UNDER A VEILED MOON by Karen Odden

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Inspector Michael Corravan has found his stride at Scotland Yard, although some will never accept him due to his Irish heritage and background as thief and boxer in Whitechapel. Corravan has tried to distance himself from his past, but that grows more difficult when murders and vandalism in his old neighborhood get dangerously close to his foster family–leading him to suspect that his foster brother Colin might be mixed up with the vicious gang that drove Corravan out of Whitechapel years earlier.

When a tragic boat crash on the Thames leaves hundreds dead, Corravan’s superiors suspect the Irish Republican Brotherhood might be involved. Corravan has his doubts, but when the papers get wind of a possible Irish scandal–with a Parliamentary bill for Irish Home Rule gaining traction–they’re quick to leap to conclusions. The only remedy is for Corravan to continue his detailed inquiry, to shake off the threats and suspicions of anti-Irish colleagues trying to get him thrown off the case, and find out what Colin’s gotten mixed up in before he’s just another body in the gutters of Whitechapel.

Character depth and cogent themes balance high-stakes in this Victorian mystery which will appeal to fans of police procedurals. Clues unfold at an even pace while the interwoven family drama ramps up intensity toward a thrilling climax. The second in the Inspector Corravan series, UNDER A VEILED MOON picks up where the previous book left off, but includes enough context (and a wealth of character development) that it will be easy for new readers to fall right into the well-developed historical world. Both this novel and its predecessor (DOWN A DARK RIVER) are perfectly plotted, character-rich procedurals for fans of the genre!

DEATH ON A WINTER STROLL by Francine Mathews

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Police Chief Merry Folger is used to the logistical hassle of high-profile politicians spending Christmas on Nantucket. Unfortunately, this year the holidays will include not only the Secretary of State and her family but a Hollywood film crew–and a couple of dead bodies.

The Sec’s stepson Ansel recently learned that his estranged mother was squatting on their old house on Nantucket, despite the fact that his father told him she was dead. He spends two days with her, admiring her artwork and watching her photograph island birds on the moor before she turns up dead for real–murdered. Grief-stricken Ansel confides in his new friend Winter, daughter of the lead actor in a film shooting nearby, who lost her own mother years earlier to suicide. But Winter has problems of her own, being sexually harassed by a vindictive, abusive Hollywood agent, husband of the film’s director, who has spent every day of his short time on the island making enemies. When he goes missing, it’s too much to hope that the two incidents could be unconnected, and it will be up to Chief Folger and her team to untangle the secrets and hidden connections between the stars and the suits before the killer strikes again.

Grudges galore and shifting points of view yield abundant suspects for this evenly-paced, traditional murder mystery. With echoes of the COVID-19 pandemic and the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, DEATH ON A WINTER STROLL juxtaposes timely explorations of grief and trauma with a charming Nantucket Christmas backdrop for a satisfying, suspenseful read with moderate edginess. No need to have read the previous books in this series to jump right in with this one!

#12DaysOfKidlit 2022

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Happy December! The holiday buying season is well under way and I fervently, devoutly, fanatically believe there is no greater gift than a good book. For the next twelve days I’ll be celebrating the 12 Days Of Kidlit, posting a book a day to add up to my six favorite Middle Grade and six favorite Young Adult novels released this year.

Of course, this list will be limited by a) Books I Happened to Read and b) Books I Happened to Like. So…I need your help! Hop on your favorite social media platform and post your favorite titles of 2022 with #12DaysOfKidlit. I’m excited to check out your recommendations.

Now, let’s dive in with today’s pick…

Day 12: YA Mysteries

As usual, I really struggled to narrow down my list of YAs. So I decided to share two today, both mysteries, but oh so different!

THE RED PALACE by June Hur

What it’s about:

Set in 1758 Korea (Joseon), this mystery follows a young nurse who gets assigned to treat a prince with a dark and secretive past (and present) and winds up getting embroiled in an investigation of a murder that the prince may or may not have committed while dodging the suspicions of an attractive young detective on the police force.

Who it’s for:

Teens and 20-somethings (and on up!). Great for book clubs for all ages. Historical mystery fans and historical romance fans (yes, Romancelandia, this will satisfy you).

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I love how atmospheric June Hur’s writing is. I get sucked into this world and I never want to leave. The mystery is suspenseful, the subplots gripping, and by now you know I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers storylines, so…

QUEEN OF THE TILES by Hanna Alkaf

What it’s about:

They Wish They Were Us meets The Queen’s Gambit in this “stunning…unforgettable” (Publishers Weekly) thriller set in the world of competitive Scrabble, where a teen girl is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages.” Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster

Who it’s for:

Teen (ages 12 & up) fans of mysteries and competition dramas (“The Queen’s Gambit”is an apt comparison title). It’s not really a thriller, but it is a murder mystery so there’s plenty of suspense from both the investigation and the Scrabble tournament as it ramps up in intensity.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What set this one apart for me was the setting—not just that it was set in cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and representing competitors from a variety of Asian cultures and religious backgrounds, but also the competitive Scrabble world which I’d not seen before in Kidlit. It was so intense—just as intense as the suspicious death, threatening social media messages, and suspected poisonings of the mystery plot, and plenty cutthroat enough to prompt a murder…


Day 11: THE DOOR OF NO RETURN by Kwame Alexander

What it’s about:

“From the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning author Kwame Alexander, comes the first book in a searing, breathtaking trilogy that tells the story of a boy, a village, and the epic odyssey of an African family.” Little, Brown & Company

Who it’s for:

4th-8th graders who like historical fiction, epic adventures, and/or novels-in-verse. In fact, this is a great “gateway” novel-in-verse due to the smooth, transparent language. It flows beautifully and is easy to understand. It is also a phenomenal choice for MG book clubs, especially at the middle school level due to darker subject matter and the potential for mature discussions of colonization in West Africa and its lingering impacts.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Set in the Asante Kingdom (modern Ghana) in 1860, this is literary middle grade at its best—the language worming its way into my heart, the characters jumping off the page like real people, the world enveloping me from the first page, and the adventure so gripping I couldn’t put it down. Sublime. And despite the maturity of the writing that will speak to even adult readers, Alexander perfectly captures an 11-year-old’s point of view and emotions as he experiences the life shattering hardships of white colonization in his homeland.


Day 10: VIOLET MADE OF THORNS by Gina Chen

What it’s about:

“A darkly enchanting fantasy about a lying witch, a cursed prince, and a sinister prophecy that ignites their doomed destinies—perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince.” Delacorte Press

Who it’s for:

YA high fantasy people! Especially fans of Holly Black, Marisa Meyer, Heather Walter, Melissa Bashardoust, and similar.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I’m still stunned this is a debut. It is absolutely everything I want in a dark high fantasy. Politics that shape the story but aren’t excessive and don’t require tons of backstory/explanation. Interweaving of fairytales without it feeling derivative. All Of The Morally Gray Characters! Enemies-to-lovers romance! And TWISTS!! It was just intense, addictive FUN in fantasy form.


Day 9: JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE by Tae Keller

What it’s about:

“In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger, Tae Keller offers a gripping and emotional story about friendship, bullying, and the possibility that there’s more in the universe than just us.” Random House Books for Young Readers

Who it’s for:

4th-7th grade fans of contemporary fiction with sci-fi vibes. And book clubs! There is a great exploration of the nuances of bullying culture in middle schools that could fuel some excellent conversations.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What sticks in my mind about this book is how much Keller focused on the possibilities: all the little choices that added up to the ultimate disaster, how what each character did and did not do created their school culture, and of course the big possibility—are the aliens in the book real?? I love books where there are no easy answers and books where the characters have fallen into the crevice between two aspects of their identity and are struggling to see themselves. Plus, Keller perfectly captures middle school clique culture in all of its nuances without writing off a single character as a lost cause, however bad their choices at one time or another. This book is just perfection in so many ways.


Day 8: HOW TO EXCAVATE A HEART by Jake Maia Arlow

What it’s about:

“Stonewall Honor author Jake Maia Arlow delivers a sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas rom-com in a read perfect for fans of Kelly Quindlen and Casey McQuiston.” HarperTeen

Who it’s for:

This is YA/NA Rom Com gold!! Set during freshman year of college, this would also make a great pick for college and 20-something women’s book clubs.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Enemies to lovers!! A meet-cute where one hits the other with a car!! But what really set this one apart for me was the humor. This voice had me cracking up from the first page. It was such a fast, smooth read and I was having so much fun with the characters, I didn’t want it to end. Plus, Arlow works in some lovely layers of thematic depth as the characters and their relationship evolve.


Day 7: HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd

The cover of HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd

What it’s about:

Tired of being treated as “fragile,” a twelve-year-old girl with a brittle bone disease convinces her parents to let her go to a real middle school and gets her heart set on playing the lead in a school play—until rumors of a magical wish-granting hummingbird sends her off on a mission to solve a riddle and (maybe) ask for normal bones.

Who it’s for:

4th-6th graders who like contemporary fiction set in small towns and “light” fantasy where the magic is real but almost a metaphor for the main themes of the story (think: Savvy by Ingrid Law, The Stars of Whistling Ridge by Cindy Baldwin, or Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic.) This one is also an excellent candidate for book clubs, chock full of the kind of humor and suspense that makes it hard to resist but plenty of meat for discussion, too.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

SO many reasons. First, voice (a theme of my MG faves this year). The main character’s voice not only immediately hooked me on who she was as a person, it threw me headlong into this small Appalachian town—and that setting is another thing that has stuck with me. A small town, full of colorful characters supporting one another, with some little bits of literal magic more bits of community growth that feels as magical as the fantasy. And then there’s the disability representation in this book. Lloyd doesn’t shy away from the prickliest issues and uncertainties and struggles of developing your identity when you have a disability and how you see yourself and your disability as part of yourself but not your who self but also a key component of your identity and not a negative but also sometimes painful and… well, you’ll have to read the book. But even though the main character (and Lloyd) has a different disability from me, everything she’s going through psychologically resonated so strongly and authentically with me that this story hasn’t let go of my heart.


Day 6: THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU by Remi K. England

The cover of THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU by Remi K. England

What it’s about:

One small fandom convention. One teen beauty pageant. One meet cute waiting to happen.A big-hearted, joyful romance and a love letter to all things geek, Remi K. England’s The One True Me and You is a *witness me* celebration of standing up for, and being, yourself.” Wednesday Books

Who it’s for:

Teens 12 & up. Rom Com fans! Comic-con fans! Comic-Rom-Com-Con Fans! It’s solidly in the LGBTQ+ Rom Com genre, BUT there is so much going on in each of the character’s lives that readers who like YA contemporary coming-of-age stories will find lots to love, even if they’re not typically into romance.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What I loved about this one is first and foremost the geeky joy—and how this was like my teenage self’s DREAM! I mean, I remember staying in hotels with fellow teens on band trips, which was exciting enough, but if there had been a nerd con in the same hotel? With my favorite fandom?! Beyond the geeky joy, I loved the exploration of having different interests that feel like different worlds—the tension that can create in forming your identity and the beauty and complexity it can add to your life. Plus, those thorny questions of how much of yourself you should share with your crush and when that crush becomes falling in love… and a spotlight on homophobic and transphobic bullying, authentic conversations and interiority surrounding sexual identity and gender identity, and a cheerful, triumphant, fist-pumping ending that would make John Hughes proud.


Day 5: YONDER by Ali Standish

Cover of YONDER by Ali Standish

What it’s about:

“From Ali Standish, award-winning author of The Ethan I Was Before, August Isle, How to Disappear Completely, and The Mending Summer, comes a captivating historical fiction middle grade novel about a boy on the home front in World War II who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend.” HarperCollins 

Who it’s for:

This one is a stunner for book clubs, overflowing with substance for group discussions and an immediate hook that will convince even reluctant participants to keep reading. It will snag 4th-7th grade fans of character-driven mysteries, character-driven historical fiction (think Okay for Now) or both!

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

This book has one of those perfect first chapters that serve as a microcosm for the book as a whole: the killer voice that roots you in the character and the Appalachian world you’ll be inhabiting, a glimpse of the theme that will be explored in depth going forward (What is heroism? And what does it mean to be a hero—or to be labeled a hero?), and a suspenseful hook at the end, setting up the mystery to come and making it impossible for me to put the book down. The book delivered on every promise the prologue made, and then some; I’m an absolute sucker for books that don’t give me any easy answers but still somehow give me hope.


Day 4: THE WORDS WE KEEP by Erin Stewart

What it’s about:

Struggling to balance her own mental health when her sister returns home after receiving treatment for bipolar disorder after a near-fatal experience with self-harm, overachiever Lily reluctantly teams up with a boy from her sister’s treatment program and goes all in on a school project, leaving subversive poetry around the school and community.

Who it’s for:

Mature teen readers who like darker contemporary and book clubs that can handle themes of suicide and self-harm. The primary access points are mental health, art, and creative writing.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I’m a sucker for writing about writing, and this book took it to the next level by making the poetry into a form of performance art that has the power to transform a community as well as helping the main character explore her own identity and come to terms with her mental illness. Also, therapy positivity is a must for me in mental health-themed books, and this depiction was extremely nuanced, showing a character going through the process of frustration, failure, and struggle to find the right therapy and right treatment for her. Not just a gripping read, but so hopeful and necessary!


Day 3: SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE by Sonja Thomas

Book cover of Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence

What it’s about:

From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Ways to Make Sunshine in this “noteworthy” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) middle grade novel about a determined young girl who must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat.” Simon and Schuster

Who it’s for:

4th-6th graders (can definitely skew younger for advanced readers), especially STEM lovers and animal lovers.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Mostly, the voice. I fell for Mira on page one because she made me laugh, feel for her not fitting in (and oh, did my inner 12-year-old relate!), and admire her scientific motivation and tenacity–not to mention that she has a “nemesis” (who should obviously be her BFF). This book executed everything I love in a voicey, character-driven contemporary and hooked me by the heart with the protagonist’s desperation to save her pet. (I was rooting for a nemeses-to-besties transformation, too!)


Day 2: RUST IN THE ROOT by Justina Ireland

Cover of RUST IN THE ROOT by Justina Ireland

What it’s about:

In 1937, mage Laura Ann Langston adopts the moniker the Peregrine and joins a corps of Black government operatives to find the source of a deadly magical blight in the Midwest, only to discover that the government hasn’t been honest about the waiting dangers and their sinister source.

Who it’s for:

Teen (YA) and young adult (NA) fans of immersive, grounded fantasies—especially historical fantasy, but honestly, the historical setting is so integrated into the world building and magical politics that I think it could pull fans of contemporary and secondary world fantasies, too. It also has the perfect blend of unputdownable drive and meaty themes for YA and 20-something book clubs (and tbh, I’ve pitched it to my book club of 30- and 40-somethings, too).

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Justina Ireland’s world building is always off the hook, and this one is my new favorite. She takes history, adds fantasy, and somehow makes it more real, more relevant to what I’m witnessing and experiencing in my contemporary, non-magical life. And boy do I love a meticulously constructed, well-founded, logical yet novel magic system. Add the unbelievable stakes, nuanced characters, and ever-increasing suspense from snippets of future news clippings… *chef’s kiss* Absolute exquisite perfection. 10/10. 11/10, actually.


Day 1: TREX by Christyne Morrell

Cover of TREX by Christyne Morrell

What it’s about:

“This middle grade mystery follows the adventures of a boy with an experimental brain implant, and a reclusive girl training to be a spy, as they’re pitted against school bullies, their own parents, and an evil, brain-hacking corporation.” Penguin Random House

Who it’s for:

Compared by the publisher to Stranger Things, this is for middle grade readers who like sci-fi with big mystery-thriller energy and resilient underdog characters. It also has the perfect blend of unputdownable drive and meaty themes for MG book clubs.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

This one was right up my alley genre-wise (I’m all about big mystery-thriller energy in my speculative middle grade!) but it stood out from the pack because of how well Morrell balances agency between her two protagonists, because of the realistic and ultimately therapy-positive depiction of a character with an anxiety disorder, and because I genuinely did not see one of the twists coming. It’s rare for me to be surprised by a well-founded twist for this age group, but Morrell pulled it off in a big way. The character interactions were authentic, the stakes high, and the suspense driving. What a ride!

THE SISTERS OF SEA VIEW by Julie Klassen

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With their father deceased, his estate passed on to a distant male relative, and their mother’s health failing, four gently-bred ladies are suddenly left without a source of sufficient income, their only asset their beloved house on the coast that is suddenly too large for them to maintain. Against her younger sisters’ objections, the eldest, Sarah, moves forward with a plan to rent rooms in their seaside home and take on other small jobs around the town to keep them all from destitution. The new venture stretches the four sisters out of their comfort zones and throws them into the paths of eligible gentlemen–from a Scottish widower to a bedridden war veteran–opening unexpected opportunities for personal growth and maybe even a chance for love.

This family-centric historical romance is sure to delight Klassen’s fan base and pull in new fans from the gentle reads / inspirational romance arena. Klassen devotes as much attention to the sister relationships as she does to the romantic ones and builds her story slowly with great attention to each character’s quiet evolution.

SHOW US WHO YOU ARE by Elle McNicoll

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Cora didn’t want to go to her older brother’s boss’s son’s birthday party. For one thing, she doesn’t know these people, and for another thing, parties are always awkward for Cora who struggles with small talk and sensory and emotional overwhelm in some social situations. But when she meets Adrien, her night becomes anything but awkward. Adrien is her age and they understand each other better than Cora and her classmates, maybe in part because they are both neurodivergent. The one thing they don’t see eye to eye on is Adrien’s father’s company, Pomegranate, which she learns studies living people to create accurate, holographic representations of them so that when they die, their loved ones can still interact with them. Cora would give anything to have another conversation with her late mother, even a simulated one, but Adrien insists that it wouldn’t be real and that the company is preying on grieving people’s emotions–and their wallets.

When tragedy strikes, Cora can no longer resist the lure of being interviewed by Pomegranate, not when they could offer her a chance to talk with a loved one she’s lost. But Adrien was right: Pomegranate has ulterior motives, and Cora may be the only one capable of unraveling the mystery and stopping them from turning society down a sinister road.

Grief and disability acceptance take a front row seat in McNicoll’s compelling foray into middle grade suspense. McNicoll demonstrates Cora and Adrien’s unique strengths without shying away from their weaknesses, some of them linked to her particular collection of neurodivergent traits, and in doing so provides readers with positive, realistic neurodivergent heroes–a boon for neurodivergent readers looking to find positive reflections of themselves in the books they read and non-neurodivergent readers who need opportunities to better understand people of all neurotypes. On top of the wonderful neurodiverse representation, McNicoll delivers a thrilling borderline dystopian plot that becomes difficult to put down in the second half. I’d recommend this one to fans of middle grade contemporary and/or middle grade thrillers.

If you liked SHOW US WHO YOU ARE, you might like TREX by Christyne Morrell

CURSED by Marissa Meyer

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In the sequel and finale to the story begun in GILDED, Serilda and Gild race to undo their curses before the Erlking and his court of demons can enact their own plans to end an ancient imprisonment and rain evil upon the mortal realm.

I listened to the well-narrated audiobook (performed by Rebecca Soler) which highlighted Meyer’s rich, Gothic world-building, steeped in oral storytelling tradition. Twists were abundant and surprising, yet well-founded and throughly satisfying, both as a story on its own and a conclusion to the duology. I would highly recommend this novel (and audiobook) to fans of dark fairytale retellings and would suggest starting with GILDED.

BENEATH HIS SILENCE by Hannah Linder

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Ella arrives at Wyckhorn Manor hoping to succeed in the soul-consuming mission her late father did not live long enough to complete: proving that Lord Sedgewick murdered her sister.

From the moment she meets Lord Henry Sedgewick, it is clear her sister made a mistake in marrying him. He is cold, aloof, and admits he never even loved Lucy. Ella assumes a false name and takes a position as governess to Henry and Lucy’s young son, hoping to get to know her nephew and gather proof of Henry’s iniquity. Yet under his distant exterior, Ella is surprised and somewhat alarmed to find a compassionate, generous, devoted Christian who begins gently prodding her doubting soul back toward the faith. But Henry and Wyckhorn Manor hold dark, guilty secrets, and though neither Henry nor Ella know it, they are both in grave danger of losing their hearts, their lives, and everything they hold dear.

This Gothic, Bronte-esque Christian Regency Romance packs suspense and emotional drama alongside a sweet (clean) courtship and each protagonist’s arc toward self-forgiveness. The Christian elements are prominent—a journey toward conversion—making this title ideal for readers who enjoy both Christian Fiction and Regency Romance rather than either in isolation. If you are a reader of both categories, I can highly recommend this story as immersive, exciting, and emotionally satisfying.

HER LAST BETRAYAL by Pam Lecky

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Sarah Gillespie has survived a year of wartime tragedy. Her sister died in a German air raid which she later learned was facilitated by her own father, an IRA operative who faked his death to continue secretly collaborating with Nazis in return for their aid with the Irish republican cause. As if that suffering and betrayal weren’t enough, her fiance’s ship is attacked by the Nazis, leaving him missing in action.

When MI5 approaches Sarah for her help undermining her father’s spy mission and bringing him to justice, she can’t say no. Unfortunately, they pair her with insufferable American operative Tony Anderson, suspicious of her due to her Irish heritage and dismissive of her espionage skills. An undercover mission takes them to Wales to track down Sarah’s father, but German moles have infiltrated their operation and as Sarah’s sparring with Anderson gives way to attraction, she will need to decide whether the surly American can be trusted–or whether he might be the sinister double agent they’ve been hunting.

Twisty with just a touch of enemies-to-lovers romance, HER LAST BETRAYAL is a quick, fun read for fans of the historical thriller genre. Lecky packs her story with colorful secondary characters and enough red herrings to keep you guessing to the climax. The second in a series, an open ending teases more adventures from Sarah Gillespie in the future.

THE DUKE IN QUESTION by Amalie Howard

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Desperate to use her privilege as a white noblewoman to contribute to the fight for racial justice, Lady Bronwyn Chase accepted the clandestine identity as “the Kestrel,” a spy not exactly in the employment of the Crown. Unfortunately, she has caught the Crown’s notice, and on her first transatlantic mission to help turn the tide of the American Civil War, the Kestrel is pursued by one of their most stoic former agents, Lord Valentine Medford, the Duke of Thornbury and best friend to Bronwyn’s half brother, the mixed-race Duke of Ashvale.

Bronwyn has long been attracted to Lord Valentine. Valentine on the other hand can’t imagine being romantically interested in the superficial personality Bronwyn projects–and he would never guess that she was the elusive Kestrel. Yet, Valentine finds himself drawn inexplicably and inexorably to Bronwyn, and when her assignment goes wrong, he is there to save her life–and arrest her. Bound together by conflicting duties, Bronwyn can no longer escape their smoldering attraction to one another. But will they be able to let one another go to save their reputations–and Bronwyn’s neck?–or will an unavoidable, passionate affair ruin them both?

Immediately following RULES FOR HEIRESSES, this sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance continues Howard’s nuanced exploration of gender, class, and race in the Victorian Era with the same perfect execution of historical romance tropes that will thrill fans of the genre, plus a dash of romantic suspense a la Sherry Thomas’s HIS AT NIGHT and MY BEAUTIFUL ENEMY. Wrestling with their privilege and desire to be allies, the white hero and heroine consistently run up against barriers of systemic racism, while injustice constrains characters of color–even those advantaged by wealth and title. Yet like all satisfying romances, the plot ends with hope and love–plus a thick cloud of steam. Highly recommend to readers of the genre and fans of the Netflix adaptation of BRIDGERTON.

AMEN? QUESTIONS FOR A GOD I HOPE EXISTS by Julia Rocchi

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Additional disclaimer ( / brag!): My friend wrote this book!!

What if I don’t believe in you?

What if I don’t trust you?

Is this thing on?

Through personal essays, poetry, and prayers, Rocchi, a self-described progressive Christian, shares her doubts and hopes about the existence of a loving God and how her desire for divine love transforms her relationships and community with fellow humans. Eschewing theological argument in favor of emotion and personal connection, she weaves a compelling case that doubting yet spiritually-motivated readers are not alone in the universe–not because God exists but because fellow doubters, seekers, and hopers are out there asking the same questions, grappling with the same contradictions, and longing for something bigger than humanity alone.

Although Rocchi avoids gendering God or addressing prayers to Jesus Christ, Biblical references and her acknowledged “liturgical language” of Roman Catholicism center the text for a Christian audience. A standout chapter traces the evolution of a relationship from a single longing through marriage which serves both as a metaphor for relationship with a divine being and as an opening for patience and spiritual trust in one of the most universal experiences of human life. I’d recommend this title to readers who identify (however loosely) with a Christian tradition and are looking for a relatable contemplative voice to enliven their spirituality. A great opportunity for reflection!