Some of the Heyer collection
Authors I love, non-fiction, romance, Series I love, The pile

Greatest Hits: My 500th post!

I realised earlier that my next post would be my 500th and it seemed a shame for it to go by without being marked and just be a normal Week in Books. So instead a little bonus post looking at what we’ve discovered in 500 posts…

I think, if we’re being honest we could sum most of my reading up as falling into one of three categories: romance, crime and history. To be honest, sometimes it hits all three…

Romance

Artistically arranged Heyer novels
A selection of my favourites

 

Back in the very early days I wrote about my abiding love of Georgette Heyer so it would be remiss of me not to mention her here (especially as some do hit that trifecta – Masqueraders, Talisman Ring, Unknown Ajax for example) but it’s not just about Regency romances. I already loved Trisha Ashley, but while I’ve been writing the blog I’ve become a massive fan of  Sarah Morgan and Jill Shalvis who both wrote contemporary romances, which a couple of years ago I would have told you that I don’t really read unless they’re romantic comedies. Romantic comedies have become harder to find over the years, but they’re still there if you look hard enough – like Kirsty Greenwood, my old editor at Novelicious who is funny and a little bit rude.*

Crime

Four books
The four books that feature Peter and Harriet

The only way to start this section is with Lord Peter Wimsey. I still love these stories as much as I did when I wrote that post. I still listen to the audiobooks and radio plays with Ian Carmichael monthly. They’re a sure fire way to make me relax at the end of a long day and my favourite of all the Golden Age crime. One of the greatest things about the ebook revolution is the reappearance of some more forgotten classics like Edmund Crispin and a lot of the British Library Crime classics. Another great thing about ebooks are the smaller presses – if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know about my love for Fahrenheit Press because I’ve gone on about it so much over the last 18+ months. And then there’s the cozy crime. My favourites are the ones with a sense of humour – like Meg Langslow and the Royal Spyness series.

History

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham
Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

This is actually quite a broad category – I’m using it to cover straight up nonfiction history books, like The Greedy Queen, and fiction set in the past like Deanna Raybourn and Lauren Willig’s books. A lot of my reading is set in the past in one way or another, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that I’m a history graduate. I’ve learned more about Ancient Egypt and the Victorian rush to excavate it through Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. I tend to stick to books set after 1600, but I do venture back further if something catches my eye. I have a love for the interwar period – non fiction books like Flappers and Queen Bees and novels – like one of my all-time favourites Gone With The Windsors, or mystery series (overlap!) like Daisy Dalrymple and Phryne Fisher, both of which are overdue for new novels too.

 

And all this hadn’t even touched on my love of boarding school stories – new and old – or ballet books, and classic children’s books in general.  Or the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett. Or Gail Carriger’s supernatural world. Or Charlaine Harris’s. Or the Janet Evanovich obsession. And just writing this has made me realise how many great books I’ve read and written about for this blog.

One  of the aims of Verity Reads Books was to try to reduce my to-read pile  I don’t think we can really count that as a success as the pile took up three boxes when it went into storage. But I do think I think more before buying books and NetGalley means I get advance copies of things now, which don’t take up actual space, but obviously mean I have less time to read Books from the pile. But really, there’s no such thing as too many books! Plus I really like writing about what I’ve been reading and chatting to people about what I’ve been reading on various social media platforms, so that’s been a total bonus.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, and here’s to whatever I discover in the next 500 posts!

Happy Reading.

* Kirsty’s Big Sexy Love is 99p on Kindle at the moment and you should totally buy it!

Authors I love, Recommendsday, Series I love

Recommendsday: Comfort Reading

I had an entirely different Recommendsday book planned, but for some reason I’m feeling a bit terrified about the world today, so I thought some of you might appreciate some comfort reading suggestions.  I’m talking books with resolutions, preferably happy endings that don’t deal with nightmarish dystopian futures or imminent doom. I wonder why that’s off my menu at the moment…

Firstly, you might want to consider revisiting an old favourite.  Something that you can enjoy all over again and that can conjure memories of when you read it the first time.  The best example of that for me is Regency Buck  which is one of my favourite Georgette Heyers, brilliantly romantic (another smart woman this time reforming a rake) and which I finished reading on the bus after my last A Level exam.   Or just a book that you’ve read over and over -my top rereads are A Winter’s Tale by Trisha Ashley, the much mentioned Gone with the Windsors or any of the four Peter Wimsey books which feature Harriet Vane.

But if you don’t have an old favourite to hand, I’ve dipped into my reading archive to find three more books where it all turns out right in the end:

Miss Buncle’s Book: Miss Buncle is an impoverished spinster to decides that the best way to earn some more money to improve her situation is to write a book.  Her loyal maid thinks she’s mad – but it works.  The book that Miss Buncle writes is published under a pseudonym and is a roaring success.  The only trouble is that the book is based on the people in her village – and they recognise themselves.  I nearly cried laughing reading this and then lent it to everyone I could think of.  Perfect for my current mood.

The Reluctant Landlady: When struggling actress Evie inherits a house from a family friend, it seems like a dream and she and her best friend Bing move in.  But the house is comes with a motley crew of tennants who she’s not allowed to evict and soon Evie is trying to sort their lives out for them, whether they want her to or not.  This was the first Bernadette Strachan book that I read and I think it’s still my favourite.  Evie is fabulous and Bing is just one of the best and funniest sidekick characters I’ve come across in this sort of book. Strachan now writes as  Juliet Ashton and Claire Sandy – her A Very Big House in the Country would make a good choice at the moment too.

Welcome to the Real World: Fern is having a good week: she’s landed a job as PA to a world famous singer and she’s got a chance to try and realise her own singing dream with a slot on the newest TV talent show.  But when it turns out her new boss, Evan, is also going to be a judge on the talent show, things start to get complicated, because Fern really wants to keep her singing under wraps from him.  I see from Goodreads that reviews on this are somewhat… divided, but this is my favourite Carole Matthews book.  It focuses mostly on Fern and what is going on in her life, but I liked that – and there’s plenty of drama as well.

I hope one of these tickles your fancy and improves your mood.  I’m off to re-read some Peter and Harriet.

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: Happy Endings

Yeesh.  This week has gone downhill. I had something else planned for this post this week, but hey, it can wait, all the horrible stuff coming out of Manchester means that I feel squicky posting it.  So I’m here to say, basically, look after yourself.  Be nice to people and look after yourselves.  I’m doing my little bit of self-care by reading nothing but stories where I know I’m going to get a Happy Ending.  So that’s romance.  I can’t cope with murders at the moment – so my cozy crime reading list has gone out of the window.  Here’s a few that are on my list in case you feel like doing the same.

My train book on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was Julia Quinn’s Because of Miss Bridgerton, which I picked up from the library last week and has done a good job of taking my mind off things.  Then I’ve got Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain to read, but I might read the last of the Jill Shalvis omnibus (Once in a Lifetime) I mentioned in Kindle May bargains first to break up the historicals.  I’ve got Level Up by Cathy Yardley sat on my Kindle as well, which was the subject of a whole episode of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books (which I still haven’t listened to because spoilers!) and Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect waiting for me as.  I’ve also got advance copies of the next Sarah Morgan book, Holiday in the Hamptons (and one of her older books in the Library Book bag), of Rebecca Pugh’s new novel Right Here Waiting for You and that’s all before you get to whatever I might impulse purchase in my weakened state in the early hours – or what I might pull out of one of the to-read boxes.

Check back on Monday to see how far down the list I get – and whether I get the half-read crime book I started on Monday finished.

Be safe.

Authors I love

Authors I love: Christina Jones

During a trip to The Works this week I happened upon some of Christina Jones’ books that I didn’t own – having borrowed them from the library back in my days in Essex.  And then it occurred to me that this might be the time to make another entry in my very occasional series of posts about Authors I love (see previous installments on Katie Fforde and Georgette Heyer) as as far as I can see there’s no new book from her on the way at the moment which I might be able to rave about.

Paperback copy of Heaven Sent by Christina Jones
My copy of Heaven Sent – recently rescued from the pile of favourites next to the bed

Christina Jones writes wonderfully quirky romantic comedies, usually set in or around the Cotswolds.  They have often magical or mystical elements – which is not usually something I go for, but she does it so well – and come in interconnected series – where a secondary character in one book (a best friend for example) will end up being the lead character in the next book. Old characters often make cameos in later books so you get a chance to see what happened in their happily ever afters, without it being a sequel where they face strife and conflict.

As I said in my BotW post on Stealing the Show in June last year I first discovered her work when I came across a copy of Heaven Sent in a display of books nominated for the Melissa Nathan Award – as is often the way, it’s still my favourite of her novels, perhaps because I’m a sucker for a dark-haired bloke in eyeliner and Yaya is an absolute hoot.  Once I’d read that I started trawling my way through older books via the library – and buying new ones as soon as they came out.  I’ve got most of the reissues of her earlier stuff on the kindle – although I haven’t read them all as I’m trying to ration myself in the absence of new books.

A selection of books by Christina Jones on a bookshelf.
The Christina Jones shelf, such as it is, the rest are on my kindle as they were hard to get in paperback

But basically, these have everything I want in a light romantic fiction book.*  The heroines are smart and usually very good at their jobs**, they have supportive friends and find men who celebrate their achievements and love them for who they are without trying to change them.  There’s conflict, but it’s often based on misunderstandings rather than someone having done something actually terrible.  No one is perfect.  And they’re funny – mostly witty funny as opposed to laughing at someone’s humiliation funny, although there are some embarrassing moments in them too.

So, if you want to read your way into Christina Jones where should you start?  Well each novel stands alone – and as I said at the top of this post, my local branch of The Works had a cache of them at the moment – and they have the same ones online too Love Potions, Seeing Stars, Moonshine and the aforementioned Heaven Sent which are all in their 6-for-£10 promotion (sorry).  All of those would be fine places to start to give you a taster – and they’re cheaper there than Amazon or on Kindle.  There are few short stories/novellas available on Kindle for quite low prices  – but I never think they are a particularly good way of trying a new author (unless they’re free!) because you might be missing background, in jokes, world rules etc, so I would suggest the slightly older-but-recently-reissued Milton St John series, which are available as a bundled set on Kindle for £2.99 at time of writing – I haven’t read all of them yet, but the ones I have are good so that would be a cheap way of dipping your toe in the water.

Happy reading!

*Magic is an optional extra

**or at least they are once they get their head around the magical stuff.

Book of the Week, holiday reading, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

Such an easy decision for BotW this week – I absolutely loved Annie Darling’s Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts.  It is so much fun, and ticked so many of my book buttons.

Posy Morland loves her job at Bookends – a crumbling bookshop tucked away in a Bloomsbury mews.  But when the shop’s owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy her life is turned upside down.  Posy’s got  lots of plans to turn the ailing bookshop around, but she’s also got to contend with Lavinia’s autocratic grandson Sebastian – nicknamed The Rudest Man in London by one of the papers, and seemingly searching for the national title.  With her friends and co-workers to help her, can Posy turn the shop around as well as dealing with Sebastian’s machinations?   And why is she having lurid fantasies?

Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts proof copy.
  Isn’t my proof copy gorgeous? I do love a good cover – and the proper cover looks lovely too.

The back of my proof copy says it’s for fans of Georgette Heyer (waves) and Jenny Colgan (waves) and for people who’ve dreamed of opening their own bookshops (falls over waving so hard) and I would totally agree.  Posy is a great heroine – she’s likeable, a little bit damaged and totally relatable.  It was great fun reading about her figuring out what to do with the bookshop and trying to stand up to Sebastian.  It’s also crammed full of gems for the romance reader – whether it’s obvious ones (like name checks for historical romance authors) or more subtle ones (not telling, find them yourself).

This whistles along at a tremendous pace, with twists and turns and heaving bosoms in empire line gowns (you’ll understand if you read it).  I was cross it was over so quickly – because I could have spent another 200 pages with Posy and her band of misfits at the  bookshop and as there’s an ad at the end for a sequel, my wish may yet come true.  The back of my advance copy also has the author’s top five novels in it which include Heyer’s Regency Buck – which I adore – Pride and Prejudice (ditto) and a Courtney Milan.  What’s not to love.  And on top of that it has a bookshop list which includes not one but TWO name checks for my beloved Chalet School so basically I think Annie Darling and I would really get on.

I got sent an advanced copy by a publicist who I chat to on Twitter – who had spotted that I love Georgette Heyer.  It’s not out in paperback yet (August 25th) – but it is out in Kindle (£2.99 at time of writing!) and you can pre-order the paperback on Amazon and Waterstones and Foyles will email you when they get it in stock.  I suspect as it’s published by Harper it may make it to the supermarkets too.  I would’ve saved my ravings for closer to the time, but as the Kindle is out and I think that this would make a great beach read I thought I’d alert you all now. Go forth and read it!

books, children's books, fiction, holiday reading, women's fiction

Easter Reading Suggestions

Easter is upon us again – early this year – and so I thought I’d throw some suggestions out there for books for reading over the bank holiday weekend, or the Easter holidays if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

Copy of The Night that Changed Everything
I love the cover of this book – can’t explain why, but it just speaks to me

Rebecca and Ben are perfect for each other – blissfully happy, they’re made for each other.  But when a secret from the past is accidentally revealed, their love story is rewritten.  Can they recover?  Is it possible to forgive and forget? This came out yesterday (Thursday), but I was lucky to have an advance copy which I finished on the train home from work just after midnight on Thursday morning.  I really, really, enjoyed Rebecca and Ben’s story – which, as you can probably tell from my synopsis, is not your traditional romantic comedy.  It nearly had me crying on the train – which doesn’t happen very often (in part because I try not to read books that will make me cry on the train!) and I had trouble putting it down.  I didn’t even notice I’d arrived at Euston on the way to work on Wednesday I was so engrossed – if it wasn’t the end of the line I would have missed my stop!  On top of everything else going for it, I had no idea where it was going.  I suspect this is going to be on a lot of beach reading lists this year – get there ahead of the game and read it now.  I’m hoping this will be in the supermarkets and all over the place – but here are the traditional links: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstones, Foyles, Kobo.

Death of a Diva by Derek Farrell

Danny Bird has lost his job, his boyfriend and his home.  So of course the logical solution to this is to take over a dive of a pub owned  by a gangster and try and transform it into a fabulous nightspot.  But then his big act for the opening night turns up dead in the dressing room surrounded by a cloud of powder that’s definitely not talc and he’s the prime suspect in a murder inquiry.  This is funny and clever – I was laughing out loud as I tried to figure out who was responsible.  Danny is a fabulous character – and is surrounded by a great supporting cast.  There’s lots of potential here – this is another winner from Fahrenheit Press – who you may have noticed have been providing a lot of my favourite crime reads recently.  Get your copy on Kindle and badger Fahrenheit on Twitter to get it on other platforms.  I got my copy free when it was on promotion a couple of weekends ago (it came out before the Fahrenheit subscription) – this weekend their free book for Easter is Fidelis Morgan’s Unnatural Fire – which is high on my to-read pile – as I loved The Murder Quadrille as you may remember.

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

Harriet and her granddaughter Grace are governesses at the same house, nearly 50 years apart.  Grace has been raised on stories of Fenix House – but once she’s arrived it’s clear that her grandmother may be a less than reliable narrator.  I reviewed this for Novelicious (check out my full review here) and basically this is the book that is going to fill the Victorian-time-slip-upstairs-downstairs gap in your life.  Secrets, lies, families, relationships -they’re all there in this twisty and intriguing book – which had me poleaxed at the end. If you liked Letters to the Lost, or the Mysterious Affair at Castaway House, or any of Lauren Willig’s stand-alone novels like The Ashford Affair then this is for you.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

Hazel and Daisy are back on the detection trail after Deepdean’s new head girl is found dead during a fireworks display.  I haven’t finished the latest Wells and Wong mystery yet (it’s another that came out on Thursday – I started it as soon as my pre-order dropped on to my kindle) but if it’s half as good as the other three it’ll be a delight.  One for the 8 to 12 year old in your house – and your inner child as well.

What am I going to be reading this Easter weekend? Well, I’m hoping to finish Hazel and Daisy’s adventures on my Good Friday commutes, then I think I might try to fill the Night Circus-shaped void in my life with Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes or my urge for more time-slip books with the rest of Beatriz Williams’ latest or Lucinda Riley’s The Seven Sisters.   Any other recommendations gratefully received in the comments – although I’m meant to be on a book-buying ban!

books, romance

Valentine’s Day bonus post

I know – two posts in two days.  I’m spoiling you.  But I couldn’t let Valentines Day go past without mentioning some of my favourite romantic books.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don’t care about all the posts about how you wouldn’t actually want to be with Mr Darcy in real life because I love this book.  I started reading my mum’s copy of the book as soon as I’d finished watching the first part of the 1995 BBC adaptation of it and I adored it. I was in the tail-end of primary school and just flat-out loved Lizzy.  My TV tie-in copy is much loved and I read it a lot.  Read it and fall in love with Lizzy as much as you do with Darcy.  And he grows as a person people.  Everyone’s allowed to make a mistake and compared to some of the stuff romance novel heros have in their past, being a bit stuck up and arrogant is not the biggest problem ever!

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

And a prime example of how Darcy could be so much worse is the Duke of Avon.  Justin’s nickname is Satanas.  You’re told he’s lost a fortune at the gaming tables and then won back someone elses – someone who then killed themselves.  He kidnapped a woman to try to force her to marry him.  But I defy you not to be rooting for him as he turns Leon the page into Leonie the lady and restores her to her place in eighteenth century French High Society.  And the way he achieves it isn’t exactly all hearts and flowers (although it is totally deserved).  One of my favourite romance tropes is I’m not good enough for him/her and this is just the perfect example of that.  And then when you’re done falling in love with Big Bad Justin, read Devil’s Cub and meet his son Dominic – mad, bad and dangerous to know and watch prim and proper Mary win his heart.  He doesn’t think he’s good enough either.  Swoon.

Stately Pursuits by Katie Fforde

Still my favourite Fforde novel (see my love letter to Fforde here), and you may start to detect a theme in my heros here.  Connor is tall, dark, brooding and moody.  Hetty’s mum’s sent her to look after Great Uncle Samuel’s stately home.  Hetty wants to save it, Connor thinks selling it is the best solution.  Cue fireworks of two different types.  If you like your heros a little bit more beta, try Fforde’s Flora’s Lot and Charles the auctioneer.  He’s engaged and thinks Flora is pushy. She thinks he’s uptight and change resistant.  Another of my favourite tropes – I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair as Sarah McLean of Smart Bitches would say.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This is the most romantic detective story ever.  After 3 books of angst and tension, Peter and Harriet are finally married.  But a body turns up at their honeymoon dream house and unless they can figure out who did it Harriet is worried that Peter will be haunted by it forever.  You’ll appreciate it most if you’ve read the other three books first, but once you have you’ll come back to it again and again.  I’ve listened to it once this week on audiobook already.  If you need more convincing I wrote a whole post about the wonders of Peter in general and Peter and Harriet in particular.

And Finally…

And if this still isn’t quite enough romance for you, try Eloisa James Duchess by Night featuring another of my favourite tropes – girls dressed as boys (see also the aforementioned These Old Shades) or Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake (I would suggest Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover but that’s the end of a series and a big spoiler for the earlier books) which is another great trope (heroine needs to learn about love, asks rakish man to teach her) or a bit of Julia Quinn.  Try not to get hooked.  American-import romance can be an expensive habit.