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The No-Show by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The cover of The No-Show by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Evanna Lynch, Heather Long, Kathryn Drysdale, and Luke Thompson, is misleading. O’Leary’s latest is not a ron-com; it is far more serious. Each of these women — Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane — is stood up on Valentine’s Day by Joseph Carter. The narration shifts between the three women, which makes it very hard for listeners and readers to like Carter very much. Jane is a pushover, and Siobhan is a strong woman on the outside, but Miranda is too busy trying to be one of the guys.

***I would warn those who have been harassed at work or by a professional in a partnership-type situation that this book could have triggers for them.***

This book was a long and winding trail through Joseph Carter’s love life. These three woman all play a role in his life, with two of them helping him to heal. What I didn’t enjoy was the manipulative nature of this plot and the cover image. This was not comedic at all, and the relationships here are very off-kilter. It’s almost like the author wanted us to hate Joseph from the start, only to try and redeem him through the voices of these women. I felt icky about the whole book. I preferred the side characters more than the protagonists.

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary is not at all what I wanted or expected in this book. I feel manipulated by the plot and the timelines and that doesn’t leave me with much to like about the book. The peripheral characters are great, but they are not in it enough to make this much better. I did like when Miranda gets her happy ending, but I could have cared less about the others.

RATING: Couplet

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hrs
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Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, narrated by Madeline Gould, begins in school with Georgina, who is voted most likely to succeed, struggling to stay just popular enough and not as popular as other kids in her class. When her teacher realizes she is not trying as hard as she should, she pairs her with Lucas McCarthy, who sits in the front of class and is incredibly quiet. They soon fall in love over literature and Wuthering Heights. While they are clearly smitten and spend every moment together, neither makes an effort to be public with their love or share their relationship with their parents.

Fast forward to when they are adults, they meet again at a newly renovated pub where Georgina is the barmaid and Lucas is the owner. For 12 years, she’s moved from job to job and man to man since school; is it because she lost her father to an unexpected death or is there something more? Top it all off, Lucas doesn’t seem to remember her at all, which signals to her that their relationship was not that memorable.

Everything begins to unravel when her new employer offers space for writing competition about moments of shame. Georgina has been harboring a big secret from everyone and trying to blame all that is wrong in her life on the wrong thing. Unless she strives to deal with her past, her life will plummet even further.

This is the first book I’ve read written by McFarlane, and I wasn’t disappointed by the character development, pacing, or story. Georgina’s boyfriend at the start of the novel, Robin, will make you so angry and fed up with her, but clues throughout the book will have you cheering her on as she strives to put him off and keep him away. Her friends are quirky and definitely British, but they are loyal. Her roommate is a bit gruff, but her advice redeems her. Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, narrated by Madeline Gould, is not as fluffy a read as I expected, but it was certainly worth it.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Mhairi was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree. After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels. It’s Not Me, It’s You is her third book. She lives in Nottingham, with a man and a cat.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hrs.
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The Switch by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones, finds Leena Cotton agreeing to swap lives, computers, and phones with her grandmother, Eileen Cotton, in Yorkshire. The swap has Leena stepping back from her cutting edge technology and fast-paced life, while Eileen is stepping into her first London adventure. The title and the swapping of lives seems like it would be comical and funny, but like other O’Leary books, there’s much more to the story. Leena and Eileen are just two of the people affected by the death of Leena’s sister. Both have been living their lives by rote, while Leena’s mother has fallen apart a number of times, struggling with the loss of her daughter and the absence of another. Eileen has been there for it all, trying to hold her daughter together, without interfering too much.

I loved Eileen’s story of navigating online dating long after her divorce from her cheating husband, and Leena’s time in her grandmother’s shoes reignites her passion for event planning and connecting with other people in the community. Leena has to learn that she can rely on others and feel the emotions she’s been bottling up, while Eileen needs to find her own life and passions. These two are more alike than they think. The narrators did a fantastic job of differentiating between the characters, bringing life to the emotions the two women feel, and navigating the interactions of O’Leary’s characters, making them feel real.

I love that O’Leary tackles heavy topics in her books, while still making them fun reads with some comic moments. The Switch by Beth O’Leary will not disappoint. I loved the older people in Yorkshire and their interactions from the busybody to the woman who is at her husband’s beck and call. The city people that Eileen meets run the gamut, including a cat fisher. There’s a lot to juggle, but O’Leary does well to keep every story line on track.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 368 pgs.
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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is set in post-war England when women are looking to hold onto the freedoms they’ve gained as the men became soldiers. Evie Stone, from her previous book The Jane Austen Society (check out my review), is one of the women working at the rare book store, Bloomsbury Books. She’s working in the background on her own project after a disappointment at Cambridge. Vivien Lowry, who works at the cash, has a list of grievances about the men who run the shop, particularly the Head of Fiction Alec McDonough, the golden boy of the manager Mr. Dutton, who has more than 50 rules that need to be followed without question by his employees. Meanwhile, Grace Perkins helps keep the ledgers for the bookstore and is a calming force. Her time at the bookstore is a source of solace from a turbulent home life where her husband has lost his job and she becomes the sole breadwinner and caregiver for her two sons and husband. These women appear to have little in common other than their jobs.

Jenner is fast becoming an automatic pre-order buy for me. Bloomsbury Girls is another historical fiction novel that takes real-life people like Samuel Beckett and others and breathes life back into them as they interact with Jenner’s own characters. Vivien has such a chip on her shoulder given how she was treated by her fiance’s family after his death in WWII, but she also sees the world of men in the shop as stifling. She wants everyone to see the world through her eyes, but Grace has her own ghosts to deal with and her approach is more conciliatory. Meanwhile, Evie prefers to fly under the radar as much as she can, although her work at Cambridge did gain recognition, though not the kind she wanted.

This little bookshop is a microcosm for the post-war world around them. Evie, Grace, and Vivien may be working women, but there is a little bit of distrust or hesitancy in trusting others on the part of all three women, until they realize that they need to come together to create the world they wish to see. I don’t want to giveaway anything in Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner. I absolutely loved the characters and their foibles, and I loved how these women came together with the help of some famous women who paved their way behind the scenes of other men. Don’t miss this gem of a novel.

RATING: Cinquain

Bloomsbury Girls is on sale on 5/17, check out this excerpt from the audiobook.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

A Message from Author Natalie Jenner:

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved.

But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team).

Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards,

Natalie

Check out the Book Trailer:

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hrs.
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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune, Tiffy Moore is a woman who has been chucked out of an apartment she shared with her boyfriend Justin. She’s got a small budget, so she has few options that don’t involve horrible conditions or strange alternatives. One alternative is to share a flat with Leon, a hospice nurse who works nights. They would need to share the one bed, but they would be in it at different times. Tiffy works day shift as a book editor, so she’d have the place on weekends and at night during week.

How can this be romantic or comical, if Tiffy and Leon never meet? They do start communicating about the mundane doings of apartment sharing through post-its notes on the fridge, tables, etc. Leon is a man of few words, and Tiffy is the opposite — she’s effusive and chaotic.

***Trigger warning for sufferers of abuse***

This is not a light-hearted comedy alone; there are deeper issues dealt with, and yes, in a quicker timeline than normally would happen. Tiffy’s ex-boyfriend may have left her for another woman he plans to marry, but she is more than gun-shy when it comes to other men. She’s so consumed by everything Justin ever said about her, she can no longer just be herself without second-guessing or putting herself down. It’s clear something about her relationship with Justin wasn’t right. You find out later in the book.

Leon, meanwhile, is not without his own troubles. He’s dating Kay who clearly doesn’t think he spends enough time with her, which is why she’s all for the flatshare and having him on weekends at her place. He is consumed with work, finding the long lost love of one of his patients, and freeing his wrongly accused brother from prison. Leon may be quiet and mild-mannered, but he has a busy schedule.

O’Leary really writes quirky characters so well. Tiffy is someone you can imaging bubbling up you life and bringing color to it, while Leon is that introspective friend who overthinks but always has great advice. Her plot enables Tiffy and Leon to lead separate lives, even as they fall into like with each other. The comic set of side characters also keeps things unpredictable. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune, is one to read if you don’t mind a little heavy stuff mixed with your romantic comedy.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hrs.
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The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Josh Dylan and Eleanor Tomlinson, has the makings of a light, fun romantic read, but there are dark edges of depression, alcoholism, and sexual assault that make this a more serious novel than expected. Dylan and Addie fall in love/lust over a summer in France where she works as a caretaker of her friend Cherry’s villa and Dylan, a poet, is a rich man’s son who is looking for himself abroad. Immediately, I was drawn to the character of Dylan because he’s a poet and lines of verse come to him out of no where and he struggles to remember them, all the while he’s falling for Addie. They have broken up because in the present, they haven’t spoken in a few years, but they are headed to Cherry’s wedding and end up carpooling.

Dylan and Marcus have been friends for ages, but it is clear that something happened in their relationship as well because Marcus is “trying” to be better. As the novel unravels, it is clear that the relationship between Addie and Dylan was colored by the presence of Marcus. I really enjoyed the dynamics at play between Addie and Dylan (working-class, family girl and upper crust boy trying to distance himself from his father even though he still relies on family wealth) and the interplay with Marcus who seemed so much like a puppet-master of Dylan at times.

While in the present, crammed in a Mini with Marcus, Addie’s sister Deb, and random acquaintance of Cherry’s Rodney, Addie and Dylan are forced to confront their past, why they broke up, and whether the love they both have for each other still is enough to move forward with. There’s some hilarity when traffic stalls their travels or their car breaks down, but overall, there are some deep issues afoot.

What bothered me was how glossed over Marcus’ role in their relationship was until the end. At no point did Dylan try to see things from Addie’s point of view, while she bent over backward to be understanding of his connection to Marcus, even though she wasn’t really privy to why they were so tight in the first place. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary is a good novel, I just wish there had been a little more background earlier on about Marcus and Dylan’s relationship and a little more awareness on Dylan’s part that Marcus didn’t always have his best interests at heart.

RATING: Quatrain (really 3.5)

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 13+ hrs.
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Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is part romance and part murder-mystery in which Mr. Darcy becomes accused of compromising/attacking Elizabeth Bennet! How can that be? Elizabeth Bennet is visiting her cousin Rose at the Kendall Estate, and Mr. Darcy has come to stay with his friend Nicholas. The husband and wife team of Rose and Nicholas may have ulterior motives for bringing their Elizabeth and Darcy to their home, but it is not to bring them together in matrimony.

Rose has talked up Captain James Kendall to Elizabeth and vice versa, hoping to make a love match between them. Meanwhile, Nicholas has invited several young ladies for Darcy to consider, even as he acknowledged that Darcy erred in his response to Elizabeth at his wedding. Darcy sets about to apologize to her for his friend’s sake, and the road to love is set in motion.

A murder in the Kendall neighborhood causes concern, but when one of the guests is attacked, a former Bow Street runner is called to solve the matter. A budding romance is hampered by the watchful eyes of investigators and men posted to ensure no one else is attacked until the culprit is caught. Miller has paced this novel well, and Elizabeth and Darcy are able to not only overcome miscommunications and prejudices but also work together and learn what it truly means to be partners. Even in a few short weeks, they have found they have more in common than not.

Stevie Zimmerman is as always a stunning narrator. She does well differentiating between the many characters and articulating the scenes to build tension and ensure readers are captivated. Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is full of romance, sweet moments, and mystery. A definite winner.

***And there’s a horse named Serena!***

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Award-winning author Kelly Miller writes Austenesque Regency romances. Her four published books are “Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley,” a “Pride & Prejudice” fantasy, winner, Royal Dragonfly Book Awards and Indies Today Book Awards; “Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match,” a “Pride & Prejudice” variation recommended by the Historical Novel Society; “Accusing Mr. Darcy,” a “Pride & Prejudice” romance/mystery, winner, Firebird book awards and Queer Indie Awards-Ally Division; and “A Consuming Love” a “Pride & Prejudice” novella. Look for “Captured Hearts,” a variation of “Persuasion,” to be released in early 2022. Ms. Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

1932 by Karen M. Cox (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
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1932 by Karen M. Cox, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is set during the Great Depression when economic turmoil upended so many lives and many lost their fortunes. The Bennets are not immune, as Mr. Bennet loses his professorship, forcing the family to leave their comforts of Chicago for Meryton, Kentucky, and Mrs. Bennet’s family farm. The family farm is quite an adjustment, with no bathroom indoors and a farm that hasn’t been very productive.

The Bennets set to work about getting the house in working order. William Darcy, owner of Pemberley, the largest farm in the county, however, has a rich and charmed life where everything is just as he likes it, until the new neighbors force him to take a harder look at his well-ordered life. When he meets Elizabeth Bennet, he is swept up in feelings he is unready for, but he’s unable to express himself in a clear way.

Cox clearly knows these characters well, and she develops them in believable ways for this time period and given the economic circumstances. Darcy is still the caring and somewhat prideful man we all expect him to be, but he’s definitely still a gentleman. Elizabeth is still a willful and spirited woman who wants to help all she loves. The more modern times do lend itself to a little more liberal storyline, especially where Georgiana is concerned.

1932 by Karen M. Cox, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is a delight and Wickham is even more trying in this modernized story. I loved the dynamic between Elizabeth and Darcy in Cox’s story. I loved that they had to navigate their marriage without understanding that they are “in love.” Don’t miss this Depression-era story.

About the Author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five full-length novels: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, I Could Write a Book, Undeceived, and Son of a Preacher Man. She also contributed short stories to several anthologies, including The Darcy MonologuesDangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues, Rational Creatures, and Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl.

Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker—like Elizabeth Bennet.

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 11+ hours
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None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney, narrated by Christine Lakin, Maxwell Hamilton, Zach Villa, and Jake Abel, was a recommendation from LittleMissStar and it was a thrilling ride. Emma Lewis and Travis Bell are recruited by the FBI to conduct interviews of convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases.

What these teens are initially unaware of is an active case that has the FBI chasing their tails. A serial killer is on the loose and targeting teenagers. Lewis has to face her fears as a survivor of a serial killer herself, but to do that, she’ll have to face teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson, the man who killed Bell’s father, and learn what he knows about this new killer. Her demons, however, are the greatest allies she has.

Marney has taken the twisted connection between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs and created a teenage version of that relationship, complete with the defiance and angst that teens carry when they are still trying to find their way in the world — serial killer or not.

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney is a wild story with FBI analysis, detective work, interviewing of serial killers, and interplay between teens and killers. Marney is deft in her world building and her character development. The pacing is on target, even if I figured out the killer before we got to the final scenes. The narrators are fantastic.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ellie Marney is a NYT and internationally bestselling author of crime fiction. Her titles include the Aurealis-winning None Shall Sleep, White Night, the Every series – starting with Every Breath – and the companion novel No Limits, White Night, and the Circus Hearts series, starting with Circus Hearts 1. Her next book, The Killing Code, an intense mystery about female codebreakers hunting a serial killer against a backdrop of 1940s wartime Washington D.C., will be released in September 2022.

Ellie’s books are published in ten countries, and have been optioned for television. She’s spent a lifetime researching in mortuaries, talking to autopsy specialists, and asking former spies about how to make explosives from household items, and now she lives quite sedately in south-eastern Australia with her family.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
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Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron is like Nancy Drew set during the time of Jane Austen’s life. Part of the title is inspired by the historic eruption of Mount Tambora, which caused some series climate effects, including crop failures, and led to the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. I loved that Barron stayed true to the whereabouts (based on historic record) of Austen and her sister, Cassandra, when they took a trip to Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire.

Things in the Austen household are not all roses, but even as uncertainty lays claim to the family’s fortunes and to the reputation of Austen’s brother Charles, Jane and her sister take the time to travel to the waters, hoping to improve Jane’s health. Once there, the ladies encounter some very dull and dark characters who many of the other guests seem to be avoiding. The spas themselves are not at all what either lady expects, and in fact, they begin to wonder if the waters are bad for people’s health.

When a young lady in a basket chair turns up at Mrs. Potter’s where they are staying, Austen and her sister are even more intrigued. A captain, a devoted friend who protects her friend in the chair, and a mysterious theater dialect coach all add to the mystery when a Viscount shows up claiming the woman in the basket chair is his wife! When a pug ends up dead at Mrs. Potter’s and later a murder occurs at the local masquerade, Austen and the smitten Mr. West work together to uncover the truth of the murder.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron is a delightful who-done-it mystery whose main protagonist is one of the great observers of human nature, Jane Austen. I loved that Austen used her keen observation skills to unearth the truth of the mysteries within these pages. All of the characters have their own secrets, and there is even a bit of romance for Jane herself. Highly recommend for Jane Austen readers and those who love a good mystery!

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the pen name, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Pinterest, and GoodReads.

Red Widow by Alma Katsu (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible: 10+ hrs.
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Red Widow by Alma Katsu, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, is a thriller but from a female CIA analyst’s point of view. Don’t let the word “analyst” make you think this is all data focused because it isn’t.

Lyndsey Duncan, the so-called human lie detector, is called into CIA headquarters by Eric Newman to investigate the murder of a Russian asset and a potential mole within either U.S.-based CIA or its Russian counterpart agency. She is warned to stay away from the widow, Theresa Warner, who is obviously the mole referenced by Katsu’s book title. For me, the story is not about the hunt for the mole, but about the clandestine agency’s backstabbing, infighting, lack of loyalty, and agents’ expendability. It’s about the high-wire act that agents dangle on every day, attempting to protect our freedoms and stave off attacks and other horrible events.

The narrator of Katsu’s book is fantastic with all of the voices. Each character is well fleshed out and discernible in conversations and interactions. I loved the narrator. I loved that this book showcased female protagonists, but the story was a bit too predictable, which I chock up to reading too many other spy novels and police-based books. It’s hard to surprise me with twists and turns in these kinds of books. One other thing that bothered me, is that Lyndsey is slow to realize she’s a pawn. I felt like she was smarter than that. We all have flaws and blindspots, and perhaps that is what trips up Lyndsey in this novel.

Red Widow by Alma Katsu, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, is a spy thriller I wanted to love, but I just ended up liking. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth reading because it was, and I hope this is a genre that Katsu continues to explore, though I admit I prefer her horror and paranormal books.

RATING: Tercet

The Last Night in London by Karen White

Source: the publisher
Hardcover, 480 pgs.
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The Last Night in London by Karen White is an epic WWII novel with dual narratives set in during the Blitz and in 2019. Young, Yorkshire girl Eva Harlow, whose run from her life of poverty where her mother is a laundress and her father is a drunk, meets Precious Dubose, a young Tennessean, by happenstance at the train station and become like sisters as they navigate early 1940s London as models. Meanwhile, Madison Warner in 2019 is tasked with writing an article for British Vogue about Precious Dubose and the fashions in war time. She’s struggling to live life even as she assumes she’ll have a short life.

“Pushing herself against a wall, as if she could hide from the noise and the terror, she closed her eyes. Moonlight Sonata. Someone — she couldn’t remember who, in an underground club perhaps — had whispered that that was what he called the music of the nightly bombings.” (pg. 2)

Eva Harlow is a woman eager to reinvent herself. Her mother has lived her life under the hands of a drunk husband, but when he’s sent to jail, her other moves away from their home and hopes for a new life. This pushes Eva to seek out her own way and become someone more than an uneducated Yorkshire girl. She drops her real name and morphs into an elegant model, learning new languages from fellow models and reading books and newspapers to become more educated. Precious becomes like a sister to her and they work so well together and are often mistaken for one another because they are both slim, blond, and elegant.

Madison Warner travels to London to write an article on Precious, who is now nearly 100 years old, and the man she’s pushed out of her mind will be sharing a flat with her and Precious. Colin is a dreamy Brit who still holds a candle for her, even as she’s pushed him away when she left Oxford.

This book is epic. Karen White has outdone herself with these characters and the story. I was along for the entire ride. I couldn’t put this book down. What happened to Eva and her RAF pilot Graham St. John? Why does Precious have all of Eva’s things? What is she hiding? And what is Alex Grof’s role in this?

As for Madison and Colin, there is the navigation of past hurts, as well as the mystery they are both so eager to solve. Colin’s nana Precious, though not by blood, loves him like her own and vice versa, while Madison is a distant relation, according to a genealogy project. As they unravel the mystery, will they be closer than before? Will Maddie get a grip and take life by the horns and just live life to the fullest? Will Precious help them both move forward?

There is so much beauty in this novel. There are family bonds, friendships that become like family bonds, romance, and intrigue. The Last Night in London by Karen White will capture your imagination and hold you hostage as you whisk yourself around London’s streets during the Blitz and immerse yourself in Precious’ memories of fashion and so much more.

RATING: Cinquain