August means the end of summer, but there's still plenty of time to grab a beach book. (Hello, Labor Day!) Check out this month's picks and travel to Renaissance Rome, modern-day Lake Como and World War I France; take a front-row seat at the orchestra; and peek into the art world of swinging 1960s London.
“The Serpent and the Pearl” by Kate Quinn The most compelling novel about the Borgias in some time follows Giulia Farnese, the famously beautiful young concubine of Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Giulia; her dwarf bodyguard, Leonello; and Carmella, their secretive cook, the novel follows Giulia from a naïve girl to a determined mother who will do anything to protect her family, friends and servants in the dangerous world of 1490s Rome.
“Happy Any Day Now” by Toby Devens Half-Korean, half-Jewish Judith took years to find her identity and comfort spot, but as she’s about to hit the big five-oh, her life spins out of control. An old boyfriend shows up, her mentor at the Maryland Philharmonic is overcome by illness and her father, who’s been out of the picture for years, reappears in Judith’s life. This quirky story of love, family and stage fright goes beyond the typical midlife crisis story.
“Lake Como” by Anita Hughes When Hallie, a promising interior designer, finds her fiancé and her boss groping each other, taking off to her wealthy half-sister’s villa in Italy seems like the perfect escape. While working on a design project at an exclusive Lake Como estate, Hallie falls for the building’s gorgeous caretaker. But Angus seems to be hiding something, and when she discovers her mother's diaries, more secrets enter the picture.
“In Falling Snow” by Mary-Rose MacColl (release date: August 27) This sweeping international bestseller tells the stories of Iris, a young Australian nurse who travels to France during World War I to bring home her brother, and Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. When Iris's teenage brother runs away to enlist, she meets Dr. Frances Ivens in Paris, who convinces her to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women. What happens there changes her future in more ways than one.
“The Gallery of Vanished Husbands” by Natasha Solomons (release date: August 27) Juliet Montague might share a name with Shakespearean lovers, but her life in a conservative Jewish community is anything but romantic. Even though her husband disappeared years ago, only men can divorce women in her culture, making Juliet an "aguna" or living widow. After posing for a portrait for her thirtieth birthday, Juliet breaks away from tradition, embarking on a love affair with the art world and a reclusive artist … all while searching for her husband and the painting he took with him.