Ngaio Marsh, Death in a White Tie
The London Season is in full swing with its debutantes, chaperones, and elaborate parties. Unfortunately, a blackmailer is also making the social rounds, preying upon high-society women. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is on the case, and he asks his friend Lord Robert “Bunchy” Gospell for help, since Bunchy is invited everywhere and will be able to observe suspicious activity firsthand. When Bunchy is murdered, Alleyn will do whatever it takes to bring his killer to justice — but was it the blackmailer or someone else with a grudge against Bunchy? This is another excellent Alleyn novel; I loved getting more insight into his character as he’s forced to investigate the death of a friend and to suspect people he knows and likes personally. I’ll certainly continue with the series and am glad Marsh was so prolific!
Chloe Neill, The Bright and Breaking Sea
In an alternate 19th-century Britain, Kit Brightling is a naval captain who is magically Aligned to water. Her successes at sea have earned her the queen’s favor, and now the queen has ordered her to rescue a spy who’s been caught by the enemy and imprisoned in a pirate fortress. But Kit is also compelled to team up with Rian Grant, a viscount and former soldier. They distrust each other at first, but their opinions change as they’re forced to work together. Meanwhile, they uncover a dangerous conspiracy involving a deposed emperor and a ship capable of weaponizing magic. What a fun book! The plot is full of excitement, from daring escapes to naval battles to espionage at society events. I also really liked Kit and Grant’s relationship, though I found most of the secondary characters underdeveloped and unmemorable. Still, I’d heartily recommend this book if you love historical romance and/or tales of the British navy with a bit of magic thrown in. There’s a sequel that I plan to get my hands on ASAP!
Rebecca Serle, One Italian Summer
After her mother’s tragic death, Katy feels utterly bereft and disconnected. The loss makes her question everything in her life, including her marriage to her college sweetheart. Needing space, Katy decides to go solo on the trip to Italy she’d been planning with her mom. But when she gets to Positano, she’s shocked to meet her mother in the flesh at age 30 (not a spoiler, it’s mentioned in the cover copy). As Katy gets to know this younger version of her mother—and embarks on a flirtation with a handsome stranger—she also learns more about herself and begins to process her grief. I’ll say one thing about this book, it made me want to travel to the Amalfi coast immediately! But I found Katy a frustrating character. Though her grief is understandable, her actions aren’t particularly sympathetic, and while I love my mom, I can’t imagine idolizing her to the extent Katy does! So while I’m now even more eager to travel to Italy one of these days, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book.
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