The Butcher's Hook: A Novel by Janet EllisAnne Jaccob, a precocious and troubled 19-year-old, despises her self-absorbed parents and their stifling London home. The only bright spot in her lonely life is Fub, the local butcher's apprentice, with whom she becomes infatuated. However, Anne's father, a prosperous merchant, wants her to marry one of his business associates. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Anne is not about to let her family's wishes keep her from her heart's desire. For another dark tale set in 18th-century England in which a young woman rebels against her circumstances, try Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin.
Victoria by Daisy GoodwinIn 1837, 18-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria of the House of Hanover becomes Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. No one expects much from a sheltered teenager who collects dolls and still shares a room with her overbearing mother. But Victoria, determined to become the monarch her people deserve, sets out to prove herself as a ruler, aided by Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, who becomes her adviser and confidant. Fans of royalty-themed reads won't want to miss this novel by American Heiress author Daisy Goodwin, who also penned the screenplay for current Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Victoria.
Who Killed Piet Barol? A Novel by Richard MasonPiet Barol, the charming libertine first introduced in History of a Pleasure Seeker, is a Dutch con artist posing as a French aristocrat. Currently living in South Africa's Cape Colony, Barol recruits two Xhosa men to help him source mahogany for the creation of high-end furniture, a task made easier by The Natives Land Act, which strips black South Africans of their property rights. Obsession and greed lead to tragedy in this novel, which places flawed and fascinating characters in a lush and richly detailed African setting.
The Second Mrs. Hockaday: A Novel by Susan RiversSeventeen-year-old Placidia Fincher weds widowed Confederate Major Gryffth Hockaday just hours after meeting him and mere days before he returns to his regiment. In his absence, Placidia becomes pregnant, gives birth to a child that dies under suspicious circumstances, and ends up in jail for infanticide. What happened? Placidia won't say, but then her diary is discovered. Told through diary entries, correspondence, and court transcripts, The Second Mrs. Hockaday shifts back and forth in time to tell a compelling story of the American Civil War.
The Paris Architect: A Novel by Charles BelfoureIn 1942, Parisian architect Lucien Bernard accepts a lucrative commission from a wealthy businessman to design a secret room for the purpose of hiding Jewish fugitives from the Gestapo. Although Lucien has no particular love for the city's Jewish population, he loathes the occupying Germans and thrives on the challenge of deceiving them (the money doesn't hurt, either). But as Lucien's involvement in the scheme grows, he learns that no one can be trusted, not even those closest to him. Fans of suspenseful historical fiction set in Vichy France and featuring artists may also be interested in Paul Watkins' The Forger, in which a young American expatriate forges paintings to undermine the Third Reich.
Mission to Paris: A Novel by Alan FurstArriving in Paris in 1938, Frederic Stahl, a Hollywood star on loan from Warner Bros. to a French studio, soon finds himself wooed by the "political warfare" branch of the Nazi progaganda machine. Born and raised in Vienna but naturalized in the U.S., Stahl has always steered clear of politics. However, his unease with the growing influence of the Third Reich in France and his distaste for being used prompts him to try his hand at espionage. Fans of noir-tinged historical spy fiction should enjoy this atmospheric stand-alone 12th installment of Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series.
City of Women: A Novel by David R. GillhamSigrid Schröder is the perfect wife, or so it appears. Married to a soldier fighting on the front lines, she lives in Berlin with her mother-in-law and works as a stenographer. However, she also pines for her married lover while helping her neighbors shelter Jewish families from the Gestapo. Focusing on Sigrid's inner life and the moral dilemmas she faces, City of Women is an introspective but dramatic story of an ordinary individual's resistance to authoritarian government.
The Kommandant's Girl by Pam JenoffWhen the Nazis invade Poland, Jewish librarian Emma Bau risks her life to aid the resistance, assuming a false identity as a gentile while her activist husband Jacob goes into hiding. As Anna Lipowski, she becomes the personal assistant to a high-ranking Nazi official, Kommandant Georg Richwalder, hoping to secure information that will help the cause. But Richwalder is hardly the monster Emma expects him to be, and their growing intimacy threatens to jeopardize everything -- her work for the resistance, her marriage, and even her life. If you enjoy The Kommandant's Girl, you may want to read The Diplomat's Wife, which takes place after the war and features some of the same characters.
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival by Louise MurphyAbandoned in the woods by their father and stepmother, two Jewish siblings in Nazi-occupied Poland are rescued by Magda, an elderly woman believed to be a witch. Now known as "Hansel" and "Gretel" to conceal their identities from the authorities, the children adjust to their new lives. Then a German officer arrives in the village, threatening this fragile equilibrium. This haunting novel may remind readers of Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, which also adapted a classic fairy tale into a sensitive exploration of the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Golden Hour: A Novel by Margaret WurteleWhen the German Army invades her Tuscan village and commandeers her family's estate, 17-year-old Giovanna Bellini's life is turned upside down. At first, Giovanna's primary concern is herself: the occupation prevents her from going out with her friends and flirting with boys. Gradually, however, she comes to appreciate the gravity of the situation -- and takes an active role in resisting the Nazis when, at the request of her partisan brother, she harbors a wounded Jewish Resistance fighter. As much a coming-of-age tale as it is a war story, The Golden Hour boasts an authentic progatonist and a strong sense of place.
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