Charles Todd—the pen name of a mother/son writing team— takes a break from mystery novels to offer this moving, Christmas-themed romance set during World War I and focusing on brave battlefield nurses. The plot has Lady Elspeth, a titled woman from Scotland, visiting France with her pregnant friend when war breaks out. Almost betrothed to a wealthy Frenchman, she returns to England and he goes off to war. Wanting to play her part, she trains as a nurse secretly, because she suspects her guardian won’t approve. She then tends the wounded, mourns the dead, and runs into an old friend of her cousin, but romantic complications war with Elspeth’s desire to honor her promise and fulfill her duty.
Lisa Genova, who has a Harvard Ph.D. in neuroscience, embeds insights into autism within an improbable plot of self-discovery set in Nantucket. There, photographer Olivia mourns the death of her autistic son, her inability to communicate with him, and the impact his death had on her fragile marriage. Meanwhile, Beth grieves her husband’s adultery and, as a way of coping, begins to write a story about a child with autism. The two mothers meet and develop a casual friendship—but when Olivia reads a draft of Beth’s story, she feels as though her son is communicating to her through it. Some obscenities and crudities.
Cathy Woodman adds warm details about veterinary practice and country living to a basic chick-lit plot that begins when London vet Maz Harwood breaks up with her live-in boyfriend, who also happens to be her boss. A friend asks Maz to take over temporarily her country veterinarian practice while she goes abroad. This fish-out-of-water tale has Maz dealing with problems she never encountered in the city, including hostility and sabotage from the village’s other veterinary practice. Financial stress, unhappy clients, and romantic troubles cause Maz to reconsider the wisdom of her move.
William Kuhn offers a charming tale of Queen Elizabeth slipping away from Buckingham Palace to visit Brittania, the former royal yacht on which she spent many happy days. By the time anyone in the palace realizes she’s missing, the unrecognized Queen—dressed in a borrowed hoodie—is on a train headed north to Edinburgh. Kuhn amusingly keeps the slightly dotty, melancholy, and warm-hearted queen a step ahead of palace officials desperate to find her. Downside: Kuhn clutters that plot with various subplots, including one involving the search for love by two homosexual palace officials.
In Waiting for Sunrise (Revell, 2012), Eva Marie Everson depicts the long-lasting effects on children of their parents’ weakness and sin. Patsy is only 13 when her mother sends her by bus to live with a kind family, hoping to protect her from an abusive father. Patsy doesn’t understand and feels abandoned and unloved. Her brothers grow up with the abusive father. One becomes a punching bag. The other seeks refuge with different godly families. Although Everson doesn’t resolve every plot line with a happy ending, a redemptive thread runs through the novel.
In Nothing to Hide (Bethany House, 2012), J. Mark Bertrand continues his series featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. A murder appears to be tied to gun smuggling and gangs, but because the FBI holds back crucial facts, March has trouble sorting out the players and knowing which ones to trust. Through plot twists and turns, March sees himself as a pursuer after justice but cuts corners to get there. Bertrand’s Roland March series offers a redemptive twist on the hard-boiled detective novel. —S.O.