The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Publication Date: June 5, 2012

It’s 1922 and respectably married Cora chaperones a 15-year-old Louise Brooks to New York City for her multi-week training with and audition for the Denishawn School of Dancing. What Louise doesn’t know is that Cora’s earliest memories are of living in a home for girls in New York City and  has taken the position with a hope of finding out more about where she has come from. 



The Chaperone is not the story of Louise Brooks. She is a facilitator for the plot. Those facts that pertain to Brooks are incredibly well researched.  Brooks did, indeed, travel to New York City for the opportunity highlighted. Much of what we see of Brooks, through Cora’s sometimes judgmental and sometimes fond gaze, is based on deep research of the actresses own account of her past as well as research done by others. Though Brooks often comes off, in the story, as a bit of a caricature, there are moments when she shines as a fully realized character. 

As a look into history, The Chaperone discusses how rapidly standard, morals, and styles changed in the 20th century. Cora is many women in that she has a life that to the outside world seems ideal and aspirational. She and her lawyer husband, because we are in an era where your worth as a woman in entrenched in the man you managed to attract and the life you live with him, have twin boys that are headed off to college. They are above reproach in society but both have deep secrets that could damage them greatly. As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian religion, I identified with Cora in that the smallest thing could bring judgement and isolation from one’s community. Morality in The Chaperone is often subjective as it is in life.

Though Cora knows how tentative her position could be, at the start of the story it doesn’t lead her to be more open minded. She sees the way that Louise acts as dangerous, and it is quite reckless. At the start of their association, Louise is a means to an end and not someone Cora especially likes or feels protective toward. Readers may find Cora pretty unlikable at first and they’ll find Louise a character of what we know of the actress. As stated, this is not the story of Louise Brooks but she does grow within the narrative with time, as does Cora. 

A flaw, I think, within the narrative is that it takes us through the course of Cora’s life. I think honing in on the events of the trip to New York City and maybe a short aftermath would make the story more cohesive. I can certainly see why the author made the choice she did. We are left with something of a major twist in the story and readers would want to know how it worked out. We also see Cora grow incrementally within that period and we follow up with Louise. That said, I would have rated the book higher without it. I did find it interesting to learn that Lysol was once advertised as birth control. A little yuck, but interesting.

The Chaperone is a worthwhile read. As a work of historical fiction, it is well done. The author conveys the time well and the real life character is very true within her known historical timeline. If you like historical fiction, pick The Chaperone up today. 

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The Girls in the Attic by Marius Gabriel

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Maggie’s father dies and friends and family of her mother encourage her to ask her mother about her past. When she does, Maggie learns of the struggles her mother (Lola) faced as a Jewish woman in Nazi-era Germany and the extreme odds she faced of survival when the Nazi’s literally came to the door in the form of the son of the woman hiding Lola and her sister, Heidi, in her attic.


If you look at the Amazon description of The Girls in the Attic, its the story of Max Wolffe. Max’s father was a minister who spoke out against Hitler and was taken away when Max was young. The official story is that his father died in prison and Max’s devotion to the protection of the motherland and master race came at the hands of a Nazi who took the boy under his wing when he was tortured everyday as a result of what he believed was his father’s treason. When Max returns home after having suffered a head injury at the Russian front for what he thinks will be a recovery break, he finds that his mother has concealed two young Jewish women in his home. The only thing keeping Max from going to local authorities to turn the women in is that he knows that his mother will also be taken into custody. 

Once you get a sense of the setting, The Girls in the Attic actually goes exactly where readers will expect it to go. As Max gets to know the women they open his eyes to the atrocity of the War and their confidence that the Allies are coming moves his belief in the dominance of the Reich. Max starts to question his staunch views about Jewish people and his blind faith in the military expertise of Hitler. There are several navel gazing epiphanies from Max and Lola. 

As much as the book is billed as the story of Max, it’s really the story of Lola Rosenstein. Lola starts out, despite having been moved from home to home with her sister for their protection, a little recklessly angry. She hates Max and everything he stands for. Heidi is her voice of reason but the young woman is just angry. As time goes on, she becomes circumspect and, once they start to move through war-torn Germany, a bit world weary. The idea of death as a rest is something we hear from many survivors and rang very true. That it is Lola telling the story, the omniscient look into Max’s thought process and private conversations between Heidi and Max’s mother, Magda, are a choice. While Max’s thought process and transitions may play as an excuse for the relationship that develops between Max and Lola (not a spoiler. ANYONE reading this book will expect it), it’s not something our narrator would know and that bothers me more than it should especially as she slips into first person in the epilogue. From Lola the epiphanies tend to be regarding the hearts of man and the lack of control in her own life. From Max, they are grand gestures toward a changing attitude toward people and generally the enemies of existence that serve to romanticize him. Considering that we’re seeing him from the memory of an old woman, it makes sense that she would remember him as he should have been.

Though quite predictable, the story is interesting and the characters engaging. As odd as it may sound, Lola starts as a bit of a reckless young woman. She was protected by her parents and then protected by Heidi and ultimately protected by Max. She has suffered living in the slums and she knows what her sister went through to keep her safe but as she grows in the sense of the novel, she becomes more circumspect understanding how lucky she’s been to survive.

I enjoyed The Girls in the Attic. I have seen the reviews that cite errors. There were errors but I did not find them distracting. The story was not of the quality that I’ll seek out other books by Gabriel but it was a good, solid read and one that makes some very good points. Pick it up and let me know what you think.


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The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Laura Lyons is a housewife in 1913 living with her family in an apartment in the New York Public Library where her husband is the superintendent. She enrolls in Columbia Journalism School and finds a new world outside of the library walls and herself where women have their own identity. When someone starts stealing rare books and her lifestyle is at risk, she has to make a choice.

Eighty years later, Laura’s granddaughter, Sadie, is hired as a curator at the New York Public Library. When rare books from an exhibit Sadie is setting up starts to go missing, Sadie starts to dig into the past and may not like what she finds.


Readers of my blog will know that I love historical fiction. I fully expected to be fangirling in this review when starting the book. The mystery, varied timelines, New York Public Library tie-in, sounds fascinating on paper. The paper on which it is fascinating is not the pages of this book. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is not the worst book I’ve ever read. It felt self-indulgent on the part of the author. Davis wanted this setting and timeline tie but the story and characters never really seemed to come together. This is the only book I’ve read by Fiona Davis so the rest of her books might be brilliant. Am I likely to find out? No. 

Continue reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

Highland Lioness: A Highland Romance of Tudor Scotland (The Highland Ballad Series Book 4) by Kristin Gleeson

Publication Date: January 15, 2021

Morag McGregor is sent to Scottish Court by her father in hopes that she will make a match or, at least, dampen her desire to get revenge on her neighbour, the Campbells. In a setting tense with religious and political strife will Morag sate her desire for revenge and return to her secret love who is waiting at home?

I received this book for review from the Book Club Reviewer Facebook group.

Highland Lioness is the fourth book in the Highland Ballad Series


I have not read any of the previous three books in the Highland Ballad Series and believe that this is the first book I’ve read by Kristin Gleeson and to be quite honest, I did not have high hopes for Highland Lioness in meeting Morag and she and her co-conspirators were lying in wait to sabotage the Campbell’s cattle. First impression was that she was going to be one of these borderline compulsive characters that would careen brainlessly from scrape to scrape until someone “tamed” her completely discounting the historical context of how dangerous a spirited woman might be Continue reading Highland Lioness: A Highland Romance of Tudor Scotland (The Highland Ballad Series Book 4) by Kristin Gleeson