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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,686 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Talisman Ring

Susan Rowland Why did I love this book?

When Covid came for Christmas 2022, there was no better comfort and joy than Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances. The Talisman Ring kept me going when confined to bed because of the humor that never dates.

With two love stories, a murder mystery, and a treasure hunt, the reader has as much fun as the characters. Even the villain twirls his mustache charmingly.

Ingenue and romantic novel reader Eustace is determined to find a suitor to ride ventre a terre to her deathbed and so runs away from staid Sir Tristram. Eustace encounters a smuggler who is heir to the talisman ring and is wrongfully accused of murder. Fortunately, the adventurous pair are sheltered by redoubtable Sarah Thane, who fully sympathizes with Eustacie’s plans to die for love.

By Georgette Heyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Talisman Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A story in the manner of Jane Austen, of domestic comedy and love affairs.” —Times Literary Supplement

An impetuous young lady and a fugitive nobleman…

When spirited Eustacie stumbles into a band of smugglers, she is delighted to be having an adventure at last. Their leader, young heir Ludovic Lavenham, is in hiding, falsely accused of murder. Pursued by the law, Eustacie and Ludovic find refuge at an unassuming country inn.

And the delightfully sensible couple who try to keep them out of trouble

The resourceful Miss Sarah Thane and the clear-thinking Sir Tristram Shield gamely endeavor to prevent Ludovic’s…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Reek of Red Herrings

Susan Rowland Why did I love this book?

Seeking engaging sleuths whose dogged determination never fails and whose brilliance does not make me stupid, I adore McPherson’s Dandy Gilver.

Wife to a Scottish gentry farmer between World War I and II, Dandy escapes domesticity to investigate (with often unintentional humor) the odd and the terrible in close-knit communities. Like all the best detectives, she resists dissecting the love in her life – especially her sidekick, Alec. Find Dandy in a department store, a convent, among circus folk, or a pre-Christian festival, or here in the fishing village where the ships, sailors, and womenfolk migrate with the herring.

Unfortunately, what turns up in barrels is more than the fish corpses. It takes guts for a gently bred lady to pursue murder through families and onto the high seas.

By Catriona McPherson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Reek of Red Herrings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2017 Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel!

“Dandy Gilver is marvelously, hopelessly, hilariously wonderful. If you haven’t discovered Catriona McPherson yet, it’s time to start!” ―Charles Todd, author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery series

On the rain-drenched, wind-battered Banffshire coast dilapidated mansions cling to cliff tops, and tiny fishing villages perch on ledges that would make a seagull think twice. It’s nowhere for Dandy Gilver, a child of gentle Northamptonshire, to spend Christmas.

But when odd things start to turn up in barrels of fish―with a strong whiff of murder most foul―that’s exactly where she finds…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Dark Fire

Susan Rowland Why did I love this book?

Some books are time travel capsules. Dark Fire I chose to re-read at a stressful time because, like all of Sansom’s Tudor mysteries, it sides with the bullied, the vulnerable, and the honorable in a culture of greed, religious obsession, and cruel power.

Lawyer Matthew Shardlake is despised everywhere as a hunchback except when the powerful need a shrewd investigator they can trust. Once a religious enforcer for Thomas Cromwell, Shardlake is now horrified by how greed has consumed genuine faith. However, omnipotent Cromwell’s star is falling.

Only if Matthew can get him the alchemical secret of dark Fire – a weapon of mass destruction used by the Byzantine Greeks, might Cromwell be saved. And if Cromwell falls, he might take Shardlake with him. 

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Dark Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a friend's niece is charged with murder and threatened with torture for her refusal to speak, 1540 lawyer Matthew Sharklake is granted an unexpected two-week reprieve to investigate the case if he will also accept a dangerous assignment to find a legendary weapon of mass destruction. By the author of Dissolution. 25,000 first printing.


Plus, check out my book…

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

What is my book about?

The Alchemy Fire Murder sends three female detectives on a quest to recover a medieval alchemy scroll. Formerly in Oxford College, it was stolen in the 17th century for the betterment of the New World.

Now considered priceless because of its medicinal properties, the scroll is tracked to Los Angeles by Mary. Her colleagues Caroline and Anna search for a kidnapped witch who possesses the key to the scroll’s secrets. Tragedy strikes in LA when a young museum curator dies, and the scroll vanishes. Back in the UK, Anna makes a fateful decision when Caroline discovers the witch imprisoned in a mental hospital.

Can the trio recover the scroll, restrain their firey natures, and escape the wildfire that traps them with a desperate killer?