If You Like….

One of my favorite tropes (aside from governesses) has always been the Inherited House. Heroine unexpectedly inherits House, usually from relative she knows only vaguely or not at all. There’s usually some drama associated with this, some mystery, an attractive local, and, of course, the fun of unpacking and discovering the House. The house can be anything from a shack to a castle, but it’s always a plus if there are secret rooms and/or the prior inhabitant was a pack rat.

Here are some of my favorite house inheritance books:

— Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold, in which our heroine inherits her aunt’s cottage in the countryside, complete with herbals in the attic and an attractive neighbor next door. This book is top of my list.

— Barbara Michaels’ Wait for What Will Come. What better than a Cornish manor house with a resident sulky gardener, and, of course, a potential curse? There’s also Here I Stay, where the heroine, upon inheriting an old house, turns it into a bed and breakfast.

— Barbara Michaels is the queen of the “exploring an old house” book. Some of them aren’t technically inheritance stories, but I’ve decided they count anyway, like House of Many Shadows, where the heroine is given a summer job cleaning out the attic of an old Pennsylvania house, or Vanish with the Rose, where the heroine, for various complex reasons, gains access to an elegant Virginia mansion by pretending to be an expert in old roses.

— Elsie Lee also does a good line in old houses, although hers tend to be more palaces than cottages. In both Mistress of Mount Fair and Satan’s Coast the heroine inherits a hitherto unseen ancestral home from her late husband and proceeds to explore, antagonizing the resident bad guy whose Cunning Scheme is being interrupted.

— For something a little less gothic, both Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins have recently written house inheritance books. In Higgins’ Somebody to Love, our riches to rags heroine finds herself with nowhere to go but a decrepit Maine cottage inherited from an elderly relative, and finds herself learning about love and home repair. In Shalvis’ Simply Irresistible, three sisters inherit an inn from their dotty hippie mother and have to learn how to work together to make the most of it.

Help me out here! Which are your favorite house inheritance novels?


  1. Bekah on May 21, 2012 at 8:52 am

    My fav is Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. Solving family secrets from a cottage in Cornwall. What more could you ask for?

    • Mindy Keys on June 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you for the recommendation. Right up my mossy, tree lined alley 🙂

    • Casey on June 30, 2021 at 10:20 am

      I’m not sure if you can help me. I read a book through a Facebook group. I’m not sure if it was published. They were releasing a chapter at a time. Two authors I believe. A woman inherits her dads house when he dies and her dads coworker does too. They are around the same age. Her dad had taken this guy under his wing. They didn’t know each other the woman and guy) before they inherited the house. Do you know this book?

  2. Joanne M. on May 21, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I could list so many more books if the topic was “houses as characters” rather than just “inherited houses”, but here are a few of my favorites (although you are right — Thornyhold is hard to beat).

    Barbara Erskine’s House of Echoes (delightfully spooky!)

    Drumveyn by Alexandra Raife

    Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (although technically not inherited — she bought Greywithers).

    Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (a multi-generational saga about an Irish manor)

    I have my eye on a soon-to-be released novel by Liz Fenwick called The Cornish House — looks promising.

    Another fun topic!!

  3. Lauren on May 21, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Joanne, I’ve been wanting to read “Drumveyn” for years! I’m a huge fan of “Belonging” and “Wild Highland Home”, but didn’t manage to get my hands on “Drumveyn” when it was still in print. I keep forgetting that now used copies are readily available. Time to go scrounge one up….

  4. Kiley on May 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

    If you like books with the you should read “Only to Deceive” by Tasha Alexander. It is the first of the Lady Emily series, but it starts with the death of Emily’s husband and the properties she gains from them and other delicious scandals that come along with her husband’s death.

  5. Kiley on May 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    i meant “with the inheriting property theme”

  6. Pam on May 21, 2012 at 9:57 am

    These all look wonderful, I’m adding them to my TBR list!

    Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel involves the inheritance of a house (though it’s one in which the narrator already lived) and is fabulously gothic. When Philip Ashley’s cousin and guardian, Ambrose, dies suddenly after marrying a mysterious woman in Italy, Philip inherits both the house in Cornwall and a visit from Ambrose’s widow, the alluring but possibly murderous (?) Rachel…

    Another one, a bit more of a stretch, is Tana French’s The Likeness. The Likeness is a murder mystery/procedural set in contemporary Ireland. Cassie Maddox is a detective who goes back undercover when the body of young woman is discovered who is her mirror image and is carrying ID with Cassie’s former undercover alias. Cassie inserts herself into Lexie’s life as a graduate student living with four peers in an inherited, Georgian house. The book is as much about the mysterious allure of the house and its inhabitants as it is about solving Lexie’s murder. I’m not doing it justice with this summary, so, so good!

  7. Katie on May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich. The heroine takes over her parent’s ailing summer house with hopes of turning it into a bed and breakfast after she goes through a nasty divorce. She has no money and the house is a disaster, so she takes a job at a local bar where she becomes involved with the bar owner and the mysterious happenings that are ruining the bars business. Like all of Evanovich’s books, it is sexy and smart, hilarious and enjoyable…and it involves the fixing of an old and uncooperative house!

  8. Anne Smittle on May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I love those kind of books! Of course there is Barbara Michaels, but she her books are starting to show some age.

    You know, you could always write one of those lovely books! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. Céline on May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    If I remember correctly, My dearest ennemy, by Connie Brockway (didn’t you recommand it once? Can’t remember…) deals with this trope… The heroin has to manage the estate for five years before actually inheriting it. And she does a pretty good job of it! And there is a guy, the nephew of the previous owner, who lived there all his life…

  10. SusanN on May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    The first book I thought of when I read the trope was Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold, so I was glad to see that it was first on your list, as well. There was just something about that house, and especially the kitchen, located in the back end of nowhere that has always stuck a chord with me. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that book.

  11. Joanne M. on May 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Lauren, I have “Wild Highland Home” in my TBR pile….glad you enjoyed it. You know, this topic has inspired me to create a post for my book blog which lists novels that feature a house/cottage/castle/manor as an integral part of the story. Give me a book with a crumbling cottage in the woods, a stately southern mansion, or an ancient stone manor house on a cliff in Cornwall and call me happy!

  12. Loramir on May 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Katie Fforde’s Stately Pursuits is a fun chick lit novel along these lines. Well, I think technically the heroine is long-term housesitting for her great uncle’s manor, but the fact that it’s not really hers means there’s a fight with the great uncle’s rather attractive heir to save the house from being demolished…

  13. aniko on May 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    @anne smittle That’s great idea!! I’d love to read a Lauren Willig novel with an inherit-the-old-manse theme…

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to think of other similar books. Doesn’t The Canterville Ghost kind of have that theme, except with a family? I never read it, but always wanted to.

    I second Mariana by Kearsley. It’s sooo good. 🙂

  14. Ginger on May 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I loved Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie, talk about inheriting a world of trouble along with the clapboard!

  15. Lynn T on May 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    A related category – the house bought in a foreign country! There’s a lot of local color in this genre, and often, there are historical mysteries left by previous owners. Two of my favorites are A Valley in Italy by Lisa St. Aubin de Teran (Umbria), and Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett (Wales).

  16. Karin Culter on August 21, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    I love the “Inherited House” kind of books. I have been looking for one which I loved, but can’t recall the title or author. It’s about a woman who inherits a house in either southern France or Spain and I think the house is called Casa Rosa. I remember she sees sinister things, such as men with donkeys going by at night…smuggling? Of course there is some romantic intrigue as well. The title might have had the words Shadows,Night,Follow?? Sound familiar?

  17. Colleen on February 20, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Like Thornyhold, I have loved a book called The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. It is another gentle and lovely mystery when a woman inherits a home in England. Written in 1963, it is my favorite book of all time.

  18. Maureen on August 31, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Thank you! Great minds think alike lol. I was literally up all night trying to remember the name “Thornyhold”….I remember the ‘dream’ of the book which I read when I was young. I couldn’t remember who the author was. Took some creative Googling and Rabbit-holing to find this. Thanks for the sanity-save. Want to re-read it. Still struggling with the writing life myself.

  19. Kathleen Eckholtgoogle on October 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you so much for all your ideas I can’t wait to get started

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