Summer reading for far.



So far three contenders for summer beach reading made it into the bag. Two are re-reads…so good the first time that I’m re-visiting–President Carter’s Revolutionary War novel The Hornet’s Nest about the parts of that war fought in the south, based in part on his own ancestors’ stories. The President illustrated the gorgeous book jacket as well. Such a talented man!

And Growing Up Female in Nazi Germany by Dagmar Reese, which explores the world of the Bund Deutscher Madel (BDM) the female section within the Hitler Youth… interesting and important background for one of my characters.

The third, just peeking over the top there, is Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, a book I’ve been trying to get to for so long. I’m also bringing Audible versions of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch–which it seems everyone except me has read– Crazy, Rich Asians by the talented Kevin Kwan and Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe that I listen to when I walk.

Not typical beach reading, but I think most historical fiction authors can relate!

The best birthday gift ever, The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.


My husband gave us a night at The Waldorf Towers for my birthday. Several scenes from my novel Lilac Girls take place there, so it was helpful to revisit the grand old hotel. One of the opening scenes takes place in The Peacock Lounge, adjacent to the lobby with its famous bronze clock:


Another takes place in the incredible Waldorf Grand Ballroom.  IMG_1837-1

Daughter Mary in the lovely lobby powder room.


I’d taken the wonderful Waldorf tour before and got a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel and heard its fascinating history, but actually spending the night in the Towers where Wallis Simpson kept apartments was a thrill and good research to boot.

Check out these links to the fun story about what lies beneath the hotel:

The perfect bag to hold summer beach reading.

Can’t wait to fill it up!!!



The charming Hotel Lutetia, Paris, was once a hospital for returning WWII concentration camp deportees.

Hotel Lutetia has been in the news a lot recently, since they are doing a complete renovation, auctioning most of the historic hotel’s original furnishings, including the lobby’s massive front desk and Art Deco furniture. It took me back to the week I stayed there last year, when I commuted out to Nanterre, in the Paris suburbs, to do Lilac Girls research in Caroline Ferriday’s archive there.


images-8   IMG_1661

Staying at the lovely old Art Nouveau hotel was part pleasure, since the location is one of the best in Paris, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres–close to Luxembourg Gardens and the Louvre, steps from some of the best shopping and restaurants. It was part work, since one of my novel’s most pivotal scenes takes place at the hotel. Hotel Lutetia was used as a Nazi headquarters during WWII and once Paris was liberated, the hotel was used as a clearing house/hospital for those returning from concentration camps (below).

hotel lutetia2

Returning French deportees enjoy bread and champagne in Hotel Lutetia dining room




Returning French deportee and family


Deportees from concentration camps check the Hotel Lutetia board of the missing


French poster, “Return to France.”



While I couldn’t swing one of the hotel’s King’s suites, my little chamber was comfy and it was wonderful to wake up in one of the rooms that was used to house returning refugees. Who knows, might have been the room James Joyce stayed in while he wrote part of Ulysses here…

I did my best to soak up every bit of atmosphere while I was there, including a visit to Jardin du Luxembourg.


IMG_1675 2

The best pistachio ice cream ever at the charming little kiosk above!

IMG_1679 2


IMG_1719 3

Here is the Nanterre crew in front of the Statue of Liberty replica in Luxembourg Gardens. Our intrepid translator Joséphine Boulanger (she translated over 100 of Caroline’s letters for me!), my sister-in-law Mary Pat Kelly who was along to research the sequel to her own novel, Galway Bay and me.

Hope these few pictures give you a little taste of how wonderful the Hotel Lutetia was.

Looking forward to staying at there again in three years once the renovation is complete. It will no doubt be a splendid transformation, but the ghosts of her past will always be with the lovely Hotel Lutetia.


Dream writing shed progress

What a difference a coat of white paint and a pale blue floor makes. All I need now is a desk. And chairs. And electricity.