The best books about spinsters

1 authors have picked their favorite books about spinsters and why they recommend each book.

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Sutton's Spinster

By Scarlett Scott,

Book cover of Sutton's Spinster

One of the tropes I always one-click is the well-bred lady with an earthy, pull-himself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of guy. Sutton’s Spinster gives you all that and more. Jasper has built his wealth by running a successful gaming hell. When two young daughters land on his doorstep, he finds himself in need of a wife. Octavia dreams of creating a gossip journal, but needs a partner to provide the start-up funds. The heat between these two lights up the pages. I love how Jasper reacts to suddenly becoming a father, and how he transforms from a hard and cutthroat businessman to something softer because of Octavia. Scarlett Scott delivered with this one.


Who am I?

I grew up reading nothing but mystery novels, which is why when I discovered romance, I found the ones I liked the best had a bit of intrigue to them. As Alyson Chase, I write Regency romances I like to read: full of adventure and mystery, deep emotional connections, and, yes, quite a bit naughty. Character is the most important thing to me, whether as a writer or reader, and the books on this list are full of characters you can’t help but fall in love with.


I wrote...

Disciplined by the Duke

By Alyson Chase,

Book cover of Disciplined by the Duke

What is my book about?

The day her sister murdered their abusive father, Elizabeth Wilcox stopped being a gentleman’s daughter. Willing to do anything to save her sister from the hangman’s noose, now she is a spy... A servant. A liar. A submissive.

Masquerading as a parlor maid in the Duke of Montague’s estate, Liz is willing to risk all to uncover the secrets that would save her sister. But submitting to the duke’s peculiar brand of discipline surprises her with a heady mixture of pleasure and pain. Eager to relinquish control of her messy life, Liz soon craves the rough hands of Montague and his powerful, passionate attentions. Can she succumb to the hot sting of his hand and the gentleness of his kisses without revealing her darkest secrets?

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

By Brian Moore,

Book cover of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

It is rare to find a male author who can write so well about a woman’s addiction to alcohol, and Brian Moore does this with such virtuosity. Judith Hearne, a middle-aged spinster, is a part-time piano teacher in Belfast. Her earnings are small and she moves from one boarding house to another.

Great is her elation when she meets James Madden, a charming businessman lately returned from New York. Judith falls for this rich man hook, line and sinker, not suspecting that her feelings aren’t being reciprocated, and that he merely wishes to involve her in a business deal. When the truth comes to light, she’s devasted and turns to alcohol—thereby reawakening an old addiction. None can help her, a parish priest included. I simply had to read this book for its stunning depiction of 1950s Belfast, its humour and pathos, and its perfect conclusion.


Who am I?

I grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland. Ulster was always an inspiration, for both my painting and my writing. My first novel, The Misremembered Man, became a bestseller worldwide, and I followed it with several more works of fiction. I attribute their success to the magic of rural Ireland, and the wonderful characters who peopled my childhood. My formative years, unhappy and fearful though they were, serve as a repository of emotion and stimulation, which I draw upon frequently in my writing. Having the courage to change and grow in difficult circumstances is a common theme. Since all my novels are character-driven, my book choices broadly reflect this strength in the authors I have chosen.


I wrote...

The Misremembered Man

By Christina McKenna,

Book cover of The Misremembered Man

What is my book about?

Jamie is undergoing what one might call a midlife crisis. He’s lonely and seeks a wife. Through a ‘lonely hearts’ ad he finds Lydia. The two, she a schoolteacher and he a farmer, at first glance appear to be in stark contrast. Yet the pair discover they have more in common than they bargained for.

Jamie’s future, however, will be greatly influenced by his past. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about his childhood and how it continues to affect his life, his hopes, and his dreams. Only time will tell whether those dreams will come true—or give way to his worst nightmares.  

Along a Storied Trail

By Ann H. Gabhart,

Book cover of Along a Storied Trail

One of the things I admire most about Ann Gabhart is that her stories are predictable – predictably wonderful, that is. There’s no predictability about her characters and plots. When I pick up one of her books, I know I’ll be transported to a different time and place and that while I’m immersed in her story, I’ll forget reality. In Along a Storied Trail she took me to rural Kentucky and a little-known (at least to me) part of history as she told the story of a packhorse librarian during the Great Depression. Her descriptions are so vivid and the dialogue so realistic that I felt as if I were there along with Tansy and Perdita. This is a story to savor, Gabhart’s best one yet.


Who am I?

Like Thomas Jefferson, I cannot live without books. And, while I read in a variety of genres, from early childhood on, my favorite stories were the ones that began with “once upon a time.” My fascination with historicals started with one of my father’s few books from his childhood, The Cave Twins, which introduced me to a world far different from suburban America. For me, the appeal of historicals is the opportunity to learn about another era and to escape from the modern world. And so, if you want to escape from what seems like an endless pandemic, I invite you to explore the worlds six talented authors have created.


I wrote...

The Spark of Love

By Amanda Cabot,

Book cover of The Spark of Love

What is my book about?

When a spurned suitor threatens her, heiress Alexandra Tarkington flees New York for Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country, where her father is building a hotel. But her father insists she return to New York. Instead, Alexandra carves out a niche for herself in town, teaching schoolchildren to paint and enjoying the company of Gabe Seymour, a delightful man she met on the stagecoach.

Two men, each with his own agenda, have followed her to Mesquite Springs. And Gabe is an investigator, searching for proof that her father is a swindler. When a series of apparent accidents threaten her life, Alexandra and Gabe will have to work together to discover the truth. And perhaps they will discover that the sparks they've felt from the beginning are more than sparks--they're love.

The Unsuitable

By Molly Pohlig,

Book cover of The Unsuitable

This book combines a lot of potentially tired gothic signifiers into one slim package. You’ve got the tortured ghost of the young mother. The scarred young shut-in nearing spinsterhood. The domineering aunt tasked with marrying her off. The cold and distant father just as eager to unload her. However, none of these tropes go where you expect them to go. Iseult Wince, the titular unsuitable young woman, has an inner life and motivations that are deeply weird—borderline horrifying, but most importantly, weird, and all her own. Spinsterhood is the least of her problems. 


Who am I?

Hi! I'm Maxine Kaplan and I'm a writer who is also a genre magpie. My favorite thing to do as a writer is to take a background character, or non-playable characters in gamer-speak, and make them real. What’s an archetype? It’s a type. A character described by their occupation—the princess; the femme fatale; the tavern wench (ahem)—basically the tropey background players that nobody feels the need to unpack as idiosyncratic individuals, with vibrant inner lives. This list is full of books that do this sooooo well.


I wrote...

Wench

By Maxine Kaplan,

Book cover of Wench

What is my book about?

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Alice James

By Jean Strouse,

Book cover of Alice James: A Biography

Alice James changed my life as a writer. It completely opened up the field of biography and pointed the way to the work I’ve been doing for almost four decades: writing women’s lives. Before Alice James, biographies had to be of famous people, usually men. Here was a book about the little sister of the great novelist Henry James and the eminent philosopher William James, a woman who had essentially done nothing with her own talent and brilliance except—luckily!—keep a diary. Jean Strouse read that diary and used it as the entry point for a whole book about the dynamics of an extraordinary family, about women’s choices in 19th century America, about invalidism and suppressed ambition. It’s a riveting psychological tale full of poignance and unexpected heroism.  


Who am I?

I am the grown-up little girl who loved to read. I loved novels and children’s biographies—Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Annie Oakley. I imagined that if I could learn to write books that inspired readers and moved them to tears like my favorite books, I would have accomplished a great good. My first biography, The Peabody Sisters, took twenty years and won awards for historical writing. My second biography, Margaret Fuller, won the Pulitzer. But what matters more than all the prizes is when people tell me they cried at the end of my books. I hope you, too, will read them and weep over lives lived fully and well.    


I wrote...

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

By Megan Marshall,

Book cover of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

What is my book about?

Pulitzer Prize winner Megan Marshall recounts the trailblazing life of Margaret Fuller: Thoreau’s first editor, Emerson’s close friend, daring war correspondent, tragic heroine. After her untimely death in a shipwreck off Fire Island, the sense and passion of her life’s work were eclipsed by scandal. Marshall’s inspired narrative brings her back to indelible life.

Whether detailing her front-page New-York Tribune editorials against poor conditions in the city’s prisons and mental hospitals, or illuminating her late-in-life hunger for passionate experience—including a secret affair with a young officer in the Roman Guard—Marshall’s biography gives the most thorough and compassionate view of an extraordinary woman. No biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.

To Sir Phillip, with Love

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of To Sir Phillip, with Love: Bridgerton

I have enjoyed all the books in the Bridgerton Series, even though, or maybe because, they are much different than the Netflix series by the same name. Julia Quinn is the master of writing about women with an attitude, and this book is no exception. Eloise, thought to be a hopeless spinster, finds herself with a pen-pal. She never expected the widower in the letters to propose, but willing to create a new life for herself, she runs off in the middle of the night to accept his offer. The story that follows is charming, realistic, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

I love Eloise in this story. She is smart and funny and brave. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks, or maybe she simply isn’t afraid to step outside her comfort zone and go against the norm. Whatever the case, the romance in this book is smart and funny. I adore a…


Who am I?

I have always been fascinated with stories about women who step outside the norm and accomplish their goals. Books that tell of girls who are shy or insecure, but find inner strength in the face of adversity, inspire me. My mother wasn’t afraid to guide me toward these stories when I was young, and I gave books with this theme to my daughters as well. It doesn’t matter where you start from, it only matters where you think you can go, and I love books that share this idea; especially stories of women who do amazing and unexpected things.  


I wrote...

Love on the Line

By Kirsten Fullmer,

Book cover of Love on the Line

What is my book about?

Andrea leaves the stress and tedium of grad school behind and sets off with her estranged grandpa, Buck, to build a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia. She hopes to prove herself to Buck and the all-male crew, as well as learn what drove Buck away from the family. 

Most of the guys on the crew aren’t willing to accept Andrea, and Rooster, the handsome and cocky, tie-in foreman, thinks she’s nothing but a distraction. Yet, he is impressed by her work ethic and is drawn to her on many levels. He’s also determined to prove himself to Buck, a pipeline legend, and he knows that messing with Buck’s granddaughter is a bad idea. Will Rooster and Andy take a chance on ruining their credibility in order to be together? 

Sister Noon

By Karen Joy Fowler,

Book cover of Sister Noon

This crazy quilt of a novel, set in San Francisco, chronicles the liberation of Lizzie, a forty-year-old spinster who is swept into the intrigues of the mysterious Mrs. Pleasant. Mrs. Pleasant, who works as a housekeeper, is rumored to be as rich as a railroad magnate, an angel of charity, a practitioner of voodoo, among other tantalizing (and some substantiated) possibilities.

As enthralled as Lizzie becomes with Mrs. Pleasant, what Lizzie discovers in this story is her own independence and authority. Several real historical figures, including Mary Ellen Pleasant, appear in the book. I love the way Fowler weaves fact with fiction, and how she places badass women at the center of the story.


Who am I?

I don’t write about well-behaved women. I prefer rebels and outcasts, women who, by choice or circumstance, live outside of social norms. 19th-century American history is full of such women—if you know where to look. Hint: not in most public-school textbooks. They’re found, instead, in archives and libraries, in old newspapers and journals, in family letters and autobiographies. The characters in my most recent novel, Reliance, Illinois, were inspired by badass 19th-century women, such as Victoria Woodhull, Mary Livermore, and Olympia Brown. Each of the novels in the list below were inspired by or based on audacious women. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!  


I wrote...

Reliance, Illinois

By Mary Volmer,

Book cover of Reliance, Illinois

What is my book about?

Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings and expects no less in the struggling town of Reliance. Her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad that brought them there.

When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother’s younger sister and earns a grudging berth in her new house. Madelyn soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner, prodigal daughter of the town’s founder. Miss Rose is a suffragist and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte. At first, Madelyn simply wants to feel beautiful and loved. But, when a series of troubling events threaten the small town, Madelyn must make a life-changing choice. 

The Body in the Library

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of The Body in the Library: A Miss Marple Mystery

Long before series such as Murder She Wrote, or Mystery Woman became popular, Agatha Christie introduced Miss Marple. Jane Marple was the quintessential heroine of a cozy mystery. The white-haired, blue-eyed spinster accepting requests as an amateur consulting detective was sweet but cunningly intelligent. I enjoy that the players in these mystery stories don’t see Miss Marple as a threat to uncovering their various acts of chicanery and misdeeds. In the Miss Marple novel, The Body in the Library, the Bantry household gets a shocking start to their day when the body of a woman is found on the library floor. Hoping to avoid a scandal in the village of St. Mary Mead, Mrs. Bantry asks Miss Marple to come to their home to investigate. Can the elderly sleuth’s sharp mind sift through the clues to separate the truth from the lies and solve the case and catch the…


Who am I?

I’m a person who likes to nibble on poetry and taste history and non-fiction. But I love to devour fiction, especially mysteries. Reading a feel-good adventure with an excellent plot and engaging characters is my way of relaxing. My philosophy is that life can often be difficult, and fiction stories, such as cozy mysteries, are good therapy. When I’m not reading, quilting, or spending time with my grandkids, I’m writing stories. As a former teacher, I try to live up to the saying: Writing is painting pictures with words.


I wrote...

Notions of Murder

By Joan L. Kelly,

Book cover of Notions of Murder

What is my book about?

Mibs Monahan is pleased with the increasing business at her sewing shop and very happy with the growing relationship between her and Detective Jace Trueblood. The busy but enjoyable days start coming apart at the seams when an assassin shoots one man and wounds another at the local community theater. Mibs becomes the only person who can identify the shooter. When the killer tries to silence Mibs from testifying, she ends up in a coma, fighting for her life.  

Will the circumstances binding friends and family together end up in torn and tattered lives? Or will the skill of the local police and the blessings of God tailor a happy ending for Mibs and Jace?

Excellent Women

By Barbara Pym,

Book cover of Excellent Women

The fiction of Barbara Pym is full of the kind of much-put-upon single women that society has tended to overlook. In her second published novel, Excellent Women, Pym’s heroine Mildred Lathbury, a clergyman’s daughter, describes herself as just the sort of person one can depend on in ‘the great moments of life—birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sale, the garden fête spoilt by bad weather.’ Mildred’s church-focused, 1950s existence might sound rather quaint, but, trust me, anyone assuming that the life she leads is miles away from their own will quickly be dispelled of that notion. The human issues and emotions Pym explores can be markedly progressive and have more than enough power to move the hearts of today’s readers. 


Who am I?

I am the author of Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice, and also the co-author (with Emma Claire Sweeney) of A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf. A historian and writer, I am interested in shining a light on lesser-known stories about the lives of women of the past and hopefully bringing them to wider public attention.


I wrote...

Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice

By Emily Midorikawa,

Book cover of Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice

What is my book about?

Out of the Shadows tells the stories of six enterprising nineteenth-century women, whose apparent ability to contact the dead brought them fame, fortune, and astonishing social and political influence.

The Fox sisters inspired some of the era’s best-known political activists and set off a transatlantic séance craze. Emma Hardinge Britten delivered controversial speeches to crowds of thousands while seemingly in a trance. Former childhood clairvoyant Victoria Woodhull, a Wall Street trailblazer, became America’s first female presidential candidate. And Georgina Weldon, whose beliefs nearly saw her confined to an asylum, went on to establish herself as a successful campaigner against archaic lunacy laws. Drawing on diaries, letters, and rarely seen memoirs and texts, Out of the Shadows illuminates a radical history of unusual female power.

The Ladies of Missalonghi

By Colleen McCullough,

Book cover of The Ladies of Missalonghi

The premise of this short novel sucked me in right away. Missy Wright is shy, unhappy, poor, and a spinster. She is stifled and demeaned by her overbearing sisters and the local small-town gossips where she lives. Despite the fact that Ms. McCullough paints the portrait of a fairly unsavory heroine in the form of Missy, I still found myself rooting for her, wishing with all my might that she would (under the most improbable circumstances) find love. When I write about a heroine in my own novels, I want my readers to see past appearances and the superficial trappings of our society’s ideals. That is what this novel does—it draws you in and makes you believe the impossible is possible if only we can see beyond what is right in front of our faces—that dreams really can come true, for all shapes, sizes, styles, and substance.


Who am I?

I'm a women's fiction novelist with a love for drama without trauma. As an avid reader myself, I write what I know—moving stories written for women and about women. In my books, I sweep you off your feet, lead your heart to a place it's never been before, make you think, make you fall in love, make you yearn for justice, make you aspire and hope and dream. And I promise a happy ending every time, or at least a realistic, thought-provoking tote of warm feelings you can take with you. I hope you enjoy my reading recommendations below! 


I wrote...

Rue

By Amy Q. Barker,

Book cover of Rue

What is my book about?

When Rue Cavendish meets a handsome stranger in the San Francisco bar where she works as a lounge singer, she must choose between her perfectly ordered life and a chance at love. Josh Quinn is everything Rue is not – tall, outgoing, popular, talkative. Oh, and he can see. Rue, blind since birth, decides to let her walls down with Josh, diving into the relationship with her whole heart. Will her fierce independence and steadfast resilience survive? 

Rue investigates four intersecting lives and how connections can be forged and broken in an instant. The story charts the emotional and romantic development of risk-takers and how they swiftly discover the inevitable consequences of their actions.

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