A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne FowlerWhat happens: Alva Smith, penniless but pedigreed, sets her sights on William K. Vanderbilt, heir to a railroad fortune. She soon learns that while money may provide security, it can't buy happiness.
Read it for: a richly detailed depiction of high society life during America's Gilded Age.
You might also like: Karen Harper's American Duchess, about William and Alva's daughter Consuelo.
When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera LewisThe problem: In Brownwood, Texas, football is everything. But it's 1944 and most of the town's adult male population is serving overseas, leaving the high school team without a coach.
The solution: Assistant principal Tylene Wilson, a lifelong football fan, volunteers to coach the team -- despite the community's disapproval.
Inspired by: the real Tylene Wilson, who was the first woman to coach high school football in Texas.
The Lost Queen by Signe PikeIntroducing: Chieftain's daughter Languoreth, who longs to become a Wisdom Keeper like her twin brother, Lailoken, but who must instead marry a highborn man and produce heirs.
Based on: Myrddin Wyllt, the probable inspiration for the Merlin of Arthurian legend; the history of the 6th-century Kingdom of Strathclyde (in present-day Scotland).
For fans of: Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.
The Fortunes by Peter Ho DaviesWhat it is: a collection of four interlinked stories that examine the Chinese American experience from the 19th century to the present.
Contains: "Gold," about a mixed-race immigrant from the Pearl River Delta who becomes a railroad baron's valet; "Silver," starring real-life 1930s Hollywood actress Anna May Wong; "Jade," set against the backdrop of 1980s Detroit's struggling auto industry; and "Pearl," about a biracial writer's adoption of a child from China.
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane GilmanWhat it is: an engaging rags-to-riches story that takes readers from the tenements of the Lower East Side to the gilded environs of Manhattan's wealthiest (with stops along the way at Studio 54 and the White House).
Starring: Lillian Dunkle (née Malka Treynovsky), the Russian Jewish immigrant child who, adopted by the Italian ice-peddling Dinello family, grows up to build an ice cream empire.
For fans of: New Yorkers with outsize personalities who narrate their eventful lives, such as the protagonists of Jami Attenberg's Saint Mazie or Kathleen Rooney's Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
Pachinko by Min Jin LeeWhat it is: a sweeping family saga spanning four generations and eight decades, which opens with Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910.
What happens: Pregnant 16-year-old Sunja, spurned by her married lover, reluctantly accepts a marriage proposal from the minister lodging at her family's boarding house. The newlyweds travel to Japan to begin their life together.
For fans of: Alan Brennert's Honolulu, about a Korean American family in Hawaii; Eugenia Kim's The Calligrapher's Daughter, whose protagonist, like Sunja, proves resourceful during troubled times.
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermottWhat it is: award-winning author Alice McDermott's intimate depiction of an Irish American enclave in early 20th-century Brooklyn.
It starts when: an Irish immigrant's suicide results in his pregnant widow's job as laundress for the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor.
You might also like: Matthew Thomas' We Are Not Ourselves or Kathleen Donohoe's Ashes of Fiery Weather, both multigenerational sagas about Irish American families in New York City.
The Practice House by Laura McNealWhat it's about: After a fateful encounter with two Mormon missionaries, 19-year-old Aldine McKenna leaves Scotland and accepts a position as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in drought-stricken Kansas.
Is it for you? An illicit relationship adds drama to a bittersweet and quietly atmospheric tale of a struggling farming community during the Great Depression.
About the author: The Practice House marks the adult debut of author Laura McNeal, best known for her YA fiction.
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