My February 2023 reads

Another month, another amazing stack of books!

Absolutely loved my February reads. All my wonderfully talented women authors, all dual timeline historical stories, ranging from the Italian Renaissance to modern days.

The settings also varied, from the poverty of the American Ozarks to the splendor of the Milanese court during the Renaissance. From war-torn Germany during WWII to the UK during the same era, awaiting German bombing, and right on to modern times and COVID lockdowns.

February 2023 reads

My reading ran the gamut of times, circumstances, fears and emotions and all three were spectacular reads.

The Witch of Tin Mountain and Letters To A Stranger were both NetGalley reads, so watch for those new releases. While not a new novel, you’ll still want to hurry and read Laura Morelli’s The Night Portrait before she comes out with her new WWII Nazi art heist novel later this year.

Here are my reviews for all three:


The Witch of Tin Mountain coverThe Witch of Tin Mountain

Paulette Kennedy

I so enjoyed the author’s debut novel, The Parting of The Veil, and so was excited to read her second.This was an interesting tale of witchcraft and local folklore set in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The secrets and traditions of witchcraft are passed through the female line of some families, and I loved the idea of a Zauberbuch – a book of magic and spells – created in Germany, brought to America and augmented with new knowledge and spells, and passed down through the female lines to those born with the power.The story is told through Deirdre and Gracelynn, two women living on the Ozarks’ Tin Mountain in 1881 and 1931. These women are simultaneously respected and feared for possessing these powers, and they each fall prey to a devil wishing to usurp their gifts for his own ends.There was a lot to enjoy about this fascinating story, but I did find it somewhat confusing. The storylines are a bit similar, and as a reader it took me quite a while to work out the distinct time frames/characters/storylines. The author’s first novel was wonderfully atmospheric, and I longed for that in such an interesting region, but I never truly had that physical and descriptive sense of place in this novel.Despite those concerns, I did enjoy this novel of Ozarks’ folklore and the women of this misunderstood community.Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


The Night Portrait coverThe Night Portrait

Laura Morelli

This was a rich dual timeline story, set in Italy in the fifteenth century and Germany throughout WWII. At the core of this story is a painting: Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, Portrait of Lady with an Ermine. The story is recounted through four point-of-view characters.In Renaissance-era Milan, in 1492, we follow the story of Cecilia, the model for Leonardo’s painting. Cecilia is the young, beautiful, and painfully naive lover of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Bright and beautiful, and with the confidence of youth, Cecilia is ((mistakenly) convinced she can transition from the Duke’s mistress, to mistress of the castle. Ludovico Sforza is also a patron of the arts, and soon Leonardo Da Vinci arrives at the court, where he initiates his painting immortalizing Cecilia’s beauty in Portrait of Lady with an Ermine.More than 400 years later, the painting, now in a castle in Poland, falls into the hands of the Nazis, who are gathering Europe’s great works of art for Hitler’s planned museum in his hometown of Linz. This WWII timeline story is told through the perspectives of German art restorer Edith and American GI Dominic, who is assigned to the “Monuments Men”, who were charged with rescuing European art. Both Edith and Dominic are committed to saving Leonardo’s masterpiece – and convinced the power of great art can return humanity from the brink of madness.This was a masterfully told tale, centered around a Renaissance masterpiece and unfolding across two distinct time periods, of love, genius, betrayal, duty, arrogance and courage. Highly recommended. 


Letters to A Stranger coverLetters To A Stranger

Sarah Mitchell

Wow, what an incredible find.As an avid letter reader – and writer – I knew this dual timeline epistolary tale would be perfect for me. What I did not fully realize when I picked up this book was that the modern timeline is set in the COVID era. As someone who lived in a crazy, authoritarian lockdown policy country at that time, I was not certain I was ready to revisit this period of collective insanity. If your views are similar, do not let that stop you – I’m so pleased I read this wonderful novel.Cassie is in her twenties and mother to Noah. Terrified of the potential effects of COVID on her young, immunocompromised son, she flees London to a caravan rental along the sea. There, in her isolation with Noah during the early days of COVID, she begins correspondence with the boyfriend from whom she fled, the best friend who is avoiding her, her prickly mother, the gentle farmer-owner of the caravan, and, most importantly, Ruby, a ninety-six-year-old inhabitant of a nursing home.This is a beautifully told tale that unfolds entirely in letters and journals, shedding light on both modern-day Cassie and a young Ruby, a brilliant and talented student who is in love with a fellow student of Italian origins during the lead-up to WWII – at a time when Italians are considered the enemy.An emotional tale that touches upon family, love, loyalty, duty, uncertainty, betrayal and, ultimately, forgiveness. An absolute must-read novel.Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.

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