The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Like her previous historical novels (Overseas; A Hundred Summers), Beatriz Williams's The Secret Life of Violet Grant alternates between two time periods. This book also features two heroines: the titular character and her great-niece, Vivian.

In 1964, Vivian leaves behind her privileged Fifth Avenue childhood to make her own way in New York City after graduating from Bryn Mawr. She secures a job as a fact checker at Metropolitan magazine with hopes of becoming a writer. She gets a notice to pick up a package at the post office, and it turns out to be a suitcase that's more than 50 years old. It belonged to her great-aunt Violet, a scientist who purportedly murdered her husband in Berlin in 1914 before fleeing with her lover. This is the story Vivian has been waiting for; she's determined to track down what really happened to Violet and publish her story in Metropolitan to settle decades-old rumors.

Readers will be swept away to Europe on the brink of the First World War and 1960s New York City, and Vivian is the kind of sassy heroine Williams's fans have come to love. She throws snappy banter around the way Carole Lombard would in a classic movie. Violet is more innocent, but exhibits a strong will by crossing the Atlantic to study physics in London in 1911, blossoming when she meets her true love. The late plot twist provides a satisfying (if not entirely convincing) ending. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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