What's better than settling in for a long languorous beach read with a nice fat volume in your favorite genre? Well, settling in for that beach read with a nice, fat, immaculately researched, beautifully written volume that embodies several of your favorite genres all rolled into one. Oakland author Christi Phillips masterfully combines historical romance, mystery, chick lit, and just plain lit. To research her latest novel, 2009's The Devlin Diary — in which a 21st-century historian investigates a 17th-century female doctor with a drug problem and access to Britain's king — Phillips immersed herself in the writings of diarists such as Samuel Pepys and Robert Hooke, fascinated to learn about such supposed remedies as "powdered stag's pizzel" and "the stinking fumes of a burnt horse's hoof." The Devlin Diary is a sequel to 2007's The Rossetti Letter, a wildly popular reading-group sensation in which the same 21st-century historian searches Venice for the long-lost missive with which a gorgeous 17th-century courtesan risked sparking a political coup in which she and her lover would almost surely lose their lives. Phillips' characters in both eras feel fully fleshed enough to pop life-sized straight out of the pages.
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