5 Recent Reads

While writing That Was Then, a contemporary thriller, I often chose books in that genre. However, my love of historical fiction remains. So, what have I read lately?

Becoming Madame Secretary by Stephanie Dray ~~ the history woven into the story of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, is fascinating. Not just the events but the social history of her time, a time when poverty was seen as a moral problem rather than an economic one and when the “lack of women’s housekeeping” was seen as “the source of evil in any community.” It was a time when industrialization was “plunging people into impoverishment.” From her early days helping the poor in Hell’s Kitchen to her years in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cabinet, Frances Perkins kept the struggle for safe working conditions, fair wages, and employment security as her guiding lights. Her strength, determination, and passion is remarkable and so well portrayed in Dray’s novel. Netflix or someone like Reese Witherspoon should option this novel immediately.

The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams ~~ I’ve read several novels by this author and admire her writing style, voice and the sassy, competent women she creates. To me, the Beach at Summerly offers a departure from novels like The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Certain Age, or The Golden Hour, as the twists and intensity of this recent novel deliver a more complex and immersive read. As the description says, The Beach at Summerly transports “readers to a midcentury New England rich with secrets and Cold War intrigue.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano ~~ for some reason I resisted this novel when it first came out. However, now that I’ve read it, I have no idea why. Hello Beautiful is a poignant story that explores the meaning of family, the complex relationships among sisters, and the power of love to transcend life’s challenges. Throughout, it draws parallels to Little Women. Thoroughly engaging.

Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride ~~ another fascinating era of American history. The story mingles Jewish, White and Black communities living in 1936 Pottstown, Pennsylvania and features an area called Chicken Hill, where Jews, immigrants, and Black people live together and help one another. There’s bigotry at work and a White community determined to maintain its privileged place. Although I found some of the passages meandered and the cast of characters too large, it’s an important story that sadly still resonates today. Early in the novel, one of the characters says: “Light is only possible through dialogue between cultures, not through rejection of one or the other.” Amen to that.

The Boy in the Rain by Stephanie Cowell ~~ As the blurb says, “It is 1903 in the English countryside when Robbie, a shy young art student, meets the twenty-nine-year-old Anton who is running from memories of his brutal childhood and failed marriage. Within months, they begin a love affair that will never let them go.” This novel captivated me from the very beginning. It’s full of tender moments and impossible choices.

I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these … or if you have any special novels to recommend.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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3 Responses

    1. So glad to hear that, Nicole. Stephanie Dray has other fascinating novels that feature American historical figures particularly women. Do you have any recent reads you would recommend?

      1. Hmm, I usually read mangas recently. But I would recommend the Iron Daughter series. I’ve read it. I didn’t enjoy it that much, but I had to read something haha

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