If You Like….

This week’s If You Like comes courtesy of Christine, on a topic that certainly rings a bell for me: books you discover and then wonder what on earth took you so long.

I recently had a conversation with someone about coming in late to a book that has been around for years. She has just started reading Outlander. When I read Outlander, in 2010, I couldn’t believe I had never read this book before. It was like, where have you been all my life? Or, rather, where have I been for the last 18 years? (or maybe it’s that I was 11 in 1992 and it would’ve been really inappropriate for me to have read it then) Here are some other books that it took me a long time to find.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – published 2005, read 2008

I’ll start with an obvious one. When I read Pink Carnation, I absolutely couldn’t believe I hadn’t found this series before. It covered just about every genre I love – historical fiction, spies, romantic comedy. I fell in love.

Harry Potter – published 1997, read 2001

Back in 2000, my little cousin was raving about a book she was reading. I had no idea what she was babbling about – wizards, scars, Volde-who? I just thought it was cute that she was so into it. A year and a half later, the first movie came out. My roommate had the first two books so I thought I’d give it a shot. I finally understood why my cousin had been so excited.

– Susanna Kearsley – Mariana first published in 1994, read in 2012

I know a lot of people on this site rave about Susanna Kearsley, and it’s completely warranted. Her books are fantastic. Unfortunately, not all of them are currently in print in the US. I use Mariana as the example because it’s her oldest book that is currently available in the US. The Splendour Falls, first published in 1995, will be available in the US next year and I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting to read this one. My first Kearsley was The Rose Garden, and since then, I’ve read all the ones that are available here and each one is unbelievable. The history is incredibly well-researched, to the point where I really thought all the characters and events were fictional, only to learn that, in some of the books, she had inserted her own characters into the lives of real people. She brings characters alive and you feel like you actually know them. I want to hang out with some of them.

Daughter of the Game/Secrets of a Lady – Tracy Grant – published 2002, read 2010

This book was first published as Daughter of the Game, then re-printed as Secrets of a Lady. The sequel, Beneath a Silent Moon, was published in 2003. I read both in 2010 and loved them. Also historical fiction, with spies and a bit of romance, but darker than the Pink Carnation series. After the first two books, Tracy got a new publisher and the rest of the series was published under the name Teresa Grant. The names of the characters, and some of the details, have been changed, but it’s largely the same series. The character name change took some getting used to (I still think of them as Charles and Melanie), but the books are the same great quality. Wonderful, vibrant historical settings, and great mysteries.

The Firm – published 1992, read 1996

I haven’t read a Grisham in years (mostly because I felt there was a noticeable drop-off in quality) but the first four were amazing. The Firm was my first, followed quickly by The Client, The Pelican Brief: A Novel, and A Time to Kill. Heart-pounding thrillers, great characters, books I could read over and over again.

The Ring – published 1980, read 1996

I read a lot of Danielle Steel in high school. I loved the historical fiction, wasn’t so crazy about the contemporary ones. The romances were always over the top and sweeping, the historical settings were always time periods I was interested in, and there were just so darn many of them! You knew exactly what you were getting into with a Danielle Steel book. I even wrote my AP English final paper about Danielle Steel. I don’t think my teacher was too crazy about that. I devoured these books. The Ring came first for me (after I saw the made-for-tv movie), followed by many many others. I spent the summers of 1997 and 1998 reading every historical Steel book that had been published up to that point that the library had. Over time I outgrew the books, but there are a few, like The Ring and Message From Nam, that will always hold a special place in my book-loving heart. And along a similar line…

A Woman of Substance – published 1979, read circa 1997

Sweeping historical family saga?! Why couldn’t I have been born sooner so I could’ve read this when it first came out?! Another series of fantastic books. This book kicked off a huge Barbara Taylor Bradford kick that lasted years, but, unfortunately, I felt a drop-off in quality in her books as well. The original Emma Harte trilogy was the best. The ones that came after in the series were not so great., but I read them anyway. There were also a handful of stand-alones that I loved.

What books did it take you years to discover? And when did you first read a Pink Carnation book?

I feel vaguely smug that I discovered Outlander and the Kearsley books right when they came out, but there are a number of others to which I came late. To add my list to Christine’s:

– Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series, starting with It Had To Be You (published 1994, read 2007). My sister had been telling me for ages that I had to read these…. It took me a while, but I quickly made up for lost time.

— Elizabeth George’s Lynley novels, starting with A Great Deliverance (published 1988, read 2002). So much better than the PBS adaptation!

— Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, starting with In the Bleak Midwinter (published 2002, read 2009). I owe this one to social media buzz. Once I read that first book, I rushed out and bought all the others to date.

— It feels like it took me a very long time to discover Kristan Higgins’s contemporary romances, starting with Just One of the Guys, but now that I look it up, I discover that I was only two years late to the Higgins party: the first, Fools Rush In, came out in 2006 and I discovered Just One of the Guys in 2008, thanks to an All About Romance review. (Thanks, AAR!)

Which books did you come late to?


  1. Lois M. on November 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

    The only one I can think of off hand is Teresa Mederios’s Yours Until Dawn. I saw the talk about it online and got it when it came out – didn’t read it until a year later. And boy did I want to kick myself for waiting! 🙂


  2. Heather on November 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

    For me, it was like that with a fantasy series called The Dresden Files. It’s an urban paranormal fantasy about Chicago’s only professional P.I./wizard. I’m not a big fan of mysteries, and that’s what I thought this was, so I avoided it. My now-boyfriend’s father & my roommate were both fans, and kept hounding me to read them. Finally, when the 9th book in the series was about to come out, I caved. Did I ever kick myself after reading the first book, “Storm Front!” There are now 14 out, with a 15th coming soon (we hope…no publishing date yet.)

    As for “Pink Carnation,” I first heard about it from one of my co-workers, just as “Black Tulip” was going to be released in paperback. We had an overstock of the TP of “Pink Carnation” in our Bargain section, so I bought it, and promptly fell in love! I’ve been a loyal reader ever since.

  3. Sharlene Martin Moore on November 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

    For me it was definitely the Pink Carnation books, they were everything I loved to read and have probably been near them many times in the bookstore. I am so glad I found them.

    I have read all of Outlander and did early on, same with Harry Potter and love, love Susanna Kearsley.

    Kate Morton is another I discovered recently. But the book I love more than any that I did not read right away is The Night Circus.

  4. Lianne Bremer on November 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I came to the Outlander series late as well, and I’m still reading it.

    This past summer I found Susanna Kearsely, and as I’ve said on many forums, it was my “Summer of Susanna”. I read every one of her books, plus also listened to The Winter Sea and The Firebird on audio book. I was pondering just this morning, however, that I do believe Mariana is my favorite. I just didn’t see the ending coming and when it finally did come, I was blown away.

    I read “The Ashford Affair” this summer as well, and LOVED IT.

    I am so happy that all my favorite authors know and support one another.

  5. HJ on November 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I like to come late to series, because I enjoy reading them one after the other!

    I wholeheartedly agree with Christine about Tracy/Teresa Grant’s series, and with you about Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. Both are really outstanding.

    I found the Pink Carnation straight away, and ever since have had to wait for the next one to come out. So each year I re-read all the earlier ones so that I can read the new one. It’s not a bad life!

  6. Christina on November 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I agree with HJ about enjoying coming to a series late and being able to read them all in order. This year I discovered and read The Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire series, Blaize Clement’s Dixie Hemingway Petsitter mysteries, and the Pink Carnation books. I think a 1/3 of my reading for the year was all of the books out in these series. It’s fun to not have to wait for the next book to come out. I like to watch tv series this way too.

  7. Ella on November 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Every book I have read this year! A few years ago my eldest sister recommended the Pink series and this year my little sister recommended Woodiwiss novels. Finally started the Pink Carnations and didn’t stop reading until I caught up with the story. Was a little sad that I have to wait for the next book, but was very happy that there was going to be another one or two.

    Really love this site by the way.

  8. Betty S. on November 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I read The Pink Carnation in 2009 and was so glad to have several more to read right after. I told my daughter about the series as one of her favorite movies has always been The Scarlett Pimpernel, so I knew she would love this series. Within a year I had my sister hooked, and now we all anxiously await the new Pink book each year.

    I discovered The Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor in 2010 as part of my Christmas reading list, reading An Irish Country Christmas first, which is actually 3rd in the series. So then I went back to read the first two and found there were two additional ones to enjoy. Now I am reading his latest that was released in October. These are great books filled with colorful characters that become fast friends, and lots of Irish flavor, humor, and wisdom. They are set in the mid 1960’s with flashbacks to the 1930’s for two of the main characters and filled with richly woven vignettes.

    Was just turned on to Susanna Kearsley this year and have several of hers lined up for the new year. I, too, really love this site!!

  9. Joanne M. on November 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I love Lauren’s lists of favorite books here on this site under “Diversions.” If you haven’t found that little treasure trove of books yet, you are in for a treat! I discovered many authors that I now love such as Susanna Kearsley, M. M. Kaye, Elizabeth Peters, and Judith McNaught, just to name a few, all thanks to Lauren!

  10. leslie on November 18, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I didn’t read Ilona Andrews or Nalini Singh until 2012.

    I also was late getting to the In Death series. Pub. 1994 read 2004.

  11. Alice on November 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Waaay late into Elizabeth Peters. I didn’t start Amelia Peabody until the 12th book or something. In my defense, I was barely 18. But I too love to start a series when there are so many books to read. Also Harry Potter. The “Shopaholic” series by Sophie Kinsella. I kept hearing about them but didn’t start until the 5th book. Now I love all her books. The “Graveyard Queen” series by Amanda Stevens. My sister recommended them for a year but they didn’t sound like my type. I was wrong. They are so good!

    • SusanN on November 19, 2013 at 3:06 am

      Alice, I’ve had the Graveyard Queen books on my kindle for ages, but just got around to reading them this weekend. I am now eager for the 4th book in the series, but there’s no publication date yet.

      • Alice on November 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

        I know! So frustrating. Just a constant “coming out 2014.” I have a feeling it won’t be until the Fall.

    • leslie on November 20, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Thanks for the Amanda Stevens recommendation. I just downloaded the first three and the novella from the library!

  12. Lynne on November 19, 2013 at 12:21 am

    Add me to the Harry Potter list – my neighbor children were addicted and finally talked me into reading them. Loved them a lot! The Pinks only hit my radar in the last three years – can’t beleive I hadn’t discoverd them before. Ditto with Tracy Grant – her books have become great favorites. And I only discovered C S Harris and Imogen Robertson this year – absolutely terrific historical mysteries!!

  13. Jessica S. on November 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Harry Potter, definitely. I resisted because I don’t really enjoy fantasy/scifi. I was glad they were getting kids to read, but I didn’t need them. Then ABCFamily kept showing the films and I’d catch bits and pieces. Finally, I broke down and read the first 5 over winter break one year in grad school and leapt on my friend’s UK copy of #6 as soon as she would lend it to me.

    I also came late to Jen Lancaster’s books. My best friend kept recommending them. You, Lauren, recommended them to me. And yet I just never got around to checking into it…until she was featured in the alumni magazine at the university where I teach. I finally realized the universe was trying to tell me something. Now they’re my comfort reads, when I just need to laugh and forget my own troubles.

    I’m sure there are others…

  14. Jenny M on November 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I “discovered” the Amelia Peabody series last year, and it was a complete pleasure to read the entire series one after the other. I actually missed the characters when I finished the last book, so I started reading them all over again.

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