Author: Kathryn Stockett
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 10th 2009.


Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.


I was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver the other day. It was on the subject of climbing Mount Everest. A major point of the discussion was how without the Sherpa – who have little choice but to risk their lives to earn their livelihood – it would be impossible for any climber to achieve this feat.

There was a clip included of a TV presenter who asks a Sherpa whether he thinks it’s wrong what they have to go through for the sake of the climbers. After a moment’s pause, the Sherpa humbly begins to say that they consider the climbers their family during expeditions. Before he can end his answer though, the presenter hugs him as if he got the answer he wanted.

So when at the beginning of The Help, Aibileen is asked by Miss Skeeter, her employer’s friend, whether she wishes things or rather the status quo could change, that clip of the Sherpa and the presenter came to my mind. Skeeter’s intentions are good when asking the question, as probably were that of the presenter’s. But the question sounds so laughably ignorant and naive when seen from the other’s point of view, you can’t help but shake your head.

The Other. Us and them. I learned about these terms and conditioned mentality while studying anthropology in college. We all have this sense of ethnocentrism – how we feel we are the better ones. What I loved most about The Help is how this conditioning is clearly present in both the parties. Even the black characters have a sense of moral superiority over their white employers. For the women working as the help, their white employers are the other. For the white community, the former are the other.

Another admirable aspect of the writing was that not for one moment you feel there is a white savior component, even though it is about a white woman interviewing and writing about the black women working as help. But it’s not the former doing the saving. No, it is about the black women doing their own saving. It is about all these people uniting to serve their own purposes.

There is no glorification here. It does not glorify the black women serving as the help. They are humans just like us. They make mistakes and bad choices too. The employers are not vilified either. They are humans too. And that is what makes this story stand out.

Going into this book, I was afraid of it being too preachy or perhaps boring. But instead, it was engaging to the point that I was glued to the pages and completed it without taking a break. The story and the main characters spoke to me and made me root for them.

I am sure I have not said anything that has not already been said about the book. I’ll just end it by saying that books like this are makes reading worth it at the end of the day.




Author: Katrin Schumann
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction; World War II; Romance.
Release Date: March 1st 2020.


On the windswept shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.

When Bettina falls in love with an idealistic young renegade, Werner discovers her infidelity and forces her to make a terrible choice: spend her life in prison or leave her home forever. Either way she loses both her lover and child.

Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.



Reading historical fiction is always enlightening, because even through fiction I get to learn some part of history that I was previously unaware or uninformed about. But sometimes they make me feel aware of my ignorance. Throughout my reading of This Terrible Beauty, my own ignorance nagged at me.

Majority of this novel is set in the post-world war II Germany, a part of history I had no idea about. The story is told on alternate timelines. In 1960s, Bettina has become a distinguished photo journalist in Chicago. When her sister’s ex-husband visits her, she is forced to revisit memories of her time in East Germany, which was still under the control of the German Democratic Republic.

We see through her eyes the harrowing experience of war, and being left to fend for herself in her father’s fisherman’s cottage after he dies. It is loneliness that compels her to marry a man she does not love, and also later cheat on him.

I could connect to Bettina, even in her mistakes and wrong decisions. Her helplessness and fears are portrayed with a depth that can’t be ignored. She married a man believing he was kind, and wanting to be a mother. But when after years of marriage, she cannot conceive and Werner starts to get deeply involved with the secret police and their misdeeds, life becomes even more suffocating for her.

Affairs are not my cup of tea. But the author sets a compelling stage for Betting to fall for Peter, the pastor’s son, an idealistic man who has had to fight his own demons. Her escalating fear of leaving Werner, who had started to grow more dominant over her while amassing power through his position .

The author does a commendable job in portraying the dangerous ambience of East Germany, with the government’s frightening grip on every facet of living. The characters are also very real. Even Werner, maybe a villain at first impression, forces you to sympathize with him more than once.

Bettina’s journey was believable and compelling. We see her grow from a lonely girl to a helpless wife and mother to an independent woman.

One thing I did not like about the story was how it ended. Not the ending, mind you. But the manner of the ending. The epilogue left the possibility of a sequel, something I wouldn’t mind.







Author: Amy Harmon
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical; Romance.
Release Date: April 28th 2020.



A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….


It’s like the author went into my head and took everything that I wanted in a historical romance – things that even I didn’t know I wanted – and put it all in this book.

Strong, independent and intelligent heroine? Check.

Swoon-worthy, sensible and respectful hero? Check.

Engaging romance with cackling chemistry and clever exchanges? Check.

A compelling conflict? Check.

The best thing about this book is that it almost didn’t feel like a historical to me. The themes in this book felt so relevant even in this age – be it women rights, class system or politics.

The cover and the synopsis simply doesn’t do justice to the brilliance of the debut author. This isn’t a lighthearted fare that requires suspension of belief. Nor is it your run-of-the-mill romance between a duke and a damsel. No. It’s a clever romance with two adults who are mature, sensible and very much self-aware. And the setting only adds to the charm of the book.

I absolutely loved the two main characters. Anna is my ideal heroine. Sebastian is the perfect blend of charming and sensible. Their chemistry was off the charts.

The book is set in 1879, during the suffrage movement, when women were fighting for their property rights and Oxford university opened its doors to women. The heroine Anna has little to nothing in her name, living under the roof of her cousin. She knows only an education can help her. She decides to enroll in Oxford, with a scholarship in exchange of being a suffragist.

Sebastian is a duke whose goal in life is to restore his ducal legacy back to its glory. The queen Victoria’s favorite, he can only say yes when she asks him to be an advisor to the conservative Tory party, ahead of the election. The last thing he needs is another scandal, after his divorce, with everyone expecting him to remarry a proper damsel soon. His only fear in life is falling off his horse and dying one day before producing an heir.

In other words, they couldn’t be any more opposites. The attraction they feel for each other is beyond physical. But a love between them is as forbidden as can be. And both of them know it. This is what makes the romance all the more delicious. I devoured scenes with them together. Both of them also have substantial backstories, which the author uses effectually. Her writing is impressive. I’m certainly excited to read her future books.

These days it’s hard to come across romances which make you ache for the main characters to get a happy ending. Add to that the relevant themes and social issues explored by the debut author, and this is one of the best reads of the year for me.






Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold is a story of family conflicts set in Colorado in 1885. Anne Wells has embarrassed her rigidly proper family since she was a child with occasional but grievous lapses from ladylike behavior. They blame those lapses for the disgraceful fact that she is a spinster at 28. Cord Bennett, the son of his father’s second marriage to a Cheyenne woman, is more than an embarrassment to his well-to-do family of ranchers and lawyers – they are ashamed and afraid of their black sheep. When Anne and Cord are found alone together, her father’s fury leads to violence. Cord’s family is more than willing to believe that the fault is his. Can Anne and Cord use the freedom of being condemned for sins they didn’t commit to make a life together? Or will their disapproving, interfering families tear them apart?


My love for historical romance + My love for Ellen O’Connell’s previous book Dancing on Coals + My love for “forced/arranged marriage” trope = My love for Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold.

This was one of the most satisfying reads for me this year. My heart is actually full.

I’ve rarely ever read a “Arranged/Forced marriage” trope done so beautifully and organically. There was a perfect balance between action and romance that did enough to make it to the top of my favorite reads of the year.

28 year old Anne has run from her parents to escape a forced marriage to a man twice her age. In the night of storm, she seeks refuge in a barn only to wake up to find out the owner staring at her. It’s Cord, a man considered almost a pariah by her town, for his half-Indian blood and infamous temper. But Anne isn’t scared of him. Before she can convince him to help her escape the town, her father along with a mob finds her in what they believe is an compromising situation. They leave after beating them up until Cord is half-dead and Anne bleeding, with the local priest forcibly marrying them off.

After Anne nurses Cord back to health, they decide to make their sham of a marriage real. Nobody is happy. Anne’s father and the people in the mob thought Cord would be dead and Anne would go crawling back to her father. The townspeople including Cord’s own family are led to easily believe that Cord forced himself on her. Cord himself doesn’t believe that this marriage will last and is mentally prepared for Anne to leave him for a king she deserves. But Anne finds herself happy being a wife of Cord, and tending to his household and barn. 

Anne and Cord’s relationship progress was organic and delightful to read about. Anne is probably the first woman who doesn’t fear him, and he’s the first person who respects her. The way they slowly grow to understand, support and stand up for each other was delightful. We’re talking about a relationship that progresses from an expressionless Cord reminding Anne that she’ll probably leave him soon, to teasing her about having enough money to escape to Paris without him. I loved every step of it. My heart melted right with Anne’s when Cord calls her Annie for the first time.

Anne’s my favorite kind of heroine with the perfect blend of warmth and strength. Even when the mob is forcing her to repeat wedding vows in distress, she omits ‘to disobey’. From her fear of spiders, to her belief that horses can be cured of any aliment with oodles of sugar and sweet-talking, I found everything about her endearing.

But my heart bled a little more for Cord. This is a man who’s resigned to his own family’s mistrust of him, because of his Indian blood. Who can blame him for thinking Anne to be too good for him? He is a kind and gentle soul, with a brittle exterior. I loved every moment of his layers being peeled off.

Cord’s brothers love him. But some past events have forced them to believe the worst of him. Cord is the child of a second marriage of his white father to an Indian marriage. After his parents’ death, his elder half-brothers raised him as their own. But they could never understand his plight, being white themselves. I was so annoyed by Ephraim and Frank’s mistrust of his brother at first. But I also respected how they never lost a chance to let Anne know that she could always come to them if she wanted to escape what they felt was a marriage of abuse. Eventually, my annoyance turned into amusement over their refusal to see Cord’s love for Anne.

I also love how the author can so masterfully paint a perfect portrait of the racial prejudice that people of Indian blood had to face, that even the thought of having a child with Indian blood is unacceptable.

You know how much I loved this novel by the length of my review. I would wax poetry about this heartwarming romance if I could!



After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


Even after all the raving reviews about the book, I felt a little reluctant in starting it. Mostly because I’ve read more stories with present storyline with granddaugther and past storyline with grandmother, and they’ve disappointed.

Next Year in Havana definitely didn’t disappoint me. It however gave me bittersweet feelings. It left me feeling a little forlorn, to be honest.

I was invested in the story right from the beginning. The author takes very little time to set up the story both in the present and the past timeline. In 2017, Marisol is visiting Cuba for the first time in her life, only ever having heard stories about it from her grandmother Elisa. She’s there to spread the ashes of the grandmother who could not have her wish of returning to her homeland fulfilled. But once in Cuba, she finds that there was more to the grandmother who raised her as a daughter, than she knew.

In 1958, Marisol is experiencing her first love with revolution engulfing her country. A sugar heiress, she could pretend until recently that there weren’t big changes happening outside the walls of her high society life. But then her brother decided to become a revolutionary, and she herself fell drawn to a man who himself is a revolutionary.

I am not a fan of the ‘love at first sight’ trope. But I am a sucker for ‘the sparks at first sight’ as long as it’s not all elementary physical lust that many contemporary romances have reduced it to. I like my romances to have some slow burn and longing. Both the love stories in this one had them in spades. While Marisol thinks Luis is off-limits, Elisa’s feelings for Pablo have barely any future. Her father is a sympathizer of the ruling president, Pablo is a friend and a supporter of Castro, the revolutionary.

I was more invested in the past timeline with Elisa. I also liked her romance with Pablo. Both of them are as opposites as can be. And yet, these two managed to make it work. It had tragedy written all over it, and I guess that made me even more invested in them. The author managed to keep me curious and wondering about their fate. Which isn’t an easy thing to do. The mystery only made the story even more enjoyable. I also enjoyed Marisol and Luis’s parts but by the end I felt that there was more to tell as far as these two are concerned.

The author does really well to paint a beautiful and nostalgic portrait of Cuba then and now. I have very few ideas about Cuba’s history so I can’t judge about the accuracy, though. But this book certainly made me more curious to find more on this fascinating piece of history.

The last third of the book was not satisfactory to read, to be honest. The twists, and the reveals only left me feeling frustrated over the “what ifs”. It makes me even sadder that things like these could’ve easily been a reality for many Cubans back then.

I am not ready to read the sequel yet. I need to read a cute story before I can go back to this world. I would also like a sequel on Luis and Marisol. Even a novella would be welcome.



A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.


It’s 1942 when Aphrodite narrates the two love stories – with help – to her husband Hephaestus and lover Ares, as an example of how immortals simply cannot love the way mortals do. Let’s talk about the two love stories separately.

James & Hazel – It’s 1917. James meets Hazel in London a week before he’s about to enlist in world war I and there are sparks right away. Both of them are starry eyed teenagers, wholesome and innocent. What follows is a an adorable courtship! But there’s angst too. The well-mannered and honorable James is turned into a ruthless sniper by the war while Hazel joins YMCA as a musician to contribute however she can. The way both of these characters are forced to grow up and change over time was both heartening and heartbreaking to see. Their story had oodles of cuteness, romance and just the right amount of angst. Also, Hazel might be my favorite character in this book.

Collette & Aubrey – Collette is a Belgian who joined the YMCA after losing her  family and her beau in an attack on her hometown. Aubrey is part of an All-Black American troop serving in France. She has the loveliest voice and he is a self-proclaimed Jazz king. I loved how Aubrey is the cocksure and yet refined complement to Collette’s cool aloof self. My heart ached as much for Collette who has lost everything to the war as it did for Aubrey who has the hardest time as a black soldier. But when together, my heart couldn’t handle their cuteness!

I was charmed by both these couples. Even though, James and Hazel’s romance just felt a little more well-developed to me, I swooned right along with Aphrodite equally over James and Aubrey. The author succeeded in making me root for both these couples. I wanted them to have their happy endings!

But this book isn’t only about the romance. I loved the friendship between Collette and Hazel. I was heartbroken by the blatant racism the black soldiers had to face, and how hard it was for Collette and Aubrey to find acceptance as an interracial couple. This book also deals with mental illness, depression and death.

It’s always great to find a story with a well-developed plot and consistent characterization, but then the author had to add Greek mythology to bind together the whole thing and that makes for brilliant story-telling!





Three years after a shocking scandal destroyed her family and forced her into isolation, Eleanor Hayward finally has an opportunity to put her painful history and dashed hopes behind her. But reentering society is no simple task. In her cousin’s glittering ballroom, Eleanor is stunned when she comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart those years before.

Edmund Fletcher thought he had laid the past to rest until he unexpectedly encounters the woman who so nearly became his wife. Soon to be engaged to another, Edmund knows he must let go of the complicated feelings he harbors for Eleanor. However, when the Hayward scandal resurfaces and the truth behind their parting is revealed, Eleanor and Edmund are left reeling. Tormented by thoughts of what could have been, they realize it is impossible to rewrite history. But is there a future in which they might both find happiness—and true love?

I was hoping for something like ‘Persuasion’, one of my favorite love stories by Jane Austen. But A Guarded Heart was more about cliched misunderstandings rather than the complexities of human nature which I’d been expecting.

Edmund is a noble gentleman. He is good at heart and what you’d expect from a standard hero in regency novels. Eleanor was spunky and full of life until her brother has to be on run after supposedly killing his superior in army, and turning Eleanor and their family into social outcast.

The story plays with alternate timelines – past and present. We see Eleanor and Edmund fall in love in the past timeline and deal with the shock of meeting each other again in the present timeline. Their love story was sweet enough. I was just not overly invested. The big reveal of why the couple parted ways, had me feeling apathetic.

In the end, this felt a lot like a formulaic regency romance which is enjoyable but hardly unique.


Publication Date: 1st March, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  AmazonGoodreads