Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective

So as I said in yesterday’s Week in Books, I was on holiday last week and spent a good proportion of my time in the very sunny south of France working my way down my to-read pile.  There was a lot of good stuff and you’ll be hearing more about some of the books on the list later, but I really wanted to highlight The Adventures of Maud West Lady Detective as my BotW because it was such tremendous fun, it dovetails so well with my favourite things to read and it came out last week – so I’m timely (for once).

Cover of The Adventures of Maud West

You’ve probably never heard of her, but Maud West ran a detective agency in London for more than thirty years, starting in 1905. No, seriously. This isn’t fiction, this is biography.  In her first book, Susannah Stapleton tries to separate the truth from invention about a real-life lady detective, who was working in London while the golden age of Crime fiction was happening.  And it’s very hard to work out what the truth is.  Maud was a mistress of self promotion, but some of her stories read exactly like the detective stories of the era.  Stapleton takes you through her research and her quest to find out the truth about Maud’s life and her cases.

This has got a Jill Paton Walsh quote attached to the blurb:

If you are susceptible to Miss Marple and Harriet Vane you must read The Adventures of Maud West. You will never know the difference between fact and fiction again.

Which is obviously my catnip.  If you’ve been around here a while, you’ve already pretty much figured out that this is a sweet spot in a Venn diagram of my reading interests – detective fiction and books (fiction and non-fiction) about the first half of the twentieth century and may I please point you in the direction of my posts about Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion, Roderick Alleyn, TV detectives, Phryne Fisher, Daisy Dalrymple, Maisie Dobbs, Dandy Gilver, A Dangerous Crossing,  for the first half of that Venn Diagramme and Old Baggage, Gone with the Windsors, Blitzed, Angela Thirkell, Queen Lucia, my History book keeper shelf non fiction round up, my 500th post for the second. And that list is by no means exhasutive.  I didn’t even start on the children’s books.

Anyway, this totally lives up to that quote – Maud’s life is fascinating, Stapleton is an engaging writer – and you get to see behind the scenes of the process – of how she tracked down the traces Maud has left behind in the historical record.  And that latter bit is almost as fascinating to me as the actual story. As a history grad who did her dissertation research in an undigitised archive in the middle of France it was awesome to see Stapleton using the full power of digital archives to find a life that could otherwise have been lost to history.  It was almost enough to make me miss historical research.  Although as I’m still getting dissertation anxiety dreams more than a decade on, it was quite a fleeting feeling!

I raced through this – starting it on the plane out on Sunday and finished it off in the Riviera sun.  I even rationed my self to read it slower to make it last.  That’s how good it was.  There’s all sorts of period details in here too – I know I’ll be walking down New Oxford Street looking for the spot where her offices used to be. And if that’s not enough to convince you – the research in this book is so fresh, that Maud has only had a Wikipedia page since Sunday – three days after the book was published.  I look forward to seeing what Stapleton does next – and I can only hope that this book does really well and persuades publishers that we need more books like this.  And historians and writers out there – please go and write them.  And if you’ve got any suggestions for books like this that I should read, put them in the comments please.  Pretty please.

I got my copy from NetGalley, but The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective is out now in hardback and should be available in bookstores near you.  I went to look for it in Waterstones in Milton Keynes yesterday* – and one branch had *just* sold their copy and the other was sold out too which is lovely because it means its selling, but means I still haven’t see it in the wild and couldn’t have a closer gander at the pictures.  It’s also on Kindle and Kobo. I’m off to be annoyed that I’m on a late shift tomorrow so can’t go and hear Susanna Stapleton speak at the Kibworth book festival which is only 25 miles from where I live and thus totally doable if only I wasn’t working.** Anyway, I’m off to listen to her interview on Woman’s Hour instead.

Happy reading!

*And no, I didn’t manage to leave Waterstones without buying something – I took home a shiny signed copy of Rukmini Iyer’s new cookbook, the Quick Roasting Tin.

**Irritatingly Ben Aaronovitch is there tonight (as this publishes, not as I write) and I won’t be able to get home from work in time to get to that either. Gah.  I’m not having much luck with author readings at the moment. These are not the first two that have been in my area that I haven’t managed to get to in the last month or two


books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 10 – June 16

I was sunning myself in the south of France all last week, so this is very much a holiday reading list.  I had a fabulous time – and read some really good books, of which more to follow…


Before We Kiss by Susan Mallery

Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver

The Van Apple Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

Fumbled by Alexa Moore

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett


Seduction by Karina Longworth

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

Still reading:

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

And no books bought.  Mostly because our baggage tag got messed up and I spent the whole time we were waiting to leave running around trying to get our mis-tagged suitcase off a flight to Amsterdam and onto our flight to Nice.  Not the most relaxing way to start a holiday…

Bonus photo: Monaco baby!  Here’s the finishing line and pole position marker from the world’s most famous street circuit.  Him Indoors and I are both big motor racing fans, so we walked the circuit as well as stared at the yachts, obscenely expensive cars and designer shops.  Luckily for us they were still dismantling things after this year’s race, so we got a bit of a sense of the whole thing.

Finish line, pole position marker and podium pavillion in Monte Carlo.

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: The Luckiest Lady in London

Back in historical romance for this week’s BotW, which was a tricky week to pick a book from in some ways. It was a short list, but there were some really good books. I binged on the Alisha Rai series because they were really addictive – but the first of those was last week’s choice and I don’t repeat (or not that quickly anyway). I loved the latest Vinyl Detective – but the the four in the series and you ready need to have read the others. Then there was the Susan Mallery – who I’ve definitely already talked about enough. So that leaves The Luckiest Lady in London, which I did enjoy – but which isn’t my favourite Sherry Thomas and its only six months since Study in Scarlet Women was a BotW. But it is a lot of fun and it is a stand-alone choice. And I love Thomas’s writing style. Welcome to my stream of consciousness decision making everyone.

Cover of The Luckiest Lady in London

Ok, to the plot: Felix Rivendale is The Ideal Gentleman, or at least that’s what society believes. After the death of his parents, he made himself into society’s dream man, worth of his title, the Marquess of Wrenworth. He’s been playing the role so long, he can almost believe it is really who he is. But there’s one person who sees through it. Louisa Cantwell can see through the flattery and attention and knows that he shouldn’t be trusted. She has planned and prepared for her season in London because she needs to marry well. Unfortunately no one else can see through Felix and they keep pushing the two of them together. At the end of the season, his is the only proposal and she reluctantly accepts. After all, there’s something between them – but what is it, what game is he playing and can she ever trust him enough to fall in love with him?

Now that is quite a lot of plot. It’s more than I usually give you – but this isn’t a book that ends with a wedding or an engagement. It’s more complicated than that, and to only give you that part of the plot would be to short change you about what this book is really about. It’s playing with historical romance tropes in a way that really works for me. Louisa has a plan for how to catch the husband that she needs – but she’s never portrayed as scheming or deceitful. Felix sees what she’s doing but doesn’t shame her for it – this isn’t an enemies to lovers romance because he ruins her prospects. This is more of a marriage of convenience with a twist. Felix is charming but manipulative and has a lot to learn about being in a relationship and giving up some of his power. I liked him as a hero and I thought his issues were well handled. Having read Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, the feisty smart heroine and her voice are familiar, but the setting is not. I thought it all wrapped up a bit quickly at the end, but that’s a minor quibble really and one I often have with romances.

If you like the Lady Sherlock series (and I like it enough to have the next one preordered even though it’s an American import and really quite expensive for a paperback) then I think you’ll like this. If you’re not into Sherlock Holmes retelling but like smart heroines who aren’t passive, then I think this would be a good book to try.

My copy of The Luckiest Lady in London came from the library, but you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and it’s only £1.99 at time of writing, which is a total bargain. The paperback is slightly harder to get in the UK but it should be manageable if you’re prepared to special order or to buy through Amazon.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 3 – June 9

So it was a bit of a week. Very, very busy at work with the state visit of Donald Trump and really quite tired. So not as much reading as I had hoped. Some good stuff there though.


Wrong To Need You by Alisha Rai

Hurts To Love You by Alisha Rai

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

The Vinyl Detective: Flip Back by Andrew Cartmel

When We Met by Susan Mallery


The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

Before We Kiss by Susan Mallery

Still reading:

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

 Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

No books bought! Hurrah!

Bonus photo: a pile of books lent to my sister by here class of year 5s. I’ve read half of them. I officially have the reading taste of a 10 year old girl!



Book of the Week: Hate To Want You

Back in the contemporary romance world again this week because another of my library holds came in and it was a lot of fun.

Hate To Want You is the first book in Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series and features a second chance, enemies to lovers, family dysfunction sort of thing. Livvy and Nico spend one night together every year. One night where they forget the fact that their families are enemies, the tragedy in their past and the reasons they hide their feelings even from themselves. Then one year Nico doesn’t hear from Livvy. He tries to forget and move on, but then she reappears in town and the two of them have to face up to the issues in their past and work out if they can find a way to be together agains the odds.

Cover of Hate To Want You

I had heard so much about this book, from so many places so it was great to finally read what everyone had been going on about. I liked the characters, I liked the set up and I liked the complicated situation they found themselves in, I just wanted more of it resolved. I liked that they sorted themselves out, and resolved their problems but I wanted more of the wider picture issues sorted too. Luckily, I’m two years behind the curve as usual, so I can go straight on to book two and book three (library loans permitting) and hopefully get the resolution to the other stuff that’s bubbling along here.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this has got great representation – the cast is diverse, they have proper issues that can’t just be “fixed” by love and just in general feel like real, breathing people that you might know, living in a world that you can recognise. It’s a really well put together romance that will keep you turning the pages to find out how Livvy and Nico get to their happily ever after.

My copy came from the library, but you can get your own copy from Kindle and Kobo (for £1.99 at the moment, which it definitely wasn’t when I put the library hold in!) . If you want a paperback and you’re in the UK, it’s going to be a special order, because I don’t think it’s had a UK release. Which is a shame – but it’s possible – Amazon list the mass market paperback (and for a reasonably sensible price). There are three books in the series and you can expect to see the other two popping up on Week in Books lists once I can get my hands on them.

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 27 – June 2

Four nights away from home last week for work and reading time affected accordingly.  But I had a good week, even if it did involve getting up at 4.30am for days in a row.  This week is Donald Trump’s state visit, so I’m expecting work to be super busy and my reading list to reflect my need for nice relaxing reading!


The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett

An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

A Gentleman’s Honour by Stephanie Laurens

Hate To Want You by Alisha Rai

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

Riverdale Season 3: FCBD

Doctor Who: Thirteenth Doctor FCBD

Mrs Pargeter’s Package by Simon Brett


Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

The Vinyl Detective: Flip Back by Andrew Cartmel

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Still reading:

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

One book and one ebook bought.

Bonus photo: the orchestra at Man of La Mancha on Tuesday night. They sounded magnificent.  I had reservations about other bits of the show, but the music and the orchestra playing it was magnificent.

Orchestra playing in an orchestra pit




books, stats

May Stats

New books read this month: 29*

Books from the to-read pile: 11

Ebooks read: 5

NetGalley books read: 3

Library books: 10 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 2

Most read author: KJ Charles and Mary Balogh (2 books each)

Books read in 2019:  170

Books bought: 4 ebooks, 3 books and 4 more pre-ordered

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 593 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

Not a bad month’s reading all in.  Slightly under my usual figure, but there were the two non-fiction books in there which required time and brain power, and it’s been a busy month at work too.  I’m hoping for some time off in June and have a reading list all planned!

Bonus picture: Worthing Pier last weekend in some lovely bank holiday weekend sunshine.

Worthing Pier and the beach

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (5 this month)