Our Favorite Cozy Reads + An Exclusive Author Interview

By Anderson McKean, Page & Palette Bookstore

Cool, cozy days are the perfect time to get lost in an engrossing family saga, discover a little known piece of history or stay up late with a gripping mystery. Grab a cup of tea and curl up with these riveting reads! All books can be found at Page & Palette.

Haven Point by Virginia Hume

Haven Point is a beautifully written, engaging family saga that I could not put down. I was completely immersed in the lives of these fascinating women – three generations connected by their family’s summer home on the coast of Maine. Virginia Hume masterfully depicts the many ways in which a place can both tether and push us away. A riveting, thought-provoking novel that has stayed with me.

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

Damnation Spring took me completely by surprise. Set in a Pacific Northwest logging town, it is a compassionate, epic story about bitterly divided families, neighbors with radically different ideologies, and the delicate nature of our environment. Ash Davidson’s rich, elegant prose and complex characters fill each and every page, resulting in a profoundly human story of forgiveness, humility and grace.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

What a fascinating, thought-provoking read! R.J. Hoffmann does a brilliant job of tackling the topic of adoption from the perspectives of three passionate, resilient women…a young birth mother grappling with hA must-read for fans of historical fiction, The Personal Librarian uncovers the remarkable story of J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle de Costa Greene, the black woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white. The collaboration of acclaimed authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray provides a fascinating account of Belle’s life, the sacrifices she made, and her lasting impact on our nation.

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Once There Were Wolves is a slow-rumbling mystery about a broken woman determined to protect a pack of fourteen wolves, creatures she has dedicated her life to protect. As she did in Migrations, Charlotte McConaghy calls upon nature to expose the flaws in human nature, and our unifying need to love and hurt, heal and forgive. Her evocative prose and intense narrative had me enthralled from beginning to end.

An Exclusive Interview with Beatriz Williams, Author of Our Woman in Moscow

Beatriz Williams is the bestselling author of thirteen novels, including Her Last Flight, The Summer Wives, and The Golden Hour, as well as All the Ways We Said Goodbye, cowritten with Lauren Willig and Karen White. A native of Seattle, she graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA in finance from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Ms. Williams took time to talk to PORTICO about her latest book, Our Woman in Moscow.

Q: Your novels of historical fiction span decades, each featuring engaging stories of bold, ambitious women. Our Woman in Moscow is unique in that it also includes an element of espionage. What inspired you to write about the Cold War and the Cambridge Spy ring?

A: I’ve wanted to write about the Cold War for ages, not just because I grew up under its shadow but because it’s such a complex, decades-long conflict that takes place inside a rich moral universe. The Cambridge spy ring grabbed my attention immediately. It’s one of the great espionage coups in history—Soviet moles embedded in the highest circles of British intelligence and diplomacy, undiscovered for years—and also a deeply human story of the psychological price of betraying your country, to say nothing of your friends and family. Of course, the Cambridge spies have already been covered thoroughly in both fiction and non-fiction, but never from the perspective of women. I submit that there’s much more to the story, and fascinating though it is, the cloak and dagger aspect is really the least interesting angle to me.

Q: The theme of family loyalty is something your readers have come to expect in your writing. Our Woman in Moscow showcases a deep, yet contentious sibling relationship between twin sisters. Do you draw from your own family to create these compelling family dynamics?

A: I draw from so many sources—from my own experience as a sister and a daughter and a mother of four, to my own observations of other families. What I love about blood relationships is their enduring power in the face of catastrophe. The ties of family keep tugging, no matter how profound the misunderstandings and estrangements and betrayals. As an anthropology major, I keep returning to kinship as a primary driver of human thought and action because it’s so powerful and takes on so many forms. Why are we so compelled to take interest in our kin group? Why does betrayal cut so deep?  What can we do to repair those connections, and why is it so instinctively important to do so?

Q: Each of your books are filled with rich historical details that transport readers to the story’s time and place. What kind of research was required to recreate the setting for Our Woman in Moscow?

A: While motherhood limits my ability to travel for research, I very cleverly situate most of my books in places I’ve already explored. The exception in this case is Moscow itself. My paternal grandfather was born in St. Petersburg, but was forced to flee as a teenager in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. I’ve never taken the opportunity to visit, but I’ve always felt a deep tie to Russia and its people, and have read its books and listened to its music. 

Q: As a bookseller, I love novels that cross genres, appealing to a range of readers. Our Woman in Moscow is a fascinating novel of historical fiction, but also reads like a spy thriller. Was it challenging for you to incorporate “whodunit” plot points into your writing?

A: Well, I have to say that crossing genres is probably one of the hallmarks of my books!  I start off writing without much regard for where the novel’s going to fit on a bookstore’s shelves, and you could argue that Our Woman in Moscow is a family drama disguised as a spy thriller…or a spy thriller disguised as a family drama! Without a doubt, though, it’s complicated to create a book that combines the intricate plotting a thriller requires with the historical detail and the arcs of character development you expect in a historical novel. Each plot point must serve the larger drama—this story of political conviction, betrayal, and redemption taking place against the backdrop of international espionage— so it’s not enough to simply make the puzzle pieces fit together. They have to create a memorable and moving portrait.

Q: What books are on your bedside table?

A: At the moment, I’m reading Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre, Cross of Snow by Nicholas Brasbane, and Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I’ve just finished up a kind of follow-up to Our Woman in Moscow, turning my attention to Ruth and Iris’s brother Harry Macallister, who switches employers from the Foreign Service to the OSS after Pearl Harbor. It takes place in 1950s Berlin against a background narrative of the German Resistance ten years earlier, showing how the seeds of the Cold War were indeed planted in the Second World War.

Our Woman in Moscow is the gripping story of an American woman’s mission to reunite with her twin sister after her defection to the Soviet Union. Combining meticulous research with engaging prose, Beatriz Williams delivers a deceptive, suspenseful novel of Cold War espionage and family devotion. A riveting page turner that fans of historical fiction and thrillers will enjoy!