When genre is good it’s very very good

by KJ in #AmReading

a mystery for Austen-ites and a real ripped bodice,

Ok. I take it back. A closer look at the cover of the delightful, satisfying, this-is-like-a-pint-of-your-fave-ice-cream When a Scot Ties the Knot reveals that her bodice is secure. And because this is a deliciously modern romance, our hero would never—NEVER—rip it unless she consented. Sober, and in full possession of her senses.

You know I love a good rom-com. And I’ll dabble back in regency rom-com, too. But (probably like you) in adulthood I’ve hewed closely to the kinds of romance you find in indie bookstores, which is to say trade paperback (the bigger ones that are popular now) rather than mass-market (the ones on the spinner at the grocery store and the only kind that used to exist) and with cartoon or illustrated covers rather than bronzed chests and heaving bosoms.

Truth? This bias is limiting. There are some very smart, fun, entertaining, FUNNY writers penning those traditional romances, and I’ve been missing out. I ordered When a Scot Ties the Knot on the recommendation of TK, the host of the Learning the Tropes podcast, and because the premise sounded joyfully unlikely and entertaining: our (pathologically shy) heroine, Maddy, invents a fiance who’s away at the wars in order to get out of a London season. And is forced by circumstances to write him and mail the letters to uphold the ruse. Letters which end up in the very real hands of the titular Scot, who shares a name with her fictional creation and—after Maddy inherits a castle in Scotland (you know, as one does)—comes to claim his bride.

Y’all, it’s a romp and a joy. Download it if it pleases you, but I dare you to order the tidy little old-school mass market bosom heaving paperback and FLAUNT that sucker by the pool at the very first opportunity.

In other genre news—but genre that comes in a nice reputation-salvaging trade paperback illustrated cover disguise if you prefer it that way—I’ve fallen hard for a new mystery series. It’s been a while since my youthful love affairs with the likes of Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Charlotte Macleod and Martha Grimes, but I’m happy to be back in the hands of the masterful Claudia Gray who’s now written two very wonderful mysteries set in the Austen era: The Murder of Mr. Wickham (who didn’t want HIM dead?) and The Late Mrs. Willoughby (who also leaves few Austenites grieving).

Many have tried to populate mysteries with the likes of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Some have even succeeded. But these are like no other, because they bring together ALL the characters of the Austen universe in a unified whole and offer the most well-constructed continuances of their stories I’ve encountered. The sleuths belong to the next generation, but all of the characters reappear and manage to bring nearly as much joy as in the originals. I can’t recommend them enough. (DO start with The Murder of Mr. Wickham, as The Late Mrs. Willoughby definitely contains spoilers—although I was in that one as much for what it revealed about the lives and relationships of Austen’s characters AFTER their happily-ever-afters as for the mystery).

That’s it from me this week!

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