The classic story of Helen of Troy but with a deeper understanding of the women's role in the male dominated world and how they tried to control their own fate. Helen and her sister grew up knowing their role was to be placed in a marriage that would benefit the family (increase their power or land) and have many children to continue the bloodline. Helen, whose beauty was legendary was a pawn in a power struggle and her sister Klytemnestra was forced to give up her rights to the kingdom to Helen and was bound to Agamemnon. Both sisters married brothers and were caught up in a political hotbed. The story focused on the women's role in this power struggle but also their desires and fears for themselves and their children if they lost. For fans of CIRCE and other stories of the women of Greece told from a fresh perspective. 4 1/2 stars
Marie Benedict always does a superb job of research bringing little known women to light and for this story she sought co-author Victoria Christopher Murray to bring the proper perspective of what life would be like for light skinned African American Belle in the all white upper crust society and art world of early 1900's New York. The result is a masterpiece that chronicles the important mark that Belle da Costa Greene made as the Personal Librarian to J.P. Morgan and the acquisitions she made for the Pierpont Morgan Library. With very little real experience but a lifelong passion for fine art, Belle finds herself in a coveted position dodging jealous women and family, art dealers and other collectors and Morgan himself to become a respected and formidable businesswoman and helped bring the collections of the Library to worldwide attention. While one door is open to her allowing her access to the rich and powerful that only a handful of women had, another would be closed forever if her secret was revealed and she could be openly proud of her famous family. A fascinating story of yet another powerful and intelligent woman behind the scenes, this will resonate with fans of her other books as well as LIBERTIE and THE ENGINEER'S WIFE. 4 1/2 stars
Jane Quinn has been raised by a family of strong women after her mother left her as a child. She pours her heart out in her music but doesn't trust many people fully. She meets superstar Jesse not backstage but at his home where he is recuperating from an accident and sparks fly. They connect on a personal level but also in their love of music and making music. Touring with Jesse is a dream come true and ignites her solo career. Secrets pull them apart and Jane sees the more treacherous side of the music industry. This is a coming of age story told in music lyrics and will hit the perfect note for readers of DAISY JONES AND THE SIX and A STAR IS BORN. A tribute to the fantastic music of the late 60's and early 70's this sincere debut hit a high note with me and I can't wait to read more. 5 stars
Four very strong women from a variety of backgrounds make their mark joined together by family. Each woman came into the family bearing secrets but when their men left them to head off to war or other troubles, they shared those secrets making a blood oath to work together to protect the family.
As the Godmothers, they take on the family businesses, paying the mob bosses and others as well as battling another family who seeks to destroy them. Compared to THE GODFATHER, these women come from France, Italy and Ireland and are definitely a force to be reckoned with not cast away in the kitchen. Their children carry on the tradition of hard work with a propensity to get into trouble. These strong, smart women will inspire and give us a very different perspective of the Italian/American family caught by war at home and abroad. THE GODMOTHERS will make historical fiction readers an offer they can't refuse. 4 1/2 stars
Two sisters - one marries a damaged diplomat for love, the other marries her career at a publishing house. They have a falling out until 1948 when Ruth gets a message from her pregnant sister now living in Moscow - I need you, come. Ruth wants Iris out and gets help from an agent in the U.S. who will pose as her new husband. This brilliant story with its flawed characters pulls you into the complex nest of spies instantly as only Beatriz Williams can do. Another terrific historical mystery steeped in the dangerous Cold War. 4 stars
An engaging story of a woman who is orphaned by disease then raised by a famous surgeon only to devote herself to the male dominated world of medicine in 1840's England. Nora is not your average lady prone to fainting spells and a general distaste of knowledge of medical practices since she has grown up in the shadow of one of the cities prominent surgeons who has encouraged her studies and curiosity. She is a gifted anatomical artist and has a keen mind but outside of the house what she does would be akin to witchcraft and illegal. The historical story of a woman fighting men for a seat at the table is not new but the behind the scenes look at medical practices in the 1800's if fascinating. In a time of such poor hygiene and lack of knowledge disease or injury carried a death sentence more times than not. 4 1/2 stars
A spin of divorce in Puritan New England and the power of gossip. Mary Deerfield has had enough of the abuse from her drunken husband. He is smart enough to never beat her in front of their servant girl or in areas that would be visible to the town but she feels that enough is enough. As expected the tables are turned when she files for divorce and she is accused of adultery and forced to return to her husband's home. Her life worsens and as she looks for ways to escape she is turned in for practicing witchcraft. My take from this book is that however bad a few men can make your life it can be made much worse by a clever woman with a grudge. This is a classic story of power, abuse and fear. 4 stars
An engaging saga of early female aviators, artists and early 1900's Montana combined with a dual story of a child actress hoping to jump start her failing career by playing Marian. Marian and Jamie's story takes us from prohibition Montana where Marian gets involved in a tangled relationship with a bootlegger rancher. Jamie looks to California for a fresh start and dreams of becoming an artist. Years go by and both are involved in the war as Marian goes to Europe and Jaime goes to Asia which brings them back full circle. Marian is obsessed with flying the circumference of the Earth from pole to pole. The modern story of Hadley whose life mirrors Marian's and whose career will come full circle with this movie. It is a love story, history lesson and vivid adventure with nods to Steinbeck, "Legends of the Fall" and THE GOLDEN HOUR by Beatriz Williams. It is the kind of book you want to go back later and reread to discover what you missed the first time through. 5 high flying stars
During the Gilded Age in New York you had to have money to play but you had to have old money to be a player in Caroline Astor's court. When upstart Alva Vanderbilt tries to compete for the top hostess spot she finds herself shunned publicly time and time again. Decades pass and these two women watch their children grow up and make bad choices, their husbands leave and make bad choices and they are still locking horns. What seems frivolous and extreme gossip was social death back then. Even without social media the society pages and gossip mill was damaging enough. Powerful families head by powerful women who left quite a cultural legacy behind. Think of this as mean girl historical fiction. 4 stars
Pip Williams takes us back to a converted garden shed where a group of hardworking lexigraphers collected words from all over to compile the first Oxford Dictionary.
It is under tables in the Scriptorium where Esme collects her own words at the feet of her father and fell in love with the power of words.
Esme is watched over by a lovable housekeeper, Lizzie and a family friend Aunt Ditte but it is still an unusual upbringing. Years pass and finally Esme's dream of assisting the team is realized. It is also when Esme finds importance in the words that are omitted, mainly spoken by women, and compiles a dictionary of her own. This is a wonderful mashup of real events and the imagined life of what it was like to be an ambitious woman in a man's world. An amateur lexicographer's dream story but also a coming of age love story about relationships between all kinds of mothers and their charges. 4 stars
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