That Churchill Woman

By Stephanie Barron

Ballantine Books

$28, hardcover

Stephanie Barron’s book is a fictional account of the life of Jennie Jerome Churchill’s life, providing dialog and supposition to add to fact.

For those who are too young to associate the name with history, Jennie was the wealthy, American-born wife of one-time British Lord Randolph Churchill, and the mother of noted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Beautiful, as well as privileged, Jennie was brought to Europe by her mother with the primary goal of finding a titled and wealthy husband.

She succeeded in catching the eye of many titled — and impoverished — English lords, but marries Randolph, a British lord she belatedly realizes is homosexual.

As was the case with many wealthy women of that day and place, Jennie has little to do with the rearing of her two sons, instead focusing on the social scene and her husband’s rise in politics.

She falls in love with Count Charles Kinsky, but although their affair, as well as some of her other liaisons, becomes something of a scandal, she is never accepted by his family and refuses to divorce Randolph in order to marry him.

Probably due in large part to public interest in the fame of World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, her unconventional and sometimes scandalous life has been the subject of other novels in years past.

Although this one is slow in parts, the treatment is interesting, though it left this reader wondering if wealthy British society women of the early-to-mid 20th century really spent as little time and effort on the rearing of their children as this account suggests.

I found the references to Winston’s childhood the most intriguing part of the book — particularly those relating to the difficulties he encountered during his early school years.

The depiction of Jennie’s efforts on behalf of Randolph’s career was also interesting, particularly the depiction of her political participation in his campaigns and speeches, and their final trip, supposedly designed to disguise his condition from the spotlight of English newspapers.

I don’t recall previous fictional accounts of Jennie’s life having mentioned this trip or presented the last months of her marriage to Randolph in such a forgiving light.

Family Man

By Jayne Ann Krentz

Kindle

$4.99

When I run out of something to read — something that happens occasionally, though I go to great lengths to avoid it — my last-ditch source is an electronic gizmo which is armed with numerous older books by writers I can depend on.

That’s how I happened to read this 1992 novel by Jayne Ann Krentz. It showed on my reader as never having been read, and I didn’t remember it from years past, so it was fair game.

Despite its venerable age, I enjoyed the story of a young, female do-gooder doing her best to reconcile a family that had been split by hard feelings a generation earlier.

Luke Gilchrest is a millionaire who apparently can’t help adding to his fortune, but he’s a loner since the death of his wife.

He appears to have adored her, though she seemed to have enjoyed making him both uneasy about their relationship and jealous of her antics.

Luke’s father was estranged from his family, who disowned him when he married Luke’s mother and left the family’s choice of a bride at the altar.

Family members, also millionaires, are now having business problems due to the age and failing health of Justine, Luke’s grandmother, and the apparent dishonesty of an employee.

None of the other grandchildren has the financial acumen to take the reins of their business, and it appears that Luke is the family’s last hope.

Katy Wade, Justine’s assistant, pleads with Luke to help, but he refuses. He is intrigued by Katy, however, and later agrees to straighten out the problems in exchange for the family’s most lucrative restaurant business.

In between sniping at one another in the manner Krentz has made so entertaining in her books, the two of them fall in love.

It’s trite and over-done, and filled witj a lot of plot devices that should make it unreadable, but somehow Krentz makes it work.

She’s still one of my favorite light-romance writers.

The Last Second

By Catherine Coulter

Gallery Books

$27.99, hardcover

I’ve had lots of nice things to say about Catherine Coulter’s novels in years past, but I found this one extremely disappointing.

This time she’s delving into interplanetary travel and aliens from some other planet, and while I stayed with it for about half of the book, I gave up near the end.

She provides a wealth of problems and dangers for the main characters. Examples include a Russian astronaut bent on revenge for mostly imagined slights to the threat posed by space junk, as well as a nuclear holocaust.

It all seemed to me to be so over-the-top that I just couldn’t waste any more time on it, but having invested so much already, I decided to break my own rule and tell you why I felt that way.

Coulter has done much better in the past, so I know she’s capable of a better effort.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or 1mbjones@nnewwave.com.

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