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The Golden Hour: A Review

It seems like forever since I’ve written a review, hasn’t it? I am doing my best to get better with that. This year has been rough reading wise for me, which sucks. But I will get there. I’m doing my best for now. Anyway! Onto the good stuff. 🙂

The Bahamas, 1941: Newly-widowed Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the new Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that infamous couple posted to this colonial backwater during World War II after their marriage nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees. What more compelling setting for a magazine feature than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies a complex—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau roils with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of magnetic charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.

Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting cover-up reeks of royal privilege. Benedict disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London to unpick his complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a German mother, the baroness Elfriede von Kleist, from whom all joy is stolen.

Thread by thread, the stories of Lulu and Elfriede weave together in this remarkable tour de force of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and courage, set against a shocking true crime… and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.

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Beatriz Williams is one of those authors to whom I’m late to the party in reading. I’ve heard many good things, even own two of her other books, but I hadn’t yet read them, given that I found myself busy reading other things. But as I’ve been in the midst of this dreadful book rut, I picked this one up through Book of the Month club. What a delight! It’s so rare that when I’m in a book rut, that anything grabs my attention. Now, I admit…I found the beginning slow and I did find Lulu’s way of speaking a tad…frustrating. I just couldn’t click with it, if that makes sense. I found myself more drawn to Elfriede’s story rather than Lulu’s. Elfriede is in a sanitarium because she feels absolutely nothing towards her new baby. It’s what we know today as postpartum depression. Her timeline is WWI, whilst Lulu is in WWII. It was amusing to see a mention of Pearl Harbor–nowadays, everyone would know within a second. But as Lulu was in the Bahamas, the news took a bit to reach there.

I also enjoyed learning about the unsolved murder and reading about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. If you thought they were the main focus, I am sorry to disappoint. This isn’t to say they’re not part of it–they’re just more secondary figures. (And yet…still feel larger than life.) They’re amongst some of my favorite figures in history; so very maligned and so fascinating. They were controversial and remain so, but perhaps that is what makes them intriguing.

I’m not the biggest fan of split storylines, but Lulu and Elfriede’s stories came together quite nicely. I wasn’t entirely sure how that would work, but when it clicks, it clicks. I haven’t read Ms. Williams ‘Schyuler Sisters’ novels (no, not the ones from Hamilton), but apparently, there’s a surprise tie in? A fun tidbit for the hardcore followers. (Thanks to my pals for pointing that out to me! <3)

Regardless, I’d give this a solid three stars. I may reread it when I’m out of this rut, but for now, I am simply grateful it held my attention to get me back to doing what I love most.

PS: Isn’t that cover beautiful?

 

 

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Book of the Month!

It’s my favorite day of the month (after payday)! I get to pick out my Book of the Month selection! This month I went with two; I’d have gone with three, but I didn’t have enough. However, I wanted to share what I picked and I wanted to know who here is a member or not and what you picked!

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My first choice, the Air You Breathe, has been on my radar for a while. I’ve been excited to read it and when I saw the opportunity, I grabbed it. This is the synopsis:

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Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill-behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes—and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil’s inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship—its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses—and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

Pre-Order!

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

BAM

INDIEBOUND

IBOOKS

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If Diane Guerrero looks familiar, you  may have seen her on Orange Is The New Black and/or Jane The Virgin. She’s an actress definitely on the rise and an activist. GIven the state of things, I thought her story would be a good read. She was fourteen and at school when her family was arrested and deported, leaving her alone in the USA whilst they were back in Colombia.

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Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.

In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told. Written with bestselling author Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families likes the author’s and on a system that fails them over and over.

BUY THE BOOK!
Buy In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero at Amazon Buy In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero at Barnes & Noble Buy In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero at indiebound Buy the ebook edition of In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero at the Apple iBookstore Buy the Kobo Reader edition of In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

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I don’t know if it’s available in all countries, but if it is, I highly recommend you joining. The choices curated monthly are choice picks, really fantastic and beautiful reads. They offer five, you can choose three. They also have books from prior months too.

I am shamellesly plugging my referral link here too. If you join through there, you get a free book…and I do too. But if you click that logo there, it’ll direct you to the site.

Happy Reading!!

 

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Flight of Dreams: A Review.

25614827On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

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I know very little about airships and Zeppelins. I find the premise undeniably fascinating and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I would love to ride in one should they ever come back into style, so to speak. I imagine it to be a wild and terrifying experience all at once. This is a sensation that I envision the people who boarded the Hindenburg to feel. This was something new and exciting, the very height of technology if I recollect right. It seems peculiar now, but that was life in the 30’s. The Hindenburg had already made a successful flight from Germany to Rio de Janiero. It was famous and to be on it, well, as with all new things. You get my meaning.

The story is told from several different narratives, each giving their own perspective of the days on board and of the events. Each has their own reason for being there and the way the author weaves their tales into one cohesive story is delicious. I wasn’t sure how it would all come together but it was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I was struck by how the events could be tied to what was occurring in 1930s Germany, right before the war broke out. This is something felt especially by Emilie, a stewardess. There are mentions of Hitler, Nazis, the Gestapo, so if that is a ‘trigger’ for you, you’ve been warned. I loved the blend of real figures and of fictional ones. It still made for a wonderful story.

Ms. Lawhon presents us with the possibility of this being an intentional thing; that the Hindenburg was destroyed by a bomb. It’s a fascinating thought but the truth is, no one is 100% sure of the reason why it went down. It’s a well known moment in history given all of the press that was there filming and waiting to report. If you have ever heard the expression, “Oh, the humanity!” This was the event that set the phrase into today’s lexicon.

I enjoyed this because I loved the differing points of view and I loved the story. Was it perfect? No. But I was taken away from this world and brought back in time. I loved how another viewpoint was presented; one I didn’t consider. As with most things in history, we can never be entirely certain and that just adds to the mystique of it.

It’s a wonderful book to curl up with and to read as your friends up north get snowed in. (In all seriousness, if I have any readers impacted by this storm, please stay safe and stay warm!)

Additional Notes:

  • I’d give it ★★★★ stars.
  • I bought my copy from the Book of the Month box. 😀
  • I would recommend this to a friend!

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485025Ariel Lawhon is the critically acclaimed author of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, FLIGHT OF DREAMS, and I WAS ANASTASIA. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and black Lab—who is, thankfully, a girl.