Title: Hat Cat Author: Troy Wilson, Eve Coy (illustrator) Genre: Children’s, Picture Book Publisher: Candlewick Press Source: Publisher Format: Hardcover Release Date: February 8, 2022 Rating: ★★★★
When Hat the cat’s doting human friend doesn’t come home for a while, will a young visitor offer the lonely kitty a taste of freedom? A gentle, touching story for cat lovers of all ages.
Ever since the old man found a little kitten under his hat, the two have been the best of friends. There are always plenty of kitty rubs and food and talk to go around. Every day, Hat watches as the old man goes outside to sit and feed the squirrels with nuts he places on top of his hat. But Hat the cat is not allowed to join him. What if Hat ran away, or chased the squirrels–or worse? Then the old man leaves and does not come back the next day, or the one after that. When people come by to take care of Hat until the old man returns, will one little girl give Hat the chance he’s been hoping for? Troy Wilson’s tender prose, along with Eve Coy’s charmingly detailed illustrations, brings readers a sweet story about companionship, love, and trust.
One day, while an old man was feeding squirrels in his yard, he found a kitten in his hat. He named the kitten Hat and took him inside. However, he wouldn’t let the kitten back outside because he was worried that Hat would get hurt or lost. Then the old man disappeared. Hat had to adjust to the new people who visited to look after him, and possibly go outside again.
This was an adorable picture book. I love cats! My family has just brought a kitten into our home, but we’ve looked after outdoor cats in our yard for many years. I could understand the kitten’s desire to go outside, because our outdoor cats love exploring the yard!
My heart broke a little when the old man disappeared from Hat’s life. I felt so bad for the kitten because he didn’t know where the man went. We’ve lost many cats and kittens in the years that we’ve looked after so I know how devastating it can be when the cats lose someone close to them and they don’t understand. Luckily, the man and the cat were eventually reunited.
Hat Cat is a beautiful story for cat lovers!
Thank you Candlewick Press for providing a copy of this book.
Title: Mrs. England Author: Stacey Halls Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: MIRA Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: April 12, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs. England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, an enthralling tale of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception.
West Yorkshire, 1904. When recently graduated Ruby May takes a nanny position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear something is not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs. England.
Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband and is far from the angel of the house Ruby was expecting.
As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracized by the servants and increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family—she should know.
This captivating new feminist novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Stacey Halls is her third work of fiction and proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our time.
1904: When the family that nurse Ruby May has been working for decides to emigrate to America, she needs to find another position in England. Her agency sets her up with Mr. and Mrs. England and their four young children. However, she discovers some mysterious things in the house. Mrs. England is distant with the children and seems confused. Mr. England is welcoming and wants Ruby to do everything with the children. Ruby worries that her own family history is about to be repeated with the England family, so she must do everything she can to prevent it and protect the children.
This book reminded me of Jane Eyre and The Turn of the Screw, which are two of my favourite gothic stories. It had a spooky and mysterious atmosphere like both of those stories. However, this story had more of a realistic feel than The Turn of the Screw. Ruby didn’t seem like an unreliable narrator because most of the strange events could be logically explained.
There was a lot of build up to the big reveals at the end. Hints of Ruby’s mysterious past were given throughout the story but it wasn’t explained until the end. I had to read the last page a couple of times because I was so surprised at what happened. It was a great ending!
Some content triggers for this story are: mentions of suicide, suggestion of rape, murder, asthma attack, mental illness.
Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book.
What to read next:
The Foundling by Stacey Halls
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
About the author:
Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, the Independent, the Sun and Fabulous. Both of her first two novels, The Familiars and The Lost Orphan, were Sunday Times bestsellers, Mrs England is her third novel.
Have you read Mrs. England? What did you think of it?
Title: Renegade Women in Film and TV Author: Elizabeth Weitzman, Austen Claire Clements (illustrator) Genre: Nonfiction Publisher: Clarkson Potter Source: Publisher Format: Hardcover Release Date: February 5, 2019 Rating: ★★★★★
A charmingly illustrated and timely tribute to the women who broke glass ceilings in film and television, debuting during an historic time of change in the entertainment industry.
Renegade Women in Film and TV blends stunning illustrations, fascinating biographical profiles, and exclusive interviews with icons like Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno, and Sigourney Weaver to celebrate the accomplishments of 50 extraordinary women throughout the history of entertainment. Each profile highlights the groundbreaking accomplishments and essential work of pioneers from the big and small screens, offering little-known facts about household names (Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Nora Ephron) and crucial introductions to overlooked pioneers (Alla Nazimova, Anna May Wong, Frances Marion). From 19th century iconoclast Alice Guy Blach� to 21st century trailblazer Ava DuVernay, Renegade Women honors the women who succeeded against all odds, changing their industry in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
This book talks about 50 incredibly accomplished women in film and TV. These women were trailblazers and set records. Exclusive interviews with some of the women were also included, such as Rita Moreno, Barbra Streisand, and Amy Poehler. These interviews gave insight into the women themselves.
I hadn’t heard of many of the women in this book, unfortunately. They set records, some of which haven’t been reached again. I had no idea that Barbra Streisand was the first, and only, woman to win a Best Director Golden Globe. It’s surprising that no other woman has won that award since 1983.
The illustrations that accompanied these biographies were gorgeous. The portraits showed the women in their most famous appearances. Of the women that I recognized, they were accurate depictions. I liked that the illustrations were so detailed and realistic.
Renegade Women in Film and TV is a fabulous book!
Thank you Elizabeth Weitzman and Clarkson Potter Publishers for sending me a copy of this book.
What to read next:
Rebel Girls Lead: 25 Tales of Powerful Women by Rebel Girls
Have you read Renegade Women in Film and TV? What did you think of it?
Title: Very Bad People Author: Kit Frick Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Source: Publisher Format: Paperback arc Release Date: April 5, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
In this dark academia young adult thriller for fans of The Female of the Species and People Like Us, a teen girl’s search for answers about her mother’s mysterious death leads to a powerful secret society at her new boarding school—and a dangerous game of revenge that will leave her forever changed.
Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove the family van into a lake with her three daughters inside. The girls escaped, but their mother drowned, and the truth behind the “accident” remains a mystery Calliope is determined to solve. Now sixteen, she transfers to Tipton Academy, the same elite boarding school her mother once attended. Tipton promises a peek into the past and a host of new opportunities—including a coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, an exclusive secret society that looms over campus like a legend.
Calliope accepts, stepping into the exhilarating world of the “ghosts,” a society of revolutionaries fighting for social justice. But when Haunt and Rail commits to exposing a dangerous person on campus, it becomes clear that some ghosts define justice differently than others.
As the society’s tactics escalate, Calliope uncovers a possible link between Haunt and Rail and her mother’s deadly crash. Now, she must question what lengths the society might go to in order to see a victory—and if the secret behind her mother’s death could be buried here at Tipton.
Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove their van into a lake. Only Calliope and her two younger sisters survived. Now, Calliope is still looking for answers for what made her mother drive off the road. She transfers to the elite boarding school Tipton Academy, which her mother attended. Calliope is invited to join the secret society, Haunt and Rail, which stages pranks across campus in order to achieve social justice. She discovers a possible link between the society and what happened to her mother, involving a mysterious man she sees in town who reminds her of the crash. As the society takes on a huge social justice issue, Calliope discovers the secret behind her mother’s death.
This was such a suspenseful thriller. I couldn’t put it down. There were so many layers to the story, including the car crash where Calliope’s mother died, the Haunt and Rail society, and the new relationships Calliope made at school. All of these plots came together at the end.
The only thing that I didn’t like was that the story ended on a cliffhanger. I realized when I had about ten pages left that there wasn’t enough space to resolve all the questions I had. I’m really hoping there will be a sequel because I need to know what happens next!
Very Bad People is a suspenseful, boarding school thriller!
Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book.
What to read next:
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Have you read Very Bad People? What did you think of it?
Title: Hush (Hush #1) Author: Dylan Farrow Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: Wednesday Books Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: October 6, 2020 Rating: ★★★★★
They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?
Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
Seventeen-year-old Shae has lived a quiet life, despite experiencing losses. Her brother died of the disease called Blot, caused by ink. Writing and books are banned in their country. Her father also died and her mother never spoke again after her brother died. Shae lives in fear of the strange way her illusions bleed into her reality and of the Bards, who use their magic of Telling things into reality to keep the community safe. When Shae discovers her mother has been murdered, she must find answers, but no one else believes that she was murdered. Shae runs away to the capital to find answers, and she discovers a power she didn’t know was inside her.
I went into this story completely blind and I’m so glad I did. I loved this fantasy world. Writing and reading books are my entire life, so it was fascinating and scary to imagine a world where they are banned. That would be my worst nightmare, but I can believe that people can be told something is dangerous enough times that it becomes believable.
Shae was an unreliable narrator, because no one believed what she said. It even made me question if what she said was true, because everyone said she was wrong. This was a powerful story about speaking your truth despite others not believing it.
Hush is a beautiful story. I’m so excited to read the sequel!
Thank you Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book.
Title: Fool Me Once Author: Ashley Winstead Genre: Romance, Contemporary Publisher: Graydon House Release Date: April 5, 2022
Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you) and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…
That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust love. After four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.
Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.
Grace under Fire
The Texas State Capitol has always reminded me of Daedalus’s labyrinth, large and elaborate and winding. It could be because I was studying Greek myths the first time I toured it at the tender age of eight, and was also plagued by a truly unfortunate sense of direction. But in my defense, the capitol is made of red granite, an oddly exotic color for a government building—something you might be more likely to find on, say, the isle of Crete.
As I grew up, both a feminist and an environmentalist in the staunchly red state of Texas, the idea that the capitol building housed a flesh-eating man with a bull’s head struck me less and less as fictional, and more and more as an apt metaphor.
But today, there was no doubt Ben Laderman—at this very moment, holed up somewhere inside—was my Minotaur. And for all my wine-induced bravado last night, my hands trembled as we walked up the steps to the capitol.
The truth was, I’d imagined running into Ben a hundred times since we broke up, picturing exactly how I’d react. There was this one time I’d been sitting with my mom and Alexis in an airport parking shuttle, when a man Ben’s height and coloring lugged his suitcase up the steps. For one dizzying second, thinking it was him, my heart had tried to beat its way out of my chest. Even though the man quickly revealed himself to be a Ben imposter, the buzzing adrenaline hadn’t washed out of my veins until hours later, near the end of our flight.
How surreal that I was minutes away from actually facing him.
“The idea for today is to introduce Ben to the bill, since he probably hasn’t had time to review it yet, and secure his buy-in.” Wendy was walking beside me—actually, she was strutting beside me like the steps were a runway. Dakota’s chief of staff was long and lean; everywhere she walked, the world seemed to fold itself into a catwalk just for her. She wore an all-black suit, as sharp and quintessentially no-nonsense as she was.
“Remember, the most important thing we can walk away with is Ben’s enthusiasm.” She cut a glance at me. “I need charm from you. Is that feasible?”
“Psshh.” I gave her an affronted look.
If only Wendy knew the truth about what we were walking into. But there was no way in hell I was going to tell her the project we’d been working on for years, the one with the potential to catapult the company to stardom, could go up in flames thanks to my messy dating life. Somehow, I’d managed to convince everyone at work that I was a talented communications professional, concealing any hint of the Lee Stone that existed outside the hours of nine to five. If Wendy—uptight stickler Wendy—knew what I was really like, I’d be fired before I could count to three.
Within the monochromatic white walls of Lise, I was Lee, or Ms. Stone to junior employees: a take-no-prisoners messaging maven. Outside of Lise, I was Stoner. And never the twain should meet.
“Lee’s a pro,” said Dakota, winking from my other side. “She already won over the governor. Besides, this is a good bill. The only reason they wouldn’t go for it is politics.” Dakota said the last word with scorn, and I knew why: she’d been fighting politics her whole life.
Dakota Young was my hero. She was only ten years older than me, but she’d built Lise from the ground up, thanks to her genius inventor’s brain and business savvy. When I first started as Lise’s comms director, the newspapers had called Dakota “the female Elon Musk”—when they mentioned her at all. My first self-assigned task was to inform them that Dakota had designed and produced her electric vehicle five years before Tesla was a twinkle in Elon’s eye, and the only reason the journalists didn’t know was because our patriarchal society dismissed female inventors. Especially Mexican American female inventors.
The truth was, Dakota had beat Elon to it and designed a car battery pack with twice the capacity of Tesla’s, meaning our vehicles could go as far as a gas car before needing to recharge. And they took less time to do that, too. There was no reason our cars shouldn’t be the clear winner in the e-vehicle market, but we consistently underperformed. My hypothesis was that it came down to our small profile.
The disparity in attention between Dakota and Elon had inspired one of my best ideas: changing the name of the company from Unified Electric Vehicles—the yawn-worthy UEV for short—to Lise, pronounced “leez,” in honor of Lise Meitner, a nuclear physicist who’d helped discover nuclear fission, only to be excluded from winning the Nobel Prize for it. The award had gone solely to Otto Hahn, her partner. Her male partner, if I even need to say it.
I’d gambled on my instincts, telling Dakota we shouldn’t shy away from being known as a female-led tech and auto company, but rather call it out as a strength. She’d gambled on me and agreed; the rest was history. The name change had exploded like a bomb in the press. Dakota was featured in Science, the New York Times, Good Morning America—even Fox News, though that might have been because she’s not only a badass female inventor, but with her long, dark hair and hazel eyes, a gift of her Mexican heritage, she’s a beautiful, badass female inventor.
Since our rebranding, the whole country had been taken with her, as well they should be. Dakota was the smartest person I’d ever met, managing to toe the line of being a total boss while exuding kindness. She was, to put it mildly, my idol. And also, the older sister I’d never had. My feelings for her were totally healthy.
I had a good track record at Lise, but passing this bill would seal the deal, establishing that I was a leader. If I was successful, I could ask for a promotion to the position I really wanted: vice president of public affairs.
Ever since reading Silent Spring at the age of ten, I’d grown up obsessed with the fact that we were poisoning our planet, and I’d dreamed of going into politics to do something about it. Being Lise’s comms director was a good position at a great company—nothing a millennial could turn her nose up at—but being in charge of our policy work was what I was really interested in, the goal that got me out of bed each morning.
And now I was so close.
Assuming, of course, I didn’t dissolve into a fine mist the minute I set eyes on Ben.
I turned left toward the meeting room we always used when we came to talk to the governor. It was the biggest room, filled with highly questionable artifacts from Texas history. These artifacts were supposed to paint a picture of Texans as bold, valiant cowboys—framed letters from Mexican presidents pleading to end wars and old-timey weapons in glass cases from the years Texas was “settled” (translation: stolen from indigenous peoples). It was a room that showcased the state’s history without any sense of self-awareness, and being there always put me on edge. Made me question whether we should be working with these people at all, even on something as potentially transformative as the Green Machine bill.
But Wendy shook her head, tugging my arm. “No Alamo room today. We’re down the hall.” She pointed to the right and I followed her, wondering at the change.
The three of us halted outside a closed door. Dakota smiled. “Remember, this is bigger than us. We’ve got the health and well-being of the planet on our shoulders. Let’s do this for the people.”
“No pressure,” I muttered, as Wendy swung open the door.
And there he was, the very first thing I saw. Ben Laderman. Sitting at the right hand of the governor at the conference table.
Time seemed to freeze as the impact of seeing him in the flesh hit me like a punch to the chest. All the years we’d spent apart were obvious, because he looked different. He wasn’t the Ben from my memories.
But he was still the easiest person in the world to describe, at least in terms of the basics: Ben Laderman looked exactly like Clark Kent from old comic books. Not Superman, with his perfect, blue-black hair, little forehead curl and confident, square jawline—Clark.
Don’t get me wrong, Ben had the dark hair and strong jaw and ice-blue eyes, but when I’d known him, he’d kept his hair super short and worn thick-framed black glasses that mostly obscured his eyes. He was well over six feet, but he’d always hunched, like Clark slinking in late to the Daily Planet, trying to creep about unnoticed.
The Ben Laderman sitting at the table now was…well, there was no way to describe it other than California Ben. He’d grown out his hair and wore it tucked and curling behind his ears. He’d exchanged the thick-framed black glasses for a pair of thin, transparent frames that left no question his eyes were vivid blue.
And the suit he was sitting ramrod straight in—no more hunch—wasn’t a dark, boxy number like what he’d worn in law school for mock trial. This suit was the same blue as his eyes, a fashion risk that was both startlingly handsome and startlingly playful for someone starting work in the Texas governor’s office.
He was different. Still knee-wobblingly beautiful, but different.
Title: Sense and Second-Degree Murder (Jane Austen Murder Mystery #2) Author: Tirzah Price Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery Publisher: HarperTeen Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: April 5, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
Three of Jane Austen’s classic novels receive a murder mystery makeover in this romantic and thrilling three-book series that’s perfect for fans of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy and Stalking Jack the Ripper. In Sense and Second-Degree Murder, aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood and her sister Marianne, a budding detective, work together to solve the mystery of their father’s murder.
When eighteen-year-old aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood discovers her beloved father slumped over the desk of his office study, she knows his death means dire straits for the Dashwood women. To make matters worse, an outdated will entails his estate—including Norland & Company, the private investigation firm where her younger sister Marianne worked as her father’s partner and protégé—to their half-brother and his haughty wife, who waste no time in forcing the Dashwoods out of their home and into a cramped apartment on London’s Barton Street.
But before they go, the Dashwood sisters make a startling discovery that points to foul play, and the killer might be family.
Obviously, the girls must investigate. It could be dangerous; it could ruin their reputations; and most importantly, it won’t bring back their father. But if the Dashwood sisters can combine their talents and bring their father’s murderer to justice, it may bring them all some comfort—and it might even lead to love.
When eighteen-year-old Elinor Dashwood discovers her father’s body in his study, it’s only the beginning of their problems. Her father hadn’t updated his will since Elinor and her sisters were born, so everything he had was left to his son, John Dashwood, from his first marriage. John and his wife, Fanny, take their rightful inheritance and kick Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, and Mrs. Dashwood out of their house without their fortune. However, Elinor and Marianne aren’t comfortable with the way their father died. They search his study before they leave the house and discover evidence of murder. The sisters must investigate their father’s murder while also unravelling some other mysteries along the way.
I have read Sense and Sensibility a couple of times, but it isn’t one of my favourite books by Jane Austen. Despite that, I loved this adaptation. Mr. Dashwood had been a private investigator and his daughters took up that job once he was gone. This is completely different from Jane Austen’s story, yet this storyline fit into the plot of Sense and Sensibility perfectly. This book hit all the main plot points in a way that made sense to the original story.
I love adaptations of classics. I think they’re a great way to teach the younger generation about classical literature that can seem heavy at times. This book is the second in the Jane Austen Murder Mystery series. It could be read as a stand-alone, but there were some fun mentions of the first book which readers of Pride and Premeditation will love. I hope more of Austen’s novels will be adapted in this way because I loved it!
Sense and Second-Degree Murder is a great adaptation of Sense and Sensibility!
Thank you HarperTeen and TBR and Beyond Tours for providing a copy of this book.
Tirzah Price grew up on a farm in Michigan, where she read every book she could get her hands on and never outgrew her love for YA fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a former bookseller and librarian. Now, she’s a contributing editor at Book Riot, where she can be found recommending books on the site, newsletters, podcasts, and social media accounts. When she’s not writing, reading, or thinking about YA books, she splits her time between experimenting in the kitchen and knitting enough socks to last the fierce Michigan winters.Tirzah is pronounced TEER-zuh. Pronouns are she/her.
Title: Summer on the Island Author: Brenda Novak Genre: Romance, Contemporary Publisher: Mira Books Release Date: April 5, 2022
A summer of healing, friendship, love…and a secret that could change everything.
After the death of her US senator father, Marlow Madsen travels to the small island off the coast of Florida where she spent summers growing up to help her mother settle the family estate. For Marlow, the trip is a chance to reconnect after too long apart. It’s also the perfect escape to help her feel grounded again — one she’s happy to share with friends Aida and Claire, who are hoping to hit reset on their lives, too.
A leisurely beachfront summer promises the trio of women the opportunity to take deep healing breaths and explore new paths. But when her father’s will reveals an earth-shattering secret that tarnishes his impeccable reputation and everything she thought she knew about her family, Marlow finds herself questioning her entire childhood — and aspects of her future. Fortunately, her friends, and the most unlikely love interest she could imagine, prove that happiness can be found no matter what — as long as the right people are by your side.
Teach Island looked exactly the same as Marlow Madsen remembered it. Since the entire world had been disrupted by the pandemic, the comfort and familiarity of this place nearly brought tears to her eyes. Part of that was how strongly she associated it with her father. John “Tiller” Madsen, who’d gotten his nickname because of his love for sailing, had died a month ago. But the island had long been his escape from the rat race of Washington, DC, where he’d served as a United States senator for thirty years.
“I can’t believe I’m back. Finally,” Marlow said as she rolled down the passenger window to let in some fresh air.
Part of the archipelago of forty-five hundred islands off the coast of Florida, Teach was only seven square miles. Marlow loved its homey, small-town atmosphere. She also loved its white sand beaches and its motley collection of bars, restaurants, bait-and-tackle stores and gift shops, most of which, at least in the older section where they were now, had kitschy decor. Because the island was named after Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, one of the most famous pirates to operate in this part of the world in the early eighteenth century, there was pirate stuff all over. A black skull-and-crossbones flag hung on a pole in front of the most popular bar, which was made to look like a colonial-era tavern and was named Queen Anne’s Revenge after Blackbeard’s ship.
In addition to the Blackbeard memorabilia, there was the regular sea-themed stuff—large anchors or ship’s wheels stuck in the ground here and there, fishing nets draped from the eaves of stores and cafés, and lobsters, crabs and other ocean creatures painted on wooden or corrugated metal sides. Her parents had a house in Georgia, a true Southern mansion, as well as their condo in Virginia for when her father had to be in Washington. But this was where they’d always spent the summers.
Now that Tiller was gone, her mother was talking about selling the other residences and moving here permanently. Marlow hated the sense of loss that inspired the forever change, but since Seaclusion—her father’s name for the beach house—had always been her favorite of their homes, she was also relieved that her mother planned to keep it. This was the property she hoped to inherit one day; she couldn’t imagine it ever being out of the family. And after what so many people had experienced with the fires in California, where she’d been living since she graduated college, and all the hurricanes in recent years that had plagued Florida, she had reason to be grateful the house was still standing.
“Sounds like you’ve missed the place.” Reese Cantwell, who’d been sent to pick up her and her two friends, had grown even taller since Marlow had seen him last. His hands and feet no longer looked disproportionate to the rest of his body. She remembered that his older brother, Walker, had also reminded her of a pup who hadn’t quite grown into his large paws and wondered what Walker was doing these days.
“It’s a welcome sight for all three of us,” Aida Trahan piped up from the back. “Three months by the sea should change everything.”
Claire Fernandez was also in the back seat, both of them buried beneath the luggage that wouldn’t fit in the trunk. They’d met at LAX and flown into Miami together. “Here’s hoping,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t, I’m looking forward to putting my toes in the water and my butt in the sand.”
“You’ll get plenty of opportunities for that here,” Reese said.
Claire needed the peace and tranquility and a chance to heal. She’d lost her home in the fires that’d ravaged Malibu last August. To say nothing of the other dramas that’d plagued her this past year.
Marlow looked over at their driver. Apparently, since her father’s death, Reese had been helping out around the estate, in addition to teaching tennis at the club. His mother, Rosemary, had been their housekeeper since well before he was born—since before Marlow was even born. Marlow was grateful for the many years of service and loyalty Rosemary had given the family, especially now that Tiller had died. It was wonderful to have someone she trusted watch out for her mother. Eileen had multiple sclerosis, which sometimes made it difficult for her to get around.
“Looks as casual as I was hoping it would be.” Claire also lowered her window as Reese brought them to the far side of the island and closer to the house. Situated on the water, Seaclusion had its own private beach, as well as a three-bedroom guesthouse and a smaller apartment over the garage where Rosemary had lived before moving into the main house after Tiller died so she could be available if Eileen needed anything during the night.
“There are some upscale shops and restaurants where we’re going, if you’re in the mood for spending money,” Marlow told them.
“When have I not been in the mood to shop?” Aida joked.
“You don’t have access to Dutton’s money anymore,” Claire pointed out. “You need to be careful.”
Claire had lost almost everything. She had reason to be cautious. Aida wasn’t in the best situation, either, and yet she shrugged off the concern. “I’ll be okay. I didn’t walk away empty-handed, thanks to my amazing divorce attorney.”
Marlow always felt uncomfortable when Dutton came up, and sometimes couldn’t believe it wasn’t more uncomfortable for them. The way Claire and Aida had met was remarkable, to say the least. It was even more remarkable that they’d managed to become friends. But Marlow twisted around and smiled as though she didn’t feel the sudden tension so she could acknowledge Aida’s compliment. Although Marlow was only thirty-four, she’d been a practicing attorney for ten years. She’d jumped ahead two grades when she was seven, which had enabled her to finish high school early and start college at sixteen. A knack for difficult negotiations had led her to a law degree and from there she’d gone into family law, something that had worked out well for her. Her practice had grown so fast she’d considered hiring another attorney to help with the caseload.
She probably would’ve done that, if not for the pandemic, which had shut down every aspect of her life except work, making her realize that becoming one of the best divorce attorneys in Los Angeles wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. No matter how much money she made, she didn’t enjoy dealing with people who were so deeply upset, and the richer, more famous the client, the more acrimonious the divorce. She hoped she’d never have to wade through another one. If a marriage worked, it could be wonderful. Her parents had proved that. But after what she’d witnessed with other people since passing the bar, she was beginning to believe Tiller and Eileen were the exception.
“All I did was make Dutton play fair,” Marlow said. “But at least you have some money you can use to get by while you decide what to do from here.”
“I liked being a trophy wife,” Aida grumbled. “I’m not sure I’m cut out for anything else.”
Like so many in LA, she’d been an aspiring actress at one time, but her career had never taken off. After she’d married Dutton, she’d spent more time at the tennis club, where she and Marlow had met, than trying out for any auditions.
“Don’t say that,” Marlow told her. “You can do a lot more than look pretty.”
Claire remained conspicuously quiet. She’d been subdued since they left, so subdued that Marlow was beginning to wonder if something was wrong.
“We’ll see.” Aida shrugged off the compliment as readily as she had the warning. “But before I have to make the really hard decisions, I deserve a break. So where’s the expensive part of the island again?”
Reese chuckled. “We’re almost there.”
“We’ll be able to play tennis, too,” Marlow told her. “The club’s only a mile from the house. And Reese is our resident pro.”
“No way! You play tennis?” Aida’s voice revealed her enthusiasm.
“Every day,” he replied.
“Can he beat you?” Aida asked Marlow.
“He was just a kid the last time we played, and he could take me about half the time even then. I doubt he’ll have any problem now.”
“I can see why you talked us out of renting a car,” Claire said, finally entering the conversation. “Considering the size of this place…”
“Like I told you before,” Marlow said, “most people walk or ride a bike.”
“You only need a car if you’re going off island,” Reese chimed in. He was driving them in Eileen’s Tesla.
Marlow was anxious to ask how her mother was doing but decided to hold off. If she questioned him while her friends were in the car, she’d probably get the standard “Fine.” But she wasn’t looking for a perfunctory answer. She wanted the truth. What he’d seen and heard recently. He was the one who’d been here. Marlow hadn’t been able to visit, not even when her father died. Thanks to the pandemic, they hadn’t been able to give him the funeral he deserved, either.
Reese glanced into the rearview mirror. “Are the three of you staying all summer?”
Marlow suspected he was hoping Aida, in particular, would be on the island for a while. Although Aida was thirty-six, fourteen years older than he was, she was a delicate blonde with big blue eyes. The way she dressed and accessorized, she turned heads, especially male heads, wherever she went.
“We are,” Aida said, and the subtle hint of flirtation in her voice told Marlow that she’d picked up on Reese’s interest.
“We have some big decisions to make in the coming months,” Marlow said, hoping to give Reese a hint that this wasn’t the opportunity he might think it was. Aida was on the rebound. She needed to put her life back together, not risk her heart on a summer fling.
“What kind of decisions?” he asked, naturally curious.
Claire answered for her. “Like what we’re going to do from here on. We’re all starting over.”
Reese’s eyebrows shot up as he looked at Marlow. “Meaning…what? You won’t be returning to LA?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I sold my condo and closed my practice before I left, just in case.”
His jaw dropped. “Really? But your mom said you’re one of the most highly sought-after attorneys in Los Angeles.”
No doubt her mother talked about her all the time. She’d heard a few things about Reese’s family, too, including the fact that he hadn’t finished school because he’d let partying come between him and a degree. But Marlow didn’t know Reese that well. She’d spent more time with his much older brother, Walker, when they were growing up. “It’s not that it wasn’t working out. It was. I’m just…done with divorce.”
He turned down the rap music he’d had playing since they got in. “Have you told your mother?”
“Not yet. I was afraid she’d try to talk me out of it. I know it’s sort of crazy to walk away from what I had going. Not many lawyers would do that. But after being quarantined for so long, working with people who almost always behaved their worst, I’m finished suffering through other people’s emotional turmoil.”
“Can’t say as I blame you,” Aida agreed. “I feel so bad about how Dutton treated you.”
Aida’s ex hadn’t just called Marlow names. He’d gotten her cell phone number from Aida, claiming he wanted to negotiate directly, and then proceeded to threaten her on more than one occasion. “We can all be glad Dutton’s out of our lives.”
“Amen,” Aida said, but again Claire said nothing.
They reached the gap in the shrubbery that signaled the beginning of her parents’ drive, and Reese turned into Seaclusion.
“Look at this!” Aida exclaimed. “It’s a whole compound.”
Reese parked in the detached four-car garage. “Welcome home,” he said with a grin.
Marlow had her carry-on with her, but when she went to the trunk to get the rest of her luggage, Reese insisted he’d bring it in.
She thanked him, put her bag down and, eager to see her mother, hurried to the house.
Rosemary was waiting on the stoop, where her mother would normally be. “It’s good to see you, Marlow.”
“Thanks, Rosemary. It’s good to see you, too. Is Mom okay?”
At fifty-five, Rosemary was five years younger than Eileen and tall and thin, like her two sons. They’d gotten their good looks from her—didn’t resemble their father at all, who wasn’t around anymore. Marlow could recall him showing up at the Atlanta house drunk and bellowing for Rosemary to “get her ass home.” It wasn’t any surprise to Marlow that the relationship hadn’t lasted. He’d abandoned the family when Reese was four or five.
“She’s fine. A little tired.” Although Rosemary smiled, she seemed anxious and uptight herself. Was it because of Eileen? Was she worse off than Marlow had been told?
“Is it anything to be concerned about?” Marlow pressed.
“No. She was so excited to see you that she couldn’t sleep last night. That’s all. She’s in her room resting if you want to go in.”
Anxious to reassure herself that nothing more serious was going on, Marlow introduced Aida and Claire to Rosemary, and while Rosemary led them to the guesthouse, where Reese was taking the luggage, Marlow went inside. “Mom?” she called as she moved through the living room.
“In here!” her mother called back.
Marlow’s stomach knotted as she reached the master bedroom and swung the door open wider. It was a beautiful day outside, not a cloud in the sky, yet the shades were drawn, making it dark and cool.
As soon as she reached the bed, she bent to kiss her mother’s paper-thin cheek. “I’m so glad to see you again.”
Eileen’s hands clutched her wrists. “Let me look at you. It’s been too long.”
“Who could’ve guessed a pandemic would come between us? That wasn’t something I even considered when I went so far from home.”
Once her eyes adjusted to the light, Marlow could see that the room hadn’t changed. Her father’s watch glimmered on the dresser, his slippers waited under the side chair and his clothes hung neatly in the closet as though he might walk through the door at any moment. Her mother hadn’t done anything with his personal property. That meant Marlow would have to deal with it, but she was actually grateful Eileen had waited. Touching his belongings was their only remaining connection to him, their only chance to say goodbye, and now they could do that together.
“Are you hungry?” her mother asked. “Rosemary made tea for you and your friends.”
Marlow sat on the edge of the bed. Eileen had thick dark hair and bottle green eyes—both of which Marlow had inherited—and looked good despite being so ill. But she was pale today and had lost significant weight. “That sounds wonderful,” Marlow said.
“I thought your friends might enjoy it. And I know how much you like clotted cream. When we were in London with your father several years ago, that was all you wanted to eat.”
The twinkle in Eileen’s eyes made Marlow feel slightly encouraged, until her mother winced as she adjusted her position. Eileen had to be feeling terrible, or she’d be up and around and asking to meet Aida and Claire.
“Are you having another attack?” Marlow asked. Her mother’s disease came in waves, or what they called “attacks.” Sometimes she grew worse for no clear reason—she didn’t do or eat anything different—and then she improved just as mysteriously. Although the steady decrease in her functionality attested to the fact that each attack took a little more from her…
“I must be. But don’t worry about me. It’s…more of the same. How was your flight?”
The lump that swelled in Marlow’s throat made it difficult to swallow. She’d already lost her beloved father. Was she going to lose her mother this year, too? The probability of Eileen’s dying had hung over their heads ever since she was diagnosed twenty-six years ago, so it’d come as a total shock that Tiller had died first. He’d never been sick a day in his life—until he got shingles. Then he’d spent five weeks in bed and simply didn’t wake up one morning. According to the autopsy, a blood clot had formed and traveled to his lungs.
“The flight was crowded and miserable,” she answered. “But aren’t all flights that way?”
“You should’ve come first class.”
Marlow thought about her decision to sell her place and close her practice but decided not to mention it until later. Eileen’s father had been a steel baron; she’d married into money, as well. She’d never known what it was like to struggle. Marlow hadn’t, either, but she was out in the world and much more cognizant of the difficulties faced by those who didn’t have quite as much. “I didn’t want to ask Aida and Claire to spend the extra money. You know what happened to Claire.”
“Yes. The poor thing. I’m so glad she had insurance to cover the rebuild. The fires in California have been awful. I’ve seen them on the news.” Eileen lifted her head to look toward the door. “Where are your friends?”
“Rosemary’s helping them get settled in the guesthouse.”
“I can’t wait to meet them.”
“They’re grateful to you for letting them come home with me. But with the way you’re feeling, maybe I should’ve come alone—”
“No, no,” she broke in. “They both needed a place to recoup, as you said. And having them here won’t hurt me. New friends might help fill the terrible void I’ve felt since Tiller…” Her voice cracked.
Marlow squeezed her hand, wondering if it was the emotional toll of losing Tiller that’d gotten the best of Eileen, rather than MS. “I miss him, too,” she whispered.
Her mother brought Marlow’s hand to her cheek. “It’ll be good to have you here for practical reasons, too. I think there’s something that has to be done with the estate.”
“What’s that?” Marlow asked in surprise.
“I don’t know. Samuel Lefebvre’s been calling me, trying to get me to come meet with him, but I told him you’re the one to talk to. I can’t face it.”
Sam was her father’s attorney and had been since Marlow could remember. He’d written her a character reference when she applied to Stanford, since he’d graduated from there himself, which was how she’d landed on the opposite coast. “I can handle it. It shouldn’t be hard. Most, if not all, of Dad’s estate will pass directly to you. Maybe he left me a few trinkets.”
“I’m sure he did. But Sam acts as though there’s business at hand, so he must need something.”
“You know Sam. He’s fastidious, always in a hurry to wrap things up. It won’t be a problem.”
A ghost of her mother’s former smile curved her lips. “You’re so capable. You’ve always been capable—just like your father.”
Marlow heard Rosemary come into the house with Aida and Claire. “Should I wait to introduce my friends to you until after we eat?”
“Maybe that would be best,” Eileen said. “It’ll give me the chance to rest a bit longer.”
“Of course. There’s no rush.”
“I can’t wait to spend more time with you. It’s comforting to know we have the whole summer.”
“It is.” Marlow hugged her mother, breathing in the welcome scent of her perfume before going out to join Aida and Claire in the dining room, where Rosemary had put a tea caddy filled with small sandwiches, crackers with herb spread, homemade scones and chocolate-covered strawberries. The clotted cream was in small dishes at the side of each plate.
“Looks delicious. I don’t think anyone in the UK could do it better.”
“Then I did it right,” Rosemary joked.
When Marlow sat down, she halfway expected Reese to join them, since she knew he was on the property, but he didn’t come in. As generously as her family had treated Rosemary and her boys, there’d always been a distinction between the family and the help. Marlow supposed that, in many situations like this, it was inevitable: there was a natural hierarchy when it came to employment.
“Reese has gotten so tall,” she remarked to Rosemary, helping herself to a cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwich.
“He’s a handsome man,” Aida said.
Marlow shot her friend a warning look but didn’t dare say anything in front of Reese’s mother, who seemed to take the compliment at face value. “He’s six-four, as tall as his brother now,” she said proudly.
“What’s Walker been doing these days?” Marlow asked.
Rosemary used a towel to hold the hot teapot with both hands. “He’s living here on the island now.”
Marlow paused, her sandwich halfway to her mouth. “He left Atlanta to come here permanently? When?”
“As soon as he heard about COVID. Poor guy’s always felt he needs to be there for me and Reese,” she said with an affectionate chuckle. “I guess it’s no wonder since, growing up, he had to be the man of the house.”
Eileen hadn’t mentioned that Walker had moved to Teach, but at thirty-six, he probably didn’t come to the house much. “What part of the island does he live on?” Marlow asked. “He’s not staying above the garage, is he?”
“No, Reese is there now. Walker bought the cottage down by the cove. It’s not very big, but the setting is magnificent. I’ve never seen prettier sunsets than the ones I see from his front porch.”
Marlow liked the cove, too. The beach there was small and completely cut off from the other beaches, so it was often overlooked by tourists, which made it feel almost as private as the beach her family owned. “What does he do for a living?”
“He’s the chief of police.”
Marlow sat taller. “The chief of police?”
Rosemary shrugged off her surprise. “It sounds loftier than it is. There are only two other officers on the force.”
“But…how’d that happen? Last I heard, he was a street cop in Atlanta.” She remembered someone telling her that a friend had talked him into going into the academy. That had been a while ago—probably a decade—but Walker’s ascent still seemed quick.
“This is your oldest son?” Claire interrupted.
“It is,” Rosemary replied before answering Marlow. “He didn’t want to be separated from me or his brother during the pandemic, so he kept checking for jobs on the island—and he found one.”
“The chief of police quit or was fired or something?” Claire asked.
“No, Walker got on as a regular officer first,” Rosemary clarified. “But when the chief retired, he took over.”
“Do you have a daughter-in-law, too?” Aida asked. “Or any grandbabies?”
“Not yet,” Rosemary replied. “I bug Walker about finding a wife all the time, but he just laughs it off and tells me you can’t hurry love.”
“Maybe Reese will be the one to give you grandbabies,” Aida said.
“He’s got some growing up to do first,” Rosemary said and headed into the kitchen.
Marlow and Claire both gave Aida a pointed stare.
“What?” she said, lifting her well-manicured hands as though she’d done nothing wrong. “He’s twenty-two. It’s not as though he’s underage.”
Rosemary reappeared before they could say anything further. “Walker’s here,” she announced. “I needed a few things for the soup I’m making for dinner tonight, and he said he’d grab them for me.”
A knock sounded on the door. After Rosemary opened it, Marlow could hear Walker say, “Here you go. You’ll find some of those dark chocolate–covered almonds you like in the bag, too.”
Marlow could see a slice of Rosemary as she accepted the sack he handed her. “Thank you.”
“No problem. I’ll see you later.”
“Walker?” his mother said, calling him back. “Marlow’s home if you’d like to come in and say hello.”
There was a slight pause, which indicated he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. Marlow could understand why. They hadn’t exactly been close, at least not during their teenage years. But he eventually said, “Fine. But just for a minute. I have to get back to work.”
Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a five-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Bookbuyer’s Best, and many other awards. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit www.brendanovak.com.
Title: A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice Author: Rebecca Connolly Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Shadow Mountain Source: Publisher Format: Paperback Release Date: April 5, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
Based on the remarkable true story of the Carpathia—the one ship and her legendary captain who answered the distress call of the sinking Titanic.
Shortly after midnight on April 15, 1912, the captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, wakes to a distress signal from the Titanic, which has struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Though information is scarce, Rostron leaps into action, determined to answer the call for help. But the Carpathia is more than four hours away, and there are more questions than answers: Will his ship hold together if pushed to never-before-tested speeds? What if he also strikes an iceberg? And with the freezing temperatures, will there be any survivors by the time the Carpathia arrives?
Kate Connolly is a third-class passenger on Titanic, and she is among the last to receive instruction and help after it hits an iceberg. Despite the chaos of abandoning ship, Kate is able to board a lifeboat, though after seeing the Titanic sink into the abyss and hearing the cries from hundreds of people still in the water, she wonders if any rescue is even possible.
Told in alternating chapters from both Captain Rostron and Kate Connolly.
On April 15, 1912, the ship Carpathia received a distress message from the Titanic that it had struck an iceberg. Captain Rostron had to decide if they would go there to help. His ship was smaller, and there could be dangerous icebergs on the way, but he made the tough decision to rescue the passengers on the Titanic. Kate Connolly is a third-class passenger on the Titanic. She’s in the last group to make it to the deck of the ship but she’s able to board a lifeboat. However, in all the chaos and destruction, Kate wonders if rescue is even possible.
I’ve heard stories about the Titanic but I had never heard of the Carpathia or Captain Rostron. That’s unfortunate because Captain Rostron was the true hero that night. He made tough decisions and put his crew and passengers at risk to possibly rescue people on the Titanic. Despite the odds, he was able to rescue a third of the passengers from the Titanic.
This was an incredible story. I liked that it was told in alternating chapters between Captain Rostron and Kate. This gave perspectives of both ships, from the person who was rescuing the Titanic passengers and a passenger from the Titanic. I was surprised at how early in the story the Titanic struck the iceberg, but that was just the beginning of this rescue story.
A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice is an important story that everyone should know!
Thank you Shadow Mountain for providing a copy of this book.
What to read next:
Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee
Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo
Have you read A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice? What did you think of it?