A gripping tale of a royal sister’s fraught political machinations.

DAWN EMPRESS

A NOVEL OF IMPERIAL ROME

From the Theodosian Women series , Vol. 2

In this historical novel set in fifth-century Constantinople, a young princess struggles to defend the Eastern Roman Empire after her father’s death.

When the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Flavius Arcadius Augustus, suddenly dies at the age of 31, a dire crisis of succession presents itself. He left behind three daughters and only one son, Theodosius, who is only 7 years old. The predicament is a perilous one—the Western Empire is under siege by enemies, and “dour-faced” Arcadius’ rule was generally regarded as “disastrous.” In addition, there are persistent rumors that Theodosius is an illegitimate heir to the throne—his mother, Eudoxia, now dead, wasn’t known for her virtue. Pulcheria, Theodosius’ 9-year-old sister, though, is as remarkably precocious as she is protective of her little brother and is anxious to secure both the Eastern Empire and her family’s rule over it. As a girl, she’s barred from ever ruling herself, but she establishes herself as her brother’s closest adviser, asserting an indirect power by way of her influence over him. Anthemius, the second most powerful figure in the Eastern Empire, is appointed regent until Theodosius reaches the age of majority and plans to achieve his own foothold by marrying his rash grandson, Isidorus, to Pulcheria. In this sequel to Twilight Empress (2017), Justice chronicles, with a skillful blend of historical rigor and dramatic action, the extraordinary efforts of Pulcheria to outmaneuver her adversaries and defend Theodosius. The prose is razor sharp, and the tale is as impressively unsentimental as it is genuinely moving: “The one history lesson she learned over and over again was that the emperor was always in danger. That knowledge was a curse. As she had after her mother’s death, Pulcheria struggled with a sense of helplessness. She was a young girl with an impossible task.”

A gripping tale of a royal sister’s fraught political machinations.

Pub Date: May 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-917053-23-8

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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