“Curious Charms” Winner!
August 31st, 2016

The winner of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is…

…Susan Gorman!

Congratulations!! If you email me at willig@post.harvard.edu, I’ll pop your book in the mail to you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Check back on Monday when another book will be up for grabs!

 

Monday Give Away!
August 29th, 2016

One of the perks of my profession is that I sometimes wind up with double copies of wonderful books. In the interest of sharing the joy (and freeing up room on my bookshelf), every Monday I’ll be giving away a new book.

This week? I have a brand new hardcover copy of Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.

Here’s the official blurb:
Arthur Pepper
Don’t miss this curiously charming debut! In this hauntingly beautiful story of love, loneliness and self-discovery, an endearing widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.

For a chance to win a copy of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, here’s your question:

If you had a charm bracelet, what charm(s) would be on it?

One person will be chosen at random to receive The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. Winner to be announced on Wednesday.

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
August 26th, 2016

Happy Friday, all!

In between ripping up bits of my manuscript this week (oh, revisions), I indulged in Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before the War, in which World War I comes to the inhabits of a Thirkell-esque village, and Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty, in which something goes very wrong at a barbecue and you work backwards from the fall-out to the event itself.

Right now, I’m starting The Rook and really, really wishing there were a new Ben Aaronovitch or Laura Resnick book out….

What have you been reading this week?

 

THE FORGOTTEN ROOM Paperback– October!
August 24th, 2016

Exciting news! The release of The Forgotten Room paperback, now with a snazzy new cover, has been moved up to October 25th!

Untitled-1

Apologies for all the crickets chirping here on the website this summer…. I’ve been deep in revision mode for Stand Alone #4 and research mode for Stand Alone #5. I’ll have more information on both of those and some other surprise projects coming up soon!

And now back to revisions….

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
August 12th, 2016

There’s something about summer and brand new books that just goes together. In between gnashing my teeth over revisions (revisions always entail tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth– or, at least, lots of wine and chocolate), I’ve been indulging in some new to me books. This week’s haul:

— Laurie King’s The Bones of Paris, in which a hard-bitten American detective is hired to look for a missing girl in 1920s Paris and finds himself on the trail of a possible serial killer. For anyone who loves 1920s Paris and/or Criminal Minds. Laurie King is a master at bringing (historically detailed) dark alleys and darker motives to life.

— Ann Leary’s The Children, a gift from my editor (thank you, editor!), about a crumbling lakeside estate in Connecticut and the very complicated (and equally crumbling) family that lives in it, just as everything begins to fall apart. Has anyone else read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle? Although the story is very different (no poisoning!), there was something about the narrator’s voice and the isolated situation that reminded me very strongly of that book. Definitely a stay-up-to-see-how-it-turns-out sort of book.

Up next, I have Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty and Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before the War— although I may resort to a Georgette Heyer comfort read first.

What have you been reading this week?

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
August 5th, 2016

I’ve finally gotten around to reading some new (and new-ish) releases that I’ve had on my pile for a while.

At the top of the pile? Eleanor Brown’s The Light of Paris, a lovely book about a grandmother and a granddaughter, one in the 1920s, the other in the 1990s, trying to find their true selves in the face of the restrictions imposed by their families and society. And where better to do that than Paris?

From there I went on to Stephanie Clifford’s Everybody Rise, an exaggerated portrait of a certain segment of New York life back in the boom days before the crash, featuring a social climber who finds herself in deep water (literally, at one point).

After a brief detour into vintage British chick lit with Trisha Ashley’s Every Woman for Herself, I have Laurie King’s The Bones of Paris waiting for me next.

What have you been reading this week?

 

If You Like….
July 25th, 2016

Today we have a special treat– a guest If You Like from Sheila!

As Sheila points out below, when we dip our toes into the past, we tend to focus on the propertied and privileged– because, let’s face it, they had better clothes. (Although not necessarily better teeth. But I digress.) But what about the maid who pulled those laces for her mistress? Or the tweeny carting up all that coal? We often see them as shadowy figures at the back of the picture, but very seldom brought to the fore.

So now over to Sheila, for a list of books that bring the “downstairs” upstairs. If you like books that focus on the servants’ side of the story, you’ll probably like….

Lovers of historical novels often play the game of “Gee, I would love to live then. Beautiful clothes, horses, mansions, unspoiled countryside. Yet I know I would certainly come back as the tweeny, and would soon miss mod cons like plumbing, antibiotics and anesthesia.

— Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly was a big bestseller several years ago, desevredly so. Mary is Dr Jekyll’s housemaid, and she endeavors to help him in his struggles with Mr. Hyde.

— Lauren and her writer buds have given us serving girl Olive Van Alan in The Forgotten Room, who tries to find why her father killed himself. A wonderful book, as most of you know.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker, is thank goodness, not a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Rather, it is the tale of what is happening in the lives of the Bennett servants, coincidentally at the same time as P&P.

— Lastly I would mention a traditional Regency series, A House for the Season, by Marion Chesney. If you like MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth, you like her, as they are one and the same, complete with acerbic wit. The series is typical: young girl comes to London, meets rich guy, moany obstacles, etc. The ongoing story of the servants is what makes it really interesting. The butler Rainbird is a true hero. This is the first time I read about the doings of the many people who make possible the doings of our beloved characters.

Thanks, Sheila! You’ve got me thinking…. It’s harder than I would have imagined to think of books that focus on the downstairs rather than the upstairs. Governesses, yes. There are governesses in fiction by the thousands, from Jane Eyre on up. But housemaids? Not so much.

Leading the list is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a butler’s reminiscences of his days serving in a grand household. Focusing on the butler and the housekeeper, this is a look at the upper end of the downstairs world, the royalty of the servants’ hall.

There’s Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs, in which a Russian noblewoman winds up hiring herself out as domestic staff in England after the Revolution. (Although, of course, that’s part of the “noblewoman in rags whose true quality will be recognized by the end of the book” tradition, which is distinct from a true “downstairs” story.)

Perhaps more to the point, there’s Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance, which paints a very vivid picture of the life of an underhousemaid in an Edwardian great house.

Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton, in which the narrator is a former housemaid, also jumps to mind.

For non-fiction, there’s Lucy Lethbridge’s Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times.

But other than that, I’m coming up blank! Can you think of any good novels set more downstairs than upstairs?

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
July 22nd, 2016

Now that the draft of the next stand alone is in the hands of my editor, I’ve been catching up on reading the large pile of ARCs (advance review copies) that accumulated next to my desk over the past few months. It’s been an eclectic and fascinating mix of reads, including:

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo. This debut novel (coming out in January 2017) is hands down one of the best books I’ve read in a while– even though it will make you cry, possibly in public places. A vivid and heart-wrenching look into the lives of two nurses during World War II, one in Europe, one in the Pacific, each enduring the unendurable. Brilliant, heart-breaking, and redemptive.

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni Walsh (coming out May 2017). Did you know anything about Bonnie and Clyde? I didn’t. But I still found this tale of a young woman’s transformation from church-going future teacher to gangster’s moll compelling and convincing. What really caught me about it was the way a person can be tugged by circumstances into a life entirely different from the one she imagined.

The Wife’s Tale by Christine Wells. This one is currently out in Australia, but not yet in the U.S. (Although it looks like it might be available stateside on audio?) Pure candy for anyone who likes 18th century courtroom drama or books about secrets in great houses with attractive but brooding owners. The story goes back and forth between the present day, an Australian lawyer who finds herself helping to prop up a fading mansion on the Isle of Wight, and the 18th century, when a marriage of convenience goes very, very wrong.

Christmas in Paris, by Anita Hughes (coming out in October). Paris seen through a snow globe: a modern fairy tale romance set in Paris at Christmas, complete with haute couture, fancy hotels, and a light dusting of happily ever after.

I also seized the chance to sample from a pile of books a friend had sent, including:

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets a cocktail menu, with frightening paranormal creatures, magical drink mixes, and a whole arcane history of booze.

What have you been reading this week?

 

Happy (paperback) birthday, OTHER DAUGHTER!
July 12th, 2016

The Other Daughter is out in trade paperback today!

Flapper girl: Retro party invitation design. Vector illustration.

Booklist called The Other Daughter “vibrant and thrilling”.

RT Book Reviews writes, “… the complexity of the story-line and the characters draws readers deeply into the story until they are completely invested and hooked until the end. Readers will find themselves looking into their hearts and relationships, comparing their reactions to the characters.”

And now you can read it and see what you think….

 

THE OTHER DAUGHTER– in paperback on Tuesday!
July 8th, 2016

If you’re like me and tend to wait for the paperback… the paperback of The Other Daughter is heading your way!

My author’s copies arrived on the doorstep last week:

Other Daughter paperback copies

Don’t they look snazzy?

Here’s the official blurb:

Raised by her widowed mother in genteel poverty in an isolated English village, for the past six years Rachel Woodley has been working in France as a nursery governess. When her mother unexpectedly dies, she returns to England to clear out the cottage, and finds a scrapbook full of cuttings from London society pages—all pictures of her supposedly deceased father, very much alive. He’s an earl, socially prominent, with another daughter who is living a charmed life: a debutante, much photographed, and engaged to a rising Tory MP. Rachel’s cousin confirms the horrible truth: her father is alive, with a legitimate, acknowledged family. Which makes Rachel…not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past—even her very name—is a lie.

Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel enters into an uneasy alliance with a mysterious man-about-town, who promises her access to her father. With his help, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity and insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father’s perfidy and bring his—and her half-sister’s—charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn’t as simple it appears; and that Rachel herself might just be falling for her sister’s fiancé.

From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times Best Selling novel The Ashford Affair, comes a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.

Just three days more!

Other Daughter Paperback 3

Once The Other Daughter paperback is out in the world, I’ll have more news to share about my next stand alone novel– and another collaboration with my end-of-the-alphabet besties, Karen White and Beatriz Williams.