Another book about Queen Elizabeth I? Yes, but after listening to Elizabeth I, Margaret George’s wholly satisfying historical novel, perfectly performed by Kate Reading, I can only say “hooray!” for this wonderfully crafted portrait of this ever-fascinating woman. A queen of a certain age, Elizabeth has ruled for 30 years and become the accomplished monarch who tells her troops, as the Spanish Armada approaches, “I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king; and a king of England, too.” This is also the Elizabeth who still wants flattery and male attention, who loses Robert Dudley, the love of her life, and succumbs for a time to the charms of his handsome, scheming stepson. As a foil to the Virgin Queen’s first-person narrative, Lettice Knollys—Dudley’s widow, Elizabeth’s cousin and far from virginal—offers her own take on Elizabeth, while plotting the restoration of her family’s fortune. With this richly detailed, deeply imagined story, you’ll be immersed in Elizabethan life as never before and enthralled for all 31 entertaining hours.

What money can and can’t buy is charmingly parsed in Daisy Goodwin’s debut novel, The American Heiress. This audio presentation, narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who moves with effortless authenticity from the haughty Mayfair drawl of the Prince of Wales to the self-important, Southern-tinged cadences of a rich American society matron, is bound to top the list of super-summer-beach-listens. Bundled off to England by her social-climbing mother, Cora Cash, the wealthiest and most beautiful of this year’s crop of New York debutantes, falls off her horse and into the arms of the darkly handsome, darkly moody Duke of Wareham. She’s in search of a title, and he’s in search of deep American pockets to keep Lulworth, his somewhat threadbare ducal manse, worthy. Can a headstrong American girl find love and happiness with an enigmatic aristocrat? Goodwin gives us the answer in this delicious diversion, filled with evocative Gilded Age details and written with stylish flair.

I’m not sure what I wanted to do most when I finished listening to Eric Greitens’ The Heart and the Fist: hug him or clone him. If we had more young men like him, this world would be a better place. Greitens grew up reading about heroes and yearned for both adventure and purpose. A Rhodes Scholar with a focus on humanitarianism, he traveled the Third World, working in orphanages, hospitals and refugee camps, seeing firsthand the horrors that man can do to man. What he saw and what he studied taught him that “without courage, compassion falters, and without compassion, courage has no direction.” He came to believe that the world requires us “to be both good and strong,” that sometimes power must be used to protect the powerless. To that end, he became a Navy SEAL, served in Kenya, Iraq and Afghanistan, then came home and founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps wounded veterans find hope in serving their communities. Greitens reads with the uncommon grace he brings to his uncommon life.

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