Valentine's Day is coming up on Monday, February 14.
Although popular among many people, gifts and cards are not required on Valentine's Day. Perhaps your Valentines, however, enjoy books, and you would like to give each of them a novel.
But which novel?
Here are six "good reads" perfect for your gift-giving list.
A Beautiful Blue Death.
Book 1 of 14 in the Charles Lenox Mysteries.
Charles Finch, 2017.
England. 1865. Gentleman Charles Lenox, a bachelor with comfortable means, enjoys his comfortable life in his comfortable home in London next door to his widowed friend, Lady Jane Grey.
Nice guy (or rather, gentleman) that he is, Lenox must help when Lady Jane asks him to investigate the unexpected death of her former maid, a likable young woman engaged to be married. Lady Jane thinks the maid might have died by poisoning or suicide.
I haven't had the pleasure of reading A Beautiful Blue Death, but my husband Richard recommends it because he blasted through all fourteen books of the Charles Lenox Mysteries during our on-going pandemic. He shared details with me about each novel, often when I was about to drop off to sleep.
The plot always woke me up.
Lately, it seems that each time my husband Richard returns from our local bookstore, he has bought another book in The Liebermann Papers. He started with Book 1 of 7: A Death in Vienna, and has already sped through Book 2 and half-way through Book 3.
The mysteries, the historical ambience of Vienna before World War I, and the attention to the psychological characteristics of the murderers captivated him. So did the classical music and Viennese cuisine--especially the desserts.
You can watch an excellent made-for-televison adaptation of the series on PBS. Vienna Blood, Season 2, is now being broadcast in the United States. Check your local Public Broadcasting Station for schedules.
Dr. Frank Tallis, author of The Liebermann Papers, is a writer and a clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and King's College London.
(Richard is old-school about books: he wants to hold a paperback or hard copy, not an electronic device, in his hand when he enters their world.) It made sense to ask Richard for his recommendation of one book by Scott Moon.
You would've thought I asked him to go to Mars.
"Impossible," Richard said. "They're too many good ones."
He spent quite a bit of time pondering in front of our tall bookcase in the living room, and then calling to me upstairs in our loft. At last, he resigned himself to selecting one series: Brothers in Arms. First Strike is Book 1 of 3 .
Knowing Richard, I can see why. The series is filled with the mud, blood, and chaos of galactic combat, action at every turn, political intrigue, and the possibility of the more-or-less good guys of the United Galactic Government losing everything. Most importantly, the hero, Michael Priam, gives up his life of privilege to fight for what is right.
Visit https://scottmoonwriter.com to learn more.
IRISH TALE OF HOPE
Small Things Like These.
Claire Keegan. 2021.
Ireland. 1985. The town of New Ross by the River Barrow.
Bill Furlong, a coal merchant with a wife and five growing daughters, is occupied with the everyday duties of life in the weeks before Christmas.
What he learns while making a routine coal delivery to one of his best customers--the Good Shepherd Convent--will reveal what his "ordinary self" would rather not know. His conscious will force a courageous choice regarding the convent's Magdalen laundry. A choice that no one else in New Ross has been willing to make.
I read Claire Keegan's novella, and then I read it again. She has taken the painful history of Ireland's church- and state-run mother and baby homes and distilled it down to the story of one good man who refused to ignore what stared him in the face.
We should all be so brave.
FANTASY/ Ancient historical fiction
Ancient Greek legend casts Circe as a daughter of Helios the sun god and the ocean nymph Perse. Her father casts her out when she defies his orders.
Isolated on a remote island, Circe develops her talent for magical concoctions and incantations. Like so many mythological stories, the Circe myth and its variations attempted to explain things that human beings did not understand.
Homer recorded an unflattering depiction of Circe in the telling of the Odyssey.
It took Madeline Miller to flesh out Circe. Miller doesn't delete Circe's bad habits of turning men into swine or competitors into monsters, but she does give Circe shady reasons for doing so.
Miller depicts Circe as a smart, beautiful, talented, troubled creature. In Miller's hands, Circe endures a long, tumultuous existence to discover what she wants and needs, and why.
The deft retelling of this timeless myth is a pleasure to read.
SMALL TOWN & RURAL LIFE
Characters introduced to a reader in one novel might appear in another Harvester story although the books are not designed as a series and do not need to be read in chronological order.
Ruby & Roland begins with Ruby, an only child in a happy family in Illinois.
At age twelve, that idyll ends when Ruby's parents die in a winter crash. The child's sole living relative, an aging aunt, wants nothing to do with her and sends Ruby to Minnesota as a hired girl.
So begins Ruby's coming of age in other people's homes. Her mind is bright, she works hard, and eventually a childless farmer and his wife hire her. Farm life in early twentieth century Minnesota is not easy, and Ruby's work is appreciated. Life goes well for a few years until Ruby falls in love with Roland, the married man on the farm next door.
The nuanced writing of Faith Sullivan illuminates the types of lives that would be forgotten without the gifts of observant novelists like herself. "Visit" Harvester. I believe you'll like it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a good wife." Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
That's the first line in the novel. You've probably already heard it, and your lady Valentine has probably already read it.
Buy a keepsake copy for her, and she'll read it again.
SO MANY BOOKS...
I hope this short list has given you some gift-giving ideas. Stay safe in the pandemic, and may many good reads be in your future!
Note: Photo "Valentine Candy Hearts" by Lynne Schall, 2021.
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (November 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA, where she is writing her fourth novel, Book 3 in the Cloud County trilogy.