You’ve got to love small presses!

I have just turned in my review for Paullina Simon’s Bellagrand. Ohhhh….it’s a heart breaker. Similar to The Bronze Horseman. Hold on to your hearts if you decide to read it, and I will post the review here after the May issue of The Historical Novels Review is published. I also reviewed The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott….not impressed.

Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past has been posting galleries of upcoming small press titles, and her latest post of international titles is fascinating. THESE are the kinds of books that readers like me are hankering for-exotic locations (to us Americans, of course) and different themes than the usual fare we see in the States. One book in particular makes me chuckle, as I’m so unused to seeing American settings from an international point of view: The Hedge by Ann McPherson, set in 17th century Hartford, Connecticut. To Canadians, Connecticut must sound exotic, but it’s hard for me to imagine, being a native New Englander, someone conceiving of Connecticut the way I view Bombay… But everyone’s home is exotic to someone somewhere else.

The settings are refreshingly diverse: Western Australia, India, Singapore, North America, Spain, and the Middle East, for example. This is the appeal of Indie historical fiction-both self-published and mainstream small press-a refreshing gust of wind from a different direction. A chance to learn something fresh, educate yourself outside of your comfort zone, and grow into a worldly, sophisticated connoisseur of words. At least that’s the lofty goal. My goal right now is a soft couch, a warm fuzzy blanket, and a cup of tea with my multicultural entertainment…

Enjoy perusing Sarah’s list, and I will be writing up a review for Liza Perat’s haunting second novel, Wolfsangel, as soon as I can finish it. So far, three books for the 2014 Historical Fiction Challenge- that puts me on the road toward being a Victorian-level reader….oh the things we book lovers do for kicks!

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Latest HNS Review: Escape from Paris by Carolyn Hart, and current reads…

I am currently reading Liza Perat’s Wolfsangel, the second in her historical L’Auberge des Anges series. I have just begun, so I cannot comment except to say that Liza is back in formidable style- her writing captivates and her story draws you in…

Escape from Paris

By

Escape from Paris is romantic suspense set in Occupied Paris in 1940, right before Germany declares war on America and the French resistance begins to coalesce. Two American sisters, Eleanor, who is married to a Frenchman, and Linda, risk their lives to save downed British pilots from the Nazis. But with watchful eyes everywhere and the Gestapo on their trail, each airman they save puts them in even greater peril…

This is a publication of the original uncut manuscript from 1982 (the first published version had cut 40,000 words), with a new introduction by this prolific author. Escape from Paris manages to pull in aspects of the German occupation from many angles: the doomed Jews of Paris, the trapped airmen who parachute into France, the fate of American expatriates under the occupation, and the cold-hearted calculatedness of the Gestapo.

The beginning of the novel feels confusing with switching points of view and different storylines, but when the plot finally blends into one cohesive storyline – that of the British pilot Jonathan and the two sisters – the plot rushes ahead, is easy to follow, and left this reader breathless. Don’t expect a neatly wrapped up conclusion from this book, but go along for the ride.

HNS Review of The Last Banquet and upcoming reviews…

The Europa rep at BEA raved about this novel, therefore I simply had to read it…how could I not?  And here are my conclusions:

the-last-banquet-jonathan-grimwood-143x200Jean-Marie d’Aumout’s sharply distinctive and intelligent voice narrates his life story spanning 18th-century France, from desperate poverty to the viciousness of boarding school for destitute aristocratic boys, to military academy, marriage that brings fortune and titles, and beyond, to face his own demise. “Our lives are built almost entirely on a foundation of events colliding,” D’Aumout philosophically states, as he ponders the unlikely chain of events that comprise his life.

D’Aumont rises to fame guided by his exceptional sense of taste and eagerness to explore flavors without regard to social taboos. A primal desire to sample all the world offers guides him in his journey through the rise of the Enlightenment, the war with Corsica, and the fall of the aristocracy in the French Revolution. He is a man of great intellect, with an undisguised disdain for the degenerative decadence of Versailles, comparing the “underlying sourness” of the food at the palace with its corruption; corresponding with the likes of other great minds of the time – Voltaire, de Sade, and Benjamin Franklin, for example. But he is also lover, husband, and father, with a fondness for rescuing exotic creatures that earned him the title Lord Master of the Menagerie.

The Last Banquet is a bold gastronomic adventure (one not for the squeamish, however), a quest to fully live before the passage of time and history stamps out the flame. Written with just the right combination of rumination, contemplation, and startling – at times shocking – action, the prose is seductive and sophisticated. Jean-Marie D’Aumont is an ingenious human embodiment of the age of reason, with an at times morbid streak of scientific and intellectual curiosity, matched by a profound and masterful understanding of the human condition. Another fine work of literary fiction from Europa Editions. Highly recommended.

 

The next two books I’ve taken on for the HNS (to help reduce the orphan pile!) are Escape from Paris by Carolyn Hart, a reprint–sort of because it includes the entire text, some of which had to be cut for the first edition–of her 1986 WW2 thriller; and The Daring Ladies of Lowell, a drama set in the mid-ninteenth-century Massachusetts textile mills. I have also received Liza Perrat’s second novel, Wolfsangel, set in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, this time during the German occupation of France in 1943. I am excited for this one, and will write a full review here.

 

Happy reading!