Title: The Other Windsor Girl

Author: Georgie Blalock

Pages: 390 Pages

Publisher: William Morrow

The Blurb

In a historical debut evoking the style of The Crown, the daughter of an impoverished noble is swept into the fame and notoriety of the royal family and Princess Margaret’s fast-living friends when she is appointed as Margaret’s second Lady-in-Waiting.

Diana, Catherine, Meghan…glamorous Princess Margaret outdid them all. Springing into post-World War II society, and quite naughty and haughty, she lived in a whirlwind of fame and notoriety. Georgie Blalock captures the fascinating, fast-living princess and her “set” as seen through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting.

In dreary, post-war Britain, Princess Margaret captivates everyone with her cutting edge fashion sense and biting quips. The royal socialite, cigarette holder in one hand, cocktail in the other, sparkles in the company of her glittering entourage of wealthy young aristocrats known as the Margaret Set, but her outrageous lifestyle conflicts with her place as Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister. Can she be a dutiful princess while still dazzling the world on her own terms?

Post-war Britain isn’t glamorous for The Honorable Vera Strathmore. While writing scandalous novels, she dreams of living and working in New York, and regaining the happiness she enjoyed before her fiancé was killed in the war. A chance meeting with the Princess changes her life forever. Vera amuses the princess, and what—or who—Margaret wants, Margaret gets. Soon, Vera gains Margaret’s confidence and the privileged position of second lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Thrust into the center of Margaret’s social and royal life, Vera watches the princess’s love affair with dashing Captain Peter Townsend unfurl.

But while Margaret, as a member of the Royal Family, is not free to act on her desires, Vera soon wants the freedom to pursue her own dreams. As time and Princess Margaret’s scandalous behavior progress, both women will be forced to choose between status, duty, and love…

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Out of all of the members of the royal family none have ever interested me more than Princess Margaret. She is the princess who had it all but had nothing too. She was a member of the most famous family in the world. Wealth, jewels and stature was all hers to have but all she really wanted was the freedom to love who she wanted to. It may be a mix up with art imitating life and all of that but through programs like The Crown and now this book – The Other Windsor Girl – you get the impression that the royal family has learned from its mistakes in trying to control relations among the heirs as the scandal costs them too much in the end…or this could just be my interpretation.

The Other Windsor Girl looks at the woman behind the family persona and paints her has a real, flawed and broken girl. Georgie Blalock – whom you can tell by her lovely rich writing is fascinated by the royal family – has not sugar coated just how difficult Princess Margaret’s life was or indeed just how difficult she made things for herself.

This is a really good historical novel which makes us remember that privilege doesn’t just come in diamonds and pearls but comes with the freedom of not having a country to be responsible for and the more importantly the freedom to love whomever we choose without media and governmental scrutiny.

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock is available now.

For more information regarding William Morrow (@WmMorrowBooks) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: The Masterpiece

Author: Fiona Davis

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Dutton Books

The Blurb

In this captivating novel, national bestselling author Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For most New Yorkers, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future. It is 1928, and Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. Though not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist,” fiery Clara is single-minded in her quest to achieve every creative success—even while juggling the affections of two very different men. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression…and that even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

By 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Dilapidated and dangerous, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece—an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

The Review

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is a multi-narrative story set in two time periods: the 1920s and 1970s New York. The two story threads meet in Grand Central Station which is the ideal setting for bustling Art Deco New York meets down and out New York when homelessness was rife and the glamour had definitely worn off.

In the 1920s storyline we follow Clara, a budding artist who is ignored by the art world because of her gender. However, the tide changes for Clara and success begins to pursue her much to the chagrin of others. In the 1970s storyline we meet Virginia. She is also struggling because of the confines of her gender. Recently divorced with no discernible skills to her name she struggles to carve out a new life for herself as an independent woman without a man to hide behind and to be protected by.

What I really like about Fiona Davis’ novels is that she magically weaves real life historical events into her stories which become a third character. You care about the historical element just as much as you care for the characters and their storylines. Furthermore, it opens the reader’s eyes to a slice of history that they may have never known about otherwise.

The Masterpiece is a wonderful story and one of those novels that you read voraciously because you want to know what happens but try to stop yourself from reading because you don’t want it to end.

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is available now.

For more information regarding Fiona Davis (@FionaJDavis) please visit www.fionadavis.net.

For more information regarding Dutton Books (@DuttonBooks) please visit www.duttonbooks.tumblr.com.

Title: The Illness Lesson

Author: Clare Beams

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

It is 1871. At the farm of Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, a mysterious flock of red birds has descended. Samuel, whose fame as a philosopher is waning, takes the birds’ appearance as an omen that the time is ripe for his newest venture. He will start a school for young women, guiding their intellectual development as he has so carefully guided his daughter’s. Despite Caroline’s misgivings, Samuel’s vision – revolutionary, as always; noble, as always; full of holes, as always – takes shape.

It’s not long before the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, verbal tics, night wanderings. In desperate, the school turns to the ministering of a sinister physician – just as Caroline’s body, too, begins its betrayal. As the girls’ condition worsens, Caroline must confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world, the ones who insist the voices of the sufferers are unreliable.

Written in intensely vivid prose and brimming with insight, The Illness Lesson is a powerful exploration of women’s bodies, women’s minds and the time-honoured tradition of doubting both.

The Review

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams seemed like my type of book. It was historical fiction at its base but also dealt with other issues. It looked at the sheltered life of women and how they had to conform to man’s whim, it looked at parental control, and it had a mystery element to it.

And it was a good story. I enjoyed it. It did take a while for me to get into the story but once I was in it I really enjoyed it but more for the feminist elements.

The Illness Lesson is a good read and for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams is available now.

For more information regarding Clare Beams (@clarebeams) please visit www.clarebeams.com.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

 

Title: The Velvet Hours

Author: Alyson Richman

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

The Blurb

From the international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Garden of Letters, comes a story—inspired by true events—of two women pursuing freedom and independence in Paris during WWII.

As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return. 

An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.

Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.

The Review

Ever since I heard the story of the preserved apartment found in Paris I have been fascinated. How did this apartment go unnoticed for so long? What happened to the woman who lived there? There are so many unanswered questions that of course it makes for the perfect basis of a story. I have, before reading The Velvet Hours, read two books based on the same premise and both were very well written and enjoyable but none were as engaging as the story that Alyson Richman told.

In her story we delve more into the life of the courtesan Marthe de Florain who lived in the apartment and her story is created using a mixture of fact and fiction. We see the story from the perspective of Marthe and Solange (her granddaughter) amongst the backdrop of occupied France. It truly is captivating.

If you are a fan of historical fiction that has an intriguing true story at its heard then The Velvet Hours is the book for you.

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman is available now.

For more information regarding Alyson Richman (@alysonrichman) please visit www.alysonrichman.com.

For more information regarding Berkley Publishing Group (@BerkleyPub) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: City of Girls

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Pages: 470 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Blurb

The blazingly brilliant new novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international bestseller Eat Pray Love: a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New York.

The Review

This sumptuous tale is a lot more than the story of a debutante discovering herself. It is about the social changes in society; the development of a city; the change in time and attitudes. It is a love letter to the past and a recognition of just how magical life can be.

City of Girls is the first book in a very long time that has managed to provide the wow factor for me. The character of Vivian is shown with such unashamed honesty. We see every facet of her character – the good, the bad, and the ugly. She is an unforgettable heroine.

For me, City of Girls belongs to that rare breed of book. The one that you desperately do not want to end but cannot stop yourself from reading because you have to know what happens.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is available now.

For more information regarding Elizabeth Gilbert (@GilbertLiz) please visit www.ElizabethGilbert.com.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.