1. The Witch of Painted Sorrows, by MJ Rose:
The New York Times‘ bestselling author returns with what is being heralded as “her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet.” It’s been a while since I dug into a can’t-put-it-down novel of thrills and chills, and this one–a gothic historical fiction set in 1890s Belle Époque Paris–promises to be just that. The tale involves a haunted Parisian mansion, the legends of a fabled sixteenth century French courtesan, a twisted love story, and witchcraft…sign me up for this wild ride!
2. In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume:
It’s Judy Blume’s first adult novel in sixteen years–need I say more? I grew up on a literary diet heavy with Judy Blume as a kid and pre-teen (Fudge! Margaret Simon!), and now I can’t wait to relish her literary magic all over again as an adult. Though Blume is playing it a bit coy, releasing scant scraps by way of the novel’s details, we do know that the plot unfolds around a series of suspicious plane crashes and will involve multiple generations of characters and story lines. This one promises to be in hot demand, so I’d suggest placing your pre-order early, folks.
3. Tiffany Girl, by Deeanne Gist:
The heir to the Tiffany’s jewelry empire is left without a staff when glassworkers go on strike just months before the opening of the much-anticipated Chicago World’s Fair and the hyped “Tiffany Chapel.” Desperate and without another option, Tiffany turns to a group of female art students to finish the job. Flossie Jayne answers the call, moving to Chicago with high hopes of making a name for herself as an artist and defying those who say that the work can’t be completed in time–least of all by a set of young, inexperienced women. Set amid the same period and backdrop as the favorite The Devil in the White City, this book promises a cast of lively characters and a colorful look at turn-of-the-century Chicago, where not only a great city, but also a team of great artists, are striving to come into their own.
4. The Magician’s Lie, by Greer MacAllister:
Magic and mischief and a murder mystery, oh my! This historical fiction unfolds around ‘The Amazing Arden,’ a virtuosic leading lady who finds herself caught in the middle of a tainted love triangle and an unsolved murder. And it all plays out on the railroad cars and performance stages of an early 1900’s traveling circus. This book by debut author Greer MacAllister is being heralded as The Night Circus meets Water for Elephants, and it just got the much-sought-after stamp of approval from O Magazine–what more could you ask for?
5. The House of Hawthorne, by Erika Robuck:
I love the timeless writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the historical fiction work of author Erika Robuck, so I can’t wait to get my hands on this behind-the-scenes look at Hawthorne’s life and marriage. The House of Hawthorne covers the years during which the literary giant was writing his most beloved novels, while also taking up the thread of Hawthorne’s tumultuous and lifelong romance with his muse and soul mate, the lesser-known Sophia Hawthorne. Mrs. Hawthorne is a historical figure about whom I know practically nothing, even though she was an artist and an intellectual force in her own right. Their love story sounds epic, taking them across continents and through decades of both international fame and personal hardship. Described as the story of the woman “who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature,” this one promises to be a moving and rich literary journey.
6. Mademoiselle Chanel, by C.W. Gortner:
Chanel…it doesn’t get more iconic in the world of high-fashion. I think of big sunglasses, Marilyn Monroe’s favorite perfumes, and quilted handbags that would set you back at least a few thousand. And yet, the woman behind this hallowed powerhouse brand, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, began life in a set of circumstances that were far from glamorous. The daughter of a single-mother washerwoman, “Coco” spent most of her childhood in a French orphanage. Ambition and intelligence and her artistic gifts–not to mention a passionate and scandalous love affair–thrust Coco into the top-most echelons of French society. There she became an influential force, directing not only fashion trends and the shapes of silhouettes, but also redefining what it meant to be a powerful woman in a shifting world (and a modern shift dress). Fortunately for us, Gortner’s novel is priced on Amazon at about $19–a very un-Chanel price point!
7. Scent of Triumph, by Jan Moran:
And speaking of fashion and beauty products, this is the story of a French perfumer, Danielle Bretancourt, whose Jewish heritage and family ties to Poland thrust her into the ugly underworld of Nazism during the Second World War. It’s a spy novel meets a war saga meets a sweeping love story. Like her leading lady protagonist, Jan Moran is originally a perfume creator herself, and she promises to serve up evocative and delicious details about an alluring world of perfume and passion. Plus, her book recently earned her the title from one reviewer as “the new queen of the epic novel.”
8. Almost Famous Women: Stories, by Megan Mayhew Bergman:
This one is right up my alley. The blurb on this book says: “the world hasn’t always been kind to unusual women, but through Megan Mayhew Bergman’s alluring depictions they finally receive the attention they deserve.” This collection of short stories shines the spotlight on a line-up of fascinating and gutsy women who helped to shape history, even though they’ve been largely forgotten by it. The roster includes Oscar Wilde’s niece, Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, a speedboat racer and a member of an all-female swing band. There are few things I love more than a book that delivers the double whammy of both entertainment and education–and this one promises to do just that.
9. The Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran:
Queen Lakshmi is described as India’s Joan of Arc, and yet, I know so little about her. Which is precisely why I can’t wait to get my hands on bestselling author Michelle Moran’s latest novel. Lakshmi was the widowed Queen of India who single-handedly raised an army to fight the mighty British Empire, rallying her people against colonial acquisition in the mid-eighteen hundreds. Moran, herself an archaeology aficionado, has a track record of excavating these mesmerizing leading ladies from the forgotten pages of history, and bringing them to life in vivid language and colorful historic detail.
10. Miss Emily, by Nuala O’Connor:
What do I know about Emily Dickinson, really? A few words immediately pop into my mind… poet. Recluse. Eccentric. I can recite a few of her lines from memory, thanks to a middle school poetry lesson that has somehow stuck with me. But O’Connor’s novel Miss Emily promises to take us inside the Dickinson home, unveiling the poet’s creative process and the inner turmoil against which she fought in her pursuit of her art. Written half from Emily’s perspective and half from the perspective of the Dickinson’s maid, a young Irish immigrant named Ada Concannon, this story offers an upstairs/downstairs look at one of the most celebrated minds in American literature–and the home-life and family that helped shape her into who she was.
11. And a special BONUS: The Accidental Empress
I said “10,” right? Well here’s a bonus #11: The Accidental Empress. I can’t make this list and not mention my own book, set for publication this February, can I? That’s right, I can’t wait to share the little-known and tumultuous story of Sisi, the last great Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Sisi’s story unfolds against the epic backdrop of glittering palaces and the sprawling Habsburg Empire, taking us up to the firing shots of World War I. Think Walt Disney-esque settings, fabulous ball gowns, love, lust, loyalty and betrayal. This story has it all. The beautiful and intelligent Sisi is like Princess Diana meets Marie Antoinette meets Tsarina Catherine the Great meets Anne Boleyn. Except her story is even more dramatic. You can pre-order it today!
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