Linda White

In her first novel, Helen Simonson has created a charming and engaging story of the hazards of English country life. The residents of the village of Edgecombe St. Mary are realistic and sharply defined, including Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), who at first appears to be a curmudgeon but turns out to have a heart of gold.

We meet Major Pettigrew as he has been told of his only brother’s demise. This shock brings him in close contact with Mrs. Ali, the proprietor of the village shop. As they get to know each other, Major Pettigrew begins to feel more warmly toward Mrs. Ali than he would have thought possible after the death of his wife six years earlier. Along the way, they both must deal with mean gossip and the expectations of their families.

In getting to know Mrs. Ali better, Major Pettigrew becomes acquainted with her nephew, Abdul Wahid, a stoic man in a difficult situation—and suddenly, Major Pettigrew’s life becomes rather complicated. Before long, he has bigger things to worry about than reuniting a pair of guns that had been his father’s. He finds his very way of life threatened by a new building development and literally has a life-or-death situation on his hands when Abdul Wahid reaches his breaking point.

Major Pettigrew will have you rooting for the English countryside, hissing at the nasty American business of carving it up and longing to give his financier son Roger a box on the ears for his impertinence and self-absorption. By the end, it is possible that even Roger has grown up a little, and certainly Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali have learned what is really important.

Well-researched and authentic (Simonson spent her teenage years in West Sussex), each note in this novel rings true and takes the reader on a lovely vacation to the pastoral English countryside. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand succeeds in showing the depth behind the veneer; it explores the rift not only between generations, but between cultures, and delves deeply into the notion of progress and home. You’ll laugh, you’ll wipe away a tear or two and you certainly will enjoy time spent with Major Pettigrew.

Linda White is a writer and editor in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In her first novel, Helen Simonson has created a charming and engaging story of the hazards of English country life. The residents of the village of Edgecombe St. Mary are realistic and sharply defined, including Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), who at first appears to be a curmudgeon but turns out to have a heart of gold.

Following her successful novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life, author Beth Pattillo continues to capitalize on the recent Austen renaissance with Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. Here she mixes academia and romance in a combination that will prove irresistible for chick lit fans and Austen aficionados alike.

Claire Prescott, recently fired from her job as an office manager, takes her sister’s place at a Pride and Prejudice seminar in Oxford, England, despite knowing next to nothing about Jane Austen. Initially feeling out of her depth and disgruntled about attending a stodgy conference, Claire’s overseas excursion becomes more interesting when she meets James, a dashingly handsome yet annoyingly aloof publishing executive attending the seminar. At the same time, she finds herself in the midst of a conflict involving Harriet Dalrymple, a slightly offbeat little old lady, and what appears to be a very early lost Jane Austen manuscript in which Lizzie Bennett chooses someone other than Mr. Darcy. When Claire’s somewhat lackluster boyfriend, Neil, unexpectedly arrives on the scene, Claire finds herself struggling to decide once and for all who she’ll cast as her leading man.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart succeeds for several reasons, but part of its charm is surely due to Claire. A truly accessible heroine, neither saccharine nor born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Claire has faced adversity—and is someone readers will easily and eagerly root for. The catharsis Claire ultimately finds is touching and real, and allows her personal growth at the novel’s end to feel genuine and well deserved.

With its successful blend of grand romance, piercing humor and deeply felt emotions, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is a worthy homage to Jane Austen. The mystery storyline involving a possible lost manuscript makes for a multilayered reading experience, and boosts the novel beyond a simple, if spirited, modernization of Austen’s own revered story, while also setting it apart from the host of Austen-inspired novels clamoring for attention. Both the romance and the mystery storylines have surprising and amusing conclusions that will make readers feel that, as with any of Austen’s own novels, their time has been well spent.

Linda White is a writer and editor living in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Following her successful novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life, author Beth Pattillo continues to capitalize on the recent Austen renaissance with Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. Here she mixes academia and romance in a combination that will prove irresistible for chick lit fans and Austen aficionados alike. Claire Prescott, recently fired from her job as […]

Autumn has been the resident sage of the town of Avening for longer than anyone can remember (some may call her a witch or a shaman, but really she is more of an old-fashioned wise women). When Autumn is called to find a replacement, she decides to hold an essay contest for would-be candidates.

While the entries themselves prove to be both surprising and illuminating, this is not merely the story of Autumn finding her replacement—it is also a multifaceted tale of the women (and in some cases, girls) vying to take over for their beloved Autumn. Each candidate’s specific experiences unveil—or in some cases, release—the power that is deep within each of them. Above all, this magical book is a testament to the power of women.

There is a great preponderance of beautiful people in the book—almost all of the women are striking, and you start to wonder if there must be something in the Avening water. But beyond that, Foster’s overall message is clear: each of us has a gift. Whether we choose to exercise it or how we choose to do so is ultimately up to us.

Foster has a facility for the poetic, and her characters feel comfortable and real from the beginning. When Autumn Leaves is a fantastical coming-of-age story, but mostly, it reminds us of the importance of faith—both in ourselves and in that which we cannot see.

Linda White is a writer and editor living in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Autumn has been the resident sage of the town of Avening for longer than anyone can remember (some may call her a witch or a shaman, but really she is more of an old-fashioned wise women). When Autumn is called to find a replacement, she decides to hold an essay contest for would-be candidates. While […]

Anita Diamant, the best-selling author of The Red Tent, turns her attention from biblical narrative to the story of a decidedly more modern group of Jewish women in her latest novel, Day After Night. The tale takes place in the latter half of 1945 at Atlit, a camp in Israel where those fleeing Europe and hoping for a homeland are held if they do not have papers—or if there is any other problem with their status.

Diamant focuses on four women housed at Atlit: Zorah, Leonie, Tedi and Shayndel. Although the story covers just a few months, past years are explored through the women’s varied memories of the harsh, cruel and sometimes tragic experiences they have endured. Each woman’s sorrow is her own, but the shared horror of the Holocaust and the burdens each one bears as a survivor serve to unite them in a friendship that will nourish them as they take on the challenges of starting anew. All of the women await their freedom from Atlit, although the notions of what this means, how to find it and where to go once it has been achieved are different to each. Talented, beautiful and strong, each of these women brings a different layer to the multi-faceted story of Diamant’s poignantly rendered Jewish experience.

The story is dispensed in small measures, with the lives of the four women peeled away like the layers of an onion. At times the narrative is not as compelling as one might hope; there is always the sense that the women are held at arm’s length, and the true horror of what they have experienced is somewhat muted by everyday concerns. Despite these issues, it is clear that this is a story close to the author’s heart—she lost her uncle and grandfather in the Holocaust—and she tells it lovingly. Day After Night stands out as a unique depiction of a piece of the Holocaust that is little known, and in the end, the human element of this story will captivate readers, regardless of their knowledge of the history of Judaism.

Linda White is a writer and publicist in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Anita Diamant, the best-selling author of The Red Tent, turns her attention from biblical narrative to the story of a decidedly more modern group of Jewish women in her latest novel, Day After Night. The tale takes place in the latter half of 1945 at Atlit, a camp in Israel where those fleeing Europe and […]

Jeanne Kalogridis, author of The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa, has again taken a famous historical woman and breathed life into her. This time it is Catherine de Medici of the powerhouse D’Medici family of Florence, Italy. Her story spans generations, and takes us from her earliest memories to elderly widowhood.

Catherine de Medici was Duchess of Urbino, heir to the rule of Florence. When her family fell from power, she was imprisoned as a child and held for three years by Republican factions. Catherine was valuable as niece to the Pope, and was married off to the young French prince. She became queen and eventually gave birth to kings.

Meanwhile, though, her dreams are disturbed by visions of tides of blood and those whom she loves calling for help. She does not know what to do, so calls on astrology to guide her, as she had done when she was young. Historically, she was well known for her reliance and knowledge of the “black arts”—astrology and talismans. Among many highlights, The Devil's Queen portrays a meeting with the famed prophet Nostradamus.

Catherine is regarded as one of the most gifted rulers in France’s history, even though she never officially ruled as Queen, but as regent for her young sons. Her story is one of passion, intrigue and history by inches. And Kalogridis tells it with gripping detail, from the passionate love scenes to the gory executions. We come to know Catherine and journey with her through the twists and turns of royal life.

The narrative pulls readers along as quickly as the years go by—Kalogridis is skillful at weaving complicated political treachery into the personal story of a deeply committed mother. Rounded out with epic battles, affairs and glorious descriptions of royal fashions, this transporting tale may keep readers up late into the night.

Linda White is a writer and publicist living in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 

RELATED CONTENT

Page through the "Grimoire" of Catherine de Medici, a companion work to The Devil's Queen.
 

Jeanne Kalogridis, author of The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa, has again taken a famous historical woman and breathed life into her. This time it is Catherine de Medici of the powerhouse D’Medici family of Florence, Italy. Her story spans generations, and takes us from her earliest memories to elderly widowhood. Catherine de Medici […]

In this stark, intense work, Robert Olmstead, the award-winning author of six previous novels (most recently Coal Black Horse), has given us a harrowing landscape where survival is a daily struggle. To become complacent is to die.

The beginning of the novel is tense and foreboding, as we meet Napoleon Childs, a grizzled and jaded soldier more in tune with horses than with his fellow soldiers. It is 1916—the last days of the cavalry—and Childs is the veteran of many battles.

Childs and his men have set up headquarters in the desert of Mexico to search for Pancho Villa. It’s a mostly green crew of recruits, all there for different reasons. What happens to them and to him is horrific and stunning. Childs’ narration brings you into up-to-the-minute action, while still capturing the beauty of the landscape and the people he meets. For some inexplicable reason, Childs is not killed, but left as a witness to what has happened.

Through Childs’ descriptive eye, we see and experience everything around him, making Far Bright Star a riveting read. Childs tells us: “Soon all hell would break loose and this would be a no good place. The next actions would be motion undefined. Action requiring response. Action lurching off in directions beyond prediction. Knowing when to act yourself. And even then the odds unknown and changing so suddenly it would take a thousand patterns reconfiguring in an instant and an instant and an instant.”

Olmstead encourages us to consider what war is, why men go to war, and what is next for Childs. Was it all worth it? Would he trade it for something else? As Childs follows the far bright star home, we don’t get straight answers, but in the end we know him well enough that we can guess what he would do.

After all, this is one of the reasons we read books—to transport us somewhere in time or space, to enter into the thoughts or world of another. And Olmstead has certainly succeeded on that score. This is a book that will stay with you.

Linda White is a writer and publicist living in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In this stark, intense work, Robert Olmstead, the award-winning author of six previous novels (most recently Coal Black Horse), has given us a harrowing landscape where survival is a daily struggle. To become complacent is to die. The beginning of the novel is tense and foreboding, as we meet Napoleon Childs, a grizzled and jaded […]

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!