For the month of December, I am going to post about some of my favorite books, favorite authors, and books I just can't forget about. These are all books I'd recommend purchasing for Christmas gifts or for your own enjoyment.
Today I'd recommend Beatriz Williams. She is an amazing historical fiction author that has taken me on journeys to places from long ago. I've met amazing characters and visited historic settings that I've only read about in history classes. Her characters and settings come alive and makes the reader feel that they are really in that place.
New York City, 1998: When Ella Gilbert discovers her banker husband is cheating on her, she loses both her marriage and the life she knew. In her new apartment in an old Greenwich Village building, she's found unexpected second love with Hector, a musician who lives upstairs. And she's discovered something else, just as surprising—a connection to the mesmerizing woman scandalously posed in a vintage photograph titled Redhead Beside Herself.
Florida, 1924: Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from Appalachia, barely survived a run-in with her notorious bootlegger stepfather. She and Oliver Anson, a Prohibition agent she has inconveniently fallen in love with, take shelter in Cocoa Beach, a rum-running haven. But the turmoil she tried to leave behind won't be so easily outrun. Anson's mother, the formidable Mrs. Marshall, descends on Florida with a proposition that propels Gin back to the family's opulent New York home, and into a reluctant alliance. Then Anson disappears during an investigation, and Gin must use all her guile and courage to find him.
Two very different women, separated by decades. Yet as Ella tries to free herself from her ex, she is also hunting down the truth about the captivating, wicked Redhead in her photograph—a woman who loved and lived fearlessly. And as their link grows, she feels Gin urging her on, daring her to forge her own path, wherever it leads.
The Wicked Redhead picks up right where The Wicked City left off. I believe you could read The Wicked Redhead without reading The Wicked City but I can see how the book would be more enjoyable if you knew the history of the characters and the reasons on why they were doing what they were. Although, Beatriz Williams does do a good job of filling in the holes as she tells the story.
I enjoyed catching up with characters that I already was familiar with. I got caught up quickly on what had happened in their lives and was excited to see where they were heading. I LOVE Ginger. She has a quick wit and a strong will that women of 1924 were not always able to let out. She stood her ground, thought through most of her decisions, and helped Oliver when it was needed. Ella was also a great example of a strong and willful woman. She didn’t let her cheating husband walk all over her, she made decisions for the good of her, and let her heart open for a healthier relationship.
Beatriz Williams is very talented in her writing. She takes two eras, has two stories, and then ties them together perfectly. The characters are enchanting and realistic, the settings are true to the time and marvelous, and the stories are so captivating that the reader can’t help but be pulled right in. She is a must-read author for anyone who loves historical fiction.
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .
Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .
As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.
A 400-page books seems daunting but The Glass Ocean is an exception. I couldn’t believe that after just an hour of reading I was already ¼ of the way through the book and was looking for more time to pick up the book and read another chapter or two. There were times I thought I’d just read a chapter and then found that an hour later I was still reading.
Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White are all authors that I have read separately and I was intrigued by how they would come together to write one book. The Glass Ocean has three different timeframes. 2013 is the story of Sarah Blake who is a struggling author looking for information about the Lusitania. 1915 tells the stories of Caroline and Tessa. Each of these ladies gets their own chapters to tell of their time on the Lusitania. I was not familiar with the story of the Lusitania but the authors combined to give the history of this amazing ship and the people on it that I am looking forward to reading more from them.
I loved all three characters. Sarah’s persistence while researching the Lusitania was perfect. She knew there was a story to tell and was only willing to tell the entire story. I loved that she didn’t give up and write half a story, she only wrote what she knew to be true and left some questions unanswered. Caroline was privileged but she was still respected those who worked for her, those who would be seen as a lower class citizen, and she still had flaws. It was great to see that she wasn’t perfect and that she had problems just like everyone else. Tessa had a rough upbringing. She was always looking for the next scam and lived a tough life.
Reading how these three ladies stories come together, how their lives intertwine all while taking what was supposed to be a relaxing cruise.
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.
Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.
Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well.
In true Beatriz William’s style this book had everything that I look for in a good book. There was a historical event with WWI, romance, family, and a strong female character. Virginia is the main female character. She was strong in keeping herself safe while she was driving an ambulance during WWI yet feminine enough to trust a man (Simon) to take care of her. Simon was a different type of character. I felt like he was shady. From the first meeting he seemed suave, too smooth, and up to something. As I learned more about him, when I could decipher truth from the lies, I just never learned if I could trust him. While I didn’t trust him, as a character I liked him. He had charisma, he had a plan, and he did love Virginia.
The book went back and forth between 1920’s in Florida and 1917’s and WWI. The era’s were portrayed wonderfully. The wartime story wasn’t graphic but it was easy to picture the roads, the rain, the pop-up hospitals, and the soldiers of the time. I was able to understand what Virginia and Simon were living through during this time. The 1920’s story was not quite as interesting to me. There was a lot going on with the plantation, the shipping company, Aunt Clara, Simon, and Samuel. I wasn’t sure who was the good guy and who was the bad guy.
Beatriz William is a go-to author for me. I would recommend picking up your own copy of Cocoa Beach and falling back in time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, BEATRIZ WILLIAMS spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.