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THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE

MARGUERITE DE VALOIS AND CATHERINE DE MEDICI: A MOTHER-DAUGHTER BATTLE FOR THE AGES

A sweeping but intimate story that highlights the author’s clear attention to detail.

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Butterfield presents a historical novel set during the infrequently portrayed French Wars of Religion.

Readers learn about the era’s tense political situation through diary entries written by Marguerite, Princess of France, beginning in 1581. Her mother, Catherine de Medici, is in a rage, beating Marguerite for a perceived attempt to flirt with a man from what Catherine sees as an unsuitable family. This results in Marguerite grudgingly entering into an arranged marriage with Prince Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot, to bring religious peace to France, where Protestants and Catholics have been warring. She’s prepared to fulfill her familial obligation on behalf of France, and even finds herself enamored with the prince. However, after the queen of Navarre voices her expectation that Marguerite convert to Protestantism, and a violent anti-Huguenot uprising occurs in Paris, the impending nuptials become more complicated. Soon, the couple are separated by violence; Henri flees and Marguerite is detained in Paris as a political prisoner before she seeks refuge with Flemish nobility. Things are going well until she receives a letter from her brother Alençon informing her that their sibling, Charles, the king, sees her attempted peacekeeping as sympathy for the Huguenots—a traitorous act he considers worthy of death. Over the course of this novel, Butterfield employs a diarylike style from Marguerite’s perspective that makes for a brisk read, and Marguerite, despite her royal background, comes off as approachable and very human throughout; for example, late in the novel, she has a powerful experience that brings her a sense of fulfillment that she’d never encountered in her strictly proscribed life. The author, for the most part, sticks closely to the events of the historical timeline, but takes some creative liberties, as when she notes in an afterword that the idea that one key character “was Marguerite’s One Great Love is cause for speculation; and so, I did.”

A sweeping but intimate story that highlights the author’s clear attention to detail.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2024

ISBN: 9798350928013

Page Count: 316

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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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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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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