We could argue all day about England’s finest contributions to culture: Jane Austen vs. the Brontës, Thackery vs. Dickens, Shakespeare vs. no one (there is only one Shakespeare), afternoon tea vs. fish and chips, Walkers crisps vs. McCoy’s, wellies vs. fascinators. But why choose sides when we can enjoy it all?
And that’s how we feel about books that feature English characters and settings, too. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and we are grateful.
From medieval cathedrals to majestic manor houses, London flats to humble homes on the Yorkshire Moors, England’s structures and the landscapes that surround them are often characters as influential as the people who populate the stories.
There are nobles and peasants and tradespeople. Executives and hackers and relentless detectives (and criminals). There’s Lizzie Bennet and Bridget Jones and Harry Potter and Hercule Poirot and Gandalf and sweet Samwise Gamgee — unforgettable characters in singular settings that could only be in England.
And the history! There’s the Magna Carta and Hundred Years’ War, the Plantagenets (and their pesky War of the Roses), the House of York, House of Lancaster, the Tudors, the Stuarts, the Regency Era and Edwardian Era and Victorian Era, and — bless her heart — Queen Elizabeth II who keeps on keeping on.
The British Isles have been inhabited for approximately 800,000 years. That’s a looooong history in which to place stories — of myth and legend, stranger-than-fiction facts, classic literature, modern masterpieces, and everything in between.
From classics 'Jane Eyre' and 'Northanger Abbey' to Agatha Christie and Tana French, the creaky halls and haunted histories of manor houses are the ideal backdrop for secrets, ghosts, betrayal, and romance.
In literature (and life), a home is often seen as a reflection of a person's status, motivation and values — a nifty shorthand for conveying character. The stately manors in these six classics speak volumes.
The Waterstones in Bradford, England is a cathedral of books. You can browse the stacks of carefully curated books under soaring ceilings and stained glass windows, then enjoy a cuppa in the balcony café.
London calling! From Brixton market to the Crystal Palace in South London, the iconic House of Parliament, pastel Primrose Hill, and a gritty council estate in Neasden, these novels capture the personality of the British capital.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to England's Peak District. In this collection of short stories, you'll visit a maybe-haunted house and wonder if that's 'just the wind' or something else entirely.
London, 1888. So posh, polite, and perilous. Go undercover with Veronica Speedwell and her partner Stoker as they try to avert royal embarrassment, dodge flying bullets, thwart Jack the Ripper, and flirt up a storm.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Oxford University where you just might fall in love with a prince. And learn a proper curtsy. And be mobbed by paparazzi. And find yourself joining the royal family.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Tudor-era England with this literary thriller. But watch your pretty neck. With the capricious Henry VIII and wily Thomas Cromwell in charge, it's perilous times indeed.
Literary mysteries abound in this smart, suspenseful love letter to literature set at Oxford University. Our heroine Samantha has known too much tragedy for her young age, and her life is about to upended again.
This weekend, travel back in time in Yorkshire and meet Helen Graham, a surprisingly independent woman who finds herself stuck in the social mores of the Victorian age — until she forges her own path to happiness.
Imagine a world where the Brontë sisters take a break from writing their groundbreaking novels and set out across the moors to solve a murder mystery. Then rejoice, because author Bella Ellis has created that world.
The Union Coffee House is tucked along a side street in Leeds. It's worth the trip to this cozy café to enjoy their excellent coffee, warm hospitality, zippy wi-fi, and surprisingly good selection of books.
Daunt Books Marylebone is like Strong Sense of Place became sentient and took up residence in an Edwardian bookshop. Its collection of curated books, stained glass window, reading nooks make it a must-visit bookshop.
This weekend, take yourself off to Victorian London with a group of monstrously determined young women. You'll foil villains, beat back personal demons, and make a sound argument for why dresses must have pockets.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Victorian England. Meet a lady lepidopterist, celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and — oh, dear! — get caught up in villainy, kidnap, and a little murder.
Our heroine Jane Eyre is much put-upon, but during her first day at Lowood School, the harsh privations of the place are tempered by the kindness of a teacher named Miss Temple and her secret stash of seed-cake.
Deanna Raybourn is the author of the irresistible Veronica Speedwell and Lady Julia Grey series of romantic suspense novels. She took on our challenge and recommended her favorite books with a strong sense of place.
If a rich older man is murdered, his much younger, very curvaceous, and maybe promiscuous wife must be guilty. Right? Not so fast! Agatha Christie makes everyone a likely suspect and keeps you guessing 'til the end.
The heroine of this super-gothy Gothic novel is a combination of Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, and Wednesday Addams. There's also a secret diary, a maybe-haunted painting, and a murder. What more could you need?
In this Gothic mystery novel set on the snowy moors of Yorkshire, the Brontë sisters take a break from writing poetry to poke their overly-curious noses into the dark history surrounding a hidden bundle of bones.
Escape to 18th-century London and meet Cecily, our intrepid heroine who's curious about the world of botany and solving a murder in equal measure. Yes, she's a bit of a troublemaker, in the very best, charming way.
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Top image courtesy of Benjamin Elliott/Unsplash.