HER HEART FOR A COMPASS

Fans of Downton Abbey will revel in everything they love about a big, fat 19th-century yarn.

A headstrong heroine—the daughter of a duke—fights her way through Victorian mores to self-realization.

Ferguson, the Duchess of York, author of many children's books, weight-loss guides, and memoirs, collaborates here with Marguerite Kaye, a Scottish writer of historical romances, to create a vivid, juicy, and well-researched novel set in Victorian England and New York City. When we first meet Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, it is 1865 and she is an 18-year-old with a 19-inch waist being led like a lamb to the slaughter to the London ballroom where everyone who's anyone has gathered to hear her father, the Duke of Buccleuch (a world-class asshole, not to put too fine a point on it), announce her engagement to the cold, repellent Earl of Killin. "Our estates have lots of sheep. He has woollen mills. In more ways than one, it will be a marriage made in heaven," says her father. Lady Margaret begs to differ—and rather than enter the hall, she bolts, though she has never before ventured beyond the garden gate of the manor. A friend of her father's tries to stop her to no avail as she rushes without a plan into the wilds of the urban landscape, strikingly evoked with particular attention to the olfactory. She meets her first poor person—a Crimean war veteran who has lost his legs—resulting in an awakening that will shape the rest of her life. We follow her into her late 20s, through exile in Ireland, across the Atlantic, and back, the narrative supplemented by newspaper articles and letters from her friends and family. Like her fictional contemporary Jo March, Margaret has great hair, a gift for writing, a feminist spirit, and a drive to help others; in a clever touch, she buys a stack of signed copies of Little Women for her friends back home. Several of the titled characters are based on Ferguson's ancestors, and her understanding of peerage protocol seems more than just research-based.

Fans of Downton Abbey will revel in everything they love about a big, fat 19th-century yarn.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297652-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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