Review: The English Wife

The English Wife, Lauren Willig

Published January 9th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

Hardcover, 376 pages

Source: Goodreads giveaway

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Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

Holly and I have made no secrets that we’re Lauren Willig fangirls.   Though I do think the Pink Carnation series ended at just the right time I have missed Willig’s flirtatious banter and witty women.  The English Wife started a bit slow  but in the end I found it was just the right book at the right time for me. The romance and flirting – with just enough cheesiness was pure Willig and despite the sad mystery this book left me with a smile on my face.  

We have a murder, a missing wife, the possibility of a blatant affair (or more than one), and the drama of old New England money.  I loved the tension with the muckraking press and the overbearing mother who thought her class should rule the day.  And oh my – the freaking ending – I had definite theories as I read as to what could have happened to Annabelle and Bay and let me just say I did not expect what the ending was at all.  

Now I will go back to a Pink Carnation re-read while I wait to see what Lauren Willig writes next!

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for this advance copy!

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Fictional Couples

Today for a Valentine’s themed Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish I present to you:

My Top Ten Fictional Couples

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Pic from the BBC

  1. Elizabeth and Darcy of Pride & Prejudice 
  2. Finnikin and Isaboe and of course Froi and Quintana of the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
  3. Ron and Hermione of Harry Potter 
  4. Lou Clark and Will Traynor, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
  5. Sybella and Beast, Dark Triumph, Robin LaFevers
  6. Georgia and Shaun Mason, The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (ok sort of strange but I don’t care)
  7. Sydney and Adrian, Richelle Mead, Bloodlines
  8. Miles & Henrietta, The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig (The cutest of all the series!)
  9. Cormoran Strike and Robin, The Cuckoo’s Calling etc by Robert Galbraith  (THIS HAS TO HAPPEN. They are meant to be)
  10. Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding (and never will I ever read you Bridget Jones #3 NEVER!)

What’s on your Valentine’s List?  Or who is your #1 fictional couple?

 

 

 

Review: The Forgotten Room

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Hardcover, 384 pages

Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by Berkley/NAL

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

I was very curious to see how this book was done with 3 authors.  I think it has come across pretty clear that I am a big fan of Lauren Willig.  I have also really enjoyed what I’ve read by Beatrice Williams, but Karen White was new to me.  These ladies were great together!  I am really curious to learn more about how the writing process worked.  As we follow three women in the story, did each author write one?  The writing flowed pretty seamlessly so I am impressed if that’s what they did.  I think they’re already working on another book together and now i’m excited to learn about that project!  

We jump between time periods to meet Olive, who has begun working as a maid for the Pratt family after her architect father was disgraced by the Pratt patriarch and killed himself.  Next comes Lucy, who has fled her family’s German bakery after the death of her own parents to work as a legal secretary.  Then we have Kate, working as one of a very few female doctors receiving injured American soldiers returning from the front in Europe.  

I loved that the Pratt Mansion was just the first connection between generations.  I could see this beautiful old house in my mind as it transitioned from the design on paper created by Olive’s father, to the cold family manor where she served as a maid, then the single women’s apartments that Lucy lived in and finally the World War II hospital that Kate worked at.  The house and the attic room were almost characters in their own right.  They held their secrets well and released them with perfect timing.  

I admit at first I was a bit confused at the transitions at first and wondering how these ladies could connect to each other – but once I figured it out I was HOOKED.  The loves were sweet and the heartaches were brutal.  The clues that the authors left us to follow outside of the house were perfect I thought.  I loved how they kept popping up with a new story in each generation.  

I don’t think every book has to have a happy ending – and sometimes they’re better for it (see Hausfrau) but I was really afraid I’d be walking away disappointed in the end.  Thankfully these ladies pulled through for me and I was happy with the ending.  I can’t decide who my favorite was still!  Perhaps I’ll have to reread and decide.   

4 stars!

Thank you Berkley/NAL and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Our Best Reads of 2015

Amanda

I fell 10 books behind on my Goodreads challenge of 155 books – I think if I had finagled the Goodreads system for rereads better I would have made it though! Oh well – on to 2016!  I read some books I really loved this year so I’d say this Top Ten order is pretty random.  Its also missing books that I also thought were amazing – like Mortal Heart, Invasion of the Tearling, Crimson Bound, Euphoria and Made You Up.  Sigh.  Maybe I should have done a top twenty list…  These were my happiest or most thought provoking and just best reads of 2015.

  1. A  Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman  
  2. Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  3. Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon (also the longest book I read!)
  4. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  5. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  6. The Unquiet Dead by Ausuma Zehanat Khan
  7. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  9. Uprooted by Naomi Novik  
  10. Dietland by Sarai Walker

 

Holly

I read about half as many books as I meant to in 2015, including 8 from Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, 7/12 books from my TBR Challenge list, and 4 read-alongs with my sister (Persuasion, Invasion of the Tearling, Mortal Heart, & Romantic Outlaws). Here, in no particular order, are my favorite books that I read this year:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. RowlingHurts soooooo good.

The Martian by Andy Weir – On audiobook, but I’m counting it because I loved it so much.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat ConroyNot exactly light honeymoon reading, but definitely a gateway book into more Conroy.

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel BertscheYoung professional in a new city looking for her bestie? HIts a bit – er – close to home.

Persuasion by Jane AustenThe read-along was at least half the fun of reading this one!

I love reading lists- tell me your best reads of 2015!  Happy New Year!

Saying Goodbye to the Pink Carnation Series

Last September, we started the Bubble Bath Reader’s Pink for All Seasons – a year long read-along of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, timed to finish with the release of the 12th and final book in the series.

These books are fun and fabulous and full of interesting historical tidbits. We’ve done quick summaries on the books so far – click for books 1-3, books 4-6, and books 7-9. (And if you notice that the reading order is listed differently in different places, here’s Willig’s official list.)

And, so it ends here, with books 10, 11, and 12:

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The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (2011)

Synopsis: When the younger sister of Jane Wooliston (AKA our Pink Carnation) goes missing from her boarding school in London, Jane and her faithful chaperone Miss Gwen search for her, and along the way meet Colonel William Reid, whose daughter disappeared from school as well. Miss Gwen and Col. Reid get to know each other quite well in the search. In modern England, Eloise reads Miss Gwen’s gothic novel, 200 years after it’s one-hit-wonder debut.

Holly: I definitely enjoyed the relationship between Miss Gwen and the good Colonel, especially the time Miss Gwen dropped the line “we had a satisfactory romp; that’s all.” Things I did not love about this book, however, include Jane’s moodiness and Jeremy’s sliminess.

Amanda: I admit that I had a good sulk when Lauren originally announced this book.  I did not want to read anymore about Miss Gwen except as Jane’s chaperone.  I wanted a book about Tommy (See the Temptation of the Night Jasmine)!  But then I read The Passion of the Purple Plumeria and I fell in love with Colonel Reid and Miss Gwen.  I loved how she tried to boss him around and how he just doesn’t fall into line with what she wanted.  So I apologize Lauren for doubting your judgement of your own stories!    

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (2014)

Synopsis: Sally Fitzhugh, whose root-vegetable-named brother we got to know quite well back in Pink #5, stumbles into the garden of the mysterious (and rumored vampire) Duke of Belliston, and ends up helping him uncover the truth about his family. Back in the 21st century, Eloise returns to grad school in Cambridge, MA, and has trouble with her advisor.

Holly: I read some reviews hating on this book for being a far cry from the start of the series, as the actual-spy contact is limited, and, well, there’s the vampire thing. However, I adored Sally and Lucien!  And, while I would have fully supported Eloise if she decided not to return to grad school, I am glad she had a chance to come to the right decision for her.

Amanda:  I’m glad I didn’t know my sister had read hating reviews because I was already apprehensive due to all the hints about the stoat.  I mean – who wants to read about a stoat?  But Sally was a delight!  So there wasn’t a spy connection – big deal – is a creepy murder not enough for people?! Loved the glimpse at a happy Turnip with his bride.

The Lure of the Moonflower (2015)

Synopsis: At last, the final book in the Pink series brings Jane’s story – we find Jane on assignment in Portugal, looking for a missing queen and forced to rely on Jack Reid for tactical help along with way. We get a conclusion to the Colin and Eloise storyline as well, but not without some final hijinks from one of our previous villains.

Holly: I am glad Jane got her story, and I’m so glad to have been a part of the Pink for All Seasons readalong. There are parts of this book that I quite enjoyed, but parts that didn’t quite sit well. Both Jane and her parents seemed like entirely different characters than those we’d gotten to know in previous books. Though, to be fair, that’s exactly what Lauren has done throughout the series – characters like Mary Alsworthy and Turnip Fitzhugh become totally different people once brought into the spotlight. The difference is, I guess, that I liked Mary and Turnip better after getting to know them, and Jane less.

Amanda:  I was totally surprised as this book began at how Jane ended up in Portugal.  As Holly said, Jane’s parents sounded like totally different people than those we met in the Passion of the Purple Plumeria. This annoyed me but I went with the story because since I’ve loved and trusted Jane all these years I kind of had to.  I did love Jane and Jack together, even if things were a bit too convenient in the end.  Maybe everything wrapped up a bit too well – including Eloise and Colin – but it was really a satisfying ending to a series I’ve really enjoyed.  If Lauren writes more Pink books I will read them!

2015 TBR Challenge: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness, Emmuska Orczy

Amanda

First published 1903

Source: Purchased for the 2015 Roofbeam Reader TBR Challenge

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Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

Check another book off my 2015 TBR Challenge list!  When I first stumbled onto The Secret History of the Pink Carnation years ago I was raving to my mom about this new series (everyone does this right?).  Her response was “Just like the Scarlet Pimpernel,” which resulted in a blank stare from me.  She explained the similarity and of course I learned yes, these were Lauren Willig’s inspiration.  There may be spoilers here but the book is over 100 years old, so it’s not my fault if the mystery is ruined for you!

So it took me a few years to get to the The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I am so glad I finally read it!  The Pimpernel is just as full of attitude and daring as his imitator the Pink Carnation!  I loved his determination to beat the French despite the risks.  I really didn’t think the romance would come through between Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney but I was definitely feeling the love in the end.  I liked that the Scarlet Pimpernel has his own band of charming agents – just like those that I’ve fallen for in the Pink Carnation series.  I really enjoyed the adventure!  I might even keep reading the other Scarlet Pimpernel books eventually to see how similar they are.  For being a classic this was a really light and fun read.  I’m definitely in the mood to finish the Pink Carnation series now – just 3 books to go!

They seek him here, they seek him there 

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere 

Is he in heaven or is he in hell? 

That demned elusive Pimpernel.

Bottom line, does it hold up to say a book by Jane Austen?  No.  But Sir Percy was delightful and honestly pretty swoon-worthy for a character over 100 years old! Thanks Mom for telling me to read this!

Next off my TBR Challenge List – Swamplandia!

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Books 7-9

We are a bit late in posting this, but we’ve are still participating in Pink for all Seasons, a yearlong readalong of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. The series is coming to close in August with Book 12, so we’re catching up with books 7-9 here. Click for our posts on 1-3 and 4-6.

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The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (2010)

Synopsis: Lady Frederick Staines, née Penelope Deveraux is off to India with her ill-gotten husband, where she becomes involved in local politics and, of course, French espionage plots, while also dealing with her relationship woes. In modern times, Eloise is confronting her own relationship woes and learning about Colin’s family.

Holly: I would give Penelope’s story a five-star review, but the Eloise and Colin storyline here really brought me down. There is a really hard-hitting passage where Pen realizes that her status as a young woman of the ton, while seemingly limited, affords her countless privileges that are not afforded to women of lesser social status – including the fact that women of the lower class can be assaulted with impunity. Pen is smart, fierce, and independent, and she demonstrates growth in her character throughout. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same in Eloise’s storyline – she gets fixated on Colin’s sister and his family and I found myself getting annoyed with all the Eloise chapters in this book. Pen is fighting snakes, rebels, and the limitations of women in society, and Eloise is fighting troubles of her own making.

Amanda:  I also loved Penelope and her devil-take-society attitude.  I will say I actually felt a bit bogged down in all the spies at the end.  But the end I was happy with how heads rolled (or not) and I actually liked the Eloise and Colin storyline.  As I’ve said, I’ve read all these but I can’t remember all my Colin and Eloise details- I want to see how this relationship works when there is trouble in paradise.

The Orchid Affair (2011)

Synopsis: Laura Gray, a former governess recruited by the Pink Carnation, finds herself as a governess once again while spying on Andre Jaouen, a high-ranking French police official. Of course, It turns out Jaouen is also hiding something, and the two have to learn to trust one another. Eloise spends minimal time researching this story while in Paris for a weekend with Colin and his dysfunctional family.

Amanda: I think this is by far the weakest link of France to Eloise.  She just happens to remember all this while in Paris for the weekend? I know she’s a smart girl, but that pushed things a bit too far for me.  Also, I like that Willig has expanded her cast of characters, but I do miss checking in with Henrietta, Charlotte and the other.  I appreciate Laura for being a woman that can take care of herself- but I like my references to Turnip too!

Holly: Willig has definitely gone off-script here with the way the modern and historical stories usually weave together – though, I suppose she tossed out that script back with The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Laura’s story was another refreshing change of pace – as a 32 year-old used to taking care of herself, the romance that developed was different from those of the young heroines in the first few Pink books.

The Garden Intrigue (2012)

Synopsis: British agent Augustus Whittlesby has been hiding in plain sight in Napoleonic Paris, posing as an insufferable poet. He is commissioned by Emma Delagardie, a widowed American in Paris, to help write a masque for the newly appointed Emperor. Hijinks ensue, sparks fly, and the awful Georges Marston gets what he deserves. Meanwhile, Eloise and Colin negotiate the terms of a relationship when each has commitments on different continents.

*Bonus note: for this book we got to be the moderators for the readalong over at Ashley’s site – so much fun!

Holly: I went into this book expecting to be annoyed by Augustus, but, of course, I was completely won over. I love how Lauren has continued to evolve the series, with each character having different backstories and motivations. And, I always seem to learn something – like this.

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Amanda: I loved that the series got a bit of American spunk thrown in (aside from Eloise obviously) with the delightful Emma.  She is such a smart-ass to poor Augustus that I had to fall for him a bit right away for holding his own against her.  It was also fun to see where our contemporary relationship might lead.  Colin and Eloise are heading into decision time – is a long distance relationship across the Pond in the cards?  And of course because I want to be like my sister, this book left me wanting to learn.  About Napoleon specifically.  I think I have my eye on a book or two for when Non-Fiction November rolls around.

Are you reading along with us?  Or considering giving the Pink books a try?

Top Ten Most Anticipated Books To Come in 2015

So many books! The Broke and the Bookish topic for this week is the 10 books you’re most anticipating for 2015.    What’s on your list? 
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  1. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt.  Yes its a kids book and I don’t care! We love reading The Day the Crayons Quit and I love having new books to read with Babycakes.
  2. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine #3).  SO so so excited for more adventure and creepy photos.
  3. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. Thanks to My Book Strings to turning me on to this one!
  4. After Alice by Gregory Maguire. I might have to read Through the Looking Glass before this book about Alice.
  5. A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire.  (October Daye #9) I still haven’t been emotionally ready to read book 8 I admit it.  But now I can binge on two at once!
  6. Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith. That cover is amazing! And the idea of someone in my dreams is totally creepy.
  7. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas. Cinderella retelling? Yes please!
  8. Dumplin’  by Julie Murphy.  I’ve heard such good things about this! And after reading Dietland (see tomorrow’s post to talk about this) I am excited for another book to talk about body images.
  9. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.  If you haven’t read Girl of Fire & Thorns please do so now so you can also be excited for this new series!  (Ahem, sister this means you)
  10. The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig (Pink 12!)  The Pink conclusion.  Have you been reading along with us?  I am starting to feel anxious about how it will all wrap up!

 

Top Ten Books In My Beach Bag

We’re back for Top Ten Tuesday with the Broke and the Bookish with the top ten books I want to read this summer.  Poor Holly is too busy to realize that summer is nearly here!

  1. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Does it count as summer if I start this next week?  Can’t wait any longer.
  2. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  This sounds so cute!
  3. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta.  Its totally time for a reread.  Something about Finnikin makes me swoon and Froi breaks my heart.
  4. The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
  5. I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster.  Please be as funny as Bitter is the New Black!
  6. Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson. This just sounds like something you have to read at the beach.
  7. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig.  so close to the end of the series!
  8. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.   I cannot believe I haven’t read this yet!
  9. The Hero and the Crown series by Robin McKinley.  Highly recommended by a friend- I love finding series to binge on that are already all published!
  10. Second Position by Katherine Locke.  I was lucky enough to beta read about these sexy ballet dancers and I need to read the finished book!

What’s on your summer reading list?

Review: Scarlett Undercover

Scarlett Undercover, Jennifer Latham

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 320 pages

Source: NetGalley

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From Goodreads…

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

I loved Scarlett! She had some sass and she is smart as can be.  We begin right in the action which honestly is not always my favorite. Scarlett is a 16 year-old high-school graduate and instead of looking ahead to college she’s working as a private detective.  Her parents have died and she lives with her older sister who is crazy busy in medical school so Scarlett is largely left to her own devices.  Our investigation begins when a young girl comes to ask Scarlett to prove that her older brother didn’t kill himself.  I did spend some time during the first third of the book wondering why exactly Scarlett got to be a teen detective– but when the explanation came clear I found myself nodding along at the book.  Yes a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it worked for me.

It was refreshing to read a book about a character who was so very different than your usual YA!  Scarlett is Muslim, but that’s just one facet of her.  She’s as conflicted about her obligations to religion as nearly any other teenaged girl.  She wants to listen to her older sister who is responsible for her, but also chafes at following rules.  Also, yay for some teenage romance that doesn’t dominate the book!  Scarlett has a crush, she acts on it –  but that’s not the end all and be all of her life then.  She doesn’t drop everything to listen to a boy.

There’s a suggestion of magic to the plot, but not this was definitely a mystery – not a fantasy novel.  Scarlett believes some day she can figure out why her father was murdered, even if the police have given up.  I loved that Scarlett was brave and determined, but not unwilling to ask for help.  She is sarcastic and funny even when she’s in over her head.

This was a really fun young adult debut and while there is no sequel planned right now I really hope to catch another case with Scarlett!

4 stars!

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

AND WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Holly and I are posting today on The Bubblebath Reader and will be all month about Lauren Willig’s The Garden Intrigue! Stop by!