Frampton has written another historical romance that feels classic while also respecting the expectations of modern readers.

A WICKED BARGAIN FOR THE DUKE

From the Hazards of Dukes series , Vol. 3

A marriage of convenience starts with a negotiation and delivers more than either party agreed to.

Thaddeus Dutton, Duke of Hasford, doesn’t want much. Just a woman who is “unassuming in looks and manner,” “able to immediately handle her duties as his duchess,” and, the last item on his list, able to “engage satisfactorily in sexual congress.” As soon as he starts looking, he’s already found her: Lady Jane Capel. The trouble is that her sister, Lady Lavinia, knows that Jane is already in love with another, so she inserts herself in their courtship. Lavinia herself is not set on marriage, preferring to devote herself to her secret career as a popular author. But when an accidental tumble lands them in a very comprising, very public position, Lavinia does succeed in keeping Thaddeus from marrying Jane, because she’s soon married to him herself. Both spouses are reasonable and willing to bargain to make their marriage of convenience work, and they agree that once an heir is born, they will go their separate ways, as they are complete opposites. Their initial couplings are less than satisfactory for Lavinia, but she quickly sets Thaddeus straight, and they unlock a powerful chemistry. As they spend evenings together fulfilling their bargain, they come to realize they have much more in common than they thought and begin to privately fall for each other—but each fears they are the only one who wants to renegotiate their agreement. As in previous entries in Frampton’s Hazards of Dukes series, Thaddeus and Lavinia’s story is a charming combination of steamy, funny, and warmhearted. It’s thrilling to read a romance heroine who’s not afraid to directly say “I would like to have more fun doing it”  and a hero who’s not offended by the request but is, rather, happy to oblige. As in previous books, Frampton combines the best elements of classic Regency with contemporary touches. The story stands alone well enough, but fans of the first two books will be especially pleased.

Frampton has written another historical romance that feels classic while also respecting the expectations of modern readers.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302308-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS

The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams’ debut novel.

Esme Nicoll, the motherless young daughter of a lexicographer working in the Scriptorium—in reality, a garden shed in Oxford where a team led by James Murray, one of the OED’s editors, toiled—accompanies her father to work frequently. The rigor and passion with which the project is managed is apparent to the sensitive and curious Esme, as is the fact that the editorial team of men labors under the influence of Victorian-era mores. Esme begins a clandestine operation to rescue words which have been overlooked or intentionally omitted from the epic dictionary. Her childhood undertaking becomes a lifelong endeavor, and her efforts to validate the words which flew under the (not yet invented) radar of the OED gatekeepers gain traction at the same time the women’s suffrage movement fructifies in England. The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth. Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? (For example, the talismanic word first salvaged by Esme, bondmaid, pops up with capricious irregularity and amorphous meaning throughout the lengthy narrative.) Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.

Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-16019-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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