R E V I E W: The London House by Katherine Reay

Thanks to Harper Muse Books and TLC Book Tours for including me in the book tour for The London House by Katherine Reay.

Caroline Payne, who was named after her great aunt who died of polio, left law school to be near her family in Boston. She receives a surprise visit from Mat Hammond, a college classmate, now historian, who learned shocking information about Caroline’s family. Her namesake didn’t die young, as she was told, but actually abandoned her family and country to marry her lover, a Nazi officer. At first, Caroline is incredulous but then realizes that secrecy and disappointment have shaped her family. She decides to visit the family’s ancestral home in London to uncover the truth.

Ensconced in a trunk in the attic, Caroline finds letters, diaries, photographs, and other  keepsakes. The letters reveal a fashionable Parisian scene around the House of Schiaparelli but also point to the horrors of living under Nazi rule.

London, Paris, WWII, dual timelines, a promising love interest, and a hope for family reconciliation … once I started this, I got completely sucked in! I enjoy the epistolary aspect of the novel in particular, with the immediacy of Caro’s observations about Paris in wartime. Her story was fascinating! Yet, her shame and the secrets it created in the family caused ripples of despair across generations, and only in confronting the truth could the family heal past and present wounds.

Book Review: Never Fall for Your Fiancée

Thank you so much to Saint Martin’s Press – Romance for an advanced reading copy of Never Fall for Your Fiancée, a riotous historical romance, by Virginia Heath (pub date 11.09.21).

Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, convinced he has a genetic disposition for infidelity, is determined to remain a bachelor. His mother, Olivia, however, living in Boston with her husband, wants him happily married. To prevent her ambitious matchmaking schemes, he invents Minerva, a fiancée. Things come to a head, however, when Olivia announces a surprise trip to England.

When he assists a woman on a London street and learns her name is Minerva, Hugh sees a way to prolong his fabrication and protect his bachelorhood. He offers Minerva an astounding fee to pose as his fiancée for the duration of his mother’s visit.

Minerva, who has taken care of her younger sisters Diana and Vee since their father abandoned them when Minerva was nineteen, struggles to pay for lodging and food with her sporadic work as an engraver. Despite her reservations, she can’t say no to the financial security the payment would provide.

Minerva and her sisters, along with Lucretia DeVere, an actress hired to pose as their mother, gather at Hugh’s country estate in advance of Olivia’s arrival to learn their roles but find that conforming to two years of detailed letters describing Minerva is difficult indeed, especially when all the actors aren’t cooperative. Although Hugh and Minerva have an undeniable attraction, they come from two very different social classes—and Minerva, skeptical of men in general, isn’t sure she can trust a man who would invent a live interest to prevent marrying. Focusing on each other, though, is near impossible when the pretense crumbles around them.

I loved reading a funny historical romance. Never Fall has great banner, funny, farcical situations, dastardly villains, and unexpected heroes. Hugh and his mother play appalling, hilarious, and clever pranks on each other while outspoken Diana never misses an opportunity for a fiery insult. I do wish that Hugh had been a bit more self-reflective about his perceived limitations and that he used the expression “look down her nose” fewer times.

Although the setting and situation are very different, this book to me is like Dial A for Aunties in that it is a quick and entertaining read that made me laugh aloud. Happily, this is the first book in a new series (The Merriwell Sisters), and I will definitely be reading the sequel!