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Bookshelf, Summer 2024

What would the summer be without plenty of light reading on the bookshelf? All of these are new—several not yet in print, even—and I intend to feature most of them on this blog or, in the case of Heather Redmond, on the New Books Network. But although some take a more serious approach while others remain deliberately light, they all qualify as beach reads in one way or another. Read on to find out more.

A multi-storied house against a dark background, the silhouette of a woman visible through one window; cover of Lianne Dillsworth's House of Shades

Lianne Dillsworth, House of Shades (Harper, 2024)

A Gothic romance in the old style, but with a significant twist: the main character, a young married black female doctor—definitely a rarity in 1830s England in every respect—leaves her home in search of fame and fortune, defined as caring for a wealthy patron whose forbidding and isolated home turns out to be filled with family secrets. I’ll be interviewing the author on this blog not long after the novel’s release on July 19.

A young blonde woman in a blue dress holds out her arms to the Alps, visible against a cloudy blue sky; cover of Michelle Moran's Maria

Michelle Moran, Maria (Dell, 2024)

Like a lot of people, I grew up with The Sound of Music. As a result, Maria von Trapp will always look and sound like Julie Andrews to me. But I doubt too many people will be surprised to learn that the movie took a few liberties with the lives of the actual von Trapp family. The idea behind this novel, due out at the end of July, is that Maria von Trapp gets to tell the world what really happened.

Of course, novels are also, by definition, fictionalized, so I am curious to see what can be conveyed through this format that didn’t make it onto the screen. I’m sure there are elements of the von Trapp family’s story that fiction can reveal in ways that film cannot—if nothing else, novels go into far greater depth than movies have space to do, and they rely more on the writer’s skills than on those of individual actors. In any case, we’ll discuss the differences here on the blog in early August, after the book comes out on July 30.

A man wearing a dark coat and top hat and holding a lantern stands outside a gated entrance, lit buildings visible through the gates; cover of Andrea Penrose's Murder at King's Crossing

Andrea Penrose, Murder at King’s Crossing (Kensington, 2024)

This latest installment in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane Mysteries opens at a wedding in September 1814, during Napoleon’s brief exile in Elba, which temporarily opened doors for cultural and scientific exchanges between Britain and France that had been impossible for years. As always in these novels, the plot revolves around one of the many scientific discoveries of the Regency period—here the complicated mathematics that make it possible to build bridges strong and flexible enough to withstand atmospheric and terrestrial stresses. The author could not have anticipated the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore earlier this year, but her mathematicians could no doubt identify the factors that led to the disaster.

To focus only on the science, however, would be to give a wholly false view of this book—and this series. The novel begins with a midnight meeting that ends in tragedy, followed by a wedding celebration interrupted by a missing guest who soon turns up dead, placing the newly married couple under stress before they even have a chance to set off on their honeymoon. Wrex and Charlotte, with the help of their three wards (known collectively as the Weasels) and various members of their household staff, set off to find out how the missing guest died and why, setting off a rollicking good tale of espionage, sabotage, and greed

A pair of women's hands in lace gloves hold a package tied with a yellow ribbon; cover of Heather Redmond's Death and the Visitors

Heather Redmond, Death and the Visitors (Kensington, 2024)

I interviewed Redmond about the first novel in her new series, Death and the Sisters, when it came out last year. So it was one of those lucky coincidences when Kensington, where I freelance-edit whenever possible, approached me with the offer to work on the second book in a series featuring Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. I said, “I know that series,” and jumped at the chance, but only after I fired up Word did I realize that the plot involved Russian nobles in London, ca. 1814 (the “visitors” of the title). A perfect match—and a wonderful mystery, so be sure to check back on August 23, right after the book’s release, to find out more about it and our online conversation on New Books in Historical Fiction.

A fur-hatted archer on horseback, set against barren mountains around sunset; cover of Andrew Varga's The Mongol Ascension

Andrew Varga, The Mongol Ascension (Imbrifex Books, 2024)

I interviewed Andrew Varga for the New Books Network regarding the previous novels in this historically oriented YA series featuring a pair of time-traveling teenagers, Daniel and Sam.

After two previous trips to the British Isles (just before the Battle of Hastings and then during the period of Roman rule), Daniel and Sam journey to the late twelfth-century steppe, where a young man named Temujin is just coming into his own. History will know him as Genghis Khan, but not unless Daniel and Sam can track down and correct the historical glitch that has brought them to this particular point in time. I look forward to reading this latest installment and interviewing Andrew Varga here on the blog the Friday before the book’s release on September 3.

By then, I should have a whole new set of novels piled on my virtual bookshelf!

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