Recommendsday

May Quick Reviews

It’s the first day of June – but it’s also a Wednesday so it’s time for some more quick reviews. This is a somewhat shorter post than usual this month (who knew that was even possible) because I’ve already talked about so many of the books that I read that weren’t rereads. But I have still managed to find some books to talk about! However I would say this is very much a post of books where I have a but in my thoughts about them!

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley

So this was one I started when I was working on the British Library Crime Classic post and didn’t get finished in time because I got distracted by rereading Vicky Bliss! Anyway, this is another Roger Sheringham mystery (the next in the series after Murder in the Basement in fact) and is quite hard to write about without giving more spoilers than I should. Roger is attending a fancy dress house party where the theme is murderers when the horrible wife of one of the other guests is found murdered. Berkeley enjoyed playing with the genre and genre conventions – and if in Body in the Basement you spent a lot of the book trying to find out who the body is, in this he is playing with another aspect of the genre. I didn’t find it entirely satisfying and it’s not quite playing fair with the rules of the time either and that’s about all I can say – but if you read it you’ll probably be able to work out what my issues are. Aside from the spoilers issues, I’m not sure that Berkeley really liked women, but there are quite a few like that from his era so that’s not entirely unexpected.

Set on You by Amy Lea*

I read this in an incredibly busy week of new books so this got skipped at the time because I didn’t love it the way that I loved Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting or Book Lovers. Crystal is a successful curvy fitness influencer, Scott is her gym nemesis. But when her grandmother announces she’s getting remarried, it turns out that Scott is about to be part of the family. In the run up to the wedding the two grow closer, until the internet threatens to tear them apart. This is a romantic comedy where I liked the characters and I liked some aspects of the way their romance unfolded – but the start of the novel where they’re irritating each other didn’t work for me – and some of the resolution of it didn’t work for me either. But we know I have issues with pranks in novels (see previous reviews for some of the early Christina Laurens) but in between there was flirty, romantic fun with a main character who has more going on that just the romance, and a hero who is just about adorable once you find out what he is really like. Also I really liked the extended families. I will definitely watch out for more from Amy Lea.

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor*

I also just wanted to give a mention to Hotel Magnifique – which was not for me but I’m sure will suit other people. Jani and her sister get jobs at the magical Hotel Magnifique because Jani thinks it’s the way to a better future for them and an adventure as it moves from place to place each day. But behind the doors of the hotel, things are not what they seem and soon Jani is fighting to free herself, her sister and the other staff from the Magic. I was hoping for something similar to the Night Circus but YA and although it starts like that, it’s not how it carries on. I found the heroine quite hard to like, the magic is hard to understand and it all gets a bit brutal. The closest I can get for a description is the closest I can get is Dystopian YA Magic. And that’s still not quite right. I see some people comparing it to Caravel but it’s hard to tell without having read that. This has reminded me thatI really do need to try and read Caravel…

And that’s your lot. It’s a bank holiday here tomorrow, but you’ll get your stats as usual.

mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: More British Library Crime Classics!

One of the consequences of the Great Steam Scald of Sunday was reading some more of British Library Crime Classics while I couldn’t hold a paperback. Of course as soon as I could I abandoned them in favour of Attack and Decay. But I’ve been planning this post for a while and I’ve now finished the other books I wanted to review so here we are!

Post after Post-Morton by E C R Lorac

When a member of a family of writers dies, it is initially thought to be a suicide – until her brother receives a letter from the deceased, which had got delayed in the post. He calls in Superintendent Macdonald to find out the truth behind his sister’s death. I’ve reviewed a couple of Lorax’s books here before (These Names Make Clues, Murder by Matchlight and Murder in the Mill Race as well as Crossed Skis under one of her other pen names ), and this one is right up there. It has plenty of twists and turns as Macdonald tries to prove whether it was murder or suicide.

The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude

Fancy a murder carried out with a bow and arrow? Read this! There’s no shortage of suspects either as several residents of the titular square are keen archers and the murdered man is very unpopular. Solving this is Superintendent Meredith (last seen on this blog in The Lake District Murder) helping out a friend while on holiday. The setting is part of the charm of this – you can really picture the houses clustered around the square and their residents and their resentments and jealousies.

Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards

This is one of the BLCC’s themed collections – all of the stories here have a nautical theme. There are a bunch of names in this who I have read full length novels from, but by a miracle not any of the other three authors in this post! There is also a huge range of styles of mystery – the authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, Christopher St John Sprigg, Edmund Crispin, Michael Innes and more. They also tend towards the shorter end so if you don’t like one it’s over quickly!

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr

A blazing body is seen running around in the battlement of Castle Skull near Koblenz – but who did it. The castle is a maze of passages and awash with legends and stories of magic and ghosts. There is a small pool of suspects, and two detectives competing to solve figure it all out. This is the least Verity of all of these – but I include it because although it’s not precisely my thing, it is a good creepy, chillery, thrillery mystery. Atmospheric is probably the word.

All of these were in Kindle Unlimited when I read them, so if you keep a list of books to borrow from that, otherwise the British Library shop is doing Three for Two on the paperback versions.

Enjoy

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Set in Boarding schools

Long time readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for Girls Own books – particularly those set in boarding schools. I’m fairly sure that I would have hated boarding school in reality but I love reading about them – particularly the ones set in the first half of the twentieth century. A result of this is that I do love an adult book set in a boarding school and showing the other side of things. So for recommendsday today, here are some adult books set in schools of various types.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Let’s start with a classic murder mystery. An exclusive girls school is thrown into chaos when an unpopular games mistress is found shot dead in the sports pavilion. This is a Hercule Poirot novel, but he actually only appears very late on in this – which has school politics and international espionage among the options for the motive for the murder. I remember first reading this as an early teenager – around the same time as I was reading all the Girls Own books and being sort of horrified at the idea of a murder at a boarding school. It’s a much later Poirot novel – for all that I didn’t realise that when I first read it and the TV version of it is really quite different because it had to be moved back to the 1930s. Worth’s look if you’ve never read it.

Poison for Teacher by Nancy Spain

It’s only a few weeks since I picked Death Goes on Skis for a Book of the Week, so it’s perhaps a bit naughty to be picking Nancy Spain again, but I think if anything I liked this even more. Miriam and Natasha find themselves undercover at a boarding school to try to work out who is trying to put the school out of business. But while they are there, a teacher is poisoned and it all gets complicated. This has awful children, horrible teachers, seething rivalries – professional and personal – and a staff play that causes nothing but trouble. It’s really, really funny.

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

Also funny, but without any murders is Angela Thirkell ’s Summer Half, which I still think is one of the funniest of all of her Barsetshire books. It has a serious teacher getting himself engaged to featherbrained girl who is clearly going to cause him nothing but problems and everyone in the book is hoping that he’ll some how manage to escape. Schools – and teaching – has changed a lot since this was written but it’s all still recognisable.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Let’s jump forward to the more recent past. Preplis about a scholarship student at a fancy New England Boarding school. Yes, I wanted to smack some sense into Lee for at least the second half of the book, possibly longer but that may have been because I could see some of the elements of my own character in her – the ones that I try hardest to overcome and she’s making no effort to do so, (or because she doesn’t try and make the most of the opportunity that she made for herself) But this did feel like a very realistic and truthful portrait of what life in a modern (ish) co-ed boarding school might have been like – in the time immediately before computers and mobile communication took over. This was Sittenfeld’s debut, and although I’ve enjoyed other books of hers more (the first or hers I read was Eligible, I’ve read almost all of her backlist and buy the new stuff as it comes out) but if you haven’t read it it’s worth a look.

I recently read Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English – which is about a scholarship girl at an English country boarding school – which wasn’t for me, but I think others will like it- my problems was around not liking any of the characters enough to go with them while they made stupid decisions all over the place! And to finish I’m going to throw a few mentions in to stuff I’ve written about recently that also fits in here: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, which sees our heroine stuck in a boarding school in Canada. And then there is Murder in the basement which was a BotW six months ago, and so I can’t really write about at length again – yet!

Happy Wednesday!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Lost Heirs part 2

Here is the second part of my Recommendsday selections featuring lost heirs – inspired by An Impossible Imposter! Today we’re looking at romance novels!

So we have two basic types of Lost Heirs in romance – potentially fake to steal something away and ones the family didn’t know about or tried to get rid of. The latter tend to be the heroes of the story, the former the baddies. As is often the case, let’s start with Georgette Heyer. She has a lot of tropes – but in this case only really the hero type of lost heir. Hugo in The Unknown Ajax is an heir that the rest of the family didn’t know about – his grandfather had ignored his existence until the deaths of the people between Hugo and the title. This is one of my favourites – because Hugo has hidden depths, the secondary characters are delightful and there are smugglers.

Julia Quinn has a pair of books dealing with both sides of a lost heir problem – The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I Presume. The first is the story of a highway man who discovers he may be the long lost heir to a dukedom. The second is the story of the man who thought he was the heir but discovers that he may not be. I remember these as being not quite as steamy as her Bridgerton series but I may be misremembering because it has been a while!

The clue is in the title with KJ Charles’s An Unsuitable Heir – in which a private equity agent is sent to find the missing heir to a title and finds him in a circus. This is the third in a trilogy of longer than novellas but not really quite as long as a novels and has the conclusion to an overarching storyline so maybe if you’re going to read it do the lot. They’re all connected but with different couples and different LGTBQ identities and relationships in Victorian London. Definitely not closed door.

I’m honestly sure I’ve forgotten some – I feel like I’ve read loads over the years but I couldn’t think of any more. I even went back on a magical deep dive of goodreads to try and find them. If it comes to me, there will be a part three!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Lost Heirs part 1

Inspired by the latest Veronica Speedwell, today’s Recommendsday is books featuring lost heirs. They’re a staple of the mystery and romance genres, which as you know are two of my favourites, so I’m splitting the recommendations up and I’ve still had to restrain myself!

And this week we’re starting with mystery novels – where lost heir plots tend to revolve around whether a mysterious or reappeared person is who they say they are or if they are a fake. It’s a think that actually happened in history – Perkin Warbeck for example – but I’m mystery novels it’s usually an inheritance rather than a crown that the possible pretender is about to come into. It’s not a plot you can really do in the age of DNA, or at least it requires some creativity. So let’s start with a Golden Age Classic – Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar. In it a man called Brat Farrar appears and claims to be Patrick Ashby, the eldest son of the Ashby family who disappeared when he was 13 and thought to have drowned. He knows Patrick’s mannerisms and the story of his early life and it seems like he may pull it off, until secrets start to emerge…

Sweet Danger is my favourite of all the Albert Campion books (I think), and I listen to the audiobook or read it at least once a the year. In it Albert is trying to find the lost heir to a tiny Balkan principality and meets the family who claim they’re the rightful heirs. There’s also a ruthless crime Lord, witchcraft and the start of a romantic strand in the series – which I promise is not the main reason I like it! It’s actually a really good adventure caper as well as a mystery – and there’s no actual murder. You could also probably make a case that Agatha Christie’s Nemesis is a lost heir book in a way as well – as the mystery that Miss Marple is trying to solve is whether a a deceased millionaire’s son murdered a young woman or not – the son in question having disappeared.

Most historical mystery series will do a lost heir – or variation thereon at some point. In the Phryne Fisher series it happens fairly early on in the series – within the first half dozen in fact – and as the blurb is a little bit cryptic about it I shall be too, but you can probably work it out. The Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series has one relatively early on too – Justice Hall – the sixth in the series but really to appreciate it you need to have read the previous book O Jerusalem too, and they work really well back to back. In the Daisy Dalrymple books it happens much later in the series – Heirs of the Body is the 21st mystery (out of 23) and the whole plot revolves around finding which of four options is the heir to the viscountcy in Daisy’s family.

I’m fairly sure there are more of them that I’ve forgotten about – I’ve been mulling it over before I fall asleep at night and I’m fairly sure I haven’t remembered all the options I came up with, but that’s always the way with things that come to you as you drop off to sleep! But as I said, I have another post planned, and even if it’s meant to be all romances, I can always throw a mystery in if I remember something amazing…

Happy Wednesday

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Time Travel-y books

After Friday’s Series I Love post about The Chronicles of St Marys, this week’s Recommendsday is on Time travel-y books – so called because it is a little bit more of a if you like x then try y post, as there are not a lot of directly similar books out there!

I’m going to start with time travel-y caper comedies and I have two for you. Firstly there’s To Say Nothing Of the Dog by Connie Willis. This was a book of the week five (!) years ago and back then I mentioned that you should read it if you like the Chronicles of St Marys – so I’m delighted to see that past me and present me are so consistent! This features a time traveller called Ned with a bad case of Time Lag (like jet lag but with time) who is sent to the nineteenth century to recover from the demands of an American Benefactor, but can’t remember what the job is that he was sent to do there. As an added bonus there’s stacks of Golden Age Crime references – my Goodreads review sums it up as: Time travel + history + humour + Peter Wimsey references galore = right up Verity’s street.

Then there’s the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. They’ve had a Series I love post before, but it was nearly two years ago, so it’s just about within the rules. Thursday’s not so much travelling through time as travelling through literature, but as she’s trying to stop people from changing literature, it’s a similar sort of feel to St Marys in a way. And it’s very, very funny. Although the fact that the Victorian-era Crimean War hasn’t ended in Thursday’s alternate reality 1986 feels a bit different in 2022 than it did when I first read then in 2013! Another one to start at the beginning – which is The Eyre Affair.

Moving on to less comedy, and less time travel-y but still moving through time is How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Our hero in this, Tom, has lived for an insanely long amount of time – we see him at various points in history from Elizabethan era Britain to Jazz Age Paris to his currently life as a history teacher in modern day London. The most important thing is that he can’t fall in love. Except of course he does. I read this 5 years ago and really enjoyed it – writing this has made me think that I should go for a reread – or maybe read the other Matt Haig book I have sitting on the tbr shelf.

Now is the point where I should mention Terry Pratchett. You’re aware of my love for him, but actually Thief of Time is one of the Discworld books that it’s been ages since I read, which is nice because writing this post has started me on a reread. Or rather listen because I’ve gone for the audiobook this time. Anyway this one has Death, Death’s granddaughter Susan, the History Monks, an attempt to build the world’s most accurate clock which will actually cause the end of the world and more. Enjoy!

I’m going to finish with some children’s stuff – because there’s loads of time travel or messing with time in kids books. Firstly Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, which features a little boy who hears the clock strike thirteen one night while he’s staying at his aunt and uncles. When he gets up to see what’s happening he discovers that the back door now leads to the garden as it was in the 1880s – and it all goes from there. Then there’s A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – which is is an adventure story about children looking for their parents that happens to involve other planets and alien-y beings – I liked it, but I know some people have issues with this in the same way that they have issues with the Narnia books if you know what I mean. And then not so much time travel as ghosts is the Green Knowe series by Lucy M Boston, which are about an old house that the same family has lived in for centuries and the different people who have lived there who appear to the present day children of the house as spirits. I’ve not explained that very well, but I loved the first one in the series particularly when I was a kid. I reread that first one a few years ago and it still held up – I have them all on the shelf downstairs, I really should get around to rereading them all…

Anyway, happy Wednesday everyone!

Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: People who end up marrying the person they’re trying to save someone else from

Long title I know, but all the shorter versions didn’t really cut it! Two weeks ago for Recommendsday we had Reformed Rakes in honour of Anthony Bridgerton. Today’s post is in honour of Kate – who in the book is 26 and on the shelf, but in the TV series is putting her younger sister first. So I went looking for historical romances with characters who are unmarried and trying to save someone important to them from marrying someone they think is unsuitable (and end up marrying the unsuitable person themselves) Before I get to my suggestions, I’ve read a lot of articles with reaction to the Sharma family in series two Bridgerton and what it means for South Asian representation – among them this one from Bustle and this from Glamour. Well worth a look. Anyway, to the books!

And it turns out it’s actually really hard to find heroines who aren’t desperate to jump off the shelf and who are saving someone from their heroes. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park – after all, I’ve read a lot of romances over the years. But I’ve put in proper time on this and unless I’m missing some super obvious options – or my search strings are out – it’s a tougher ask than I thought! I can find plenty of spinsters who want one night to find out what passion is (but aren’t expecting it to go beyond that), or who enter marriages of convenience because it’s the least bad option and then fall in love. But not a lot of Kates. But maybe that’s why the Bridgerton series are special?

In The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, Sir John Hartlebury is definitely not a spinster but he is uninterested in marriage and High Society – so KJ Charles’s novel is actually quite close – Hart is trying to rescue his niece from dashing fortune hunter Robin Loxleigh, but ends up falling for Robin himself. There’s a slight Pretty Woman type situation that ends up going on, but handled well and without many of the pitfalls of that sort of thing.

The Georgette Heyers that are closest are probably Black Sheep or Lady of Quality – the key difference from The Viscount Who Loved me being neither of them end up marrying the man they’re trying to save their relation from. In Black Sheep our heroine, Abigail, is busy saving her niece from a fortune hunter when she falls in love with the fortune hunter’s uncle – just returned from India having made a packet. In Lady of Quality, Annis rescues a runaway heiress and falls in love with the heiress’s guardian. Ok so they’re not quite the same, but it’s closer than some of the other options – Frederica is trying to get her sister a dashing match and ends up falling for the cousin who has agreed to help them (rather than stopping her sister from marrying him), Hester in Sprig Muslin is an older heroine who is not expecting to marry, but she’s not trying to save anyone from Gareth – in fact she turns down his first proposal because although she (secretly) loves him, he doesn’t love her and Mary in Devil’s Cub is not so much determined to not to marry as doesn’t like the options she’s got, and although she does marry her sister’s original beau, he wasn’t planning on marrying her sister just absconding with her (Vidal, such a dastardly rake until he falls in love. Ahem).

In other slightly tenuous options, you could also probably count Alexa Tarabotti, the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate is a confirmed spinster at the start of the series in Soulless – but she’s not looking or trying to save anyone. Ditto Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank – whose age ends up being quietly reduced once it’s clear it’s gong to be a series and we’re going to keep going through til Ramses is an adult… Phyrne Fisher is also determinedly unmarried, but it doesn’t stop her from having as many boyfriends as she wants, so it really doesn’t count for this purpose!

And there you have it. An awful lot of work on my part, for not a huge amount of results. Tell me all the books that do this that I’ve forgotten about – or that I should have read – in the comments!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March Quick reviews

Another month, another batch of mini reviews. I’ve already written about so many books this month, I was almost surprised that I had anything left to write about, and yet here are three more…

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomons

Ari is a weather presenter at a Seattle TV station. Russell is one of the station’s sport reporters. Both of them are being driven mad by their bosses. Ari wants Torrence – the station’s star meterologist – to give her more mentoring but Torrence is too distracted by fighting with her ex husband – the station’s news director Seth. Russell wants off the college sports beat and onto pro sports, but Seth is paying too much attention to his fight with his exwife to take him seriously. After a disastrous Christmas party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to try and get Torrence and Seth back together. But over the course of their plan, the two of them end up spending a lot of time together too… I liked this a lot more than I liked the first book in the series – for some reason the romance in this just clicked for me. Ari and Russell make a great couple and each of them have valid reasons for avoiding relationships, but they work through them like sensible people (for the most part) rather than having dramatic Big Misunderstandings all the time. I also loved the fact that it had a Jewish hero and heroine – which is something I’d like to read more of! Lots of fun – would probably have been BotW if I hadn’t read Better Luck Next Time the same week.

With Love from Rose Bend by Naima Simone*

Owen is a former football player in hiding from the world after the accident that caused him to call time on his career. Leo is hiding from adult relationships by being constantly busy running her family’s business. Leo wants Owen to judge a contest at a town festival – but when she turned up at his house to ask him, she realises he’s the man she has a steamy one night stand with a year ago. And it gets slightly more complicated than that as a fake relationship element is added to the mix too. I’ve mentioned before that I like a sports romance and I also like a competent heroine and this ticked my noses in that front. Lovey weekend afternoon reading!

Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones

Now this is a weird one. I’ve included it here because I think some of you will have seen it on my lists and known exactly why I was reading it – my ongoing interest in weird religious stuff -and wondered why I haven’t written about it’s so now I am and here is your answer: it is brutal. It’s bleak. It’s filled with child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse, neglect. But it’s also not as well written as say Educated and I don’t think the author has really come to terms with what happened to her, so it doesn’t actually really get you anywhere or give you a takeaway at the end. So it ends up just being a lot of really grim abuse without as much breaking away from it as you want/expect/hope.

And that’s the lot – and I know that’s a bit of a downbeat note to end on, but I couldn’t make any other order of the reviews feel any better!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Reformed Rakes

So some of you may already have finished the new series of Bridgerton, which is based on the second book in the series – the Viscount who Loved Me. In case you need a recap, our hero Anthony is a reformed rake and the heroine Kate doesn’t think she’s ever going to get married but is determined to stop him marrying her sister because she doesn’t think he’ll make a good husband. So if you’ve watched the series and want to read something similar I am here for you. And so today we are looking at historical romances with reformed rakes for heroes.

And I’m going to start with the daddy of all rakes (in my eyes at least) the Duke of Villiers from Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series. You don’t need to have read the five previous books in the series, but if you have by the time he gets his own book A Duke of Her Own, you’ve seen him being all rake-y through all the previous books – he’s even got the children to prove it and isn’t hiding them. Which probably explains why his matrimonial options are not huge. But that makes the happy ending (when it comes) even better. When this series originally came out, this one wasn’t initially published in the UK, but I was so keen to find out what happened that I ordered myself a copy from the US. But that’s not a problem now because you can get it on Kindle.

In Sabrina Jeffries The Truth About Lord Stoneville, the hero has been raking it up since the death of his parents but has to reform himself because his grandmother is threatening to disinherit him. The plot involves a fake engagement, an American heroine and a very feisty matriarch. It’s also the first in a series – with all of Stoneville’s siblings also having to get married if they don’t want to lose their inheritance from her.

My first Sarah MacLean book, as I’ve told you many times before, was Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake – and if you’re in the US it’s just come out in a new edition. Lisa Kleypas also has a lot of rake-y heroes – my favourite of them is probably Devil’s Daughter but I know lots of others Love Cold Hearted Rake. In the previous book of the week stakes, there’s also The Governess Game by Tessa Dare. And of course also in the Bridgerton series, is my favourite When He Was Wicked.

Happy Wednesday!

book round-ups, Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: Romances on Ranches!

Now I said in yesterday’s post about Better Luck Next Time that it is not a romance. And I absolutely standby that. But I know that a lot of people who read my blog read romances, so for Recommendsday today here are three books set on ranches that *are* romances!

If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon

A Cinderella retelling with a downtrodden PA and an Oscar winning actor who have a fraught first encounter when she accidentally takes his goody bag – containing his statuette – home with her and then end up at the same wedding at his family ranch. I wanted more comeuppance for the villain of the piece but enjoyed the dancing around about whether Sam and Amanda are just a fling or if they want it to be something more. The first book in this series – A Cowboy to Remember was a BotW just over two years ago and that’s just as much fun – even if it does have an amnesia plotline which is usually something I hate – and there’s a third book in the series that I haven’t read yet, but have on my watch list.

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

I haven’t read a lot of Nora Roberts, but I read Black Hills for the 50 states challenge in 2020. This is a romantic suspense with a long slow build and a resolution that happened a little too quickly for me after the build up. But how often have you heard me complain about romances wrapping up too quickly? Yeah, I know, a lot. When they were kids living on neighbouring ranches, Lil and Coop found the body of a dead hiker. Now they’re adults Lil is running a wildlife reserve and Coop is back in town taking a break from his life as an investigator to look after his grandparents. When pranks on the ranch turn into the killing of a cougar, the two start investigating only to find that the trail leads back to that body from long ago. Can they find the culprit before a killer finds them?

Summer Nights with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews*

This isn’t out until later in the month and it’s *slightly* cheating, because although it is in Crews’ Kittridge Ranch series, our hero Zack is running away from the ranch and rebelling by being the town’s sheriff. The heroine is Janie, a travelling nurse who has come to Cold River to find out more about her family’s past. Zack is suspicious of Jamie’s reasons for being in town and Janie can’t work out why she’s so drawn to the glowering guy who lives across the road. There are charm lessons and a hero who has to come to a reassessment about what he thinks his parents’ relationship is about. Probably the least ranch-y of this group, but worth a look.

NB: these are all contemporaries because historical romances in ranches are Westerns and I just dont really do westerns – and not just because so many of them are mail order bride stories… If you want one though, go read one of Beverly Jenkins’ ones – like Wild Rain.