| | Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma What it's about: The past and secrets of Rosa Rendon, a black woman who began life in 1790s Trinidad but now lives in the Crow Nation (in what is now Montana), where she and her husband, a chief, must help their mixed-race son Victor complete an important rite of passage.
For fans of: classic Jane Eyre "prequel" Wide Sargasso Sea and Esmerelda Santiago's Conquistadora, both of which also follow unconventional young women with deep ties to the Caribbean.
| | The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig Starring: Iseult Wince, a young Victorian woman who communicates with the voice of her dead mother; Iseult's cruel father Edward, who is determined to marry off his "old maid" daughter at any cost; and Jacob Vinke, a damaged young man and Iseult's most likely marriage prospect -- if Iseult can quiet her mother's increasingly worried voice.
For fans of: darkly humorous gothic fiction such as Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye or Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.
| | Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer The premise: Beth Walsh is dealing with postpartum depression when she stumbles upon a copy of her deceased mother Grace's journals, which detail her own struggle with the disease in the 1950s.
The problem: Instead of the solace and validation she expected to find reading her mother's story, Beth uncovers a disturbing family secret that can only be explained by her father, who would have been uncooperative even before he developed advanced dementia.
| | Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen by Alison Weir What it's about: the rise and fall of Katheryn Howard, the notorious fifth wife of Henry VIII who led a more complex, relatable, and tragic life than most historians have given her credit for.
Read it for: the engaging characterization, which underlines just how unprepared the naive (and very young) Katheryn was for how precarious life could be at the venomous Tudor Court.
Series alert: This is the 5th in a six-volume series of novels by historian Alison Weir about each of Henry VIII's legendary queens.
| | Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen The setup: A tragic accident presents an unexpected opportunity for Bella Waverly to pursue her seemingly impossible dream of becoming a chef, but only if she's willing to lie about who she is.
What goes wrong: Now known as Helen, Bella is able to get a job working in Queen Victoria's kitchens, where she begins to make a name for herself. But when a duke dies by poison, Bella is a suspect and must find a way to save herself without revealing that she entered the Queen's service under false pretenses.
| | His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet What it's about: Everyone agrees that the young crofter Roderick Macrae is obviously guilty of the 1869 brutal triple murder that occurred in his remote Scottish village, but no one -- not the investigators, not his neighbors, not the courts -- can agree on why.
Why you might like it: The story is told from multiple perspectives and is framed as a journey through the documents generated over the course of the investigation, including newspapers, the testimony of Roderick's community, extracts from the book of an "expert" in the emerging field of forensics, and trial transcripts.
| | Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford What it is: Based on a real trial, this compelling and suspenseful novel tells the story of Kitty Payne, a freed slave who successfully brought a court case against a white man in antebellum Virginia who kidnapped and attempted to make her a slave again.
About the author: Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Jack Ford is also the author of The Walls of Jericho, a murder mystery set in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era.
| | The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb What it is: an atmospheric and richly detailed look at the 1897 "Greenbrier Ghost" murder case, in which a West Virginia mother convinced the authorities to reopen the investigation of her daughter's death after testifying that the young woman's ghost paid her a visit.
Why you might like it: The story of the trial is told through the eyes of James Gardner, a black attorney who was part of the defense team during the Greenbrier trial and who readers first meet in 1930, after he has been committed to an insane asylum.
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