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!