A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

A Dress of Violet Taffeta

Taken from Goodreads:

A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs.

Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain?

After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option.

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.

I love that this historical novel is snatched right from the history books. Exciting, great characters and a topic we never tire of. I think you’ll love this one.

My digital review copy was provided by NetGalley through Berkley Publisher in exchange for a spotlight. It’s a great novel.

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark

This epic journey through the lives of two women who share a portion of land and who have summer homes in Maine is a vast accomplishment. The atmosphere, the backstory, the characters, all come together to create a journey of a lifetime. So different and yet so much alike, Agnes and Polly keep the torch of their friendship burning brightly even in the toughest of times. Alice Dark brings us a wonderful and deep novel of abiding friendship and love.

Several months ago I was involved in a zoom event with the author and the publishing people from Scribner. It was awesome to be able to meet Dark and hear her story. It was a long and involved journey from start to finish. But it is so worth the wait.

Agnes and Polly, two women in their eighties, have been best friends all their lives. Agnes is a spinster and Polly married young and produced several children. Two very different women. Agnes has enjoyed a very successful life as author to a well known children’s book series. She also writes another series: one that she pens anonymously; not even Polly knows. The women share property in Maine where they have built “cottages” and traveled to every summer. So many memories. The property includes a nature sanctuary for endangered birds and wildlife. It also holds sacred Native American burial grounds. Heavy stuff. This land was never to be developed. But, lately, Agnes has learned her cousin is looking to sell the property to a developer, tear down paradise and build a resort. Ugh.

Going back and forth in time we get a peek into the younger lives of both women. We begin to realize there are secrets and issues that are about to come to the surface. Brilliantly written with deep empathy and much attention to detail, FELLOWSHIP POINT is one of the most highly anticipated literary novels of the season.

As a child Dark learned she lived on land Native Americans had lived on for hundreds of years. She brings much of this to the table in this novel.

A vast accomplishment, FELLOWSHIP POINT will hit all your hot spots. Issues with aging, friendship, family, sanctity, and climate change, they are all addressed appropriately on these amazing pages.

This big, fat juicy novel is perfect for you right now.

My review copy was furnished by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. It is fabulous!

Maurice Is Easing Into July

OMG! I can not even believe how swiftly this summer is blowing by. How about you? Are you reading a lot this summer? I have more stacks than usual for some reason. I have some good thrillers and murder mysteries to dive into this month. And I’m already receiving so many books for fall and even winter. It’s exciting and daunting.

This picture of Emerson jumping for joy in front of Big Ben has special meaning for our family. We spread a small amount of Emerson’s great great grandmother’s ashes near Ben a few years ago. There’s a story behind it, too.

Emerson with Ben and Mamaw!

So many people are back to traveling, many finally being able to do that European vacation they had to postpone during the pandemic. The cities are packed. My Asheville family are traveling through Europe as I write. So far, it’s a good experience. I had to chuckle over the musings about the size of rooms even in good hotels. Yes, they are tiny. Thankfully, there are so many wonderful venues to visit that not much time is spent in the room… And this is my favorite photo so far, taken in Paris last night, very late just as the tower lit up.

Liam & Emerson in The City of Light.

It’s HOT. And we’re beginning to get a somewhat normal supply of afternoon and evening thunder storms. Some have been quite severe. We go days with no rain, then get a deluge. Climate change. And, sadly, the BIG storms are starting to roll off the coast of Africa. Watching like a hawk.

We’ve planted more trees. And my son Craig gave us an off shoot from his frangipani tree. I love having trees and plants in our yard from other family members. Son Mike and his wife Ana gave me a seed from their peanut butter tree at Christmas. It is now about eight inches tall and is very green and quite healthy. These trees have fruit that tastes like peanut butter. Yes. And I will posting a picture of this little tree in a few days.

Friends of ours lost their elderly cat of almost twenty years a couple months ago. We hooked up with them on Sunday and much to our surprise there was Bruno, an adopted ten-year-old Maine Coon mix. He is friendly and very glad to share Karen and Dick’s beautiful home. They both feel on their feet with this. Happy.

Murder On The Vine wont’ be on sale until September but what a way to go into fall. Camilla Trincheri presents us with her third in a series set in Tuscany. I can’t wait to get into it.

I just finished THE SEAMSTRESS OF NEW ORLEANS and loved it. Went in not knowing what to expect and came out the other end really happy. Art, New Orleans, two strong women, and a helluva story you can sink your teeth right into.

Daniel Silva has a new thriller coming. Of course he does, it’s July.

I have photos of flowers and trees to share next week. Too much to add more to this post. And a wonderful photo of my four grandchildren who live nearby. They recently visited Universal Studios in Orlando.

I just picked up a load of books I’d requested from the library. One book was so heavy and large that they were keeping it behind the counter. Very exciting. Will share these new titles with you all soon.

For now, enjoy your weekend. Happy July!

Bloomsbury Girls By Natalie Jenner

I’m a sucker for a book about bookstores. Look at this. A new novel by the internationally bestselling author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY. I was immediately intrigued.

Bloomsbury Books was an old fashioned and very stuffy century-old shop unchanged and managed by men. Now it’s 1950 and time for change after the war.

Three women working at the store are working on bringing the shop into present day. Vivien lost her fiance when he was killed in ww11. She’s plugging along and doing some writing. She really wants to become a published writer. For now, she’s making a living by working in the fiction section of Bloomsbury Books. Grace is married with two sons. She’s working to support her family while her husband is recovering from a break down. Evie Stone is one of the first female graduates from Cambridge. But after being passed over for a promotion at her job by a male rival who was not as accomplished as she, she moved on to work at the bookstore and she has a plan.

Kirkus says: A rose-tinted view of early 1950’s literary feminism. In post-WW11 London three women battle misogyny at a stodgy bookshop.( I love this analogy).

Jenner does a great job of interjecting famous publishing people and writers into the story. When Vivien gets involved with bringing signing events to the store she introduces people like Peggy Guggenheim, Ellen Doubleday, Daphne Du Maurier and others. The men are not just standing by. There is plenty of drama going on in the background. Secrets that have been kept for years are broken open and people are shown to be complete strangers.

Oh, I almost forgot, there’s quite the todo about a very old book from 1827 called THE MUMMY. Evie is on the hunt for it within the stacks. It would be quite the find.

I really enjoyed BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. It’s got a lot going for it. Mystery, strong women, books, famous people in history, and some good romance.

I read my review copy digitally. It was provided through NetGalley through the publishing house of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. I loved it!

The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

The Precious Jules

Honestly, the beginning of this novel was torturous to read. I almost put it down. What a tough subject matter. My Goodreads synopsis.


Brilliant writing. Deep and soulful. Very tough subject matter. Nocher has nailed it! The wonderful/awful family named Jules brings everything to the table. How would you handle having twins and one is disabled? And you have a house filled with children and another one on the way? Just the thought is humbling and sad. A tragic family drama filled with seemingly very real people.

The opening chapter gives you a good idea what it was like for the mother and the siblings to live in a tortured world where little Ella existed. Like I said above, it was really hard to read. Then, the second chapter moves decades later to a time where the Beechwood Institute is closing its doors after two hundred years of housing retardants. Ella Jules has lived at Beechwood since she was eight-years-old. She has five siblings she’s not seen in almost forty years. She has been living and thriving with Lynetta who’s been her loving companion and caretaker at the institute all this time. Ella is at the mercy of the state as to where she will live and with whom. Her parents are aging and yet they want to bring her back to the family home where they think they can care for her. But, Lynette has petitioned to keep Ella with her as she is the only person who truly knows Ella and understands her. So there is that. However, the siblings still remember the horror of living with Ella and they are against this reunion. So much so that they have planned a reunion at the family home so they can keep this move at bay.

Told in exquisite prose, great empathy, deep emotion, and what appears to be an abundance of research, THE PRECIOUS JULES tells a story that riveted me to the page. Kept drawing me back in. Each character is important. Each has his or her own memory of Ella. Not a story to be taken lightly, this heart-wrenching tale has plenty of twists and turns, many secrets, and a solid ending.

Anytime I hear about a place like this Beechwood Institute for retardants I am just madder than a hornet. For people to have been so treated over the years is shameful. Not much good ever came from places like this and this is no different. What went on in the halls and rooms within this dastardly place? I shudder at the thought.

So, there you have it dear readers. Do you dare dive into THE PRECIOUS JULES? I dare you. It’s an important read.

My review copy came from Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review. It’s brilliant and harrowing. It could win awards in literary fiction. It was an outstanding read!

Gilt by Jamie Brenner

One perfect diamond is all it takes to divide a family. Could one summer be enough to fix it?

The Pavlin family built an empire on love. As the first jewelers to sell diamond rings exclusively for proposals, they started a tradition that has defined engagements ever since. But when an ill-fated publicity stunt pits the three Pavlin sisters against one another for a famous family jewel, their bond is broken. No ordinary diamond ring, the Electric Rose splinters the sisters, leaving one unlucky in love, one escaping to the shores of Cape Cod, and the other, ultimately, dead.

The above is from Goodreads and is a good starting point.

I love Jamie Brenner’s writing. It’s breezy and fun but always about intriguing characters that sparkle and pop and hold your interest throughout each book. A lot of her books take place in Provincetown, Mass. This one is back and forth from Provincetown to Manhattan. I love that aspect. The topic is family angst and jewelry. Oh boy, I’m all in.

The Pavlin family grew their family jewelry business into a dynasty when they started the wedding campaign. They were the first company to actually make a diamond the gem of choice for proposals. The Electric Rose was a humongous diamond that was used to promote this event. When Gemma’s parents were killed in an untimely accident, her mother was wearing the diamond. From then on it was said to be cursed.

Gemma was tossed out of the family at one point. We find out why much later in the story. Her aunt has been in receipt of The Electric Rose and keeps it hidden away in a vault.

Off to Provincetown. Summer brings ranks of tourists and the small town is filled to the brim. Gemma is determined to get that diamond back. After all, it belonged to her mother. Gemma ends up hanging out in Provincetown and working on what she loves most: designing and making jewelry. With the help of one of her aunts she is able to do just that. But what is going to happen to that rogue gem?

I loved this book. Intelligent women, each with her own issues. Brenner has a way with showing her characters in the real light of day. And Provincetown is such a summertime outrageous place.

I read GILT digitally. Made available through NetGalley, and from the publishing house of Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. I loved, loved it. Add it to your TBR pile for summer.

Julie Brenner

Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore

Vacationland

Love the cover. Immediately drops you right onto the beach. In this case the beach off Penobscot Bay on the coast of Maine. Louisa is taking her three children to her parents’ home in this dreamy part of Maine. She’s trying to escape all the stress and drama at home in Brooklyn. Her husband is staying behind trying to wrap up a seemingly never-ending circle of searching for funding for his Podcast start up. It’s been going on for a very long time and Louisa is at her wit’s end. She’s way behind writing her book and the deadline clock is ticking louder and louder in her head every day.

Another young woman, Kristie, much younger, is riding a Greyhound bus to this same destination. She’s carrying a small suitcase and $761 in cash. And a lot of baggage. Her mother recently passed away and left her with a lot of questions and this address.

They both have issues that will come to a complete meltdown at the end of the book. Meanwhile, Louisa discovers her dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is basically in and out of his own life. Her mother is in denial. The cottage which is huge, is a big part of the story. And Louisa’s three children add so much to the story. Mysteries are solved. Kids run away. Where is hubby? Wasn’t he coming to visit at some point? And is there an old love interest in the picture. And we continue to hear the loud ticking clock in Louisa’s head as she strives to finish her manuscript.

Meg Mitchell Moore

Moore has certainly nailed the sense of place. She’s delivered believable characters you will be drawn to. And some pretty great food for summer.

My physical review copy arrived from the generous people at William Morrow Publishing, a division of Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. Another big hit. I loved it. Definitely add it to your summer pile! And thanks William Morrow.

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Summertime is the perfect time of year for a page-burning psychological thriller. Unputdownable, brilliantly written, with characters that leap from the page. THE LIES I TELL has it all.

I became a fan of Julie Clark when I read her THE LAST FLIGHT a couple years ago. A real heart-thumper. She’s done it again with her newest novel that is on sale tomorrow.

Meg Williams has many names. She changes her identity each time she moves to yet another locale. She might be a real estate agent, a life coach or even a college student. She’s recently decided to move back home to Los Angeles. She’s become a con artist and is on a tear to get revenge on the man who ruined her life. But she’s about to come across the one woman who might stop her. Kat is a reporter who has her own agenda: to take down Meg. She’s been following Meg in secret for years; now is her chance to catch up.

I found myself wild to find out how this would end up. I could not figure it out. That is a good thing.

Make a note to put this one on your summer reading pile. You’re going to love it!

My physical review copy was provided by Source Books in exchange for an honest review. Definitely a keeper. I loved it!

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

What can I say? Geraldine Brooks is one of the finest writers living today. She’s already won a Pulitzer. With her brand new novel, HORSE, she most certainly is on her way toward yet another!

I did not devour HORSE. I savored it. I did research while reading it because there is so much true history in this magnificent story. I craved more knowledge about the greatest racehorse in American history. I wanted to know more about behind the scenes in horse racing. And I wanted to know all about the paintings.

The novel shifts back in forth in time from 1850 when the horse was born, to 1954 when we meet Martha Jackson who is a gallery owner who often takes risks, to 2019 in Washington, D.C. where we meet Jess who is a scientist from Australia who unearths the skeleton of Lexington hidden away, forgotten, in an attic in the Smithsonian Institute. She and Theo who is a Nigerian-American art historian are an unlikely duo but their story is tantamount to making this novel so compelling.

So much deep research has gone into making this book wonderful. I loved Lexington from the moment of his birth. His ethereal bond with the young black enslaved Jerret wrapped itself around my heart and stayed there. Jerret and Lexington have a wonderful and unstoppable bond.

Lexington

In the 1800’s slavery was very much an issue. Brooks brilliantly shows us the dark side of slave ownership. Our hearts break when Jerret’s father is able to buy his own freedom but not Jarret’s. And they call him Black Jerret. So there is that.

The scenes closer to present day are not without their own issues with race. I do love that the scientist is a young woman. Yes, young women are scientists. Not all young women want to grow up to be wives and mommy’s in this day and age. And Theo’s character is super. When he pulls a picture of Lexington from the top of a heap of trash tossed to the street by his neighbor, he has no idea what he has.

This is an amazing story based on truth. It is embedded in art, science, and love and obsession. And it throbs with racism.

I watched The Belmont last week and had just read HORSE. I had a new outlook on the race. Mixed feelings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8uRNel2aG8

The character of Jarret was inspired from an old issue of Harper’s Magazine. A wonderful character who will be remembered always.

There are insightful pages in the back of the book filled with more research to go to about Lexington. Yes, he was really the greatest racehorse in American history, and he’s been hidden away.

I received a digital review copy of HORSE by Geraldine Brooks from Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I see GREAT things ahead for HORSE. It is a stunner. I loved it!

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard

Jackie & Me

I love, love, love this cover. Honesty, Jackie might walk off this page at any given moment.

Many people have been fascinated by the infamous Kennedy family for seemingly ever. So a lot has been written over the years about Jackie and Jack.

This new novel adds another layer to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Most of this story takes place before Jackie meets John F. Kennedy.

Louis Bayard is an award winning novelist with many books under his belt. This new novel is well researched and presents us with yet another look into the sophisticated and wild world of the Kennedy family.

John F. Kennedy was not in the market for a bride. That is until his father reminded him that it would help his climb up the political ladder to the presidency, and, so, he decided Jackie would be the one. She had all the right assets. But he wasn’t quite ready…. Enter Lem Billings, Jack’s best friend. And, so, Lem becomes the “First Friend.”

An unlikely friendship, but Bayard fills this delightful novel with wit, laughter, and insight. I kept thinking of the photo on the front cover….

My physical review copy was provided by Algonquin Publishers in exchange for an honest review. A great new look inside the magical and challenging life of one of America’s most beloved women.