A slow, almost stolid, story of how a family develops against great odds.

A DUKE, THE LADY, AND A BABY

From the Rogues and Remarkable Women series , Vol. 1

A woman must infiltrate her own home in order to care for her infant son after the death of her husband.

Patience is a West Indian heiress who married Colin Jordan, a proper English gentleman. Patience loved her husband, but he became remote and distant over the course of their brief marriage and died before meeting their now 3-month-old son, Lionel. Colin’s evil uncle, Markham, forcibly removes Patience from her home and sends her to Bedlam, the mental asylum, hoping to gain control of her large trust by claiming he is Lionel’s sole remaining relative. After escaping Bedlam with a friend, Patience is determined to find a way to regain control of her trust and take Lionel back to her home island, where he will be safe. Her plan is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Colin’s cousin and heir, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, who inherited their home and is Lionel’s true legal guardian. Busick fires all the servants and bans Markham from the house, paving the way for Patience to disguise herself as a wet nurse for Lionel. Although Busick cares for Lionel and wants to be a good guardian, Patience can’t trust him with her secrets. Busick already believes she abandoned Lionel, and he’ll never understand the toxic mix of racism and sexism that allowed Markham to get rid of her so easily. Riley’s use of first-person narration for Patience highlights both her desperation to save her son and her ability to see how English society has failed them. Slowly, Patience learns to trust Busick, and they decide to work together to bring down Markham. The Duke’s affection for Lionel and the way the three bond as a family is the primary love story; Busick and Patience's romantic relationship as partners and lovers is underdeveloped and emotionally flat.

A slow, almost stolid, story of how a family develops against great odds.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4201-5223-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Zebra/Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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