cozy crime, Recommendsday

Reccomendsday: Cozy Crime

Following on from my own summer holiday reading post, I thought I’d drop a few more posts over the next few weeks which might provide some other suggestions for reading for your summer holidays.  Today I’m looking at some cozy crime series that might make for binge reading on the sunlounger!

Campbell and Carter series by Anne Granger

Cover of Mud, Muck and Dead Things

Jess Campbell and Ian Carter are two British police detectives in the Gloucestershire countryside.  Over the course of the books that I’ve read they’ve investigated mysterious bodies found in houses, after a house fire and a long dead cold case murder.   At their best, I can read them in practically one sitting.  They’re an British-style cozy crime, police procedural hybrid.  I was a big fan of Anne Granger’s Mitchell and Markby series, when I read them in the dim and distant pre-blog days.  I still recommend them – but they’re older and harder to find.  This series however is still going – and the latest book features the return of Mitchell and Markby as an added bonus.

The Tj Jensen series by Kathi Daley

Cover of Pumpkins in Paradise

Tj helps run her family resort alongside her career as a high school teacher and she just seems to keep getting involved in murder investigations.  The latest one is just edging too close to my rules about meddling where people shouldn’t be, but for the most part I’ve really enjoyed them.  If you fancy some small town cozy crime with a setting that’s not a cupcake bakery or a bookshop, this might be the one for you.  This a series from Henery Press – who I’ve mentioned here before and whose older/longer running series I find to be consistently quite readable.  I’m not such a big fan of all of the more recent ones though. I made one of these my BotW back in April 2018, and I’ve read most of the rest of the series since.

The Zoe Chambers series by Annette Dashofy

Cover of Circle of Influence

Zoe’s a paramedic and part-time assistant coroner and a serious horse rider.  When we meet her in the first book, a corpse has been found in a car and she’s in a race to find out who does it as a blizzard sets in.  As the series goes on, romantic entanglements form as she investigates drug deaths, a possible case of elder abuse, tries to clear a suspected wife kille and faces numerous threats to her beloved horses and the space at the ranch she rents.  I’ve read four books in the (currently) seven novel series, and like the set up and the characters although sometimes the Zoe can border on the foolhardy/willfully blind.  This is another Henery Press series, but I will say that they are consistently darker than most of their stablemates (see what I did with the horse joke there?!)

This post has actually been a long time in the writing because I wanted to recommend more series than just three.  I read a lot of cozy crime – but not a lot of them are actually good enough for me to want to recommend – or if they’re in series, I like to have read a few of the series before I’m prepared to recommend them to people.  And of course some of the other good ones have already made it on to the blog – as BotWs – like Death by DumplingAunty Lee’s Deadly Delights, and Lowcountry Bonfire, or as series I love posts like Charles Paris. And of course you can check out previous Cozy Crime Roundups: from 2017, 2016, and 2014.

I’ve got a bunch of cozies waiting to be read – including two more in the Maggie Sefton series (I’ve read one, quite liked it, but see above for wanting to have read a fair sample before recommending a whole series), the second Noodle House mystery, the second Auntie Poldi mystery and first in series from a couple of new-to-me authors including Bree Baker and Shami Flint.

No specific links to books to purchase today – but you should be able to get hold of all (or most) of these by ordering from your local independent bookseller or Foyles or Waterstones or similar as well as on Kindle or Kobo.

Happy Reading!

 

Authors I love, Recommendsday, romance

Recomendsday: Diverse romance edition

So, it has been A Week in Romancelandia.  The shortlist for RITA Golden Heart awards came out and it was incredibly white for the umpteenth time in a row and everyone (me included) is angry about it.  And as discussion about it raged on Twitter, it turned out that a whole load of black authors have just given up entering their work (you have to enter it yourself and pay a fee to be considered) because no black author has ever won one. Never. Not one.  And only seven of 20 categories have had a winner who isn’t white in 20 years. Twenty. Years.  I’m not a romance writer (I’m a reader) and I’m not American – so I can’t do anything to actually fix the RITAs.  But I can do my bit in book recommendations, because bitching about it on Twitter doesn’t solve anything.

Cover of Mrs Martins Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

Yesterday’s book of the week was Alyssa Cole’s latest novella, Can’t Escape Love, and as mentioned there, her next novel is out in April. Also on my reading list last week was Courtney Milan’s new novella, Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, which came out yesterday, but which I got an advance copy of and is really excellent (two older ladies find love as they persecute a Terrible Nephew). But if you’ve been hanging round romance for any length of time you should already know about them because they’re giants of the genre at this point. So who else?

Well if you’re in the market for more modern royals novels after Alyssa Cole whetted your appetite, then Talia Hibbert’s The Princess Trap might be just what you are looking for.  It was a BotW here last year, and she is pro-lif-ic – with small town contemporaries and paranormal among her series and a lot of choice of tropes.  She also has terrific book covers.  Here’s her website with a list of titles and blurbs so you can find your catnip.  And if you sign up to her mailing list, you get freebies to read too.

Jasmine Guillory reading from The Proposal

Jasmine Guillory was one of the names that people were expecting to see on the RITA list – I know I was because 2018 was a massive year for her.  I really enjoyed her debut, The Wedding Date, and the second in the series, The Proposal, and saw her do a reading from the latter while I was in Washington.  The Wedding Date (fake relationship turns real) is £1.99 on Kindle/Kobo at the moment and The Proposal (a Reese Witherspoon book club pick) is £2.99 on Kindle/Kobo.  Her third book – The Wedding Party – is £1.99 to preorder** on Kindle and Kobo as I write this and is out in July.

If you want a sports romance, I’ve just finished I’ll Catch You (Kindle/Kobo) by Farah Rochon, which has a female sports agent falling head over heels for her first client – a running back with a bad boy image who may not be quite what he seems. It’s a category romance and was over far too quickly for me – I could easily have spent another hundred pages with Payton and Cedric.  It’s the second book in the series (which have had a smart-looking repacking since the edition my library holds) and the first, Huddle With Me Tonight, is £1.56 on Kindle at the moment and just slightly more on Kobo.  I haven’t read it (yet!) but one of her medical romances, Deliver Me, is free at the moment on Kindle and Kobo.

Want a historical romance?  Well Beverley Jenkins is the biggest name in the field – she is a legend of the genre and her historicals come up in every discussion about historical romances featuring non-white characters.  I have a whole load of her books on hold with my library, but if yours doesn’t carry them (the UK not being great for American romances in paperback) then Forbidden is 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment and Breathless and several others are £1.99.  She also writes contemporary romances – her Blessings series is super highly rated – Bring on the Blessings is the first one (Kindle/Kobo) but they’re a bit more expensive.

Away from Ms Bev, Vanessa Riley’s Advertisements for Love series features smart non-white characters in Britain looking for their happily ever afters.  I’ve read the first two – and loved the characters but they weren’t neccesarily my favourite tropes and were a little melodramatic for me .  But I liked them both enough that I have book three waiting on the Kindle because it looks like it is one of my tropes!  The first one is The Bittersweet Bride (£2.84 on Kindle at the moment, also on Kobo but more expensive there) which is a second-chance love story with a secret, the second is The Bashful Bride (Kindle/Kobo) which is a marriage of convenience and the third is The Butterfly Bride (Kindle/Kobo) which looks like a friends to lovers, which is usually totally my catnip.  Her website is here and has details of all her books.

Rebekah Witherspoon writes contemporary erotic romances.  I read her novella So Sweet (Kindle/Kobo) back in 2016 after she gave copies away as part of a sponsorship deal with the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcase, but struggled at the time to get any more of her stories in the UK at a price that was under my kindle price cap.  Sugar Daddy stories aren’t usually my thing, and I’m not a big erotic romance reader, but I enjoyed it a lot – it was more romantic than I was expecting, but so steamy that I blushed too hard to read it in public.  I’m waiting for holds to come in at the library – but have FIT (Kindle/Kobo) waiting for me on my Kindle because it’s £1.99 at the moment.  I just need to find somewhere to blush in peace!  Her website is here.

Asian authors have at least won some prizes at the RITAs – but they’re still way below the representation they should have.  Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient was another book I – and a lot of others – were expecting to see on the list – but she was among the authors who didn’t even enter.

The Kiss Quotient was one of my favourite books of last year – her next book, The Bride Test is out at the start of May, was on my list of most anticipated books of 2019 – and is £1.89 to preorder on Kindle at the moment (Kobo don’t have it listed yet).  From the blurb, The Bride Test is a modern day relationship of convenience with culture clash between a Vietnamese American man and a Vietnamese woman.  He’s got autism and is convinced he doesn’t do feelings, she’s fallen head over heels for him and wants him to love her back – and she’s got a time limit to make it happen.  What is not to love.  I can’t wait.

Suleikha Snyder is an Indian-American and writes small town and Bollywood romances.  I read Tikka Chance on Me in January – and it’s a funny sexy biker gang romance novella.  I’m not usually a biker gang romance girl – but this was *kisses fingers*.  It’s 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment.  And the first in her Bollywood Confidential series, Spice and Smoke, is free (Kindle/Kobo)at the moment and is now waiting on my to-read pile.  You’re welcome.

Cover of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

In not a quite romance books, Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock historical mystery series is awesome – here’s my BotW review of A Study in Scarlet Women – I have book three waiting on the pile, and she’s just finished writing book four.  Thomas also writes romance and YA fantasy – although I haven’t ready any of those from here yet – and English is her second language.

In other Not Romance books – I’ve got an advance copy of The Confessions of Frannie Langton (I’m in the blog tour for it!), which is a historical mystery about a Jamaican maid accused of murdering her employer and his wife in 1826.  I’ve already started reading it and it is shaping up to be good so far.  A debut novel – and Sara Collins was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize while she was writing it.

Hardback copy of The Confessions of Frannie Langton and promotional mini-newspaper

So there you have it.  Go forth and read romance and read diversely.  And I want more recommendations please.  I’m very aware that my list may not be straying too far from the mainstream and people recommended by the authors that I follow on Twitter.  You all know how many books I read a year – and you know I love discovering new authors so give me names.  Just writing this post has had me buying more books – because Ms Bev’s prices are lower than I’ve ever seen them in the UK at the moment.  I’m currently reading An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (the first in her Loyal League Civil War series) and have several Ms Bevs waiting to be read next.

Happy Reading!

*I didn’t realise that so many book awards had an entry fee.  I don’t know how I thought the shortlists were come up with – I guess I naively thought it was going to be the best new books by eligible people/members of the organisation…

**Have I mentioned before that pre-orders are super useful to authors?  They let publishers know how much interest there is in a book – particularly important for own voices authors who often get told that people don’t want to read books like theirs. My only gripe with pre-ordering on Kindle is that the Amazon pre-order price guarantee doesn’t apply.  I think Kobo do do a price guarantee on pre-orders, but I can’t be dealing with another ebook platform – I’m already confused enough with two (apple books, Kindle) and the chances of me buying the same book multiple times are High.

detective, Forgotten books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: The Inspector Richardson series

If you follow my Week in Books posts, you ma have noticed me tearing a streak through Basil Thomson’s Inspector Richardson series earlier in the summer, and I’ve been planning to write about them for a while.  As this is my first week away in the USA, I though now might be a good time to post this – as I’ve no idea how busy I’m going to be – and whether I’ll be able to keep normal service going on here!

The eight books in the Inspector Richardson series follow the titular policeman as he rises through the ranks, from police constable in the first book, into the detective branch and all the way up to the giddy heights of Chief Constable.  They were originally published between 1933 and 1937 – which makes rather a rapid rise for Richardson – and fit nicely into the Golden Age of murder mysteries that I love so much.

These aren’t as complicated in plot terms as some of their contemporaries, but they are fast-paced and very readable.  The first book sees an estranged couple murdered on the same day, later stories feature diplomatic intrigue, the drug trade, a suspicious suicide and smuggling.  As he rises through the ranks, Richardson becomes more of a supervisory figure, but there are some themes that run through the series – and which get pulled together nicely in the final book in the series, A Murder Is Arranged, which I think might be my favourite of all.

What makes these a little bit different from most of the other mysteries of the time that featured a police officer as the detective is that the author, Basil Thomson was a former Assistant Chief Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police and a former head of their CID department.  So the police procedural detail in this is drawn more from real experience from many of its contemporaries.  Martin Edwards has written an introduction for this latest batch of reissues that tells you a little bit about the author and the context of the books at the time – although it doesn’t mention some of the more dubious aspects of his life that are in Thomson’s Wikipedia entry. However as Thomson’s been dead since 1939 I felt ok buying the books because its not as if I’m lining his pockets!

I wouldn’t suggest making these your starting point if you want to dip your toe into the world of inter-war crime novels – but then i find it hard to see beyond Peter Wimsey for that –  but if you’ve exhausted Sayers and Christie, these are easier to get hold of than Margery Allingham can be and are worth a look – along with more well known authors like Josephine Tey and Patricia Wentworth and are more affordable than some of the other more forgotten authors that British Library Crime Classics have been republishing*.

The first book in the series, Richardson’s First Case is available for 99p at time of writing on Kindle and Kobo and the rest of the series are at a similar price point so if you like it, it’s a fairly cheap way of passing a few hours!

Happy Reading

*See BotW posts on The Cornish Coast Murder and The Sussex Downs Murder (both by John Bude), Christopher St John Spriggs’ Death of an Airman and Christmas compilation Silent Nights if you want more on some of these.

book round-ups, non-fiction, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books about Queen Victoria’s dynasty

As you may remember from last year’s post about the History Books on the Keeper Shelf, As a child I had a serious Queen Victoria obsession.  Other children were obsessed with My Little Pony, Lego or Beanie Babies, but I had a thing for the Empress of India.  I could recite all her children’s full names in order.  Where other kids wanted to go to Alton Towers as a treat, I wanted to go to Osborne or Frogmore (and my parents took me to both, bless their hearts).  One of my favourite dressing up games was to be her eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, with my little sister taking on the role of Princess Beatrice.  I think you’re getting an idea of the scale of the problem.  Anyway over time it developed into my love of history and the history degree that I enjoyed so much.  These days I love a good nonfiction history book as well as historical fiction and I’m particularly susceptible to books about Queen Victoria and her family.

Cover of Queen Victorias Matchmaking

Earlier in the year, I read Deborah Cadbury’s Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, which I was hoping would be right up my street as it was billed as an examination of her role in using her granddaughters’ marriages to exert international power and influence.  Sadly for me, it was more a of a group biography of the various grandchildren and what happened to them after her death than an examination of her machinations.  It would make a great introduction to the subject, but if, like me, you already have an interest in the subject, there wasn’t a lot of new information here.  It did get me thinking though about other books that I’ve read around the subject and reminded me to fill in a few gaps and read some books I had on the list and then it spawned this post.  There’s a little bit of cross over from the aforementioned Keeper Shelf post, but there are some new books on the list too. So, if you’ve read Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking and want to know more here, are my suggestions (which I hope would work equally well if you’re just interested in the subject).

If you want to read a group biography about the principal granddaughters, my choice would be Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule, which examines the intertwined lives of the five of the granddaughters who went on to become queens of other European countries and gives you a good jumping off point if you want to find out more.  Spoiler: they don’t all get happy endings.  You’ll probably have come across one of these before – Alexandra, the last Tsarina of Russia.  If you end up with a to find out more about the Romanov’s there’s Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Romanovs, which I’m still working my way through on audiobook.  I’m still only in the nineteenth century and I can vouch for the fact that it’s incredibly gruesome well before you get to the execution in Yekaterinburg.  I listen to it while I’m out running, because it makes me go faster listening to all the terrible ways the Romanov’s found to kill people.

I wrote about Hannah Pakula’s An Uncommon Woman back in that Keeper Shelf post, and if you can get hold of it and want to find out what was going on in Prussia in the second half of the nineteenth century it’s still worth a read and is marginally more cheerful than a book about Kaiser Wilhelm would be.  But only marginally – it’s still a story of what might have been and ominous portents of what is to come.

If you want to find out how Edward VII turned into the Uncle of Europe, but in a light and fun way, Stephen Clarke’s Dirty Bertie shows how the playboy prince turned into a shrewd manoevering diplomat who was able to help keep the peace in Europe during his lifetime, and why it all fell apart after he wasn’t there to hold it together any more.

And if you don’t mind me breaking my own rules about repeating authors too frequently, and want some fiction about one of the granddaughters, there’s Laurie Graham’s The Grand Duchess of Nowhere, about Ducky, aka Princess Victoria Melita, one of the daughters of Prince Alfred – who comes up in passing in Cadbury’s  book, but who actually had a fascinating life, even if she didn’t marry a king.  I reviewed it for Novelicous back in the day, but it’s like having a drink with an indiscreet, drunken elderly auntie.  I still need to find a proper biography of Ducky to find out how much of it is accurate.

Cover of the Grand Duchess of Nowhere

Still sitting on my to read list, hoping that I’ll get to them one day are The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley and Three Emperors by Miranda Carter as we head into the twentieth century.  If you’ve got any more books that I should add to the list, let me know in the comments!

And now for the links.  I got my copy of Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking via NetGalley  but it is out now in hardback and KindleBorn to Rule is harder to get hold of – there’s no Kindle edition and it’s 10 years old – but there are reasonably priced secondhand editions available on Amazon and Abebooks.  Dirty Bertie is available on Kindle and is still in print in paperback so you may be able to find it in an actual bookshop as well as on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

historical, new releases, Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: The Governess Game

Bonus post this week – because the new Tessa Dare book came out yesterday.  I read it back at the start of the month and really, really enjoyed it.  It is the second book in the Girl Meets Duke series and features the romance between one of the friends of the heroine of the first book and a man you saw her run into in that book.  The Duchess Deal was a BotW back in May, and is also well worth reading.

Cover of The Governess Game

Alexandra Mountbatten makes a living by setting clocks in the London houses of the rich.  But when she loses her equipment, she finds herself the governess to two out of control orphans who are in the care of a renowned libertine.  Alexandra knows that what they need is a stable, loving home.  Chase is the heir to a duke and lives by one rule: no attachments.  He won’t settle down and he doesn’t want anyone depending on him.  He knows he’s not to be trusted – all he wants is for his new governess to turn his wards into proper young ladies so that they can find men that they can rely on when they grow up.  And we all know where this is going.  It’s got a grumpy scared to love rakish hero with two children to take care of, a very wary accidental governess who sees the job as her ticket to her own independence and a bit of forced proximity. Bingo, my catnip.

The dialogue is sparky, the characters are great from the hero and heroine, right the way through all the minor characters.  I loved the running joke about the funerals.  You’ll get it when you read it – but if I tell you it’ll spoil it.  Here’s what the author had to say about it on twitter:

And if that doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will.  Anyway, if I had one quibble, it’s that the heroine’s surname is Mountbatten which I *think* originated as one of the invented surnames for some of the British end of the Royal Family when they were Anglicizing things during World War One – in this case the bits of the Battenburg family that married Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter and one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.  It’s also the one that Prince Philip adopted just before he married the then Princess Elizabeth – meaning the current British royal family has the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.  If you’re not a massive nerd like me, it probably won’t bother you, but it made me think of Prince Philip every time it was mentioned.*  I’m sorry if by mentioning it I’ve caused the same issue for you.

My copy came via NetGalley, but The Governess Game is available on Kindle and Kobo and if it’s anything like the Duchess Deal it may pop up in larger supermarket book selections and some of the bigger bookshops when it comes out in paperback in the UK next week.  If not, order it from your local friendly indie.

Happy Reading!

*Oddly not the only romance novel I’ve read recently that has done this.

children's books, Recommendsday, Series I love

Recommendsday: The Sinclair Mysteries

For #Recommendsday this week I wanted to talk about the Sinclair Mysteries – as the final book in the series is out tomorrow (October 5).  Regular readers will be well aware of my love of detective fiction and middle grade novels and Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair mysteries are a great meeting of the two.

In the first book in the series, we meet Sophie and Lily – newly employed to work in Sinclair’s department store which is the biggest thing to happen in Edwardian London since, well, a long time.  Sophie’s father has recently died and she’s having to find her own way in the world.  Lily works in the shop by day and is trying to break through onto the stage at night.  Over the course of the books they gather a gang together and solve crimes, with department store owner Mr Sinclair (think Mr Selfridge) always hovering somewhere in the background.  Starting with the theft of the titular Clockwork Sparrow and moving on to things more dastardly and complicatated.  There is a big bad here, although I can’t say too much about that without giving far to much away.  Suffice it to say that although you can read this on their own, they work best as a series, building to a wonderful climax that pulls all the threads from the previous books together and ties them into a nice neat bow.

If you grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew, then these books may well be for you.  Or for your children if you have them.  I’ve lent (given?) my copy of the first one to Eldest Niece who has been tearing her way through the Famous Five and Secret Seven.  I came to these after reading the first Wells and Wong book – and needing more middle grade mystery in my life and they filled that gap admirably.  I’m sad that the series over – but really looking forward to seeing whatever Katherine Woodfine does next.

You should be able to find these in any bookstore that has a good children’s department, as well as in supermarkets – I got my copy of the first book from Tesco (although I got books 2 and 4 from NetGalley) and I can’t remember where I bought book three.  Anyway, read them in order wherever you buy them from.

Happy Reading!

literary fiction, non-fiction, Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: Quick reviews

As the deadline for Fahrenheit’s #Noirville competition draws ever closer – you’ve only got three days to go people, three days – I’ve been trying to clear the decks a bit so that I’m ready to read the entries.  So I thought I’d mention a few books this Recommendsday that I’ve read recently but haven’t chatted about.  It’s a bit eclectic, but that’s just how I roll and I know you won’t mind!

The Greedy Queen by Annie Gray

Ever wondered what Queen Victoria ate?  Annie Gray has the answers.  As well as looking at what Victoria ate across the course of her reign, it looks at how the kitchens worked, who worked there and who else they were feeding as well as the Queen.  It jumps backwards and forwards  in the timeline a little bit, but I came away feeling like I’d learned a lot about upper class dining in the nineteenth century.  ITV’s TV series Victoria is back on screen at the moment – and although the Victoria in that is very much the young queen, this would still make a nice companion read for people who want to know a bit more about the Queen’s life and her household.

Wise Children by Angela Carter

Meet Nora and Dora Chance – former musical all stars, illegitimate twin daughters of a pillar of the theatrical establishment – on their 75th birthday, which by coincidence is also their father’s 100th birthday.  Join them as Dora tells you the story of their lives before they head to the (televised) party.  This is a whirling, magical realist journey through the world of the theatre – legitimate and otherwise – full of Shakespeare references and sets of twins galore.  I found it enjoyably bonkers although it took a little while before I got my head around it all – there is a big old cast of characters here – and I’m still thinking about it a couple of weeks later.

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

You may remember me raving about the Little Bookshope of Lonely Hearts last year – and now it has a sequel.  The good news is that this is not the sort of sequel that breaks up the couple that you’ve invested so much in in the first book and then getting them back together.  This sees one of the other girls who works in the bookshop get her happily ever after.  I always find it slightly weird to read books where the main character has my name, but I liked Verity Love so much that I got over that quite quickly.  This Verity is an Austen mad introvert, who invents a boyfriend to keep her friends off her back and then ends up with a real life fake boyfriend.  I had a few issues with Johnny’s back story – and insufficient grovelling at the end – but was mostly swept away by this – I do love a relationship of convenience story.

Right, that’s your lot for now, but I hope there’s something in here that’s tickled your fancy and might help you fill a reading gap while I’m off reading all those Noirville entries.

Happy Reading!