bingeable series, romance, series

Bingeable series: Centre Stage

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.

bingeable series, historical, romance

Bingeable series: London Highwaymen

Is it a series when there are only two books? A duology? A pair? A duo? Anyway, to fit in with my titles, I hereby christen Cat Sebastian’s two London Highwaymen books a series and they are definitely a bingeable one, because I read them one after another across the space of 48 hours.

So what we have here are two stories featuring the same characters but focussing on different couples. Firstly we have retired (through injury) highwayman Kit, who is dragged into helping Percy, Lord Holland with a robbery he needs to save his family. Of course it goes wrong, but can they make it work together despite that?

Then there’s Marian, she’s been being blackmailed by a charismatic criminal, but it’s him she turns to when she shoots her husband. No, it wasn’t an accident, no he wasn’t a nice man. So the question is can she escape punishment for the shooting and can she make a new happy ending with Rob the Ex-highwayman.

You need to read these in order. Trust me when I say it will spoil some of the fun if you read Marian first. I don’t read a lot of highwayman stories, but these were right up my street. They’re very easy to read, there is peril but (for the most part) no misunderstandings that could be cleared up by a simple conversation. If you’re after some historical romance that has less of the balls and ton and more of the coffee shops and normal people, these will do the trick for you I think. They certainly did for me.

I got my copies on Kindle, but they are (I think) also available in paperback although I haven’t seen them in an actual bookshop yet.

Happy Reading!

bingeable series, detective, mystery

Mystery series: The Affair of… Mysteries

This week I’m going for a trilogy of country house-set mysteries that I’ve been revisiting in audiobook format about a decade or more after I first read them.

First published in the late 1970s, James Anderson is trying to recreate that Agatha Christie, Golden Age crime novel feeling, but with a bit of a knowing twist. In the first book for example, you’ve got a diamond theft, stolen antique guns, a diplomatic incident, unexpected guests and a body in the lake. And as the books go on you have a host who is very aware that every time he throws a house party bad things seem to happen and that’s a delight too!

The second book has a film star and his movie mogul producer, and the third a family funeral that turns murderous. All of them have the local detective Chief Inspector Wilkins presiding over the investigation, telling you all the time that he knows how they do it in books, but it’s not like that in real life! What’s not to love?

These should be fairly easy to get hold of – my original copies were the 2009-ish era Alison and Busby ones, with 1930s inspired covers in red and green and yellow, which you used to see fairly regularly at the library and in the charity shops. As you can see from the picture on the post, there’s another reissue since then (I think this year) with blues and lilacs for the covers. I haven’t seen these in the shops yet, but I will be looking in the crime section for them next time I make it into a bookshop!

Happy Friday everyone!

bingeable series, historical, mystery

Mystery series: Grantchester Chronicles

Hot off the heels of the vicar mystery recommendsday post, here is another historical mystery series featuring a vicar, written by someone with a clerical connection. James Runcie’s father was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time when Richard Coles’ novel is set!

The Grantchester of the series title is the village just outside Cambridge where Sidney Chambers is vicar. The books start in 1953 and move through towards the changes of the 1960s. Sidney is a bachelor in his early thirties and Grantchester is his first parish of his own. His best friend in the village is the detective Geordie Keating and the two of them solve mysteries together. The books usually feature a series of smaller mysteries alongside Sidney’s attempts to balance his calling and his previous life. There is also a romantic thread to the series – there are several women who Sidney is interested in at various points, although of course their relationships have to follow the rules because: vicar in the 1950s. In fact the fact that he is ordained is one of the major obstacles to his romantic life. The other major characters in the series are his housekeeper and then a few years in, his curate.

The books have been made into a TV series, which is now onto its third or fourth vicar of Grantchester, still solving crimes with Geordie after they ran out of the plot from the books with Sidney…

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Guy Harford

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!

Have a great weekend everyone!

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Lady Hardcastle

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 Murder is the second.

Happy weekend!

romance, series

Bingeable series: Desperate Duchesses

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.

Happy Friday!

historical, series

Series: Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels

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.

Covers of The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Queen's Fool and The Virgin's Lover

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!

bingeable series, mystery

Mystery series: Flavia de Luce

Another Friday, another post about a series here on the blog, another new post title. Today’s series is the Flavia de Luce historical mystery series, inspired by the fact that I was writing about young detectives yesterday – and Flavia is about as young a detective as you can get, although this series is definitely for adults. I last wrote about Flavia in 2016 so it’s been a while…

At the start of the series, it’s 1950 and eleven year old Flavia has a passion for chemistry and poisons and a running feud with her two older sisters. Their mother is dead, their father eccentric and their house is crumbling around them. When Flavia stumbles over a dying man in the first book she is more fascinated than horrified and the series goes from there.

In my Goodreads review of the first book I said that Flavia could occasionally be a little too all knowing, but as the character develops, she gets to a good balance of preternaturally clever but not too all knowing and annoying. And a lot of that is because although she is very book smart, her understanding of people is about what you would expect of someone her age, so there are things – quite a lot of things sometimes – that she just misses or doesn’t understand at all.

There are ten novels in the series, and as there hasn’t been a new one since 2019, I suspect that may be the lot – certainly the last book in the series isn’t my favourite and Flavia was not quite her usual self in it, so it may be that Alan Bradley has got fed up of her or gone as far as he wants with her. Or the delay could just be because of the pandemic. Because we all know that covid has messed up a lot of things.

These are usually fairly easy to get hold of – I picked up a lot of them from The Works, and read the last two from the library, but I see them all the time in bookshops. As you can see from the picture, there has been a redesign/rejacketing exercise done – in my picture the right hand side are the original style, the left the new. And obviously they’re on Kindle and Kobo as well as audiobooks – most of them read by Sophie Aldred, who if you’re my age you will remember from children’s TV and if you’re a bit older will remember as Ace from Doctor Who. You’re probably best reading them in order, but I didn’t and it didn’t really bother me too much – although it was a bit of a pain jumping from slightly more developed Flavia back to the less evolved version!

Happy Weekend!

binge reads

Bingeable series: Fool’s Gold

I finished the new Jill Shalvis this week and it got me to thinking about reliable romance authors, which got me thinking about when the next Susan Mallery is due out (turns out there was a woman’s fiction novel that came out on Tuesday and there is another non-series title out in May before the next wishing tree in October) which made me think that Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series makes for an excellent binge read. And so here we are. You’ve had an insight into the way my mind works, so now on to the books!

Fool’s Gold is a small town romance series set in a community at the foot of the Sierra Nevada hills. Across the series you’ll find an above average number of world class athletes living there and also that it’s big enough to have its own radio station – but this is small town romance, all such things are allowed. In the first in the series, the town is short of men and heroine is a city planner brought in by the town’s Mayor, Marsha (who is a great recurring character through the series, a bit like a fairy godmother), to try and bring things around. There are 20 books in the series and they come in groups. So in the first book you get meet the character who will feature in the next couple and then you move to a fresh group of people. You get the idea. It’s charming.

Looking back through my reviews, there are more pregnancy/baby plots that I would usually go for, but they are all still fun. I think my favourite set are the three books about the Hendrix triplets, but I also like the set about the ex NFL players and their business. Anyway, there are 20 full length books to chose from as well as about the same again in novellas – all of which means you can have a good old binge on them. And it looks like they’ve all had a bit of a cover redesign since I last read them too – I suspect because of the success of Virgin River on Netflix and people looking for similar books to read.

My goodreads ratings for these are fairly consistent – I’m not giving any five stars, but they’re mostly threes, with a few fours and they only drop off towards the tail end of the twenty. In fact romance series like this make for a perfect binge to be honest. When I was writing about Sookie Stackhouse last week I talked about spotting the formula. Well you don’t have that problem with a series like this – because each book is about a new couple and you can do different tropes each time. You don’t even need to read them in order because it’s different characters in each book. The only thing that’s going to happen is spoilers for previous books when you encounter them in their happily ever afters – but as you know from the blurb of a romance that they’re going to end up together, that’s not much of a spoiler really! As long as the writing and the characters are good you’re all set for many happy hours of reading.