Far in the Wilds by Deanna Raybourn
This is a prequel to her latest standalone novel (she's most well known for her Lady Julia Gray mysteries). It is a short story only available electronically. Raybourn introduces the male lead of Spear of Summer Grass as well as giving a glimpse into the harsh and rather wild life of the British Ex-Pats living in the "Happy Valley" in Kenya during the 1920s. A fast read and well-paced (often tough for short stories). If you're going to read Spear of Summer Grass, this is well worth a read too.
Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
One of my favorite reads so far this year. I always look forward to her books, and this one did not disappoint. The setting is vastly different from Victorian England where Raybourn sets her Julia Grey series, but the descriptions bring to life the people and the place and show that both are as harsh as they are lush. There is a maturity in her writing that shines through more than in previous books, and I think will add depth to future books. The story is paced well, and while it is more of a romance than a mystery, the obstacles the hero and heroine face feel real and worth fighting. Makes me want to go dig up every story about the British colony in Kenya I can find-what a fascinating group of people they must have been!
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
This is the latest in Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. I found Maisie very hard to relate to at the beginning of the series, she grows more human in each book. This one finds her facing major life decisions in her relationships and her work, as she struggles to solve the murder of several Indian women in 1930's London. Winspear has a gift for writing historical time periods so you really feel you are there. She puts enough details and explanation to understand it without feeling like a history lecture. A good read, perhaps not my favorite of the series though. This is definitely a series to read in order, so begin with Maisie Dobbs first.
The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
I really enjoyed this. This book is set up as a "time slip" like Willig's series set in Napoleonic England and France, but there is more jumping around between time periods here. It frustrated me a little at the beginning but once the plot really began moving it ceased to bother me. The characters are well developed and are all more than they seem on the surface, so despite the fact that this is considered romantic fiction, there was a bit of a mystery in there as well. Fun and engaging- a solid summer read!
Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
This is the debut novel in a mystery series starring Maggie Hope. A British citizen who was raised in Boston, she is back in England at the start of WWI. She is a mathematician, and despite being highly overqualified, ends up as a typist for Winston Churchill, who has just become the Prime Minister. The first half of the book was not as smooth as the second half, but by the last quarter I was racing to find out "who dunnit"! I am really looking forward to the next two books in the series! (Don't you just love when you find a new author who already has several books out?)
The Blood Royal by Barbara Cleverly
This is one of the more recent entries in the Joe Sandilands series by Cleverly. It was not my favorite by a long shot. Sandilands is a really engaging character and in this book not only is he not the main viewpoint, he's not acting like himself. There's a lot of deception in the plotline, and I'm wondering if that accounts for it. Either way, I'd skip and read one of the earlier novels in the series.
A Daughter's Tale by Mary Soames
This is what I'm reading right now. Soames is the youngest daughter of Winston Churchill, who came of age just as WWII was beginning and this book is her memoirs of those early years. It is a different take than we are used to seeing of Winston, and she is an excellent story teller. She had what was honestly just a fascinating life to hear about though. She is able to see the major political players of the time as people around her dinner table and thus brings a whole new dimension to those figures as well. I'm loving the insight into life in London during the Blitz, particularly after reading Mr. Churchill's Secretary so recently!
There have been a few other books, but since most of them are chapter books I've been reading to the boys at night, I'll save them for another post. What have you been reading lately?
Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy's linkup for some more good recommendations!