Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Annabel Abbs | Exclusive Excerpt: MISS ELIZA’S ENGLISH KITCHEN
Author Guest / October 20, 2021

In spite of the fish vans that clatter through the town on their way to London and the hop pickers who arrive daily by wagon, Tonbridge does not have the hustle and bustle of Ipswich. This pleases Mother, who crows constantly about Tonbridge’s superior inhabitants and its superior visitors. And it is these that she has her ruthless gimlet eye upon: the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen who come to take the waters of our neighboring spa town, Tunbridge Wells, and are in need of superior rooms. Our rented home is newly built and has its name—Bordyke House—carved into the lintel. As befits a superior boardinghouse, it is spacious, well furnished, and situated well away from the town’s open drains. And yet it feels all wrong, like a poorly cut coat. Perhaps this is because Edgar has set sail to make his fortune in Mauritius, and Catherine and Anna have taken up positions as governesses—all of us fleeing gossip and disgrace—so it is only Mother and I rattling around here. Or perhaps it is because no amount of superiority can disguise our future as the landladies of a boardinghouse. We are in the morning room—yellow walls, armchairs upholstered in a shiny…

Laura Morelli | 20 Questions: THE STOLEN LADY
Author Guest / September 22, 2021

1–What is the title of your latest release? THE STOLEN LADY: A Novel of WWII & the Mona Lisa  2–What is it about? Two women, separated by 500 years, hide the Mona Lisa—with unintended consequences. 3–What do you love about the setting of your book?  In a year when no one could leave home, traveling vicariously by writing THE STOLEN LADY truly kept me sane. In my imagination, I whisked myself away to Renaissance Florence, over the Alps to the Louvre, to the breathtaking châteaux of the Loire Valley, and to the hulking medieval abbeys of southern France. What an incredible imaginary journey during the strangest of times! 4–How did your main character(s) surprise you?  As a novelist, I have long wanted to explore the mind of someone who threw a treasured possession onto the Bonfire of the Vanities in Florence in February 1497. But building out the mindset and background of such a character (Bellina—a servant in Lisa Gherardini’s house) made me ask so many questions and then rethink them all. 5–Why will readers relate to your characters?  Bellina (at the turn of the 16th-century) and Anne (in the 1940s) are average women facing extraordinary circumstances. I think we’ve…

Ruth Hogan | Exclusive Excerpt: THE MOON, THE STARS, AND MADAME BUROVA
Author Guest / September 16, 2021

I want you to tell her to stop hiding my baccy!” Ernest Plumb was one of Imelda’s regulars. He was a short, stocky man with a bellicose air, who trailed a pungent whiff of mothballs and pipe smoke in his wake. Since his wife, Joan, had died, he had come to see her every few weeks to continue the constant bickering that had been the mainstay of their forty-two-year marriage. Imelda had tried explaining to Ernest that spiritual readings weren’t like telephone conversations. She couldn’t simply dial dead people and have a chat at will. Joan was no more cooperative in death than she had been in life. She only came through when it suited her, but today she did have something to say and Imelda struggled to suppress a grin. “Joan says that she’ll stop hiding your stinking tobacco when you stop living like a filthy pig and wash the net curtains at the sitting room window. And she wants you to stop smoking your pipe in the house. She says that’s what your bloody shed is for.” “It’s not like he uses it for anything else,” Joan grumbled. Imelda could see her standing behind Ernest with her hands…

Georgie Blalock | Exclusive Excerpt: THE LAST DEBUTANTES
Author Guest / August 23, 2021

“Mr. Astor, a pleasure to see you this evening,” the dark-coated maître d’ greeted, flashing a wide smile beneath his thin mustache. “A pleasure to be here. Anyone we should be concerned about inside? We have the Premier’s niece, Miss Katherine Ormsby-Gore, Miss Dinah Brand, and Miss Christian Grant.” “Michael, don’t tell him who we are.” Katherine glanced around as if anyone who was mingling nearby might care or notice. “Don’t fret, Mr. Rossi won’t tell a soul you’ve been here.” “If I were so indiscreet we’d be closed in a month,” Mr. Rossi assured them. “Not to worry, ladies, no one of concern to any of you is here tonight. Should one arrive, I’ll notify you at once. We don’t like awkward scenes at the 400 Club.” “How does he know who we should and shouldn’t be worried about?” Valerie whispered to Jakie. “Mr. Rossi knows more about people’s lineage than Debrett’s. Don’t worry, you’re in capable hands.” “Table forty-eight, John.” He handed them off to a young waiter, who led them into the heart of the small and dimly lit club. Valerie and the girls gaped at the pillars holding up the low ceiling and the dark silk…

Gervais Hagerty | Exclusive Excerpt: IN POLITE COMPANY
Author Guest / August 13, 2021

14. Crab Crack Six blue crabs rattle in a white bucket at my feet, blowing bubbles and pinching one another’s legs. A gigantic stainless-steel pot boils on the stove. Steam billows overhead, making the already-toasty kitchen even hotter. I dump the blue crabs in-ide. They die instantly, I hope. When they pinken, I drain the pot and carry our Monthly Monday dinner to the porch. For the crab crack, Weezy and I have assembled newspapers, paper towels, heavy spoons, and a bowl of water. Weezy wears an old nursing bra and some stretchy biker shorts. Her grow- ing belly pokes out beneath a tank top. Our legs need shaving. Dirt collects in the spaces between my toes, beneath my nails. We’ve wrapped our hair in careless buns, high off our necks. We sit on the floor. Weezy goes for the claws first. She cracks the shell open with a mallet. I start by prying off the carapace. Warm goop drips from my fingers to the newspaper. I use a spoon to scrape away the gills. I swish the carcass around in the water bowl to clean off excess innards. After I break the body in half, it strikes me that…

Kaia Alderson | Exclusive Interview: SISTERS IN ARMS
Author Guest / August 4, 2021

Danielle: Welcome to Fresh Fiction, Kaia, and congrats on the release of SISTERS IN ARMS. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where the idea for this book began?   Kaia: I am a lifelong history geek who whose fascination with World War II began early. The aspects of that war that interest me most are the French Resistance and the U.S. Women’s Corps (WAC). Intellectually, I knew that Black women had served in the WAC. But I had never seen a picture of them until a picture of the 6888th marching in France floated down my Twitter timeline almost 10 years ago. I immediately googled “Black women WW2 France” and the rest is history. Personally, I have family who attended Bethune Cookman University (many years ago!), so I was familiar with Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune—an amazing educator who had a major part in developing the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. What did your research reveal about this incredible woman?   Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was basically the godmother of the Black WAC soldiers. She positioned herself as advisor to WAAC/WAC leadership early on to ensure that Black women would…

Jennifer Chiaverini | Exclusive Interview: THE WOMEN’S MARCH
Author Guest / July 26, 2021

Danielle: Welcome to Fresh Fiction, Jennifer! We are so excited to celebrate the release of THE WOMEN’S MARCH with you. This book is full of incredible historical detail about the women’s suffrage movement. What inspired you to tackle this topic?   Jennifer: The idea for THE WOMEN’S MARCH first came to me in January 2017, soon after the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration of the 45th president. Nearly half a million demonstrators marched in the US capital to protest against his past reprehensible treatment of women and to advocate for women’s rights and other human rights issues. Millions of other protesters joined in satellite marches around the world, including an estimated 100,000 in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Afterward, when I read news coverage of the events, I was intrigued to learn that the Women’s March of 2017 had an important but nearly forgotten historical precedent. More than one hundred years earlier, thousands of women had assembled in the nation’s capital the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson to demonstrate on behalf of woman’s suffrage. The organizers planned a beautiful, dignified parade from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House, with elegantly…

Vanessa Riley | Exclusive Excerpt: ISLAND QUEEN
Author Guest / June 30, 2021

LONDON 1824: KENSINGTON HOUSE Never knew a moment made better standing still. Never knew an hour made perfect by silence. It’s been a long time since I’d had peace—moments of dance, hours in hymns. It disappeared when the Demerara Council forced its tax. Fidgeting, I sit in the front parlor of Kensington House switching my gaze from the sheers draping the window to the finishing school’s headmistress. Miss Smith, she’s across from me in a Chippendale chair sipping her chamomile tea. Her fingers tremble on the china handle. “Mrs. Thomas,” she says with eyes wide, bulging like an iguana’s. “Your visit is unexpected, but I’m pleased you’ve taken my offer to stay at Kensington to review our school. You’ll see it’s a worthy investment.” “I was always fond of the name Kensington.” My voice trails off as I think of walks, of choices, then my aptly named plantation. Kensington is a set of squiggled letters chiseled in a cornerstone back home. The headmistress chatters on, and I nod. The white egret feather on my bonnet jiggles and covers my brow. I bat it away like the memories I want gone, but you never get to choose what comes to mind….

Camille Aubray | 20 Questions: THE GODMOTHERS
Author Guest / June 18, 2021

1–What is the title of your latest release?  THE GODMOTHERS 2–What is it about? Pitched as “Elena Ferrante meets Big Little Lies”,  THE GODMOTHERS is about four remarkable women from very different backgrounds who are united by marriage in an elegant, prosperous Italian family, and then must take charge of the family’s business when their husbands are forced to leave them during World War II. 3–What do you love about the setting of your book?  THE GODMOTHERS takes place mainly in New York City and its Westchester suburbs from the 1930s through the 1950s. I worked in the city and I loved discovering its old buildings and the great stories that went with it. That glamorous, dangerous, bygone aura still clings to places like Bergdorf Goodman’s, the Copacabana, the Majestic apartment building, Coney Island, Balducci’s Market, the Plaza Hotel—it’s all still there. 4–How did your main character(s) surprise you? They are so brave! The four Godmothers never fail to rise to the occasion as a team: Filomena overcomes childhood trauma to be a leader and protector of the family; Lucy uses her skills as a nurse to make the right decisions even when she feels betrayed; Amie recovers from an…

Brina Starler | 20 Questions: ANNE OF MANHATTAN
Author Guest / June 1, 2021

1–What is the title of your latest release? My upcoming release on June 1st, ANNE OF MANHATTAN, is a modern adaptation of Anne of Green Gables set on Long Island and in New York City. It’s actually my debut novel! 2–What is it about? Loosely based on some of the original book’s events, and inspired by L.M. Montgomery’s cast of beloved characters, Anne of Manhattan reimagines what it would be like if college-aged Anne Shirley, Gilbert Blythe, and their friends were going to school and living in modern NYC. It’s a romantic comedy that also deals with themes like #MeToo (sexual harassment) and learning how to trust in love. And hopefully, I’ve done a good job of paying tribute to a book I love so much! 3–What do you love about the setting of your book?  There are two main settings in the book. One is NYC, where Anne, Gil, and their friends go to school and live. That bounces between Brooklyn, the Village area, and Hell’s Kitchen. The second main setting is Avonlea, which I set on Long Island for the purposes of it making sense so many characters would wind up living in the city. Since I wanted…