The best reads about women who are unconventional, gutsy, and problem-solving survivors

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride
By Mahrie G. Reid

Who am I?

In the 50s I was a shy minister’s daughter in small-town Canada. Friends, life skills, coping skills, and career skills were in short supply. My refuge came in books where I found sisterhood, ordinary courage, and life skills. I learned my skills from the heroines who faced trials, solved mysteries, and never gave up. I gravitate to women who persevere, risk, and make their way in life against all odds. Several careers, a family, and decades later these story elements still inform and inspire me. They are what I read and what I write.


I wrote...

The Left-Behind Bride

By Mahrie G. Reid,

Book cover of The Left-Behind Bride

What is my book about?

Maggie Conrad’s husband of ten days is sent overseas in WW1 and never comes home. A second suitor is lost at sea in Nova Scotia’s August Gale. Turning thirty, on her own, and faced with “men’s rules in a man’s world,” Maggie struggles to build her life on her own terms. Rum runners, an undercover policeman, and an interfering sister-in-law complicate her efforts for independence. Can Maggie clear the hurdles, find her path, and be an independent woman in a small rural village in 1929?

The books I picked & why

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Through the Barricades

By Denise Deegan, Aimee Alexander,

Book cover of Through the Barricades

Why this book?

I have a soft spot for women during times of war or adversity. This story spans the early years of the 1900s as Maggie lives her father’s legacy to “make a difference in the world.” She never gives in, or gives up, and contributes to the safety of those around her during the end of the Great War and troubles in Ireland. Setting is a big thing for me, and in this book the location, the surroundings, and the times evoked an understanding of Ireland and the Irish. As with the fictional characters I like most, Maggie is a person I’d love to have as a friend.

Through the Barricades

By Denise Deegan, Aimee Alexander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Barricades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BOOKLIFE ‘BOOKS TO WATCH’

Her country overtaken by a foreign power, Maggie Gilligan signs up to fight for her people's freedom. Daniel Healy, in love with Maggie, joins the enemy - to try to save her.

Falling in love is never easy. At times of war, it's lethal.

Through the Barricades is a story of friends to lovers at a time of war, of two people who are prepared to die: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their conflicting duties put them on opposite sides. Will they and their love survive?

This friends-to-lovers story is inspired by…


The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

By Dorothy Gilman,

Book cover of The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Why this book?

“A little old lady from New Jersey becomes more trouble than the CIA, or anyone else, bargained for.” I loved Mrs. Pollifax from the first few pages and followed her from this introductory book through several books. Who wouldn’t like a sixty-something gardening lady, who knows karate, and manages to join the CIA in the middle of the Cold War? She’s always wanted to be a spy and she does it with panache, humor, and great success. Her adventures, her unique solutions, and her absolute good cheer and survival kept me coming back for more. This first book covers her accidental hiring by the CIA and her first mission gone awry in the 1950s. Everyone I recommend the book to loves Mrs. Pollifax.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

By Dorothy Gilman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mrs Emily Pollifax is a 60-ish widow wanting more from life than teas and garden club meetings. In search of adventure, she decides to offer her services to the CIA - who, after all, would spot a suburban grandmother as a cold war secret agent? - and adventure she finds. Her first assignment, in Mexico City, doesn't sound dangerous until something goes wrong. She suddenly finds herself abducted across the world, embroiled in quite a hot Cold War... and her abductors find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady. Armed with only an open mind and a little karate, Mrs…


Phoebe Fisher

By Victoria Chatham,

Book cover of Phoebe Fisher

Why this book?

I love the heroine in this book. She’s an unconventional young woman with a seemingly insurmountable flaw, or two. Her considerable knowledge about farming and her forthright nature discourages suitors in spite of her hefty dowry. If that were not enough, her eyes are two different colors and more than one person suspects her of being fey. Phoebe acts as if she doesn’t give a toss and lives her life on her own terms. When presented with an unusual solution, she acts and does not look back. I loved Phoebe, her feisty nature, and was reminded by her that there are solutions to the dilemmas in life if one holds a forward-looking attitude. This is a shorter read that left me wanting more. 

Phoebe Fisher

By Victoria Chatham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Phoebe Fisher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Her fortune attracts many suitors, but when they discover Phoebe Fisher’s one notable and outstanding flaw, they depart as quickly as they arrive. Phoebe despairs ever finding someone who will love her just as she is.

Returning to his family home after an absence of ten years, Andrew Fitzgibbon is devastated to find his only relative deceased, the house derelict and the estate almost bankrupt. Without the funds to support it, the title he inherits is worthless. He needs a fortune. Phoebe has one. Reluctant to offer marriage to a young lady simply for her wealth, Andrew finds her intriguing…


Vanishing Act

By Thomas Perry,

Book cover of Vanishing Act

Why this book?

Reading for me is often a temporary escape. There are people who need a permanent escape to avoid harm or death. Want to vanish? Jane Whitefield, member of the Wolf Tribe of the Seneca people, can make it happen. She uses ancient and modern techniques and a few twists she invented herself to spirit people to safety. But no good deed goes unpunished. In this first book in the series, Jane finds she’s the one in a trap and in need of escape. Not all new situations are without problems. An engaging read right to the end and an introduction to the other eight books in the series.

Vanishing Act

By Thomas Perry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Vanishing Act as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A challenging and satisfying thriller . . . [with] many surprising twists.”—The New York Times

Jane Whitefield is a Native American guide who leads people out of the wilderness—not the tree-filled variety but the kind created by enemies who want you dead. She is in the one-woman business of helping the desperate disappear. Thanks to her membership in the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe, she can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities, complete with authentic paperwork. Jane knows all the tricks, ancient and modern; in fact, she has invented several of…


The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

By Theodora Goss,

Book cover of The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

Why this book?

I enjoyed this book. As a writer, I can’t often say that flat out. I get distracted by “writerly” issues. The “what if” premise in this story hooked me and the journey into a fictional word as an extension of other fictional worlds delighted me. Mary Jekyll’s story, her quest to find out who she is and to make her way in a difficult situation, matches my reading tastes. Whatever the flaws in construction, craft, or typos, I read this one immersed in concept and characters. I read to be distracted from a world gone crazy, and I found this a refreshing and entertaining read. Ideal for those who like a gander at the possible extended worlds of fictional characters like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among others.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

By Theodora Goss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on some of literature's horror and science fiction classics, this "tour de force of reclaiming the narrative, executed with impressive wit and insight" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) debut is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders-and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents' death, is curious about the secrets of her father's mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father's former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poverty, intelligence agency, and the economy?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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