A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

A perfect book to fall into my hands on summer vacation! Set in 1899, plenty of historical detail about society, London Seasons, gentleman’s clubs, calling cards, chaperones, rides in the park, servants, etc.  What was so enjoyable about this was that our heroine is a young widow (her husband was a philanderer) who has plenty of spunk and stands up for herself after the required year of mourning by purchasing her own home in London. Much to the dismay of her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, both of whom rely on her large purse to keep the family estate going. Conveniently, Frances is independently wealthy. And American. That’s right-she’s an American heiress who married a titled British man! Juicy. (If you haven’t read The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, go do so.) This is actually a mystery-poor Frances is being set up all over the place, plus there are some robberies happening at the society homes. She takes on meddling and solving herself, along with the handsome next door neighbor.

I enjoyed this immensely and am THRILLED there is already a sequel available at my library and I love the direction this series is going in.

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Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Eden and Bonnie are bffs (in England, it’s British.) Bonnie is super studious and straight laced whereas Eden has been known to not be a model of good behavior. So everyone is shocked when Bonnie runs away with her secret boyfriend.  Eden is surprised but doesn’t think too too much about it. Until she finds out that it’s a matter of police interest because the secret boyfriend is a teacher from their school. Suddenly it’s a national news story and everyone is insisting that Eden must have known everything and that she should tell them the truth. What I found so interesting about this story is that it wasn’t at all just about the tawdry running away with the teacher story. It was really about Eden’s inner turmoil and sudden questioning of her relationship with Bonnie and even of her own family relationships and what kind of person she is, all because of this. If she and Bonnie really were so close why didn’t she know about this?
A good solid story.

*though really, even after reading lots of British books I still don’t get what these GSwhatever exams are.

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

This title sucks you in, doesn’t it? And so did the story. I loved this premise of a man who had inadvertently gotten trapped in a somewhat elaborate ongoing lie. The people he works with-really, the only people he sees- all believe he has a wife and two children. But really he is single, alone, lonely. He does have online friends from a model train forum (I rather liked that their passion for this was shown as yes, a singular passion, but not really made fun of.) Stuck in this rut, things get shaken up when Peggy joins the office and for the first time he sees possibilities of being happy. And I really liked this emphasis throughout the story on the possibility of being happy. The possibility of being loved and loving. The possibility of change.
It’s British, which lent its own charm. And it’s also well written with some gentle humor and terrific lines. I can definitely see comparisons to A Man Called Ove and Eleanor Oliphant.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

A feel good story featuring family history/secrets and a quirky librarian at the heart of it all. yes, please! I really enjoyed this story, even though I was a little fixated on exactly what her job was (professional hazard.) Also, I got a little fed up with just how much of a doormat she was. And how unapologetic her sister was. I get that she was that way because of the family history and terrible backstory but I did get a bit frustrated. That said, I loved the tracking down and unraveling of the “mystery” of the found book.

Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

You know what? This was delightful. Can you imagine sharing an apartment with someone that’s a 1 bedroom and the agreement is you get the evening and overnight hours and he has the daytime (due to work schedules this is possible.) ? Sharing apartments isn’t weird, but the whole setup that they’ll never meet and they are sleeping in the same bed.  Of course you know they’ll end up meeting and falling for each other, but that’s ok. I was glad that happened sooner rather than later and it turned out to have a weightier plot than you might expect, centering on her stalkerish ex-boyfriend.
I also enjoyed the guy’s subplot of helping out the seniors in the assisted living where he worked.

Solid and enjoyable.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

I’m startled to see that this is #12 in the series because I’m fairly certain I haven’t read twelve Her Royal Spynesses. I guess that means that I can always go back and have more to read-it certainly doesn’t make you unable to follow what’s going on. I love this series so much. It’s mystery the way I like it-light and British and historical. And, although I consider these light and fun books, Bowen’s historical detail is wonderful.
In this latest installment Lady Georgiana is finally (FINALLY) about to be married to Darcy, having received approval to renounce her right to the throne (because honestly, if she were to be queen a crazy plague would have had to wipe out at least 35 members of the royal family.) I was getting a bit annoyed with how drawn out this was, so was glad it was finally about to happen.
I enjoyed this one very much, in part because I enjoyed seeing Lady Georgiana finally get bold and assert herself in various areas of her life (that nasty Fig! those terrible servants flaunting her instructions! even Darcy!)
As usual she is able to pick up on all sorts of clues that something is not quite right and bravely investigate and put pieces together.
Tremendously enjoyable

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

I already thought Hilary McKay was a marvelous underappreciated writer, and now I think even more so! (Is she really underappreciated? Maybe not, based on awards, but it seems like no one else I know reads her books. And they should.) This will immediately draw some comparison to The War that Saved My Life. It is some solid hard core historical fiction. I am pretty curious the targeted age reader because  while it has a youngish looking cover and was in the children’s section I’m not sure the 5th graders I know would stick with this. In part because she doesn’t flinch from the realities of WWI trench warfare, and in part because these characters are followed from childhood to adulthood. Reading as an adult, though, I found this very appealing and loved discovering that I would be reading about not just a few summers in childhood, but these characters’ nearly full lives.

Clarry and her brother Peter, their cousin Rupert, their friends Simon and Vanessa. Rupert, Peter, and Simon all go to a boarding school, while Clarry struggles against and upbringing in which she’s flat out told that as a girl she needs to know nothing. Fortunately Clarry finds ways around that and loving support from those outside the family.

As a keen reader of WWI and WWII fiction I assumed from chapter one that surely one of these beloved characters would die-the only question being which one? I almost didn’t want to get too fond of the characters, but of course I ended up loving them all.  Except for Clarry’s horrible hideous cold father.
I loved watching the changing relationships and growing up and just thought this was an all around terrific book. Honestly I felt like it read almost like an adult WWI book.

As always with a WWI book I ended up feeling sad at the end because all I could think was “you lived, but any babies you have will grow up just in time for WWII and you’ll have to live it all over again.”