Book One: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Synopsis: During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.
Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.
When I Read It: At home, before bed.
Book Two: Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Becky Randle is an ordinary girl who receives an impossible offer. She meets Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer, and he promises to create three dresses to transform her from a nothing-special girl into the Most Beautiful Woman Who Ever Lived. Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself — an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.
When I Read It: When I’m out and about. This is my ‘purse book’.
Waiting in the Wings: Longbourn by Jo Baker.
Synopsis: The servants take center stage in this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice. While Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters fuss over balls and husbands, Sarah, their orphaned housemaid, is beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When a new footman arrives at Longbourn under mysterious circumstances, the carefully choreographed world she has known all her life threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended. Mentioned only fleetingly in Jane Austen’s classic, here Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Regency England and, in doing so, uncovers the real world of the novel that has captivated readers’ hearts around the world for generations.