The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle GableWhat it is: an inspired-by-real-life tale of love, politics, and glamour, starring a young Jack Kennedy -- an up-and-coming congressman from Hyannis Port, MA -- and Alicia Darr, the Polish immigrant with whom he fell in love.
For fans of: multi-generational family sagas -- or, of course, the Kennedy family.
Reviewers say: “An alternate Kennedy family history that will leave readers wondering whether America knew the real JFK at all” (Kirkus Reviews).
The Wanderers by Tim PearsWhat it’s about: In 1912 England, just after the events in The Horseman, 13-year-old horseman Leo Sercombe has been banished from home because of his love for the master’s daughter, Lottie. He is surviving alone -- but just barely. Will he and Lottie ever find each other again?
Try this next: If you like the quiet, lyrical writing style in this 2nd in the West Country trilogy, you might also like Rae Meadows’ I Will Draw Rain.
A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl PhillipsWhat it is: Award-winning British author Caryl Phillips imagines the life of Jean Rhys -- the author of Wide Sargasso Sea, the prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre -- who was born Ella Gwendolyn Williams and whose life began in the West Indies. Sent to Edwardian England as a teenager, she was consistently an outsider.
Further reading: For more biographical fiction about women authors, try The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg, Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor, and Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James.
The Removes by Tatjana SoliFeaturing: fifteen-year-old Anne Cummins, who is the sole survivor after her family is brutally attacked on their homestead by the Cheyenne; and Libbie Custer, who faces a difficult life on the plains with her husband, Civil War hero General George Armstrong Custer.
Why you might like it: This thrilling historical novel is an epic tale of the clashing cultures on the American frontier.
For further reading: Savage Country by Robert Olmstead, which also focuses on women settlers in the American West.
The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise ValmorbidaWhat it’s about: In 1923 Italy, 25-year-old Maria Vittoria is almost too old to marry, but her life’s path changes when she weds Achille, a veteran of the Great War. Together they open a small grocery, and over the next few decades, Maria experiences all the good and the bad that life offers.
Is it for you? Yes, if you like multi-generational sagas about women’s lives, Italian history, and are interested in the period between the World Wars.
The Kid by Ron HansenWhat it's about: In 1880s New Mexico Territory, young gunslinger Billy the Kid falls in with a gang of thieves and becomes enmeshed in the Lincoln County War, giving birth to the myth we all know today.
Reviewers say: Author Ron Hansen presents this "very good and tangled story in a spry and inventive way” (The New York Times).
Further reading: If you also enjoy nonfiction, you might want to seek out Michael Wallis’ biography Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride.
World, Chase Me Down by Andrew HillemanWhat it’s about: In the first great crime of the 20th century, an out-of-work butcher, Pat Crowe, makes a name for himself when he kidnaps the teenage son of a meatpacking tycoon and ransoms him for $25,000 -- and that’s just the start of Crowe’s incredible story, which takes him around the globe as he evades capture.
Why you might like it: If you like raucous, bawdy antiheroes whom you can’t help but cheer for, World, Chase Me Down will hit the spot.
The Outcasts by Kathleen KentStarring: epileptic prostitute Lucinda Carter, who plans to rendezvous with her lover and hunt for buried treasure in tiny Middle Bayou, Texas; and Oklahoma transplant and new police recruit Nate Cannon, who has been tasked with tracking down murderer William McGill.
Read it for: the surprising convergence of these parallel storylines, as the colorful characters at the heart of them pursue their separate goals. Also watch for the richly atmospheric and starkly beautiful landscape of post-Civil War Texas.
You might also like: the female outlaw in Courtney Collins' The Untold.
Backlands by Victoria ShorrFeaturing: Bandit Lampião and his partner-in-crime, Maria Bonita, who became Brazilian folk heroes in the early 20th century when they led a gang of outlaws who stole from the rich.
Why you might like it: Set in northeastern Brazil in the 1920s and '30s, this penetrating novel vividly evokes the landscape of the Sertão and the hardscrabble lives of its inhabitants.
Try this next: The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles, which is also set in 1920s Brazil and stars a rebellious young woman.
Becoming Bonnie: The Crash of the Century: When Bonnie Met Clyde by Jenni L. WalshWhat it’s about: We’ve all heard of the notorious couple Bonnie and Clyde -- but what led Bonnelyn Parker down the primrose path to a life of crime? Follow her from her poverty-stricken Texas beginnings into a 1927 speakeasy, where she takes a second job to help support her family -- and meets one Clyde Barrow.
Further reading: Bonnie and Clyde by Bill Brooks.
Keep an eye out for: Side by Side, the sequel to Becoming Bonnie, which published in June.
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