Special Feature: THE SCRIBE OF SIENA by Melodie Winawer

Yesterday a new time travel book hit the shelves for your reading delight! Sadly I couldn’t fit this one into my review schedule for the month but I have it on my radar for possible review this summer!

This is a book that some are calling ‘Outlander with an Italian accent’. And you all know how much I love Outlander so this obviously caught my attention. The book follows a time-traveling neurosurgeon from the twenty-first century who discovers love and a plot to destroy Siena in medieval Italy. (Winawer herself is a neuroscientist.)…..

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love (summary from Goodreads).

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Review: In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II by Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen is probably best known for her Royal Spyness Mysteries series and her Molly Murphy Mysteries. She typically writes cozy mysteries, so when this book came across my desk for review, it sounded like something completely new for her which is why I decided to try it.

I’ve been reading a lot of cozy mysteries lately and welcomed a little break. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this one. The title suggests more literature, ‘A Novel of World War II’ says more literature rather than mystery to me. But yet the description sounded more mystery. Either way, I liked what I saw for the description and ultimately said yes to the book.

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy.

The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal (summary from Goodreads). (more…)

Review: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli by Alyssa Palombo

Last year I had the pleasure of being introduced to Alyssa Palombo’s debut novel, The Violinist of Venice, a love story about Antonio Vivaldi. I love how Palombo takes relatively well known and passionate artists (musicians and painters) and crafts a historical fiction novel.

People like Antonio Vivaldi and in this book, Sandro Botticelli, aren’t characters that I would think of in history and decide to write a romantic novel about them which is what makes these books so unique to me.

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty.

That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him.

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Review: A Grave Matter (Lady Darby Mystery #3) by Anna Lee Huber

While my reviews of the Lady Darby mysteries are rather spread out, that does not mean that I read them sporadically. On the contrary, I read them in rather rapid succession but decided to spreat out the reviews so as not to overshadow other books that I had on my review calendar.

The Lady Darby mysteries have won a place in my heart as a beloved lady detective series, all thanks in part to the electric romance between her and Gage, and all the Gothic elements that I adore in books.

In this latest book, the Gothic element was a rather macabre burglary of sorts……stealing long dead skeletons. I loved the dark deserted graveyards and Abbeys, in remote locations of Scotland, paired with the creepy implication that perhaps the bodies rose from the dead.

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.

While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage. (more…)

Review: Mortal Arts (Lady Darby Mystery #2) by Anna Lee Huber

After rapidly finishing the first Lady Darby book, I knew that I would need the next one. I didn’t care that the book cost $14.00 on my Kindle and I had tons of other books I could read….I had to know what happened to Gage and Kiera next!

This book was much different than the first one and I think I liked it even more than the first book! I loved all the Gothic elements that this one had. The first book lacked some of my favorite elements but this one did NOT disappoint!

Crumbling castle on the coast, a madman locked in the attic, an asylum looming ominously off the North Sea coast, a family fallen from grace, a howling ghost dog legend, family secrets, and murder most foul? YES! All things that I love in a Gothic novel, plus you add the budding affection between Kiera and Gage and you easily have a five star rating from me!

Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue—in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator—and romantic entanglement—Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery. (more…)

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