Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

For American actress Rebecca Bradley, it is the role of a lifetime: She will star as a 1920s debutante in a film shot entirely on location at a magnificent English country house. The remote setting and high walls of Astbury Hall will provide a much needed refuge from the media glare that surrounds her every move. When Lord Anthony Astbury sees Rebecca in costume, he is stunned by her uncanny resemblance to his grandmother Violet. And when Rebecca discovers a manuscript written by a young Indian woman who visited Astbury Hall in the 1920s, she learns of a love affair so passionate and forbidden it nearly destroyed the Astbury family; a secret Lord Astbury himself does not know. As Rebecca is increasingly cut off from the modern world, Violet’s presence starts to make itself felt in unsettling ways. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life and inspire a romance for the ages. As Rebecca tries to understand her connection to a tragic love affair sixty years in the past, the story of Donald, Anahita, and Violet unspools to its own shocking conclusion. For Rebecca to find a way back to the life she was meant to lead, she will have to put to rest the ghosts of Lord Anthony’s ancestors or risk repeating their downfall herself. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Yummy, yummy, yummy. Like a chocolate dipped macaroon – but better – The Midnight Rose is rich, deep, dark and delicious. I loved the intertwining of the stories – actress Rebecca’s doomed relationship, Lord Anthony’s secrets, Ari’s life-changing decisions and of course, the long ago romance between Anahita and Lord Astbury. It’s like “Downton Abbey” meets “The Far Pavilions” meets “Beverly Hills 90210”. Awesome.

Sissy: Great metaphor, Bubby. I completely agree. This book starts at the very end of the story and then jumps back and forth between stories and ages. I generally get uneasy when a book starts at the end, because then I think “Who cares? Why should I read this if I already know the end?” The answer to this question, however, is that by reading the book, you learn the whole story and all of the delicious twists and secrets therein. Then the ending you thought you knew looks completely different in context of all you’ve learned.

Bubby: Let’s just talk about the end, shall we? Never in a bazillion years would I have predicted the REAL ending of The Midnight Rose. Let’s just say that there are multiple surprises awaiting you! I so wish I could say more, but I wouldn’t want to be a spoilsport!

Sissy: There’s also a sickly entertaining sociopathic interlude for one of the supporting characters.

Bubby: Yes, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!

Sissy: Actually, it reminded me of early Mary Higgins Clark. But that’s just one small secondary storyline. So disturbing that I was disturbed that I liked it! The main character Anahita’s life is so exotic, exciting, rich and lush and Lucinda Riley writes it like full color cinematography. It reminded me of the when I was 11 except for not so exciting or rich.

Bubby: What was so exotic about when you were 11? Isn’t that the year you moved to Idaho?

Sissy: It was one of the years we lived in Fiji (those years when Bubby spent the entire time naked) where more than half the population was of Indian descent. So the foods, the clothes, the smells, the memories were evoked by The Midnight Rose. The only things missing were the maharajahs, wealth, castles, and servants.  Also I did not have a nose jewel, although the neighbor asked my mom if I could and she said no.  Where was the fun in that?  This book is a fabulous saga rich in contrasts–wealth and poverty, love and heartbreak, India and England, fame and ignominy, etc.  It is something I imagine as a movie, with one of those breathtaking Bollywood starlets in the main role and Kate Beckinsale as the beleaguered actress Rebecca.

Bubby: Oh, it would make a fabulous movie! And just for the record, I was NOT naked. I usually had at least a diaper on. Usually. I loved The Midnight Rose so much that I went out and bought myself another Lucinda Riley book – for full price! 4 bubbles from me!

Sissy: Maharani Sissy gives it 4.5 bubbles. And an elephant.

Click HERE to buy The Midnight Rose at Amazon.com

We received a copy of The Midnight Rose from the publisher in return for a fair review. No other considerations, monetary or otherwise, were given.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


A charming romantic comedy about a hard-up single mum inheriting a stately home – and a host of headaches – The perfect novel for curling up with during the long winter nights.Sophy Winter is not your typical Lady of the Manor….When she unexpectedly inherits Winter’s End – a crumbling mansion in the beautiful Lancashire countryside – it seems like all Sophy’s prayers have been answered. She eagerly swaps life as an impoverished housekeeper in favour of her own team of staff.But Sophy quickly realises the challenge on her hands – the house is decrepit and its eccentric inhabitants are a nightmare. And once it is discovered that Winter’s End played host to a young Shakespeare, the entire village of Sticklepond becomes curious about Sophy’s plans, especially charming Jack Lewis. But is he really smitten by Sophy…or her newly-acquired cash?Meanwhile, Sophy’s gorgeous head gardener Seth is the strong and silent type. But does his passion bloom for anything beyond the horticultural?As Sophy gets to grips with squabbling relatives, collapsing buildings and the ghostly presence of one of her ancestors, she wonders if Winter’s End is not so much a gift from the gods as a mixed blessing…A charming romantic comedy! (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: I dated a guy like Jack Lewis once. Briefly. Very briefly. Reminds me of a quote from the play I saw the other night – Prince Charming talking to his princess ( in Into The Woods): “I was raised to be charming. Not sincere.” Just a slick-talking guy with shiny teeth and good hair. No substance.

Sissy: But almost leaves a slime trail behind him. Every time Sophy talked about being attracted to Jack, I wanted to scream, “No! NO! Step away from the slimeball!” Too many times in the past was I initially deceived by a pretty face.

Bubby: Mr. Sissy has a very pretty face.

Sissy: Yes, however there is gold on the inside of Mr. Sissy. Now this is not your usual fairytale where poor girl inherits a fortune and a mansion. Sophy’s inheritance comes with a lot of trouble attached and I admired how hard of a worker and how undeterred by problems she was.

Bubby: She got the mansion. Too bad there was no fortune to go along with. At least not in cash. There is, however, a legend that somewhere lost in the walls of Winter’s End is a treasure of immense proportions. And there is. But I can’t talk about it. Sissy would smack me for being a spoiler!

Sissy: I would never smack you! (Unless it was vitally necessary to your maturation process . . .) At the beginning of every chapter there is a quote from the journal of Alys Bezzard, Sophy’s ancestress. So as Sophy’s story unfolds, the last bit of Alys’ life is revealed as well, and it is full of intrigue and sadness.  A Winter’s Tale is a contemporary fiction/mystery/romance, but it is also salted with scrumptious bits of historic witchiness and magic.

Bubby: I am pretty sure I have achieved all the maturation that I’m going to get, Sissy. No smacking required. There’s nothing I like better than a little magic sprinkled in with a touch of romance. Makes me happy. I hadn’t read Trisha Ashley before and I was so happy to have discovered her. Sometimes when I find an author that is new to me I go on a bit of a buying binge and purchase two or three (or more) of their novels and read them all at once. I did this with Trisha Ashley and loved them all.

Sissy: So annoying when Bubby buys e-books that can’t be lent to me, so I always encourage her to buy the more expensive hard bound books. A win-win for me and the author! Now back to A Winter’s Tale. Sophy’s Great-Aunt Hebe is a curmudgeon, possibly because of her name. I would be a curmudgeon if my name was Hebe. My favorite quote of the book comes from her when she says,”What are you bellowing for? You sound like a cross between the Last Trump and a cow in labor!” I can’t wait to use that on one of my loved ones.

Bubby: Sounds like something you’d say. If you are looking for a light and fluffly dose of British-ness, A Winter’s Tale (or for that matter, any other book by Trisha Ashley) is the book for you. 4 bubbles.

Sissy: Seth, the head Gardener, is  hot and broody. Therefore, you should read this book. 4 bubbles from me as well.

Click HERE to buy A Winter’s Tale by Trisha Ashley from Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


After losing her husband, five children, housekeeper, and beautiful home in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Rachel Blackwood rebuilt her home, and later died there, having been driven mad with grief.
In present-day Texas, Claire, the grand niece of Rachel’s caretaker, has inherited the house and wants to turn it into a bed and breakfast. But she is concerned that it’s haunted, so she calls in her friend Ruby—who has the gift of extrasensory perception—to check it out. While Ruby is ghost-hunting, China Bayles walks into a storm of trouble in nearby Pecan Springs. A half hour before she is to make her nightly deposit, the Pecan Springs bank is robbed and a teller is shot and killed. Before she can discover the identity of the killers, China follows Ruby to the Blackwood house to discuss urgent business. As she is drawn into the mystery of the haunted house, China opens the door on some very real danger… (synopsis from Publishers Weekly)
Sissy: I’ve read books from this series before from time to time and I picked this new one up at the library and was really surprised how quickly I got back into the series and how engrossing the story was.
Bubby: I am pretty sure I read the first or second in the series ages ago but I can tell you that you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series or characters to enjoy Widow’s Tears. It works quite well as a stand-alone novel.
Sissy: Susan Wittig Albert is a great storyteller. She took a headline from a 100-year-old catastrophe and wove it into a modern-day tale. The main character of the series, China Bayles, appears in this book but it is really a story about her best friend and business partner Ruby.
Bubby: I had never heard of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 until this book. Did you know that it is the deadliest natural disaster in US History? Check out http://www.gthcenter.org/exhibits/storms/index.html for photos of the aftermath. I enjoyed the fiction part of the story but I found myself fascinated by the Galveston Storm – so much so that Sissy and I have just spent the last 30 minutes looking at the pictures.
Sissy: I love it when a writer takes an actual historic event and weaves in some fictional characters to make a new story. This story also has a modern-day murder mystery as well as a downright spooky ghost story. I found myself reading the scary parts while I was alone in my house and I had to keep telling myself that I was a grown woman and it was just a story and I didn’t need to keep checking the hallways!
Bubby: I know what you mean! I had to huddle under a blanket because I was cold (even though it’s super hot outside) and was listening for thunder and watching for lightning out my window (even though it was a clear, blue sky day) – waiting for the floodwaters to rise, even though I live on a hill in the mountains!
Sissy: Ruby is the perfect person for this ghostly adventure because she is what you might call “a sensitive”. She has consistently tried to deny this gift but finally in this book (which is at least #21 in the series), she makes use of her full psychic powers. Ruby is also big-busted and attracts men like flies to honey, so in this sense she reminds me of myself.
Bubby: Oh, yes, you buxom sweet thing, you. I think that perhaps you are a little psychic too.
Sissy: Definitely psychic.
Bubby: Or is it psycho? I can never keep those two straight . . .
Sissy: Courtesy laugh in your general direction.
Bubby: At any rate, Widow’s Tears was a fantastic read that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I am feeling the need now to go back and check out the rest of the series. My only issue with these books is the fact that they can definitely be classified as “cozy mysteries” and that’s ok as long as Sissy picks them. But when I pick them, then they are somehow unsuitable. Not that I have an issue with this or anything.
Sissy: These are definitely NOT cozy mysteries. They are too sinister and the writing has too much depth and mastery foor that classification. I can intuitively tell you what is and what is not a cozy mystery.
Bubby: Hmmm. Let’s see – small group of characters living in a small town where large amounts of people are murdered randomly and bodies (as well as perpetrators) are found by one of said small group of characters. Repeatedly. Pretty sure that was Sissy’s main issue with cozies. Therefore, these qualify.
Sissy: Sometimes you just have to go with the more mature and wise viewpoint that comes with living one’s life on the psychic wavelength. Don’t fight it, Bubby. Just go with my intuition. Plus, none of our characters found the dead body or had anything to do with it in this story. Plus, there’s the Galveston hurricane angle.
Bubby: I was speaking of the series as a whole, not just this book. But whatever. I have learned that sometimes it’s just easier to let Sissy win – otherwise she pouts and moans and I have to placate her with chocolate. Read the book. It’s a good one. I give it 4 bubbles.
Sissy: I give it 4.25 bubbles for excellent writing and ghostiness and historiosity.
Click HERE to buy Widow’s Tears at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
 
 

Sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has left a family party to escape to her childhood tree house t0 dream about the boy she likes and the future they might have together.  The tree house overlooks the long country lane that leads to the family farm, which gives Laurel an excellent view when a stranger comes to visit.  Suddenly, Laurel witnesses a shocking crime that will change how she feels about her family, especially her mother Dorothy, forever. Fast-forward fifty years into the future and now Laurel is a famous actress.  The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Laurel knows that if she is ever to find answers about what happened so long ago, she must get them now. As we learn the true story, we travel from pre-WWII England, through the war, to present day. It is an intriguing story about love, secrets, and unexpected consequences.

Bubby: I wasn’t initially thrilled with this book. I enjoyed the story but was confused about how it all was going to come together. Then boom! The last 50-100 pages are amazing. Riveting. I want to go back and read The Secret Keeper again now that I know what happens.
Sissy: Well, I don’t want to go read it again until maybe 12 months from now when I will have forgotten everything that I read.
Bubby: It won’t take you 12 months to forget everything. 12 days, maybe.
Sissy: I will ignore Bubby’s snarky comments because I won’t remember them 12 days from now anyway.  Kate Morton writes so beautifully I could weep.  I do not know how old she is but I hope she has 127 more lucid years so she can keep writing lovely books. Some authors have one distinct style.  For example, Terry Pratchett is a magnificent satirist, Mary Higgins Clark is riveting in her suspense and Donna Andrews does light fluffy cozy mystery. But for me Kate Morton does it all with such stylish flowing prose that you feel as if you were living the story.
Bubby: I agree that her writing style is divine. When I am reading one of her books I can immerse myself to the point where I begin to believe I am British. I often wonder if I was British in a former life or was born in the wrong country. I wonder if there are Brits out there who dream of being Americans and go around speaking in American accents and having whatever the American equivalent of tea time is. For some reason I doubt it. Anyway, I have forgotten what my point was (gee, I feel like Sissy!) so on to Sissy.
Sissy: Ethnologically speaking, Bubby, you ARE British! So, Happy Christmas! OK. I was telling my 21-year old daughter about this book, The Secret Keeper, and she immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was in the category of “depressed middle-aged women” books (that’s what she calls some of the books I read). You can see that she takes after her Aunt Bubby – rudeness is hereditary. I could give you an example of one of these books but I don’t want to offend any of the depressed middle-aged authors out there. However, in this case, my daughter couldn’t be more wrong. The Secret Keeper has young love, old love and middle love as well as adventure, mystery and intrigue. And it’s appealing to anyone in our targeted demographic, unless they’re like my niece Olivia, who claims to only read on a 5th grade level (Olivia, you would like this book!).
Bubby: “Middle love”? What in the teacup is middle love?
Sissy: Could be romance for Hobbits? Or maybe in the middle of an epic romance? Or perhaps love for depressed 50-year olds? The possibilities are endless.
Bubby: Oh, I see. It’s just something you made up and you have no idea what it means. I’m good with that. I really love books where the characters are well thought out and described – I felt like if I were to pass one of the characters in the street I would know them, just from reading the book. I enjoyed the relationship between Laurel and her sisters and her brother Gerry. She simply adores Gerry – he is the baby of the family and who doesn’t adore the baby? – and loves her sisters even when they exasperate her. Having recently dealt with caring for an elderly parent, I could really relate to how the siblings banded together to care for their mother Dorothy in her last few days. It is often difficult for an author to transition between time periods, in this case primarily the 1940’s and present day, but Kate Morton does it seamlessly.
Sissy: In case you wondered, Bubby IS the baby of our family. And like Gerry, she was horribly spoiled from Day 1 but turned into a reasonably presentable adult.
Bubby: Thanks for that, Sissy, I think.
Sissy: I also love, love, love Morton’s seamless transitions between time periods. I feel like I got three or four stories for the price of one. I give this book 4 1/2 bubbles. I would have given it 5 (it was that good) but I suffered anxiety in the middle of it from wondering how in the heck everything would turn out alright for my beloved characters and I had to have a cup of tea (which tastes like fish spit unless you put in 3 teaspoons of sugar).
Bubby: Not sure what kind of tea you are drinking, Sissy (perhaps you should try a new brand?One not made from fishy bits?) but I also loved The Secret Keeper. 4 bubbles.
©Bubble Bath Books 2012

Nineteen books comprise this excellent series about Sylvia Compson, her quilting group The Elm Creek Quilters and her home, the historic Elm Creek manor. The series begins with “The Quilter’s Apprentice” where we are introduced to Sylvia and her home. Sylvia is the last living member of the Bergstrom family and has come back to Waterford, Connecticut to clean out the family manor. Sylvia is scarred by the tragedies of the past and wants nothing more than to sell the house and go back to her solitary life. She hires a young newlywed, Sarah McClure, to help with the cleaning. In the process, Sylvia begins to teach Sarah to quilt and Sarah teaches Sylvia how to heal and find new meaning in her life. As the series continues, we meet other members of the Elm Creek Quilters and find out more of the rich history of the Bergstrom family in particular and quilting in general.

Bubby: Technically, The Elm Creek Quilters Series is Sissy’s choice, but since it’s my week and I love the books and I found them first, I am stealing them.

Sissy: You did NOT find them first. I found them when you were still in Junior High.

Bubby: I am very young, it is true, but since it was published in 1999 and I have teenagers born before then, I think you might be a big liar. Regardless of who found them (and now that I think about it I actually think Mom found them first) they are excellent. I haven’t read all 19, but they are on my list.

Sissy: Either I am a dismal, aged crone with cobwebs for brains or the 1999 publishing date is a typo perpetuated by the fiends at Amazon.com

Bubby: I choose option #1 . . .

Sissy: At the dawn of time, when I discovered the first book, I immediately thought “Nah, not reading a quilt book.” I do have warm fuzzies about quilts and spent many happy hours playing with my  Barbies underneath quilts that Mom and Grandma were working on. I did not, however, inherit the quilting gene. Ditto on the sewing. So I thought that a quilt series would be boring. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. A rare occurrence, mind you. It turns out that quilting and quilts are a goldmine of life metaphors. I was so inspired, I almost decided to make a quilt out of the 40+ year old fabric scraps I have in a bin from Mom. After more than ten years, I am still looking at those fabric scraps, but now I appreciate more their history.

Bubby: Excuse me for just a moment while I run to the garage and fetch a shovel with which to shovel myself out of the above load of crap. “A goldmine of life metaphors”? When did you turn into Oprah, Sissy?

Sissy: The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head once again. I am sorry that you can only write drivel, Bubby.

Bubby: *Shoveling frantically* OK. All clear. Yes, Mom and Grandma were quilters. I still have the quilt Grandma gave me for my wedding sitting on the foot of my bed. I, unlike the Queen of Schmaltz Sissy, have actually MADE a quilt. But only one. And it was difficult. And I’m not ever doing it again. But I like to pretend that I am a quilter and these books help me do that. There is a great cast of characters, from curmudgeonly Sylvia, sweet young Summer and her free-spirited mother, to quilt shop owner Bonnie and many others. The books cover all sorts of topics; slavery, teenagers, divorce, Hawaii, love, and cooking but everything is tied together with quilting. (And by the way, only one of us has green eyes. It’s not me.)

Sissy: I prefer to be called Queen of ‘de Nile.

Bubby: Whatever floats your boat. Ha! That was funny! Get it? Boat? Nile? Floating? . . . *crickets*

Sissy: You need to rein it, Bubby. This is a serious blog for serious readers. The Elm Queek Quilter’s Series by Jennifer Chiaverini has introduced to me a whole subculture of which I had no foreknowledge. Did you know that quilts have an absolutely fascinating history? Do you know the importance of quilts in Feminist Issues? Did you realize that there is a whole body of quilt-related collegiate study opportunities? Read the books and you shall know more. I am reminded of Maeve Binchy’s characters which are constantly interwoven throughout her various novels. You find characters in Chiaverini’s books sometimes playing major roles and sometimes making cameo appearances but almost always present.

Bubby: Before I read these, I had no idea that quilts were used to help slaves find their way to stops on the Underground Railway or that I could go to college and major in “Women’s Handicrafts”. I might just do that someday! The plots are varied and interesting, the characters are vibrant and the history is enlightening. I give this series (that I discovered on my own and then introduced to Sissy) 4 bubbles.

Sissy: I have read 16 of the 19 Elm Creek Quilters novels and think Jennifer Chiaverini is an excellent storyteller. I read a review on the latest one (The Giving Quilt) which said that the author is too politically liberal. Therefore, I would not recommend it for gun-hoarding, right-wing conservative militants such as Bubby. I will read it first so as to keep Bubby from making a run on the ammo store. That said, I recommend at least the first 16 with a hearty 4 1/2 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini at Amazon.com

Click HERE to buy The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini at BookDepository.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2012