In Polite Company by Gervais Hagerty

In Polite Company

It’s almost impossible to believe this is a debut novel. Gervais Hagerty bursts onto the literary scene with an atmospheric novel of Charleston and the society within its very proper confines. What a great novel to round up your summer reading season.

Simons Smythe is not happy. We feel this right from the beginning of the story. She’s been engaged to Trip for years. They are perfect for each other. She’s part of Charleston society and so is he. He is everything her family has ever wanted for her. She thought he was too, until recently. Now she has one year to fall back in love with Trip. Simons Smythe has lived in Charleston, South Carolina for her entire life. She plans on staying there. Until her fiance Trip tells her he’s accepted a job with a law firm in Columbia and that’s where they’ll live. You can already see where this is going. Simons enjoys living alone in her apartment. She also likes her job as a news producer doing the local news on tv. She has no plans to move.

The Smythe family is very old Charleston money. They’re part of the city that has quietly ruled the roost of society seemingly forever. Certain things are expected of them and one is conformity. And this is where Simons fails miserably. She’s a strong and opinionated young woman who does not want to be held down. Women have a place and need to heed it. Her mother is all about this. Her sisters have accepted it. But Simons is yanking at the reins and straining to break away. The good old boys are not going to tame her. Where did she get this strong will you might ask? Her grandmother Laudie was a very strong woman. She’s managed to keep a very precious secret all her life and most of her family have no idea. She seems to be so meek and beholding to her husband of many years. But what really happened all those years ago before her marriage?

You’re going to be wowed by the attention to detail and the flora and fauna in this Lowcountry tale. I could almost smell the tangy aroma of the blue crabs as they were steaming their lives away in the crab pot. I grew up in Maryland and know the enjoyment of freshly cooked blue crabs. I loved the gardens in the city and the flowers. I especially loved Laudie’s tropical garden filled with all the Southern blooms and greenery that burst into bloom during their season. Zinnias are Laudie’s favorites and so Simons strives to keep them healthy and colorful.

There are several scenes throughout this novel that made me take pause. One such scene is where Simon’s sister Weezy is giving birth to her second child in a very special birthing center that is not in a hospital. Simon’s is attending. It took my breath away and reminded me of how very special giving birth truly is.

You’ll experience the excitement and beauty of a debutante ball, many society events, trips across the marsh to the Edisto River, and reverent visits to gorgeous gardens.

IN POLITE COMPANY is a vast story of family, strong women, what makes a real friendship, and breaking out to do the brave thing even if it’s not popular.

Gervais Hagerty

Gervais Hagerty lives in Charleston, South Caroline, with her husband and two children. She earned her MBA from The Citadel. She’s worked in tv production and she’s reported the news. She knows of what she writes.

MARY ALICE MONROE says: “The Southern charm, cobbled streets, and pedigreed society of Charleston are served up on a silver platter in this stunning debut.”

My finished trade paper copy of IN POLITE COMPANY was sent to me from the generous publishing people at William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins. This per request from Kathie Bennett at Magic Time Literary Agency. I send my humble thanks for providing this amazing debut novel by Gervais Hagerty who is definitely a novelist to watch!

Maurice Steps Into September, Carefully

It’s definitely September. How do I know this? Hurricanes are rolling off the coast of Africa like water off the back of a duck. Have to keep my eyes open wide in anticipation. We will get through this. The coverage of Ida is showing us just how awful these super storms have become. And they do not just affect Florida or coastal areas any more. The scenes in the north are shocking. Having said this, it’s a great time to escape from all the bad news with great books.

My friend, Kathie Bennett, from Magic Time Literary Agency recently sent me two amazing new books by authors she loves. I devoured both books and will be sharing my thoughts in more depth soon with reviews.

In Polite Company

IN POLITE COMPANY by Gervais Hagerty is a wonderful contemporary novel that takes place in Charleston, South Carolina. This new author is Mary Alice Monroe’s protege. I loved the story and I loved the writing. Review to run soon.

You Belong Here Now

YOU BELONG HERE NOW by Dianna Rostad is an amazing new historical novel that takes place in Montana in the time of the Orphan Trains. The chracters are unforgettable and the writing is so compelling and moving. Review to run soon.There are so very many great books coming out in the next few months. I wish I could clone myself in order to read more. It is almost overwhelming. The exciting part is that I am wild to visit your clubs and talk about them all. Well, most of them. Several BIG authors have BIG books coming. There will be some pretty fierce competition for the big literary prizes this year.

Everyone is going to be wild to read CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr. It’s a tome coming in at over 600 pages. And it’s a challenging read. Several time periods. Very complicated characters. But a wonderful message and must about reading and books.

HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead is another contender for big awards.

Colson Whitehead already has two Pulitzers to his credit. Will he add yet another with this new novel?

Lauren Groff is no slouch in the writing department either. Her upcoming novel will also be a tough contender. It’s a tough one for sure, but the writing is superb.

I’ve been able to spend some valuable time with my kitties lately. Wyatt is doing great and the girls are doing what they do best by lying around and napping and purring a lot.

Wyatt with flowers from garden.

I’m hard at work on my Fall event list. It will be November before I know it. I am keeping fingers crossed that all my in person events will be held in -person. I can’t wait to see all you Maurice followers.

Stay tuned for more reviews of great books!

A Woman Of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe

A Woman Of Intelligence

Karin Tanabe hopped onto my reading radar a couple of years ago when she published A HUNDRED SUNS. Her voice is strong and insightful and sophisticated. I loved the novel. Now she’s back with another great historical novel, one that takes place during the fifties, just after WW11. And America is dealing with Communism and The Cold War.

Katharina West is a young woman who has the whole world in her hands. She’s a graduate of Columbia University in NYC and is working at the United Nations as an interpreter. She is fluent in four languages, and one is Russian. She works hard and she plays just as hard. She and her friends are living life like young, single women did back in the day. Then she falls in love and she marries Tom Edgeworth. Tom’s a very important pediatric surgeon at a prestigious hospital and he’s on the fast track forward and up. He’s from an extremely wealthy family and so Katharina’s ( now goes by Rina) life has completely changed. They live in a spacious apartment on Fifth Avenue and she wears designer duds. But there is no joy in her life these day.

Rina’s life should be perfect now that she’s got a husband and two very young sons. Do children change your life? Oh, yes, and how. From being involved in a very important career and partying every night, now Rina finds her days filled with poopie diapers and screaming, clinging boys. She loves them. Yes, she does. But something is missing. Her husband is so busy at the hospital that he rarely returns home from work until ten or even midnight. Tom has made it clear that he expects his boys to be cared for by only their mother. This was the time in America when women were supposed to stay home and take care of kids. And Tom being a doctor, was more adamant than most that his sons need their mother at their beck and call 24/7. Can you even imagine that happening nowadays? And what of the sanity of said mother….. And what if she starts drinking too much to escape?

As Rina begins to feel less and less appreciated and more and more exhausted and ruined, we see that something has to give. So when Rina is approached by Lee Coldwell from the FBI, well, it’s eye-opening. And what does Coldwell want with Rina? He’s asking her to help the FBI and her country. She is the only one who can get close to a man named Jacob Gornev. Why? Because while in college they were lovers. She is told Jacob is deeply involved in Communism and is indeed a card carrying Communist. He is working with Russia and the FBI is onto him. They need her help. OMG!

At a time when Rina is at her most vulnerable, here comes a proposition that makes her feel not only valued but intelligent, once again. She’s in.

How is Rina possibly going to do this secret spy stuff without her husband suspecting? What about the boys?

Tanabe manages to bring this story to the page in such a way that it is believable. And just when I really wondered how she would do it. The dialogue is witty and even downright humorous at times. Some of the scenes are enough to make the story even more up front and personal.

This is not just a story about Communism. It’s a big story about motherhood; what it is and what it isn’t. It addresses women who chose to not have children, and it also reminds us that being a mother is not always the do all and end all of a woman’s life. In fact, I would imagine most women reading this story will relate to some of the scenes where Rina is about to tear her hair out. One such scene comes to mind where her toddler pees in the heating vent in their apartment. I have three grown children of my own. They are five years apart, thank God. Rina’s boys are very close in age. The oldest was only five months old when she found herself pregnant with the next one. So there is that.

Rina spends most nights folded onto the window seat in her apartment watching the street and the people who are living their lives while she feels like a bird in a gilded cage.

There’s much more to this novel. There are characters like her mother-in-law and another FBI agent named Turner Wells, that more than make this book vibrate with their presence. It’s a knock-out book.

I borrowed my copy from our Cape Coral library. Love the library. St. Martin’s Press is the publisher. I loved the book!

Karin Tanabe

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

The Riviera House

A gorgeous cover. I could sit and look at it all day. Your first thought might be that this is yet another WW11 novel. Well, you would be correct. However, once again, I find yet another look at this powerful time period. Natasha Lester brings brilliantly to life a look behind a part of this war that is not as well known. What about all the art and national treasures that were hidden or stolen by the Nazi’s? We’re really just starting to hear more about this important part of history.

When this novel begins the year is 1939 and we find Éliane hurrying off to work at the Louvre where she catalogs precious works of art. That is when she’s not waitressing at her parents very unsuccessful brasserie. Or caring for her many sisters.

The Nazis’s believe Éliane does not understand German. This enables her to lean in and hear things she wouldn’t normally. She is working in the Louvre museum with a woman named Rose who is an expert on art. They are listing all the important works for the Germans who are stealing them for their own personal gain. This novel follows very closely the very real theft of French art during the war. Hermann Goring had an actual catalog of the art he stole. And Rose is based on the real Rose Valland. This was an extremely dangerous mission and these women risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones each and every day. But, Éliane does indeed understand German and this changes the dynamic drastically.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

And how does this Riviera House fit into the story, you might ask? This magnificent house, really a palace, is a big part of this vast story. The house in the novel is based on a real house set in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, south of France. The real house is the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. It exists above. Exquisite.

Natasha Lester drove all over the South of France in search of the perfect locale and house for this novel. It was definitely worth it.

This novel takes place in two time periods: WW11 and present day. Remy is the beautiful and tragic young woman we find in the present day. She has just lost her husband and young daughter when we meet her. She’s staying at this amazing palatial home on the French Riviera. We quickly discover she’s inherited this house. It came along with her when she was adopted. And what a story and a half that is.

Lots of mystery here. My mind was on fire as the book picked up speed in the middle. I can still feel my heart pounding as I read the last hundred or so pages.

This is a historical novel of epic proportions. It is also a very powerful and heartfelt romance. During the war people were not always who you thought they were. Nearly everyone was harboring a secret. Often times more than one.

This novel has much more than people as characters. The Louvre and museum are characters. The amazing and gorgeous house on the Riviera is a character. Of course, as is always the case, the war itself is the most captivating character of all.

Be sure to read all the wonderful additional information at the end of this novel. Lester has also, very thoughtfully, included a reading group guide that has much food for thought. And you will probably want to learn more about Rose Valland who played a very important part in rescuing so much art and treasure during the War.

Rose Valland

I find myself thinking more and more about this book everyday. It has so very much to offer and in so many ways.

Natasha Lester is the New York Times bestselling author of THE PARIS SECRET and THE PARIS SEAMSTRESS. She lives in Perth, Australia.

Natasha Lester

My copy for review arrived from the very generous publishing people at Hachette Book Group and Forever, in exchange for an honest review. It was simply wonderful! Pub day for THE RIVIERA HOUSE will be August 31, next week on Tuesday. Make sure you add this one to your must-read pile right now.

From The Mountains To The Beach

A couple of weeks ago I was back in the lush mountains of North Carolina, but just for a weekend. Then my daughter and I were on a road trip to Isle of Palm to stay at her beach house for the week to celebrate her birthday. The rest of the family joined us midweek as did my husband. The weather proved to be a bit challenging with summer storms drenching the coast most days. But we managed to still have a pretty amazing time despite the weather. And the bonding time with the grandkids was just super. We spent a lot of time watching the Olympics with them and that was amazing.

Mary Alice Monroe and I have been trying to find a way to get together in person for ten years. Yes, that’s a long time. Well, we finally did it! We met for lunch on Isle of Palm and then finished our conversation back at her house where I met her wonderful dogs.

Me with Mary Alice Monroe along with her dogs.

You can only see the two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but there is another much larger dog by our feet: her mountain dog who is an absolute peach and thinks she’s small. Much smiling and lots of great conversation about books and publishing. We’re holding copies of her newest books just out this summer. I love getting some behind the scenes info about authors and their books. So you can imagine how excited I am to hear more about the middle grade book and the series it’s becoming. I can not wait for the next installment. I also want to say I think the audio for THE ISLANDERS would be absolutely perfect for a road trip. This book is great for all ages and has not one lick of anything that you would not want kids to hear. Check it out. I had a really nice surprise when Angela May, who co-authored THE ISLANDERS with Mary Alice, came by. What a pleasure to finally meet her in person.

Had a great birthday dinner in Mount Pleasant at a restaurant called TopSail. Everyone loved their meals and Alicia and I especially loved our jalapeno margaritas. She made the comment that that drink alone would be a great reason to return. But the food was all amazing as well.

One night we managed a lowcountry shrimp boil complete with crab legs and corn and potatoes and sausage and shrimp…. It was a grab and snatch kind of meal that we loved.

Atlantic Conch Shell

The beaches along the Atlantic Ocean are as different from our Gulf beaches as night is to day. We were able to enjoy a few sunsets with super colors. I wish I had one to share with you but I do not. Lots of lavenders and pinks. I do have a picture of the Atlantic conch shell my grandkids plucked from underfoot among the waves. Lovely and different.

It’s always nice to get away but, I’m always chomping at the bit to get home where my heart lies. The flight back to Punta Gorda was easy peasy at one hour total. We even managed to get home a half hour early.

Now that I’m home I’m trying to get my book ducks in a row. There are a lot of distractions, though. Visits from Seattle relatives. The virus rearing its ugly head once more. Scary stuff. And Wyatt is sick again which always makes my heart hurt. Back on meds for UTI. He is such a sweet kitty…..

There are so many BIG books coming out that I find I need to blog about them soon. I also should note to those of you who may not know that Elaine Newton has posted her lecture notice on Critic’s Choice website and you will want to check it out.

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What am I reading right now?

The Postmistress of Paris

THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton is the book I’m savoring right this minute. It’s everything you have come to expect from Clayton who is an amazing and very sophisticated novelist: one of my favorites. It will be available for purchase on its pub date, November 21. My review will post close to that date.

You will see on Critic’s Choice website that Elaine will be lecturing about CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr. It’s bound to be one of the HOTTEST books of the season and is going to be a big contender for Pulitzer, for sure.

I have recently read OH, WILLIAM by Elizabeth Strout. It will be out October 19th. Those of you who loved Lucy Barton will be certain to enjoy more…..

-Just a reminder: I’m checking my calendar and confirming in- person events for the upcoming season. I have some spots open for groups. And, don’t forget, I’m also adding smaller groups to the mix this coming season…. Now’s your chance to get on the books.

Keeping both eyes and ears on the weather. We’ve been very lucky so far and dodged a couple storms. But hurricane season still has three and a half months to go. Stay safe. And keep on reading! Cheers.

Count The Ways by Joyce Maynard

Count The Ways

Joyce Maynard has totally outdone herself with this new novel of family, tragedy, sorrow, great love and forgiveness. She has absolutely knocked it right out of the book park!!!

COUNT THE WAYS just kept getting better and better. It totally became a page-turner and kept me reading way longer than I had intended.

This is the story of Eleanor and Cam and their three children. But it’s also the story of their friends and relatives. There is great love and deep sorrow. My heart could not keep up. It’s quite simply a stunning novel. Even before Eleanor met Cam and married him, we discover how talented and self sufficient she was. Growing up it was one thing after the other and then even more. When she met and married Cam she had already bought her own farm in New Hampshire. Their married life was supposed to be idyll. For years it was. Three children born. Life was good. Until the tragedy that spoils the love Eleanor feels for Cam. She blames him for it. And she can not forgive him.

There are lies, affairs, downright meanness, and even a giant ash tree on this farm that is an actual character itself. They have even named it Old Ashworthy. It’s more than two hundred years old and has watched over this family and the ones before it. The cover features this massive tree and shows its importance in more ways than mere words can express.

I went into this wonderful novel not knowing anything about it. And that’s how you should approach it, too. I’ve seen reviews all over that include spoilers from the get-go. Do not go there. Just read it. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time, maybe ever.

I read this amazing novel digitally from William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins publishing, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it’s simply wonderful. Do not miss it. The characters are flawed; every one of them. Just like we humans truly are. They will live in my mind for a long time. I loved it!!

Joyce Maynard

The Bitter Taste of Murder by Camilla Trinchieri

What a beautiful and atmospheric cover. This cover screams Tuscany like nobody’s business! Instantly yanks you into the story. I was totally transported to the wine country, into the hills, into this second mystery in the Tuscan Mystery series by best selling author, Camilla Trinchieri.

It’s been one year since former homicide detective Nico Doyle arrived in Gravigna, Italy from the Bronx in New York City. When his beloved wife died he decided to move to Italy and into the small city in the Tuscan wine country where his wife’s family lives and runs a successful restaurant. He got himself roped into helping solve a murder almost as soon as he arrived. Now, he’s once again becoming embroiled in murder.

Who is Michele Montelli? He’s a very obnoxious wine critic who is rubbing almost everyone in Gravigna the wrong way. He thinks nothing of leaving his flashy Jaguar in the middle of the piazza. And insults everyone he comes across. So when his car dives off a cliff and he’s found dead inside, no one is shocked to discover foul play is involved. He’s been poisoned. Could have been any number of people since so many detested him…..

Trinchieri brings back Doyle’s charming dog One Wag. And all the cast from the first book in the series return.

The food, oh yes, the food. Nico loves to cook for his friends. The food literally leaps off the page and you can almost smell it from the pages. Coffee and pastry. Authentic Italian dishes of this specific region of Tuscany are to be savored. They almost take over the story at times. Okay by me.

I love this series and look forward to many more installments in the future. I did not want the story to end. Just wanted to stay in this world longer. I will say the ending was a surprise. This is always good with a mystery.

My beautiful finished copy arrived from Soho Press in exchange for an honest review. It’s just super. A way to escape to Tuscany without leaving your chair. And we can all use that right now.

Camilla Trinchieri

A Scone of Contention by Lucy Burdette

A Scone of Contention

A SCONE OF CONTENTION is number eleven in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series.

Hayley Snow is the food critic for the local Key Zest magazine in Key West, Florida. She and her brand spanking new husband, Nathan Bransford, have decided to take their very overdue honeymoon in Scotland. They’re thinking they will sight-see and discover the best scones on this planet. Then Miss Gloria ,who is their octogenarian friend , and Nathan’s mother, Helen, decide to join them. How can they say no? Once they arrive in Scotland they are joined by Nathan’s sister and husband. And on and on and on. What a cast of characters.

Burdette has nailed the sense of place. She has also had my mouth watering over the amazing dishes and scones along the way. Yes, she has delighted us with many recipes at the end of the book. And she is also responsible for any weight-gain I may have….

Of course there is always murder in a murder mystery. And this is no exception. Did someone get poisoned at a very fine dinner party? And then there’s the guy who fell to his death from a local tourist ride on the Falkirk Wheel. Oh my. Was he pushed? And why? Hayley can’t help getting involved. She has a knack for sleuthing things out.

People are denying knowing the dead man. But something stinks in Scotland. Haylee smells a rat. She is on it.

I found this mystery to be just what I needed right now. I got to travel to a lovely place I have never been without having to leave my house. And I truly feel as if I have been there. And then I got to cook some of the food. And eat it.

Lucy Burdette, thanks so much for bringing Hayley Snow and the gang back to the page in a new way. I loved the book. I’m very excited that you have signed on for yet more of the series. Looking forward to it already.

Thanks to the nice publishing people at Crooked Lane for sending me this great review copy complete with cat on cover.

Lucy Burdette

We Are The Brennans by Tracey Lange

We Are The Brennan’s

Look at those four leaf clovers on the cover. The luck of the Irish. And here we find a brand new novel filled with the secrets of one Irish Catholic family in New York State.

When Sunday Brennan wakes up in the hospital in Los Angeles, she discovers that she is actually lucky to be alive. You see, she was driving drunk and had a horrific accident. She’s a mess in more ways than one. She calls her older brother, Danny, who lives in New York and he agrees to come and bring her back home to the small town she left in New York. This is no small feat as she left on bad terms five years ago. Left her family and her fiance and went as far away as she could to start a new life. Only one family member knew why and they aren’t talking.

Oh the secrets we keep. The damage they do. Shame is a terrible thing. And there is enough shame in this novel to go around.

Sunday’s brothers all have issues. And her older brother is in way over his head and it has to do with money, or the lack thereof, I should say. His wife has moved out and taken their daughter. She’s fed up. One brother is mentally challenged and hasn’t been himself since she ran away five years ago. And her dad lives in his own world. Then there is Kale, the old fiance. He may be married, but he’s never forgotten the love of his life. You can see where this is going to be a problem.

When a bad man from Sunday’s past shows up shit starts to hit the fan. Secrets start popping up on every corner. And everything becomes clearer now.

Lange writes much like Anita Shreve and Mary Beth Keane. This is her debut novel and it’s going to go through the book roof. I fell for this big hearted family and loved the sense of place in the small town.

Tracey Lange

I will be sitting on the edge of my chair waiting for Lange’s next novel. WE ARE THE BRENNAN’S will be published on August 3 by Celadon Books. Celadon Books is a division of Macmillan Publishing. They publish a small amount of very selective books each year. So far, every single book from Celadan has been a huge winner for me!I thank them from the bottom of my heart for sending my review copy. I loved it.

Stepping Up

It’s almost August. July has flown by. I’m beginning to get my book ducks in a row, or I should say in rows, preparing already for fall book talks. Yes, I know, how can this be? It happens every summer. I think I have so much time and even sneak in some light reading..Well, I’m beginning to read some of the BIG books that are coming this fall. Pulitzer-winning authors are coming out with big, important books….soon.

Oh William!
Oh William!
Harlem Shuffle
Harlem Shuffle
The Magician

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Matrix

Here are five novels coming this fall that are by HUGE authors and will cause all kinds of book chatter. Colson Whitehead has already won two Pulitzers. Anthony Doerr has one. Elizabeth Strout has become a household name and has won a Pulitzer as well. And then throw Lauren Groff and Colm Toibin into the mix and you already have a pretty darn impressive line up. I will be reading them all and reporting back to you. There are also two entire shelves of books coming this fall and even into the New Year that I have to look at. Many look really great. And then add to this the digital review copies that come my way….. Pretty daunting. I love every minute of it.

Meanwhile, I’m working on my “about” page so it will reflect more of who I am today and going forward. There’s a lot going on here on the Maurice On Books turf. It’s all good. Meeting authors. Working with literary agencies, and planning this upcoming book season. It’s going to be the biggest and best one yet.

I’ll be traveling back to the mountains of Asheville this weekend. Then spending the week on Isle of Palm in South Carolina, to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. I am excited. Hoping for good weather. Pushing all thoughts of storms out to sea where they should stay.

When I return I will be visiting libraries and bookstores in our area. Looking for new adventures.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer no matter where you are right now. It’s just so wonderful to be able to travel and see family again.

Cheers until I get back!

I wish you all a great book.