Darcie Wilde’s A Useful Woman continues to be my main contender for book of the year (have you bought it yet?), and that has rekindled my love of historical titles. This is a problem, because my To Read pile teeters ever higher and I’m getting behind on my reading goals for the year.
One such title I sat on was Caro Peacock’s Friends in High Places, book #7 in her ‘Liberty Lane’ series. I have long loved this series, but since she moved to Severn House Publishers, publication has become somewhat erratic. Still, Friends in High Places just came into the store in trade paperback, which is perfect timing for me to tell you it’s excellent. Liberty has been hired to assist in delivering evidence to the trial of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, but it doesn’t take long before it’s spy vs spy and a recently burgeoning romance is at stake. Liberty is such a smart heroine and although she is permitted a romantic interest (not to mention a flirtation with Benjamin Disraeli in his younger days), the romance is never the focal point. This is an excellent addition to the series or a perfectly good standalone (which I can confirm because it was two years between books and I forgot how the previous one ended). We’ve got the first two books in the series, A Foreign Affair and A Dangerous Affair if you want to start at the beginning.
I have been taking my time with Anna Lee Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series in part, I think, because I’m enjoying it so much I don’t want to run out of books yet. I just finished book #3, A Grave Matter, and again, it’s a title where the romance is slower burning and the real focus is the solving of crimes. In this case, we’ve got some very odd grave robbers at work, stealing old bones and holding them ransom. Book #4, A Study in Death, will be available in mass market on July 5th, the same day as book #5, As Death Draws Near, coming in original trade paperback. I shall be hard-pressed not to pre-order both and devour them as soon as I receive them.
Like many of you, I try to reserve my hardcover purchases for books I’m really excited about or can’t bear to wait another year. This last visit, that was When Falcons Fall, #11 in C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series. As it happens, we’ve got more spies and relatives of Napoleon in the mix. This series is wonderful because the main plot is driven by Sebastian St. Cyr, but there is a secondary and related plot featuring his wife Hero, a woman clearly ahead of her time. I used to avoid books with male protagonists, since I couldn’t get in their heads, so this plot device works marvellously for me. I was only sorry we saw less of Hero’s dastardly but connected father. We’ve got book #1, 3, 8, 9, and 10 in store in mass market with the rest available to order.
Finally, I was introduced to Janet Brons and her first book A Quiet Kill when I was judging the Best First Novel category for the Arthur Ellis Awards last year. I dipped into my massive To Read pile to pull out her second book in the ‘Forsyth and Hay Mystery’ series Not a Clue, which had been published in the fall. This second book picks up immediately after the first book leaves off, with RCMP Inspector Liz Forsyth back in Ottawa right after the Ice Storm of 1998 and DCI Stephen Hay back to his regular beat in London. Hay is charged with solving the murder of a Chechen refugee and Forsyth is working on the case of the bizarre murder of a Canadian backpacker. This series stands out because it’s a well-written tightly plotted book that is short, only 192 pages. I think it’s the kind of book you could recommend to someone just trying out crime novels, particularly police procedurals. The fact that it’s set in Canada and the UK and features a brewing, but subtle, romance between Forsyth and Hay makes it all the more appealing. We’ve got both books in store at $14.95, which is a nice entry price too.