Once again I’m several weeks behind on reviews…months, even. This post will contain mini reviews of historical fiction I read in March through May!
The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock (★★★)
For fans of royal drama, The Crown, and “beach read”-style historical fiction, this is right up your alley. The novel is about Princess Margaret through the eyes of her (fictional) lady-in-waiting, Vera. Vera is a lower peer whose dream is to become a respectable published author. Her romance novels under a pen name prove successful, as Princess Margaret is a fan. Swept up in royal drama and the whirlwind that is Margaret’s life and personality, Vera loses sight of authorhood to devote all her energies to the royal.
The novel spans about 10 years or so, from just before Queen Elizabeth’s coronation to Princess Margaret’s marriage to Tony. The writing was engaging enough for a novel that seemed to lose direction (though to be fair, it would make sense as Vera’s life is put entirely on hold to serve the princess). Characters felt a little two-dimensional, so it made for a quick read. However, if you’re at all familiar with the royal family’s history, and understand protocol, addressing royals/peerage, and the nicknames for things, this novel will grate a bit. I had to stop reading the Her Majesties and Ladies and Your Graces (and “Buck Place”) because it was all oh-so-painfully wrong.
But! If you love historical fiction and you’re seeking a light, escapist read, this is just the ticket!
This qualifies for my TBR & genre challenge!
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas (★★★)
Big thanks to my library for their vast digital collection! I finished listening to A Study in Scarlet Women on Hoopla, and enjoyed it overall. I liked the twist on the Sherlock Holmes narrative—still Victorian London, but Holmes and Watson are women and shocking society with their gender assumptions—and found the writing to be engaging enough to see what’s in store next. Thomas really brought London to life, and all the expectations and social norms of society and women’s roles really made for clever cover-ups and murder motives. I have the other audiobooks saved in my Hoopla account now––interested in seeing where this goes.
This qualifies for my library books & genre challenge!
All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White (★★★)
I’d listened to the W Trio’s work before (Glass Ocean) and did not enjoy it. Though I was impressed I wasn’t able to tell the authors apart, it just didn’t have that forward momentum for me.
Flash forward to this novel—where three narratives are connected via the Hotel Ritz in Paris—and it was a massive improvement. Though I’d figured out/guessed all the connections and twists halfway into the novel, I wanted to power through to the end to see how it would be revealed to the characters. Aurilie is determined to save her family estate in WWI but she’s fallen in love with a German officer; Daisy’s husband in WWII is a Nazi-sympathizer and she stumbles into the Resistance; and Babs is a young widow in 1960s, uncovering her husband’s war work secrets with a spy. The settings felt so tangible, the hotel glamorous and a character wholly its own. The dialogue was engaging and I felt the characters’ emotions deeply—hard to do with so many POVs!
I’d hoped to see/feel more of the wars and spy work, but I also believe this was meant to be more of a historical romance (or trio of romances) more than anything else. And if that’s the case, it was very well done! I personally would love to see more of Daisy’s grandmother…she would make an excellent character study.
This qualifies for my library books & genre challenge!
The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor (ARC) (★★★)
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this galley from HarperTeen for review!
A lovely historical/contemporary parallel narrative about a teen who discovers her grandmother’s abandoned Paris apartment, and the secret sister she never knew Gram had.
I enjoyed this for what it was: a sweet Anna and the French Kiss narrative in modern day (with a dash of seriousness with mental health that I wish was developed further to give the weight it deserved) and a French Resistance historical to excite any histfic reader. It had a blend of younger YA meeting older YA. The historical narrative felt almost adult to me—which seems fair, WWII generation had to grow up fast. I enjoyed the sense of adventure and research Alice (modern) put into discovering Adalyn’s (hist) past. What was meant to be a summer of cleaning out Gram’s secret Paris apartment turned into all sorts of deeper surprises into Gram’s past and ties with her family. What appears like sympathizing with the enemy is really spy work.
If there are more hist/contemp parallel narratives in YA, I’m not familiar with them—this was my first experience within YA. I love parallel narratives in adult and seeing how it all ties together. Either because I’ve read so many, or maybe it was the new experience in YA itself, I’d guessed everything about halfway through. I would’ve appreciated a bit more secrecy and a more satisfying conclusion.
However, this is meant for teens. I think a teen reader would appreciate the twists and turns, the parallels, the setting, the dip into historical fiction, the balance of upper and lower YA. (Plus, I was totally that teen who loved books about diaries and abandoned homes full of secrets!) I’d definitely recommend this.
This qualifies for my genre challenge!