The best books with strong female leads who’d make great dinner guests

Who am I?

I spent my twenties mostly devouring women’s fiction and romance novels with female leads, but I also stepped outside my preferred genre. Being a strong lead doesn’t necessarily mean saving the world or doing something heroic (though obviously that helps!), it’s about strength of character, being real, and being able to fight on when things get difficult. I always dreamt of being an author, but only started writing properly when I developed a debilitating long-term health condition. I used writing to support my rehabilitation and this led to me finally achieving that dream – so in a way, I see myself as a strong female lead in my own story. 

I wrote...

Take a Moment

By Nina Kaye,

Book cover of Take a Moment

What is my book about?

Take a Moment is inspired by my own experience of living with a life-limiting illness. Though my main character’s health situation and story are fictional, her experiences are drawn from my own: losing my independence, being treated differently, and facing professional barriers. Like me, she’s resilient and works hard to find her own way forward.

Here’s a short blurb: when a shock diagnosis derails Alex’s life plans, she faces a new and unpleasant reality. Leaving her fiancé and job behind, she moves from Glasgow to Birmingham to live life on her terms. Alex won’t let her illness define her, but will a fresh start bring happiness and new love?

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

The books I picked & why

That Night in Paris

By Sandy Barker,

Book cover of That Night in Paris

Why did I love this book?

That Night in Paris is the second book in Sandy Barker’s Holiday Romance Series, which is packed with beautifully described holiday destinations and the will-they-won’t-they moments we romance readers love. In That Night in Paris, Cat books an impromptu European coach trip in desperation after she has a few too many wines and sleeps with her flatmate. And what a decision that turns out to be when she bumps into her long-lost teenage crush in Paris.     

Cat’s on my dinner guest list because she’s feisty, fun, and oozes sass, while at the same time having a more vulnerable side that would get the deeper conversations going by dessert. Sometimes strong women who are confident and outspoken (in a good way) can be criticised and labelled negatively, but women like Cat should be applauded for being real. 

By Sandy Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked That Night in Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Note to self: don't sleep with your flatmate after a curry and three bottles of wine... especially if he's secretly in love with you and wants you to meet his mum.

Cat Parsons is on the run. She doesn't do relationships. After ten years of singlehood even the hint of the 'L' word is enough to get Cat packing her bags and booking herself onto a two-week holiday.

A European bus tour feels like a stroke of genius to dodge awkward conversations at home. But little does Cat realise that the first stop will be Paris, the city of love…

Book cover of The Cornish Wedding Murder

Why did I love this book?

The Cornish Wedding Murder is the first installment of Fiona Leitch’s wonderful cosy mystery series. It features Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker, ex-copper turned caterer, who butts heads with handsome DCI Nathan Winters to prove a childhood friend’s innocence, after an unexpected guest is found dead at his wedding. It’s an entertaining read with plenty of twists and turns and some added romantic tension to keep you wanting more. 

Jodie’s on my list as a female lead who’d make a great dinner guest because she’s bold, fiercely loyal and she doesn’t let others push her around. She’s also one to raise a smile with her deadpan humour and she’d have many a story from her police days to share. Oh, and with her being a caterer, I might not even have to cook!    

By Fiona Leitch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

‘A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetite’ Helena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing quite like having your first job back at home be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your…

A Walk in Wildflower Park

By Bella Osborne,

Book cover of A Walk in Wildflower Park

Why did I love this book?

This is so much more than the cosy romance the cover and title promise. It’s a wonderful story bursting with friendship, office politics, drama, and mystery. When Anna’s loser of a fiancé gets cold feet, focusing on her career as a project manager seems a safe way to move on. But when two unwelcome faces join her workplace, Anna’s suddenly got a lot on her plate – and that’s before the mysterious texts start appearing from a guy who calls himself C.

Anna would be a guest at my dinner table because she feels like a kindred spirit. Like me, she’s driven and ambitious, as well as someone who doesn’t take any nonsense – and she’s good fun. I could definitely see us sharing and comparing office horror stories over a few G&Ts. 

By Bella Osborne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Walk in Wildflower Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Walk in Wildflower Park was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package.

'Pure escapism - full of wit, warmth, humour, and a moving look at the friendships and relationships that make us all tick.' Debbie Johnson, bestselling author of The Comfort Food Cafe series

Life's not always a walk in the park...

Anna thought she'd found The One - until he broke off their engagement exactly a year before their wedding day. Hoping new surroundings will do her the world of good, she moves in to a place of her own on…

Book cover of The Girls from the Beach

Why did I love this book?

Andie Newton writes historical fiction with strong female leads, set during World War II. In The Girls from the Beach, Kit, an American nurse, is sent behind enemy lines to infiltrate the Reich and steal something critical to the outcome of the war. It’s a gripping, edge-of-your-seat story that’s guaranteed to have you bawling by the end.  

Obviously, I’d need a time machine to have dinner with Kit as a young woman, but she could still be around today, recounting heroic tales from that awful time. Kit is super brave and she’s persevered through unimaginable circumstances. Even if she didn’t want to share her stories, I’d invite her as a thank you for the sacrifices she and all service people made so we have the freedom we have today. 

By Andie Newton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girls from the Beach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'We'd heard stories about the nurses in tent seven. A secret mission, stolen money, and spies...'

In 1944, four American nurses disappeared for five days. No one knew what happened to them. Until now.

When Kit and Red set foot on French soil during the Normandy landings, they know they have to rely on each other. As they head for the battlefield, their aim is simple: save lives. But when they're called away on a top-secret mission to patch up a few men behind enemy lines, everything changes.

Alongside fellow nurses, Roxy and Gail, they're told to…

Bridget Jones's Diary

By Helen Fielding,

Book cover of Bridget Jones's Diary

Why did I love this book?

In my humble opinion, Bridget Jones is one of the most iconic modern female fiction characters of all time. A single thirty-something woman, struggling to be taken seriously in her career. She’s out to show the world she’s capable of finding both success and love – and her barefaced accounts make for many laugh-out-loud moments.  

The reason Bridget is on my dinner guest list is simple: she’s super real. Yes, she’s from a different (and slightly less politically correct) time, but she’s not afraid to be herself, she understands and accepts her faults, and there’s not a drop of fakery in her. She’d possibly drink me out of house and home, but it would be well worth the cost of restocking my wine cupboard for the entertainment she’d bring.

By Helen Fielding,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Bridget Jones's Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The multi-million copy number one Bestseller

A dazzlingly urban satire on modern relationships?
An ironic, tragic insight into the demise of the nuclear family?
Or the confused ramblings of a pissed thirty-something?

As Bridget documents her struggles through the social minefield of her thirties and tries to weigh up the eternal question (Daniel Cleaver or Mark Darcy?), she turns for support to four indispensable friends: Shazzer, Jude, Tom and a bottle of chardonnay.

Welcome to Bridget's first diary: mercilessly funny, endlessly touching and utterly addictive.

Helen Fielding's first Bridget Jones novel, Bridget Jones's Diary, sparked a phenomenon that has seen…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in deadpan humor, World War 2, and Paris?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about deadpan humor, World War 2, and Paris.

Deadpan Humor Explore 18 books about deadpan humor
World War 2 Explore 1,692 books about World War 2
Paris Explore 320 books about Paris