Spotlight: Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones

If you’ve ever read my previous blogs, you’ll know that my father’s military service during WWII was an early influence on the types of books I like to read.   While in my teens, I began reading about the WWII era and had read books by war correspondent Ernie Pyle.  Later, I moved on to spy novels by John LeCarre, Jack Higgins, and Ken Follett. 

While I was working in the library at the U.S. Naval War College, I noticed a book on the shelves – The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of Romanones.  This was the first book I had come across that was not only written by a woman, but it was also based on her life as an OSS agent!  (The Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency, began during World War II.   I quickly checked out the book and read it.  I loved it so much, I bought my own copy and subsequently purchased the next four books she wrote.  The Spy Wore Red, The Spy Wore Silk, and The Spy Went Dancing are labeled as memoirs; while The Well-Mannered Assassin, although based on Aline’s life, is a novel.  Aline’s last book, published in 2015, The End of an Epoch, is an autobiography of entire life, not just her years involved in espionage. 

My collection of books by Aline, Countess of Romanones

On February 9, 2021, a new book was released by Larry Loftis, The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones (New York: Atria Books, ISBN: 978-1-9821-4386-2).    Loftis compares excerpts from Aline’s books with interviews he conducted, and documents he was able to access from the National Archives and personal manuscripts and papers of other OSS agents.  Loftis found that even though labeled as memoirs, Aline’s tales were highly embellished.  Regardless, she led a fascinating life.  Aline was born in 1923 in Pearl River, New York.  The United States had already entered World War II when she graduated from college.  It was during a dinner party in 1943 that Aline was introduced to Frank Ryan, with whom she discussed her desire to serve her country as her brothers and most males her age were doing.  She didn’t realize it at the time, but Ryan was a member of the OSS, and later became her boss.  She was assigned to work in Madrid, Spain, where she met her future husband, Luis de Figueroa y Perez de Guzman, Count of Quintanilla (and later of Velayos, Romanones).  I won’t tell you everything about her – you’ll have to read these books!  I will tell you that Aline resigned from her work for the U.S. government in 1947.  She continued to live in Spain throughout her life and died in Madrid in 2017 at the age of 94.

For more information about Larry Loftis and his books, please click here: HOME | larry-loftis

If you’d like to read about other women who were involved in espionage during WWII, I recommend the following:

  • Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS by Elizabeth P. McIntosh, May 1998, U.S. Naval Institute Press, ISBN 9781557505989.
  • Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in WWII, by Liza Mundy, October 2017, Hachette Books, ISBN 9780316352536.
  • A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of an American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, March 2019, Viking Press, ISBN 9780349010182.
  • A Guest of the Reich: The Story of an American Heiress and Her Dramatic Captivity and Daring Escape from Nazi Germany by Peter Finn, September 2019, Pantheon Books, ISBN 9781524747336.
  • The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey, coming March 2021 from Lake Union Publishing, ISBN 9781542023559.

Literary destination: London, England

My favorite thrift shop has a large book section I love to browse because I never know what marvels I might stumble across there.  On one recent visit, I found this book by Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004, ISBN 9780792265610.)  I love reading.  I love London.  I love reading books set in London.  Brilliant find!  Some of the authors that inspired Quindlen’s London adventures discussed in this book are, Virginia Woolf, Margery Allingham, Nancy Mitford, John Mortimer, and of course, Charles Dickens.  If you’d like to find out more about Anna Guindlen and her books, please click here:  Anna Quindlen

We took a family trip to London in 2012 and one of the spots we visited in common with Quindlen was Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.  Over 100 English authors/poets are buried or honored here, including Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare.  The first poet buried in Westminster Abbey was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400!  When you visit here, you’ll notice the vaulted ceiling soaring above you, and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful archways, stained glass windows, and statues.  What an amazing way to pay tribute to your national treasures of literature.  Out of all the photos we took while we were there, I can’t find any from Poet’s Corner! If you’d like more information, and to see official photos of Poet’s Corner, please click here:  Poets’ Corner | Westminster Abbey (

While we were in London, I was hoping to see the “home” of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, an address that did not actually exist when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes stories.  Now, that address belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  We were unable to make it there due to several road closures, so I guess I’ll have to plan another trip someday. Would you like to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum on your next trip to London?  Make sure to click here for more information:  Sherlock Holmes Museum – The official home of Sherlock Holmes (  Want to know more about the man behind it all?  You can find information about Doyle here:  Arthur Conan Doyle – Licensing – Official Website of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Family Estate (

My copy of the complete Holmes stories

If you’re planning on going to Baker Street when you visit London, and you’ll be traveling with children, you may want to visit Paddington Station while you’re in the general area.  Why?  Do you remember Paddington Bear?  In the 1950s, Michael Bond bought a stuffed bear for his wife, which they named Paddington since they lived near Paddington Station.  Bond began to write stories about this bear, and in 1958 A Bear Called Paddington was published.  A statue of the bear was commissioned by Bond and was unveiled in its new home in Paddington Station in February 2000.  If you’d like to find out more about Bond and his famous bear, click here:  Paddington

The first Paddington Bear book

If you’re continuing on your adventure with your children (or even without), south of Paddington Station is Kensington Garden.  While you’re strolling in the park and taking in the lovely views, you may come across the statue of Peter Pan, made famous by author JM Barrie.  Peter first made his appearance in the 1902 adult novel, The Little White Bird or Adventures in Kensington Garden.  Peter then made his way to Neverland in the 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.  The statue has had its home in the Garden since 1912.  If you’d like more information on Kensington Garden, please click here: The Peter Pan Statue – Kensington Gardens – The Royal Parks.  For more information on JM Barrie, you can click here: The Largest Archive & Database of Scottish writerJ M Barrie

Photo credit:

There is another stop I should mention.  Book lovers young and old would enjoy a visit to the British Library.  Not only does this magnificent structure maintain holdings of global historic and cultural significance, but it also contains a library of over 300,000 volumes.  That’s a lot of books!!  What’s even better?  You don’t have to wait until the end of the pandemic to visit – you can visit virtually!  Please click here for more information:  How to explore the British Museum from home – The British Museum Blog. And while you’re in the area, continue on to the British Library. You’ll find originals of the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in their holdings. To find out more about the British Library’s online exhibits and more, please click here: Online exhibitions – The British Library (

I hope you’ll find some points of interest here and will begin planning your own literary journey to London.

(Photo credit for picture of map in title box : London AZ Street Atlas)


Branch Out and Find Some Great Genealogy Reads

As a young girl, I had no concept of the world outside of my family and my community.  History, to me, was all about listening to family stories and looking at old family photos.  And I loved doing both.  (Yes, those are some of my real family photos in the title box.) As an adult, I took that love of family and world history, and did research in order to reconstruct the branches on my family tree.  I loved to watch the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.  It’s no wonder that this interest in family and history has spilled over into what I read.

I’m always looking for inspiration in writing the blogs for this website.  I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of Jacqueline Winspear’s This Time Next Year We’ll Be Laughing, which is due to be released November 2020 from Soho Press, Inc. (ISBN: 978-1-64129-269-6).  Winspear’s memoir details three generations of her family, starting with her grandparents during World War I and spanning through her early adulthood.   Some of the things her family members experienced influenced Winspear’s characters and events in her Maisie Dobbs series.  (Truly fantastic reads!)  I love that Winspear wrote: “We are, all of us, products of our family mythology.  Stories are not only passed down, but nestled in every cell.” (Page 6).  This, coupled with two other books that I read recently, served as inspiration for this month’s blog post.  If you’d like to know more about Jaqueline Winspear and her work, please visit

One of those recently read books is It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs (ISBN 978-1-4767-3449-1). This book was released by Simon & Schuster in November 2017.  It’s a funny and heartwarming telling of how and why Jacobs decided to host the world’s largest family reunion.  I’ve tried to plan events with just my siblings and it’s always quite the process!  I can’t imagine planning an event for several thousand people.  Jacobs also explores what “family” means to different people and learns more about himself in the process.  To find out more about A.J. Jacobs and his books, you can go to

The other of those recently read books is in the fiction category.  If you follow The Book Adventurer on Facebook, you will have seen my posts about Lineage Most Lethal by S.C. Perkins, released in July 2020 by Minatour Books (ISBN 978-1-250-75007-5).  This is Perkins’ second book in the Ancestry Detective Mystery series, which is set in Austin, Texas and features genealogist Lucy Lancaster.  In Lineage, Lucy is working on a presentation for her client when she encounters a man who gives her a Montblanc pen and tells her to “keep them safe”.  The man dies shortly after the encounter.  While trying to discover who this man is and unravel the mystery behind his cryptic message, Lucy discovers ties to her own family history.  Although the story take places in the present, the mystery involves some World War II intrigue, another of my favorite things to read about.  If you’re interested in Perkins’ series, you can visit her website –

After writing the information above, I got to thinking about some of the other books that I read that may not deal with genealogy per se, but that tie into the theme of family lineage.  A group of historical fiction books immediately popped into my head.  You may have seen one of my many Facebook posts about books by Beatriz Williams.  I’ve previously blogged about All the Ways We Said Goodbye, a book she co-wrote with Karen White and Lauren Willig.  (See Intrigue at the Hotel Ritz Paris from Feb 2020.)  I am a huge fan of her work and I own all of her books.  Her books take place during different time periods and in different settings, but they are interconnected because they all deal with members of the same family – the Schuylers.  In fact, Williams has created a family tree for these characters so that you’ll be able to see how they’re related and in which books you’ll find them. Most of her books can be read as stand alones, but I recommend starting with her first book, Overseas from Penguin Random House, May 2013, ISBN 978-0-425-26126-2. To find out more about Williams’ books and the Schulyer family tree, please go to


Cozy Mysteries: How to Have Fun with (Fictional) Murder

One December a few years ago, I was sitting in an examination room at my doctor’s office, waiting for my doctor.  While I was waiting, I was reading a Christmas themed cozy mystery.  My doctor entered the room, looked at my book and said, “A Christmas murder mystery?  Isn’t that a little morbid?”  I told her no, and it was actually a little bit funny.  She just looked at me incredulously for a few seconds before getting down to medical business.

What are cozy mysteries, and how does one have fun with them?  Cozy mysteries are a gentler form of the mystery genre.  Sort of like a PG movie, if you will.  They don’t contain graphic scenes of sex or violence, and usually don’t contain foul language.    They often are set in small towns and the protagonist becomes an amateur detective.  Often you will also find an element of humor in them, which is why so many of them have punny titles.  Please don’t misunderstand, though.  The basis of an exceptional cozy is still a great mystery and great writing.  In addition to an expertly spun tale, many authors add recipes or craft ideas to their books. Here are just a few examples of authors who have found a way to go beyond the story and connect with their readers on another level.

One author I admire for her writing skills as well as her sense of entertainment and fun is Ellie Alexander.  Alexander is currently writing The Bakeshop Mysteries (setting is self-explanatory) and the Sloan Krause Mysteries, which are set in a brew pub.  She always has amazing recipes at the end of her books.  Don’t just stop with reading Alexander’s books, though.  Be sure to check out her website –, and follow her on her Facebook page as she posts lots of videos with cooking and baking tips (my favorite humus recipe ever comes from Alexander; see below) and holds virtual chats with other authors.  Alexander is also collaborating with her fans and has written A Brunch with Death based on The Bakeshop Mysteries and is in a current collaboration with them based on The Sloan Krauss Mysteries.    Her latest release is Nothing Bundt Trouble, published in June 2020 by St. Martin’s Paperback, ISBN  978-1250214362).  Coming the end of September 2020 will be the release of Beyond a Reasonable Stout from Minatour, ISBN 978-1250766106.

I’ve written in my previous blog entry about author Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Mysteries, and that I enjoy learning about bookbinding and restoration from her main character, Brooklyn Wainright.  Carlisle also writes The Fixer Upper Mysteries, a series that the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel has turned into movies starring Jewel.  Like many cozy authors, Carlisle lists recipes in the back of her books.  If you want more fun, visit her website’s “secret room” at  She has puzzles, recipes, crafts, and more.  Carlisle’s latest Bibliophile Mystery release was in June 2020 from Berkley is The Grim Reader, ISBN 978-0451491435.  Coming in December 2020 will be the release of Premeditated Mortar (Fixer Upper Mystery) from Penguin.

Another one of my favorite authors is Jenn McKinlay.  In a September 2, 2020 interview by 3TV’s Good Morning in Phoenix, AZ, McKinlay describes her mystery writing as “I Love Lucy/Agatha Christie mash ups”.  She writes several series in different genres, including the Library Lovers Mystery Series.  Lindsey Norris, the main character in these books, is Briar Creek’s library director.  A group meets every week at the library for “crafternoon”, which is a book club discussion with food and crafts.  At the end of each Library Lovers book, you’ll find the featured craft from that meeting, along with recipes for the foods described in the story. The newest book in this series, One for the Books, released September 2020 from Berkley (ISBN 978-0593101742).  McKinlay also wrote The Decoupage Mysteries, a three-book series under the pen name of Lucy Lawrence.  This older series, also published by Berkley, contains decoupage projects in the back of the book.  For more information about McKinlay’s books, go to her website

Daryl Wood Gerber (a/k/a Avery Ames) writes several mystery series as well.  Her latest release from Kensington in July 2020 is A Sprinkling of Murder, ISBN 978-1-4967-2634-6.  This book is a first in her new Fairy Garden Mystery series.  Recipes are included at the end of the book, but if you go to Gerber’s website, enter the Savor the Mystery Club section and you’ll find information on making your own fairy garden, recipes, puzzles, etc.  Although I haven’t started on my fairy garden yet, I recently added these items to my library.  (Ok, I gnome is not a fairy, but come on!  He’s reading a book! I couldn’t resist.) 

These are just a few examples of ways to go beyond the story and enjoy your cozy mystery.  If you haven’t explored this genre yet, I hope this post will inspire you to start your cozy mystery adventure.


Books on Books: Thoughts on Book Collecting

I started out my reading life as a serious bookworm in pigtails, who spent a lot of time at her public library.  Over the past many years, this bookworm has turned into a serious bibliophile. Is it enough for me to read and collect books? No!  I also read and collect books about books.  Exhibit A – some of the non-fiction books from my collection to prove my point.  In a previous blog, I wrote about my book buying philosophy.  My recent reading of Rare Books Uncovered by Rebecca Rego Barry (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0-7603-6157-3)) has inspired me to share my thoughts and books on book collecting.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

I will admit to purchasing one of those books pictured above by accident.  I bought ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-884718-41-0), when I really meant to buy ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter.  Please don’t judge me – mistakes happen!  Although I still have not purchased Carter’s book, all is not lost regarding Greenfield’s book.  I find book binding fascinating even though I won’t be putting any knowledge from this book into practice.  This fascination has spilled over into my fiction reading.  Kate Carlisle writes the Bibliophile Mystery series, which is a favorite of mine.  In this series, Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and restorer, who always finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery.  In each book, Brooklyn describes to us a book she is restoring – it’s like a mini course on bookbinding!  In June 2020, book #14 in the series, The Grim Reader, was released.  For more information on Carlisle’s books, click here:

As you can see from the picture above, I not only enjoy my book collection, I also like to see other people’s collections and how they arrange and display their books.  I guess I like to look at books as well as to read them!  If you walk into my home, you cannot avoid seeing my library as it is the first room in the front of the house.  I try to be mindful about not getting too cluttered with my stacks of books on the shelves, tables, and book carts.  Do I have any thoughts on style?  In general, I say do what you like and what works for you.  Several years ago, someone told me I had too many books on my shelves.  GASP!!  She said I needed to arrange them more artistically…maybe get rid of some of the books on the shelves and add some artwork to break up the look. Clearly, she did not understand that my bookshelves are not for decorating – they are for books!  (I will admit to placing a few book inspired gifts in front of my books, but not in place of them.)

For the most part, my collection is a reading library, therefore nothing fancy.  I have an archival spirit though, so I purchased Care of Fine Books by Jane Greenfield (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-1-60239-078-2) in order to learn how to keep my collection in good condition.  I even have books relating to the public library as I work in one.  I so loved my public library when I was younger that I now own a section of the card catalog removed from it when they transitioned to an online catalog system. 

To round out my collection of books on books, I also have books about book collecting.  If you’re interested in starting out as a book collector, I recommend Modern Book Collecting: A Basic Guide to All Aspects of Book Collecting: What to Collect, Who to Buy from, Auctions, Bibliographies, Care, Fakes, Investments, Donations, Definitions, and More by Robert A. Wilson (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1629147918).  Another good book to read (that I’ve read but do not have in my own collection) if you’re starting out as a book collector is Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books by Ian C. Ellis (New York: Penguin Random House, 2006, ISBN 9780399532382). This book is a little older and as far as I know the 3rd edition is the latest.  I’m hoping that Ellis will come out with a 4th edition soon as an update. 

Anyone interested in books about books should definitely check out those by Nicholas Basbanes, who is the book master in my humble opinion.  Basbanes is a seasoned journalist, critic, and author.  Two of my favorite books written by Basbanes (pictured just above) are:  A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995, ISBN 0-8050-3653-9) and Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2002, ISBN 0-8050-5159-7).  One of the subjects in A Gentle Madness is Stephen Blumberg, who had such a strong desire to collect books that he stole over 23,000 books from libraries in the United States and Canada.  Many of the institutions from which he stole books didn’t even know the books were missing until there was a federal case brought against him!  For more information about Basbanes and his books, click here: