Blood & Beauty

by Sarah Dunant |

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REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

NOVEL

Ready for a holy scandal? Dunant's novel about the infamous Borgia family - yes, the same morally challenged, real-life clan depicted on Showtime's The Borgias - might make you reconsider what it means to break with religious protocol. The story opens in 15th-century Rome with Spanish-born Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buying his way onto the Papal throne. Despite his illegitimate children and teenage mistress, Rodrigo orchestrates his election as Pope Alexander VI, opening the door to his family's ruthless rise. Rome is awash in gossip, and not without reason: The Borgias' "foreign invasion" is nothing less than a dynastic takeover. The Machiavellian atmosphere—hedonism, lust, political intrigue—is magnetic. With so much drama, readers won't want the era of Borgia rule to end. But, as Rodrigo knew well, Fortuna, the goddess of chance, doesn't remain faithful to any man forever.

The White Princess

by Philippa Gregory |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Once again Gregory proves she can sex up a history lesson like no other. Her fifth novel of the Cousins' War series spotlights Princess Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII. At 19, she's the besotted lover of King Richard III - until he's slain by the usurper King Henry VII and she's forced to become Henry's wife. As she grapples with marriage, maternity and a merciless mother-in-law, the country's tumult escalates. Loyalties are torn, paranoia festers and you can almost hear the bray of royal trumpets as the period springs to life. It's a bloody irresistible read.

The English Girl

by Daniel Silva |

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REVIEWED BY DONNAMARIE BARNES

THRILLER

Israeli master spy Gabriel Allon has been asked to do a favor for the British prime minister: find his kidnapped lover before the scandal becomes public. The mission takes Allon from London to Corsica and into Russia, where the plot thickens and true motives emerge. Fast-paced intrigue and provocative characters make this a fine addition to an outstanding series.

On the Come Up

by Hannah Weyer |

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REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

NOVEL

Meet AnnMarie. She's 13, pregnant and living in a gang-ridden housing project. Not a promising scenario. But the heroine of Weyer's luminous debut turns out to be a survivor with rare spirit. She gets herself cast in an indie movie, attends its Sundance premiere and then, back in the 'hood, struggles to build a life for herself and her baby. AnnMarie is based on a real person, which makes it all the sweeter to cheer her on.

Rose Kennedy

by Barbara A. Perry |

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REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

BIOGRAPHY

In the beginning there was Rose. Born into Victorian-era privilege, she died 104 years later, the tiny matriarch of a dynasty. Churning through 300 boxes of papers, Perry has created an insightful portrait of this paradoxical woman. Addicted to travel, couture and the stars she met as ambassador Joe Kennedy's wife, she was also a conservative Catholic who ignored Joe's womanizing and devoted herself to family, monitoring her brood's academics (shaky), behavior (rowdy) and teeth (those smiles were no accident). As she bore tragedies with dignity and passionately advocated for the mentally disabled, she gave the public every reason to love her.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

THE EXILES

by Allison Lynn

A Manhattan couple's marriage is tested when they move to bucolic Rhode Island. Lynn (Now You See It) proves "wherever you go, there you are," in her second novel.

THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON

by Elizabeth L. Silver

Why did teacher Singleton kill pregnant Sarah Dixon? Sarah's mom tries to learn by confronting Noa, in a death penalty lawyer's debut novel.

THE MEASURES BETWEEN US

by Ethan Hauser

As a storm threatens a Boston river suburb, a group of friends and strangers provides a moving look at the ties that connect people.

"The city built on public service has become a carnival of self-service," says New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, author of this juicy exposé. Some nuggets:

OBAMA DOES HAVE A TEMPER

"He once stormed out of a meeting because he was furious aides had leaked contents of the previous meeting to their reporter pals."

YOU DON'T CROSS BILL & HILL

"The Clintons have a 'dead-to-us' list of people who wronged them during her '08 campaign. An actual list on an aide's BlackBerry."

THINGS CAN GET KINKY

After the White House Correspondents' Dinner one year, "Morgan Freeman was giving Katie Couric a foot massage."

AMBITION RULES

"Matt Lauer thought Meet the Press host David Gregory was so eager to take his Today anchor chair that he joked about turning up dead and said, 'There will be only two suspects - my wife and Gregory.'"

HARRY REID DOESN'T PULL PUNCHES

The Senate Majority Leader from Nevada has told D.C. tourists they smell and "insulted President George W. Bush in what was to be a goodwill meeting by telling him his dog Barney was fat."

In a new memoir, Partridge Family mom and Oscar-winner Shirley Jones (now 79 with 12 grand kids!) talks about life on that groovy family bus.

ON THE FAMILY SHE COULD HAVE HAD:

I was offered The Brady Bunch but turned it down. I didn't want to be the mom taking the roast out of the oven.

ON STEPSON DAVID CASSIDY BECOMING AN OVERNIGHT TEEN IDOL:

There were so many groupies always waiting for him outside the lot, you couldn't even drive out. Susan [Dey, who played his sister] was enchanted with him.

ON CONCERN OVER DEY'S WEIGHT:

The only thing she would ever eat at lunchtime was carrots. Her hands started to turn bright orange. She was bone thin. She got better as the show went on.

ON PILOTING THE PATCHWORK BUS:

I had to learn to drive again with a gear on the floor. The Teamsters gave me a badge as a union bus driver.

ON MRS. P'S FAMOUS SHAG:

I had long hair all my life. When Partridge came up, I said I'm not going to deal with this anymore, and I've had short hair ever since.