During uncertain times, there’s something reassuring about a cozy book. But even better than a cozy book is a cozy, clever book with bits that’ll make you laugh out loud as you settle deeper into your armchair. Here are some favorite cozy clever reads across several genres, suitable for older teen to adult readers. Check your shelves or find these online through your library’s digital ebook collection or Amazon.
Take Patricia Wrede’s The Raven Ring or W. R. Gingell’s Masque.
They’re cozy and clever. Each has an element of mystery, ironically. Masque is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with the mystery involving string of murders. In The Raven Ring, the mystery is about, yes, a ring.
From Karvonen, a plucky thief in Raven Ring:
“Eleret, you can’t mean to say that you believe him! He’s an admitted thief—” “And good at it,” Karvonen murmured. “Don’t forget to say ‘good at it.’”-The Raven Ring
To Belle and her sister in Masque:
Do you know, Belle, sometimes I think Papa is entirely too selfless to be an ambassador.” “Then it’s a good thing he has two conniving females on his side, isn’t it?”-Masque
Both have clever, funny bits and laugh out loud parts. For some more humor and fantasy, take a look at Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, and more by W. R. Gingell. But now, let’s move on to fiction.
Of course, there are some cozy classic series —take Jan Karon or Miss Read. But if you want more stand-alone books, D.E. Stevenson does a lovely job.
The Four Graces —In many ways a retelling of Little Women, set in a small English village during WWII. Mr. Grace is loving and rather absent-minded, a widowed rector lovingly cared for by his four daughters.
“Mr. Grace chuckled. His daughters were a perfect nuisance. They worried him to death, turned his hair prematurely gray, and caused him intense anxiety, but they also caused him intense amusement -so perhaps it all evened out.” The Four Graces, D. E. Stevenson
Miss Buncle’s Book —Stevenson’s most famous novel: Miss Buncle, a spinster, decides to write a book due to her shortage of money. She writes about village life and all the people she knows, giving them different names, of course. But she is just transparent enough that they recognize themselves in this book when it becomes a bestseller —they don’t know who the John Smith is who wrote it, but they are determined to find out!
Celia’s House —echoes of Mansfield Park and Shakespeare in Scotland, spanning one family’s history from early 1900s to the 1940s. To be honest, I enjoyed our heroine far more than Fanny Price, and it was nice to have another character decry the Mary Crawford element:
“She’s very pretty.” “Flashy,” Becky said, somewhat unjustly. “She’s flashy, and men are fools.”Celia’s House
That quote is a good segue into our next genre:
There are even cozy mysteries. Why? Because there are some mysteries that focus on graphic, grit, and gore, but in some mysteries the mystery itself is the catalyst for both the whodunnit element and the story’s characters.
There are many excellent British mystery authors though some of my favorites, like Dorothy Sayers, are just too deep to be comfortably cozy. Agatha Christie, however, can tend toward coziness. In fact some of her caricatures make one think of PG Wodehouse:
“As far as it is possible for one upright Christian gentleman to dislike another upright Christian gentleman, Lord Caterham disliked the Hon. George Lomax.” The Secret of Chimneys —Echoes of Wodehouse’s Lord Emsworth, to be sure.
British Humor: P. G. Wodehouse and Blandings Castle
If you don’t want murder, but you do want something cozy, clever, and British, you must go to Blandings Castle —where the most troublesome thing is some stuffy peer who won’t agree to his ward’s marrying and where imposters continually crop up under Lady Constance’s nose. (And someone is usually trying to steal a pig.) What’s more, it’s always summertime at Blandings Castle, making it a nice escape from dreary cold weather.
If you’d rather start with a standalone —try Damsel in Distress or Hot Water. See The Most of P. G. Wodehouse for more about Wodehouse and his style.
Children’s Literature to YA
In the world of children’s lit, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright is a classic “cozy” summer adventure
In modern times, The Penderwick sisters or the Vanderbeeker siblings are a must. Lovely fiction with an element of cozy and comforting.
Going across to Scandinavia, Astrid the Unstoppable, another beautiful cozy read —occurs in winter with a feisty heroine who will remind some readers of Astrid Lindgren.
Stay in Scandinavia and time-travel back —Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren is a wonderful story about a widower, his large family, and their life on an Swedish island.
Moving to YA, here is one final author for some cozy and clever stand alone novels.
A Countess Below Stairs (also known as The Secret Countess) by Eva Ibbotsen: perfect for people with Downton Abbey withdrawal. An impoverished young Russian countess, living in England with a former nursemaid, gets a job at a beautiful country house. There are typical servants, upstairs-downstairs intrigue, and a handsome young aristocrat engaged to an awful woman. What happens? You’ll have to read, or listen: Davina Porter is an excellent narrator.
The Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotsen : A waif abandoned in the docklands of England and a princess raised in the comfort of Austria seem initially to have very little in common and no chance of meeting. But, in post-WWI Austria, castles are expensive and Guy Farnes, a self-made man, is looking to buy. And so providence brings the two together. Though both share a love for music and the opera, Guy is already happily engaged and Tessa is busy with her own private project —involving a struggling opera company. Readers will quickly see the two character’s compatibility, but will they themselves realize in time?
Ibbotsen’s characters, though occasionally taking the Lord’s name in vain, seem more more content to rely on fate than a sovereign God. YA and adult readers will appreciate her ability to bring Europe and a wide cast of characters to life —readers will feel like they have walked behind the scenes in an opera house, served below stairs in an English manor, and mingled with the aging European post-war aristocracy.
What more could one want in a cozy and clever book?
Have we mentioned any books or authors you enjoy? Would you add any to this list?
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