The Devil on Horseback

- by Victoria Holt

The usual Holt equation = headstrong, smart (but penniless) heroine + the brooding could-be-cruel man who annoys her but ends up winning her heart.

The story is set in France, at the outset of the French Revolution. Strong-willed and clever, Minella, is suddenly orphaned when her beloved mother, an English school mistress, dies. She is given the opportunity to move to France, serving in the household of the haughty, arrogant Comte Fontaine Delibes as a companion to his wayward daughter, Margot. However France is on the brink of turmoil, as are Minella's feelings for the master of the house. It's not one of Holt's greatest, but fun brainless fluff nonetheless.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

-by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

Brimming with witticisms and a cast of lovable characters, this epistolary novel is an enjoyable read. One cannot fail to be charmed by the small island cast milling about Guernsey (a small island in the English Channel), who manage to endure the Nazi occupation with their own unique brand of pluck and pertinacity.

Juliet Ashton - a successful English journalist well known for writing a humorous column during the war years - sets out to pen a book now that the war is over. Suffering writers block for a subject, she fortuitously stumbles upon the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - a band of islanders who form an intimate literary club, originally established on the fly as an excuse to conceal contraband food from the occupying soldiers.

Once the society’s members discover Juliet has focused on their club for her novel, it is not long before they start coming out of the woodwork. Sending Juliet letter after letter, they relate their experiences of how their little society helped them cope with the occupation, rallying them together, and often times the amusing predicaments they often found themselves in. But it’s not all silly antics. The grim reality of war casts a shadow on their letters, and gives the reader a window into the lives of those affected by the Nazi occupation.

While the entire premise is enjoyable, and the wit admirable, something in the story fell a little flat. Most of the characters seemed more akin to caricatures, writing with seemingly the same intonation as each other. Still, if you enjoy a good ‘story book’ ending and fun characters, it’s a rollicking - if not fluffy - read.