April 6, 2021

Abbreviations #126: The Nightingale, Bringing Down the Duke + The Wife Upstairs

I’ve had The Nightingale, an adult historical fiction novel from author Kristin Hannah centered around sisters Vianne and Isabelle and their individual experiences during World War II, on my TBR for years now, but I kept putting off reading it because I was genuinely afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I don’t want to add yet another voice to that hype train, but wow, The Nightingale lived up to all the expectations I had for it! I so rarely indulge in historical fiction these days, but it is novels like this one that make me regret that and want to read more. Books like The Nightingale always remind me of the harsh realities of war and the brutal history of violence and pain that lingers in the not-so-distant past, and how important it is to acknowledge, reflect, learn from and be inspired by these stories of survival, mercy and hope. This book is a long one, true, but I was captivated from the very first page. Hannah’s writing immediately incites interest in the two sisters, and it’s impossible not to feel like you’re getting to intimately know these two young women who feel so very real as you continue to read the book. Vianne and Isabelle are very different; where Vianne is cautious and reserved, Isabelle is passionate and impetuous, and their experiences during the war do highlight their differences. But it does become clear eventually that the sisters do share similarities in many ways, including their love and loyalty to those they care for, the lengths they are willing to go to do the right thing and the capability, cleverness, and courage they possess. Both their storylines were compelling; they were filled with moments of beauty and grace, but also terror and hardship. I was so emotionally invested in their stories that I was moved to tears more than once! The Nightingale was just brilliant, and it is definitely one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever had the honor of reading. (P.S. I listened to the audiobook, and it was really good!)

Pub Info: February 3, 2015 by St. Martin's Press | Add it on Goodreads

I’m honestly upset I put off reading Bringing Down the Duke for so long because it was such a fun book to read! Our heroine, Annabelle Archer, a brilliant but destitute young lady has earned a scholarship to attend the University of Oxford. There’s only one condition: she needs to support the rising women’s suffrage movement by recruiting men of influence to champion her cause. Our hero, Sebastian Devereux, is one such man, as he is the Duke of Montgomery and a brilliant tactician and strategist in politics who works for the Queen. When the pair encounter each other more than once, it’s clear that there is something between them. But will societal standing and the potential scandalous fallout keep them apart? While I didn’t love Bringing Down the Duke as passionately as I do other historical romances, I thought it was lighthearted, lovely and fun to read. Dunmore has a very readable writing style and knows precisely how to weave romance and humor seamlessly into her (rather believable) plot. I liked Annabelle right off the bat, as it was clear that she had a good head on her shoulders and was willing to do what she had to in order to secure the future she wanted for herself. Her insecurities and vulnerabilities were relatable, and I was definitely rooting for her success in all aspects of her life. Sebastian, on the other hand, took a while to grow on me, but the hints of his soft heart that peeked through every now and again kept me hopeful. Watching him figure out what he really wanted for himself and seeing the lengths he’d go to get it was definitely a big part of what made me fall for him in the end. It was lovely to watch their relationship develop from a rather antagonistic beginning into a tentative friendship with the barest hint of physical attraction to an undeniable romantic connection, and I soaked up every single second of it (angst included and very much felt). I finished this one feeling warm and fuzzy, and it definitely had me curious about book two!

Pub Info: September 3, 2019 by Berkley | Add it on Goodreads

Before it started popping up on my social media feeds, The Wife Upstairs wasn’t actually on my radar. But I did start getting curious about it when I heard that it was partially inspired by Jane Eyre and Rebecca (both classics that I’ve read!) And when it was chosen by my sister Mel for our second family book club of the year and Kristin had an extra copy to pass on, well… it felt like fate was telling me to pick this one up. Readers will be introduced to Jane, a broke dog-walker who works in the exclusive gated community of Thornfield Estates where the residents are so rich that they would never miss the small items Jane swipes. Jane sees an opportunity in the recently widowed Eddie Rochester, an opportunity that will ensure that she gets the life and protection she’s always craved. But their budding romance is haunted by the specter of his wife Bea, an ambitious businesswoman who drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, will Jane ever be able to measure up and truly escape the past? I’m honestly surprised by how entertained I was by The Wife Upstairs. The novel is well-paced, the writing is easy to devour and the plot is compelling (in that ‘you know it’s a train wreck but can’t look away or figure out when the wreck is actually going to happen’ sort of way). These characters make some questionable choices; they aren’t likable, and I don’t think they’re meant to be. It’s worth noting, however, that Hawkins goes out of her way to give us a personality tidbit that makes each character relatable in some way, which is a clever method to invite the reader to, well, give a sh*t. Throw in some solid nods to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and Hawkins has managed to weave a well-constructed tale that hooked me right from the start. I liked The Wife Upstairs more than I expected to! While it’s not a new favorite, it’s definitely an entertaining read that I devoured very quickly.

Pub Info: January 5, 2021 by St. Martin's Press | Add it on Goodreads


  1. I think Bringing Down the Duke was a Book of the Month Club pick for me a while back and I need to get to it. Great reviews!
    Lisa Loves Literature


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