NEW THIS WEEK: August 22, 2023

Catherine Lloyd, Miss Morton and the Spirits of the Underworld: The effervescent second Miss Morton mystery (following 2022's Miss Morton and the English House Party) is set in 1838 Britain. After her father dies with large debts, Lady Caroline Morton decides to earn her living rather than depend on affluent relations. Like many women of the era, she goes to work as a paid companion. Her employer, Mrs. Frogerton, has more money than social connections but hopes to introduce her daughter Dorothy to elite society. In this installment, Mrs. Frogerton brings Caroline along on a visit to medium Madame Lavinia. Curious about the woman's powers, Caroline brings her physician friend Oliver Harris along with her to another session. When Madame Lavinia is murdered soon thereafter, Harris is arrested and Caroline and Mrs. Frogerton must clear his name. Though the mystery is well-paced and -plotted, I have to confess that I read this series primarily for Mrs. Frogerton's warm, ebullient and eccentric presence. Dorothy's experiences in the high-society marriage market are amusing as well. Readers may also enjoy eight Lloyd's Kurland St. Mary mysteries. Find out more about the author and books on Lloyd's website and buy the book on Bookshop or Amazon. (8.22.23)

Sarah MacLean, Knockout: I was won over to Sarah MacLean's work when I read the self-description on her website. "I write books," she notes. "There's smooching in them." That same pithy, often irreverent voice is on full display in Knockout, the third of MacLean's Hell's Belles series (after Bombshell and Heartbreaker) along with a supersized helping of female fierceness and a series of explosions (some figurative, some not). In choosing Knockout as one of their best books of the summer, Entertainment Weekly noted that the "third Sarah MacLean makes righteous female rage oh-so-sexy and empowering. Her books have always buzzed with a feminist undercurrent, but she devours misogyny and sets fire to the patriarchy with her latest.” Publishers Weekly notes, "It’s a joy to revisit the Hell’s Belles; series fans and new readers alike will get a kick out of Imogen’s time in the spotlight." You can purchase the book on Bookshop and Amazon and find out more about MacLean and the Hell's Belles series on her website. (8.22.23)

Alyssa Maxwell, Murder at the Elms:
Alyssa Maxwell revisits turn-of-the-century Newport, Rhode Island with a new novel every August, and I'm one of the myriad readers who are glad she does. Each of her Gilded Newport novels centers on one of the town's "cottages" (by which is meant, enormous opulent mansions). This time around it's the Elms, a huge but elegant home inspired by French chateaux and built for coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind. The stately serenity of the home's design makes the perfect foil for the labor disputes, jewelry theft and murder that drive the mystery plot, and the Berwinds among other historical figures make convincing appearances. As always, Maxwell builds an intriguing plot from thoughtful historical research; on a lighter note, series fans will enjoy seeing journalist-sleuth Emma Cross now married to her longtime beau Derrick Andrews. Kirkus sums it up: "Combining mystery with real-life personalities from the Gilded Age makes for an entertaining and informative read." Purchase the novel at Bookshop or Amazon and discover more about Maxwell, this series, and her Lady's Maid series on her website. (8.22.23)