March’s Best New Fiction

Bookshelves are heating up this month with a mix of breakneck thrillers, rich historical sagas, barely-there magic, and a domestic drama that digs beneath the surface of a picture-perfect family. Bestselling ladies rule the top of the list again: Danielle Steel returns with her latest, and Maeve Binchy fans are gifted a collection of short stories from the late author, while Tracy Chevalier heads west and Lisa Lutz redefines the phrase “road trip.”

Property of A Noblewoman, by Danielle Steel
Steel’s latest page-turner centers on the contents of a lockbox abandoned at a bank—one filled with lovelorn letters, faded photos, and priceless jewels. The mementos bring together law clerk Jane and fine arts expert Phillip, who together unravel the decades-old story of Marguerite Pearson, who left the United States in the wake of treachery and tragedy.

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Plumb siblings have been waiting for the day the small inheritance their father left them—the “nest,” which has blossomed into a sizable sum—will allow them to hit the reset button on their messy lives. Suburban Melody’s dreading the college debt that comes with teen twins, Jack’s hiding overwhelming loans from his husband, and writer Bea had to return the advance for a novel she just can’t complete. Meanwhile, loose canon Leo is draining the funds to pay the hospital bills for his young girlfriend, who was injured in a car accident he caused while high on cocaine. The dynamics and foibles of family take center stage here, interweaving four characters’ tumultuous journeys to paint a rich picture of domestic drama.

A Few of the Girls: Stories, by Maeve Binchy
Binchy is gone but not forgotten in this collection rounding up some of the prolific Irish writer’s most memorable short stories, unpublished previously in the United States. These will fill the gap for those yearning for more from Maeve. Here, she offers warm, familiar, occasionally devastating takes on the domestic drama, tales of friendships formed and shattered, marriages made and broken, and, of course, time and heartache and regret.

The Summer Before the War: A Novel, by Helen Simonson
The latest from the author of the bestselling Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Summer centers on the pre–World War I English idyll of Rye, a coastal town, where quiet life is disrupted by the arrival of freethinking female Latin teacher Beatrice Nash. An English comedy of manners that unfolds at a languid pace, it becomes something far richer and heavier by the end, delving into class, sexism, and the trials of war on both the community at large and its individual citizens.

At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier
Bestseller Chevalier (Girl With A Pearl Earring) is known for her careful attention to history and detail, and this hardscrabble look at frontier life is no exception. Following the manifest destiny of the Goodenough clan, we land in 1839 Ohio, where ambitious James tries to stake his claim with an orchard of 50 apple trees, and his bitter, alcoholic wife, Sadie, fosters bigger plans for the fruit their efforts bear. The story continues on to follow their son Robert as he strikes out for golden California—but the ties that bind might be too tight to cut loose.

Sisi: Empress on Her Own, by Allison Pataki
Decadent and enthralling, this historical—again, set in pre–World War I Europe—continues the story Pataki started in The Accidental Empress. Here she focuses on a 30something Sisi, Empress of Austria-Hungary, as she flees a crumbling marriage and a world on the brink of war. Life in a gilded cage, indeed.

The Pharos Gate: Griffin & Sabine’s Missing Correspondence, by Nick Bantock
A final companion to Bantock’s bestselling Griffin & Sabine—reissued on its 25th anniversary alongside this release—The Pharos Gate reveals all that we missed in their grand romance, piecing together postcards, letters, and mementos to create a sharp, clear picture of what became of the lovers we first met as they connected over shared art, uncanny insights, and insurmountable distances.

All Things Cease to Appear: A Novel, by Elizabeth Brundage
A dark, tautly woven tale of murder, gentrification, hardship, and hauntings, Brundage’s thriller, set in 1970s America, centers on college professor George Clare, who settles in rural Chosen, NY, with his beautiful wife Catherine and their three-year-old daughter—soon before his wife is murdered. Naturally, he’s the prime suspect, but there’s more to this story than meets the eye, and a careful reader will unravel a delicious payoff.

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz
A joyride of a thriller, bestseller Lutz—author of the hit Spellman Files series and How to Start A Fire—focuses in this standalone on Tanya Dubois, a fugitive on the run after her husband is discovered dead. She crisscrosses the country, assuming new identities and escaping suspicion. When she meets beguiling bartender Blue, they form an uneasy but perhaps necessary alliance. A twisty trip.

What Is Not Yours to Give, by Helen Oyeyemi
In this collection of nine interlocking stories built around the themes of keys and doors, Oyeyemi’s tales explore all things locked—not just doors, but homes, minds, and especially hearts. Magic skims the surface, and many of the stories center on the unlocking of female sexuality in all its forms. These twisted tales have eerie echoes of old familiar tales like Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Pinocchio.

The Return of the Witch, by Paula Brackston
The sequel to Brackston’s bestselling The Witch’s Daughter, Return sees our time-traveling heroine Tegan, now well-versed in the ways of witches worldwide, facing off against the warlock Gideon once again. But when she’s captured, will Elizabeth, the girl she’s adopted as her own, be able to find her? Fast-paced and fun, rich with historical detail and delicious magic.

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