What We’re Reading

The gentleman rogueNicola here, introducing this month's What We're Reading blog. As ever, the Wenches have been reading some very interesting books and we're keen to hear what you think and what your recommendations are too!

This month I’ve been catching up with some of the books that were shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.  The Gentleman Rogue by Margaret McPhee was a finalist in the short romance section and is a powerfully emotional Regency historical that had me gripped. There was amazing chemistry between the heroine, Emma, and Ned, who was one of the most attractive heroes I've read in a long time.

Another fabulous read was Struck, by Joss Stirling, a YA romance with a great crime mystery thrown in as well. It takes place in an exclusive English boarding school where scandal and corruption lurk behind the ivy-clad walls. The author mentioned that she had modelled the hero, Kieren Storm, on a young version of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Raven Stone, the heroine, is a gutsy American girl you can really root for. It’s a great read!

Finally the reburial of King Richard III prompted me to reach yet again for The Daughter of Time by

Daughter of Time Josephine Tey, the book that first piqued my interest in Richard' and his reign. I love all of Josephine Tey's books so can see myself reading through my entire collection again now.

Now over to the other Wenches!

Pat writes:

I like to explore new-to-me authors, but I’ve been having a bad reading month and haven’t found anyone exciting lately. So I’ve fallen back on favorites. I finally read Patricia Brigg’s Night Broken, one of her Mercy Thompson novels. I love her urban fantasies because they’re so human! The book is as much about Mercy dealing with her husband’s charming but manipulative ex-wife as it is about finding the vengeful ancient-god stalker who followed the stupid ex straight to Mercy’s home.

Southern spiritsAnd then I picked up Angie Fox’s newest series starter—Southern Spirits. If you’ve ever read Angie, you’ll recognize her voice, although this time she’s writing a mystery about ghosts instead of chasing demons. Small southern town seeped in legends and history, a bootlegger ghost to help the heroine out, and a hunky cop to get her into trouble—can’t ask for more!


Jo Beverley:

This month I read a book recommended a little while ago here — Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame. It was as enjoyable as said, with a geeky prodigy deciding to become more "normal" by going after her sexy neighbor. I think this is what's called New Adult fiction, about people in their early twenties who are very much of today's world.

I also read Fledgling, by Sharon Lee and Stever Miller, a Liaden novel I'd missed. It has some similarities Fledgling to Imperfect Chemistry, though the protagonist is younger. Theo too is a clever misfit, but this is really an Ugly Duckling story. The Liaden books are space opera, with multiple worlds lived on by humans — and some others — all with different social structures. In Fledgling, having to move to a different world leads to Theo's transformation, both on the journey and when there. It's a good read, and the e-book is still free.




SherlockMystery! Well, that is, it’s probably no mystery by now that I love the genre, and this month I’ve been really immersing myself in in both new and classic reads. A friend got me watching the BBC series Sherlock (hard not to like Benedict Cumberbatch) , which I enjoyed very much—but it suddenly occurred to be that I had never read the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books. (How did that happen???) So off I hurried to the library, and I have been enjoying the tales very much.  I enjoy the writing style, and the development of Holmes and Watson, who’ve inspired so many subsequent detective pairing. And while the plots may not be as complex, dark  and twisty as modern novels, they really are great fun.

 I’ve also been enjoying a modern take on historical mystery. I’m a big fan of the Who buries the deadRegency-set Sebastian St. Cyr books by C. S. Harris, and the latest release, Who Buries The Dead, is a wonderful addition to the series. Gritty and layered with well-rendered psychological portraits of Sebastian, Hero and all the people who make up their world, the books use the crime of murder to delve into far deeper questions about society, power and influence in Regency London. The stories are taut with suspense, and really make for a riveting read.


Mary Jo:

Like Pat, I'm going to talk about a Patricia Briggs book.  Pat's choice, Night Broken, is part of the Mercedes Thompson series.  I read the book when it came out, and l loved it.  The heroine, Mercy, is a coyote shifter in a world of werewolves, vampires, fae, and much more, and there's a great romance.

 Briggs has another series set in the same world.  Alpha and Omega features a pair of mated werewolves: Charles, a half native American enforcer is the Alpha, and Anna, an Omega whose presence soothes other werewolves, and who is immune to Alpha control. 

 I've always preferred the Mercy Thompson books, until now.  Dead Heat, the latest Alpha and Omega Dead Heat
book, is every bit as good as a Mercy story.  It begins when Charles and Anna take a holiday, leaving the werewolf home in Montana to visit an old friend of Charles' in Arizona, and also to buy Anna a horse since the old friend is a horse breeder.  Things Happen and there is much excitement.  There is also lots of information about Arabian horses since Briggs raises them herself and has clearly been pining for the opportunity to write about them. <G>

But the heart of the story lies deeper as Anna and Charles deal with a significant issue in their marriage.  There is also a theme of what it's like to be virtually immortal while those you love grow old and die.  It's all worked out in a wonderfully satisfactory way!

DaringOn the non-fiction front, I want to recommend journalist Gail Sheehy's memoir, Daring: My Passages.  Sheehy has been a groundbreaking journalist and feminist from the 1960s onward.  Her 1976 book Passages was a huge bestseller that changed the way people thought about growth and change throughout one's life.  Her 1993 book The Silent Passage was another game changer as it pulled menopause out of the closet into the light of day. 

And in Daring, she has written the story of her life and challenges.  The ups and downs, the struggles of a single mother to work while caring for her beloved daughter, a tempestuous affair that eventually became  a devoted marriage–she has lived a remarkable life, and she writes really, really well. 

Joanna here: 

I'm reading just about nothing since I'm absorbed by the Work in Progress. But I've indulged myself in Wenches burrowes
Grace Burrowes' The Traitor.  It's one of those 'Come for the Romance, Stay for the Sharp Character Analysis' books.

The hero, Sebastian, is half French, half English when France and England are locked in war. The book explores hard choices a man makes and how he lives with them.

Wench anne perryNext up, I go to a favorite author of mine, Anne Perry, and Callander Square — a Victorian-set mystery. Well-born Charlotte and her Police Inspector husband set about solving crime among the stuffy rich. I haven't read this series in order myself, but you might want to start with the first in the series, The Cater Street Hangman.


I too have been reading mysteries, including Alan Bradley's latest in the Flavia De Chimneysweepers bradley Luce series, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Once again the intrepid, clever Flavia ferrets out secrets in a witty and brilliant way with a touch of vulnerability and sensitivity quite natural to an 11-yr-old, even if her chemistry genius is off the charts. This time, Flavia is packed off to a girls' school in Canada to face a whole new location and complete strangers, and though I thought that leaving her home of Buckshaw in the English countryside would eliminate a crucial setting character in the series, Bradley does a fantastic job of creating a new environment and drawing his reader in. Flavia is one of my favorite sleuths, a blend of whimsy and genius, Pippi and Sherlock. And Bradley's books are an exception for me–I always listen to them in audio. Jayne Entwistle's narration is flawless, whimsical, clear as a bell, and she creates the perfect evocation of Bradley's books. I highly recommend both the written and the audio — do check out Flavia!  

ThemoorI've also returned to the Laurie R. King series of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. In The Moor (and yes, I have a long way to go to catch up to King's newer Russell novels!), Russell and her husband, Holmes, are in misty, ominous Dartmoor investigating a death with some very creepy circumstances, a riveting return and intriguing take on The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Russell-Holmes books are so smart and beautifully written that I keep coming back. I should add that I've never been much of a series reader, more of a series grazer in every genre, but these two mystery series–King's Russell and Bradley's Flavia–totally capture my attention!     

 Anne here:

A friend recently gave me Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, who is her favourite author, and I Solsticehave to say I’ve loved it. I haven’t quite finished Winter Solstice, but I’ve already bought Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, Going Home and September. For some, the books might be a little slow-paced and perhaps even old-fashioned, but I’m really enjoying the slow reveals, the wonderfully detailed settings and her well rounded and appealing characters. I can’t put it down. And by the way, Winter Solstice seems to be very cheap on kindle at the moment.

On a completely different note, I’ll also add that I fully endorse Pat and Mary Jo’s recommendations of Patricia Briggs. They mentioned her books to me some time back and I ended up glomming the lot.

So there are a few of our reads for the month of March. Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? And do you have any recommendations for the Wenches?


What We’re Reading in June

Knowledge wins by dan smith circa 1914 to 1918Joanna here, talking about the books we're reading this month.

It's been a humid, rainy June up in my mountains.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it, with mist everywhere and deer coming out of the woods to eat the grass I just had mowed.  They like all that juicy, tender, new growth. 

On the free time front, I was harassed by deadlines and by all the little ills the flesh is heir to.  I learned, for instance, that it takes a team of men and a huge, noisy, orange machine three days to fix a well pump.  Who knew?  Also, if your car gets old enough, the repairs cost more than the car is worth.  

Did I mention I haz deadlines?
So I didn't get any particular amount of reading done, but instead watched my To Be Read pile grow like summer weeds.

I am rich in books, but I have no time to read them.  I am an object lesson in book misering and literary greed.
So what did I read?Lady maggie

From Grace Burrowes, who writes such warm, appealing characters, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal. This is another of her infallible cheer-me-up books.  Right up there with Julia Quinn.  Beautiful and funny.

I also indulged myself in Ilona Andrews' Fate's Edge, Book Three in 'The Edge' Series.  Just to be contrary, I'll say that if Andrews is a new-to-you writer, I suggest starting with her Magic Bites
When I read that series I'm always saying to myself, "Like cats much?"

The-Bargain-Putney-Mary-Jo-9781420117264I also returned to an old favorite, Mary Jo Putney's The Bargain.  David Lancaster is one of my favorite heroes — brave, warm-hearted, straightforward.

What can I say?  I think my character Grey has some of David Lancaster in him. 


Mary Jo herself picks a couple winners.  She says:

I’m currently reading Letters from Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor  by Michael Kostroff. 

Michael Kostroff was a reasonably successful TV actor in Los Angeles, but his long held dream was to appear in a big, splashy Broadway show, so when the opportunity arrived to join the first national tour of The Producers, he leaped on it gladly.  Kostroff is also a freelance writer, so his e-mails from the road to his friends were so much fun Mad earl that they urged him to put them together into a book.  This is that book.  Besides being delightful to read, it does something I love in a book: it takes me in a new world in a compelling and believable way.  I have zero interest in touring with a theater company (not to mention zero talent <G>), but it was fascinating to read about.

In the fiction category, I was happy to see that The Mad Earl’s Bride,, a longish novella by Loretta Chase, is now available in an e-edition.  

Originally published in 1995 in the Three Weddings and a Kiss anthology, it has long been a favorite story of mine, and downloading it to my Nook was easier than digging the anthology out of the basement.  <G>  The story is a spin-off from Loretta’s much loved Lord of Scoundrels, and for a description, it’s hard to beat the blurb:

Gwendolyn Adams is about to propose to an earl. On his deathbed.

Gwendolyn Adams isn't shocked at being asked to save a handsome earl's dying line, even when she learns the prospective bridegroom is seriously ill and possibly insane. She's quite a good nurse, after all, and her family is famous for producing healthy male children. Those stories about his riding the moors half-naked on a pale white horse? Extremely intriguing—especially after she gets her first look at the gorgeous lunatic.

The Earl of Rawnsley wants only to lose what's left of his mind in peace and privacy. But his busybody relatives have saddled him with a surprise bride and orders to sire an heir forthwith. (And they say he's mad?) But with Gwendolyn, his health is returning, and his resistance … crumbling. Is it possible that love is the finest madness of all?



ArabianNicola brings us one of those serendipitous discoveries.  I love it when this happens.  She says:


I was visiting family and spotted a book called Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, which I promptly borrowed. Thesiger was a famous explorer who was born in Ethiopia and educated in England. He made his first expeditions in the 1930s so his books are not only a record of travels to exotic places but also a period of history that is now long gone. Arabian Sands is about a journey to the "empty quarter" of Arabia.
I first became fascinated with the "empty quarter" when I read The Singing Sands, one of the wonderful Inspector Grant series, by Josephine Tey. The hunt for the fabled lost city of Wabar seemed impossibly romantic and still inspires a frisson of excitement in me now. Unfortunately when I got Arabian Sands home my husband said: "That looks interesting" and promptly started to read it before me!
  You had me at hello
Fiction-wise, a fellow member of the Bath and Wiltshire Chapter of the RNA recommended You Had Me At Hello by Scots author Mhairi McFarlane. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive. The blurb says: "What happens when the one that got away comes back?" I'm looking forward to finding out!

And Joanna breaks in here to add another huzzah for Thesiger.  Just a fascinating book.  I read it when I was headed out for Saudi Arabia.  I'd also recommend Sir Richard Francis Burton's Arabian travel writing which you can find here at the wonderful University of Adelaide site. 
Cara/Andrea has this to say —
(She's recommending two of my reliably favorite authors, by the way)

A Spear of Summer Grass
I've been wrestling with starting a new book, and in the process of beginning to get to know the characters (and, um, figure out the plot) I tend to be reading a little less than usual. That said, I've been unable to put down A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn.
It's set in 1920s Kenya, and paints a beautifully evocative portrait of the era, and a quirky cast of restless souls exploring the boundaries of their own selves as they search for meaning in life. Africa—brutal and beautiful—is a metaphor for a world turned upside down by the Great War.
Many of you may know Deanna's Lady Julia series, which is also wonderful—the "heroine" here is equally compelling and the first person POV is so well done.
You have to love a book that begins:
MajaDon't believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman's husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn't want taking. And I never meant to go to Africa. 
I highly recommend it.
I've also grabbed up Midnight At Marble Arch, Anne Perry's latest book in her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series. I'm a big fan . . . but it's going to have to wait for a bit!


Moving right along . . .
Anne says:
I'm madlyTheProposal trying to finish a book, and though most people would imagine that reading would be set aside at such a time, for me, reading is a necessary part of unwinding and refreshing my brain.
I've been continuing my glom of Deborah Crombie's crime novels and I'm on #10 at the moment, In a Dark House. I'm reading them in order, because I like the ongoing development of the relationship between the two protagonists, Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James.
Some romance writers don't read romance while they're writing, and I must confess I hesitated before picking up this next book, because Mary Balogh is so darned good her books can be depressing for someone in not-yet-finished-the-book mode. But I succumbed and thoroughly enjoyed her latest book, The Proposal. Sometimes it's good to be reminded why I fell in love with this genre in the first place.
I've also been browsing through A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. She encourages people to meet daily (or regularly at least) and write for 15 minutes using random writing Writercatprompts. I don't do that, but it would be interesting, I think, to try.
I enjoy books about writing, and often find they stimulate me, as well as reminding me of things I know, but sometimes forget about. I'm taking a writing class that starts next month — four Sundays over four months — and I like to bring in a range of craft-of-writing books for the students to browse through.


So there you have it — That's what we were reading; what we liked; what made us think; what brought us joy.
What about you?  Did you read anything recently that lifted your heart or challenged your mind? 
Or, you know, just made you smile a little?

And a book signing

Wenches Joanna and Mary Jo will be signing books in Charlottesville,
Virginia this Saturday morning, March 23,  as part of the five-day
Virginia Festival of the Book. Final

The Romance portion of the Festival is an all-day event with more than a dozen Romance writers.  We'll be on the 10 am panel — Harridans & Hoydens: Researching Independent Women in History and Historical Romance — with Romance writers Grace Burrowes and Kristen Callihan and with historical biographer Jehanne Wake.

Click on the poster to see a list of authors who'll be at the event. 

It should be an interesting day.  Please come by and say hello.  More information here and here

What We’re Reading

JobigblueHi, Jo here, hosting this month's What We're Reading blog. (I apologize if some of the covers aren't exactly where they should be. Typepad won't let me slide them around. Ah, technology!)

I don't have a lot to offer because I've been reading books for the Romance Writers of America RITA contest, (you can see last year's winners here if you want some reading suggestions — including, of course, our own Joanna) and I can't talk about them. However, I have recently dipped into a Regency novel — that is, from the Regency — called Love and Horror. Isn't that a great title? Loveh

My heroine, browsing the shelves in a book shop, couldn't resist it as she has a particular horror of the more extreme sorts of love. It's a spoof of the Gothic novel, but a more outlandish one than Northanger Abbey. Completely over the top and lots of fun. The really neat thing is that as she took it from the shelves in 1817, I clicked on Amazon and poof! it was on my Kindle, and I could read along.

I also have a growing TBR pile, including some added from our WWR blogs.

So let's hear from the other Wenches.

(The titles are all links to Amazon, so if you want to buy that way, just click on them, but of course the books are available in many other places.) 

Mary Jo:
Heart of BrassThe What We’re Reading feature is already paying off,  since I read what Nicola is reading, and promptly ordered Kate Cross’s Heart of Brass, a terrific steampunk  historical romance.  What does a  clever countess and inventor do when her beloved husband has been missing and  presumed dead for seven years—and then he returns with no memory of their  marriage and he’s been programmed by the people who messed with his mind to kill  her?  Read this to find out.  <g>  Action, emotion, and lots  of cool little steampunk gadgets to liven things up.   Forbidden Fruit

I also reread Forbidden Fruit, one of my favorite  Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman mysteries.  Set in Melbourne, they feature a full bodied and warm  hearted baker as Corinna makes bread and interacts with a large company of charming and eccentric friends and neighbors.  There are cats—also charming and  eccentric.  In this particular book,  it’s Christmas and screaming hot outside (because it’s Australia), and  she must help her gorgeous Israeli lover find a missing pregnant girl and the  boy who ran off with her.  Among other things lesser mysteries.  Delightful.

My Waiting to Be Read Pile is well stocked now, which  gives me a warm, secure feeling.  But seeing other Wench reads makes me  want to go back and reread some of them that are already favorites of  mine!

6a010536b33b69970b01543671ea49970c-320wi.jpg1) Sophie Kinsella's I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. I like most of Sophie Kinsella's books — the shopaholic ones aren't my cup of tea — but I  really enjoys' night party, her engagement ring goes missing and her cell phone is stolen, and when she finds another cell phone tossed  into the rubbish, she grabs it. The phone belongs to the PA of hunky businessman Sam Roxton — she tossed it when she resigned, and all his messages are now coming to Poppy, who can't help getting  involved. . . A fun read. To-Say-Nothing-of-the-Dog

2) I bought this next book on the recommendation of a friend — Connie Willis's TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. Its a time-travel, scavenger hunt comedy, with drama, romance, literary allusions and quirky characters all stirred into a wonderful pot. Connie Willis is best known for her sci-fi (I think) but this is a ont – a mad romp  through Victorian England, WW2 and the future. I laughed out loud, and have been pressing it on my friends.

122404313) In historical romance, I read and enjoyed Jennifer Ashley's THE SEDUCTION OF ELLIOT MCBRIDE, and it prompted me to go back and reread  her THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE.

4) Finally I've read most of Elly Griffith's back list that I ordered  last month. She writes a crime series with Dr. Ruth Galloway, an  archaeologist who specializes in bones, and police detective Harry Nelson and I really enjoy them. Her latest book DYING FALL has just arrived and I'm trying to keep it to read on the plane that I'll be  taking to the Australian Romance Readers Convention in March.Dying-fall


CocI just  finished an oldie: THE CURSE OF CHALION by Lois McMaster Bujold. Wonderful fantasy world-building and a tortured hero beyond any tortured hero I've ever read. He's dying through half the book because he's captured a demon inside him, but he gets his fair lady in the end.

And before that I finished Molly Harper's THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES. I don't normally like vampires but Harper's sense of humor works for me. And when we get to the part where the heroine may be dying and the vampire wants to save her by "turning her," she gives it some thought and decides she'd rather not, thank you. Love it. That may be a spoiler, sorry. It was funny.Candf

Michelangelo and the Pope's CeilingAs usual, I'm bouncing back and forth between fiction and non-fiction this month. I recently saw a fabulous exhibit on European drawing at the Morgan Library in NYC, which included a number of Renaissance works by Michelangelo, Raphael and Da Vinci. It inspired me to pick up "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" a very interesting and highly readable story about the artist's creation of the famous frescoed ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

It's a wonderfully gossipy account of the the personalities of the times—Michelangelo, Pope Julius, Raphael, Da Vince among other—and paints a vivid picture of life in Rome and Florence (and with all its inside info on Vatican politics, it's highly timely, given the coming election of a new Pope!) There's also fascinating information on the technical aspects of painting—how pigments were made, the process of creating a fresco, the way the sketches were created for the final paintings. As someone with an art background, I just loved learning all that.
As for fiction, I've come late to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, but am thoroughly enjoying the first book in the series, "The Lightning Thief." Riordan gives a fun, funky spin to the ancient myths as his hero, Percy—a dyslexic 12-year-old who is half mortal, half god—must take a quest to prevent a war between Zeus and Poseidon from breaking out and destroying the world. It's a Harry Potter-style book, written for middle schoolers but definitely appealing to adults as well, with non-stop action, snappy dialogue and very clever recasting of all the ancient gods and monsters into modern day situations. It's not my usual cup of tea, but I'm really finding it quite tasty!


Old and new are in my reading stack this month. Following my reading urges, I've come round to the urge to read mysteries again. After searching through my bookshelves for old favorites, I'm nowreading Dorothy Sayers' Whose Body? – the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey series. I haven't read a Lord Peter since my grad school days, so I'm enjoying the reunion very much. And enough time has passed that I've rather blithely forgotten who did what to whom, which makes it a sort of fresh read — I haven't yet recalled who did in the body in the bath. Lovely Lord Peter, so full of sass and brilliance, and dear Bunter, so very pragmatic, and I love the vintage setting of a bygone era that still has a sense of modern familiarity. 

I just started reading Speaking From Among the Bones, Alan Bradley's fifth and newest Flavia de Luce mystery. When I got the book I practically squeeeeed with delight, being a huge Flavia fan. Haven't read far into it yet, so can't comment beyond I-already-love-this-book and I'm trying not to binge-read (did I say, huge Flavia fan, yes). So far in the story, we're in St. Tancred's church readying for a festival, Flavia has just wormed her way inside the church organ and out again, and we're on the verge of discovering a body. 

This series is entertaining, utterly charming and completely addictive, with one of the best sleuthing characters to come along in ages. Flavia, just 11, is a chemistry genius, mischievous, whimsical, inquisitive, brilliant, wise and yet naive. The setting is a small English village in 1950, and Flavia is a blend of Sherlock Holmes and Pippi Longstocking — and yet uniquely Flavia. The characters are so multi-layered and the mysteries very, very clever. The old manor house, Buckshaw, is a fascinating central character too. This is not a YA series, despite the young detective. If you haven't yet read Flavia — I highly recommend all five.

I'll be sad when the sixth and last in the series comes out next year – but squeeeeing with delight to have a fresh Flavia read once more – and I can only hope that Alan Bradley has a few more books planned. And if you like audiobooks — this series, read by Jayne Entwhistle, is sheer entertainment (I'm not much for audiobooks, and I adore these readings).

Among the nonfiction in my reading stack, I'm moving quickly through Knight by Robert Jones. It's a big, lovely coffee-table format with excellent content, and a comprehensive, up-to-date overview of knighthood and chivalry, primarily in England. Buzzing through this and other newish comprehensives and monographs is a great way to keep my medieval chops sharp while I'm working on another book.


LadylI'm always a bit behind in my reading, (several years behind if the size of my To Be Read stack is any indication,) so I won't feel guilty about reading a Christmas book in February. What I'm into now is Grace Burrowes' Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight  This is one of those, 'You will feel good when you read it' books. I'm deep in the middle and snow is falling outside. I am season appropriate.

And hey — here's a bit of synchronicity. Like Susan, I'm rereading Dorothy Sayers.  Strong Poison is my poison of choice this month. I love Sayers' strong, principled, intellectual heroine. I love the dialog. I just wallow and splash and delight in it. I will also admit I have a mad pash for Lord Peter, of which he is unaware, being, unfortunately, fictional.

Ww sayers
The cover of this latest reprint is a 1930's couple on a bridge looking out over the water. It seems to have been chosen at random by someone unfamiliar with the content, since the heroine is in prison for the whole of the book.Ah well.

My non-fiction right now is the classic Maple Sugar Book by Helen and Scott Nearing. This is sorta 'Thoreau has lunch with the Twentieth Century and they talk philosophy'.


SteelI've just started TOUCH OF STEEL by Kate Cross, book 2 in her Clockwork  Agents series. I loved HEART OF BRASS, the first book. Normally I don't read Steampunk but this series has totally converted me. It's clever, inventive, fun and very sexy and romantic.

In non-fiction I'm reading Bygone Pleasures of London, an out-of-print book I found in an antiquarian bookshop at the weekend. I love poking through places like that because you never know what you might find. Bygone Pleasures gives an insight into the pleasure gardens of London from 1660 until the mid-nineteenth century and as well as the more well known spas and tea gardens there are places I've never heard of like The Yorkshire Stingo famous for being the place where they served a particularly strong Yorkshire ale!

A friend recommended The Lady of the Rivers by Philipa Gregory. I hadn't read her for a while but I am enjoying this one more than any of her previous books. The history is compelling, the descriptions rich and vivid and she even manages to pull off the trick of making me find a Lancastrian – Richard Woodville – a very attractive hero. Lriv

Which brings me on to the rest of my reading. All the excitement over the discovery of Richard III's body has led me to re-read all my Richard III related books, both fact  and fiction. This will take a while! I've just finished The Daughter of Time  by Josephine Tey (still magnificent) and am about to start on The King's Bed by Margaret Campbell Barnes. Next time we do a "What we're reading" I'll probably still be working my way down the list!

So there you have the Wenches' recent reads. Are any of these favorites?

And what have you read recently that you'd like to share?


Some Some Summertime

Joanna here, 

The thermometer tells us it's 100 degrees today, (thank you, Mercury, god of thermometers). Another ikea bookcases
The cat is conked out on her back in the shade, too tired to harass the birds.  I'm listening to my heatstroke playlist. That's the one that starts with the Beachboy's Kokomo, ("Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take ya to …") and shimmies on to the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City, ("Doesn't seem to be a shadow  in the City").

Summer is upon us.

So let me ask, "What books would you take to the beach this summer?  Old friends?  New discoveries?"

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs. 
                                 Henry Ward Beecher

HammockonBeach wiki

Here in the South we know all about the heat index creeping stealthily up toward the triple digits.  We've raised 'doing nothing' to a graceful art form.  It's an art practiced by the swimming pool or a big 'ole lake,  or at least in company with a hose spraying around the backyard.  Bonus points for the lifestyle include barbecued ribs and cold Mountain Dew.  And beer.    Backyardhose attribclapstar

For me, any day of the simmering summer is incomplete without a book in the bag.  Or a couple books, since you never know exactly how the spirit will move you.  Summer reading needs the background noise of kids running around barefoot and yelling about nothing at all.  It needs a shady porch or umbrella and maybe a dragonfly hovering just off the port side of the hammock.    

Kai lungI'll tuck an old friend in the straw bag — Kai-Lung's Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah.  There's a funny, clever, dreamy, irrationality to it that suits hot weather and lying by the pool.  I own it in paperback, but it's free on e-readers, being out of copyright an' all. 

(Go ahead and click on any of these book names for more information 'bout the book.)

Jennifer Crusie always picks me up.  Funny, funny woman.  I haven't had a chance to read, Tell Me Lies yet, and I'm looking forward to it.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a new book out in July The Great Escape: A Novel.  I might top those two off with rum and coke and Grace Burrowes' most recent book, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal

In one of those fortunate happenstances, the ARCs for Mischief and Mistletoe are wending their way Wenchward, so I have that to look forward to.  A cool read in so many ways.

Mary Jo Putney says:

I am a Reader for All Seasons, and certainly can’t evoke languid summer reading times as well as Joanna can. (The dragonfly is a nice touch. <G>)

But a favorite I just reread fits the summer reading theme: White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz.  The  book is one of her Arcane Society romantic suspense novels, and it’s set in blazing summer heat in Arizona as the heroine, Clare Painteddesert wikiLancaster, becomes involved with murder, mayhem, and a hot alpha hunter named Jake.  I like  the characters and the plot—Clare is a human lie detector, which gives her an unusual philosophy of life.  And I like the JAK banter. 

I also like the way the book makes a reader feel the Arizona heat.  The burning steering wheels and the blasts of air conditioning when entering a building.  The deliciousness of a desert night, with softly slinking coyotes and giant stars on a dark velvet sky.  The crunch of bruschetta and the cool wine that follows.  Perfect summer reading if one is lounging on a shaded patio.  

But in general, any good story will do, summer or winter!

(Teacup attrib merdeglace, girl with hose attrib clapstar, bookshelves charliebrewer)

Nicola Cornick, who is not suffering the Virginia swelter or even Arizona's At-Least-It's-A-Dry-Heat desert, says: Teacup attrib merdeglace

There is a saying that summer in the UK consists of three hot days and then a thunderstorm, but this year it’s been so cool and damp we’ve barely had three hot days in a row and not much in the way of humidity.  So when my thoughts turn to summer reads they tend provoke ideas of pale sandy beaches and cool breezes off the sea and me sitting behind a wind break as I try to read, cradling a cup of tea from the flask to warm me up!

5 Paul Cesar Helleu (French artist, 1859-1927) ReaderMaybe that’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to reading The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. It sounds wonderfully evocative of the county, its coastline, its history and its atmosphere. I love holidays in Cornwall and one of my all time favourite books is Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier, which evokes the spirit of time and place in Cornwall so beautifully. I was even lucky enough to stay in Daphne Du Maurier's house at Frenchman's Creek one year and I could feel the ghosts all around me.

Which brings me neatly to my other hotly anticipated summer read. This is The Silent Touch of Shadows by HWW Christina Courtenay, a time slip book set in the present and the 15th century. I love time travel books and can never find enough of them to read. There's a pdf file with an extract from the here.  It's out in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to pick it up! 

Susan King brings us three recommendations and a garden:

I'm a dedicated year-round reader, though I tend to read a little more during the summer, with the pace of the household quieter, the Guys being busy and not around as much — I'll find an air-conditioned corner, curl up with the dog, and make a dent in the TBR pile. If it's not too hot 'n buggy, I love sitting out Morton_distanthoursto read on the shady side of the deck. But summer or winter, the reading situation depends on the deadline situation, but with my deadline a ways off yet (I'm time-dyslexic, ahem), this summer I have serious Reading Intentions.  

I've just started The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and then I've got my eye on A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. At the same time (because who reads just one book), I'm catchingDeck_summer up with some Wench novels (Mary Jo's delicious No Longer A Gentleman is toppling the stack). I've also loaded up the Kindle with lots of books and good intentions — mysteries, romance, a couple of YAs.
In a few weeks, when we'll be at Lake George for a bit, I'll find time to sit out on the breezy porch and read for hours. There's always the bottomless stack of research books, notes, and pages to read/revise — that sort of reading never stops!
It's a lovely thing, reading. I couldn't get through a summer (fall, winter, spring) or a lifetime without it!
The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don't, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper.
                    Polly Horvath

Andrea Pickens
brings us a couple few interesting suggestions, including our only hit on nonfiction:
It’s been a little hard to think of summer reads because here in the northeast where I live, it’s been unseasonably cool. But the vernal equinox seems to be bringing in a wave of sun and heat, so am looking forward to stretching out under a beach umbrella and diving into some of the books on my TBR pile.

I can highly recommend one that I just finished. Anatomy of Murder, by Imogen Robertson, is the second in her Georgian-set mystery series and it features fascinating characters, a compelling plot and wonderfully gritty description of life in London. It’s a compelling read that’s very hard to put down.  I’ve also got Past Wench Loretta Chase’s new release, Scandal Wears Satin, in my beach bag, for her pithy humor is perfect for making me laugh on a lazy summer day.

Now,  I know it’s the season for light reads, but I thought you all might get a laugh at what else I’m currently reading. A  dear friend of mine is fascinated by physics—about which I know less than nothing. However, he finds the subject so interesting that I recently read The Clockwork Universe, which was about Isaac Newton,  the Royal Society and the making of the modern world of science, so I could talk to him about it. To my surprise, I found it fascinating. However, I’ve now opened Pandora’s Box, because he just gave me Quantum, a book on quantuBanished bridem physics. I have started it—and feel like I’m back in school because I’ve started taking notes so I can try to understand some of the concepts. To my utter shock, I am enjoying learning about something that is utterly alien to me. And given that we want young people to get excited about science as well as reading, I feel I’m doing my bit. (If I don’t surface for the rest of the summer, you will know why!)

And (Shameless plug!) for those of you in the mood for a traditional Regency read, I've just posted three more of my old Signet books in e-book format at Amazon.  The Banished Bride, Second Chances, and A Stroke of Luck.

Jo Beverley points out:

I've never understood the concept of summer reads. To many it seems to mean a Marie_Danforth_Page Young Girl Reading 1914time when they're allowed to goof off and read the books they actually enjoy instead of the ought-to tomes. Come on now, break free and read for pleasure all year long!

Next, I'm not sure people have the most reading time in summer. Why should that be? Surely many people spend their summer holidays places they enjoy, not escaping to somewhere else in fiction. Now a long winter evening — that sounds like good reading time!

Anyway, I've never liked reading in the sun. However, that might not be a problem, given the weather summer's starting with here in England!
Irving Ramsay Wiles (American artist, 1861–1948) Reading in the Garden
Do you read more in summer?

And we round it off with suggestions from Anne Gracie:

It's a lovely idea — summer reads — but it's a bit hard to wrap my head around at the moment, because where I am (downunder) it's cold and wet and wintry, so I'm thinking more of reading curled up in front of the fire, or snuggling down under the bedclothes with a good book. In any case, I'm like Jo — I don't much like reading on the beach. Too bright and glarey to read, and I always end up with sand in the pages.  Give me a shady garden with a hammock and a long, cool glass standing by, any time.

R Curt Herrmann (1854-1929) Sophie Herrmann. (2)I'm actually not reading a lot at the moment because I'm on deadline, and at such times I reread, more than read,  but I have a lovely pile of new books ready on my TBR pile, and a few more on order.

I have Eloisa James's Paris book waiting, and Loretta Chase's Scandal Wears Satin on order, and I did try to leave Nalini Singh's Tangle of Need until after I'd finished my book, but I gave in. I've been hooked this series since Slave to Sensation. Julia Quinn's latest is singing its siren song to me, too. I've also got a pile of P.G. Wodehouses standing by — a lot of my old copies have gone walkabout, so I treated myself to a pile of new ones recently.

But summer heat or winter chills, as far as I'm concerned it's always time for a good book.

So, there you are — round about two dozen books for your delectation and enjoyment.  Have you read any of these?  Would you second the recommendations?

Is summer your time for light reading and a lot of it?  Are you expecting to get much reading done over the next few weeks?