A sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.


Di Maio’s (The Beautiful Strangers, 2019, etc.) take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romance and historical fiction inspired by the true story of a Texas brewing tycoon and his wife.

The year is 1942, and Americans are suffering from the effects of World War II. Nineteen-year-old Mabel Hartley has lost both of her brothers overseas, and her father—widowed, alcoholic, and deeply depressed—can’t support her, so she lives on her own and works as a secretary in Baltimore. Desperate for a new start, Mabel answers an alluring newspaper ad for “An aspiring female writer who is interested in recording the story that an old woman would like to tell.” From hundreds of applicants, she is chosen to travel to San Antonio to work for 83-year-old Emma Koehler, renowned businesswoman and wealthy widow of German-born Otto Koehler. The two of them become close as Mabel takes dictation from Emma, who shares the story of her tumultuous marriage, a disastrous automobile accident, and her fierce love for the Pearl Brewing company, which she led through Prohibition. Emma even shares the details of her husband’s scandalous death in the presence of his two mistresses, both nurses in the Koehler employ and both also named Emma. However, the defining attributes of her life are the drive and the acumen with which she’s steered her business, and Mabel takes an empowering message from her story. Meanwhile, living at the Koehler mansion brings her into the orbit of her employer’s extended family, and romance blossoms between Mabel and one of Emma’s young, male relatives. Mabel is a good-natured and resilient, if somewhat naïve, heroine. Her perspective offers interesting insights into the challenges of the period, such as wartime rationing and the prejudice against those of German descent. Despite the grim subject matter, the story is more lighthearted than many World War II accounts. Di Maio’s spirited writing carries the reader quickly through the narrative. The two storylines, alternating between Mabel’s perspective and Emma’s recollections, balance each other well.

A sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948018-76-0

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2020

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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