Thursday, July 7, 2022

Virtual Book Tour: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

 Title: A Dress of Violet Taffeta

Author: Tessa Arlen

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publish Date: July 5, 2022 (This week!)

Source: Austenprose PR

What's the story?:

From "Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain?

After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option.

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story."

My Two Cents:

"A Dress of Violet Taffeta" is the story of Lady Lucy Duff Gordon, a trail blazer and her own right and a fashionista. She was one of the first women to succeed in a realm that up until that point had still been a part of a man’s world. I have to admit that the only thing I knew about Lucy before reading this book was that she had survived the Titanic disaster (I remember her from the movie - hah!). But as this book showed me, I didn't even know that part of her story fully. Tessa Arlen weaves a wonderful book about this fascinating woman and hopefully it’ll bring her to life for more readers! 

When the story opens, Lucy is a young mother dealing with a crumbling relationship. She is thrust into the position of making ends meet for her young daughter in a world that was still not very open to working women. Fortunately, Lucy has a gift with fashion and can make dresses that showcase the best features of just about any individual. She becomes more successful than she could have ever imagined on her own. And then she falls for Cosmo! I loved how the author explored Lucy‘s relationship with Cosmo. Cosmo comes from a very storied background and marrying somebody who has already been married has the chance of dirtying his name but love is powerful and from the author's rich descriptions, we can see how and why of Cosmo and Lucy fall for each other!

I also really liked how the author explored the Titanic disaster and its aftermath. The Gordons were very fortunate to have been saved but I did not realize that there were so many inquiries into not just a disaster itself but the behavior of the passengers after the disaster. It almost seemed as if blame was being put on individual passengers rather than the builders or owners of the ship. 

I loved how much detail Arlen was able to weave throughout the book. She does a great job of bringing the Belle Epoque to life. I love reading in this time period but don’t get to do it often. I thought that Arlen did a great job of capturing the glamour and glitz of this era! All of the detail will be delightful for my fellow historical fiction lovers. All in all, this what is a fantastic story for anybody looking for a great heroine!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Review: Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy

 Title: Mustique Island 

Author: Sarah McCoy

Format: Hardcover

Publish Date: May 10, 2022

Publisher: William Morrow

Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "It’s January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael’s boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Isle. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the wealthy and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his rich friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen’s rebellious sister, Princess Margaret—one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.

Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas—who is also no stranger to marital scandals—seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful white beach house across the island from Princess Margaret—and finds herself pulled into the island’s inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.

When Willy May’s daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined."

My Two Cents:

Mustique Island: even just saying the name feels opulent! Back in the 1970s, the island was not as well known as it is now, making it the perfect place for the likes of Princess Margaret and Mick and Bianca Jagger to hide away from prying eyes. Willy May is not famous like that trio but she is still looking for a place to hide and perhaps lick her wounds after a devastating separation. This book pairs well with a lovely spot on the beach and a drink with a little paper umbrella.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Blog Tour: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

 Title: Bloomsbury Girls

Author: Natalie Jenner

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Publish Date: May 17, 2022

Source: Austenprose PR

What's the Story?:

From "Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances - most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future."

My Two Cents:

"Bloomsbury Girls" is the story of what seems like a wonderful bookstore in late 1940s, early 1950s London. Bloomsbury Books seems like the perfect place to while away the hours. Vast with an impeccable collection, it seems like a refuge of sorts. This place plays the perfect backdrop for three very fantastic protagonists: Vivien, Grace, and Evie. This is a great historical fiction story to sink into! 

Each of these women is grappling with very different things in their personal lives but are brought together as they try to make their ways as women in a world that still very much seems to be grappling with women working outside of the home.  Much of the book deals with how each of these women deals with the sexism that runs rampant through not only the book store but the world around them. The end of the war brought a lot of opportunity with it and it will take a lot for each of these women to find out how to seize the opportunity. I really loved how the author gave each woman her own back story and brought them together in the bookstore. It is clear that each of them are there for a very different reason but the bookstore still plays the role of both escape as well as a ticket to potentially better circumstances for each of our main characters.

The setting of Bloomsbury Books almost becomes another character in the book. Most of the main action in the book really happens within the walls of the bookstore. I love how the author even starts by breaking the characters down between those within the bookstore and those outside of the bookstore. It almost gives the feel of an upstairs-downstairs novel of sorts, which I loved. Breaking the characters out this way from the very beginning, really shaped the way that I thought about the book and was very effective to get the reader right into the action and understanding the roles of the different characters.

Some of the characters and story may seem familiar for those familiar with Jenner's previous offering: "The Jane Austen Society." Even if you haven't read that book, you can just as easily pick up this book and be right. I really enjoyed this book and this was a solid offering for my fellow histfic lovers!

Monday, April 11, 2022

Review: The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki

Title: The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

Author: Allison Pataki 

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publish Date: February 15, 2022

Format: Print

Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard--even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar's treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood's biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweather Post lived an epic life few could imagine.

Marjorie's journey began gluing cereal boxes in her father's barn as a young girl. No one could have predicted that C. W. Post's Cereal Company would grow into the General Foods empire and reshape the American way of life, with Marjorie as its heiress and leading lady. Not content to stay in her prescribed roles of high-society wife, mother, and hostess, Marjorie dared to demand more, making history in the process. Before turning thirty she amassed millions, becoming the wealthiest woman in the United States. But it was her life-force, advocacy, passion, and adventurous spirit that led to her stunning legacy.

And yet Marjorie's story, though full of beauty and grandeur, set in the palatial homes she built such as Mar-a-Lago, was equally marked by challenge and tumult. A wife four times over, Marjorie sought her happily-ever-after with the blue-blooded party boy who could not outrun his demons, the charismatic financier whose charm turned to betrayal, the international diplomat with a dark side, and the bon vivant whose shocking secrets would shake Marjorie and all of society. Marjorie did everything on a grand scale, especially when it came to love."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post," I really didn't know much about Marjorie Post even with all of the local connections to the Washington, D.C. area here (her Hillwood Estate in NW D.C. is lovely if you ever come for a visit). I was really looking forward to reading about her and learning more. As we see in this book, she really had a magnificent life! 

Marjorie Merriweather Post, a woman born into the prestigious Post cereal family. Her home life often seemed equal parts difficult and privileged as she faced her parents rocky marriage and blooming business that her father started. While Post's life definitely has a privileged glow, the underlying theme of the book often seems to be money can't buy happiness. The book follows her through her very young life and then as she begins to carve out a life for herself. She becomes the head of her father's cereal company during a time when women rarely had a seat at the table in any business. She is married four times: each time a new adventure and each of these relationships changes how Marjorie moves through the world. She is always her own woman even when the going gets tough!

Post is in great hands with Allison Pataki! I loved all of the historical detail that Pataki brings in, which really made the book come to life! Having been to places like the Homestead Hotel (the Omni Homestead now) and Hillwood Estate, the descriptions in the book really rang true! 

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what Pataki writes next!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Review: The Unquiet Dead by Stacie Murphy

Title: The Unquiet Dead

Author: Stacie Murphy 

Format: Print

Publisher: Pegasus

Publish Date: April 5, 2022 (Yesterday!)

Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The new Gilded Age mystery featuring the uniquely talented Amelia Matthew—who has the ability to communicate with the dead—as she uses her special talents to solve the murder of a young girl whose death has scandalized New York City.

Three months after her harrowing experience on Blackwell’s Island, Amelia is doing her best to come to terms with her new abilities to commune with the spirit world. The last thing she wants to do is hunt for another killer through the streets of Gilded Age New York. But when she and Jonas discover the body—and spirit—of a young girl whose kidnapping has electrified the city, Amelia’s resolve wavers. It breaks entirely when a fifteen-year old boy—the son of one of the club’s black waiters and his Irish immigrant wife—is accused of the crime.

With the city in an uproar and an ambitious reporter watching their every move, Amelia and her brother Jonas set out to discover the truth. And they have to do it quickly: in five days, the boy will be transferred to the brutal Sing Sing prison to await trial. For such a notorious suspect, it’s as good as a death sentence.

But all the evidence seems to point to the boy’s guilt. Worse, the murdered child wasn’t the first: there have been at least five other victims. As tensions rise throughout the city, the boy’s family is subjected to an escalating campaign of violence and intimidation, culminating in the firebombing of their home.

In the chaotic aftermath, Amelia taps into her special talents to search for the clues that will unmask the killer."

My Two Cents:

"The Unquiet Dead" is the story of Amelia Matthew, a young woman who has a particular talent where she can communicate with the dead. She is still coming to terms with this gift when the book opens. A slew of murders of young children and a potentially wrongly accused murderer shake Amelia from trying to come to term with her gift to diving in and using her gift before it's too late and more innocence is lost. 

Oh, this book really fit the bill for me! I love a good ghost story and I love how real the author made Amelia's powers feel. The world building in this book was really great. The author does a great job of not only making you care about the main characters but the secondary characters as well. She does a good job of showing some of the past and how it is still shaping how these characters move throughout the world. You are really pulling for all of them!

This is the second book in the author's series about Amelia's powers. Admittedly, I felt a little lost with some of the back story as I have not read the first book. While I ended up loving the characters, I do wish that I would have had more context for where they were coming from in order to connect with them a little sooner in the book. While you get a semi-recap of what happened in the book, I was definitely a little lost at first. I wish I had realized that this book was a sequel but that just means that now I need to go back and read the first book!

Overall, this was a great historical fantasy with strong gothic overtones and a good helping of mystery! I do recommend reading the first book first!

Monday, April 4, 2022

March Round-up!


My March in numbers:

  • I read a total of 15 books. 
  • Five of those books were books I already owned! (I wanted to read seven of my own books! Win some, lose some)
  • One of my March goals was to: Read at least two leadership books (already owned or not), which I did!

Best book I read this month: 
  • This was such a good reading month that I can't just choose one book!

April Goals:
  • Read at least seven of my own books (we'll try this again)
  • Read at least two leadership books. 

What are your reading goals for April?

Monday, March 28, 2022

Literary Locale: Hot Springs, VA and Marjorie Merriwether Post


It's been a hot second since I've been able to do a Literary Locale and this one happened quite by accident. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I escaped to Hot Springs, VA to the Omni Homestead. It's a grand historic hotel surrounded by nature and one of the biggest draws are the natural hot springs that are both on and around the property. We had a lovely time! 

Flash forward about a week and I'm reading Alison Pataki's latest book, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. For one of her honeymoons, she travels by train from Washington, D.C. to Hot Springs, VA. There is no longer passenger train service to Hot Springs but you can travel there by car and it's a relatively easy three hours from D.C.

The book pictured with some of the jewelry I bought at the hotel. I feel like Marjorie would approve.

The train service was said to be luxurious and a perfect way to start your travels to this restful place. The train station would have been just in front of this row of buildings:

The hotel would have been and still is the biggest structure around these parts. It is breathtaking even now:

The original hotel was built in 1766 but had to be rebuilt when it caught fire. When it was rebuilt, it went from a log frame hotel to a much grander place featuring the brick work that you can still see on it today. Hot Springs became a place for the well-to-do to escape from the heat (both actual and metaphorical) of Washington, D.C. 

The hotel has a fab library with pictures of many famous people who stayed at the hotel and it was amazing to see even just the highlights of that list. I would love to go back and it's easy to see why Ms. Post would have picked the Homestead for a romantic getaway!

Come back on Wednesday when I'll have a review of the book up!

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