Goodwin has hit on a winning formula—a sophisticated blend of money, class, history, misunderstandings among lovers,...

THE FORTUNE HUNTER

The love triangle created by an heiress, an empress and an “Adonis on horseback” is delightfully dissected in the second historical romance (The American Heiress, 2011) from a best-selling British novelist.

Described variously as shallow, unsuitable, a man with a past but without character, cavalry officer Capt. Bay Middleton is hardly ideal fiance material for a wealthy underage debutante in Victorian England. But he’s the one man to have captured the heart of Charlotte Baird, the shrewd, 20-year-old heir to the Lennox fortune who accepts his proposal after a handful of kisses and despite his bad reputation and inferior social position. Bay’s feelings for Charlotte are true—and unmercenary—but the captain also knows himself to be “unsteady,” which is why he asks Charlotte to elope with him instantly rather than wait a few months until she can marry without her brother’s approval. Charlotte’s refusal to behave improperly leaves Bay open to temptation, which arrives in the epic form of “the modern Helen of Troy,” Empress Elizabeth of Austria, holidaying incognito in England to escape the boredom of life at the Viennese court. Elizabeth, known as Sisi, is a spectacular (if aging) beauty with ankle-length hair whose fearless appetite for fox hunting is matched only by Bay’s. Forced to act as Sisi’s guide while hunting, Bay soon finds himself her lover too, a “secret” which sends ripples of gossip through the upper end of English society. With its witty dialogue, intriguing research and cameo appearances by Queen Victoria and other royals, Goodwin’s latest is a pleasurable excursion into Downton-land complete with high-society weddings, lavish balls and an exciting, all-or-nothing horse-racing finale.

Goodwin has hit on a winning formula—a sophisticated blend of money, class, history, misunderstandings among lovers, spirited women, and unpredictable but irresistible men—and is sticking with it.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04389-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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