Review of Empress of the Seven Hills, by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn knows how to serve up a full-flavored Rome with plenty of spice. Empress of the Seven Hills is driven along by fully-developed characters and skillful dialogue. Her main character, Sabina, from a powerful patrician family, sets out to see the world—and the world of the Roman Empire is a big place!

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Review of Elegy for Eddie, by Jacqueline Winspear

If you are a fan of Jacqueline Winspear’s mysteries set in London between the World Wars, when you read her last book (A Lesson in Secrets) you might have thought Maisie Dobb’s life was getting comfortably settled. Without any soap opera antics, just Winspear’s impeccable, nuanced character development, Maisie is at sea again in a variety of ways, and she’s solving a mystery of a completely new sort. Eddie is a “slow” man who has a magic way with horses. When he dies in an “accident,” the cockney costermongers of Maisie’s childhood feel justice hasn’t been done and they come to see her. You wouldn’t think this would involve issues of national safety, now would you?

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Review of Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James

Instead of contemporary England, P.D. James has set her latest book at Pemberley estate in 1803, six years after Miss Elizabeth Bennet has married Darcy. That is, P.D. James takes the prose of Jane Austen as her setting. James plus Austen is a fascinating combination, although there are some difficulties in the marriage.

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George R.R. Martin interviews Bernard Cornwell: a link to great ideas about historical fiction

If you’ve ever thought about the relationship between historical fantasy and historical fiction (think Tolkien vs. Forester), how HF writers cope with the strictures of following known history, why Cornwell will never write “alternate” history, how to write a great battle scene, or love either of these writers, you’ll enjoy this interview between Bernard Cornwell and George R.R. Martin.

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Review of The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

The Scottish Prisoner is Gabaldon’s latest book in her extended family of books set in 18th century England/Scotland/Ireland. This offshoot from her main Outlander series focuses on Lord John Grey as his life once again tangles with Jamie Fraser, the ex-Jacobite rebel who is now a prisoner at Helwater farm. Great character development and a twisting plot cleverly incorporating snippets of Celtic language and folklore make this a pleasure to read.

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Review of You Might As Well Die by J.J. Murphy

J.J. Murphy’s second mystery, You Might As Well Die, starring Dorothy Parker, is a zany, screwball comedy delight set in New York in the 1920’s. People die (well, that’s debatable but I’ll say no more), but you will never feel sad. The witty jokes and cynical appraisals of life’s foibles fly as fast as you can read.

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Review of City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley

Award-winning Kelli Stanley has come out with the second in her Miranda Corbie mystery series set in San Francisco in the 30’s and 40’s—this time someone’s killing Jewish women, women whose place on the edges of society makes them particularly vulnerable. No one’s going to step up and bring them justice—or so the powers that be hope. They didn’t count on Miranda.

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Review of Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Next to Love is big in scope while everyday in focus and beautiful in its entirety. It spans the American years from December 1941 to August 1965 (from WWII to the Gulf of Tonkin). And yet, rather than the epic and larger-than-life action that war novels often involve, Next to Love portrays the world of the women left behind, then returned to (or not), and the lives they and their children build under the influence of the ever-present, but rarely-discussed war.

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