A historically authentic and intelligently crafted period drama that’s romantically stirring.

THE ORANGE GROVE

In this historical novel set in 18th-century France, the mistress of a powerful aristocrat becomes caught between her principles and prosperity. 

Henriette d’Augustin is one of several mistresses kept by Duc Hugo d’Amboise and, as a result, lives a life of comfortable leisure in his chateau with her daughter, Solange. But the Duc becomes infatuated with his most recent romantic addition, Letitia du Massenet, “ravishing and virginal,” who “possesses an uncommon wit for a girl of eighteen.” The Duc desperately pines for a son, one thing his wife, Charlotte, despite years of effort, has proven unable to give him. She feels predictably threatened by Letitia’s hold on her husband. Charlotte is encouraged by Madame Céline de Poitiers, another mistress who is worried that she too will be cast aside and left penniless, to conspire against Letitia. Their collaborative efforts grow increasingly diabolical, all the more so after Letitia becomes pregnant. Charlotte recruits the help of Romain de Villiers, an old friend and tarot reader with whom she engages in an illicit romance. Murdoch (Stone Circle, 2017) deftly portrays the unenviable way in which Henriette becomes entangled in the web of Charlotte’s campaign to ruin Letitia. Henriette wants to defend Letitia, who is sorely dependent on the Duc for funds, but is wary of crossing Charlotte, for whom loyalty is a zero-sum game. Henriette has her livelihood, reputation, and daughter to protect as well as a closely guarded secret that, if uncovered, could spell her downfall. The author expertly re-creates high-society France at the beginning of the 18th century—this is a well-researched and historically valid depiction. In addition, she skillfully keeps the plot a tensile cord of suspense, revealing and concealing just enough to keep readers immersed and guessing. And while she doesn’t break any new literary ground, this book isn’t an overly sentimental iteration of the genre. Consider Henriette’s counsel to Letitia: “You see child, men are quite stupid and simple. They do not plan, devise, or see subtleties the way we do. This is our advantage.”

A historically authentic and intelligently crafted period drama that’s romantically stirring. 

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947548-22-0

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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