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Favorite Reads from My British Fiction Reading Binge

Even though I’ve been on the lookout for books set in London and England in preparation for a trip with my sister this fall, I didn’t expect that nearly all of my fiction reading in the last month would be set in England. All four of these books are pretty different — fantasy/science fiction, contemporary romance, historical fiction and YA fantasy — but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

the rook by daniel o'malleyThe Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The best way I can think to describe this book is Ghostbusters meets James Bond meets Memento, if James Bond were a lady spy who is also a kickass administrative genius. It was so awesome, I hardly have words. I can’t remember who recommended The Rook initially, but I decided to pick it up because of this Book Riot post.

At the center of the book is Myfanwy Thomas, an operative with a secret organization that helps battle the supernatural. Myfanwy wakes up with her memory erased, but tries to continue on with her work following a series of letters and instructions written by her former self. The book has intrigue, girl power, imagination and a ton of goofy (and kinda gross) fun. This one is great. (Thanks, Jeanne, for the addition of Memento to the description – you are 100 percent correct).

the royal we by heather cocks and jessica morganThe Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I’ve seen a couple of reviews call The Royal We fiction about Prince William and Kate Middleton, which is both true and also a little unfair to the book, which was a lot more delightful than I initially expected it would be. Wow, that’s kind of a backhanded compliment, isn’t it?

Anyway… The Royal We is the story of America Rebecca “Bex” Porter, who meets and falls in love with Prince Nicholas, future king of England, while they’re students at Oxford. The book follows their relationship over a decade as they struggle with how to be “Nick and Bex” while also living up to the expectations of “Nicholas and Rebecca.” I loved that the book wasn’t focused on will-they-or-won’t-they and instead tried to explore more complicated questions about public and private lives and what it takes to build a sustainable relationship. But it was also funny and sweet and very clearly informed by an intense interest in the British Royal Family. This book was an absolute perfect beach read – highly recommended.

the fair fight by anna freemanThe Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The promo copy for this book describes it as The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club, and although I haven’t read either of those books I know enough about them to be intrigued. The Fair Fight is the story of two Victorian women of vastly different circumstances, who come together via bare-knuckle boxing. As fun as that concept is, this one felt a little bit long to me (it’s nearly 500 pages). It seemed like it took forever to bring Ruby and Charlotte together, although once they were finally interacting the story picked up again. That, plus the fact that the comeuppance for the villains was SO SATISFYING, left me with generally good feelings about this one.

unspoken by sarah rees brennanUnspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Earlier this month Jenny (Reading the End) had an interesting post about similarities between YA fiction and three-volume novels of the Victorian era, where she specifically mentioned the Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Reese Brennan – Unspoken is the first of the trilogy. I snatched it up from the library because the heroine, Kami, is an intrepid girl reporter and I love books about intrepid girl reporters. And this did not disappoint! The story plays around with tropes of Gothic mysteries and has this rather funny, sly sense of humor that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have the rest of the series (insane!), so I’m not sure when I’ll get to finish this one out.

In case you were curious, the two other books I read as part of my British fiction binge in May and June were Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. I thought about writing a bit about those, but found it didn’t really have much to say. So we’ll leave it at this, and then see if my trend towards fiction set across the pond continues into July.

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  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes June 23, 2015, 7:11 am

    Thanks for sharing these! Now I really want to bring The Rook and The Royal We on my vacation to the lake next month!

    • Kim June 24, 2015, 6:42 pm

      The Royal We ended up being a perfect “by the lake” book. The plot moved along and the writing was good, but it wasn’t so absorbing that I didn’t want to put it down or would feel like I lost my place if I got distracted. Plus, it’s fun! I think The Rook would be fun too, but requires a little more attention because so much of it is so weird.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) June 23, 2015, 7:58 am

    Everyone is loving The Royal We!

  • Lory @ Emerald City Book Review June 23, 2015, 11:45 am

    These all sound incredibly tempting, for such different reasons! I’m glad you ran into such a great reading streak.

    Have you ever requested that your library buy a book you want? I just recently found out that I could do this (my library even has a web form to fill out) and it’s great. They usually focus on more recent releases but series completion could be a good argument to make.

    • Kim June 24, 2015, 6:42 pm

      I’ve done that a couple of times, yeah. This book came to me from another library in the system, so I feel weird requesting the end of the series or the whole series at my branch. We’ll see — I’ll find the next two eventually.

  • Jackie (Farm Lane Books) June 23, 2015, 12:44 pm

    I haven’t read any of these – in fact the only one I’ve really heard of is The Rook. The Royal We isn’t even released here yet. I’m interested in reading it as dealing with the public/private life balance is something I haven’t read about before. Enjoy the rest of your British reading!

    • Kim June 24, 2015, 6:43 pm

      It hasn’t been released there? That seems strange! I knew a bit about the Royals before reading it, but I think it’d be interesting to hear what someone more familiar with the family and their role in England thinks of the story.

  • Amanda June 23, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I am so excited to get the Royal We. I hope my library moves fast. I haven’t heard of The Rook but I am immediately adding it to my TBR! Sounds very cool!

    • Kim June 24, 2015, 6:43 pm

      I can’t remember who recommended it to me, but they were spot on. It was so great.

  • Mystica June 23, 2015, 9:08 pm

    All new to me. I like the sound of the Royal book.

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves June 24, 2015, 8:57 pm

    The Royal We is already on my TBR list. The other reviews I’ve read sound similar to yours – much more than girl-meets-prince story. I must investigate Unspoken and The Rook as well. Most intriguing!

  • Jenny @ Reading the End June 25, 2015, 11:27 am

    I’m sad that you can’t get the subsequent Sarah Rees Brennan books! Can you access them in ebook format, maybe, through your library’s Overdrive? Or are they available on Scribd maybe? They stay fun! The stakes get higher.

    • Kim June 28, 2015, 6:59 pm

      I’m sure I can find them somewhere, I just need to do a little digging since the physical library came up short.