Mary P.

The Dutch House

After WWII, Maeve and Danny's father buys a large house in Pennsylvania, which appalls their mother who believes it's too big of an expense. After a couple of years, their mother disappears and the children are never told why. Their father finds a new wife, with two daughters of her own, who move into the house. Their new stepmother is never kind to Maeve and Danny and, years later, when their father dies, she throws them out of the house. The stepmother has put her name on everything the father owned—the only thing she can't claim is a trust fund that was set aside for his children's education. Maeve decides to use up as much of the trust fund as possible to keep her stepmother from getting any of it and informs Danny that he will be a doctor, although he wants to be a real estate investor like his father.

Over the years, the siblings visit their old house, sitting outside in their car, never allowed inside. The house binds Maeve and Danny together, even when their lives start to separate, and they always remain dependent on each other. The Dutch House (2019) is an interesting story about what families do to each other and learning to forgive. Ann Patchett's detailed writing will keep you turning pages and thinking about the novel long after it is over. 

Mary P.

Woman with a Gun

Aspiring author Stacy Kim visits an art museum showing the photography of Kathy Moran. She is stunned when she sees "Woman with a Gun," which won the Pulitzer Prize and made Moran famous. It shows a woman in her wedding dress, standing at the shore, facing away from the camera and towards the sea, holding a six-shooter.

The photo captures Stacy's imagination and sets her on a quest to uncover the story behind the woman and the circumstances that lead to the photo. She learns that Megan Cahill—the woman with the gun—was suspected of killing her husband on their wedding night. It was never proven and the murder remained unsolved. Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin is a stunning, suspenseful story full of twists and turns.

Mary P.

This Tender Land

In Minnesota during the Great Depression, the Lincoln School was tasked with "re-educating" Native American children and erasing their culture. Odie and his brother Albert escape the school alongside little Emmy and Mose, all of them orphans. The four children begin their journey in a canoe and set out for St. Louis, where Odie and Albert hope to find their aunt and form a family—but they'll have to put their lives on the line and offer up their souls for salvation first.

Along the way, the kids meet a cast of characters that enrich their travels and strengthen the unifying thread of love and hope throughout the story. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger has touches of Huckleberry Finn and The Grapes of Wrath and would be an ideal read for someone looking for a new book after finishing Where the Crawdads Sing.

Mary P.

City of Girls

This racy read begins in 1940 when 19-year-old Vivian Morris is thrown out of Vassar College. Her parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a crumbling theater. Vivian meets the charismatic and sensual theater players, embarking on a wild adventure.

Elizabeth Gilbert captures the fictitious Vivian's life from her wild-child teenage years through her 80s. The story covers WWII, family tragedy, unexpected friendships, and self-discovery. City of Girls (2019) has a strong sense of place, with New York City featured as a character. This lively, sensuous, and interesting novel showcases one life in the 1940s and 50s.


Mary P.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn (2019)

Nina dreams of flying to escape her dreary life. When Germany invades the Soviet Union, she joins the Night Witches, an all-female night bomber squadron that wreaks havoc on the German invasion. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, she becomes the prey of the Nazi murderer known as the Huntress. She survives because of her bravery and fierce cunning.

A correspondent during WWII, Ian Graham becomes a Nazi hunter after the war. The target that has eluded him is the Huntress. He joins forces with bold, brazen Nina to track her down.

17-year-old Jordan McBride wants to be a photographer and leave Boston to travel the world. She is happy when her widowed father meets a woman, but something about his soft-spoken German fiancé bothers her. As Jordan becomes closer to her stepmother, the search for the Huntress intensifies.

This compelling story of a Russian pilot, a Nazi hunter, and a young Bostonian woman leaves the reader completely spellbound, hoping for good to triumph over evil. The Huntress is an exciting, suspenseful tale that is hard to put down. It is Kate Quinn's sophomore novel, following The Alice Network.

For more WWII fiction, check out our lists of Novels of World War II and Women in the Resistance.


Mary P.

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber (2019)

In the 1880s, Deborah lives an unusual life in a small town in the Utah territory. Her husband Samuel, who travels as a wheelwright repairperson, is long overdue. She is part of a community of eight families who live apart from other Mormons because they do not carry the same beliefs.

When a stranger arrives on her doorstep looking for shelter from a federal marshal, it sets in motion a series of events that threatens not only her future, but that of her entire town. Fear and mistrust feature prominently among the community and of outsiders. The Glovemaker provides an interesting look at early pioneers, Mormon settlers, and survival in the 19th century.

Try this Ann Weisgarber novel if you enjoyed News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Both compelling, descriptive novels feature the early West and people overcoming challenging circumstances.



Mary P.

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander (2019)

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is given a Blüthner piano. She brings this beautiful instrument with her when she later marries an engineering student and settles in California with their young son. Katya's life is difficult and her marriage brutal, but her piano remains an escape throughout it all.

Clara receives a Blüthner from her father for her 12th birthday. Her parents die in a tragic fire soon after, but she clings to the piano, even though she cannot play it. As an adult, she impulsively rents the piano to Greg. Then, she has second thoughts, causing her to follow him and the piano to Death Valley, where he is using it in a series of photographs.

Their time together results in the unburdening of their family stories and links them in ways they never dreamed. It's a compelling story that features a piano as both a gift and a burden. You'll want to keep reading to see how the parallel stories connect in Chris Cander's The Weight of a Piano.



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Mary P.

Colette (2018) R

Young Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) marries an older writer, nom de plume Willy (Dominic West), who takes her from the countryside to cultural, sophisticated Paris.  They lead an extravagant lifestyle, always having bills to pay.  He convinces her to ghostwrite stories for him, and she does turning out a semiautobiographical novel of a bold, young girl that becomes the new sensation in Paris.  She continues to write as she explores her sensual side and Willy takes all the credit for the rage of Paris. Colette is visually a beautiful movie and definitely an adult story because of her sexual appetite.


Mary P.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly (2019)

Martha Hall Kelly's newest novel, Lost Roses, focuses on Eliza, the mother of Caroline Ferriday (who you may remember from Lilac Girls). Kelly brings to life the story of Eliza traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayna, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years before and Eliza is excited to see Sofya's home, but Austria declares war on Russia and the Imperial dynasty starts to fall. Eliza escapes back to America while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate, putting themselves in mortal danger. Eliza tries to assist fleeing white Russian families to resettle, but fears the worst when she stops hearing from Sofya.

Lost Roses is a beautiful, well-researched tale of women's strength and friendships and surviving perilous times. Excellent choice for fans of historical fiction.



Mary P.

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith (2018)

goodpilotAlexander McCall Smith’s latest standalone opens on an English farm as the Americans enter WWII and fly into the English air bases. When Val rescues a border collie named Peter Woodhouse from his owner who was mistreating him, she gives the dog to Mike, a U.S. pilot living at the base. The American G.I.s become so attached to Peter that they begin taking him along on missions, acting as their mascot.

When disaster strikes, Woodhouse finds himself face-to-snout with Ubi, a German corporal. Ubi is tired of war and death and spares the lives of the pilots, changing the narrative of the war for the Americans. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is a charming and beautiful story that reaffirms even when life goes in an unexpected direction, things can still work themselves out.
Mary P.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (2018)

flightattendantA self-destructive alcoholic, Cassie Bowen is a mess who binge drinks until she blacks out. After a flirty flight to Dubai, she joins an American businessman for a private party in his hotel room. When she wakes up, he is dead and she is covered in blood. What happened?

Cassie panics and lies—to her airline and the FBI. And just when you think she’s hit rock bottom, Cassie finds a way to make it worse. Full of twists and turns, The Flight Attendant is a fascinating story that’s even more suspenseful than The Girl on the Train. Check out Chris Bohjalian’s latest gripping, thought-provoking read today.

Want more psychological suspense? Check out our list of recommended reads.
Mary P.

Phantom Thread (2017) R

phantom_threadIn 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse).

After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health.

Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
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Mary P.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (2018)

In 1944, British bomber Hugo Langley parachutes into German-occupied Tuscany. He is found by Sofia, who nurses him back to health and hides him from the Nazis. Thirty years later, Hugo’s daughter finds an unopened letter written to Sofia that startles her and sets her on a journey to understand her father’s past.

Pick up The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen for a gripping historical novel.
Mary P.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (2018)

widowsofmalabarhillPerveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in strict seclusion when the case to turns to murder. Perveen notices that all three wives have signed away their full inheritances to charity, leaving nothing for them to live on. She is skeptical and puts herself in great danger trying to help the widows, but she is clever and determined to do what is right.

The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s India, kicks off a new historical mystery series by Sujata Massey.
Mary P.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor (2017)

lastchristmasparisEvie Eliott is a wealthy young woman in England in August 1914. Her brother Will and his best friend, Tom, have just enlisted in the Great War. In the beginning, their letters home are filled with excitement and confidence, with promises that the war will be over by Christmas. The war rages on, however, with the death toll rising by hundreds each day and the fighting quickly changing from bayonets to chemical bombs.

Evie feels like she’s not doing enough for the war effort, so in addition to the letters she writes, she begins delivering mail and starts writing a column in Tom’s father’s newspaper that addresses the women left behind as the men are away on the front, focusing on their personal and emotional experiences. She writes to the women of Britain to reassure and encourage them in their war efforts and to help reaffirm their emotions. As the years go by, the news becomes censored and Evie doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust and doesn’t know how to help out in a war she can’t fight.

Written entirely in letters, The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor is absorbing and touching, portraying the emotions of both soldiers and those on the home front. If you enjoy novels written in letters, check out our list of epistolary novels.