As I mentioned in the Kindle deals post – the series is on offer at the moment – and it turns out it’s because the new one is out on the 29th, so this Friday I’m taking the opportunity to remind you about the series as well as give you a quick review of the new one – as far as I’m able without spoilers!
You can get the full lowdown in my series post here from June, but the quick set up is that these are late Edwardian/early 1910s murder mystery novels featuring an eccentric widow (but not as old as you think when you see widow!) with a mysterious past and her maid who start solving mysteries after they move to the countryside and stumble upon a body. As the series goes on, extra strands get added and the core group of character widens, but they’re basically pre-World War One historical cozy crime stories.
In the new book, number nine in the series, we’ve reached 1911 and our intrepid duo are at the theatre celebrating Lady Hardcastle’s birthday when murder victim is discovered on stage at the start of the second half. Of course they’re soon investigating and trying to discover what’s going on behind the scenes of the theatre company that could have led to murder. I read it across about 24 hours and really enjoyed it – it was just the break from the day to day that I needed this week. I don’t think you need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy it, although if you have it will obviously work better for you. And as the rest of the series is on Kindle Unlimited at the moment, you can try the series in the next few days ahead of this coming out if you want to.
I got my copy from NetGalley – hence why I’m able to review it a few days before publication – but it looks like it’s going into KU when it comes out as well, so it may just be on Kindle to start with at least. And I’m never sure where this series lands in ease of getting hold of hard copy terms – there is a paperback listed of this new one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them in the flesh. I will try and remember to check Foyles next time I’m in there though! And if you want more books set in theatres, I have a whole post of those for you too!
The latest of these came out last week and as I recently binge read the three books I thought it would be a good time to make a post about them.
So the premise – as the series name suggests – is that the (late) Queen subtly helps solve some murders that have occurred in her vicinity. Set a few years back – when she was in her early 90s, she uses her assistant Rozie to do the investigating she can’t do. In the first in the series, The Windsor Knot, the victim is an overnight guest at Windsor and it’s a bit of a closed group sort of thing. In the second, our the victim is a staff member, found dead by the side of the Buckingham Palace swimming pools. And in the third it’s the brother of a neighbouring aristo to the Sandringham estate.
I think the first book and the third book are stronger than the second, but given that I binge read the series I can’t say that the issues with the second book put me off. For me these work best when the problems they are solving seem the most organic – I can’t quite work out why but the second book felt much more contrived and complicated than the first one – and the third one, for all that the third is out and about all over Norfolk.
But they are all easy to read, with nice details about the royal residences involved (there really is a swimming pool at Buckingham palace – who knew?!) and enough real bits and bobs about the Queen’s life and family to feel like the person you think you know through the media. I did wonder what would happen now that Elizabeth II has died, but they are set in the mid 2010s and at the end of book three it says there is a fourth book coming so there will be one more at least, and I will be looking out for it.
As I said earlier, the new book is out now in hardback – in fact as I write this Amazon has the hardback as a Black Friday deal. I do think you need to read them in order though – but the good news is that the first in the series is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so if you’re a member you can read it for free. The second one has a different title in the US – so be careful of that because it’s easy to think it might be a fourth one you haven’t spotted, but the actual fourth one isn’t out until early 2024. But if you’ve enjoyed things like the Royal Spyness series, this might be the contemporary cozy crime equivalent you have been looking for.
Am I starting a new series strand? Maybe. I nearly called this retro crime series, but I didn’t want to limit myself too much. Anyway, I have a couple of crime series in mind for this – stuff that is a little older, but not Golden Age old. And these have got a gorgeous reissue recently – which is what first brought them to my attention.
Nanette Hayes is a saxophone-playing street busker, whose mum thinks she has a proper job. At the start of the first book, her boyfriend breaks up with her and a fellow busker she invites to sleep on her couch ends up murdered in her kitchen. The dead man was an undercover cop – and Nanette ends up doing some investigating of her own to try and make sure she doesn’t end up being blamed. In the second book she’s in Paris, trying to track down her missing aunt and in the third and final novel she finds herself investigating the murder of a woman who made a voodoo doll that Nanette is given by a friend.
This are just incredibly stylish and evocative. Nanette is strutting her way through a jazz infused world where seedy peril is always lurking on the periphery. There’s just something about her that makes you want to read about her, even when she’s being foolhardy or stupid. The books are relatively short, but they pack a lot in. The mysteries are good but Nanette is the star.
I picked the first of these up a couple of months back after seeing them looking gorgeous in Foyles – and I went back for the other two because I enjoyed it so much. Nanette’s New York (and Paris) are so cool that I’m annoyed that there aren’t more of them to read. But the three there are are worth it – and you could probably read them all back to back in one weekend if you wanted, which is a treat in itself
You might need to order these in, but as I said the Big Foyles had all three of these in stock so you might get lucky. I have no clue what the original UK release was like – but I don’t recall having seen these in a second hand book store. Doesn’t mean they don’t turn up though.
Now it’s not been that long since Acting Up was Book of the Week, so I wouldn’t normally be writing about the series so soon but, and this is a big but, they are all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment (Adele Buck says for the next few months) so I’m writing about them now!
These are a series of connected romance novels about actors and acting related people. I’ve already written plenty about Acting Up, but Method Acting features a character you only see through emails in that, Alicia, who is performing in a Shakespeare play in Washington when she meets political lobbyist Colin, Acting Lessons is about James and Frederick who we first see having a summer fling in Acting Up and Fast Acting is Kathleen who we met in Method Acting working with Alicia and Russell the law professor who is friends with Colin.
I read them all in order – you’ll see that I binged three in a week – but you could just pick out your favourite trope and start with that – Acting Up is friends to lovers/secret crush, Method acting is bad first impression, Acting Lessons is second chance and Fast Acting is destination wedding Fling that turns into something more. They have fun banter and nice acting and backstage details. I also really enjoyed that Method Acting was set in Washington because it mentioned a bunch of places that I visited when I was there (how is it four years ago!) and I love that sort of thing.
They were a bargain when I picked them up – but they’re even more of a bargain now if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member. Now that does mean that they’re not on other platforms at the moment, but they will be back there are the KU exclusivity is up. Meanwhile, if you’ve already read all of these, Adele’s new book Handy For You – which is the second in her All for You series – came out this week too.
As it’s been a week of Girls Own content, lest carry it on with another classic children’s series – this time an adventure one for boys and girls.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the series, they follow a group of children going on outdoor adventures during the school holidays. There are three families – the Walkers (the Swallows), the Blacketts (the Amazons) and the Callums (the Ds) – who appear in various configurations across the series, but the opening books (which are my favourites) mostly centre on the Walkers and the Blacketts who start off as rivals but become friends. Sailing is often involved – and many of the books are set in and around the Lake District in the North West of England.
I first encountered the Swallows and the Amazons when my Year 3 teacher read the first book out loud to our class and I carried on reading most (if not all) of the rest of the series by borrowing them from my local library. What’s not to love about a group of children going off to camp on an island and sail around a lake all summer long. There’s “pirates” and actual crime and it’s just wonderful. Let’s be honest, which child didn’t wish they’d had a grown-up free holiday or two, or been allowed to roam around without supervision for days on end – I think it’s one of the reasons why Secret Island was one of my favourites of the Enid Blyton series when I was little.
I should say at this point that I am not by any means an outdoors person. We never went camping when I was a child, so when I was first reading these the idea sounded fun – I think I “camped” on the floor of my bedroom for a few weeks after reading the first book, but I was not a big walker or hiker. I also suffered from travel sickness so being on a boat of any size was always pretty awful, but I loved the books – and still continue to enjoy them whenever I get a chance for a re-read. There’s something about children with a secret code between themselves and who go on what are basically quests that just really appeals. Also you learn a lot about various countryside-y things from the mid 20th century – most of what I know about charcoal smoking and dowsing for water comes from this series – which of course means I’m hopelessly out of date, but I didn’t know that at the time.
There are a couple of books in the series that get a bit weird – and as with a lot of books of similar era, there are some bits that haven’t aged well. I probably should have had a reread before I posted this – but I remember that I found Missee Lee very weird when I read it when I was about 10. And I don’t own all of them – I have some from when I was little and I’m picking the others up as I see nice copies at sensible prices. But I do own the first two on audio book and have listened to their fairly regularly. I treated myself to Pigeon Post (my other childhood fave) the other week and it’s next on my to listen list.
The first book has been turned into a film twice – it’s been a while since I saw the original film, but I remember it as being fairly true to the actual plot. I have seen the most recent one has had a fair few alterations to the plot – and not just the fact that they renamed the unfortunate to modern ears Titty. I’ll leave you to judge for yourself from the trailers!
Anyway, delightful outdoors fun, even if pemmican – real or fake – sounds disgusting!
Back with a historical mystery series this first Friday in August, and we’re in my sweet spot for mysteries again: between the wars!
Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman, who when we meet her in 1932 is somewhat regretting her marriage, five years earlier, to a handsome playboy called Milo. When her former fiancé asks for her help, she joins him in a trip to a hotel where someone soon turns up dead. And of course when her ex-fiancé is arrested for the murder, Amory starts to investigate. And then her husband arrives. You get the idea.
It’s a little bit of a spoiler to say that Amory and Milo’s relationship survives the first book, but their somewhat dysfunctional relationship is one of the threads running through the first couple of books. I actually found myself liking the series more as they went along – there is a lot of setting up and characters to introduce in book one which makes it a little busy! But if you like Royal Spyness, then you should try these – Amory is not royal but there’s definitely some similarities between Georgie and Darcy and Amory and Milo.
There are seven books in the series – which I think might be all we’re going to get, as there hasn’t been a new one since 2020, and Ashley Weaver has started a new series. But as the first two are in Kindle Unlimited at the moment, it’s not a bad time to check the series out.
Happy Friday everyone. Here I am with another Friday series post about a historical mystery series, although as there are only three books so far, it’s more of a trilogy…
So T P Fielden’s three Guy Harford books follow an artist who is reluctantly drawn into the orbit of the Royal Family during World War Two. Guy finds himself in London after an Incident in Tangier. Officially he’s employed by the Foreign Office, but in reality he’s mostly doing the bidding of Buckingham Palace. Across the course of the three books, he solves murders and travels at home and abroad as he tries to find the killers.
Now there are several series that do something similar to this – royal-adjacent Second World War mysteries – but what makes these particularly interesting is that T P Fielden is the pen name of Christopher Wilson, who is a noted royal biographer and commentator. Now admittedly most of his books focus on the more modern royals, but the serial about the household make these something a bit different. And he also wrote the 1950s-set Miss Dimont mysteries which I have also really enjoyed.
There are only three of these so far, but we haven’t yet reached the end of the war, so there may still be more. I think I got the first of these as a Kindle First Reads pick, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment, so if you’re a subscriber you can read them very easily. And if you like them, you have the option of Miss Dimont to follow on with!
The new Lady Hardcastle book came out last week and I’ve just finished it so it seems like an ideal week to feature the series here!
These are Edwardian-set mysteries, following the widowed Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid. Lady Emily is in her forties and spent most of her marriage abroad with her husband who was in the diplomatic service. She moved to the countryside with the faithful Florence hoping for a quiet life – but they keep stumbling across murders! The books are written in the first person from Florence’s point of view and this gives you a fun perspective on the somewhat eccentric and very headstrong Emily. As you go through the series you discover more about what the two women got up to abroad, which explains why they’re good at solving murders. And the core duo get some regular assistants as the books go on too.
The duo live in the Gloucestershire and their village and the surrounding area provides the settings for the various murders so that it doesn’t seem like the Edwardian version of Midsummer! The series are fun, lightly comic, easy to read, very bingeable and the Edwardian setting makes a change from the various Victorian and 1920s series that are more common.
With the latest release, there are eight books in the series, with a ninth already planned for the autumn. As you can see from the picture, I own a couple and then they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so perfect for a binge. And if you’re not in KU, they are somewhat of a bargain at the moment: books one and two are 99p (or free in Kindle Unlimited) A Quiet Life in the Country is the first and In the Market for Murderis the second.
Yes I know I’ve already done a whole post of books on offer this week, but I spotted this one after I’d written the June Discounts post– and it inspired me to write a whole post. And yes, Villiers got a mention in the Reformed Rakes Recommendsday, but the rest of the series weren’t as good value at that point or I’d have done them a post of their own before this!
These are Georgian-set romances – which is an earlier and naughtier time than the Regency. In Georgette Heyer terms, we’re Masqueraders and These Old Shades sort of times, in fashion (as you can see from the cover pix) it’s bodices to the actual waist rather than the Empire-lines of Bridgerton. Kiera Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice rather than Jennifer Ehle. In trope terms we’ve got a several already married couples among the duchesses with a variety of issues, as well as a cross dressing plot, so some of my favourite things. And then there is Villiers – as previously mentioned, the rake of rakes who gets his book at the end of the series when you’ve had time to watch him develop.T
These were written in the late 2000s – and the first four got a UK release, making them on of the first series I discovered when rampaging through my local library in search of more books like Julia Quinn. So if you’ve read the Bridgerton books after watching the Netflix series, these were written around the same time and gave the same sort levels of heat. There were six books in the initial Desperate Duchesses series, but there’s a spin off Desperate Duchesses By Numbers that Amazon and Kindle count as the same series but is a second generation so if you like them, there are 9 to binge on – and if you read the first six, you’ll figure out whose second generation it is and who you’ll get to see again. I think the later ones are slightly more steamy, but still fairly restrained by the levels you see in contemporary romance novels written at the same sort of time.
Hilariously you can chart the progress of historical romance availability by looking at how I consumed this series: I read the first four from the library, I own three in the American step back editions – the final two because they weren’t available in the UK in paperback or on kindle and Duchess by a Night because it was my favourite of the first four and I wanted to read it again and had moved away from the library service who had copies. And when I ordered it, the copy that turned up was the US version not the UK one. And then I have the Desperate Duchesses by Numbers on the kindle because that had changes by the time they came out!
Anyway, if you want to start a binge, Desperate Duchesses – aka the first book in the series is on offer for 99p on Kindle and the rest of the early books in the series are also quite cheap right now.
Today is day two of the bumper bank holiday weekend here in the UK to mark the Platinum Jubilee. I wanted to write a post about a royal related series today to tie in, so I’m going back in history for Philippa Gregory’s historical novels about the Tudor Royals and adjacent families.
Now this is a complicated series to write about because although they are lumped now together on Philippa Gregory’s website, on Goodreads and on Amazon as the Plantagenet and Tudor novels, they used to be two listed as two distinct series – the Tudor Court and The Cousins’ War. And I agreed with that because the Cousin’s War books have magic in them and the Tudor Court does not which to me suggests that they can’t really be seen as being in the same timeline. And the order that they were written is not at all the chronological order either. The magic issue is also one of the reasons why I haven’t read all of them – after the magic in The White Queen I didn’t fancy doing the others in that part of the series. The other is that as the series has gone on we’ve got into some of the figures where I know it ends badly (as in beheadings) and as we know I’m not always in the mood for that. I’d also not really appreciated exactly how many of them there are now – because I have been ignoring the potentially magic including newer titles…
So really I suppose I’m writing about the first five to be published: The Other Boleyn Girl, the Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, the Constant Princess and the Boleyn Inheritance which cover (in the order I’ve given the titles) Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall, the changing fortunes of Henry VIII’s two daughters during the decade from the late 1540s to the late 1550s, Robert Dudley’s time as favourite of Elizabeth I, Catherine of Aragon’s time in England and the fourth and fifth marriages of Henry VIII. From this you can see that they are not exactly chronological – and have now ended up being (again in the order I gave the titles at the start of this paragraph) books 9, 12, 13, 6 and 10 in the amalgamated Plantagnet and Tudor series! There is a sixth book from this phase in Philippa Gregory’s career – The Other Queen, about Bess of Hardwick and Mary, Queen of Scots – which I haven’t read, but writing this post has reminded me that I would like to!
Anyway, I first read the Other Boleyn Girl back when I was at university and borrowed it off my sister in the holidays. I have a vivid memory of buying the Airport Paperback edition of The Virgin’s Lover at Stansted on my way to Tours during my year abroad and can see it now sitting on the bookshelf in my room in halls there. The others were bought either by my sister of me and we shared our copies between us – which probably explains why I don’t have any of them in my house anymore. I reread the Virgin’s Lover a few times during my time in Tours – because I didn’t have many books in English and buying more was expensive – and reread the others too at the time but I haven’t read any of them for a while.
Of course this means I’m not quite sure how they stand up these days, but I remember them as fun historical romps which were accurate enough in terms of the time line of things happening, but took a lot of liberties with what the actual people got up to. If you went to school in Britain, it would be nearly impossible not to know the vague outline of events – because as Greg Jenner says in Ask a Historian we have a national obsession with the Tudors. But even knowing what happens, it’s still a really good read to get there – and the books often focus on side characters whose stories intersects with the Big Figures rather than the figures themselves which means you can still hope for a happy ending (for Mary Boleyn in the Other Boleyn Girl for example) or for comeuppance (for Jane Boleyn for example!) as well as trying to work out where the liberties are being taken with the timeline and historical fact if you’re a history student!
I have two of the later books sitting unread on my kindle because they’ve been Kindle Daily Deals at some point – although I think little sister has read them – and once I get my new library card, I will look at filling in some more of the gaps in the Tudor section of the series without the risk of buying (more?) books with magic in them that I will give up on! You should be able to get hold of any of these very easily – Philippa Gregory is in practically every bookshop, they’re also often in the second hand and charity bookshops and they’re on all the ebook platforms too. They’ve been through several editions – the covers I have in the photo for the post are the current Kindle ones, which are totally different to the ones my old paperbacks had and there are several different styles that I’ve seen in the shops too.
Happy Friday everyone – whether it’s day two of the four day Jubilee weekend or the eve of the Whit weekend or just a normal Friday!