The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.
This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.
This weekend, we recommend a (bookish) getaway to Oxford University with a feisty heroine who has a secret: She’s the only remaining descendent of literary superstars, the Brontë family.
When her father dies, Samantha enrolls at Oxford and soon learns that he’s bequeathed to her a literary mystery that will change everything she thinks she knows about herself and her heritage.
She’s routinely stalked by Brontë über fans, who insist she must have inherited something from the famous sisters. Surely she has a hidden cache of paintings, diaries, letters, and missing novels! Or they assume that at the very least, that world-changing literary talent must be in her blood. Samantha’s sad (and increasingly frustrated) denials fall on deaf ears.
Banished to an isolated dorm room in a tower, her studies are interrupted by strange happenings. Is she being haunted by Brontë spirits? Just what did her dad have in mind with his cryptic clues? Who can she trust? These questions and more distract her from her studies with her demanding, cagey professor. His distractingly good looks and impenetrable motives leave her perplexed.
This tightly-plotted, first-person narrative will transport you directly to the Oxford campus. And it’s an effusive love letter to the Brontës’ work, cheekily weaving gothic and romantic elements into its story to echo Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (Don’t fret: You don’t need to be familiar with those works to enjoy this story.)
Rich with family secrets, coming-of-age angst, romance with plenty of sparks, and a compelling central mystery, this book is fun, cute, and smart, without being twee or pretentious — and, not for nothing, includes an excellent kissing scene and a pretty surprising and terrible villain.
The curtains were blood-red and drawn. This was not an office. It was a small library, two storeys high, with thin ladders and impractical balconies and an expansive ceiling featuring a gaggle of naked Greeks. It was the sort of library you’d marry a man for. — Catherine Lowell
This literary thriller (352 pages) was published in March of 2016 by Simon and Schuster. The book takes you to the University of Oxford. Melissa read The Madwoman Upstairs and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.
Top image courtesy of JJFarq/Shutterstock.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is ©2023 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.