The General's Cook by Ramin GaneshramIntroducing: Hercules, the enslaved chef who commanded the kitchen of President George Washington's Philadelphia residence. Although Hercules' talents earn him privileges, they're no substitute for freedom.
Is it for you? Although this debut paints George Washington in a less-than-flattering light, it should appeal to readers who appreciate detailed settings and mouth-watering descriptions of food
Try this next: Erica Armstrong Dunbar's Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, about Oney Judge, who, like Hercules, liberated herself from bondage.
Josephine Baker's Last Dance by Sherry JonesStarring: iconic black entertainer Josephine Baker.
Why you might like it: While Baker's rise from poverty to stardom would be a compelling enough story on its own, the novel also depicts her work for the French Resistance during WWII and her civil rights activism.
Want a taste? "People don't come to the theater for truth. Her fans want the dream, the candy coating: a face with no lines, a heart never broken, a life with no cares."
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia KimWhat it is: a sweeping story of sisters separated by war and geography.
What happens: Traveling to the United States in 1948, Calvin and Najin Cho bring toddler Miran with them but leave infant Inja in Seoul with relatives. The Korean War makes their temporary separation permanent.
For fans of: the family drama of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko or the moving depiction of relationships shattered by the Korean War found in Crystal Hana Kim's If You Leave Me.
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer RobsonWhat it's about: the friendship between the seamstresses responsible for the intricate embroidery on Princess (soon to be Queen) Elizabeth's wedding dress.
Why you might like it: Parallel narratives, set in 1947 and 2016, converge as a present-day woman solves a family mystery.
You might also like: Liz Trenow's The Forgotten Seamstress, in which vintage clothing similarly connects two women from different eras.
All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha RoyWhat it's about: In 1937, nine-year-old Myshkin Chand Rozario's artist mother, Gayatri, abandoned him in order to follow her muse. Decades later, he receives a packet of her letters, in which she describes the circumstances that led to her decision.
Why you might like it: The personal becomes political as Myshkin's coming-of-age parallels India's struggle for independence.
You might also like: Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, another lyrical and keenly observed novel about a troubled Indian family that unfolds against a backdrop of political unrest.
The After Party by Anton DiSclafaniStarring: rebellious glamour girl Joan Fortier and Cece Buchnan, her "best friend since infancy, her modern-day lady-in-waiting." Inseparable since childhood, the women's complicated bond is unraveled by Joan's increasingly alarming behavior.
Why you might like it: Set amid the debutante balls, cocktail parties, and garden-club luncheons of 1950s Houston, Texas, The After Party boasts in-depth characterizations and strong period atmosphere.
Belgravia by Julian FellowesWhat it is: a dramatic novel from the creator of TV's Downton Abbey.
What happens: A fancy dress ball held the night before the Battle of Waterloo sets in motion events whose ramifications won't be fully felt for decades.
Why you might like it: The posh London district of Belgravia serves as the well-appointed stage on which a compelling and atmospheric tale of family secrets and class conflict plays out.
The It Girls by Karen HarperMeet: the Sutherland sisters: fashion designer Lucy and writer Elinor.
What they want: Wealth and fame, desires sparked by their impoverished upbringing on the Isle of Jersey as well as a chance encounter with socialite Lily Langtree.
How they get it: Elinor's scandalous novels lead to a lucrative screenwriting career in early Hollywood, while Lucy launches Maison Lucile in London, New York, and Paris before marrying a baronet.
Habits of the House by Fay WeldonWhat it's about: Due to profligate spending, poor investments, and gambling with the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Dilberne has money troubles. Could marrying off his son to an American heiress solve them?
Series alert: This 1st book in the Love and Inheritance trilogy continues with Long Live the King and The New Countess.
About the author: In addition to penning the first episode of landmark TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, British author Fay Weldon also coined the slogan "Vodka gets you drunker quicker" during her copywriting days.
The Other Daughter by Lauren WilligWhat it's about: When governess Rachel Woodley discovers that she's the illegitimate daughter of an earl, she joins forces with gossip columnist Simon Montfort, who helps her infiltrate society as "Vera."
Why you might like it: Set in 1920s London, The Other Daughter features memorable characters, surprising plot twists, and (light) romance.
About the author: Best known for her Napoleonic War-era Pink Carnation series, author Lauren Willig branches out to the Bright Young Things in this stand-alone novel.
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