Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

9781538507759_1faedOriginally published in Library Journal, May 2019.

Velton’s intriguing historical fiction spotlights both the successes and hardships of Huguenot silk weavers in 18th century England. Young and alone, Sara Kemp, arrives in Spitalfields, London. She is soon swept away to the Wig and Feathers tavern by a forceful brothel proprietress, thus beginning a dangerous, dismal life of prostitution. Esther Thorel, the wife of one of the finest master silk weavers, offers Sara a position as lady’s maid and a fresh start away from her unsavory past. Esther, a painter, longs to design silks, but her husband Elias dismisses her talent while resenting her barrenness and inability to provide a son to teach his trade. Enter Bisby Lambert, an exquisitely talented journeyman commissioned by Elias to weave his masterpiece on the Thorel’s attic loom. As the weaving begins to take shape, the tumultuous Thorel household, full of secrets and longing, begins to unravel.  The story unfolds in alternating points of view between Sara and Esther, women of vastly different life circumstances who are both harboring secrets. VERDICT: Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Chiaverini will be captivated by Blackberry & Wild Rose for its atmospheric, historically-rich drama and forbidden romance.

 

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

9781250140708_05103

Originally published in Library Journal, January 2019.

Loigman’s second novel follows Jewish sisters Ruth and Millie Kaplan from their childhood in Brooklyn to adulthood living at an armory base in Springfield, MA. The eldest by three years, Ruth is held to almost impossible standards, while Millie, with her striking looks and pleasing manner, gets away with most anything. Possible male suitors for Ruth always end up pursuing the younger, more beautiful Millie. After their parents die unexpectedly and Millie loses her husband, Lenny, the sisters end up together. Ruth’s husband, Arthur, is an army officer allowing Ruth a prestigious job in payroll, while Millie becomes a soldier of production in an armory factory. Resentment and jealousy intensify as Millie again becomes the beloved center of Ruth’s social circles. Then a stranger arrives and long-buried secrets are revealed, leaving the sisters a chance at a hopeful future. Unfolding in alternating points of view, Loigman provides a behind-the-scenes look at women fighting their own wars at home. Readers will enjoy the heartfelt picture of women’s daily life during wartime through the eyes of two unique, extraordinary sisters. VERDICT: Recommended for historical fiction fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Morton.