01 November 2019

Hello, friends!

I cannot resist a story set in a self-contained location — a fancy hotel, a luxury cruise ship, a slow-moving train through beautiful scenery, an isolated island. These are catnip to my reading life. I didn't learn to appreciate Agatha Christie's novels until well into adulthood, but I was a dedicated viewer of The Love Boat on TV every Saturday night. And The Edge by Dick Francis — a mystery novel set on a train rolling through the Canadian Rockies — has been one of my favorites for decades.

But manor house stories, whether they're murder mysteries, horror novels, thrillers, or family sagas, are my very favorite. If a novel's flap copy contains any of these words — isolated, family home, creaking, uninvited guest, secrets, midnight — I am 100-percent interested.

This week on the blog has been devoted to the dim passageways and haunted heroines of manor house novels. I had so much fun putting together the posts! I traveled back in time and through my bookshelves to pull together my favorite manor house reads for you.

If you live for melodrama and suspense, you'll love these five Gothic novels. (A standout on that list is the slim novel The Governesses, a relatively new and intoxicating fairytale.) Or, perhaps something less foggy but still gripping, like these six classic novels, including all the Brontës, one of the best opening lines of all time, and a life-changing holiday in Florence, Italy. 

The 20th century was a challenging time for the British aristocracy and —lucky for us! — that makes for fascinating reading. These seven novels set between the two world wars examine the shifting norms in high society while also delighting in intrigue, secrets, and muuurder. (If you're an Agatha Christie fan, don't miss the deliciously twisty Crooked House which I loved on audio.)

If isolated locations are platinum on my reading scale, then gold is novels with alternating timelines. These five novels — set in contemporary Sweden, Scotland, England, Canada, and Salem, Massachusetts — look to the past to help unravel mysteries in the present.

What's a mist- and mystery-filled reading session without a nice cuppa?! When you need sweet sustenance, try this Victorian Seed Cake recipe inspired by a pivotal scene in Jane Eyre. Like our intrepid heroine, this cake is not too sweet, ages well, blossoms when served with a cup of hot tea, and has no pretensions beyond what it is: humble, well-intentioned, reliable.

Our Weekend Getaway recommendation this week — A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn — is also set in Victorian England. But Veronica Speedwell is decidedly not a mincing Gothic damsel who needs saving. She's a lady lepidopterist (that's a butterfly collector) who travels the world, catching both colorful insects and diverting men in her net.

If you're ready to transition from the orange-and-black scares of Halloween to a moodier take on almost-winter, try these stories in Tom Cox's collection Help the Witch. Eerie, atmospheric, and thrilling.

You will be so bummed if you miss this week's Endnotes, our collection of the best reading- and travel-related stuff we found online. We've got the fascination of miniature books, science on the best time to buy your airline tickets, the French fad for Guillotine haircuts, and our final tribute to manor house week: photos of country house libraries. Get it all in Endnotes!

Whether you're daydreaming, planning a trip, or indulging in armchair travel, the pages of our web site are filled with book recommendations, literary landmarks, and photos to fuel your curiosity about this amazing world we inhabit. You'll also find literary travel inspiration and book love on our Instagram and Twitter accounts.

We love to hear from you, so please remember you are always invited to send communiques ranging from silly to important — or

Thanks for reading!

Stay curious,

We're in Paris for a few days this week to enjoy this Van Gogh exhibit, eat falafel, do a little book shopping, and explore the Catacombs. See our photos along the way on Instagram.

on the site

Victorian Seed Cake Inspired By Jane Eyre

During Jane's 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.

Manor House Novels with Irresistible Atmosphere

Celebrate the sometimes spooky, often isolated, always irresistible atmosphere of stories set in imposing manor houses: 5 Gothic, 6 Classic, 7 Twentieth Century, and 5 Modern with Ties to the Past.

Airport shopping, NaNoWriMo novels, a poem about packing, and more

Revel in the fact that it's Friday with Endnotes, the reading- and travel-related links and podcasts that caught our attention this week.

Time Travel to Victorian England with A Curious Beginning

Meet Veronica Speedwell, celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and — oh, dear! get caught up in villainy and adventure with the infuriatingly handsome Stoker.
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