Spring is the perfect time for romance, even in a mystery novel. Love adds balance to a book with dark themes. It also humanizes sleuths, often solitary people who put their investigations above all else. In Murder in Postscript, my sleuth and agony aunt, Amelia Amesbury, becomes obsessed with finding the murderer of one of her readers. The reader is to meet her in St. James’s Park, where she will divulge a murder. But when Amelia finds her dead, she must piece together the past. Luckily, she’s not alone in her pursuit. She has Simon Bainbridge, a marquis and friend of the Amesbury family, to help her. He not only assists in the investigation but also encourages her personal aspirations. Their budding relationship reminds her of her own desires, including love and acceptance. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to the London Season, where romance is always in fashion.
For fellow romance aficionados looking to be whisked away this spring, here are more mysteries that include strong romantic elements.
Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series captivated me as a young adult not for its mysterious plots but its primary pair of lovers. The setting, Victorian Egypt, is the perfect place for a burgeoning romance. Beautiful, desolate, mythical—it’s as vast as the series itself. Here, sleuth Amelia Peabody meets famed archeologist Radcliffe Emerson on a dig, and their dialogue is at times comical, witty, and terse but never boring. Although their relationship spans the course of the twenty-book series, readers won’t tire of the back-and-forth between the pair. Start with book one, Crocodile on the Sandbank, to follow the relationship from the beginning.
Another series to start from the beginning is Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. The Cater Street Hangman is a twisty novel with dark themes made lighter by a strong romantic subplot. Thomas Pitt, a detective investigating a recent spate of murders of young women, meets the upper-class Ellison family in the course of his investigations. Solidly middle-class, he doesn’t belong, and it often shows by the way he dresses and interacts. It isn’t long before he falls for their unconventional daughter Charlotte, who doesn’t always fit in either. Class difference adds tension and empathy to their dynamic romance and the series.
Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series also sports a dynamic duo. The chemistry between Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane hooked me from their first interaction. Brisbane, a private inquiry agent, has the difficult task of informing the newly widowed Julia that her husband’s death was not from natural causes. In Silent in the Grave, the duo is inseparable in their quest to find his murderer. What’s extra fun about the relationship is Julia’s large extended family, which brings its own set of challenges as the series progresses. Although the duo faces many obstacles and setbacks, readers will root for them all the way.
Anna Lee Huber’s mysteries will also have readers rooting for romance. In her Lady Darby series, she weaves an intricate romantic relationship that will keep readers turning pages book after book. The Anatomist’s Wife explores the relationship between Kiera Darby, a widow with a storied past, and Sebastian Gage, a man overconfident in his abilities as an inquiry agent. Lady Darby is a smart, sensitive artist, and she’s the perfect person to challenge and compliment his skills. The pair is fiery, fierce, and so much fun. I love following their ever-changing relationship.
Romantic relationships reign in Diane Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh mysteries, featuring Frances Wynn as an American-turned-countess. Not only will readers enjoy the primary relationship between the widowed countess and her new neighbor George Hazelton in A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, they will also enjoy the many side relationships that appear in the cozy series. The London Season, a frequent backdrop, always brings with it a good deal of romance and the human hassles that go with it.
Indeed, cozy mysteries are no strangers to romance, and many series have strong secondary romance plots. Mia Manansala’s Tita Rosie’s Kitchen series has a slow-burn relationship that will leave readers wanting more romance—as well as more recipes. In Arsenic and Adobo, book one in the series, sleuth Lila Macapagal must battle her ex-boyfriend and food critic Derek Winter to save the reputation of her family’s restaurant. But her sweet aunties are there to cheer her on, in life and love. The combination of family, food, and friendship makes this series a delight for romance fans.
Jennifer Chow’s Sassy Cat series is another cozy mystery series that features an entertaining family, including a sassy cat named Marshmallow and a cute love interest. The fun between sleuth Mimi Lee and her lawyer neighbor Josh Akana starts in book one, Mimi Lee Gets a Clue, and continues to book three, Mimi Lee Cracks the Code, where they take a trip to the beautiful—and romantic—Catalina Island. Of course murder ensues, but Josh and Mimi’s relationship can handle anything, even murder.
A murder investigation adds tension to any relationship, but especially when one person in the relationship is a cop. Sometimes cozy sleuths fall for the same officers of the law who are keeping them from investigating a crime. So is the case in The Tourist Trap mysteries by Lynn Cahoon. Sleuth Jill Gardner meets Sheriff Greg King in Guidebook to Murder, where she suspects her elderly friend was murdered. She not only finds out the truth about her friend’s death, she also finds a new appreciation for Sheriff King, an appreciation that grows friendlier in each book.
With so many choices, there’s no need to buy a pricey airline ticket. Whether readers are looking for romantic settings, dialogue, or challenges, these series are sure to satisfy their craving for a spring fling.