Fiona Davis delivers with her second novel: The Address

33607640I was introduced to the beautiful writing style of Fiona Davis in 2016 with her debut novel The Dollhouse.  It was such a captivating story with a lot of historical facts that compelled me to research the building and the occupants.

This time around, Fiona takes us to The Dakota, a new hotel opening in New York City in 1885.  Critics at the time were quoted as saying The Dakota will undoubtedly be known as ‘The Address’ of New York’s West Side.  Once again, Fiona made a historical building so fascinating I was constantly researching the history.

Our main character in The Address, Sara Smythe, travels from England to New York to manage The Dakota, something she has never done before.  While working as the head housekeeper at a posh London hotel, she has a chance meeting with Theodore Camden, the architect for The Dakota.  Theodore wants Sara to run the Dakota for him and insists she must come to America and accept the position.

Sara insists that she will not be like her mother who fell for her employer, but as Sara and Theodore’s friendship progresses, so does their romantic relationship.  Even though Theodore has a wife and children, the two of them can’t stay away from each other.

Then we jump forward 100 years to Bailey Camden who is fresh out of rehab.  She blew up her interior design career when her party girl habits took a dark path leaving her penniless, jobless and homeless.  To try and make money and get her career back on track, she takes a job from her best friend and cousin Melinda to redecorate Melinda’s apartment at the Dakota.  The apartment Melinda inherited from her ancestor Theodore Camden.

Fiona does a great job of taking historical events and winding a fascinating story of greed, passion, love and sacrifice taking the reader on a journey through dual timelines alternating between 1885 and 1985.  She shines a spotlight on how women were treated in 1885 as a second class citizen.  The fact that women could be put in a crazy house without a trial is horrible.

I felt sorry for Sara and what she went through.  All the sacrifices she made.  I also was glad that Bailey became strong and fought for what she thought was right. As for Melinda, I wanted to smack her.  What a bitch.

Fiona Davis is making a name for herself in the historical fiction genre.  Her stories take the reader back in time entertaining them and educating them.  She takes dual timeline stories and eventually ties them together for a great revelation that the reader won’t see coming.  The Address is well worth the read and I would put this at the top of your to be read list.

Book Description:
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Come Sundown is an emotional roller coaster ride

31415529I always associate Nora Roberts with romance trilogies where sisters fall in love, brothers fall in love, best friends fall in love and sometimes all three in the same storyline.  So it always surprises me when I come across one of her books that has romance but also a large element of Criminal Minds.  Come Sundown is one of those books.

The book has two very strong storylines that eventually merge/catch up with each other.  The story starts out with Alice Bodine.  A young girl who left home, not on good terms with her family, the night of her sister’s wedding.  After struggling for a few years, Alice decides to return home but she never makes it there.  Her car breaks down, a guy gives her a ride, but instead of taking her the few miles to her family’s ranch, he kidnaps her.  Her family never knew Alice was headed home so they think she wants nothing to do with them with her disappearance.

The second storyline takes us more than 20 years into the future to Bodine Longbow, a young professional woman who runs the Bodine Ranch and Resort.  She has her hands on everything, which made me wonder how she had time for a personal life let alone getting any sleep.  Then Callen (Cal) Skinner comes back home.  A childhood friend of Bodine and her brothers who is amazing with horses.  He’s soon hired on at the ranch along with his horse and he soon starts a relationship with Bodine.  The same time of Cal’s return, women start turning up dead, which makes a local police officer and childhood enemy of Cal’s, point his finger right at Cal.  He is determined to put Cal in jail.

The Bodine Ranch and Resort is a tightknit team.  Everyone is treated like family whether they are family or just work there.  Roberts does a great job of pulling the reader into the lives of the characters and making you care for all of them.  So when one of them goes missing, everyone hurts.

This is a heart-pounding, terrifying and laugh out loud story that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions.  When women start going missing and showing up dead, my heart would race and I kept saying not her.  Like that would make a difference.

This is such a wonderful book.  I could not put it down.  I have already recommended Come Sundown to several friends and family and I recommend it while on vacation or wrapped up in a blanket on the couch on a quiet day.  This one is well worth your time.

Book Description:
The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…

When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Girl In Between broke my heart

32739853There are a lot of things in life that are sad, things that can break your heart.  The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll is a book that is sad in so many different ways and broke my heart.  The story depicts life on the street and on the move for a young girl and her mother from the eyes of the young girl.

Life is good when the girl and her Ma live with grandma, but Ma doesn’t want to stay there, so they move out.  They don’t have any money and nowhere to go.  Ma is a drug addict and promises the girl she will stop the drugs and drinking and take care of her.  But Ma doesn’t keep her promise.  She forgets to feed the girl, she takes her daughter to scary places where drug dealers live and she doesn’t take her to school.

They end up on the streets until moving into an abandoned old mill they call The Castle.  The castle that Ma has promised the girl they would live in some day.  The girl explores the Castle, drawing on the walls, and from the roof, spies on the people walking by.  The girl must be vigilant to remain invisible from the outside world.  She can’t leave the Castle but can only let the Caretaker see her.

The girl thinks the mill is haunted and tries to lure the ghost out into the open.  She learns about the ghost from the Caretaker, who is struggling against his past and grief to leave the mill after forty-seven years.

The girl doesn’t want the Authorities to see her because they could take her away from Ma.  Now, the Authorities have come to the Castle, but not for her. They have come to take her Castle away leaving Ma and her with nowhere to live.  There are flashbacks intermixed in the story that slowly brings everything together ending with a shocking revelation.

The Girl In Between shines a spotlight on addiction, parenting on the streets, the relationship between a mother and a daughter and how drugs can make someone selfish.  No child should live on the streets and this book shows what it’s like for some of the children living on the street.  This is a very sad story.

Book Description:
I know the mill has a story cos there’s something strange going on. I heard something. I’ve decided that I’m going to find out what it is later today when Ma leaves. Cos even if it is scary, we live here and we’re never leaving. So if there’s something going on, I need to know. 

In an old, abandoned mill, a girl and her ma take shelter from their memories of life on the streets. To the girl it’s home, her safe place, the Castle. But as her ma spins out of control and the Authorities move ever closer, the girl finds herself trapped – stuck in the crumbling mill with only the ghosts of the past for company.

Can she move on before it’s too late?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

I Found You has many different meanings

35184176I Found You by Lisa Jewell is a suspenseful thriller featuring three separate stories that slowly merge together.  First we meet Alice Lake, a single mom of three children – Kai, Jasmine and Romaine and their three dogs (Hero, Sadie, and Grif) living in a small house by the shore in Ridinghouse Bay.  Alice sees a man sitting on the beach in the pouring rain not moving for hours.  He has lost his memory, not knowing who he was and why he was sitting there.  Against her best friend Derry’s advice, Alice gives the man a warm coat and brings him inside her house and her daughter Romaine names him Frank.

Then we meet Lily Monrose from Ukraine who has only been back from her honeymoon for 10 days and now lives in London with her husband Carl.  One night Carl doesn’t come home from work, which is out of character for him.  She realizes that she doesn’t completely know her husband.  When she brings in the police, they quickly discover no person with his name exists.

We then head back twenty years to 1993 when the Ross Family (Tony, Pam, Gray and Kirsty) decide to vacation for two weeks in Ridinghouse Bay.  When Gray (17) and Kirsty (15) are out for a walk, Gray notices a guy staring intently at Kirsty.  It makes Gray uncomfortable.  The next day the family is on the beach and the same guy is sitting next to them.  He soon befriends the family and invites them over for tea at the large estate across the way.  Mark Tate (19) is visiting his aunt Kitty who recently lost her husband.  Mark quickly becomes obsessed with Kirsty and he starts to come across as a crazy, evil person.

The narrative switches back and forth between the three storylines slowly weaving back and forth bringing them together at the end.  Throughout the book, you don’t know exactly who the strange man on the beach could be.  Is it Gray or is it Mark.  And who is Lily’s husband?  Is it Gray or is it Mark?  Is the stranger on the beach and Lily’s husband the same person or are they two different people?  Lisa Jewell kept me guessing and kept me second guessing my selections.  I found I could not put this book down.  I wanted to know what was happening and I wanted answers.  This is a great thriller just in time for summertime.

Now that I’ve been done with the book for a few days, I understand the title pertains to several characters of the book.  It also means something different for each of the characters.

Book Description:
A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Veronica Speedwell is a great role model

28186322It’s always refreshing to have a female character who is strong, independent, knows her mind and speaks her mind. Especially when you throw them into London 1887. A time when it is frowned upon for women to have their own thoughts, to actually be educated and smarter than some men.

In the Veronica Speedwell Mystery Series by Deanna Raybourn, Ms. Speedwell is a feisty independent woman who travels on her own, doesn’t give a crap what people think, is educated, has an active sex life and she doesn’t apologize for anything.  Sometimes she gets herself into trouble because of these traits and I wouldn’t want her any other way.

Even though these books could stand on their own, I recommend starting with A Curious Beginning to understand how Veronica and Stoker (Revelstoke Templeton-Vane) end up together and continue working together in book two.

Book one starts with Veronica returning to a ransacked bungalow with an intruder running away.  She takes chase and as the intruder is about to murder her, a stranger scares the intruder away and insists Veronica must come with him. He promises to protect her and will give information about the mother she never knew.

Since Veronica just buried her aunt, who she loved with and has nothing keeping her at the bungalow, she goes with him. He drops her off with Stoker and is soon murdered before he can tell Veronica about her mother and leaving her alone with grumpy Stoker who is also a stranger.  They are soon on the run trying to find out why someone is trying to kill her when she isn’t an important person. She is only a hunter of butterflies.  This story takes them across the country and joining a traveling circus where Stoker is a knife thrower and Veronica his assistant.

30008834A Perilous undertaking finds Ms. Speedwell and Stoker pulled into finding out if Miles Ramsforth really did murder Artemisia before he hangs in a week. The person who requests their help is not who she says she is and Veronica immediately recognizes her true identity. Of course, Sir Hugo Montgomerie, the head of Special Branch of Scotland Yard, does not like Veronica and Stoker trying to prove the wrong many is going to be executed. It will show that Scotland Yard is not doing their job correctly. The ambitious Inspector Mornaday is back again. Veronica drives both of them crazy.

This book is filled with the same humor, suspense and excitement as the first book.  I find Veronica and Stoker’s friendship refreshing.  There is some sexual tension between them but she won’t act on it because she refuses to have sex with a countryman. Stoker is a certified medical surgeon who has left his profession to hunt for animals abroad and stuffs them for his clients. He is a physically strong man covered with tattoos and scars from his travels.

In book two we get a deeper insight into both Veronica and Stoker’s families and learn why Stoker has distanced himself from his family. This series is entertaining and so well written I was pulled into the lives of the characters and lost myself in the story. I think I found a new historical mystery series.  This series should be added to every must read list.

Book Description:

A Curious Beginning (Book One)
In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

A Perilous Undertaking (Book Two)
Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries…

London, 1887 . . Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman’s noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

New twist on Sherlock Holmes

28588390Charlotte Holmes of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas brings a fresh new twist to the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

As a child, Charlotte Holmes, youngest of four sisters, has always been a little different.  She rarely speaks unless she has something to say, she likes to be alone and she is great at coming up with accurate conclusions after observing a situation.  Her father finds Charlotte entertaining, which made her his pet.

Charlotte’s domineering mother is determined to make Charlotte a proper young lady and get her married off.  But Charlotte doesn’t want to get married.  She would rather be the headmistress of an all girl’s school.  Sir Henry Holmes withdraws his promise to fun her training, which forces Charlotte to take drastic measure by ruining her reputation with a married man, ensuring she would not be married off to an eligible bachelor.  Not only did she ruin her reputation, she is publicly disgraced and is the center of a huge scandal.

After the scandal hits, Charlotte runs away to avoid spending her days out in the country alone, where her mother hopes the scandal will die down if Charlotte is out of sight.  Charlotte soon encounters an older, flamboyant lady who she feels an almost instant connection.  Of course this is Mrs. John Watson, a former actress and the widow of an army officer who perished in Afghanistan years earlier.

Soon the bodies start lining up including the mother of Charlotte’s lover.  The reclusive detective Sherlock Holmes is on the case but how effective will he be since he has taken to his bed with a serious illness and Inspector Treadles of Scotland Yard must consult with Holmes through his “sister” Charlotte.  Then there is Lord Ingram Ashburton who is in love with Charlotte but can’t act on his love for her because he is married, even if there is no love in the marriage.  He is an honorable man and will not act on his love.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, or even just a murder mystery fan, then you will want to pick up A Study in Scarlet Women.  This will be a great series to enjoy for years to come.

I was able to read an advanced copy through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…

 With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name.  She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat