Week ending June 3, 2016
Harper, Karen. The Royal Nanny. Morrow. Jun. 2016. 384p. ISBN 9780062420633. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062420640. F
The recent additions to the British royal family’s nursery have peaked the public’s interest in royal nannies and their roles in their charges’ lives. Best-selling author Harper (The Last Boleyn) chose Charlotte Bill (1876–1964) as the subject for her new historical novel. “Lala,” as she was known amont the Windsors, raised some of Britain’s most famous monarchs, including the throne-abdicating David and his successor, Bertie (George VI). The story line here mainly focuses on Lala’s position in raising the “Lost Prince” Johnnie, the youngest child, who, sadly, suffered with disabilities and epilepsy and who was shuttered away because of his frailties. Lala works hard to provide the young prince with a full life. Intertwined with this story are subplots of a love interest for Lala, glimpses into the other royal children of the time, and overviews of the buildup and start to World War I.
Verdict Although admirable in her ambitions, Harper attempts to cover too many events and people; the result is a disjointed, overplotted novel that most die-hard and even moderately interested readers of historical fiction will skip.—Audrey Jones, Washington, DC
Meltzer, Brad with Tod Goldberg. The House of Secrets. Grand Central. Jun. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9781455559497. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455559503. F
Jack Nash hosts a television show that investigates conspiracy theories around the world, but a car accident leaves him dead and his 30-year-old daughter with amnesia. Hazel Nash can remember factual information but nothing emotional (such as whether she likes her brother or who her friends are). She can’t even pin down what she was like before the accident. But her father might have been murdered, and it could have something to do with his quest to find Benedict Arnold’s Bible. Hazel feels something isn’t right, and she struggles to find the answers. Can Hazel uncover the truth about her father and herself before she becomes the next victim?
Verdict Launching a new series with coauthor Goldberg (Gangsterland), the best-selling author of The Inner Circle and host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel has delivered a fast-paced and twisty thriller not to be missed! [See Prepub Alert, 12/21/16.]—Cynde Suite, Bartow Cty. Lib. Syst., Adairsville, GA
Raymond, Midge. My Last Continent. Scribner. Jun. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781501124709. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501124723. F
[DEBUT] This first novel is as much a story of the mating habits of penguins and the desolate landscape of Antarctica as it is a romance between Deb Gardner, a naturalist studying the birds, and Keller Sullivan, who seeks escape from his old life. Much like the birds, Deb and Keller show up in Antarctica separately and always, after months apart, nesting on the continent for the few precious weeks they have between the tourist boats that ferry them to shore. The story picks up five years after a cruise ship runs aground off the coast and hurtles the reader back in time to explain how Deb found herself in this southern polar region and how Keller found himself on that ill-fated ship.
Verdict Atmospheric and adventurous, Raymond’s debut is for readers who like their romances in unexpected, faraway settings. While the plight of the penguins and the disdain felt toward tourism are occasionally as overwhelming as they are educational, the story and vivid writing will keep readers glued to the pages.—Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH
Weir, Alison. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen. Ballantine. (Six Tudor Queens, Bk. 1). Jun. 2016. 624p. ISBN 9781101966488. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101966495. F
Widowed in England at a tragically young age, Katherine of Aragon is isolated in a foreign land and uncertain of whom she can trust. Marrying her deceased husband’s dashing younger brother and becoming Henry VIII’s queen seems like the answer to her woes, but the couple’s lack of a healthy son threatens her happiness, her marriage, and eventually the fate of England itself. In the first volume of a new series about Henry’s six wives, Weir (The Marriage Game) uses a slow-paced, detailed approach that focuses tightly on Katherine’s perspective and sheds light on the psychological motivations behind her choices. Weir’s capable novel is a solid introduction to Katherine’s life and may hold some surprises for those unfamiliar with more than the bare bones of her story, but Tudor enthusiasts will find little that’s new here.
Verdict Given the enduring popularity of the Tudors, as well as Weir’s reputation as a historian and historical novelist, it’s a good bet that many readers will enjoy revisiting this familiar story with Weir as their guide.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL