Like Slipping into a Warm Bath…

comf 1Recently I settled down for a day of utter enjoyment with a book by one of my favorite writers, Barbara O’Neal (who also writes as Ruth Wind and Barbara Samuel – she’s great under any moniker!). Seriously, check out THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET – it’s a beautiful read.

As I devoured this wonderful, life-affirming story about hopes and dreams and love and finding the path you were meant to find, no matter how far away you feel you’ve strayed from where you should be, I thought about how restorative it was to slip back into Barbara O’Neal world. And how there are certain authors who just seem to chime with my tastes, no matter what they write. Picking up one of their books is as pleasurable and welcoming as slipping into a warm bath when you’ve got plenty of time to wallow. Hence the title of this blog!

comf 4Barbara O’Neal and her aliases definitely fall into this category. So I started thinking about other writers who I know will always give me just what I want in a book. Often, they’re writers on the sweeter edge of things – I turn to these comfort reads when the real world just seems a little bit bruising and sharp-edged. It’s pure escapism – but there’s nothing wrong with that. And I also find that these authors, for all their positive take on life, pack a huge emotional punch. I was crying like a drainpipe in a downpour by the end of THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET.

One of my favorite category romance writers is Brit Liz Fielding who also manages to capture that lump in the throat quality that seems to be part and parcel of these comfort reads. All her books are great, but the one I’ve featured, TEMPTED BY TROUBLE (if you click on the cover, it takes you straight to Amazon), is one of her best. Again, it’s about life leading the characters down winding paths to their rightful place in the world. Liz’s books are unfailingly charming and she writes the most gorgeous characters. They’re the sort of people you’d like to move next door (or into the spare bedroom – or MY bedroom if we’re talking about the heroes!).

comf 5Recently, thanks perhaps to the influence of our fabulous Bandita Kate Carlisle, I’ve become a devotee of cozy myteries. It seems odd to talk about books featuring someone done to death as comfort reads, but both the authors I’ll mention here take the whole death and dying thing fairly gently. And the characters are real charmers. so you smile even when nefarious deeds are afoot.

Carola Dunn is an English writer who currently lives in Oregon. She’s written several series, but my favorites are her Daisy Dalrymple books set in 1920s Britain.

Daisy is a lovely character – again, someone you want to move next door. She’s also a girl who seems to attract murder. If you get invited to a house party with Daisy, for the sake of your health, stay home!

There’s a lovely romantic arc through the books as we see Daisy’s relationship and eventual marriage to policeman Alec Fletcher. I’m just waiting on the 20th instalment of Daisy’s adventures to land in my mailbox (HEIRS OF THE BODY). I find it difficult to say why these books are such must-reads for me. Perhaps it’s that the characters are so warm and interesting and I certainly love the settings. But whatever the source of the magic, it’s definitely there!Β 

comf 3My last example of an author to warm your heart is Nancy Atherton. Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series, starting with AUNT DIMITY’S DEATH, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The series features American Lori Shepherd and her friends and family and are mostly set around the type of Cotswolds Village that you’ve probably seen on a calendar or two.

So who is Aunt Dimity? Aunt Dimity is a ghost who helps Lori to solve the various (not particularly dire in most cases!) mysteries that she finds herself stumbling upon. Again, like the Daisy books, these books are gentle and charming and life-affirming and heartwarming. Just what you want in a comfort read. I discovered these about a year ago and I’m about to start number 17, AUNT DIMITY AND THE VILLAGE WITCH. The world always seems like a better, kinder place after I’ve read an Aunt Dimity book.

So do you have any authors you turn to when your spirit needs refreshing? What are some of your favorite comfort reads? Why do you think those particular books are so appealing to you?

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Anna,
    I want to go the Cotswolds. Every year I reread a few of Julie Garwood’s historicals. I usually reach for my copies of “Saving Grace” and “The Wedding.” Other comfort reads include Julia Ross/Jean Ross Ewing’s “Illusion” and “Games of Pleasure.”

    • Jane, how interesting you picked Jean Ross Ewing. I love her books, especially Illusion (which has touches of Claiming the Courtesan) and The Dark Prince. She’s such a wonderful writer. Haven’t seen anything new from her for a while.

      Speaking of something, you’ve got the rooster again!

  • Helen says:


    Lovely post I have to say I am not a very good re reader as such and that is because I have way too many new to me authors and books waiting on the massive TBR pile πŸ™‚ but in saying that I have many books on my keeper shelf that I would re read if I had more time and maybe when I do get to retire this will happen I could easliy fall into Kathleen Woodiwiss’s and Johana Lindsey’s your books πŸ™‚ there ar so many fantastic authors that I would read again if I only had the time πŸ™‚

    Have Fun

    • Helen, thank you so much for including me with the grand masters Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey. I hear you on so many new books to read! It’s so hard to keep up with everything, isn’t it?

  • Liz Fielding says:

    Hugely flattered to be in such great company, Anna. I love Barbara’s books – they are an autobuy for me and I have her latest pre-ordered. If it’s out I have to chase it up!

    • Liz, it’s definitely out – I wrote this a few weeks ago. And thank you for all the wonderful reading pleasure over the years. You really are the tops like the Eiffel Tower and cellophane! πŸ™‚

  • Annie West says:

    Anna, what a lovely post. You’ve hit on some of my favourite authors too – including Liz Fielding and Carola Dunn. I also love the Martin Walker mysteries set in France and of course the Georgette Heyer stories. So much to enjoy there!

    • Annie, how lovely to see you! Yes, Liz and Carola are wonderful writers, aren’t they? By the way, I’ve since read Heirs of the Body and it’s a corker! Carola, write faster! πŸ™‚

      I so enjoyed the Barbara Samuel. I always feel that I’ve had a buffet of life’s wonderful things myself once I’ve read one of her books. I’m nearly at the end of the extant Aunt Dimitys – I’ve been reading them like chocolate all year.

      Oh, I love those Martin Walker books. Thanks for introducing them to me. I’ve recommended them to so many people! I’ve got two Georgette Heyers waiting for me once I get this book off next week. Black Sheep and Arabella. I’m working my way through them gradually for about the fifth time!

  • Shannon says:

    Since I’m into historicals, I think I turn to Jo Beverely, Mary Balogh, Grace Burrows, and Celeste Bradley. I keep thinking of re-reading your books and Sarah MacLean. But there’s so many new books and life right now is good enough that I don’t have to dig out a comfort read.

    • Shannon, what a lovely list and thank you so much for including me as one of your potential re-reads. I definitely hear you on the time issue. I used to be so dedicated to finishing every book I started – these days, I give it about 100 pages and if I’m not enjoying it, I pick up something else.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    My go to authors are Marie Force, Barbara Longley, Teresa Hill, and Robyn Carr. Each of these women create characters that that make you either want to get to know or feel like you know already. Marie’s McCarthys of Gansett Island is an ongoing series about a fictional island off the coast and while the people who live there are just normal everyday people, you feel like you know them and are a part of that island. Same with Barbara Longley and het Perfect, Indiana series. The main characters all end up in Perfect and are all war vets suffering from some type of injury or PTSD. With Robyn Carr it’s a little town called Virgin River while Teresa Hill writes about the MacRaes. Boy do those stories reach out and grab you. All of these authors leave you sighing at the end of their books and leave you wanting more.

    • Debbie Oxier says:

      Sorry, my computer was acting up. It should read, they create characters that make you either want to get to know them or feel like you already do!

    • Debbie, what a lovely description of why we love these books so much. I think you’re right – we really feel that we get to know these characters and that we share their lives with them.

  • Anna, I don’t re-read as much as I once did–too busy trying to keep up with what’s out there. Part of that, to be honest, is the “oooh, shiny!” factor, the discovery of new authors, many of whom have backlists.

    For a comfortable, humorous diversion, I love Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. It’s about three friends and a dog (name of Montmorency) who take a boat trip on the Thames around the turn of the last century. The wry humor is irresistible to me.

    Bimbos of the Death Sun is a comic mystery set at a comics/SF convention. It’s by Sharyn McCrumb, who, for some reason no longer acknowledges it on her website. The tech is a bit dated, but the story holds up well.

    The early Pern books by Anne McCaffrey provide a great escape. Barbara Hambly’s Darwath trilogy or Dragonsbane, ditto.

    In romance, pretty much anything by Georgette Heyer. The rest if the romance list is too long to put here.

    The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are old, old friends and a lengthy binge all by themselves. So are Dorothy L. Sayers and Lord Peter. And Sherlock Holmes.

    Fun topic!

    • Nancy, what a lovely list! Thanks for sharing it. I really need to re-read the Dorothy L. Sayers. I was quite obsessed with those books when I first discovered them, although I got most of them from the library so I need to buy them. What I think is interesting is that you rarely find them secondhand – clearly everybody who bought them loved them too much to hand on. It’s also years since I read Three Men in a Boat. Remember chortling my way through it – I must read it again!

      I’m gradually working my way through the Heyers again (I read them first when I was in primary school and a couple of times since). I’ve got a book due this week and I’ve got Arabella and Black Sheep waiting for me once it’s away.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Lovely post – and I learned something new! I didn’t know Ruth Wind, Barbara Samuel and Barbara O’Neal were the same person! No wonder I like all their books! LOL

    I barely have time to read the books in my TBR mountain, let alone re-read anything! But I do tend to head for favourite authors when in need of a boost. Aside from my beloved Banditas, I turn to Susan Mallery, Kate Angell, Virginia Kantra, Nora and JD Robb, Karen Rose, Lisa Gardner to name but a few. Oh and CS Harris!

    • Ha ha, Anna, laughing at you discovering that Batman is Bruce Wayne! I think she nails descriptions so perfectly. It’s a rare gift to make a reader see exactly what the writer is seeing.

      Interesting about C.S. Harris. She’s not a comfort read for me although I think she’s wonderful and once I pick up one of her books, I just can’t put it down. I’ve got one waiting for me at the moment which I’ll pick up in the next week or so and there goes the day! πŸ™‚

  • catslady says:

    I’m usually pick out historicals first but I’ve been mixing it up lately and find I enjoy the change. I really don’t have any favorites as yet but I am enjoying the different genres.

    • Catslady, I’ve noticed my reading has changed recently too. I’m reading a LOT of mysteries, although having said that, they nearly always involve a romance plot even if it’s spread over a couple of books instead of all tied up at the end of one book. I think you’re right about chopping and changing a bit being a great way to fresh up your reading.

  • JackieW says:

    For comfort reads I turn to any book in my library by LaVeryl Spencer. I love her stories…some I’ve read more than once.

    • Jackie, it’s a while since I’ve read her. Must dig out the books and read them again. I remember crying like a drain – they were such emotional reads.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    What a lovely post, Anna. I have O’Neal’s book on my Kindle. I think I’ll save it for the beach next month.

    Julie Garwood’s SAVING GRACE is the book that I turn to when I need my spirits lifted. It never fails to make me laugh, sniffle and turn the final page with a very satisfied sigh.

    • PJ, I think the O’Neal book will be the perfect holiday read – just have a tissue or two handy. I envy your trip to the beach.

      Oh, how lovely – another vote for Julie Garwood. Bandita Suzanne Ferrell LOVES Julie Garwood so you’re in good company.

  • Great post, La Divina. When life gets to be a bit much and I feel as if I am chasing my tail, I will definitely pick up an old friend to re read. There is something comforting about visiting the characters and the places and the lives and loves of my favorite book people. There is even comfort in knowing the story because it delivers exactly what you need at that moment. Which is the whole reason you picked that book up once more in the first place.

    My comfort reads include – Georgette Heyer, Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, Dangerous to Love by Rexanne Bechnel, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Claiming the Courtesan, Untouched, and Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell πŸ™‚ To Sir Philip With Love by Julia Quinn, Simply Love and Slightly Dangerous – both by Mary Balogh and any of Grace Burrowes’ Lost Lords Series, and The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley.

    Oh and for comfort and fun a cozy mystery series by Dean James set in a little English village. The protagonist is a gay vampire, Simon Kirby-Jones, from Mississippi who has just moved to the village. It is the To Death Series – Baked to Death, Decorated to Death, Posted to Death, Faked to Death. They are funny, fun and just right for a rainy Sunday afternoon!

    • Why, Diva, you put me to the blush. Thank you! That’s a fabulous list to make – and with THREE!!! And thanks so much for the recommendation of the cozies. I’ll give them a go. I’ve picked up all my favorite cozies thanks to recommendations from people like you and the wonderful Janga who shares my taste in so many books (that’s such a bonus when you find someone like that!). The vampire books sound hilarious!

      Had to laugh – Laura Kinsale always puts me through the wringer. Not sure I’d count her as a comfort read although she’s absolutely brilliant!

  • Hi Anna! You’ve worked so hard, you deserve any number of comfort reads! Mine are always Jenny Cruise, SEP and Georgette Heyer, as you probably know. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read my favourite Heyers! Must try some of those books you’ve recommended. Have to say that Barbara O’Neal has the best titles and covers! The All You Can Dream Buffet sounds wonderful.

    • Christina, one of the things that never fails for me with a Bo’N is that she’s such a beautiful writer. I find myself just re-reading whole paragraphs just to suck in the essence of her brilliance! Hmm, you a Georgette Heyer fan? Go on! I never knew! I agree with you about SEP and Jenny Crusie. Both absolute masters. Thanks for swinging by and happy Mothers’ Day!

  • Thanks, guys, for all the recommendations for authors you love! I think I’ll have to find another room for my TBR room to spill out into! See you soon!

  • flchen1 says:

    Love seeing everyone’s comfort reads, Anna! Some of my favorites–Joanna Bourne, Julie James, SEP, Lisa Kleypas, Shelly Laurenston, Sarah Mayberry…

  • Laurie G says:

    My comfort reads are: Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, Karen Hawkins, SEP, Julianne MacLean, Susan Wiggs, Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts.