The 1790s are the new 1920s.
There. I've made the prediction, stuck a stake in the ground, made a line in the sand. Sometimes my predictions are less than accurate*, and sure, I didn't call 50 Shades of Grey, but then again, I don't live in New Jersey.*
Snarking aside, working in the book world means I see a fair amount of debauchery trends before they hit the general readership. One pattern I'm noticing is a move towards books set in Europe's Golden Age, before monarchy gave way to anarchy and dissolution. Like the Roaring 20s, it's a trip to the precipice, with all of the dramatic irony history can afford us. Unlike the 20s, these books have ice palaces, cartomancy, dauphins, apothecaries, guillotines, and--of course--some impressive wig action. Add sex, magic and assassination plots, and you've got a fantastic summer binge read. So, without further ado, please to enjoy this selection of current and forthcoming books, all set in the latter half of the 18th century.
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. Folks, it didn't win the Carnegie Medal for nothing. The New York Times called it a "consistently nimble and buoyant performance, defying what might in a lesser writer’s hands prove a deadly undertow of exhaustively researched historical facts. Of course, Massie...has always been a biographer with the instincts of a novelist." This biography has been on a million 'best of' lists and is sure to remain the definitive work for years to come.
The Queen's Lover by Francine Du Plessix Gray. I hadn't heard of Axel von Fersen until I read this book, and I am glad to have been informed. Combining bravery with chivalric devotion and matchless elegance, Axel is sure to vault himself to the top of your dead crush list. The book itself is an interesting hybrid of history and novel, using von Fersen's real letters and his invented diaries, framed by the--at times--contradictory interjections of his sister, Sophie.
The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Englemann. I still can't believe this fantastic yarn, with its intersecting plotlines and multitude of characters, is a first novel. Karen, how'd you do it? We've all been gunning for this book since it was announced at launch, and no wonder. The Stockholm Octavo has an incredible setting, memorable characters, and enough twists to keep you reading long after bedtime.
The Mirrored World by Debra Dean. I cannot wait for book groups to get their mitts on this deft, gorgeous historical novel. If you'd like to listen to me raving about the delicacy and beauty of this book, today's your lucky day.
They may not be on sale yet, but The Stockholm Octavo and The Mirrored World are both up on Edelweiss as eGalleys. Just head on over to www.harperlibraryegalleys.com and start reading!
*I wish I could take you back to 1999, when I dismissed Jennifer Lopez' burgeoning career and said, "Tal Bachman is going to be big, guys. I just know it."
*The 50 Shades phenomenon really did gather steam in the suburbs of New Jersey. Something about soccer moms leaving the manuscript at Starbucks. Or so I heard.