While British novelist Mary Stewart is perhaps best-know for her Merlin triology, her entertaining novels – like “The Moon-Spinners” and “My Brother Michael” that combine both mystery and romance –have recently been reissued. “Rose Cottage,” originally published in 1997, is a capstone achievement certain to be savored by anyone who loves tales of the English countryside. Set in 1947, this is the story of Kate Herrick, nee Kathy Welland, a twenty-four-year-old WWII widow, who finds that all is not what it seems when she returns to her childhood home to pack up her grandmother’s belongings. A search for missing family papers leads to an unraveling of long-kept family secrets. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy afternoon.
“Mad Women:The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s”
A trailblazing woman copywriter, Jane Maas worked first at Ogilvy & Mather and then at other blue chip Madison Avenue agencies. Targeting her audience to fans of the hit TV series “Mad Men,” she recounts her days as one of advertising’s first “Mad Women” in a zippy memoir that addresses such pressing topics as the rampant drinking, sex, smoking, and the role of career women on Madison Avenue in the 1960s and 1970s. The married mother of two, Maas prioritized her life by putting career first, husband second, and children last. She readily admits that she could not have succeeded without the dependable help of Mabel, her family’s housekeeper, nanny, and longtime major domo – something any woman who wants it all needs to understand. For the most part, according to Maas, the TV show gets it right. Yet thankfully, women have come a long way from the days when they could only work on household products. Her key message? Despite working for “queen of mean” Leona Helmsley, who made her life miserable, Maas had a lot of fun — and so will readers.
Those of you who are unaccountably smitten with the 50 Shades of really badly written, terribly trite, and sexually unimaginative quasi-pornographic trilogy, may want to turn to “Gabriel’s Inferno,” Sylvain Reynard’s 500+-pages of foreplay. Better written than the grey books (although even supermarket circulars are), this is the story of hedonistic Dante professor Gabriel Emerson and his virginal graduate student Julia Mitchell. This is a dark romance, peppered with a smattering of Italian Renaissance lore. Past love and present attraction collide in a novel that actually has a theme: redemption and forgiveness. Not great literature, but the story chugs along — and 50 times better than you-know-what.