Ask A Wench About Humour

Christina here with this month’s ASK A WENCH and today we’re going to talk about what we find amusing. We are living in such dark times that some humour is essential to lighten things up and therefore the question to the Wenches was: 

What makes you laugh – jokes, funny TV shows, books or films?

Jeeves-and-Wooster-jeeves-and-wooster-14361288-1000-1317Anne here. I love to laugh, but laughs are often hard to come by when you most want them. A few books/authors can be expected to reliably deliver a laugh or three — Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, JD Kirk (who mixes laughs with crime that's often quite grim), and Jenny Crusie who writes wonderful rom-com, but mostly when I want or need a laugh, I return to old favorites on the screen. These are all on YouTube, so are always available. And they're all British, and a bit over-the top/off the wall.

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What We’re Reading in February

Hi Folks. 

Joanna here with a round up of the great reads that got us through a blustery cold February.

Wenches discovery witchesMy own wonderful read was Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches, Book One in the All Soul's Trilogy.  The elements of this story — withces and vampires living among us, ancient manuscripts, conspiracies, ancient secrets — are familiar.  They seem almost hackneyed.  What lifts this book above the ordinary is Harkness' beautiful writing. 

And … well … the first book of the trilogy is set mostly in Oxford.  I'm a sucker for Oxford. 

I've already acquired Book Two in the trilogy, Shadow of Night, and look forward to settling down in a comfy chair with it.  Maybe when we get this next wave of snow that's coming in. 

Cara/Andrea saying:Wenches heir apparent

I’m very interested in the Edwardian era, so when I read the great reviews for The Heir Apparent, Jane Ridley’s new biography of “Bertie,” King Edward VII, I immediately grabbed it.

It’s an absolutely fascinating read. Ridley had access to extensive Royal archives and private family correspondence—and the picture painted of Queen Victoria, Albert and their extensive brood and relatives is  . . .well, I’m not quite sure of the adjective to use. Chilling might be one of them. Talk about a dysfunctional family! It’s a wonder poor Bertie wasn’t committed to Bedlam. He actually comes off as a very sympathetic character, far brighter and more interested in the welfare of his country than he is given credit for.

On the other hand, the Queen and her consort come across as cold, manipulative people who had absolutely no emotional interest in their children. It also gives a wonderful look at the social whirl of the Victorian age, with descriptions of the house parties, the foreign travel, the royalty of Europe. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the time period.


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Wenchly Weathering the Storm

Owl waterJoanna
here, talking about good books to help us through miserable weather.

Books are a joy in good times and a comfort in bad ones.  More than once I've been delighted to dive between the pages of a book and let the world get on without me for a while, me not being fond of what the world is up to right then. 

This last couple weeks on the East Coast of America lots of folks have found themselves crouching down under the pounding of a hurricane.  I wondered how many of them were reading books by the flickering and uncertain light of candles. 

So I asked the Wenches about their own experiences with storms and whether they had book recommendations for times of stormy weather.

It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.
          Victor Hugo

Weatherly Monty 2010

Nicola Cornick answers: I’m fortunate that I live in a part of the world where the weather seldom goes to  extremes. There has only been one hurricane in England in my lifetime. However over the past few years it does feel as though our weather patterns have been changing. My village was flooded five years ago and there have been increasingly large falls of snow each winter with the village cut off for several days. Usually I enjoy the novelty for a day or two and then start to feel hemmed in. Taking the dog for a walk through the drifts is a fun way to enjoy the different scenery.

If I’m really stuck indoors with no prospect of escape, first I’ll fire up the wood-burning stove. Then I’ll
Weatherly daughtersoffirebrew a fresh cup of tea and settle down with a pile of books. I remember one year Barbara Erskine’s book Daughters of Fire saw me through the worst. The title was appropriately warming and I love stories set in different historical time periods that are linked by a mystery across the centuries. It was completely engrossing.

Joanna popping up to say I've put Erskine on my next-trip-to-the-library list.  I haven't read her books for a couple years.  Now Nicola's made me hungry for one.  It's like somebody mentioning ice cream sodas or fried oysters. Suddenly it's your next craving.

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in.
          Arthur Schopenhauer


Weatherlyrain wikiPat Rice
says:  Given that I live in St Louis where our weather can veer from tornadoes to hurricanes and earthquakes, all in the same day, weathering weather should qualify as an indoor sport.

We currently live in an area with buried power lines, so fortunately, we haven’t experienced power outages lately. But having spent the better part of my life in areas where the power fails if the wind blows, I’ve learned many methods of coping without TV or movies. So those aren’t my first choices. After I crank up the gas fire or kerosene heater and turn my refrigerator contents into soup on the kerosene stove, I retrieve my battery operated lamps or kerosene lamps and head for the bookshelf. Yeah, I can write by pen and paper and often have when the weather lasts longer than a few hours. But books are comforting when the wicked wind blows.
Weatherly temptation good
My comfort reads almost always turn to humor and romance. There’s enough suspense and horror in watching the wind, rain, and snow outside without adding more. On the
Weatherly nobody's babevery top of my humorous romance lists will be Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Loretta Chase. Terri Medeiros has some great ones, too. I have all their books and I probably ought to start up a Storm Shelf in the basement with those books on it. And then I could add new discoveries as they come along, except I’m buying mostly e-books these days. So I guess I need to start a Storm Shelf on my Nook!

Joanna:  I love all the Romance writers she mentions.  Wonderful reads.  They're on my Keeper Shelf. 

Jo Beverley joins us with:  Like Nicola, I grew up in England, which has a temperate climatWeatherly sand and wave 2e, but I also grew up on the sea front, which is a great place to appreciate what storms do come. The often seemed to come in from the north over Morecambe Bay. I will always remember the great storm of 1987, because it occurred on the day my mother was buried. Up there in the north of England we hardly felt it, but I had a lot of trouble getting south of London to my in-laws' house because of trees on the railway lines. That was when Sevenoaks ceased to have seven oaks.

I realize that I haven't used many storms in my books, and that it might be from fear that they would tip drama into melodrama.  There's no subtle way to write a storm!

What bo
Weatherly checkmateok would I recommend for a storm-trapped time? I think I'd want my copy of Dorothy Dunnett's Checkmate, the last book of her Lymond saga. It's big, complex, and highly enjoyable. I'd hardly notice the weather at all — at least, as long as I had power, and therefore light!

Joanna:  I'm going to just chime in and admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool Dunnett groupie.

Here's what Mary Jo Putney has to say:  For me, the difference between a storm being a nuisance and a disaster is whether the electricity stays on.  If we lose cable and internet, I will whine, but it’s bearable.  As long as there is electricity, there's never a shortage of things to do or food to eat.  Tons of books to read, DVDs to watch, food to pull from the freezer.  Life is good.
Hurricane preparations 9a

But lose electricity and things get seriously uncomfortable!  Shivering (or poaching, depending on the season), is never fun.  Candlelight is never adequate for working or reading.  Since my laptop is always charged, an hour or two of DVD can be watched in the darkness, but after that, there’s not much to do but sympathize deeply with the ancestors.

If a major storm is coming, I’ll make sure there are batteries and candles and matches and some food that doesn’t have to be cooked and will not easily spoil, but mostly I give thanks that my little corner of suburbia doesn’t lose power as often as outlying areas.  For this I am very grateful.  Plus, I have battery backups for both the sump pump and garage door opener, which is helpful.  

Weatherly bujoldHurricane Sandy blew by just far enough north that it was a nuisance, not a disaster—i.e., the cable and internet went out, but not the electricity.  So we could watch Star Trek: Voyager or Downton Abbey, and I could read Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which is a delight.  

So this time I was lucky—and I’m sending best wishes to those still suffering the effect of the hurricane.  (But really, “Hurricane Sandy” just doesn’t sound mean enough for the damage caused!)


If you think you have it tough, read history books.
          Bill Maher

Next, we hear from Anne Gracie:  Hugs to all the people badly affected by Hurricane Sandy — or any
Weatherly Brushtail_possumother bad storm.

I'm lucky to live in the south-east of Australia, which has a fairly mild, Mediterranean style climate. We don't get snow, and we don't get hurricanes or cyclones.  We get the occasional big storm, severe hail, or the occasional flood and it can get very hot in
Weatherly Rainbow_Lorikeetsummer — a few years ago it was in the mid 40's C (over 110 fahrenheit) for a week, and that was very unpleasant. But the extremely hot weather doesn't usually last more than a week and then we get a cool change. Really, the worst we have to contend with are bush-fires, and even then, because I live not far from the centre of a big city, I'm not personally endangered. But it's very grim to see the sky go dark and the sun like a glowing red coal through the gloom and know that a large bushfire is wreaking destruction on some poor souls.

I do occasionally worry about very windy storms, but that's because Ihave a very large gum tree (eucalyptus) in my front yard, close to my bedroom window, and I wonder if it's going to blow down on me. I probably should have it cut down but it's beautiful and has been there for 30-40 years, I think. The rainbow lorikeets love it and chortle and twitter in it every morning, which is a lovely happy sound to wake up to, and a possum lives in it, too, and it's very hard for possums to find places to live in the city; another reason why I'm reluctant to have it chopped down. 

Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose speaks from personal experience:  My wooded neighborhood ocWeatherly hurrican isabel wikicasionally loses power during storms because of falling trees or branches, so over the years I've accumulated a set of strong kerosene lanterns. The mellow glow of oil light is rather nice, and I'm good with striking a match and reading, or turning to pen and paper to continue writing (I've actually been experimenting with writing longhand instead of on the computer even when the power is flowing because a writer pal of mine told me about a study that said the brain works with subtle differences depending on which process is used. That fascinates me, but the trouble is, I fuss and fiddle with sentences so much that a paper page becomes an illegible mess. Haven't quite figured out where to go with it–was hoping I might learn to get the words flowing faster!)

But getting back to
Weatherly andrea's-tree-maggedonstorms, a power outage of a few hours or overnight is no hardship, but channeling Jane Austen loses its charm when it goes on for a week. Hurricane Sandy really hammered my property (I lost over 40 100-ft pines, prompting my neighbors to name my place “Tree-mageddon”) Last year, the outage was 6 days during Hurricane Irene, so I bought a small generator to keep the sump pump going. But even with a few primitive comforts-I was able to juggle back and forth between running the fridge and a coffee pot and toaster-the routine of simply trying to keep disasters like freezing pipes and flooding basements at bay consumes all focus and becomes physically and mentally exhausting.

Reading did offer a respite at night-I became immersed in Island of Bones, the third book in a series of wonderful Georgian-set historical mysteries by Imogen Robertson, and the cunningly complex plot was intriguing enough to take my mind off the chaos all around me for an interlude.
Weatherly island-paperback-best
Aside from the physical challenges, I also found myself stressed over being “unconnected” to the internet because all phone/tv/internet was out. I try to keep my daily interactions at a reasonable level because I would rather spend my time writing-but I was surprised at how cut off I felt. Thoreau would likely be appalled at such lack of self-reliance. And I was a bit, too. Now that all is back to normal, I am thinking about that and what it says about modern life. Hmmm. I will likely ponder it even more during the next storm! (Oh, and thanks to Joanna and her lovely descriptions of her toasty wood stove, that's the next item on my list as I try to make sure my house will survive the next nor'easter that roars through my town.)

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.
          George Carlin


And finally,  Susan Fraser King/Sarah Gabriel says:  When I was a kid, weathering the fierce
Weatherly snowman wikistorms in Upstate New York meant excitement and fun–watching huge thunderstorms from a cozy window seat, decking myself out in rubber bands and rubber-soled sneakers, and if the lights went out, the fun got even bigger with flashlights and candles and scary stories. Winters with heavy snowstorms and even blizzards brought a fire in the fireplace and hot chocolate with marshmallows, and once we were crammed into parkas and boots, there were snow angels and snowmen and forts to make and snowball fights to win. And school was cancelled! What could be more heaven sent, from a kid's perspective.

Weatherly candle wiki 1But it's very different as an adult, isn't it, with the family and the house to watch over. If the power goes out, there's the fridge to empty, there may be flooding and yard and house damage and so on. And yet I still love the sturm and drang of a good storm and I even enjoy having no power for a few days (provided all else goes well!). I love the peacefulness when the house and the world are quieted and lit by candlelight (until the neighbors turn on their generator– that noise is crazymaking). During Hurricane Sandy, my family was thankfully safe, although one of our sons lives in coastal Connecticut. His neighborhood was walloped and left without power for a week. Luckily he made it through without lasting effects. My heart goes out to all those who got way more than a wallop from Sandy, and I hope all our Wenchly readers stayed perfectly safe.  

there are always books to read on those stormy days to be weathered. My
recommendation for rain, hurricanes and candlelight would be to catch
up on the TBR pile! I did that during the recent storm when I plucked
WIZARD by Gene Wolfe from the bookshelf, having read KNIGHT a while
back. Gorgeous. 

Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.
          Susan Sontag

Deer in snow 2As for myself:  Here in Virginia I caught only the slightest edge tickle of a nudge of the passing of Sandy.  In one of those odd reality that wouldn't make any sense if you tried to put them in a book . . . I got snow. 

Not too much of it.  About six inches of the gloppiest wettest hugest-flakes snow you can imagine.  It practically came out of the sky thump, thump, thump.  But it was the first snow of the year, and beautiful, and no disaster befell me, so I found it a peaceful interlude.  It's very quiet in the mountains when it snows.
Weatherly last unicorn

Am I the only one of us who settles back with nonfiction when I'm feeling snowed in, literally or figuratively?  I read some in Laslett's The World We Have Lost: England Before the Industrial Age, a lively social history and something of a classic.  Very readable.  For fiction, I'd go with Peter S. Beagle.  Maybe start with his, The Last Unicorn, but anything he writes is lovely.


So what's your favorite book in times of sirocco, sandstorm, typhoon, tree-mageddon or other challenges of nature?

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?

Ask A Word Wench: What We’re Reading

Cat 243 Dover

by Mary Jo

These is an older blog topic request, but timeless.  From Mary K. Kennedy: 

"Could the Wenches do a periodic joint blog about recent books that they really enjoyed?  The blog comments have given me some great recommendations for books I would've otherwise panned."

So—just in time to cheer us up at tax season, here are some recent reads by Word Wenches:

ARoyalAffair From Nicola Cornick: 

I'm currently reading A Royal Affair, which sounds like a racy novel but is actually a non-fiction book by Stella Tillyard, author of Aristocrats, about King George III and the complex and sometimes dark relationships he had with his siblings. It's fascinating stuff and thanks to a fast pace and Stella Tillyard's beautiful writing it grabbed me right from the first. The murky world of Mid-Georgian London is beautifully drawn and the family relationships are engrossing.

From Anne Gracie:

In the last few months I've glommed a couple of new-to-me authors, collecting as much of their backlist as has been available. Thanks to wench Nicola who put me onto Susanna Kearsley, I've devoured her books. They're basically contemporary romances with an element of mystery and a strong historical connection; there's often a kind of time-slip or reincarnation theme going. Lovely.

12 Days of Christmas My other big glom author is Trisha Ashley, and I started with Twelve Days of Christmas (also called Twelfth Night in some places) which is still my fave and a keeper I've already reread. Trisha Ashley's books are contemporary romances,  a little in the Katie Fforde vein, but laced with gorgeous pithy humor that often surprises a chuckle out of me.

Finally, because Susan Wiggs is coming to the RWAustralia conference in August, I started a "Wiggsathon" with some friends, where we've been reading  a pile of her books — in my case, her Lakeshore Chronicles series, which I'd never read any of. Thoroughly enjoyed them, too. Before that I think I'd only read her historicals, of which The Lightkeeper was my standout favorite.

Call me Irreisitible From Pat Rice:

As usual, I’m reading several books at a time and the chance of my finishing any soon may rest on how much reading time I have.  But I did just finish Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Call Me Irresistible and loved it. I can’t think of another author who can create a conflict out of one character being perfect and the other totally imperfect. The clash is just too funny.

I’m also reading Pati Nagle’s The Immortal, an ebook contemporary fantasy available at and elsewhere. Think Legolas The Immortal visits your local library and persuades the librarian to help him fight one of his own who is vampirically diseased and threatening humans. Great New Mexico scenery thrown in.




From Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose:

76377588 I've been reading historical mystery lately, and just discovered a very interesting new-to-me series by a writer named Imogen Robertson set in Georgian England. Instruments of Darkness features an intriguing cast of characters (a naval captain's wife who is managing a small estate, along with her two young children and teenage sister, and  a reclusive anatomist who turn into a sleuthing team) several puzzling murders, and a dark mystery involving the local lord of the manor, a wounded veteran of the British raid on Concord. The writing style is beautiful-very descriptive, with great characterization. I'm definitely going to be looking for the second book.

I've also belatedly started the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I don't why it took me so long. I love the era-WWI England for the first book (with flashback to Edwardian times) and 1920s for the next ones. Maisie is a very unusual heroine, and her sleuthing deals with complex issues, creating the texture and nuances which appeal to me. 

A-red-herring-without-mustardFrom Susan King:

Lately I've been reading lots of nonfiction and a few mysteries, and the book that currently tops the basket beside my reading chair (which is spilling over with research books and wanna-reads) is Alan Bradley's A Red Herring Without Mustard. This is the third in a series that begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Ever since discovering the detective expertise of Flavia De Luce, an 11-year-old amateur chemist and a determined and brilliant little sleuth, I have been hooked. The delightful Flavia – a mix between Marie Curie, Sherlock Holmes and Pippi Longstocking – along with the charming setting (the English countryside in 1950), and some very clever mystery goings-on are keeping me well occupied and more than a little addicted.

Victory of Eagles From Jo Beverley:

I recently read Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles. This is the fourth book in the series about a dragon air force in the Napoleonic Wars, starring Temeraire, a mighty dragon. I did enjoy it, especially Temeraire, who is brilliantly portrayed, but I find the long suffering stoicism of  Lawrence, Temeraire's human partner, a bit of a downer.


I've also been revisiting Dr Johnson's London: Everyday Life in London in the Mid 18th Century, which is full of interesting details that might come in useful in A Scandalous Countess, my MIP.

A presumption of death  From Mary Jo Putney:

This gives me a chance to talk about several books!  Dorothy Sayers created the marvelous sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, and since her death three more books have written by Jill Paton Walsh.  I’ve read and enjoyed all the Lord Peter mysteries, but romance writer to the core, I particularly like the ones about his courtship and marriage to Harriet Vane, the accused murderess he lost his heart to. 

Hence, I’m really enjoying the continuation books because they take place after Lord Peter marries Harriet.  A Presumption of Death takes up their lives in 1940 while Lord Peter is missing and possibly dead on a secret mission in Nazi Europe while Harriet is home keeping things together with their two children as well as the three children of Peter’s sister.  Naturally, a murder occurs and Harriet is drawn into solving it.  I liked this so much that I’ve bought the earlier continuation, Thrones, Dominations (that one was started by Sayers and completed by Paton Walsh). and I want to read the third, The Attenbury Emeralds, entirely written by Jill Paton Walsh, as well.  Wonderful characters, writing, and stories. 

I also just finished Michael Caine’s second memoir, The Elephant to Hollywood.  As The Elephant to Hollywood he says cheerfully, he thought his career was about over when he wrote his first memoir 18 years ago, but that didn’t prove to be the case.  He’s great company—warm and good natured, with terrific self-deprecating stories, including how he found his adored wife, Shakira, in a Maxwell House coffee commercial.  There’s also the subtext of how a poor East End boy who had rickets as a child made the amazing journey to international stardom.

Last but hardly least is Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper.  Homer is the blind kitten Gwen adopted when no one else wanted him.  Instead of growing up to be a fearful invalid, he turned into an intrepid blind wonder cat, capable of leaping five feet straight into the air to catch flies, and gathering legions of adoring fans.  He also became a role model for Gwen making changes in her own life.  Excellent writing, and a wonderful tale for cat lovers and others.

Homer's Odyssey That’s it for now!  I hope you all saw books you’d like to try. 
Mary Kennedy, you’re the winner of The Bargain, my April book.  (Or another if you have that one.)

We Wenches are considering following Mary's suggestion of occasionally posting other "What We've Been Reading" blogs.  What do you think?  Would you like to see more such posts?

And what have

Mary Jo