Although I both write and read romance, I also avidly read almost anything, so I was delighted by the chosen topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog. My only problem was choosing only three books – even though that was a splendid excuse (if I needed one) to have a lengthy perusal through my bookshelves. I could happily have chosen ten books at least (or more) but whittled it down to three contrasting non-romance reads that I thought would be fun.
The first is one of my all-time number 1 picks, Roaring Boys – Shakespeare’s Rat Pack by Judith Cook. Whenever I need any details about one of my favourite historical periods, the Elizabethan theatre scene, this wonderful book is my go-to. Although Judith Cook’s research is formidable, rather than textbook dry, she plunges the reader into incredible detail about the vibrant, thriving, cut-throat and often dangerous background of the early commercial stage in late 16th-century London.
I am always swept away by the opening chapter as the author introduces the scene, bustling, raucous Bankside in 1591, the cast, the people of London from all walks of life, then one of the playwrights, the notorious Robert Greene, “his feet squeezed into fashionable boots,” and “his wine-stained doublet is in his favourite colour, ‘goose turd’, a virulent yellowy green. Irresistible! I challenge anyone not to want to read on.
In terms of fiction, as well as romance, I do relish a good mystery or suspense series. Although I enjoy plenty of modern police procedural fiction, my author of choice is from the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction in the early 20th century, and that’s Dorothy L. Sayers. I read all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels as a teenager and re-read them regularly. The book I’ve chosen is Gaudy Night, one of the few books in the series not written from Lord Peter’s point of view.
This story focuses on Wimsey’s love interest, Harriet Vane, who happens to be a mystery novelist. This formidably clever, brusque and observant young woman is requested to solve a puzzling series of events at her old Oxford College. Since this was written in the 1930s, it is a very different world, but Sayers unerringly draws me into the long-forgotten mores and customs with her exact descriptions. In the unresolved relationship between Harriet and Peter, there is a romantic element, but what works for me every time I read this story is the development of Harriet’s character during the investigation as she comes to terms with her difficult past and her feelings for Peter. It’s simply wonderful storytelling.
My final choice is a bit left-field. It’s not a book I read very often, but if ever I lend or lose a copy, it’s one I have to replace immediately. Goblin Market by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti is a cautionary folk tale in poetic form as two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, are lured by forbidden fruit from goblin vendors. The richness of the language and imagery is dizzying, and despite the fairytale feel, this poem is far too complex and sensual to be intended solely for children. It begins with a catalogue of wares, including “Plump unpecked cherries, Melons and raspberries, Bloom-down-cheeked peaches, Swart-headed mulberries, Wild free-born cranberries,” and the list goes on. I’d be tempted, too!
I’m looking forward to finding out the other bloggers’ non-romantic book choices!
My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their top three non-romantic reads!