The most recommended books about English country houses

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to English country house, and here are their favorite English country house books.
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Book cover of Briarley

Kathleen Jowitt Author Of Speak Its Name

From my list on showing it’s possible to be queer and Christian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in an eccentric, liberal family, as a member of the Church of England, under the shadow of the British Government’s homophobic Section 28, the messages I received were distinctly mixed. If I’d heard the word ‘bisexual’ before the age of twenty my life might have been very different. And to this day, the most common assumption is that one can’t be simultaneously queer and Christian. As I’ve discovered, and as these books show, that isn’t true – and moving beyond that assumption reveals new and fascinating horizons.

Kathleen's book list on showing it’s possible to be queer and Christian

Kathleen Jowitt Why did Kathleen love this book?

A Beauty and the Beast retelling, set amid the upheaval of the Second World War, in which the Beast is a dragon and the protagonist is a person who doesn’t see why his daughter should take the rap for her father’s misdemeanour. Humane and compassionate, this story isn’t afraid of exploring the theology of sexuality, but it never gets bogged down in details, and it maintains its fairy-tale atmosphere while remaining grounded in time and place. I loved it.

By Aster Glenn Gray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An m/m World War II-era retelling of Beauty and the Beast.During a chance summer shower, an English country parson takes refuge in a country house. The house seems deserted, yet the table is laid with a sumptuous banquet such as the parson has not seen since before war rationing. Unnerved by the uncanny house, he flees, but stops to pluck a single perfect rose from the garden for his daughter - only for the master of the house to appear, breathing fire with rage. Literally. At first, the parson can't stand this dragon-man. But slowly, he begins to feel the…


Book cover of Billy Boyle

Keith Hartman Author Of The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse

From my list on unique settings for a mystery novel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love mysteries, but I find that after a while, a lot of them tend to run together in my head. So I just love it when I find a book with a setting so unique that it sticks in my mind forever. And it’s even better when the author uses that setting to show me something new about human nature, history, or society while still delivering me a plot that keeps me turning pages.

Keith's book list on unique settings for a mystery novel

Keith Hartman Why did Keith love this book?

This was a book that my dad turned me on to. I loved it so much that I immediately raced through the rest of the books in the series. For the past few years, my dad and I have had a ritual of waiting for the next book in the series to come out so that we can talk about it.

The main character is the likable son of a Boston cop who learns how to be a detective over the course of the series. But for me, what really makes this series shine is the setting. Billy is swept up in WW 2 and dispatched to solve mysteries in every corner of the conflict. The series takes you to all sorts of interesting places, like a training facility in Northern Ireland, occupied France behind the German lines, neutral Switzerland, and even the Vatican City. 

It’s a series that brings…

By James R. Benn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Billy Boyle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This book has got it all—an instant classic.”—Lee Child, author of The Hard Way
 
“It is a pleasure marching off to war with the spirited Billy Boyle. He is a charmer, richly imagined and vividly rendered, and he tells a finely suspenseful yarn.”—Dan Fesperman, author of The Prisoner of Guantanamo
 
What’s a twenty-two-year-old Irish American cop who’s never been out of Massa-chusetts before doing at Beardsley Hall, an English country house, having lunch with King Haakon of Norway? Billy Boyle himself wonders. Back home in Southie, he’d barely made detective when war was declared. Unwilling to fight—and perhaps die—for England,…


Book cover of The Marquess is Mine

Emmanuelle de Maupassant Author Of The Lady's Guide to Mistletoe and Mayhem

From my list on Christmas romances set at country houses.

Why am I passionate about this?

Historical romance author Emmanuelle lives on the bonny banks of Loch Fyne with her husband and beloved haggis pudding Archie McFloof—connoisseur of bacon treats and squeaky toys.
While waiting on her own country house party invitation [sending a wink to Inveraray Castle—which is just down the road, and boasts a duke!] she makes do by serving up imaginary shenanigans.  

Emmanuelle's book list on Christmas romances set at country houses

Emmanuelle de Maupassant Why did Emmanuelle love this book?

I have a super soft spot for ‘second chance’ romances. Here, our heroine’s long-broken heart skips several beats on being confronted by the dashingly handsome culprit at a Christmas Ball. Having forsaken the only woman he has ever loved, our hero has just one chance to make amends. How will he regain her trust, persuading her that he’ll never again let her down? You’ll be rooting for them both to find the happiness they deserve. 

By Tamara Gill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

She’ll never let anyone break her heart. Not again, anyway…

Lady Sarah Farley has learned many of life’s lessons the hard way. She now knows the ton will viciously turn on anyone, anytime. And love? That only brings devastation. But when a particularly handsome ghost from her past re-emerges, she can’t help but wonder if life is about to teach her poor wounded heart yet another painful, unwanted lesson.

Lord Giles Longe, Marques Gordan, never wanted to hurt Sarah. But he couldn’t have married her back then. His father wouldn’t have allowed it. Everything is different now, though. He will…


Book cover of A Countess Below Stairs

Anna Campbell Author Of One Wicked Wish

From my list on classic historical romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved historical romance, ever since my mother gave me my first Georgette Heyer when I was eight, and my grandmother gave me my first Barbara Cartland shortly after. The fascination has never waned, which is a good thing because I grew up to become a historical romance author myself. Since publishing my first romance in 2006, I’ve written nearly 50 books, mainly set during the Regency period (first quarter of the 19th century). I’ve always adored how a good historical romance whisks me away to a larger-than-life world replete with dashing rakes, smart-mouthed ladies, and glittering high society, not to mention witty banter, glamour, and heart-stopping romance.

Anna's book list on classic historical romance

Anna Campbell Why did Anna love this book?

This is my favorite comfort read, the perfect book for days when life has too many sharp corners. I must have read this one at least twenty times. It has all the virtues of a classic fairytale: a pure-hearted, brave heroine; an honorable, steadfast hero; and a happy ending earned through suffering and effort and against all the odds. It tells the story of Countess Anna Grazinsky, a young refugee from the Russian Revolution, who finds work as a maid at a stately home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with the gallant war hero who owns the house. But the Earl of Westholme is promised to another woman. Heartwarming, triumphantly romantic, wise, and funny, A Countess Below Stairs is one of those rare books that makes the world seem a better place.  

By Eva Ibbotson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Countess Below Stairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Eva Ibbotson's charming and warm-hearted tale, A Secret Countess was originally published as A Countess Below Stairs.

Anna, a young countess, has lived in the glittering city of St Petersburg all her life in an ice-blue palace overlooking the River Neva. But when revolution tears Russia apart, her now-penniless family is forced to flee to England. Armed with an out-of-date book on housekeeping, Anna determines to become a housemaid and she finds work at the Earl of Westerholme's crumbling but magnificent mansion. The staff and the family are sure there is something not quite right about their new maid -…


Book cover of Six Geese a Laying

Emmanuelle de Maupassant Author Of The Lady's Guide to Mistletoe and Mayhem

From my list on Christmas romances set at country houses.

Why am I passionate about this?

Historical romance author Emmanuelle lives on the bonny banks of Loch Fyne with her husband and beloved haggis pudding Archie McFloof—connoisseur of bacon treats and squeaky toys.
While waiting on her own country house party invitation [sending a wink to Inveraray Castle—which is just down the road, and boasts a duke!] she makes do by serving up imaginary shenanigans.  

Emmanuelle's book list on Christmas romances set at country houses

Emmanuelle de Maupassant Why did Emmanuelle love this book?

One of a series of twelve novellas taking up the themes of the traditional Yuletide song, this one has a ‘snowed in’ scenario at a fancy-schmancy manor house and a mysterious newcomer among the guests. All is not as it seems, as the handsome stranger has a hidden agenda. Is his interest in our heroine all playacting, to uncover the information he seeks, or is his fascination something more…? Brimming with heartwarming Christmassy elements, this romance has strong ‘opposites attract’ and ‘enemies to lovers’ vibes. 

By Emily E K Murdoch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Six Geese a Laying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It’s 1817, with geese flocking just before Christmas—but Maria’s all alone…

Maria Fitzroy wants to do just two things this Christmas: avoid all questions about her matrimonial prospects, and see more of this strange Mr. Walter who appeared at Chalcroft asking strange questions.

He’s new to the village, mysterious and handsome, and has a strange fascination with Maria. Which absolutely should not get her heart racing. But an instinct that pulls her to him just as the geese are drawn across the sky keeps pulling Maria into Walter’s path, and before she knows it, scandalous kisses and games she should…


Book cover of The Red House Mystery

Tim Major Author Of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Defaced Men

From my list on satisfying mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a child I’ve been drawn to mystery plots, because I love the sense of there being an agreement between author and reader, which leads to an ability to play with expectations. My most recent books have been Sherlock Holmes novels in the style of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle tales, though I’ve also written mysteries set on an isolated island and even on Mars! With each new story, I’ve found the act of plotting deeply satisfying. Of course, the next best thing to writing my own stories is reading another author’s novel that has a satisfying mystery, with a solution that in retrospect seems totally fair, but that I didn’t see coming.

Tim's book list on satisfying mysteries

Tim Major Why did Tim love this book?

A classic murder mystery from an unlikely author. Until recently I knew nothing about Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne’s single mystery novel—and now I feel it’s a great shame he didn’t write more. The Red House Mystery is an archetypal murder mystery set in a country house and featuring a large cast, and there’s a wonderful locked-room puzzle at its center. Like many great mystery stories, it’s as much concerned with the rules of the genre as its characters, and it managed to wrongfoot me again and again, to my delight.

By A.A. Milne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Red House Mystery (1922) is a detective novel by A.A. Milne. Known more for his series of Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems for children, Milne also wrote novels and plays for adults, including this successful whodunnit. The Red House Mystery, Milne's only detective novel, was highly successful upon publication and is noted for its use of an amateur sleuth as well as its intricate, puzzle-like plot. Despite earning the ire of Raymond Chandler, Milne's novel was reprinted in the U.S. and in Britain numerous times.

At his house in the English countryside, Mark Ablett hosts a small party of diverse…


Book cover of Madresfield

James Peill Author Of The English Country House: New Format

From my list on country houses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved visiting country houses ever since I was a child. There is something unique about the combination of art, architecture, and people. Over my lifetime, I have been privileged to visit all sorts of houses and castles. I used to work at Christie’s and during that time I visited many country houses, some of which were completely private. It was a natural progression when I moved to Goodwood and became the curator of the art collection, enjoying the house as part of my daily life. The view from my office looks out through the columns of the portico, across the park, with the sea glinting in the distance. What could be better?  

James' book list on country houses

James Peill Why did James love this book?

This book takes the reader on a journey back into the mists of time. I was fascinated by how one house can hold so many secrets, that the author, Jane Mulvagh, unravels as she tells her tale. Madresfield was the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh’s famous fictional house Brideshead, although the real story is much more complex and interesting. Inspired by this book, I included Madresfield as one of the ten houses in my own book. 

By Jane Mulvagh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Madresfield Court is an arrestingly romantic stately home in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. It has been continuously owned and lived in by the same family, the Lygons, back to the time of the Domesday Book, and, unusually, remains in the family's hands to this day. Inside, it is a very private, unmistakably English, manor house; a lived-in family home where the bejewelled sits next to the threadbare. The house and the family were the real inspiration for Brideshead Revisited: Evelyn Waugh was a regular visitor, and based his story of the doomed Marchmain family on the Lygons.
Never before…


Book cover of The Murder of Mr. Wickham

Jennifer Wilck Author Of Home for the Challah Days

From Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Chocolate hogger Crossword lover Reader Coffee addict

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jennifer Wilck Why did Jennifer love this book?

I’m a big Jane Austin fan, so I loved how the writer took all of the characters from the different books, put them together in a house party, and then killed one off.

The two sleuths were terrific, and I loved their diversity that she created. Diversity is important to me as a Jewish author of Jewish romances, so that aspect really appealed to me.

The mystery was well done, and I hope she has a sequel coming because I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to read more from her.

By Claudia Gray,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Murder of Mr. Wickham as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen's Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.

“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written.” —Alexander McCall Smith

     The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even…


Book cover of Diaries, 1942-1954

Simon Edge Author Of In the Beginning

From Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Satirist Commentator on gay history Publisher Reader

Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Simon Edge Why did Simon love this book?

James Lees-Milne began writing his diaries while invalided out of the Second World War, acquiring grand country houses for the fledgling National Trust and recording his dealings with their aristocratic owners as they shivered in vast piles that they could no longer afford to staff or heat.

He started to publish edited versions in the mid-1970s, and they were abridged and assembled into their present form by Michael Bloch in 2006. A friend has been pressing me to read them for ages – and I’m so grateful he didn’t give up.

Gloriously gossipy about Lees-Milne’s own sexually adventurous, upper-crust literary milieu, the entries are crafted with a conciseness and acuity of observation that justifies the book’s reputation as a minor masterpiece.

By James Lees-Milne, Michael Bloch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Diaries, 1942-1954 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Lees-Milne (1908-97) made his name as the country house expert of the National Trust and for being a versatile author. But he is now best known for the remarkable diary he kept for most of his adult life, which has been compared with that of Samuel Pepys and hailed as 'a treasure of contemporary English literature'.

The first of three, this volume covers its first dozen years, beginning with his return to work for the National Trust during the Second World War, and ending with his tempestuous marriage to the exotic Alvilde Chaplin.

The diary vividly portrays the hectic…


Book cover of Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland's Romantic North

James Peill Author Of The English Country House: New Format

From my list on country houses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved visiting country houses ever since I was a child. There is something unique about the combination of art, architecture, and people. Over my lifetime, I have been privileged to visit all sorts of houses and castles. I used to work at Christie’s and during that time I visited many country houses, some of which were completely private. It was a natural progression when I moved to Goodwood and became the curator of the art collection, enjoying the house as part of my daily life. The view from my office looks out through the columns of the portico, across the park, with the sea glinting in the distance. What could be better?  

James' book list on country houses

James Peill Why did James love this book?

Reading this book is like sheer escapism to the Highlands of Scotland. Beautifully illustrated, the author has an engaging style that carries you along as she tells the story of Highland lodges and how Scotland became the place to go to find rest and escapism as well as great sport. You come away seeing Scotland in a new light and wanting to spend August amongst the heather and hills. 

By Mary Miers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Highland Retreats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Featuring breathtaking photographs of some of Scotland s most remarkable and little-known houses, this book tells the story of how incomers adopted the North of Scotland as a recreational paradise and left an astonishing legacy of architecture and decoration inspired by the romanticized image of the Highlands. Known as shooting lodges because they were designed principally to accommodate the parties of guests that flocked north for the annual sporting season, these houses range from Picturesque cottages ornees and Scotch Baronial castles to Arts and Crafts mansions and modern eco-lodges. While their designs respond to some of Britain s wildest and…