The Best British Books to Take You Away

Best British Books
The Best British Books to Take You Away 34

It is crazy how many British books Kirsten and I have read. We take for granted the number of books originally published in the UK that has been published here as well.

From mysteries to romance and contemporary fiction, these British books are all books we have read and absolutely loved. So, grab some tea, put on a fascinator, and get ready for some great reading.

Table of Contents

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2024 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

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Best British Mystery Books

The Guest List and more of the best British Books

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

June 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

Real talk. I’ve just read THE thriller of summer 2020 and it’s soooooo good.⁣ A murder at a wedding. On an isolated island. In the middle of a power outage.⁣ Yaaaaaaaaas. ⁣This is an unputdownable thriller. The murder sets the scene and then we get the story in flashbacks without knowing who is murdered until the end. ⁣I’ve become v picky about thrillers recently and this one is hands down my favorite of the year so far.⁣ It also made our best of 2020 list!

And then There Were None and more of the best British Books

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I was so hooked by this murder mystery/thriller. A mysterious person is trying to right the wrongs of the past by luring unsuspecting criminals to a deserted island…and then murdering them one by one.

But who is the killer? Why are they killing? And just how long have they been stalking their prey?

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs  by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is not your typical PI. For a start, she is a woman working as a PI in 1929. 

Her first case seems like it should be a simple case of infidelity. Instead, it leads her to a murder and back to WWI where she was a nurse.

She is smart, thoughtful, and fun to read. Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and a detective who trained under renowned Maurice Blanche a former member of Scotland Yard. She branches out and decides to start her own business.

Why We Loved it: I read this cozy mystery novel in one day.  It was so refreshing to see post-war England through Maisie’s eyes as she enters a field dominated by men. I cannot wait to read more books in this fabulous series.

Find this book in Detective Books / Historical Mystery Books / British Mystery Books / Jazz Age Novels

Books set in Cornwall

A Cottage by the Sea and and more of the best British Books

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

This was my pick for our Reading Challenge. It’s a reread for me, but I’ve always loved Cornwall, so much so that we have a whole list of books set in the location. This romance is part historical fiction, part contemporary romance as Blythe Barton retreats to an estate in Cornwall after her high-profile divorce. Suddenly she can get glimpses into her ancestor’s past and the mystery of her disappearance. The winner for my is the vivid descriptions of the Cornish coastline and the creaky old manor house.

The Forgotten Garden and more of the best British Books

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

A young girl is abandoned on a ship headed to Australia. When she arrives, the only thing in her possession is a suitcase with some clothes and a book of fairy tales. The dock master and his wife adopt Nell and tell her the story of her arrival in Australia on her 21st birthday. She goes back to England on a quest to find her lost identity.

Unsuccessful, her granddaughter later takes up the search and tried to assemble the pieces of her grandmother’s mystery and unlock the secrets of her past.

For more books like these, check out our list of Kate Morton Books Ranked.

rebecca by daphne du maurier

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The OG psychological thriller, Rebecca is a book that will leave you checking behind you when you walk down a dark hallway. 

The new Mrs. de Winter is haunted by her husband’s first wife, Rebecca.  The deceit will have you second-guessing everything you read while you yell at the pages.

For more books set in Cornwall, you can check out our full post.

British Romance Novels

Red, White and Royal Blue and more of the best British Books

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

We don’t think about royals and the LGBTQ community because we don’t usually see openly gay royals, which is so sad in today’s society. This charming British romance was absolutely adorable. I crushed hard for their romance and found myself smiling the entire time. (Also love the nod to a female president…where do I sign up for one of those?) 

The Royal We and more of the best British Books

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Look no further than this royal romance. If you haven’t read this romance loosely based on Wills and Kate’s love story, read no further. This is the end-all, be-all of Royal Reads.

This novel spans from the time Bex and Prince Nick meet in college until the night before their wedding. It goes through the ups and downs of the relationship and ends on a cliffhanger. But do not worry. The Heir Affair is already out and you can read that one next. Be sure to check out our complete list of Royal Reads


My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I picked this up to help combat my Royal Wedding withdrawal. I assumed it was going to be a light and fluffy romance — I had no idea I was going to be sobbing my eyes out with what is essentially the newest JoJo Moyes.

Ella has moved to Oxford to study for one year before heading back to America to work on a political campaign, fulfilling a lifelong dream to study in the famed English school. But then she falls for her professor and must decide what she wants from the future.

The Duke and I and more of the best British Books

The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn

I watched the show and LOVED it so much. I previously read some of the others in the series but I really wanted to read this first book and I have to say that it was my favorite. There is something about Daphne and Simon that I adore. This book is a perfect British romance novel.

Are you a fan of Bridgerton? We’ve got a list of books like Bridgerton you will love!

Love Romance Novels? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Romance Novels carefully divided by trope.

Best British Contemporary Fiction Books

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and more of the best British Books

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Looking for a laugh-out-loud book? This novel is about an Indian woman trying to marry her modern English identity with her parents’ conservative Indian values.

She takes up teaching a writing course for widows in her community and she learns so much about herself and them in the process. Between each chapter are hysterical and sometimes raunchy tales written by the widows in her class. I dare you not to smile while reading this story.

Lockdown on London Lane and more of the best British Books

Lockdown on London Lane by Beth Reekles

This story is so adorable! It’s Love Actually, Quarantine edition. It’s not a scary pandemic read AT ALL. Instead, it’s an interwoven tale of various couples stuck together for a week-long lockdown.

There is a group of bachelorettes, a new couple who have only shown their good sides to each other, an established couple struggling, a man separated from his girlfriend, and my personal favorite – a one-night stand turned week-long visit.

Charming and hysterical, this book lifted my spirits and had me laughing out loud.

Bridget Joness Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

I remember reading this book shortly before it was turned into the hit movie starring Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger. This modern retelling of Emma is told in diary form over the course of one year.

Hysterical and silly, Bridget’s antics are quite something. Mark and Daniel are deliciously brought to life via Bridget’s inner monologue. If you love the movie, try the book. If you love Jane Austen Adaptations, check out our full post.

contemporary fiction header

Ultimate List of Contemporary Fiction Novels to Love in 2024

For more contemporary fiction books like these, check out our ultimate list for dozens of recommendations.

Best Books Set in Scotland

Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan and more of the best British Books

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan churns out another light beach read with heart. Cafe by the Sea is set on the gorgeous island of Muir in Scotland.

Scotland shines in this story about life in a town set in its ways and trying to resist the pull of modern life. There is a romance in this story, but the pull was more on the heroine reconnecting with her old life and family. We love Jenny Colgan. Be sure to check out our complete list of Jenny Colgan Books Ranked

Potrait of a Scotsman

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

This particular romance is set in 1920s England and is the third in Ms. Dunmore’s women’s suffragette series. Hattie Greenfield, artist extraordinaire, is forced into marriage with Lucian Blackstone, a self-made man (V frowned upon by nobles at the time.)

We love that she is an artist for our novels about art and they travel to Scotland on their honeymoon. Perfect for books about Scotland. But, we couldn’t stop thinking that it is also perfect for books Like Outlander!

While the romance itself is swoon-worthy, it’s the depth of non-romantic topics that make it a joy to read. I learned so much about the coal industry and the perils to coal communities in the process.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and more of the best British Books

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways. The ninth book in the series, Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone, will be released on November 23, 2021.

This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.

This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English woman in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. Amazing history, magical realism, romance and witches overflow in this iconic epic saga.

The Vanished Days

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley 

The Vanished Days is set between 2 timelines, 1707 and 1684. Lily makes a claim of marriage to a deceased soldier looking for her pay, but without proof of her marriage, Adam needs to investigate if the claim could be real.

Set against the backdrop of the Jacobite rebellion, this is perfect for the Outlander fans of the world and we knew we needed to include it on a list of books like Outlander! I was engrossed in this story…then I got to the end, was shocked, and wanted to read the whole thing again!!

If you are looking for books about Scotland and its amazing history, this book is a perfect pick.

Love Outlander? Check out our full post of 29 Books for Outlander Fans

Best British Books Set in London

Always in December and more of the best British Books

Always, in December by Emily Stone

I was blown away by this tear-jerking story. It was a romance story for the first 30% of the book, but then it becomes something much deeper.

Josie mails a letter to her deceased parents every Christmas, but this Christmas she accidentally hits a stranger named Max with her bike on the way to the post box.

As she explored the holiday season with Max her feelings start to grow, but when he leaves unexpectedly, she was left to deal with the aftermath of the impact he had on her heart. But fate isn’t done their story yet as they bump into each other throughout the year.

Probably my favorite Christmas book of 2021, this one is a tear-jerker for sure. I sobbed for the entire last 10% of the book. This book is a testament to the healing power of love and the kind of impact each of us can make on each other.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you are looking for a Christmas book that ends with a bow and smile, you may want to look elsewhere. For More Christmas Books, check out our full list

Girl on the Train and more of the best British Books

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same train every day and peers out the window watching people.  She watched 2 people in particular as they lead what appears to be a perfect life until one day she sees something terrible while watching them. 

She reports it to the police but, can they trust a dysfunctional alcoholic? This story will have you questioning who is telling the truth. As British books go, this one has quickly become the quintessential thriller and a perfect example of an unreliable narrator.

Best British Feel Good Books

Bloomsbury Girls and and more of the best British Books

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

I loved this book set in a bookstore! Taking place just after WWII, the women of Bloomsbury Books are struggling to make their own way in the changing world.

We get to see alternating narrators, one of which was in Jenner’s first book, The Jane Austen Society. Each of the 3 females in the story are striving for their dreams and interacting with some of the most famous literary figures of their day!

I squealed with delight when Daphne Du Maurier appeared on the page, but you’ll see Peggy Guggenheim, Ellen Doubleday, and more scattered throughout this charming tale. This five-star read is on the top of my list of best British Books

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and more of the best British Books

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book initially.  Eleanor bugged me in a way that I could not identify.  She is not supposed to be likable initially which is why I persevered and I ended up liking the book. 

As we get to know Eleanor and understand her profound loneliness,  it made me think about what initial judgments I make in other areas.

All the Lonely People and and more of the best British Books

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

This book was my surprise star of the summer so far. I had not heard of the book and thought it sounded great. I loved every minute of it.

Hubert Bird is a widower who has weekly conversations with his daughter in Australia. He tells her amazing stories about how he spends his time. The problem? It is all made up.

Now with his daughter coming to visit, Hubert must find friends and life to show his daughter.

Hubert gets a second chance at love and friendship but the book dives deeper into Hubert’s past as well. The depth and sincerity in this book are wonderful and I cannot say enough good things.

Thank you for my copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Want more? Check out our Ultimate List of FeelGood books!

Best British Books for Book Club

The Jane Austen Society and more of the best British Books

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

What a wonderful book for historical fiction lovers. Set just after WWII, a group of unlikely friends comes together to save Jane Austen’s cottage.

A movie star, a farmer, a doctor, and a widow all have personal struggles to overcome. Over the course of the book, the society is able to save more than just the cottage.

I felt like each of the characters was a personal friend by the book’s end. It was a lovely read to rekindle hope.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and more of the best British Books

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffner and Annie Barrows

This story about the island of Guernsey’s occupation during WWII features a book club that started to deceive the German soldiers. The members of the book club quickly become friends.

When a young novelist finds out about their society, she beings a correspondence and eventually visits them to learn more. The story is told entirely in letters and was recently turned into a Netflix movie!

Hamnet and more of the best British Books

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I had this book on my TBR for so long and I am so happy that I finally had a chance to read it. This is the story of Shakespeare’s life, family, and extraordinary wife during the time of the plague. Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name in this extraordinary and heartbreaking book that was so hard to put down. I know why it made so many lists of top books for 2020.

Want more books for your book club? We do too! That’s why we created a list of the 52 Best Books for Book Clubs to Read.

Best Historical Fiction Set in Britain

Life After Life and more of the best British Books

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is family drama, historical fiction and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.

Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and died before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues. Ursula lives her life over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story. You can also check out our great list of time travel books.

The lost Apothecary and more of the best British Books

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Nella is the owner of a shop that used to be a renowned apothecary to treat women but, after her mother died and Nella faced unspeakable loss, her shop is now is the bringer of death to men who have wronged the women in their lives.  

In the present day, Caroline is spending her 10th wedding anniversary alone in London after discovering her husband is a lying, cheater.  When she finds a vial while mudlarking, she cannot resist the pull.  What is the story behind this vial?

As the two stories come together, the link between past and present is seamless. I could have put this book in the modern British books section as well.

juliet by anne fortier

Juliet: A Novel by Anna Fortier

I ADORE this story and have read it numerous times. What if Shakespeare’s Juliet was real and was actually a curse? Alternating between the “real” Juliet’s story and her modern-day descendant’s story, the book proves that love transcends time.

I can’t put my finger on why this story makes my top 10, but it’s a comfort read that I go to whenever I need a pick-me-up. I re-read it again and again! It has a little bit of everything – romance, a mystery, a contemporary and historical element. It’s such a unique and amazing tale.

Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time period.

Books About Bookshops (Set in Britain)

With Love From London and more of the best British Books

With Love from London by Sarah Jio

I loved this book about a librarian who inherits a bookshop from her estranged mother. When Valentina was a teenager, her beloved mother left her to return home to her native London and never returned. Val was left heartbroken by her father.

Now, Val has returned to London to her mother’s apartment and bookshop to try and understand her mother, her life, and why she would leave. The change could not have come at a better time for Valentina who is going through a divorce of her own. This book was such an easy and wonderful read.

You can check out our other amazing books about bookstores!

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The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Corner #1

This book was the first book that I read by Jenny Colgan and is different from her others.  It is not centered around food but rather, books. 

When Nina, a librarian, finds herself without a job, she decides to embark on a journey with a mobile bookshop.  There is nothing not to love in this sweet book. This is Jenny Colgan’s second spot on this list of great British books.

The Last Bookshop in London and more of the best British Books

The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin

Wow, did I love this book. Grace has always wanted to live in London and finds herself working at a bookshop as WWII looms on the horizon.

Grace’s newfound love of books, the store, and the friends who have become family, become the glue that holds her together during air raids, blitzes, and nights spent in darkness. I am happy to have any excuse to recommend this great historical fiction and a list of British Books is the perfect place.

Love books about books? Check out our post here.

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