A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

Zoe Beth Buckman has got more than her fair share of troubles.  Ever since her dad died, her mom has been a wreck.  Her parents were always drinkers, but now it is clear to Zoe that her mom is an alcoholic who is going to drink herself to death if she doesn’t change her ways.  Zoe’s grandmother insists that she needs to stay and take care of her ailing mother, but Zoe is sick and tired of it all — sick of the secrets and tired of being more of a mom than a daughter.  After things at school start to be affected by her home life, Zoe decides that she needs to get out on her own.  She finds a room for rent on Lorelei Street, but she isn’t quite sure how she will be able to make ends meet.  All she knows is that she needs to get out before she is sucked any further into the vortex of her mother’s misery, and she is willing to do almost anything to make it work.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

It is 1933, and the post of U.S. Ambassador to Germany remains empty as the President battles with the Great Depression.  Quiet,  scholarly Chicago history professor William E. Dodd’s name is suggested as a candidate to the President, and he and his family find themselves in Berlin as Adolf Hitler is gaining popularity.  Dodd’s determination to maintain communication between his embassy and the Nazis is challenged daily by the Anti-Semitism of  German leaders and  pressures from American Jewish groups. While he walks a diplomatic tightrope, his beautiful and effervescent daughter engages in a lively social life, becoming close to Nazis and Socialists alike, complicating the picture.  This is an incredible and readable account of the years before the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

In Victorian times, plants and flowers held symbolic meaning: you might give your love interest a bouquet of tulips (declaration of love), your enemy one of tansy (I declare war against you).  In Diffenbaugh’s novel, eighteen-year-old Victoria, alone and homeless, has just aged out of the foster care system.  Victoria’s knowledge of the sentiments conveyed by flowers proves to be her salvation and leads to employment with a florist.  Gruff, defensive Victoria cautiously begins to bloom in her new life, until a life-altering event derails her delicate progress.  In alternating chapters, Diffenbaugh weaves Victoria’s past and present until the two meet in a tender conclusion.

Definitely not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Chloe Parker is thirty-nine, divorced, owner of a failing letterpress business, and a total Jane Austen fan.  Desperate for cash to save her business and insure a good future for her daughter, Abigail, she applies and is accepted for a position on what she thinks is a total immersion documentary about Jane Austen’s England.  Imagine her suprise when she discovers that it is actually a period reality show, an 1812 version of The Bachelor.  This is outrageous!  This is ridiculous!  This is still $100,ooo on the line.  And so, Chloe decides to give it her best shot to win the heart of Mr. Sebastian Wrightman, a total hunk.  She’ll just ignore the tender feelings she begins to have for his cousin, Henry, who is also on the show in a secondary position.  In the process, she has to cope with nineteenth century hygiene or lack thereof, unpalatable food, and all the strict rules of society at that time.   Light and amusing, as well as informative about Victorian England.  Enjoy.