Popular historical fiction with a romantic spin: a little earnest, but readable.

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QUEEN OF SHADOWS

A NOVEL OF ISABELLA, WIFE OF KING EDWARD II

Publishing under her real name for the first time, veteran historical romancer Felber (aka Edith Layton) crafts a capable tale of 14th-century European politics with a feminist slant.

Felber focuses on two women: England’s Queen Isabella, a French princess married to bisexual Edward II, and her lady-in-waiting, Gwenith. Isabella is beautiful and insightful, often fulminating in a decidedly modern way about women’s twin subordination to their husbands and their bodies. She’s depicted as the wise political adult in her marriage, while Edward is presented as a weak, approval-seeking child who whines, “It is not fair,” or “I want to be left alone.” His queen silently endures a parade of male lovers, beginning with Piers Gaveston, and devotes herself to caring for their four children. But Edward’s involvement with brutal, power-hungry Hugh Despenser pushes her to the brink. Gwenith has Welsh roots and a dark secret: Her parents suffered during Edward the First’s forcible annexation of Wales, and she has sworn a blood oath of revenge. Her role as the queen’s confidante places her at the center of the royal couple’s tense interactions, and eventually, she finds a way to rock the throne while remaining loyal to Isabella, even finding love for herself in the process. Welsh Baron Owain de Rhys approaches Gwenith on behalf of Roger Mortimer, an imprisoned enemy of the Despensers. She arranges a meeting with Isabella, who becomes Mortimer’s lover and helps him escape from the Tower of London to France. In 1326, Isabella and Mortimer lead an army back to England and dethrone Edward in favor of Isabella’s eldest son, destined to become Edward III. Gwenith marries Owain and has lots of children.

Popular historical fiction with a romantic spin: a little earnest, but readable.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-451-21952-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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