Showing posts from April, 2013

Review: A Spear of Summer Grass

Title:   A Spear of Summer Grass Author:   Deanna Raybourn Publisher:   Harlequin/Mira Pub Date:   April 30, 2013 How Acquired:   Through Net Galley What it’s About:   The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. As punishment, Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savanna manor house, Fairlight, until gossip subsides. Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming—yet fleeting and often cheap. A

The Girl Who Loved Camellia’s - The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis

Title:   The Girl Who Loved Camellia’s - The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis A uthor:   Julie Kavanagh Publisher:   Knopf Pub Date:   June 11, 2013 How Acquired:   Through Edelweiss What it’s about:   The astonishing and unknown story of Marie Duplessis, the courtesan who inspired Alexandre Dumas fils’s novel and play La dame aux camélias, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata, George Cukor’s film Camille, and Frederick Ashton’s ballet Marguerite and Armand. Fascinating to both men and women, Marie, with her stylish outfits and signature camellias, was always a subject of great interest at the opera or at the Café de Paris, where she sat at the table of the director of the Paris Opéra, along with the director of the Théâtre Variétés, and others. Her early death at age twenty-three from tuberculosis created an outpouring of sympathy, noted by Charles Dickens, who wrote in February 1847: “For several days all questions political, artistic, commercial have been abando

The Many Lives of Beryl Markham

“A life has to move or it stagnates. Even this life, I think. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.” – Beryl Markham   Two of my favorite writers, Lauren Willig and Deanna Raybourn , have writers have novels set in Kenya during the 1920’s. I have previously written about some of the denizens of the Happy Valley Set (Alice de Janze, Idina Sackville) before but I was all of a sudden inspired to read more about Beryl Markham. Way back in the 1980’s, after OUT OF AFRICA was released, there was a miniseries on CBS called SHADOW ON THE SUN starring Stephanie Powers as Markham. I vaguely remember a scene were Powers as Markham says “I’ve flown the Atlantic” in a really terrible English accent. Born in England but raised in Kenya, Beryl Markham was a notorious beauty. She trained race horses and had scandalous affairs, but she is most remembered for being a pioneering aviatrix. She became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the first person to make it

Napoleon's Women: The Life of Madame de Stael

In her lifetime, it was said there were three great powers in Europe: Britain, Russia and Madame de Staël.   She was a political and literary intellectual giant in an age when women weren't expected to be either.   She was also crucial in putting together the coalition that brought down Napoleon, most of the important treaty negotiations between Russia and Sweden against Napoleon were conducted through Madame de Staël.   After Napoleon's fall, her salon in Paris was where the attempts at constitutional monarchy were framed. She was also an accomplished writer of novels ( Delphine, Corrine or Italy ), travel writing (her three volume work ‘On Germany’ was heralded at the time), pamphleteer (she wrote a spirited defense of Marie Antoinette) and literary critic ( On Literature ) who pretty much invented comparative literature. During the reign of terror, Germaine used her status as a Swiss citizen to save the lives of at least a dozen people.   Unlike her contemporaries Fa

Book of the Month: Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold

Title:   Mistress of My Fate (The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot) Author:    Hallie Rubenhold Publisher:   Grand Central Publishing Pub Date:   January 8, 2013 What it’s About:   Set during a period of revolution and turmoil, Mistress of My Fate is the first book in a trilogy about Henrietta Lightfoot, a young woman who was abandoned as a baby and raised alongside her cousins, noble children of a lord and lady. At just sixteen years old, circumstance and a passionate love affair tear Henrietta away from everything she knows, leading to a new life fending for herself on the streets of 18th century London as a courtesan, gambler, and spirited intellect of the city. About the Author:   Hallie Rubenhold is an historian and broadcaster and an authority on British eighteenth-century social history. She has written two works of non-fiction to critical acclaim: The Convent Garden Ladies and Lady Worsley's Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce