Gifts for Thesis Advisor: Romance, of Course!

Bitchery reader Natasha is finishing up her MA Thesis (Go Natasha!) and is looking for a present for her thesis advisor (because Natasha, she is a wise, wise grad student):

She’s a total bibliophile (stacks and stacks of books in her office), so I know she’ll like a present of a few books to read while she’s traveling through Europe in August. I was thinking of getting her a few good romance novels, because I know she likes romance, but I doubt she’s explored the romance genre (if that makes sense?).

My advisor’s specialty is alchemy, but she’s also really into 19th-century Europe, witchcraft, and Surrealism. She said once that her favorite book of all time is Perfume: Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. I’ve never read it, but maybe someone in the Bitchery has and can make a recommendation based on that?

Thank you so much if you can offer any help!

So – romances for a professor who’s into alchemy, 19th century Europe, witchcraft, Surrealism, and books by Suskind. Piece of cake! What comes to mind, oh wise readers?


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I read this years ago when it was first released in the US (it’s a translation of a German novel, as I recall.)  Very dark and moody; almost Dickensian in some of its descriptions of 18th century Paris.  It tells the story of a perfumier’s apprentice named Grenouille (ha!) who in his quest to create the perfect scent turns to murdering young women and distilling their essence.  If you have a strong stomach and a taste for over-the-top Gothic, I’d certainly recommend this one.  Never saw the movie that came out a few years ago, so I can’t comment on that.

  2. 2

    It’s not 19th C., but Judith Merkle Riley’s A Vision of Light might fill the bill.  There are sequels, but as a stand-alone novel it’s quite good, the story of a young woman in medieval times who is a midwife, a healer, and has visions, along with some interesting marriages.

    Amanda Quick (Jayne Anne Krentz) writes novels about the Arcane Society, a 19th C. group of men and women, some of whom have paranormal abilities.  There are various books, and all can be read alone.

    Finally, it may be waaaaaay out in left field, but Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is rollicking fun about “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”.

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Sorry—I misread and thought the reader was asking for commentary on Perfume!  My mistake!  As for a gift recommendation, I’ve honestly no idea – something in the gothic/paranormal range, I should think.  Or maybe the collected works of Aleister Crowley, assuming the supervisor doesn’t already have them?

    idea38—I’m sure Natasha will get many more than 38 ideas for a gift!

  4. 4
    Kate Duffy says:

    I love playing Book Matchmaker.


    She will thank you.


  5. 5
    Toddson says:

    Try The Eight by Katherine Neville. It’s long, dense, full of historical details – many real, some fictional – and can keep a reader immersed for a good long time. It’s old, but I don’t think it’s ever gone out of print.

  6. 6
    Kate H says:

    Going with the gothic theme, I’d recommend Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty (which was memorizing in audio book form – I missed my turn off on the interstate by 30 miles before I noticed!).  It’s YA, but excellently written.  British teen raised in India comes back to London after her mother is murdered.  She is shipped off to a girls’ school, where sinister secrets from her mother’s past follow here, including a secret society of women who are able to access an alternate reality space where nothing is quite what it seems.

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oh yeah—The List of 7 by Mark Frost!

  8. 8
    Randi says:

    I was also going to recommend Katherine Neville, but since that got taken, how about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 19th century England, witchcraft AND alchamy, mysterious abound, and it’s dense, just like Dickens.

  9. 9
    Randi says:

    oh well, clearly I need to finish my coffee before posting: that should read, “…mysteries abound…”

  10. 10
    Mari says:

    I haven’t read any of the others mentioned, but both The Eight and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell are truly fabulous!

    I also quite enjoyed The Third Heiress by Brenda Joyce, which takes place in the present time, but has flashbacks to the beginning of the 20th century, and is basically a thriller – or rather, two thriller plots – with romance thrown in.

  11. 11
    JaniceG says:

    This made me think of several fantasy series about alternate Englands where maric works, all of which are also romances:

    * The correspondence-novel series by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, light but well-written books about an alternate Regency period when magic works. First book is *deep breath* Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country. Similar theme in two slightly more serious novels by Stevermer: A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, set in the Edwardian period.

    * The Mercedes Lackey fantasy series about elemental magic, early 1900s, first book is The Serpent’s Shadow

    * Mary Jo Putney series, mid-18th century England with Guardian magicians, first book is A Kiss of Fate

    Then there’s always my favorite alchemist, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s romantic vampire Saint Germain, first book set in mid-nineteenth century France, Hotel Transylvania

  12. 12

    They’re making Perfumier into a movie. I don’t have any recommendations, just thought I should mention it.

  13. 13

    Check out the website for great gifts for writers and bibliophiles.

    Everything there is very classy, and the presentation of the order—even if it isn’t a gift—is elegant.

  14. 14
    snarkhunter says:

    It’s not nineteenth century, *technically* a romance, or about alchemy, but I recommend Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue. For some reason, it was the first book that popped into my head when I read this, and I tend to trust those instincts. Gorgeous novel, really. (I didn’t care for Girl with a Pearl Earring, but this one really worked for me. Also, her Falling Angels is a wonderful look at late Victorian/early Edwardian England.)

    A. S. Byatt’s Possession, if she hasn’t read it already. It’s like academic porn for people who study the 19th century.

  15. 15

    I read Perfume when it came out and I really really really hated this book. I found it dark and depressing and violent without hope. I felt the author fundamentally misunderstood the female point of view. Not uncommon in those days.

    I think the idea about ninthmoon is a good one.

  16. 16
    Carrie Lofty says:

    The Virgin Blue is my favorite novels. Thumbs up, snarkhunter. The historical subplot is very dark, and I want to make out with Jean-Paul. Here’s the homepage w/ info & excerpts.

  17. 17
    BethanyA says:

    I second the the rec. for A Great and Terrible Beauty.  I will also recommend a trilogy from Pocket/Sonnet by Jayel Wylie: A Falcon’s Heart, This Dangerous Magic , and Wicked Charms.  They are set in the 12th century, and I couldn’t put these books down.  The trilogy was given to me by Liz Carlyle’s editor, if that has any influence over you.

    Or you can just give her a nice collection of Christina Rossetti poems.

  18. 18

    The medieval mystery series by Ariana Franklin featuring Adelia Aguilar, a female physician serving unwillingly as King Henry’s forensic specialist. Mistress of the Art of Death and The Death Maze are the two compelling, literate, rich-in-historical detail books in the series so far. Also, Deanna Raybourn’s wonderful, witty “Silent” books. Romance is not front and center in either series, but they are romantic anyway.

  19. 19
    Alice says:

    This isn’t a book, but if she likes Perfume, it’s been made into, like, the greatest movie of all time. It has Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman (I think), and it should have won every Oscar ever, but was somehow ignored.

    Anyway, if she doesn’t have that, it’d be another thing you could give her.

  20. 20
    Leslie says:

    She might want to try Crimson Petal and the White by Faber, or Winter Rose and Tea Rose by Donnelley (I work at BN and these two Donnelley books drew raves from several of the readers I trust the most—school has kept me from diving in, but they look pretty good). The Witch of Cologne by Learner and Mistress of the Art of Death by Franklin (noted above) are medievals/early moderns that have a witchcraft/outsider theme; I would not call either one a “romance” but they have strong female protagonists and intricate storylines.

  21. 21

    My apologies for being totally OT, but—Natasha, I am likely to be researching alchemy for an upcoming novel, and I am having a *devil* of a time figuring out how to get from “vague philosophical concepts” to something usable in a story.  If you would be willing to give me your adviser’s name and contact info, I’d be hugely grateful; I’ll e-mail her and see if she would be willing to take the time to point me at some useful reading.  You can let me know here, or send it to me more privately—marie dot brennan at gmail dot com.  Thanks!

  22. 22
    Leslie says:

    Ooops…forgot to recommend the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig—the modern-day heroine is working on her dissertation, so there are fun academic references, and the historical plotlines are a nice mix of mystery and adventure. Also, the Tasha Alexander mysteries are nice historicals—again, not really “romances,” but lots of great detail and great stories.
    For pure fun (and a witchcraft theme) The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Crusie, Stuart, and Dreyer is the best kind of airplane book: entertaining characters, enough story to pull a reader through a mid-length flight but relatively easy to put down to take a nap, and sections to re-read if the flight gets too long. I kept mine, but since it is a mass market, she could do like I did on my last research trip and leave it behind for the next reader when she is done.

  23. 23
    Nik says:

    I will second the recommendation for Judith Merkle Riley’s books.  In fact, that’s what immediately came to mind, even though it’s medievil and not 19th C.  More in line with 19th C, but not much in the way of alchemy is AS Byatt’s Possession – disregard the movie version.  The book is incredible and one of my all time favourites.
    (Oops, now I see Snarkhunter’s beaten me to that recommendation too.  Oh well, consider this another “me too” post in every which way possible.)

  24. 24
    Monica Burns says:

    I didn’t read the book, but saw the movie with Dustin Hoffman and Allan Rickman  It’s a pretty dark movie, so maybe some dark Vampire slayer romances. Christine Feehan, Sherilynn Kenyon possibly. Maybe Eve Silver, she’s done some gothic types of historical romances that have a mystery to solve.

  25. 25
    Becca says:

    What about The Thirteenth Tale, if she likes gothic-dark stories? It’s brilliantly written.

  26. 26

    Affinity by Sarah Waters is a book about spiritualism in Victorian England.  It is also a lesbian romance, so that is something to be aware of.  It is a lovely and compelling tale that I recommend to anyone.

  27. 27
    chanel19 says:

    Sergeanne Golons early Angelique novels had the hero being an alchemist, being tried for magic/witchcraft. 

    OK, it’s 18C France but still a good read.

  28. 28
    Ciara says:

    Favorite romance novel set in the 19th century that I recommend to EVERYONE, including non-romance readers: THE SPYMASTERS LADY by Joanna Bourne. Doesn’t have magic or alchemy, but it is marvelous!

  29. 29
    Claudia says:

    Perhaps you could give the advisor some bookdarts as well.  The best thing about them is that you can “take notes” even when reading for pleasure.

  30. 30
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    Amanda Quick: Mystique; set in Medieval England

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