An absorbing tale with plenty of soap-opera conflicts and a fiercely independent, complex lead.

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LEGACY

A debut historical novel, based loosely on a true story, offers a drama set in the Deep South, where passing for white brings riches and heartache.

In 1871, Felice Gallagher is born in a shanty on Colin Gallagher’s Mississippi cotton plantation, her “color white as a magnolia flower.” Sadly, her black mother dies of malaria after giving birth. Seven years later, yellow fever ravages the plantation. The aunt and uncle who raised Felice succumb to the fever, as do the parents of her older black half sister, Emerald, and members of the white plantation owner’s family. Colin, who fathered both girls, brings them to live with him in the big house. It is a dream life for Felice. Five years pass, Em has married, and now the floods come. Colin tragically drowns. Thirteen-year-old Felice is sent to a convent school in New Orleans, where she remains for the next seven years. Then the white, handsome Michael Devane walks into her life, seeking a governess for the children of recently widowed Yvonne Herbert, the wife of the Louisiana governor’s cousin. Felice and Michael become lovers, but he is a politically ambitious scoundrel. During a quarrel, Michael discovers a letter from Em that betrays Felice’s biracial heritage. Calling her a “high yellow harlot,” he throws her out of Yvonne’s house in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Bereft, Felice takes a train to New Orleans, where she finds refuge in a brothel. Renamed Felicity, she eventually becomes the madam of her own successful “parlor houses.” Westergren’s addictive, occasionally steamy melodrama is as much a commentary on post–Civil War racism as it is a story about her strong, intricate central character. Felice’s later marriage to a white man would not have been considered legal had authorities known her true heritage at the time. The engaging plot, which features some violence, is generally well paced. While effective, the text is uncomfortably replete with the hateful language of bigotry. In addition, numerous, meticulously detailed descriptions of décor and fashion intermittently slow down the action.

An absorbing tale with plenty of soap-opera conflicts and a fiercely independent, complex lead.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79604-320-4

Page Count: 474

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

SUMMER OF '69

Nantucket, not Woodstock, is the main attraction in Hilderbrand’s (Winter in Paradise, 2018, etc.) bittersweet nostalgia piece about the summer of 1969.

As is typical with Hilderbrand’s fiction, several members of a family have their says. Here, that family is the “stitched together” Foley-Levin clan, ruled over by the appropriately named matriarch, Exalta, aka Nonny, mother of Kate Levin. Exalta’s Nantucket house, All’s Fair, also appropriately named, is the main setting. Kate’s three older children, Blair, 24, Kirby, 20, and Tiger, 19, are products of her first marriage, to Wilder Foley, a war veteran, who shot himself. Second husband David Levin is the father of Jessie, who’s just turned 13. Tiger has been drafted and sends dispatches to Jessie from Vietnam. Kirby has been arrested twice while protesting the war in Boston. (Don’t tell Nonny!) Blair is married and pregnant; her MIT astrophysicist husband, Angus, is depressive, controlling, and deceitful—the unmelodramatic way Angus’ faults sneak up on both Blair and the reader is only one example of Hilderbrand’s firm grasp on real life. Many plot elements are specific to the year. Kirby is further rebelling by forgoing Nantucket for rival island Martha’s Vineyard—and a hotel job close to Chappaquiddick. Angus will be working at Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Kirby has difficult romantic encounters, first with her arresting officer, then with a black Harvard student whose mother has another reason, besides Kirby’s whiteness, to distrust her. Pick, grandson of Exalta’s caretaker, is planning to search for his hippie mother at Woodstock. Other complications seem very up-to-date: a country club tennis coach is a predator and pedophile. Anti-Semitism lurks beneath the club’s genteel veneer. Kate’s drinking has accelerated since Tiger’s deployment overseas. Exalta’s toughness is seemingly untempered by grandmotherly love. As always, Hilderbrand’s characters are utterly convincing and immediately draw us into their problems, from petty to grave. Sometimes, her densely packed tales seem to unravel toward the end. This is not one of those times.

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42001-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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