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LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PEN

A ROSIE AND MCBRAE REGENCY MYSTERY

An intriguing and clever work that will appeal to fans of Regency-era fiction.

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An English aristocrat must contend with ominous letters being sent her way in Monajem’s historical mystery series starter, set in the early 1800s.

Lady Rosamund Phipps is simply trying to get a cup of milk in the middle of the night when she finds one of her footmen dead on the stairs. She takes this news to the magistrate, Sir Edwin; while in his office, she meets Gilroy McBrae of Scotland, whose direct manner of questioning about the servant’s demise challenges her sense of propriety and thoroughly rankles her. Although Rosamund believes the death to be accidental, this doesn’t prevent rumors of criminality from circulating about her—as well as discussion about the agreement she has with her husband, Albert, who’s canoodling with her best friend; the loose talk is brought to life in broadsheet caricatures by a mysterious artist named Corvus. Soon afterward, she begins receiving threatening, anonymous letters that say such things as “I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU,” which Rosamund believes were sent to make her go insane. She sets off to investigate the missives herself—and the identity of Corvus. Monajem deftly pens prose that feels distinctly of the Regency era in which the tale is set; Rosamund, in particular, seems very much like an upper-class woman of the period, with her rigid notions of status and gentility. Yet she also has engaging traits that set her apart and keep her from being a stock character, such as the aforementioned arrangement with her spouse and an apparent compulsiveness that requires her to check and recheck things multiple times. Similarly, the characterization of Gilroy is further proof that a companion that’s equal parts dashing and frustrating is often a winning one. The story takes its time getting started, but overall, Monajem succeeds in providing readers with a witty, enjoyable historical mystery.

An intriguing and clever work that will appeal to fans of Regency-era fiction.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-94-791527-5

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Dames of Detection

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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