December, with its decorations of stars bright and tinsel everywhere, is a fitting month to feature novels about famous names. Do we ever get our fill of reading about individuals who escape the ordinary to achieve fame and fortune, whether they are born to it or achieve it themselves? Take your pick from among this month’s celebrities and may your Christmas be bright, sparkling, and merry!
This dual-timeline novel, THE COLLECTOR’S DAUGHTER by Gill Paul, unites the fascination with the lives of titled aristocrats with the world-wide excitement over the discovery of the long-lost tomb of Tutankhamun. As the daughter of the Earl of Carnavon, who funded Howard Carter’s explorations to discover the tomb, Lady Evelyn Herbert was not only present at the discovery, but she was also the first person to crawl down the narrow passageway and enter the tomb itself, her torch glittering on the treasure store of gold and jewels hidden within. Flash forward to the 1970’s when Lady Evelyn, recovering from a serious stroke but last surviving member of the original expedition, is tasked by a University of Cairo professor to see if she can remember what happened to 20 or so artifacts which disappeared from the tomb. In the intervening years, as tragedies befall the family—Lord Carnavon himself dies shortly after the tomb’s discovery—can Evelyn believe the rumor that those who disturbed the tomb were cursed? Full of details about archeological expeditions, the world of well-born debutants in the Roaring Twenties, the life of Lady Evelyn and her husband Brograve, and the—cursed or coincidental—events that dogged those connected with the tomb’s discovery, Gill’s tale serves up a double dose of fame and fascination.
Two young girls are placed in an orphanage around the turn of the century and taught by the nuns to sew in order to secure them a livelihood in the future. But these two are determined not to eke out a survival as lowly seamstresses. Narrated by the younger sister, Antoinette, THE CHANEL SISTERS by Judithe Little tells how the dreams fueled by magazine cutouts and romance novels lead Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel from the convent to a small hat shop of Rue Cambon in Paris, the beginning of what will become a design powerhouse that will change women’s fashion forever. Refusing to settle for the place and status the world tried to assign them, the sisters will travel from famous cafes to bohemian performance halls to fashionable beach resorts, using their wits, determination and the appeal of their unique clothing to build a reputation that carries them to the heights of Society. Although Little’s novel contains a glittering description of Paris and the fashion world, it is the bond between the sisters, their mutual support and determination to escape their humble beginnings and seize what they want from life, that forms the heart of the story.
A less complimentary version of the fashion icon is presented by Pamela Binnings Ewen in THE QUEEN OF PARIS, which focuses on Coco Chanel’s life during the four years Paris was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Coco had already survived—and built and expanded her business—during one World War. Just how far will she go to thrive during another? As the Nazis assume control over the city, Coco finds her apartment in the Ritz surrounded by suites claimed by high-ranking officers. She’s already waging a battle to wrest control of her perfume company from her business partner, Pierre Wertheimer, who fled to the United States to escape Jewish persecution, taking with him the secret formula for their signature scent, Chanel No. 5. Did she really agree to spy for Germany in order to protect her empire? And if she did, did she intend her cooperation to help—or hinder—the German war effort? How much of what is known is fact, how much rumor? Ewen’s novel throws more light on the often-shadowy life of one of fashion’s most talented designers.
We end with AND THEY CALLED IT CAMELOT by Stephanie Marie Thornton. Growing up in the aristocratic Bouvier family, Jackie and her sister Lee are surrounded by luxury—but their status is built on a crumbling fortune. Determined to use her love of literature to be more than a decorative debutante, Jackie lands a job as a reporter—and begins a romance with dashing young senator Jack Kennedy. Marrying him despite his womanizing reputation, she experiences both the exultation of love and the bitterness of betrayal. And when Jack pursues the political ambitions thrust on him by his father, Jackie stands by, weathering miscarriages and draining political campaigns, lifted by the joy of her children’s births—and almost destroyed by the tragedy of her husband’s assassination. But from the ashes of her First Lady persona, over the difficulty of her marriage to Aristotle Onassis - entered into mainly to protect her children--she survives. Widowed again, she returns to the US and resumes, at last, the life of literature she’s always loved, becoming an editor for a major publisher, and meeting a man who finally permits her to be herself. Thornton’s novel captures the drama, tragedy, and ultimate triumph of a life lived on the world stage.
Ready to add the sparkle and tinsel of famous lives to your holiday decorations? Any of these novels would make a fine Christmas present to yourself!
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
Award-winning romance author Julia Justiss, who has written more than thirty historical novels and novellas set in the English Regency and the American West, just completed her first contemporary series set in the fictional Hill Country town of Whiskey River, Texas.
A voracious reader who began jotting down plot ideas for Nancy Drew novels in her third grade spiral, Julia has published poetry and worked as a business journalist.
She and her husband live in East Texas, where she continues to craft the stories she loves. Check her website for details about her books, chat with her on social media, and follow her on Bookbub and Amazon to receive notices about her latest releases.
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