Patricia Wentworth, The Case Is Closed
One year ago, Geoffrey Grey was convicted of murdering his uncle and is now in prison. His wife and her cousin Hilary believe he’s innocent, but the evidence against him is overwhelming — that is, until Hilary has a chance meeting with Mrs. Mercer, one of the prosecution’s star witnesses. Mrs. Mercer seems deeply troubled and hints at secrets she could reveal if she weren’t deathly afraid of her husband. Hilary decides to investigate with the help of her beau, Henry, but her sleuthing soon puts her in danger. I really enjoyed this book! The mystery is satisfying, albeit not particularly complex, and I also adored the romance between Hilary and Henry. They’ve quarreled at the beginning of the book, but they obviously still love each other, and it’s a treat to peek inside their heads as they attempt to get back together. If you like your vintage mysteries on the lighter side, with a generous helping of romance, you’ll enjoy this one!
Eva Ibbotson, A Countess below Stairs
Newly arrived in England after fleeing the Russian Revolution, Countess Anna Grazinsky has no choice but to work as a housemaid at the grand estate of Mersham. Despite her noble upbringing, she’s willing to work hard and soon endears herself to the other servants and the entire household. She also catches the eye of Rupert, Mersham’s owner, but he is already engaged to the beautiful but coldhearted Muriel. This book is one of my favorite comfort reads, and I adored it just as much this fifth or sixth time through. The central romance is sweet and passionate, and there’s a wealth of sympathetic, lovable secondary characters as well. The good characters are a bit too perfect and the bad ones totally irredeemable, but I love the book so much that I can easily overlook its flaws.
Lynn Painter, The Love Wager
After a drunken one-night stand, Hallie Piper is determined to make better romantic choices, so she joins a dating app in hopes of meeting “the one.” On the app, she spots her one-night stand, Jack Marshall, and decides to send him a joking message. He responds, and they soon strike up a fun conversation, which turns into a real-life friendship. They make a bet about which of them will find love first — but the more time they spend together, the more they begin to wonder if they’re each other’s perfect match. I enjoyed this fun and funny romantic comedy. Hallie and Jack both felt like real people, and their playful banter had me rooting for them from the beginning. I did find the central conflict a bit frustrating, since it all came down to poor communication, and the ending felt a bit drawn out. But I still liked the book overall and would definitely recommend Lynn Painter to fans of contemporary romance.