divert the Imperial galley to Athens.
He finds a demoralized and corrupt provincial city threatened by and an army rumoured to contain twenty million starving barbarians.
Not to mention an explosive religious dispute, an unexplained corpse, and hints of something worse than murder…
He will have to call upon all his formidable intellect and lethal ingenuity to survive his enemies inside and outside the city walls…
Iain Gale – Keane’s Company (Heron Books)
James Keane, officer in the 27th Foot, card sharp, ladies’ man and one of the finest but most rebellious soldiers in the British army, is under threat of court martial for disobeying Wellesley’s strict rules. Buthis special, even ungentlemanly, skills have caught his general’s eye, so he is selected to form a unique unit which will work behind enemy lines.
Keane’s next task is to hand-pick his band of men, some from prison for their aptitude at lock-picking and forgery as well as fighting skills, and form them into an effective unit before being sent on their first intelligence-gathering special mission, this time to link up with a lethal Spanish guerrilla leader.
Stealing into Oporto, Keane’s men have to hold a vital post over the river a crossing against overwhelming forces, before being detached once more into the high mountains on another mission where the strains of the diverse characters of the unit test Keane’s leadership skills to the uttermost.
Tim Leach – The Last King of Lydia (Atlantic Books)
Croesus, once the richest man of the ancient world, remembers how he once asked the old philosopher, Solon, who was the happiest man alive? Croesus used to think it was him. Yet his wealth could not remove the spear from his dying son’s chest; could not make him as wise as his own slave; could not bring his wife’s love back; could not stop his army being torn apart, his kingdom defeated.
As the old philosopher replied, a man’s happiness can only be measured when he is dead. And Croesus is about to be burned alive.
Imogen Robertson – The Paris Winter (Headline)
Paris, 1909, Grieving the loss of her father, Maud travels to Paris to paint. Slipping into poverty, she is hired as a companion to young, beautiful Sylvie. But Sylvie is a prisoner in her own home, controlled by her addiction to opium. As Maud uncovers the secrets within this world of luxury, she is both fascinated and repelled by what she finds. Will she be able to resist the temptations of Paris and the seductions of wealth?
David Thomas – Killer at the End of the Line (Quercus)
Berlin, 1941: The battered remains of a woman: the seventh victim of a serial killer who has cast a pall of terror over the city. With SS-General Heydrich demanding immediate results, detective Georg Heuser races to catch the killer before he strikes again.
Minsk, 1942: Thousands of Jews arrive in cattle trucks. Among the policemen about to commit some of the most terrible crimes is detective Georg Heuser.
Koblenz 1962: One young lawyer closes in on her prey, and wonders – just how bad can a good man become?
Eva Weaver – The Puppet Boy of Warsaw (Weidenfeld)
Mika, a Jewish boy, inherits a coat from his grandfather and discovers a puppet in one of its many secret pockets. He becomes a puppeteer in the Warsaw ghetto, but soon his talent is discovered and Mika is forced to entertain the occupying German troops instead of his countrymen. There is one soldier, Max, with a heavy conscience, and when Max is handed one of Mika’s puppets, a war-torn legacy is passed from one generation to another.
Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni (HarperCollins)
A marvelous and absorbing debut novel, an enchanting combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.
Christian Cameron – The Ill-Made Knight (Orion)
William Gold comes into the world as his family slides down the social ladder. His head filled with tales of chivalry, instead he is branded a thief, and must make do with being squire to his childhood friend Sir Robert, a knight determined to make a name for himself as a man at arms in France. While William himself slowly acquires the skills of knightly combat, he remains an outsider – until the Battle of Poitiers when Sir Robert is cut down by the greatest knight of the age, Sir Geoffry de Charny, and William, his lowly squire, revenges him. But with his own knight dead, no honour acrrues to William for this feat of arms, and he is forced to become a mercenary. Scavenging a mis-matched set of armour from the knightly corpses, he joins one of the mercenary companies now set to pillage a defenceless France, and so begins a bloody career that sees William joining forces with the infamous Sir John Hawkwood and immersing himself in a treacherous clandestine war among the Italian city states. But paradoxically it is there, among the spies, assassins and hired killers serving their ruthless masters, that William finally discovers the true meaning of chivalry – and his destiny as a knight.
Sarah Dunant – Blood and Beauty (Virago)
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and in the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: he is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women and power must use papacy and family to succeed.
His eldest son Cesare, a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest – though increasingly unstable – weapon. Later immortalised in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. His daughter Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages: from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.
Philip Kazan – Appetite (Orion)
Nino knows that having a passion is the key to surviving in Florence without losing yourself completely. But Nino’s greatest gift will be his greatest curse; every flavour, every ingredient comes alive for him as vividly as a painting. His desire to create the perfect recipe and his love for Tessina soon lead him into danger, and Nino is forced to battle his deadly sins.
Giles Kristian – Brothers’ Fury (Transworld)
Rebel Cast out from his home, rejected by his family, Tom Rivers returns to his regiment. But his former commander believes the young hothead’s recklessness and contempt for authority has no place in his troop. And yet to a spymaster like Captain Crafte, Tom’s dark and fearless nature is in itself a weapon to be turned upon the hated cavaliers. For who else would dare to infiltrate Oxford, now the Royalist capital, to destroy the King’s printing press and strike a blow at the very heart of the enemy?
Renegade Raw with grief at the death of his father, Edmund Rivers rejects the peace talks between Parliament and the King. Instead, he leads a ragged but hardened band of amrauders across the moors, appearing out of the frozen world to fall on unsuspecting rebel columns like wolves. But Prince Rupert, who recognizes in Mun a fellow child of war, has other uses for him, from stealing an enormous gun, to burrowing through mud beneath the walls of Lichfield. The only peace the enemy will get from Mun Rivers is that of the grave.
Huntress Her heart broken from the loiss of her beloved Emmanuel and her father, Bess Rivers must make the hardest decision of her life. Leaving her new-born son behind she rides from Sheer House seeking Lady Mary’s estranged father, for she hopes he will help her re-unite what is left of her broken family. Risking her own life on the road, Bess will do whatever it takes to find her brother Tom and secure his Royal pardon – can she douse the flames of her brothers’ fury and see them reconciled?
James MacManus – Black Venus (Thomas Dunne Books)
For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife or Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Black Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Amongst the bohemians the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems which he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.
One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork Les Fleurs du Mal and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.
Black Venus recreates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.
After a blighted childhood, young Laura finds peace and purpose in the home of a midwife and healer. Later, she enrolls in Salerno’s famed medical school—the first in the world to admit women. Laura and her adoptive mother hope that Laura can build a bridge between women’s herbal healing and the new science of medicine developing in thirteenth century Italy.
The hardest lessons are those of love; Laura falls hard for a fellow student who abandons her for a wealthy wife. Worse, her mother rejects her as “impure.” Shattered, Laura devotes herself to her work, becoming a respected medico. But her heart is still bitter, and when she sees a chance for revenge, she grabs it—and takes for her own Bieta, the newborn daughter of a woman whose husband regularly raided the physician’s garden for bitter herbs to satisfy his pregnant wife’s cravings.
Determined to protect her adored daughter from the ravages of the world, Laura isolates the young woman in a tower. Bieta, as determined as her mother, escapes, and finds adventure—and love—on the streets of Salerno.
Bieta’s betrayal of her mother’s love comes at a terrible price as lives are ruined and families are torn apart. Laura’s medical knowledge cannot heal her broken heart; only a great act of love can bring everyone forgiveness and peace.
M.J. Rose – Seduction (Atria)
In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus–and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.
Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey–wher Hugo conducted the séances–hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different–Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.
Royalism’s last hope is Sir Mortimer Shay, a ruthless veteran of decades of intrigue who must rebuild a credible threat to Cromwell’s rule, whatever the cost.
John Thurloe is a young official in Cromwell’s service. Confronted by the extent of the Royalists’ secret intelligence network, he will have to fight the true power reaching into every corner of society: the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey.
This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated by those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.
Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor’s legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . .
Eighteenth century Admiralty Regulations forbade women living on board ship, but many found ways around this. George served on a number of ships, both as a man and unmasked. As Nan narrates her mother’s history she becomes obsessed by the idea that Nelson could have been her father. She meets a young man, Baltic Nelson, who clings to the same belief. Could her mother’s wild stories really be true?
Edward Rutherfurd – Paris (Hodder & Stoughton)
Edward Rutherfurd, the world’s greatest writer of historical epics, turns his attention to Paris and the lives of the men and women who, in two thousand years, transformed a humble Roman trading post on the muddy banks of the Seine to the most beautiful and celebrated capital in the world.
From its founding under the Romans to the timeless love story of Abelard and Heloise and the martyrdom of Joan of Arc; from the gilded glories of the Bourbon kings to the horrors of the French Revolution; from the glittering Napoleonic empire to the Nazi occupation and the incredible efforts of the French Resistance: PARIS brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Lights to sumptuous life.
Henry Venmore-Rowland – The Sword and the Throne (working title) (Transworld)
AD 69. Aulus Caecina Severus has thrown in his lot with the hedonistic Vitellius and prepares his legions for a gruelling march over the Alps.
Driven by the desire to repay the treachery of his former patron, the Emperor Galba, and to keep his rival Valens in check, Severus leads his army against barbarian rebellions and against the mountains themselves in his race to reach Italy first. With the vast Po valley almost in sight, news reaches the army that Galba has been killed in a coup, and that Otho has been declared Emperor by the Praetorians who he had bribed to murder their own emperor.
But there is no turning back for Severus, even if he wanted to. The Rhine legions want their man on the throne, and they won’t stop until they reach Rome itself. Even once Otho is defeated, the battle for supremacy between Severus and Valens is far from over. The politics of the court and the mob is the new battleground, and Severus needs the help of his wife Salonina and his freedman Totavalas in this constant game of thrones. When stories spread of a new power in the east, Severus has to decide where his real loyalty lies: to his Emperor, to his city or to himself?
Kate Worsley – She Rises (Bloomsbury)
It is 1740 and Louise Fletcher, a young maid, has been warned of the lure of the sea for as long as she can remember—after all, it stole away her father and brother. But when she is offered work in the bustling naval port of Harwich serving a wealthy captain’s daughter, she leaps at the chance to see more of the world. There she meets Rebecca, her haughty and fascinating mistress.
Intertwined with Louise’s story is that of fifteen-year-old Luke, who is beaten and press ganged, sent to sea against his will on board the warship Essex in the service of His Majesty’s Navy. He must learn fast and choose his friends well if he is to survive the brutal hardships of a sailor’s life and its many dangers, both up high in the rigging and in the dark decks down below.
After the past two week’s posts on my Anticipated Books for Summer/Fall 2012, today I bring you my top 15 Most Anticipated Reads for Summer/Fall 2012. To keep it to 15, I decided to keep all the sequels to books I’ve reviewed on the blog this year, such as Chris F. Holm’s The Wrong Goodbye, David Tallerman’s Crown Thief and Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird off this list, because you can take it as written that if I (very) favourably reviewed a book, I’d be interested in the next one. In addition, there were a few books that were already on my Anticipated Reads list for the first half of the year, whose publishing dates were pushed back, but I didn’t include them here, because obviously I’m still anticipating those! So below in alphabetical order by author is my list, with a little explanation of why I really can’t wait to read these books. Do you agree or would you have chosen differently from the previous weeks’ lists?
Jody Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily (Fantasy, HarperTeen)
I love a good retelling of a classic story and Peter Pan is a childhood favourite, albeit in the Disney animated version. The choice to tell the tale from Tiger Lily is an interesting one and I’m curious to see how Anderson takes on the story of the Boy Who Never Grew Up.
Madeline Ashby – vN (Angry Robot)
My attention was first grabbed by that stunning cover and it was cemented by this short story that was posted as part of Angry Robots Twelve Days of Christmas last year. The premise of the self-replicating robots, the failing of the first law of Asimov and an internalised aggressive granny, is fascinating. I already have an ARC for this one waiting for me, so expect a review for this one within the month.
Cassandra Rose Clark – The Assassin’s Curse (Fantasy, Strange Chemistry)
One of the first outings for Angry Robot’s YA sister imprint Strange Chemistry, I was sure to read this one, but since reading the blurb and seeing the cover I’m really looking forward to this one. I’m loving the fact that there are more and more fantasy titles that have strong Middle Eastern influences and I’m interesting to see how they are incorporated into The Assassin’s Curse.
I recently read and loved Rowena Cory Daniells’ The King’s Bastard, so much so that I immediately ordered the other two books in the series. So I’m really looking forward to seeing whether Daniells’ second series is as good or better than her first. I have a review copy of Besieged on my To Read Pile, so expect a review for that one in a week or so!
Max Gladstone – Three Parts Dead (Tor)
Three Parts Dead sounds like an interesting new urban fantasy series with a cool heroine. I love courtroom TV shows and this book sounds like the urban fantasy, supernatural version of that. Also a dead god that needs to be resurrected? Count me in!
John Gwynne – Malice (Tor UK)
Traditional epic fantasy with Celtic/Roman roots? Coming of age story? Grand Destiny? Mystery, Machiavellian politics and adventure? This is the kind of book that could go either terribly wrong or terribly right. It’s got all the elements I love, but those are exactly the elements that could make it go wrong, as they are terribly overdone and it takes a special author to make something special of them. Then again, Julie Crisp is an editor whose judgement I respect, so I’m hoping this is one of those books that’ll be terribly right.
Anthony Hays – The Divine Sacrifice (Corvus)
Historical Arthurian crime fiction set at Glastonbury Abbey. That’s all that needs to be said really!
Jay Kristoff – Stormdancer (Tor UK)
Look at that cover, now look at this one. I’d say that Jay Kristoff has won the cover lottery twice. Apart from his stunning cover art, the blurb for Stormdancer is intriguing too. Again a non-western, medieval setting, with what looks to be a strong female protagonist and some interesting ‘monsters’ in the form of Griffins. I’ve had my eye on this one ever since I first heard of it last year and I really hope I can get my hands on this one sooner than later!
Mark Lawrence – King of Thorns (Harper Voyager)
One of last year’s most controversial debuts and one of my favourite books of last year was Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. So it was a given that King of Thorns would be high on my wishlist. Hopefully I’ll be able to read this one soon as well, as I really want to see where Lawrence takes Jorg and how the latter develops now he’s no longer just the head of a small warrior band.
Barbara Lazar – The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai (Headline)
Another book with a gorgeous cover, this one I’ve head my eye on since late last year when I first read its synopsis. Set in feudal Japan, this sounded amazing and then they gave it such a gorgeous cover to boot. I’m hoping this will be another of those fantastic historicals I’ve read this year.
Lou Morgan – Blood and Feathers (Solaris)
I’m going to sound shallow, but this another stunning cover. Plus ‘Alice in Wonderland goes to hell’ was bound to get my attention. With its sequel already announced by Solaris, this tale of war between Heaven and Hell, with an alcoholic angel in disgrace guiding our heroine has to be a winner. At least I truly hope it is. A review copy should be winging its way over to me, so hopefully I’ll be able to tell whether it is indeed a winner soon.
Tim Powers – Hide Me Among the Graves (Corvus)
Christina Rossetti was one of my favourite poets I had to study while at university and the Pre-Raphaelites have always fascinated me, so this historical novel with what seems to be a sort of supernatural twist has a subject that was bound to interest me. In addition, Tim Powers is a name I’ve often heard dropped as being one you should read, so I think this would be a good one to start with.
Andrew Swanston – The King’s Spy (Transworld)
English Civil War code breakers! Murder at the court! I’m in! Luckily, The King’s Spy is part of Transworld’s Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, which I’m taking part in, so look for a review of this one soon!
Doyce Testerman – Hidden Things (Harper Voyager)
The blurb for this one just grabbed me and comparisons to Neil Gaiman only helped to raise my interest. It sounds like an intriguing mystery and that cover is just lovely.
Brent Weeks – The Blinding Knife (Orbit)
I loved Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy and the first book in his Lightbringer series, The Black Prism. After waiting two years we can finally find out what happens to Gavin and Kip after the events of the first book and I can’t find to discover what Weeks has in store for us in The Blinding Knife.
The next of my Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012 is all about crime and historical crime fiction. I adore a good crime story and I love historical fiction, so the combination of the two is a double win for me. The other posts will follow Thursday and Saturday, with the Anticipated Reads post up on the Sunday.
A.J. Cross – Gone in Seconds (Orion)
When the skeleton of a young woman is found near a West Midlands motorway, evidence suggests that it is that of teenager Molly James, who went missing five years ago.
Forensic psychologist Dr Kate Hanson and the Unsolved Crime Unit are called in to re-investigate Molly’s case. The deeper they dig the dirtier the clues get, and when a second set of remains is unearthed Kate suspects they’re looking for a Repeater: a killer who will adapt, grow and not stop until they are caught.
Will Dr Hanson manage to unravel the tangle of clues that the killer has left behind before he has a chance to take another innocent victim?
Sebastian Fitzek – The Eye Collector (Corvus)
Ready or not, here he comes…
It’s the same each time. A woman’s body is found with a ticking stopwatch clutched in her dead hand. A distraught father must find his child before the boy suffocates – and the killer takes his left eye.
Alexander Zorbach, a washed-up cop turned journalist has reported all three of the Eye Collector’s murders. But this is different. His wallet has been found next to the corpse and now he’s a suspect. The Eye Collector wants Zorbach to play.
Zorbach has exactly forty-five hours, seven minutes to save a little boy’s life. And the countdown has started…
Casey Hill – Torn (Simon & Schuster)
Read the clues. Decode the science. Reveal the murderer.
That’s Reilly Steel’s mantra. Find the answers, solve the crime. But the Quantico-trained forensic investigator is finding her skills aren’t enough when a ferociously intelligent killer strikes Dublin.
The modus operandi is as perplexing as it is macabre. What connects the two seemingly disparate, high-profile victims?
Their corpses refuse to give up their secrets and the crime scenes prove a forensic investigator’s worst nightmare. Reilly soon suspects that she may be dealing with a killer – or killers – who know all about crime scene investigation.
The police are just as frustrated by the crimes’ impenetrable nature and it’s only when a third murder occurs – equally graphic and elaborate in its execution – that they discover that this particular killer is using a very specific blueprint for his crimes.
Who is the killer’s next victim, the real target? And what’s his endgame?
Richard Castle – Frozen Heat (Hyperion)
NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat arrives at her latest crime scene to find an unidentified woman stabbed to death and stuffed inside a suitcase left on a Manhattan street. Nikki is in for a big shock when this new homicide connects to the unsolved murder of her own mother. Paired once again with her romantic and investigative partner, top journalist Jameson Rook, Heat works to solve the mystery of the body in the suitcase while she is forced to confront unexplored areas of her mother’s background.
Facing relentless danger as someone targets her for the next kill, Nikki’s search will unearth painful family truths, expose a startling hidden life, and cause Nikki to reexamine her own past. Heat’s passionate quest takes her and Rook from the back alleys of Manhattan to the avenues of Paris, trying to catch a ruthless killer. The question is, now that her mother’s cold case has unexpectedly thawed, will Nikki Heat finally be able to solve the dark mystery that has been her demon for ten years?
Kristine Ohlsson – Unwanted (Emily Bestler Books)
One mistake changes everything…
In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train. Despite hundreds of potential witnesses, no one noticed when the girl was taken. Her distraught mother was left behind at the previous station in what seemed to be a coincidence. The train crew was alerted and kept a watchful eye on the sleeping child. But when the train pulled into Stockholm Central Station, the little girl had vanished. Inspector Alex Recht and his special team of federal investigators, assisted by the investigative analyst Fredrika Bergman, are assigned to what at first appears to be a classic custody fight. But when the child is found dead in the far north of Sweden with the word “unwanted” scribbled on her forehead, the case soon turns into the investigation team’s worst nightmare—the pursuit of a brilliant and ruthless killer.
Historical Crime Fiction
Andrew Swanston – The King’s Spy (Transworld)
England is at war with itself. King Charles I has fled London, his negotiations with Parliament in tatters.
The country is consumed by bloodshed. For Thomas Hill, a man of letters quietly running a bookshop in the rural town of Romsey, knowledge of the war is limited to the rumours that reach the local inn.
When a stranger knocks on his door one night and informs him that the king’s cryptographer has died, everything changes. Aware of Thomas’s background as a mathematician and his expertise in codes and ciphers, the king has summoned him to his court in Oxford.
On arrival, Thomas soon discovers that nothing at court is straightforward. There is evidence of a traitor in their midst. Brutal murder follows brutal murder. And when a vital message encrypted with a notoriously unbreakable cipher is intercepted, he must decipher it to reveal the king’s betrayer and prevent the violent death that defeat will surely bring.
Anthony Hays – The Divine Sacrifice (Corvus)
Welcome to fifth-century Britain: the Romans have left, the Saxons have invaded, the towns are decaying and the countryside is dangerous.
Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, an embittered former soldier who lost a limb in combat, is now a trusted advisor to Arthur, the High King of all Britannia. When a monk dies in horrific circumstances in Glastonbury Abbey, the Abbot calls for Malgwyn to investigate.
His search for the truth will draw him into an intricate web of religious, economic and political deceit – and a conspiracy that could endanger everything Arthur has fought for.
The second-to-last of my Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012 is all about historical fiction. In the first six months I’ve truly rediscovered my love of historical fiction and some of my favourite reads so far this year have been historical fiction books. In the second half of the year there are still some awesome titles to come. The last post will follow on Saturday, with the Anticipated Reads post up on Sunday.
Stella Duffy – The Purple Shroud (Virago)
Once, Theodora was little more than a slave, the daughter of a bear-keeper, running barefoot through the streets of Constantinople. Now she is Theou doron, ‘the Gift of God‘, Empress of Byzantine Rome and the most powerful woman in the world.
In Stella Duffy’s compelling new novel, the beguiling and extraordinary Empress Theodora emerges from the shadow of history into brilliant light. Clever, courageous and ruthless when betrayed, Theodora rules alongside her husband, the Emperor Justinian – a true love match in a world of political marriages.
While wars rage on the borders of the Empire, Theodora discovers that the greatest danger to her reign – and her life – lies much closer to home. From the catastrophic and terrifying riots that burn through the city; to vengeful enemies at the palace who will never accept ‘Theodora-from-the-brothel’; to plagues and plots and murder, Theodora learns what it truly means to be Empress.
Spanning over twenty dramatic years of Theodora’s reign, The Purple Shroud is a vivid portrait of a charismatic, exceptional woman and a fascinating exploration of both the pleasures and the burdens of power.
Barbara Lazar – The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai (Headline)
I am Kozaisho: Fifth daughter, Woman-For-Play, teller of stories, lover, wife and Flower Samurai.
In the rich, dazzling, brutal world of twelfth century Japan, one young girl begins her epic journey, from the warmth of family to the Village of Outcasts. Marked out by an auspicious omen, she is trained in the ancient warrior arts of the samurai. But it is through the power of storytelling that she learns to fight her fate, twisting her life onto a path even she could not have imagined…
James Forrester – The Final Sacrament (Headline)
September 1566. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, lives quietly with his family in London, with a document in his possession that could destroy the state. The aged Lady Percy, Countess of Northumberland, has not given up trying to find it. Nor has she forgotten how he betrayed her and the Catholic cause – she has spent the last two years planning her revenge. But then eloquent and adventurous courtier, John Greystoke suddenly seems most concerned for Clarenceux’s safety. And why, on behalf of the government, does Francis Walsingham have spies watching Clarenceux’s house day and night? When his wife and his daughter go missing, Clarenceux finds himself on the run with his other young daughter, hunted by Lady Percy’s agents. He knows he must finally destroy the document, even if it should cost him his life – but how can he, until he has reunited his family?
Tim Severin – Saxon: The Book of Dreams (PanMacmillan)
Frankia 780AD: Sigwulf, a minor Saxon prince, is saved from execution after his family is slaughtered by the ruthless King Offa of Mercia. Thanks to his Devil’s Mark – his eyes of different colours – Sigwulf is exiled to the Frankish court of King Carolus, the future Charlemagne. There Sigwulf survives on his wits while at the same time trying to come to terms with disturbingly prophetic dreams.
He gains the friendship of some – Count Hroudland, Carolus’s powerful and ambitious nephew but – mysteriously – several attempts are made on Sigwulf’s life. When he obtains a Book of Dreams by chance, a rare text giving understanding to their meaning, he attracts the attention of Carolus himself. But the Book proves to be a slippery guide in a world of treachery and double dealing. Carolus sends Sigwulf and his slave Osric into Spain to spy on the Saracens ahead of a planned Frankish invasion. There, Sigwulf becomes caught between loyalties; either he honours his debt to new friends among the Saracens, or he serves his patron Count Hroudland in his quest for glory, gold and even the Grail itself.
One after another Sigwulf’s predictions come true, but often not as expected, and he finds himself swept forward into a final great battle that reveals who his enemies are . . .
Tim Powers – Hide Me Among the Graves (Corvus)
A city of over three million souls, of stinking fog and dark, winding streets.
Through these streets walks the poet Christina Rossetti, haunted and tormented by the ghost of her uncle, John Polidori. Without him, she cannot write, but her relationship with him threatens to shake London itself to the ground.
This fascinating, clever novel vividly recreates the stews and slums of Victorian London – a city of dreadful delight. But it is the history of a hidden city, where nursery rhymes lead the adventurer through haunted tunnels and inverted spires. And where the price of poetic inspiration is blood.
Tim Powers – The Stress of Her Regard (Corvus)
Lake Geneva, 1816
As Byron and Shelley row on the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva, a sudden squall threatens to capsize them. But this is no natural event – something has risen from the lake itself to attack them.
Michael Crawford’s wife is brutally murdered on their wedding night as he sleeps peacefully beside her – and a vengeful ghost claims Crawford as her own husband.
Crawford’s quest to escape his supernatural wife will force him to travel the Continent in the company of the most creative, most doomed poets of his age. Byron, Keats and Shelley all have a part to play in his fate, and the fate of Europe.
Simon Scarrow – The Sword and the Scimitar (Headline)
1565; In its hour of greatest need, Malta must rely upon the ancient Knights of the Order of St John for survival. Bound by the strongest ties: of valour, of courage and of passion, the Knights must defend their island against ferocious and deadly Ottoman attack.
For Sir Thomas Barrett, summoned by the Order and compelled by loyalty – to the Knights, to his honour and to his Queen – returning to the besieged island means revisiting a past he had long since lain to rest. As the beleaguered Knights grapple to retain control, decade-old feuds will be reawakened, intense passions rekindled and deadly secrets revealed.
Lisa Hilton – Wolves in Winter (Corvus)
5-year-old Mura is a strange and bewitching child. Daughter to a Nordic mother and Spanish father, she has been tutored in both Arabic learning and the ancient myth cycles of the north. But her widower father has been arrested by the Inquisition, and Mura is sold to a Genoese slaver.
In the port of Savona, Mura’s androgynous looks and unusual abilities fetch a high price. She is bought as a house slave for the powerful Medici, arriving in Florence as the city prepares for war against the French. When the family are forced to flee, Mura finds herself gifted to the notorious Tigress of Forli, Countess Caterina Sforza.
Beautiful, ruthless and intelligent, the Countess is fascinated by Mura’s arcane knowledge. As the Tigress educates her further in the arts of alchemy, potions and poisons, she becomes much more than a lady’s maid. Mura becomes a potent weapon in the Machiavellian intrigues of the Renaissance court…
Phil Rickman – The Heresy of Dr Dee (Corvus)
All talk is of the End-time… and the dead are rising.
At the end of the sunless summer of 1560, black rumour shrouds the death of the one woman who stands between Lord Robert Dudley and marriage to the young Queen Elizabeth. Did Dudley’s wife, Amy, die from an accidental fall in a deserted house, or was it murder? Even Dr John Dee, astrologer royal, adviser on the Hidden and one of Dudley’s oldest friends, is uncertain. Then a rash promise to the Queen sends him to his family’s old home on the Welsh Border in pursuit of the Wigmore Shewstone, a crystal credited supernatural properties.
With Dee goes Robert Dudley, considered the most hated man in England. They travel with a London judge sent to try a sinister Welsh brigand with a legacy dating back to the Battle of Brynglas. After the battle, many of the English bodies were, according to legend, obscenely mutilated. Now, on the same haunted hill, another dead man has been found, similarly slashed.
Devious politics, small-town corruption, twisted religion and a brooding superstition leave John Dee isolated in the land of his father.
High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets.
Untouched since Franco’s forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden grown wild.
Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother’s will, she has left her job as London’s leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents. But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed there during Spain’s devastating civil war, Emma’s new home evokes terrible memories.
As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into a story of crushed idealism, of lost love, and of families ripped apart by war.
It is one thing letting go of the past. What if the past won’t let go of you?
The first time I became aware of Kate Lord Brown was when I read Liz’s review for her last book The Beauty Chorus. That story sounded amazing and since I’ve been fascinated by WWII since I was a little girl and my dad read me books set in that era, it seemed like something I’d love. While I still need to get my hands on a copy of The Beauty Chorus, when I was looking through Corvus’ catalogue for my anticipated reads posts for the first half of this year, my eye was immediately caught by Lord Brown’s name when I came to The Perfume Garden. The subject of this book interested me at once, as it’s a time very unfamiliar to me. Even in secondary school history the Spanish Civil War was part of the larger picture of the run up to WWII and we never got further than dates and the fact that there were foreigners fighting for both sides. And while I still don’t know much beyond the basics for the political reasons for the conflict, I have learnt more about what it was like for the people involved.
The Perfume Garden switches between two timelines. One is set in Civil War Spain and tells the story of Freya, Charles and Rosa, while the other is set around and just after 9/11 and tells Emma’s story as she deals with some devastating losses and rebuilds her life. With alternating storylines, or in this case timelines, often one of the storylines grabs me more than the other and I find myself reading through the less-immersive one to get to the one that’s more compelling to me; not so with The Perfume Garden. Both timelines are equally grabbing and I enjoyed them both, but for very different reasons. Emma’s story is one of loss and love and of finding yourself again after having your feet swept from underneath you. Her grief at not just the loss of her mother, but the simultaneous break-up with her partner of ten years, who she thought was the love of her life and his later demise in the attack on the Twin Towers, is raw and I felt if it hadn’t been for her baby and the house in Valencia, Emma would have been completely at sea. As it is, the house grounds her and keeps her going. The love story between Emma and Luca is lovely and convincingly done. You feel that they both feel that the other is a new chance at happiness, but the fear of getting hurt again is keeping them apart. I loved this slow dance which ended in a stunning finale. However, Emma doesn’t just fall in love with Luca, she falls in love with Valencia and this love story is rendered as vividly as the former. As a perfumier, Emma thinks in scents and this aids in creating the vivid descriptions of her surroundings, you can almost smell the flowers in the garden and taste the food they eat at the De Santangel family finca.
Freya’s story is one that is far darker, as it is set during the Civil War. Freya volunteers as a nurse and sees some awful things, as does her brother Charles who is embedded as a journalist with the Republicans. Lord Brown manages to conjure up the almost claustrophobic feeling the Republicans are put through as they need to be always on their guard against being caught by the Nationalists, whether during battle or through being denounced. The latter is something that is shown largely through Rosa’s story. But despite all the harshness and horror of the Civil War, Lord Brown also puts in some light notes of hope, such as Freya’s romance with a Canadian doctor and Charles’ camaraderie with the journalists and photographers the cover the Civil War, among whom are Ernest Hemingway and Robert Capa. These notes of hope are important in a story, which we know won’t end well—in the end, the revolutionaries are beaten and Franco remained in totalitarian power for another thirty-five years.
The Perfume Garden tells very different stories of motherhood. I loved the portrayal of the relationship between Emma and Libby, which was loving and one between equals, where Libby gave Emma the freedom to be as successful as she could be. We don’t see much of Freya as a mother to Libby, other than as sense that Freya has always been protective of Libby and she’s done everything to keep her safe. All three women were single mothers, though perhaps only Libby was so by choice. But for both Freya and Emma, their daughters are anchors, a reason to live and to live well.
Beyond the mother-daughter and romantic relationships we see, there are other bonds that are as important and fulfilling. There is the deep friendship between Rosa, Freya and Macu, which forms in the hardest of circumstance, but is almost unconditional and in the end life-saving. I particularly loved Charles and the sibling bond between Charles and Freya. In both timelines you can see how much they love each other and I loved their rather wry exchanges. Their bond is unbreakable even when hurtful secrets are revealed and lies discovered. There is a lot of love in The Perfume Garden, love in many guises, but it is love that moves the characters in this book, whether for good or for bad.
The house in Valencia and its mysterious connection to the Temple family is at the heart of the novel. It is there that The Perfume Garden comes to life and where it is at its most vivid, both during the Civil War and in the early years of this century. I loved this book, its fabulous characterisations and indulgent, atmospheric writing. I could smell and taste Spain while reading its pages and I was sad to close the book; sad to leave the characters behind, but satisfied at the ending. The Perfume Garden is a historical fiction novel set in an interesting and uncommonly cruel era, with both a mystery to solve and a dash of romance. The book is published by Corvus and will be released in the UK on June 1st. I highly recommend you give it a chance. Me, I’ll be putting The Beauty Chorus on my birthday wish list. This was my first encounter with Kate Lord Brown’s writing, but it surely won’t be my last!
This book was provided for review by the author.