What your characters read says a lot about them. In my Penny Brannigan mystery series, Mrs. Lloyd, the former postmistress in Llanelen, fancies herself a lady, so naturally, that’s her magazine of choice, although she does dip into Country Life every now and again. She takes her copy of The Lady with her to the hairdressers or to pass the time when she’s taking the bus into Llandudno. And on one memorable, snowy night, she sought comfort in its pages as she waited for a suitor who never arrived.
Her favourite articles are anything about royalty — she found a recent article on what’s in the Queen’s handbag especially interesting — and the advertisements for domestic help. She loves the idea that the owners of great houses still seek married couples to work as cook/chauffeur. And since Florence Semple came to live with her a cross between a cook/housekeeper and a companion, Mrs. Lloyd feels she’s earned her place in ladydom.
Over the years, she’s noticed that the magazine has had to change to be in tune with contemporary life and to appeal to younger readers. But at the same time, it has stayed true to its core group of established readers by including articles about the traditional things they value: the British way of life, the role of women in society, conservative fashion, time saving tips, television programs like Downton Abbey and so on.
And while she loves the magazine, and in fact subscribes to it so she won’t miss an issue, Mrs. Lloyd doesn’t read books. Her lodger, Florence, however does read books, but she can’t afford to buy them so she’s a great patron of the local library.
Another patron of the local library is the rector’s wife, Bronwyn. She likes Regency romances, and if the story includes an earl with a smart carriage, so much the better.
As for Penny Brannigan herself, she loves to curl up with a good mystery. Police procedures are good, but nothing too violent. At the other end of the spectrum, she’s not one for cozy quilting type books set in a Maine B&B, either.
But recently, when she couldn’t sleep, the librarian offered her a nice, boring history of farming practices in the former USSR.
Reading plays as much a role in my characters’ lives as it does in mine.