The best books on escapism

4 authors have picked their favorite books about escapism and why they recommend each book.

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Sinful

By Susan Johnson,

Book cover of Sinful

If you wish to travel far afield, have a taste for erotic in your romance (done tastefully), and unconventional heroes and heroines, this is a great story. Sinjin is wounded and wary, and Chelsea is an unconventional young woman with a great deal of determination and resilience. Their reckless passion for each other is ill-advised and they both know it, yet neither one can resist. The exotic settings and careful attention to historical detail make this a very memorable read. Don’t forget also some really hot sex scenes.


Who am I?

Once upon a time Emma Wildes picked up a romance novel (she was much too young to have read it, but did anyway) and has been hooked ever since. She not only is a devoted fan of the genre but is a bestselling romance author and still an avid reader. Give her a sexy hero and an independent woman to challenge him, and she is all about it. Besides the book in her hand, picture a nice fire in the hearth and a glass of wine nearby, and that is her perfect evening.


I wrote...

An Indecent Proposition

By Emma Wildes,

Book cover of An Indecent Proposition

What is my book about?

London’s two most notorious rakes—the Earl of Manderville and the Duke of Rothay—placed a very public wager on which of them is the superior lover. Now it’s too late to retract the foolish bet, but what woman of beauty, intelligence, and discernment, would consent to bed both men and declare which is more skilled in satisfying her deepest desires? Lady Carolyn Wynn is the last woman anyone would expect to step forward. She’s a respectable young widow with an icy reputation, which has kept her firmly off the marriage market. 

If the men will keep her identity a secret, she’ll decide who has the most finesse between the sheets. But to everyone’s surprise, what begins as an indelicate proposition turns into a most astonishing lesson in everlasting love.

Louisianna Dawn

By Jennifer Blake,

Book cover of Louisianna Dawn

Set in a time when New Orleans was still very French, Rene is a unique hero because he serves a foreign régime and has a different mindset when it comes to the governing of a territory that is now a quintessential part of America. Blake does such a good job of putting you in the setting, and the heroine is absolutely resolute, independent, and courageous. Their love affair is so unlikely, yet made believable and there is a tantalizing mystery and plenty of action due to the unsettled and volatile time of this story.


Who am I?

Once upon a time Emma Wildes picked up a romance novel (she was much too young to have read it, but did anyway) and has been hooked ever since. She not only is a devoted fan of the genre but is a bestselling romance author and still an avid reader. Give her a sexy hero and an independent woman to challenge him, and she is all about it. Besides the book in her hand, picture a nice fire in the hearth and a glass of wine nearby, and that is her perfect evening.


I wrote...

An Indecent Proposition

By Emma Wildes,

Book cover of An Indecent Proposition

What is my book about?

London’s two most notorious rakes—the Earl of Manderville and the Duke of Rothay—placed a very public wager on which of them is the superior lover. Now it’s too late to retract the foolish bet, but what woman of beauty, intelligence, and discernment, would consent to bed both men and declare which is more skilled in satisfying her deepest desires? Lady Carolyn Wynn is the last woman anyone would expect to step forward. She’s a respectable young widow with an icy reputation, which has kept her firmly off the marriage market. 

If the men will keep her identity a secret, she’ll decide who has the most finesse between the sheets. But to everyone’s surprise, what begins as an indelicate proposition turns into a most astonishing lesson in everlasting love.

The Ivy Tree

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of The Ivy Tree

The Ivy Tree is a classic by Mary Stewart, queen of the 20th-century gothic novel. I love all her novels, but I think this is her best. The first-person narrator is a savvy young woman who is persuaded to impersonate a heiress, and the twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing right to the end. The narrator is fascinating and filled with hidden depths. This is a book I re-read regularly because it’s a lesson in crafting the perfect psychological thriller, which is what a gothic novel is at its core.


Who am I?

I’ve loved the gothic genre ever since I first read Jane Eyre as a student of Victorian Literature. My PhD thesis focused on Dracula, another Victorian gothic novel, and The Curse of Morton Abbey pays homage to classics like these. What I love most about the genre is its symbolism: like vivid dreams, gothic novels express our deepest fears and longings. It’s no accident that Jungian archetypes show up in gothic novels as often as they do in dreams, and I’ve enjoyed analyzing these texts in my work as an English professor. Also, I just really like stories that send chills up my spine and give my lifelong insomnia a purpose!


I wrote...

The Curse of Morton Abbey

By Clarissa Harwood,

Book cover of The Curse of Morton Abbey

What is my book about?

The Secret Garden meets Jane Eyre in a gothic tale of romantic suspense set in 1890s Yorkshire.

A young woman solicitor accepts a suspiciously lucrative offer of employment to prepare the sale of a crumbling estate, but when she arrives, the mysterious occupants of the house try to drive her away. As she is drawn deeper into the dark secrets of the family, she can’t be certain she’ll escape Morton Abbey with her sanity—or even her life—intact.

The I Inside

By Alan Dean Foster,

Book cover of The I Inside

What would you do if you were just an average, boring man? Living an average boring life. But then you found you had incredible powers. Not little by little... but full-on fire hose-level powers. Then you found out that all you knew about yourself, and your life were lies. And everyone wants you. This is another novel where the protagonist finds himself running for his life or freedom through the universe. Just one this time.

This book appealed to the escapist in me. Just as every teenager wants to be special or miraculous, this was the epitome of a normal man finding he was definitely not normal and trying to live with the consequences. It’s a pretty common theme, but this story took it and ramped it up to a level 10 on the excitement meter.


Who am I?

I’ve been an avid reader since I could open a book. The stories I’ve mentioned may have been a kick in the rear that made me realize how much I love science fiction and fantasy... with that little twist of magic that can send your imagination flying through the universe, but naturally it didn’t start there. When I was creating worlds, or playing through my friend’s worlds with D&D or Palladium, I always knew I wanted to share them with others. Because, if I can make people love my stories... maybe, just maybe... they’ll be inspired to write a story I’ll read and love.


I wrote...

A Prison of Worlds

By Daniel Ruth,

Book cover of A Prison of Worlds

What is my book about?

His friends are dead and now Derek is trapped as a human and branded by magic. Thrown out of his own reality he has to find a way to break his bindings and find a way home. Although he is an accomplished psychic Derek realizes that perhaps this may be the wrong skill set to bring to bear on ancient magics and devilish dragons. 

Now he has to explore the very building blocks of magic to take control of his destiny. Mad mages, hordes of demons, and unfortunate explosions follow him as he attempts to save the world. Which begs the question, what does happen after the apocalypse? 

Crown of Dreams

By Kimberly Cates,

Book cover of Crown of Dreams

First and foremost, this author is so witty and her characters so engaging, you will be entertained from the first page. No wait, first sentence. The historical setting is perfect as love and war collide in a time when England upended the monarchy. Miles is the idealistic (and rash) hero, and Devlin, despite her independent spirit, finds herself swept along as he fights for what he believes in. Rich in history, adventure, and intensely romantic, I loved this book.


Who am I?

Once upon a time Emma Wildes picked up a romance novel (she was much too young to have read it, but did anyway) and has been hooked ever since. She not only is a devoted fan of the genre but is a bestselling romance author and still an avid reader. Give her a sexy hero and an independent woman to challenge him, and she is all about it. Besides the book in her hand, picture a nice fire in the hearth and a glass of wine nearby, and that is her perfect evening.


I wrote...

An Indecent Proposition

By Emma Wildes,

Book cover of An Indecent Proposition

What is my book about?

London’s two most notorious rakes—the Earl of Manderville and the Duke of Rothay—placed a very public wager on which of them is the superior lover. Now it’s too late to retract the foolish bet, but what woman of beauty, intelligence, and discernment, would consent to bed both men and declare which is more skilled in satisfying her deepest desires? Lady Carolyn Wynn is the last woman anyone would expect to step forward. She’s a respectable young widow with an icy reputation, which has kept her firmly off the marriage market. 

If the men will keep her identity a secret, she’ll decide who has the most finesse between the sheets. But to everyone’s surprise, what begins as an indelicate proposition turns into a most astonishing lesson in everlasting love.

Travels on my Elephant

By Mark Shand,

Book cover of Travels on my Elephant

As much a love story as a traveller’s tale, the wonderful book is more about the relationship between Mark Shand and his trusty elephant, Tara, as it is about India. A truly heart-warming adventure sees the author buy Tara and ride her 600 miles across dusty back roads, through jungle paths, and along state highways, to the world’s biggest elephant fair in Sonepur. Tara, who found a home at Kipling Camp in Madhya Pradesh is still alive today, which is more than can be said for the poor author, Mark, who died in a freak accident stepping off a sidewalk in New York a few years ago. How strange life can be.


Who am I?

Having driven a motorbike around Africa, walked through parts of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and ridden a horse along the Silk Road, which culminated in three travel books, a Discovery Channel film, and Wild Frontiers the award-winning travel company I set up, I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about travel. With over 100 countries under my belt, discovering new places and meeting new people has always been my passion. The books I have chosen here are ones that I think best communicate both a physical and a mental journey, that draw you into a story with a beginning a middle, and an end, and leave you knowing more about both a region of the world and human nature.


I wrote...

Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

By Jonny Bealby,

Book cover of Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

What is my book about?

This book tells the tale of my journey from grief-stricken man to free-riding adventurer as, following the sudden death of my fiancé Melanie, I escape a world of broken dreams by driving a motorbike from London to Cape Town and back again. As much an inner journey looking for meaning in life as a travelogue describing by 10-month, 20,000 mile, 19 country odyssey, it was a true voyage of a lifetime that ultimately delivered redemption as well as a career. Those of us that hit the open road for the first time know there is a wonderful naive freedom in not knowing what the next day, hour, even minute will bring. Looking back this was the most compelling and influential year of my life.

The Dreaming Jewels

By Theodore Sturgeon,

Book cover of The Dreaming Jewels

This novel captured my imagination when I first read it in high school, a time when I felt especially isolated. Not only is it a good outsider story, it’s a good come-uppance story (the evil forces get their come-uppance in the end).

When he’s eight years old, Horty Bluett runs away from his abusive adoptive family and his classmates who torment him. Some carnival people, also outcasts, take him in. Horty doesn’t realize until he’s older that he is an alien, grown by alien organisms from another world, and his special power is the ability to duplicate, or “mimic”, other life forms. This talent helps him thwart the sinister carnival owner’s plans and, as an added bonus, exact revenge on his cruel adoptive father, Judge Bluett.


Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about outsiders, those people who are different from their peers. Outsiders may feel a deep sense of isolation. They are often ostracized or even persecuted because of their difference. Sometimes the outsiders triumph, sometimes they fail, but they are all striving to come to terms with what makes them different. I think this topic resonates with lots of people, myself included, because many of us for a variety of reasons sometimes feel isolated from others. This theme of differentness, of isolation, is a thread that runs through much of my writing.


I wrote...

In Human Form

By David Kubicek,

Book cover of In Human Form

What is my book about?

Wendy remembers nothing about the farmhouse fire that killed her father. She doesn't even remember her own name. Jared Parker, her guardian, has learned that she is not human, that she isn’t of this world at all, that she is an android. But he doesn’t tell Wendy, not even when he sees her falling in love with police officer Aaron McCormick. Butch Cruickshank, one of the young punks who set fire to Wendy’s home, discovers her secret and brings ruthless millionaire UFO hunter Earl Vaughn to town. Vaughn has offered $10,000 to anyone who finds an alien artifact, and an android is certainly worthy of the prize. When Vaughn realizes Wendy’s true origin, she becomes a pawn in his deadly scheme for world domination.   

Daughter of the Murray

By Darry Fraser,

Book cover of Daughter of the Murray

This book is the perfect read for a rainy day and I quickly fell in love with the main female protagonist, Georgina. Spirited, brave, and a bit foolhardy, she fulfills all the hopes you might have for a heroine in a historical romance, yet she will surprise you too. The river settings in Australia’s southeastern river belt in the 1890s are pure escapism and leave plenty of scope for adventure. Highly recommended.


Who am I?

Ever since I was a young girl, I have fallen deeply into the pages of novels that feature strong female characters, with Anne of Green Gables and Little Women capturing my imagination early. As an Australian, I’ve also always enjoyed books set here but anywhere where I can walk in a relatable character's shoes is fine by me. The magical experience of being immersed in ‘her’ world, feeling what she feels, relating to her, being frustrated with her, celebrating with her, loving with her…what are books if not gifting us such experiences? Every book I have penned has been based on this ideal, an intimate experience, a close relationship. A BFF.


I wrote...

Sisters of Freedom

By Mary-Anne O'Connor,

Book cover of Sisters of Freedom

What is my book about?

Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote. Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women's rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause and never marry. She can't understand her artistic sister Ivy wanting a life of ease and beauty with law student Patrick Earle. Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, longing to hold a baby in her arms.

When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy's burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.

Tequila Oil

By Hugh Thomson,

Book cover of Tequila Oil

Recently divorced and looking for meaning in middle age, this endearing traveller retraces the journey he made as a wide-eyed 19-year-old that saw him drive a car from California into the heart of Mexico in the hope of making a quick buck. The naivety and optimism of adolescence, beautifully juxtaposed against the reality of age, this is a poignant tale of lost youth and unfulfilled dreams that ultimately leads the author to a peaceful conclusion.


Who am I?

Having driven a motorbike around Africa, walked through parts of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and ridden a horse along the Silk Road, which culminated in three travel books, a Discovery Channel film, and Wild Frontiers the award-winning travel company I set up, I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about travel. With over 100 countries under my belt, discovering new places and meeting new people has always been my passion. The books I have chosen here are ones that I think best communicate both a physical and a mental journey, that draw you into a story with a beginning a middle, and an end, and leave you knowing more about both a region of the world and human nature.


I wrote...

Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

By Jonny Bealby,

Book cover of Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

What is my book about?

This book tells the tale of my journey from grief-stricken man to free-riding adventurer as, following the sudden death of my fiancé Melanie, I escape a world of broken dreams by driving a motorbike from London to Cape Town and back again. As much an inner journey looking for meaning in life as a travelogue describing by 10-month, 20,000 mile, 19 country odyssey, it was a true voyage of a lifetime that ultimately delivered redemption as well as a career. Those of us that hit the open road for the first time know there is a wonderful naive freedom in not knowing what the next day, hour, even minute will bring. Looking back this was the most compelling and influential year of my life.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth

By Jamie Zeppa,

Book cover of Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan

We all get the true wonder and freedom of travel once in our lives, when we head out on the open road for the first time; in this author’s case, the transition in life could hardly have been more profound. Traveling from suburban Toronto to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to take up a post teaching English in a remote eastern village, it is a memoir of profound mental and well as physical exploration. Much more than a travel book this is a heart-warming story of a young woman coming of age and an important record of a country and way of life in a state of change.


Who am I?

Having driven a motorbike around Africa, walked through parts of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and ridden a horse along the Silk Road, which culminated in three travel books, a Discovery Channel film, and Wild Frontiers the award-winning travel company I set up, I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about travel. With over 100 countries under my belt, discovering new places and meeting new people has always been my passion. The books I have chosen here are ones that I think best communicate both a physical and a mental journey, that draw you into a story with a beginning a middle, and an end, and leave you knowing more about both a region of the world and human nature.


I wrote...

Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

By Jonny Bealby,

Book cover of Running with the Moon: A Boy's Own Adventure: Riding a Motorbike Through Africa

What is my book about?

This book tells the tale of my journey from grief-stricken man to free-riding adventurer as, following the sudden death of my fiancé Melanie, I escape a world of broken dreams by driving a motorbike from London to Cape Town and back again. As much an inner journey looking for meaning in life as a travelogue describing by 10-month, 20,000 mile, 19 country odyssey, it was a true voyage of a lifetime that ultimately delivered redemption as well as a career. Those of us that hit the open road for the first time know there is a wonderful naive freedom in not knowing what the next day, hour, even minute will bring. Looking back this was the most compelling and influential year of my life.

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