The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker (Pamela Dorman hardcover, 1 August 2013).
The heft of this book made me put off reading it for a few months, but I finally picked it up last week, and I'm so glad I did.
It's the story of Ph.D. candidate Nora Fischer, whose dissertation on John Donne has become bogged down by lack of enthusiasm (on her part). Her adviser has more or less dumped her, and her boyfriend has completely dumped her.
In an effort to get her mind off her troubles, Nora goes away for the weekend, to a friend's wedding. Going for a solitary morning hike, she stumbles upon a huge estate, owned by a beautiful woman named Ilissa, who invites her to a party that evening. Ilissa gives her a "makeover" and Nora finds herself transformed from a boring doctoral student into a beautiful socialite who charms everyone she meets.
But the glamorous life eventually turns into the pit of despair, Nora realizes that she must escape in order to survive, and discovers that it will be harder to return to her real life than she ever imagined.
This book completely drew me in, and although it's too long to be read in one sitting, I hardly put it down for a couple of days. She's a pretty realistic 21st Century woman, who's been raised to believe she can "have it all" and discovering how difficult that really is to achieve.
Fans of Deborah Harkness' All Souls books, and City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte, will love this book!'
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to The Penguin Group for the Advance Reading Copy.