When Julie is 25, her Aunt Rose dies, and Julie’s inheritance is a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy. The safety deposit box contains a silver crucifix, a pile of paper, a promise of family treasure, and a battered, old copy of Romeo and Juliet. Julie knew the story of Romeo and Juliet, but she didn’t know Shakespeare based his play on real families in Siena, not Verona – and she was a descendent of Giulietta Tolomei, the real Juliet. If you like historical thrillers like Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale or Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, try Anne Fortier’s fast-paced Shakespearean conspiracy, Juliet.
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Sail the seven seas on the HMS Surprise with Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and Doctor Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany). Nominated for ten Academy Awards, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, based on Patrick O’Brian’s naval series, will supply enough thrills for even the most adventurous viewers.
Rachel is seven years old when the first rose-colored spot appears on her body. It devastates Rachel’s family. It’s leprosy. It’s 1891. There is no cure, yet. The highly contagious child is separated from her loved ones and sent away to Kalaupapa, a leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. In her youth, Rachel’s symptoms are mild, which means she is given the opportunity of time. Time to grow up. Time to build a new family around her, and most importantly, time to meet Kenji, the man she will marry. Moloka’i, Alan Brennart’s debut novel, is the story of how Rachel focuses on hope, not despair and lives her life as fully as possible, even while surrounded by death.
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? It’s all about balance, isn’t it? You’ll appreciate that same skill in A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, a story that weaves between female missionaries in 1923 Asia and a woman in modern-day London who shows kindness to a Yemeni refugee. British citizens Eva, Lizzie, and Millicent have their strength and ideals tested when they find themselves unexpectedly caring for an infant while under house arrest in Turkestan. Then we shift to Frieda, a present-day Middle Eastern scholar who returns home after a long absence to discover she has inherited an apartment from a woman she has never met. Explore exotic lands and intriguing connections in Suzanne Joinson’s debut novel.
Young Jim is tired of living in his father’s shadow. His father, Jim Hawkins, cavorted with the infamous swashbuckler, Long John Silver. You can read the elder Hawkins’ story in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate tale, Treasure Island. Then there’s Natty, the androgynous daughter of Long John Silver. She, too, wants adventures of her own. Natty proposes to young Jim that they journey back to Treasure Island to retrieve all the silver that their fathers didn’t have room to carry home almost forty years before. Andrew Motion, a former Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom (1999 – 2000), writes of buccaneers, bullion, long held grudges, and Natty and Jim’s unexpected exploits in Silver: Return to Treasure Island.
Congratulations to Hilary Mantel for making award history with her win of the 2012 Man Booker Prize, a prestigious literary honor that often has significant impact on popular reading. Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment in a planned Tudor trilogy, explores the fate of Anne Boleyn. The first book, Wolf Hall, won the Prize in 2009 and became an international bestseller. According to the selection committee, “her resuscitation of Thomas Cromwell – and with him the historical novel – is one of the great achievements of modern literature.” With this honor, Mantel becomes the first writer to win for a direct sequel, one of only three writers to win more than once, the first woman to win twice, the first British author to win twice, and the first to win again in so short a time.
Cora Carlisle, a woman of 36, is in need of change. Her two sons are going off to college, and her husband has a busy law practice. When a chaperone is needed to guide 15-year-old Louise Brooks through New York City as she studies dance at the Denishawn School, Cora leaps at the chance. Louise is already a force of nature, extremely beautiful, and about to become a famous silent film star. Cora battles herself on how much to corral Louise and how much to take after her. The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, is an intriguing look at the 1920s, detailing not only the fun and flappers, but the poverty, race issues, and gender politics of the day.
Click here to see what books Alice might enjoy when resting from all that growing and shrinking.
If you like the movie 300, about 300 Spartans fending off overwhelming hordes of the Persian army at the strait of Thermopylae, then you’ll probably enjoy the similarly-themed novel Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. But your ancient historical fiction reading spree doesn’t have to stop there…
Click here for more novels set in or tied to ancient Greece.
Be still our hearts! The Romance Writers of America have named the most outstanding published romance novels of the year and honored them with the 2012 RITA Awards. No matter if your preferred hero wears a kilt, holds a Regency title, has ties to the supernatural, or appreciates homebaked goods, you’ll find a winner to enhance your dreams.
Best Historical Romance: The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Best Regency Historical Romance: A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal
Best First Book: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Best Paranormal Romance: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
Best Romantic Suspense: New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb
Best Young Adult Romance: Enclave by Ann Aguirre