The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

I’m happy to report that I’ve read another one of Beatriz Williams’ books (this time, The Wicked City) and have been completely captivated by the story. She has an extraordinary way of bringing characters to life, especially through their dialogue and quick-witted thoughts. I’m reminded yet again of why she’s one of my favorite authors!

The Wicked City shares the stories of two women, both living in New York City, during very different time periods. Meet Gin Kelly, a firecracker of a girl living in New York City during the 1920’s. She came to the city to escape her despicable stepfather, but before too long she gets caught up in his bootlegging business and is pulled back to her small hometown. Along the way, she comes across Anson, the stoic, noble, quiet do-gooder who might just be the only man that can throw her for a loop.

Shift forward to 1998 and we meet Ella, a woman also living in New York City, who just learned that her beloved husband is a rather dirty fellow. As she tries to recover from this shock, she finds herself in Gin’s old stomping grounds and although 70 years have passed, she can almost sense her presence. I appreciate that Williams brought a bit of the magic from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.

My only criticism is that the plot left a couple loose ends and some of Ella’s story line was a bit unrealistic, but it was fun. I still really enjoyed the book and definitely recommend it!

“She wanted the radiant, satisfied skin her mother had. The adoring gaze that followed her mother around the house.”

Author Interview: Beatriz Williams

Beatriz WilliamsThroughout this blogging experience, there have been some very special moments that stand out. This is definitely one of those moments. I have been lucky enough to interview my favorite author, Beatriz Williams, and I am thrilled to share our Q&A with you all!

1. Your latest novel, A Certain Age, releases later this month. Can you tell readers a bit about the story?
A Certain Age is a retelling of Richard Strauss’s enchanting opera Der Rosenkavalier, set in Jazz Age New York, in which a Manhattan society goddess sends her younger lover to investigate the family of her brother’s fiancée, only to have him fall in love with the young lady himself. It’s all about class and money and the bittersweet passing of time, and especially about the transformation in Western culture in the years following the First World War. Of course, it’s about love and scandal too, as well as being a really personal, moving depiction of three people in love, and I had a wonderful time turning these musical characters into fully-fledged people on the pages of a book!

  1. One of the reasons why so many readers have loved your books (including myself) is because of the enchanting characters and their relationships. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
    I’m inspired by just about everything, really, although I rarely start with actual people. In the case of A Certain Age, I began with Strauss’s fascinating characters—a beautiful woman conscious that her prime is nearly over, a dashing younger man, a charming ingénue—but they took on their own form once I set them into this story. Octavian in particular veered away from the young aristocratic gentleman of the opera; I kept his age around twenty, but I made him a First World War aviator bearing all kind of scars from his time in France, because that was one of the ideas I wanted to convey: how so much of the Twenties was really a reaction to the horrors of this apocalyptic war.
  1. How do you do research for novels that are set anywhere from the 1910’s to 1960’s all across the United States and Europe?

Well, I always start with something I know—a family story, a news item, a historical event—and I read a few books on the subject and the period, if I haven’t already. But the point of any novel should be the story that’s being told, and I try to invest not in million tedious details but in a few precious ones that convey a certain world to the reader. It’s in the dialogue, it’s in the thoughts rattling around in their brains, it’s in the way they interact with each other. So I find the most useful research is reading books written at the time and films made at the time. Historical facts are really the easy part. Anyone can Google the price of a subway ride in 1922!

  1. A Certain Age 2Although you have continued on with the Schuyler family, Julie Schuyler plays a role in A Certain Age, you haven’t published a traditional sequel. How do you let go of these captivating characters?
    My books tend to be made of several lines of narrative that weave together at the resolution, and the next book usually picks up some thread that didn’t get woven in. So I really feel that each book is complete as written, and if I’m going to tell another story, it’s got to start from scratch. The exception is coming up soon, however! My next book, The Wicked City,arrives in January, and it begins a series set in Prohibition New York, in which a straight-arrow enforcement agent teams up with a not-so-straight-laced flapper to break up a bootlegging ring. I was so fascinated by the story of Prohibition in America, but I knew it would take more than one story to convey all the many fronts and facets of this chapter in our history. So the Wicked City books will be released in winter, and in summer I’ll have my stand-alone novels. But they’ll all stay in the Schuyler world, with the addition of the Marshall family introduced in A Certain Age.
  1. You’ve written under the pen name, Juliana Gray. Why did you choose to publish under a pseudonym and then later decide to reveal this fact to readers?
    I was actually pretty up front about Juliana—we had a little teaser when the first one was published, which was only a couple of months after Overseas, but once both books were out we revealed the pseudonym. Since the first six Juliana Gray books were historical romance, however, we didn’t emphasize the connection—they are two different genres, and reader expectations are different, and we were conscious that some Juliana readers would hate the Beatriz books and vice versa! But the next Juliana Gray book, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, kicks off a historical mystery series set in 1906, and while it’s more history-and-mystery focused than my Beatriz Williams books, it’s something I think both sets of readers will really enjoy. I loved bringing these new characters to life, and my publisher bravely allowed me to give my imagination completely free rein, so I couldn’t be more excited about this new series!
  1. I’m crossing my fingers here, but can we expect to see anything new published from you soon?
    See above! 🙂
  1. What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

I took home a wonderful collection of books from an event in Rhode Island with three other authors, so I can’t wait to get started on Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, and Jen Lancaster’s By the Numbers, courtesy of Reading With Robin! And my dear friend Karen White’s new book Flight Patterns is fantastic.

 

 

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

A Certain AgeDazzling. Captivating. Smart. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Beatriz Williams’ new book, A Certain Age.

Whenever I start a new book, I make predictions. Sometimes my predictions are right, but oftentimes they aren’t. In the case of A Certain Age, the guesses I made at the beginning of the book definitely shifted as Williams wove a story of intricate relationships and surprising twists.

The book revolves around two female characters during the roaring 1920’s in New York City. The story begins with Theresa, a mature high society woman, and she’s got a fun habit of talking to the reader directly as she shares her journey. She’s sophisticated, charming, guarded, and at times, a bit wicked. On the other hand, Sophie is on the brink of adulthood and she is passionate, innocent, and unguarded, the opposite of Theresa in many ways.

Sophie’s father is the inventor of a successful engineering solution that quickly propels their family into New York high society. With this new wealth comes the interest of many for Sophie’s hand in marriage, including Theresa’s brother Jay. Sophie soon realizes that the type of love she had always dreamt of (with a man that looks like Jay) might not be what she actually wants.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Helen Rowland, the journalist who wrote the column “Reflections of a Bachelor Girl” a century ago for the New York World. This was a perfect touch and I loved the sharp wit of this woman. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “Never trust a husband too far, nor a bachelor too near.”
  • “In love, somehow, a man’s heart is either exceeding the speed limit, or getting parked in the wrong place.”
  • “The woman who appeals to a man’s vanity may stimulate him, the woman who appeals to his heart may attract him, but it is the woman who appeals to his imagination who gets him.”
  • “And verily, a woman need know but one man well, in order to understand all men; whereas a man may know all woman and not understand one of them.”
  • “When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one.”
  • “Marriage is like twirling a baton, turn handsprings, or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.”

Delicious, consuming writing! I cannot recommend A Certain Age (or any of William’s books) enough.

Must-reads for Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend readsWhether you’re heading out for a beach getaway this Memorial Day or enjoying a stay-cation buried under the covers, I’ve got a list of great reads for the holiday weekend!

Eligible

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern remaking of the classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, with a play on the hit reality TV show The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. A bit cheesy and slightly raunchy, the comical tone of this book is completely entertaining and I was amused by the outlandish characters and their bizarre behavior. Filled with delightful surprises, this is a definitely a fun read!

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is one of the rare mystery novels that I want to re-read because the plot twist is absolutely fantastic and I really connected with the characters. The story begins on a rainy afternoon when a woman is walking her young son home from school. When he runs ahead to get out of the cold, a car hits him out of nowhere. The child dies on impact and the car speeds off without a trace. Right from the start, with this dark and eerie prologue, this book consumed me and I can tell you that that the plot twist is EXCELLENT.

A Hundred Summers

I’m a huge fan of Beatriz Williams and am constantly recommending her books to friends and family. This is a book that I recommend to both my bookworm friends and self-proclaimed non-reader friends and they have all loved it! A Hundred Summers begins when Lily Dane leaves New York City and comes face to face with her ex-best friend, Budgie, and ex-fiancé Nick in Seaview, Rhode Island. The story switches between 1938 and 1931 as we try to discover how Lily’s world turned upside down. I adored these characters and I hope you do too!

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty writes wonderful stories that combine the lightness of a beach read with the twists and turns of a gripping story. Her novel, Big Little Lies, follows three women whose children attend the same school. As readers we learn from interview clips that something bad happened at a school event and I couldn’t put the book down until I found out what it was. Catch up on this one before the new HBO series based on the book airs staring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Alexander Skarsgård!

The One That Got Away

I just started this debut novel by Leigh Himes and I’m totally hooked by the fast pace and engaging characters. With a similar tone as Freaky Friday (anyone else a fan of the Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis movie?), the story is one of a switched identity. When Abbey wakes up from a fall down the Nordstrom escalator, she finds that she is married to a man who isn’t her husband. Abbey is overworked and underappreciated as she juggles parenting her children, managing their house budget, and handling her job. In this alternative world, Abbey is the wife of a successful congressional candidate, a man who she had met and turned down years before, and now she realizes the life she may have had if she had chosen differently….

Happy reading! xoxo

Spring Reading Recommendations

Dream by Day and glassybabyIn honor of National Reading Month, I’m excited to share a few of my favorite books published so far this year with you all! This week I’ve partnered with glassybaby, a PNW based company dedicated to supporting charities with their beautiful handmade candle votives. We bring you these exciting narratives, which cover a wide range of genres from historical fiction to suspenseful thrillers to insightful literary fiction. I invite you to curl up with one of these great books this weekend!

The Forgotten RoomThe Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White & Lauren Willig

A story of fate, The Forgotten Room is the multigenerational tale of three women spanning the decades between the 1890’s and 1940’s in New York City. When the wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought into the hospital where Kate Schuyler works, she feels an undeniable connection with him and is shocked to find a painting that strongly resembles her in his possession. While trying to understand her connection to this mysterious man, she uncovers the truth about her mother and grandmother, each of whom lived in the same mansion converted boarding house converted hospital that she does. Despite being written by three authors, the transitions between these vibrant determined characters flow smoothly together.


The Widow The Widow by Fiona Barton

When Jean Taylor’s husband is accused of kidnapping a young child, she is shocked. Playing the role of the faithful wife, she stands by his side through the case as the police, press, and public relentlessly pound on their door. Years after the little girl disappeared, Jean’s husband is dead and now a widow, she opens up about the secrets she has kept hidden. What really struck me in The Widow was the influence that the media has on a police case and public opinion. With vast experience in the field of journalism, Fiona Barton shares this perspective in her debut novel.

FIND HER by Lisa GardnerFIND HER by Lisa Gardner

“Nobody wants to be a monster.” A fast-paced and suspenseful book, FIND HER is a fantastic. Gardner brings us the story of a survivor, a fighter, and a kidnap victim, Flora Dane. After being held captive for 472 days, Flora has been through the worst. 5 years after her abduction, Flora is still having trouble readjusting to normal life when she mysteriously disappears again. This dark thriller is filled with unexpected twists and presents a very unique perspective into the trauma of kidnapping and the long-term psychological effects of such an experience.


My Name is Lucy Barton My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

It’s difficult to put into words the impact of My Name is Lucy Barton as a novel that is both incredibly powerful and extremely subtle. Elizabeth Strout examines the relationship between a mother and daughter when Lucy, the protagonist of the story, is in the hospital recovering from surgery and her mother comes to her side. Lucy and her mother have a very complicated relationship, but at the same time it’s simple in this: they love each other irrevocably. “I feel that people may not understand that my mother could never say the words I love you. I feel that people may not understand: it was alright.”

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did! Happy reading!

xo Samantha

The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White & Lauren Willig

The Forgotten RoomThe Forgotten Room is a multigenerational story of three women spanning the decades between the 1890’s and 1940’s in New York City. To make the book even more special, it’s written by three wonderful authors, Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig. It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of Beatriz Williams’ work so I immediately jumped at the chance to read and review The Forgotten Room.

The story begins in the 1940’s when the wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought into the hospital where Dr. Kate Schuyler works. Kate is unable to deny the strong connection she feels with Cooper and is shocked to find a small painting in his duffle bag that looks exactly like her. While trying to understand her connection with this new mysterious man, Kate unearths the mystery of three generations of women in her family. Kate discovers the story of her grandmother Olive, a woman who served as a maid in the very mansion-converted-hospital where Kate now works. Through her search, Kate also learns much more about her mother and the forces that brought her parents together.

Despite the fact that the story was written by three people, the scenes flowed together smoothly. It took me a bit of time to keep the characters straight due to the similarities between the determined heroines and their love interests, but in the end all of the loose ends were brought together.

This is a story of fate. A story of love lost and love found. I was completely absorbed by The Forgotten Room and definitely recommend it!

I received a copy of The Forgotten Room from the Berkley New American Library Group in exchange for an honest review.

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Along the Infinite SeaBeatriz Williams is an author that makes me want to become a writer myself. Along the Infinite Sea, her most recent novel, is an incredible story told from the perspectives of two strong women. I haven’t been disappointed by any of William’s stories yet and I’m already eagerly waiting for her next release this summer!

This book picks up where Tiny Little Thing left off with Pepper Schuyler’s story in the 1960’s. While these books are not a traditional series, and don’t need to be read in order to be enjoyed, they focus on the Schuyler family and each of the three sisters in turn. Pepper is pregnant, unwed, and on the run from her baby’s father. She has just sold an old restored Mercedes and plans to use the large sum of money to raise her child on her own. The car’s buyer, Annabelle, introduces herself to Pepper and they take a liking to each other, if hesitantly at first on Pepper’s part. Pepper doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t trust anyone besides herself, but Annabelle’s story may just change her mind…

The book switches from Pepper’s perspective in the 1960’s to Annabelle’s in the 1930’s when she was in Europe between the two world wars. I love Annabelle’s spirit and poise, and I love her relationship with the mysterious and charming Stefan as well. The circumstances and misunderstandings that keep Annabelle and Stefan, a Jewish German man, apart are truly heartbreaking.

This is a delicious story, one that I devoured as quickly as I could. I love the trio of sisters that Williams has created because the Schuyler sisters are just so great.