I like good historical fiction, but while in mindless escape mode as I lie on a hammock, I want stories that engage my attention but don’t require much thought on my part. My recent reading choices lean towards mysteries that don’t dwell too much on crime details. And if there’s a dash of romance involved, so much the better. These three books fit my escapist requirements, and might do the same for you.
Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor
Mary Ellen Taylor is reliable. When you pick up one of her books, you know that the story is probably set in Virginia, that the female protagonist will be trying to “find herself,” [coming-of-age in key word categories]. There’s also an historical aspect to the story.
In Winter Cottage the “cottage” in Cape Hudson, Virginia begins its life as the summer home of a wealthy New York family, complete with staff. Over time, the property falls into mild neglect as it passes through various heirs.
Protagonist Lucy Kincaid is beyond down on her luck when she arrives from Nashville to collect her inheritance. The Winter Cottage, which she never heard of before, belongs to her . . . if she stays there for a year. There are, of course, obstacles to overcome and relationships to untangle.
Taylor’s novel intriguingly contains a time-travel aspect about Catherine Buchanan’s life and love. Catherine is key to the story, because she made the inheritance stipulations that brought Lucy to the cottage. I enjoyed the entire novel, but this aspect with its peek of life in the early twentieth century, was the most interesting.
The Perfect Marriage by Adam Mitzner
It’s interesting how many lawyers turn to writing crime novels or thrillers. It’s like a sort of busman’s holiday. The Perfect Marriage is Mitzner’s ninth novel. The title intrigued me, because there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Happy, yes. Companionable, definately. But perfect? The title suggests Mitzner’s plot will pull back the curtain to reveal two people whose marriage may have been perfect in some ways, but had its challenges in others. Like what? I wondered. My eye was also drawn to the cover which invites readers to peer through the windows to discover . . . what?
The book opens with James & Jessica Sommers’ first anniversary party. They are a devoted couple, but there are a few flies in the marital ointment. Each has an ex-partner; one more than a little bitter, the other barely holding life together. Jessica also has an unsettled teen-age son undergoing cancer treatment
Nevertheless, their lives continue on a predictable path until James Sommers winds up dead. Slowly, clues to the crime unfold around James’ life as a husband, father, and career as an art dealer. Unknowns become known, and though the Sommers marriage may not have been perfect, it wasn’t more imperfect than many others.
Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh
Morgan Dane returns to her home town to rebuild her life. Newly widowed with small children, she’s back in her father’s house and has just been offered a position in the town prosecutor’s office. Then Morgan’s babysitter is murdered, and Nick, a young man Morgan has known all her life, is accused of the murder. For the first time, Morgan will be at the defense table, but to win, she has to find out what actually happened. The quest is filled with twists as secrets reveal themselves, and, as in many good mysteries, the protagonist learns about herself while uncovering clues about the crime’s perpetrator.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.