Title: The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Published: August 13th 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical
'A daring blend of romance, crime and history, and an intelligent exposé of the inherent injustice and consequences of all forms of oppression' Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions
Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia 'Ginie' Courtauld in her tranquil garden in 1950s Rhodesia, The Dragon Lady tells Ginie's extraordinary story, so called for the exotic tattoo snaking up her leg. From the glamorous Italian Riviera before the Great War to the Art Deco glory of Eltham Palace in the thirties, and from the secluded Scottish Highlands to segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a boundary-breaking, colourful and unconventional person who rejected the submissive role women were expected to play.
Ostracised by society for being a foreign divorcée at the time of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, Ginie and her second husband ,Stephen Courtauld, leave the confines of post-war Britain to forge a new life in Rhodesia, only to find that being progressive liberals during segregation proves mortally dangerous. Many people had reason to dislike Ginie, but who had reason enough to pull the trigger?
Deeply evocative of time and place, The Dragon Lady subtly blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman in an era of great social and cultural change.
Louisa Treger’s The Dragon Lady
is about the Ginie Courtald’s life as the “lady with the dragon tattoo.” Set in Rhodesia, current day Zimbabwe, in the early 20th century, Ginie and her husband Stephen find themselves to be find themselves to be relative social outcasts as they each think and behave differently than society deems acceptable. Ginie has a dragon tattooed the length of her body and creates varying stories about her tattoo, and she is also a divorcee with an annulled marriage that further adds to the speculation about her private life. Stephen is an advocate for the arts and advocates for improved treatment of the native population.
Even though as mentioned in the afterword that not many details about the Courtald’s life are known, Treger’s dedication to research and evoking the atmosphere of the era brought this novel and its characters to life. She touches on the claustrophobic racial tensions, the glitz and glamour of high society, and the struggles between wanting to be one’s own self and wanting to fit in with everyone else. Ginie is bright, vivacious, and carries a wonderful depth; and the rest of the characters add such dimension and life to the story.
When I started reading this, I was in the mood for some historical fiction that flowed and The Dragon Lady delivered. I fell into the story and got lost in it, and I came out of it wanting to know more about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe history.
Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an advance copy! All opinions are my own.
Title: Off the Grid by Robert B. McCaw
Published by Oceanview Publishing
Published: July 2nd 2019
Format: Trade Paper
A scrap of cloth fluttering in the wind leads Hilo police Chief Detective Koa Kāne to the tortured remains of an unfortunate soul, left to burn in the path of an advancing lava flow. For Koa, it’s the second gruesome homicide of the day, and he soon discovers the murders are linked. These grisly crimes on Hawaiʻi’s Big Island could rewrite history―or cost Chief Detective Koa Kāne his career.
The dead, a reclusive couple living off the grid, turn out to be mysterious fugitives. The CIA, the Chinese government, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, attempt to thwart Koa’s investigation and obscure the victims’ true identities. Undeterred by mounting political pressure, Koa pursues the truth only to find himself drawn into a web of international intrigue.
While Koa investigates, the Big Island scrambles to prepare for the biggest and most explosive political rally in its history. Despite police resources stretched to the breaking point, Koa uncovers a government conspiracy so shocking its exposure topples senior officials far beyond Hawaiʻi’s shores.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, and that’s because I recently moved across the country! I did set aside all of my review copies and books I’m really excited to read, so expect updates about those on my blog and Instagram! I’m still in between places, so to speak, and I decided to try updating my blog from my phone for a bit to see how this works! I hope to get back in the regular swing of things soon as I really miss blogging and posting!
While traveling, I read Robert McCaw’s Off the Grid! It’s a mystery set in Hawai’i and I loved the setting of it so much! I feel like I’ve read so few titles set in Hawai’i, and this one really showcased the island’s culture and natural surroundings. I loved the insights into Hawai’ian culture MaCaw gave. The story definitely made me want to read more about Hawai’i and maybe visit some day!
It’s a well-constructed and well-crafted mystery that kept me engaged, and I didn’t feel as if I missed any of the story as it’s the second in a series. While a lot of stories I’ve read or watched about Hawai’i seem magical and perfect tourist places, McCaw shows us the darker underside to the beautiful islands, and that really adds dimension to the novel’s setting, especially the juxtaposition of island life and the broader scope of US and international politics. If you like mysteries and want to read a mystery in an island setting, look into this one!
Many thanks to Oceanview Publishing and FSB Associates for sending me a complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own
Title: The Earl Next Door by Amelia Grey
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: May 28th 2019
What does a Wickedly Wonderful Widow really want? One noble suitor is about to find out. . .
Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, is all on her own after her husband’s sudden death. The good news? Losing him allowed her to find herself. Finally, Adeline is free to do, go, and be as she pleases. She cherishes her newfound independence and is not looking for another man to wed. But seeking out a new lover? Well, that is a whole ’nother story. . .
Lord Lyon, son of the two-timing Earl of Marksworth, wishes to have a respectable, loving wife someday. When he meets the beautiful and self-reliant Adeline, Lyon is instantly smitten. But Adeline would rather have the handsome suitor in her bed than to take his hand in marriage. It’s a scandalous proposal—and one that’s hard for Lyon to refuse. Unless the fire of his passion can melt Adeline’s resolve. . .and he can find a way to be the Wickedly Wonderful Widow’s lover for all time?
Only within the last year or so have I started reading romance, and I fully admit to having a lot of biases associated with the genre for the longest time until, you know, I actually started reading it
and following some romance writers on Twitter and realizing there’s a lot more to the genre than I expected. Much in the same way I read fantasy to be delighted by magic systems and a subversive reality and science fiction to explore strange and familiar worlds, the romance I’ve read has offered a little swoon-worthy escape from the drudgery of every day. And since I tend to gravitate toward historical romance, I get to enjoy the commentary and dives into women’s spheres while escaping for a little bit.
Amelia Grey’s The Earl Next Door is about Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, who lost her husband at sea. Her two friends, also widows, have joined with her to open up a school for young girls who have also lost family members at sea. Her next door neighbor, Lord Lyon, Earl of Marksworth, first assumes she is running a house of ill-repute and then is later rudely awakened and frustrated by the house of school-aged girls disturbing his mid-morning sleep.This sets off the attraction, sparks, and tension between Adeline and Lyon that continues through the rest of the book.
I thought it was an easy, fun read, and perfect for a week that was more than a little stressful! To me, the ending was a little contrived, but ultimately it works with the story itself, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the series pans out because I loved Adeline’s two friends so much!
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance review copy! All opinions are my own!
Title: Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: June 25th 2019
Like Swans of Fifth Avenue and Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, Richard Kirshenbaum's Rouge gives readers a rare front row seat into the world of high society and business through the rivalry of two beauty industry icons (think Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden), by the master marketer and chronicler of the over-moneyed. Rouge is a sexy, glamorous journey into the rivalry of the pioneers of powder, mascara and rouge.
This fast-paced novel examines the lives, loves, and sacrifices of the visionaries who invented the modern cosmetics industry: Josiah Herzenstein, born in a Polish Jewish Shtlel, the entrepreneur who transforms herself into a global style icon and the richest woman in the world, Josephine Herz; Constance Gardiner, her rival, the ultimate society woman who invents the door-to-door business and its female workforce but whose deepest secret threatens everything; CeeCee Lopez, the bi-racial beauty and founder of the first African American woman’s hair relaxer business, who overcomes prejudice and heartbreak to become her community’s first female millionaire. The cast of characters is rounded out by Mickey Heron, a dashing, sexy ladies' man whose cosmetics business is founded in a Hollywood brothel. All are bound in a struggle to be number one, doing anything to get there…including murder.
follows the fictional lives of Josiah Herzenstein, who reinvents herself as Josephine Herz, and Constance Gardiner who are vying for the limelight in the booming cosmetics industry in the 1920s,1930s, and beyond. In chapters of alternating perspectives, we get glimpses into the lives of Herz, Gardiner, Cee Cee, and Mickey. Kirshenbaum’s knowledge of business and the ruthless behind-the-scenes behavior between Herz and Gardiner are spot on and engaging. I liked the history woven into the story, illuminating the financial and personal struggles of the women and their businesses and showing how they persevered through the ups and downs of life.
Rouge is a fast-paced read that carries you along from start to finish. I read it in a single day, and lately it’s been rare that I’ve been compelled to start and finish something within the same day. The novel covers a lot of ground and manages to tie the lives of these two rivals together in a breezy narrative perfect for a summer beach read.
Because the novel covered so much history of the women and the business empires they created, I felt like I wanted more of the women’s personal spheres: how they felt wearing their creations, how they felt when they noticed other women wearing their creations, their private moments, and something a bit more grounded in the day-to-day. I think having more of those personal, intimate moments of some gravity would have added a lot more enjoyable weight to the story.
If you are interested in the intersection of business and creativity, especially in the beauty industry, definitely look into this book!
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.
Title: The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: February 18th, 2019
"One of our essential writers of dark fiction."―New York Times
Caitlín R. Kiernan is widely acknowledged as one of dark fantasy and horror’s most skilled and acclaimed short fiction writers. Here in this retrospective volume is her finest work, previously only collected in sold-out limited editions. Kiernan’s tales are visceral, sensual, devastating, and impossible to resist: a reporter is goaded by her girlfriend into watching people morphing into terrifying art; a critic interviews an elderly model from a series of famous mermaid paintings; a moviegoer watches a banned arthouse film only to discover exactly why it has been banned.
When I read “The Maltese Unicorn” in The Unicorn Anthology
, I wanted to read more of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s work. Tachyon on Netgalley had The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan
up for download, so I loaded it onto my kindle and started reading a story or three. I was really captivated by a lot of her work because it’s a little creepy, unsettling, and grotesque, but in a way that showcases truths that sometimes we’re afraid to face or don’t know how to face.
My favorite stories in the collection were as follows: “The Maltese Unicorn” (of course, because you really can’t go wrong with lesbian unicorn noir), “A Child’s Guide to Hollow Hills,” “The Ammonite Violin,” and “Hydrarguros”. “The Ammonite Violin” has such a masterfully and terrific thrill to it that I read it twice. I knew the story was leading up to something, and the revelation was perfectly executed.
I had never read any of her work before her story in The Unicorn Anthology, and I think it’s because I don’t often dabble in the “horror” genre. I am hesitate to label Kiernan as “horror” in the traditional sense because so many of her stories were a quiet, creeping sort of horror rather than a shock and scare sort of thing that I generally tend to associate with “horror.” Her work is more an examination of the human existence in all its forms, from light to dark, and I think this collection of her work shows the broad scope of her abilities.
Thank you to Tachyon Pub and Netgalley for a digital review copy! All opinions are my own.