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The Prince by Vito Bruschini (2015)

princeFive hundred years after Machiavelli wrote The Prince, Vito Bruschini appropriately named his novel the same. One might regard this later The Prince as a prequel to Puzo’s Godfather but the characters are not the same. Bruscini gives us Prince Ferdinando Licata, a respected land owner in 1920-1930s Sicily who does not hesitate to use charm and strong strategies to control the peasantry.

With the advent of Mussolini, he has conflicts with local fascists and flees to New York to escape a possible murder charge. In New York, Licata, helped by a few others from his home area of Sicily, becomes powerful and a man to be feared. When other powerful leaders seek his removal, he joins with U.S. intelligence (OSS) in planning the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. Thus he is able to avenge some of the wrongs he received from the fascists and begin building a new basis for power in his area of Sicily. This book shows how violence, terror, and revenge was used to gain a position of power.

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age by Renee Rosen (2014)

whattheladywantsIn this historical novel (and great Chicago book), Renee Rosen tells a fictionalized story about Marshall Field from the perspective of his mistress Delia Spencer. What the Lady Wants includes some history of the late nineteenth century, including the Great Chicago Fire and the World’s Fair, plus shows how people lived at that time.

Do you enjoy fictionalized history? Check out other Novels Based on Real People.

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (2016)

missbridgertonWith her trademark humor and snappy dialogue, Julia Quinn introduces readers to a new generation of Bridgertons--and launches a new series with Because of Miss Bridgerton. Neighbors Billie Bridgerton and George Rokesby have bickered their entire lives. But when Billie needs rescuing after her impulsive actions land her on the roof of an abandoned farmhouse, something changes... You'll relish the journey in this sparkling, delightful historical romance.

Curious about those other Bridgertons? We own (in print and ebook) the witty novels featuring each of the eight siblings.

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance (2015)

hellorhighballThis book hits all the right notes of humor, setting, and character. In 1923, Lola Woodby, a New York society matron in her early 30s, is now a penniless widow with a dog, a Swedish cook, and a serious addiction to cinnamon buns and highballs. Talking like George Raft, if George Raft were actually talking in 1923, Lola and cook Berta go about wheedling their way into high society weekends, speakeasies, and shady businesses in order to retrieve a missing reel of film, and make the dough to pay the rent on their seedy apartment. I look forward to Lola's next adventure.

Check out Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball today.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

saltseaTitanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the latter is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her latest gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, Salt to the Sea rotates between four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful, a must-read for adults and teens.

As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys sheds light on a little known slice of history, drawing you into the story through the eyes of unforgettable characters.

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014)

missingreelsCeinwen Reilly is a transplant to the Big Apple where her minimum wage job at a vintage clothing shop funds her classic movie habit and her propensity for dressing like a 1920s film star. When she gets wind of a long missing silent movie directed by a mysterious, long forgotten German director and starring her elderly downstairs neighbor, Ceinwin becomes determined to track down the missing reels.

If you love old movies and romances with Englishmen named Matthew, this is the book for you. If not, many of the allusions to old movies might leave you bewildered. Interested? Find a copy of Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme today.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (2015)

roguenottakenSophie Talbot doesn't suffer fools...which backfires when her impulsive action involving her degenerate brother-in-law (a duke) and a fish pond is witnessed by all of society. Thwarting her escape is the rakish Kingscote, Marquess of Eversley, who thinks she's trying to trap him into marriage. What follows is a crazy adventure across England with witty repartee and unexpected discoveries. Plus, (truly) dark secrets are revealed in The Rogue Not Taken. Prepare to fall in love with Sarah MacLean in this series starter.

Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

emmaJuliet Stevenson's delightful rendition of this classic was the perfect way to experience Jane Austen. Her command of the many characters and their quirks brought out the humor and heart in Austen's words.

Check out the audio version of Emma in Hoopla, or read a print copy. And if you already know (and love) Emma, check out Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. I think you’ll see a few endearing similarities between Emma and Sophy.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith (2014)

starmrsblakeIn April Smith’s latest novel, Mrs. Blake takes advantage of a Canadian program to send mothers who had lost their sons in the recent war to go to France and see their son’s graves. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a quietly effective novel about a mother coming to terms with the loss of her son in WWI, her own past, and re-thinking all the patriotic trappings that come with any war.

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (2015)

paradiseskyIn east Texas, shortly after the end of the Civil War, young Willie inadvertently looks at the hind end of a white woman which causes the lynching of his father. On the run and changing his name to Nat Love, he experiences ranching, buffalo soldiering and Deadwood, South Dakota, in its heyday.

As a story of a black man shortly after the end of the Civil War, there are, of course, sad moments, but Nat's darkly ironic tone make for a read that hits many emotions from laugh out loud to frown in sadness or exasperation. Joe R. Lansdale’s Paradise Sky is a welcome addition to the genre of humorous tall tale western in the tradition of Little Big Man and The Sisters Brothers.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley (2014)

someluckThis novel is best enjoyed as an audiobook with the narration of Lorelei King. Her clear voice changes tone, tempo, and pitch for the different characters expressing their moods and views as the story proceeds. Her believable renditions are very important in Some Luck, which paints the characters of Rosanna and Walter, on their Iowa farm, and continues with those of their five children as they grow up and find their own way. Some readers or listeners might comment on lack of coherent plot, but the theme is that of the family going through their individual and varied lives while keeping touch with one another.

Jane Smiley’s epic saga continues with Early Warning.

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013)

daughtersmarsIn Thomas Keneally’s The Daughters of Mars, two Australian sisters go first to Gallipoli and later France as nurses during the Great War. They are, as they themselves would say, reserved and non-demonstrative girls who have never been close. The title, meaning women who go to war, is accurate. These women are not in battle, but still see and experience harrowing events. A theme running throughout the book is that any event has at least two outcomes and, especially in war, who will live or who will die or is not preordained. And life, in the larger sense, is like that too. How can someone survive the war then die of flu? How can someone who is a jeweler lose his sight but someone who is an artist lose their non-dominant arm? How can someone survive a horrible shipwreck and die in a simple car accident?

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen (2015)

watersedgeMaddie, Ellis, and Hank are part of the idle rich in World War II Philadelphia. Life is just one big party until Ellis falls out of his father's graces and embarks on a journey to find the Loch Ness monster. Maddie learns the truth about her husband, the war, and life itself in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. There she meets two women and a man who change her path. Sara Gruen's vivid descriptions and characters will transport the reader to a different time and place in At the Water’s Edge.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe (2015)

manatthehelmIn the early 1970s, a woman from a wealthy background suddenly finds herself divorced and living in a small English village, where divorced women are suspect (it would seem for good reason). The book is told in the first person by ten-year-old Lizzie (looking back as an adult) and has quite a funny tone and wonderfully set pieces. Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm is very funny, but sad too.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)

jonathanstrangeSusanna Clarke writes a historical fantasy novel full of curious characters and thousands of rich details that are woven together masterfully. Set in the age of Napoleon, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell follows two English gentlemen determined to bring magic back to England. While old Mr. Norrell wishes to hoard the magic for himself and is overly cautious, Jonathan Strange daringly forges ahead producing new and exciting magic despite the risks. Many of the scenes are comical, but there is an ominous cloud of dark magic which hangs over the entire story creating a feeling of foreboding and suspense. (The book was made into a BBC miniseries in 2015.)