In the golden city of Amsterdam, in 1705, Thea Brandt is turning eighteen, and she is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms. At the city's theatre, Walter, the love of her life, awaits her, but at home in the house on the Herengracht, all is not well - her father Otto and Aunt Nella argue endlessly, and the Brandt family are selling their furniture in order to eat. On Thea's birthday, also the day that her mother Marin died, the secrets from the past begin to overwhelm the present. Nella is desperate to save the family and maintain appearances, to find Thea a husband who will guarantee her future, and when they receive an invitation to Amsterdam's most exclusive ball, she is overjoyed - perhaps this will set their fortunes straight. And indeed, the ball does set things spinning: new figures enter their life, promising new futures. But their fates are still unclear, and when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she remembers the miniaturist who entered her life and toyed with her fortunes eighteen years ago. Perhaps, now, she has returned for her . . . The House of Fortune is a glorious, sweeping story of fate and ambition, secrets and dreams, and one young woman's determination to rule her own destiny.
A ravishing riff on the real-life relationship between writer George Sand and composer Frédéric Chopin, Nell Stevens’ Briefly, A Delicious Life glows with Mediterranean heat, avant-garde verve, and a yearning that burns. Set in 1838, and narrated by Blanca, the ghost of a witty, whip-smart fourteen-year-old girl who died in a Mallorca monastery in 1473, this character-driven charmer is suffused in beauty, and casts a captivating spell. Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her children have travelled to a monastery in Mallorca to convalesce and create. Sand is a striking woman in man’s clothes, whose arrival incites a stir on the island as it stirs Blanca’s heart and desires. As the unconventional couple struggle with the villagers’ judgements, and to find creative satisfaction, Blanca recounts her story, her experiences of falling for the beauty of women. And now she’s in love with Sand, who doesn’t know she exists, and cannot reciprocate. This wildly inventive scenario plays out ingeniously — though outlandish, through Blanca’s age-old wisdom and youthful spirit, and through the visual, sensual language, it feels real. We see and sense flurries of birds and leaves. We feel the prickle and heat of flesh and the sun. What a moving, magical, hauntingly memorable story.
Left on the steps of an orphanage when she was just days old, Nancy Sunday was brought up in hardship - until the kindly Rosalind Carey took her in. Now eighteen years old, Nancy is an adopted member of the Carey family. But she can't help wondering who her parents really were... When Nancy is sent away to finishing school, she finds herself in the midst of London society. There she meets Freddie Ashton - kind and warm-hearted, he might just be the man of Nancy's dreams. But she knows his wealthy parents would never let him marry a penniless foundling. And she has also caught the eye of another man - the charming and dangerous Gervase North, who has reasons of his own for discovering Nancy's parentage. Will Nancy ever find where she truly belongs?
The second adrenaline-charged instalment of Elodie Harper's Pompeii-set trilogy (we adored The Wolf Den), The House with the Golden Door picks up Amara’s gripping story after she’s been freed from Pompeii’s most notorious brothel, though that comes at a perilously high price, and she’s far from a free woman. Richly evocative, and reeling with drama and the determined passion and conflicts of its unforgettable heroine, this is historical fiction at its most thrillingly entertaining. Though Amara’s shift in status from Wolf Den whore to courtesan brings some freedom and a better standard of living, her life now depends on her new patron, a wealthy, well-connected man who wants her to remain thin and has her at his whim — she’s his “little bird”, his “pretty little thing”. While adjusting to her new life, and taking enormous risks in the name of true love, Amara frees some friends from the Wolf Den, but at great financial and emotional cost, for this results in her becoming indebted to the man she was freed from, "the most violent pimp in Pompeii". Though owned and forced to lead grossly subservient lives, the women of The House with the Golden Door are guileful and ambitious. Fierce Britannica, for example, wants to be a gladiator. But betrayals, bribery, and a persistent “crushing sense of powerlessness” ensures readers are in for an irresistibly exhilarating ride. That said, Amara is a woman who refuses to be crushed. In her words, “there is always a price to pay for underestimating a woman”. With a heady climax leaving Amara on the brink of tremendous change, the final book can’t come quick enough.
A dashing and absolutely delicious tickle on your reading tastebuds, this historical debut novel comes with lively romance and sharp wit. With her family in danger of being made homeless, Kitty Talbot the eldest of four sisters, heads to London to bag herself a man with a fortune. While set in 1818’s high society, this is less vapours and vulnerability and more unwavering tenaciousness from the leading lady. Sophie Irwin creates a vivid setting and vivacious tone, I found myself in Georgian London, yet Kitty could be running round the streets today. Kitty is an absolute delight, she is essentially on war footing and determined to save her family and home, nothing less than the richest of rich men will do. I read this in one heady sitting, light, bright, and fun yet with bite, I’ve chosen this debut as a Liz Pick of the Month. With everything you’d expect from a Regency romance yet refreshingly different, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting is a colourful, charming, and sparkling read.
This magical debut set in Victorian London is bold and profound yet somehow uncomplicated as it lays out a mosaic of vibrant themes and characters for your reading pleasure. Star theatre performer Zillah has climbed out of the slums, so while uncomfortable with the part she performs, she does what it takes to remain the headline act until one day she is faced with a life-altering and dangerous decision. Zillah tells her own story, I immediately heard her voice, so vibrant and alive. Lianne Dillsworth ensures all of the characters have an individual vital energy, they can be seen, felt, sensed. While the era throws itself around you and immerses you in all things Victorian, it feels as though the human responses are timeless. That feeling echoes through the plot as Zillah’s mixed heritage, and the fact that she was born free in London, marks her as different. All of humanities character traits are on offer from greed, selfishness, ignorance and indifference through to empathy, kindness, and courage. The mystery aspect of the plot was thrilling, yet it was Zillah’s personal journey that will stay with me and that is why I’ve chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. Vivacious, provocative, and compelling, Theatre of Marvels comes with a standing ovation stamp of approval from me.
Abundant in atmosphere, well-rounded characters, and dreadful dilemmas, Cunning Women is a smoothly readable, 1620-set treat for fans of The Essex Serpent, The Leviathan, The Binding and The Familiars. Though ten years have passed since the infamous Pendle Witch Trials that saw ten women hanged as witches, an atmosphere of paranoia still permeates the region. This is especially so in the Lancashire fishing village where the “cunning women" of the desperately poor Haworth family live as outcasts, offering herbal remedies that are in high demand, but considered the lowest of the low, for the women’s salves and balms are believed to be the work of witches. Sarah Haworth lives a tormented existence. While part of her aches for a normal life, especially when it comes to her younger sister, “the girl with the stormy eyes and sharp tongue” also longs to know the extent of her powers. Amidst this vividly evoked internal maelstrom, Sarah meets Daniel, a farmer’s son who finds himself captivated by her, as she is by him. They see each other for who they really are, not tainted by the prejudice of others. But when a magistrate arrives to investigate a furry of odd deaths, Sarah is in the firing line, and their love is threatened, along with her very life. Part evocative family drama, part historic thriller, Cunning Women tells an emotionally engaging tale of prejudice, superstition, revenge and love.
The second of Julia Quinn's bestselling and beloved Bridgerton novels, now a series created by Shondaland for Netflix. This is Anthony Bridgerton's story . . . This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams... Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...
They'll search the world to find her. The six D'Apliese sisters have each been on their own incredible journey to discover their heritage, but they still have one question left unanswered: who and where is the seventh sister? They only have one clue - an image of a star-shaped emerald ring. The search to find the missing sister will take them across the globe - from New Zealand to Canada, England, France and Ireland - uniting them all in their mission to complete their family at last. In doing so, they will slowly unearth a story of love, strength and sacrifice that began almost one hundred years ago, as other brave young women risk everything to change the world around them.
With over a dozen heartfelt historic novels to her name, Katie Flynn here turns her compassionate touch to the life and loves of Cadi Williams, a young Welsh beauty born into a coal-mining family. Though delighted to be crowned the 1938 Rose Queen of her village, the special day only exacerbates the fact that Rhos is usually so “drab and dowdy”. As Cadi muses, “the mines ruined everything. You couldn’t escape the coal dust”. As a result, when war breaks out, Cadi and her dear friend Poppy seize the chance to leave for what they see as the bigger, brighter lights of Liverpool. In leaving Rhos, Cadi also leaves her family and the local lad she seemed set to marry. With the stage set for high-stakes drama, the young women have a tough of time of it in Liverpool before they find work in a pub. At the same time, Cadi finds love with a gorgeous dock worker. Cue an almighty emotional conundrum when a blast from Cadi’s past turns up in a RAF uniform… Fragrant with love and hope, and prickling with dilemmas, fans of immersive, historic romance will be in seventh heaven reading The Rose Queen.
In Willow Close, everyone is a suspect . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd discovered their dream home. But on the day they move in, a body is found - the victim attacked and killed in the woods. As police interview witnesses, they soon discover each resident hiding their own secrets. Because few in the Close are exactly who they seem . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd found their dream home. Now, it might just be their worst nightmare . . .
Don't miss the third book in the heartwarming six-part series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author Dilly Court! After the sudden death of her husband, Patricia Greystone is left with nothing, and at twenty-four, she finds herself a penniless widow. As the youngest child of a large family, she has always been headstrong and proud - so she's determined not to return to her family cap in hand. Instead she strikes out on her own. The dark streets of London are the perfect place to hide from the world, and Patricia makes her living singing on the streets. But the city is a dangerous place. Without her family around her, will Patricia lose her way? Book Three of The Rockwood Chronicles