Bookworm: Need more holiday novels?

Hollywood fans, you’ll want to get a lock on ‘Capote’s Women’

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Christmas novels for adults.

Christmas novels for adults

  • c. 2021, various publishers
  • Various prices various page counts

Your wish list to Santa is a little different this year. What you want can’t always be wrapped. You want love, flowers, a quiet evening with someone special, maybe even sparklies and promises. Not the easiest things to get on a sleigh, you have to admit, so maybe you can start with these great Holiday novels.

Charlie is a professional baker with a head injury that she sustained just before a national TV appearance on a cooking show. Her twin, Cass, has just gone through a traumatic break-up that she can’t get over. So why not do what they used to do to cope? They switch places, just a few days before Christmas. In “The Holiday Swap” by Maggie Knox (Putnam), will two very handsome men be able to unravel the tinseled tangle?

Here’s another switch: In “Blame It On the Mistletoe” by Beth Garrod (Sourcebooks Fire), social media maven Elle needs a boost on her site before the New Year arrives. Holly is still smarting from a very embarrassing kerfuffle with her ex and she’s ready for to be anywhere but Great Britain for the holidays. When Elle makes the offer to switch lives, just for the holidays, it seems like a great way for both women to get what they want ... and then some!

Readers who love an old-fashioned novel set in modern times should look for “Christmas by the Book” by Anne Marie Ryan (Putnam), the story of Nora and Simon, who run a bookstore in a British village. But it’s been a struggle, and when Christmas rolls around, they strike upon a great idea that will make the holiday better for their neighbors. It’ll give Nora and Simon the proper feeling of Christmas, but it won’t help the bookstore in the long run ... or will it?

Cat lovers listen up: when Snowball, the furry resident greeter at the Victorian B&B, Weber Haus, goes missing on the first day of the new manager’s tenure, that manager, Sophie, feels awful. She didn’t have to for long, though: Sophie’s coworker, Daniel, comes to the rescue but not without a few attack-cat injuries. Even so, in “The Twelve Days of Snowball” by Kristen McKanagh (Kensington) when kitty claws meets Santa Claus, it can only mean one thing ...

And finally, every Christmas needs a mystery, doesn’t it?

Crime doesn’t stop, even for the holidays, but the Little Detective Agency is in need of help. Still, Detective Bernie Little is feeling kind enough to refer a possible client to fellow detective Victor Klovsky but there’s trouble. Victor goes missing and his mother – understandably distraught – wants Bernie and his K-9 partner, Chet to find him. Of course, there’s more to this caper than meets the, um, snout, and in “It’s a Wonderful Woof” by Spencer Quinn (Forge), it’s not at all ho-ho-wholesome.

If you need more holiday novels – and who doesn’t? – check with your favorite librarian or bookseller. They’ll be able to load up your sleigh and your stocking with excellent books.

Season’s readings!

More:Bookworm Gift Guide 2021: Season’s readings!

“Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for An Era”

  • By Laurence Leamer
  • c. 2021, Putnam
  • $28, $37 Canada; 356 pages

Her lips are locked tight. Your best friend knows all your secrets, and she’s keeping them; you told her things you had to tell somebody, and she’s telling nobody. You always knew you could trust her; if you couldn’t, she wouldn’t be your BFF. But as in the new book “Capote’s Women” by Laurence Leamer, what kind of a friend are you?

For months, Truman Capote had been promising a blockbuster.

Following his success with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, he was “one of the most famous authors in the world” but he needed a career-booster. The novel he was writing, he teased, would be about “his swans,” seven wealthy, fashionable women who quite personified “beauty, taste, and manners.”

“Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for An Era” by Laurence Leamer.

His first swan was Barbara “Babe” Paley, whom he’d met on a trip with the David Selznicks to Jamaica. For Capote, “Babe was the epitome of class,” simply “perfect” in every way; it helped that the famously gay writer was no threat to Paley’s “madly jealous” husband.

Babe’s “dearest friend” was Nancy “Slim” Keith, who quickly learned that if a lady wanted her confidences kept, she didn’t tell Capote anything. She shouldn’t have trusted Babe, either: When Slim left for a European trip, Babe asked if Slim’s husband could accompany Babe’s friend, Pamela Hayward, to a play.

Slim was aware of Pamela’s predatory reputation, but what could she say?

Of course, Pamela, another of Truman’s swans, stole Slim’s man, a scandal that Capote loved.

Gloria Guinness was highly intelligent, possibly enough to be a spy in Nazi Germany. Lucy “C.Z.” Guest was an upper-crust “elitist” with a “magical aura.” Marella Agnelli “was born an Italian princess”; Lee Radziwill, of course, was Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister.

“Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for An Era” author Laurence Leamer.

Through the late 1960s, Capote claimed to be writing his masterpiece, his tour de force based on his swans, but several deadlines passed for it. He was sure Answered Prayers “would turn him once again into the most talked-about author in America.”

Instead, when an excerpt from it was published, his swans got very ruffled feathers.

Every time you stand in line for groceries, the tabloids scream at you with so much drama that you either love it or hate it. Or, in the case of “Capote’s Women,” you cultivate it.

And that’s infinitely fun, as told by author Laurence Leamer.

Happily, though, Leamer doesn’t embellish or disrespect these women or Capote; he tells their tales in order, gently allowing readers’ heads to spin with the wild, globe-hopping goings-on but not to the point that it’s overdone. While most of this book is about these seven beautiful, wealthy, and serially married women – the Kardashians of their time, if you will – Capote is Leamer’s glue, and Truman gets his due, as well.

Readers who devour this book will be sure that the writer would’ve been very happy about that.

“Capote’s Women” should be like catnip to celeb-watchers of a certain age but even if you’re not, find it. If you’re a Hollywood fan, you’ll want to get a lock on it.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.