We have a new government!!! (more importantly, one I am very happy with; Labour/NZ First in coalition with the Greens, Jacinda Adern as Prime Minister; I would have preferred Labour/Greens but they didn't get the votes. I am unable to sum up my thoughts on Winston Peters, leader of NZ First and the person who under our MMP system ultimately decided the next government, but basically I respect him as a politician and would never vote for him)
Agatha Christie, After the Funeral
Agatha Christie, Elephants can Remember
Anne Gracie, Marry in Haste
Anne Gracie, Gallant Waif
KJ Charles, An Unnatural Vice
KJ Charles, A Fashionable Indulgence
KJ Charles, A Seditious Affair
KJ Charles, A Gentleman's Position
KJ Charles, The Ruination of Gabriel Ashleigh
Anne Gracie, His Stolen Princess
Anne Ursu, The Real Boy
Pierre Lemaitre, The Great Swindle
My Miss Marple re-read has taken a detour because I know there are only two left and I don't want them to be over. After the Funeral is Poirot, investigating the case of a batty but often insightful woman who is murdered with a hatchet the day after she states that the relative they are just burying was obviously murdered himself; I spotted the clues and put some of them together but really got this on the rather depressing approach of that if anyone is remotely coded lesbian they will come to a bad end. Elephants can Remember is another Poirot, and it's one where I have a very clear memory of reading it as a child (probably 9 or so) in a library copy, and not really liking it, and possibly I didn't finish it. It's late - published 1972 - and a bit obvious (features identical twins) and it's sad in a slightly nasty way. Despite that it does manage to handle a plot where all the major reveals are in the past and in people's memories without annoying me by having the sequence of reveals be too obviously stage-managed, so there's that.
Every so often I try m/f romances, and after finding Sherry Thomas I checked a couple of rec sites out, focussing on historicals, and picked up a book by Anne Gracie. Her books are competent regencies that neither overdo the slang nor stick contemporary characters in costumes, the characters themselves usually behave like sensible adults, and she has a sense of humour, and in addition to all that a lot of her books are available through the library's Overdrive system, so I have been binging. Plotting could be stronger and the endings sometimes feel rushed, I don't always feel that much sympathy for her characters, plus she can't really pull off some of the melodramatic conventions (secret royalty etc), but they're mostly fun reads. Marry in Haste is arranged marriage; male lead returns to England post-Napoleonic wars trying to track an assassin but finds he has to take over estate responsibilities and look after his half-sisters, so marries their governess to supervise them. The hero discovers the heroine is not a virgin on their wedding night and after he storms off initially they have a conversation where she points out that a)there'd been no opportunity to tell him earlier and b) if it was that important to him he should have mentioned it in the proposal, and he listens to her, agrees, and they move on (she had a sweet but short-lived fling with a farm worker, if I remember correctly). The assassin plot-line creaks a bit but is okay. Gallant Waif has a great older female character, grandmother to the hero and godmother to the heroine's mother, who essentially kidnaps the heroine (who was in a miserable state) to get her to sort out the hero, who is crippled and sulking post-war. I am not wild about people flinging coffee pots at each other to indicate feistiness, and I felt the tone of the relationship in this one was a bit off from their angst-ridden pasts, plus the final scene felt rather unlikely - at a ball the heroine gets initially shunned by everyone and then there's a bit where everyone she's ever helped - war veterans and their families, mostly - come over and accept her. His Stolen Princess has a mother and son who are Secretly Princess and Crown Prince from another non-existent European country escaping an Evil Relative with Designs on the Throne, and was my least favourite of these three as the characters didn't really work and the plotting was equally unlikely. The supporting characters were good, though.
KJ Charles, The Society of Gentlemen series. I read these all in about two days. I've had A Fashionable Indulgence for ages but couldn't get into it. Harry fled to France as a child when his parents were wanted for sedition, and has been living in poverty; now he's the heir to fortune and nobility, and his cousin Richard sets him up with his friend Julius (dandy, closed-off emotionally post-war) to show him how to be a gentleman. The Pygmalion plotline is not my favourite, and neither of the characters are really there for me; I liked it while I was reading it, but it doesn't crackle. But the second, A Seditious Affair is a different beast; Silas, an anarchist, atheist and printer of seditious literature (also looked after Harry after his parents' death) has weekly assignations with a nameless noble who likes Silas to beat him up and insult him beforehand. Nameless noble is, of course, Dominic, one of the Society of Gentlemen, and also a government employee tasked with hunting down rebels. This really sparks as a novel. The characters are believable, as is their setting, which is very specific time period - the Peterloo Massacre takes place during the book - and it is explicitly addressing one of the things that bugs me about m/m historicals set in England in the 1700-1900s, namely class. It's a dynamic, unstable relationship, and I like seeing that, even when the characters' kinks don't necessarily work for me. A Gentleman's Position, about Richard and his valet, who's been secretly in love with him for ages, is also about class, but it's a tamer book - I liked it more than the first, though, because I am fond of pining. The Ruination of Gabriel Ashleigh is a novella that takes place first chronologically, and it's perfectly unobjectionable, but it doesn't really have the room to convince me of a) the characters b) their backstory and c) its rapid resolution in favour of explicit sex.
KJ Charles, An Unnatural Vice. Second in the Sins of the City series, and I liked it more; crusading journalist is determined to expose the Seer of London as a fraud, they end up hooking up, the melodrama plot with lost heirs and fraudulent claimants ticks along in the background. I think this series is very much one overall plot for the three stories, which does weaken the individual parts a little. Lots of nice spiritualism details.
Anne Ursu, The Real Boy. I bought another book by Ursu years ago and never finished reading it, which gives me twinges of guilt when I see her name (it's in a box somewhere, along with practically everything else in my collection by an author with a surname from N onwards). This is children's fantasy in which Oscar, the shop boy for a magician, has to deal with the absence of his master (and the surprisingly gory death of an older apprentice) and magical problems that indicate something seriously wrong with his society. Oscar is autistic; it's never spelled out, and the book is in his point of view, but we see how others interact with him and how he feels about things. It's nicely done, although there is a rather disturbing bit where Oscar decides he can't possibly be a proper human (see title); this is not the case. However, the world-building in this felt a little wobbly, and the lack of almost any remotely sensible adult a little forced.
Pierre Lemaitre, The Great Swindle (trans. Frank Wynne). This won the Prix Goncourt in 2013 and it's a cynical but oddly caring book; the ending didn't quite work for me, but a lot of the rest did. The set-up is fabulous - in the final days of WWI, the grasping Lieutenant Henri d'Aulnay Pradelle, desperate for promotion, sends out two of his men to scout the enemy lines and shoots them in the back, using their supposed murders at the hands of the enemy to spur his own troops into a suicidal attack. Albert Maillard, one of his soldiers, discovers the bodies during the charge, realises what has happened and then sees Pradelle watching him; Pradelle shoves him into a bomb crater where he is buried alive, only to be dug up by Edouard Péricourt, a dissolute aristocrat possessed by artistic genius, who then has half his own face blown off by shrapnel. It's a set-up that would be the reveal of a lesser book.
Albert, stricken by guilt, looks after Péricourt once both men are discharged, and is drawn into Péricourt's elaborate revenge scheme (possibly the swindle of the title; there are a lot of swindles) but Pradelle is also manoeuvring through post-war society, and he knows Albert is out there. It's an indictment of the treatment of war veterans, and the way in which sympathy can be manipulated and channeled into socially acceptable methods of expression; it's also about the odd friendship/carer relationship between Albert and Péricourt, and about Péricourt's sister Madeleine, who believes her brother dead, and it's about the eminently unlikeable Joseph Merlin, a chicken-obsessed bureaucrat, who is the ultimate architect of justice. I said the ending didn't quite work for me and it doesn't - I wanted more resolution for Péricourt - but I did like the other characters' fates.