AAR is running a series of blog posts on books we love which you might want to give as gifts. These books may be recent or classic, reviewed or unreviewed, digital or print – the only rule is that they can’t be out of print entirely. In this column, we’ve collected suggestions for romantic mysteries.
Maggie: The Bess Crawford Series by Charles Todd (Book 1: A Duty to the Dead) Not every book is fabulous in this series but the majority are. Bess is a nurse during WWI who solves mysterious events surrounding her patients. Bess’s own love life is unfurling slowly but almost all of her books contain a secondary love story between her patient and the lovelorn guy or gal who has been waiting in the wings for them. A grown up (and much better written) version of the Cherry Ames books.
LinnieGayl: My absolute favorite mystery series is the Amelia Peabody mystery series by Elizabeth Peters (the first book is Crocodile on the Sandbank was my A review application for AAR). At the heart of the series is Amelia and Emerson (who becomes her husband at the end of the first book). But it’s also filled with romantic pairings of numerous other characters. The books are funny, definitely romantic, and are set (with a few exceptions) in Egypt primarily in the early 1900s.
Lynn: Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers still tops my all-time favorite list. Sayers wrote several books featuring Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey,but this one is the most deeply romantic of them. It’s also unusual in that the mystery plot revolves around a crime other than murder. Featuring intelligent writing and a budding relationship of equals, this book is a real treat.
I also admire the Clare Fergusson/Chief Russ Van Alstyne series from Julia Spencer-Fleming (the first book is In the Bleak Midwinter). Each book features a complete mystery, but it’s worth reading the series in order so as to appreciate the growth and change in the relationship between Russ and Clare. They start off somewhat opposed to one another, but then…well, things change. There are some moral complications involved in how they deal with their attraction to one another because Russ is married, Clare is an Episcopal priest subject to church discipline, and then the two are almost a generation apart in age. Not only is this an entertaining series, but there’s much food for thought here as well.
Dabney: For me, before there was romance, there was mystery. From the time I was 17 until I was 45, I read more mysteries than any other sort of book. Many of my favorites have a romantic slant, but, in the interest of brevity, I’ll name just a few.
If you’ve never read Margaret Lawrence‘s series set in 1780’s America, do. The four books books, Hearts and Bones (nominated for the Edgar and the Agatha Awards), Blood Red Roses, The Burning Bride, and The Iceweaver are all stellar. Hannah Trevor is a midwife in rural Maine. She has an illegitimate daughter by Daniel Josselyn who is one of three men suspected in the murder of a young mother in the first book. Hannah works to not only clear Daniel–to whom she doesn’t speak–but to save her daughter from indentured servitude. The time period, after Independence but before any real government was in place, was horrific for many. Hannah tells the story with wisdom and sorrow. The first three books are Hannah’s and Daniels’ story. The fourth is that of their daughter. The last is my least favorite but the first three are books I’ve read again and again.
Other recommendations from the staff:
Lee: Deanna Rayborn’s Lady Julia Grey novels. (The first book is Silent in the Grave.)
Caz: The Lady Darby books by Anna Lee Huber. (The first book The Anatomist’s Wife.)
Anne: Not a book, but how about a do-it-yourself murder mystery party game?