Tag Archives: New England

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday

maps

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday
I have to admit that I am Buzz Feed Quiz junkie.  You know, the ones that have you answer questions to determine which Disney Princess you are, which Hogwarts House you belong in, and which decade should you have lived in.  In order, Belle (no surprise there), Gryffindor (I wish I was that brave), and the 1950’s (pencil skirts and cocktail hour all the way!).  I recently saw one that “determined” your book interests based on travel preferences, and it got me thinking about settings.  I went through my list of all my favorite mystery writers . . . of course I have a list . . . and not too surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap of locations.  An honorable mention list must include New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York, but here are the four that made the final cut.

The United Kingdom
Big surprise there!  Obviously London – past and present – is number one of my list.  I have been an Anglophile forever, and although I have only had the opportunity to travel to the UK once, I love the juxtaposition between old and new, ancient and modern.  The history combined with all the cultural influences makes the setting full of literary opportunities.  With such a rich history, mysteries can be set in so many different time periods.  I love to read about the social customs and class mores that are indicative to each era.  Some of my favorite authors include maps of historical London and it is fascinating to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

I love to read about modern London in Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James New Scotland Yard adventures, Regency London through the eyes of C. S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr, and Victorian London’s Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch.

Of course, the great thing about the UK is that you can include Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  My favorite mystery writer, Anna Lee Huber, sets her Georgian Lady Darby series in Scotland.  A modern day Wales is seen in Elizabeth Dunnett’s Penny Brannigan series and Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans mysteries.

San Francisco
You have probably also noticed my love of San Francisco.  Ah, if money were no object . . . actually, it is an object, just one I don’t have a lot of!  Once again, it is a city with a lot of history and diversity.  With influences from the West and its role in the American Gold Rush and westward expansion history, there is a wealth of potential for conflict and personality.  The cultural and ethnic enclaves within the city are so vibrant that they are also individual and unique settings within the larger city.

I love Juliet Blackwell’s witchcraft series that is set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco; the author does a great job at describing the tone and feel of this vibrant neighborhood.  Kate Carlisle is another favorite author of mine; her stories are set all around the heart of the city but she also travels up 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge to the wine country as well.  I just discovered Nancy Herriman’s novel of Old San Francisco set post Gold Rush and I look forward to more in that series.

New England
The crisp fall air.  The smell of apple pie.  The sound the pounding surf.  The sight of a dead body.  Don’t you love New England!!  Having lived in the Northeast, I quickly fell in love with the region and it truly does provide a wonderful backdrop to a great crime!  Seriously though, the history, the topography, and customs of decades old generations makes New England a great setting.

Quintessential New England towns provide the perfect setting for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Russ VanAlstyne and Clare Fergusson contemporary mysteries that feature a small town cop and an Episcopalian priest, and for Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries set in coastal Connecticut.  Kaitlyn Dunnett channels a Scottish heritage in the fictitious Moosetookalook, Maine.

France
Ironically, France had never been a place I had a huge desire to visit, until I was introduced to two great mystery series sent in this beautiful and culturally rich country.  Wine, cheese, the French Alps, the French Riviera.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Of course I would love to go there!!

Two writers that I really enjoy include Mark Pryor and M.L. Longworth.  Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series is set mainly in Paris and I enjoy reading about both the famous and infamous stops that he visits within the city.  M.L. Longworth’s Verlaque and Bonnet series takes place in Aix-en-Provence, which is in southern France not too far from Marseille.  I really enjoy the contrast between the two geographically and culturally diverse areas.

Interesting . . . I have lived in two of these locations; perhaps it is time to move again?  As I wrote this, it got me thinking about specific places from novels that I have read that I would like to visit.  I think I see another blog post topic!  How about you?  What are your favorite book settings?

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A Gilded Grave

Title: A Gilded Grave (Newport Gilded Age Mystery 1)
Author: Shelley Freydont
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-27584-9

Book Summary:
Newport, Rhode Island. 1895. It is the height of the gilded age and Newport is the home to the summer mansions of the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and other families who have made their fortunes. Deanna Randolph is making her first Newport Season, and although this is the life she has been born into, she still struggles with all the nuances and mores of society. Her older sister Adelaide is engaged to Charles Woodruff; a marriage that will consolidate the two families’ R and W Sugar Refineries. Deanna’s father attempted to make a partnership with the Ballard family as well, but Joe Ballard, although friends since childhood, rebuffed an engagement to Deanna. Taking an interest in Deanna is Lord David Manchester, a sugar magnate from Barbados, who is staying with his sister Madeline at the Woodruff mansion.

During a ball given to honor Lord Manchester and his sister, the body of a young maid is found. When it becomes apparent that the maid did not fall from the cliffs of her own accord, the social elite are shocked but quickly return to their lives of parties, tennis matches, and social outings. Deanna cannot forget however, and when another maid is killed, she realizes that a lot more is at stake. When vicious gossip puts Joe Ballard near the scene of the crime and his apprentice is jailed for possible involvement, Deanna makes a reluctant alliance with Joe, her maid Elspeth, Sergeant Will Hennessey, and Joe’s eccentric grandmother, Gran Gwen, to discover the secrets within Newport’s high society and the convoluted and sometimes questionable trail of money that gave these families their status and wealth.

Book Commentary:
I admit that I am kind of an English mystery snob – if it is a historical mystery, then it better be set in the United Kingdom. This story however, did a great job at creating the sense of opulence and excessiveness of the uber-wealthy in the late 1800’s in New England. The author’s talent lies in painting the picture for the reader of the lifestyles and attitudes of the time.

I enjoyed the character of Deanna Randolph. The back cover author comments included two of my favorite authors – Tasha Alexander and Anna Lee Huber. Both of these authors write about female protagonists who don’t quite fit into the norm of their high society; they know what they are supposed to do and what is expected of them. Although they follow the expectations, there is depth in their questions and perceptions of the world around them. Deanna Randolph is a similar character. One of the things that I really liked about her is that she is young – just 18 years old. The author does a great job at blending her naivety and idealism with a sense of responsibility and a questioning nature. Although not all of her decisions and observations are correct, the reader does see her thinking and learning process and recognizes her growth. It will be fun to see her development as a character in potential future books.

Who might like this book:
It is always fun for me to start a brand-new series. There is a lot of potential for future books so I think to be able to watch this character grow will be fun. I also love any book set in New England and the historical setting adds to the atmosphere.