Robyn winds up making history instead of movies, and RGyR’s time-travelers will be all the happier for it.

KNIGHT ERRANT

This historical fantasist has taken readers to the spirit world of Native Americans to Atlantis in the Bronze Age to Mesozoic dinosaurs (The Moon Maid: and Other Fantastic Adventures, 1998), and to witchcraft in 16th-century Scotland (The Spiral Dance, 1991). Now. . . .

Robyn Stafford, a young California studio executive, has been on a hiking trip along the Welsh border, largely to forget that Collin, the Englishman visiting Hollywood who became her lover from Sotheby’s, has turned out to be married—and his wife was giving the birthday party Robyn crashed. Alone on the border trail amid glorious scenery, she finds herself facing a knight in mud-spattered chain mail who calls himself Edward Plantagenet, Earl of March, and, falling in with this handsome prince, Robyn is whisked back into the War of the Roses in the year 1459. Seventeen-year-old Sir Handsome at first thinks Robyn, with her short hair and sweatpants, a boy and asks him/her to lead him to a priory where he’ll be safe from knaves who attacked his family home at Ludlow Castle. When he sees Robyn of Holy Wood talking into her hand (her cell phone), the amazed fellow looks unready for the electronic age—or even for the Renaissance. But the chocolate granola bar she splits with him really stuns Edward, as does her amazingly detailed map. He dispatches some armored knaves following them; then with a kiss, they part and she wends her way back to civilization. Back in the present, a seeress tells her that Edward is under a Displacing Spell and that magic will bring him back. Indeed, a rose he’s given her and a Duchess Weirdville help, and once back in the past she adopts an Eliza Doolittle/Audrey Hepburn court voice to see her through, later feasts magnificently with King Henry at Kenilworth, and learns that Collin is part of her time-switch. But will she stay?

Robyn winds up making history instead of movies, and RGyR’s time-travelers will be all the happier for it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-86996-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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