Anyone else have major wanderlust these days, or is it just us? We’re travel addicts, so these quaran-times have us longing to escape our houses. We may also be guilty of scrolling through too many travel tags on Instagram… (sorry, not sorry)! If you’re like us and love to travel, then here are some of our favorite books set in Claire’s favorite city: London! Let your imagination take you on a trip across the pond through these amazing books. Check out our previous city guide for Paris.
1. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
You guys know we love The Infernal Devices— we’ve gushed about it numerous times on our blog…but that won’t stop us from fangirling again with you all right now. This Shadowhunter series takes place in Victorian London. The year is 1878 and Tessa Gray enters London’s seedy supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. Along the way, she stumbles upon two Shadowhunters, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs, who may be the key to finding her brother and unlocking the secret behind her strange supernatural ability.
First of all: British boys make us swoon— and Will Herondale is no exception. Their accents; their Briticisms. Anyway, we digress. We’re both history buffs, so we were immediately pulled into the setting of this series. We loved being able to compare past and present as we read. Victorian London is best known for England’s industrial revolution, the Jack the Ripper Murders and great literary geniuses like Charles Dickens. Cassandra Clare definitely did her homework when writing this series. You’ll follow Will, Tessa, and Jem on their adventures through popular London attractions, including Westminster Abbey, the Thames, Hyde Park, and Blackfriars Bridge circa the 1870s. You also get a glimpse into the “pop” culture of the times, including literature, music, and fashion. Make sure to keep track of Will and Tessa’s conversations about popular British literature. All of the chapters are also taken from popular Victorian-era poems. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and be prepared to travel back in time with our favorite characters!
2. The Precious Stone trilogy by Kerstin Gier
Fun fact: The Precious Stone series is actually written by a German author but is set in London! The series was so popular in Germany at the time of publication that it was soon translated into English. It has a cult following around the world! The series follows British teen, Gwyneth, who (unexpectedly) has the gene for time travel. While learning how to control her ability, she travels to the 18th century London, where she sees her doppelgänger kissing a boy she’s never met at a ball. In the present, she is forced to train to control her ability with the ever-annoying and handsome Gideon, who bares a striking resemblance to the mystery man from the ball.
The Precious Stone trilogy time hops to numerous periods in British history, including the 17th and 18th centuries, where characters watch the premier of Hamlet in 1602, experience the lead-up to the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, attend posh 18th century balls with London’s elite, and gallivant through city at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re like us and have always wanted to see London through the ages, then this is the series for you!
3. Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
We reviewed this book last year when it released and were big fans! Again, but Better follows 20 year old Shane Primaveri on her study abroad semester in London, England circa 2011. Her college life had been one word, boring! That’s why Shane’s semester abroad had to be perfect: she was going to have her first kiss, be more outgoing and meet new friends, and kick ass at her writing internship— if only things were that easy! Along the way, Shane realizes that making a new life for oneself doesn’t always pan out. Readers follow Shane on her adventures around Europe, where she makes new friends, falls in love, discovers herself…and fails (like, epically) along the way. When Shane has the opportunity for a re-do at her semester abroad (and many of her romantic choices), will she take it, or settle for the life her parents have planned for her?
Though Shane spends most of the book traveling around Europe with her friends, her home base is London. We admit, Riccio doesn’t exactly delve into the culture of London beyond the tourist attractions, but it is definitely enough to give the reader a quick glimpse into all the city has to offer. From your typical tourist attractions (the London Eye, the Thames, the Tube) to local pubs, you’ll find yourself yearning to get lost in this magnificent city. And yes, the Brits are as obsessed with the Beatles as they appear. Beatles memorabilia is literally everywhere in London. This book definitely is an ode to pop culture references, so gear up for those in advance.
4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has Hadley traveling to Europe to see her dad for the first time since her parents divorced has been finalized. The purpose of this trip to London: watch her dad marry a woman he met not too long ago. Hadley just missed her plane by a few minutes and then is forced to take a later flight. When wasting time at the airport, Hadley meets Oliver, a British student studying at Yale, who is going back to London to visit his family. The two end up having seats next to each other on the plane and spend most of the flight getting to know each other. Before going their separate ways at the airport, Oliver kisses Hadley, which leaves her replaying their twelve hour romance. The problem: she doesn’t even know his last name or where to find him, but that doesn’t stop her from sneaking out right after the wedding to search London for him.
While the plot at times can be slow, the sweet story of falling for someone on a plane will have readers fly to Europe asap. Even though Hadley doesn’t see too much of London, she becomes enamored by the beautiful architecture. Plus, it’s hilarious watching her try to find her way around London with little sleep and in a bridesmaid dress. Spend more time in London than Hadley did and try to find a cute British guy to give you the tour. Their plane romance will have you question if you can fall in love in a single day.
5. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
In the latest Shadowhunter series installment, take a trip back in time to Edwardian London. Chain of Gold is the first in a new trilogy by Clare. The series follows Will and Tessa Herondale (from our favorite Infernal Devices trilogy!) and their teenage children, Lucie and James in the early 1900s. For years London has seen very few demon attacks. Lucie and James have spent their childhood hearing about their mother and father’s battles in the Clockwork War, but they never thought they, too, would find themselves at war with an inexplicable enemy. When the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London, they are met by an uptick in unexplained demon attacks. Worse yet, these new demons can walk in sunlight and a mere scratch of their talons causes the victim to contract a dangerous illness.
The setting of Edwardian London was different then most books set in the city, most of which typically take place in the Victorian or post-war periods. According to the short note at the end of the book, many of the places mentioned in the book actually existed. Clare spent a lot of time researching. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Clare said she read old Edwardian journals and kept an aesthetic-y Pinterest board to inspire her. Cordelia, James, Lucie, and the crew visit many of the same sights that their parents did in the Infernal Devices series, including the infamous Blackfriars Bridge and Regent’s Park. However, in this book, the kids spend much more time traipsing around the lesser-known parts of London, going to pubs, mundane parties, and wandering the city’s streets. Many of the Shadowhunter families had flats on famous London streets. We’d love to jot them all down and try to find the buildings that inspired Clare’s world! Like The Infernal Devices, the chapter titles from this book are also pulled from Edwardian poetry. Read our full review here!
6. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Inspired by the murders committed by Jack the Ripper, Maniscalco has you traveling back in time to 19th century London in this thrilling mystery series. Audrey Rose Wadsworth hails from high-society. She’s the daughter of a lord and as such, she should behave like a lady. Audrey has other plans, caring more about forensics than afternoon tea. Under the supervision of her uncle, Audrey gets to examine the dead bodies that are brought in. When gruesome dead bodies of women show up more frequently, Audrey is determined to solve the mystery and end the horrendous killing spree that encompassed London.
Maniscalco did an excellent job of depicting 19th century London. Her ability to delve into the historical aspects of the story was great, and it really added to the overall plot. She also showed readers the realities of being a woman during this period, including the in’s and out’s of courtships and societal expectations and gender roles. Jack the Ripper infamously committed his murders in the East End, which is now popular for being the “hippiest” part of London. Pro tip: there is an amazing bagel place called Beigal Bake in the East End, which is basically internet famous now. If you’re a murder mystery enthusiast, we highly recommend that going on a Jack the Ripper tour while in London. There’s even a Jack the Ripper Museum by the London Eye that left Claire terrified by the end.
7. Map of Fates by Maggie Hall
Map of Fates is the second book in the Conspiracy of Us series— one of our favorites! The second book follows Avery after she discovers she is the heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle. She sets out with her friends— including two attractive boys she finds herself drawn to for different reasons— around the world to uncover the truth about the Circle and her role in a mysterious prophecy. We won’t go too into the plot of this book because we don’t want to spoil the series for you, but trust us— you need to read it! It is pitched as a YA version of the Da Vinci Code. What more could you need in a book?
Though Avery travels around the world, one of her stops is London! She spends time with her long lost sister in the city. She gets to see the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Parliament and the British Museum. The city has Avery wondering what it would have been like to grow up in London instead all around the United States. After the city, Avery goes to the Saxon mansion on the outskirts of the city. Like Avery, Christy still likes Paris better ;).
8. The London Prep series by Jillian Dodd
Mallory James is beyond pissed at her parents when they drop a bombshell on her: she’s being sent to London for a three week exchange during her junior year. Mallory’s been to London already– it’s stuffy, rainy, and boring. What more is there to see? Her parents don’t seem to grasp what an utter nightmare this will be for Mallory’s perfect New York lifestyle. When her parents refuse to budge, she decides that if she’s going to be stuck across the Pond for three weeks, she may as well have fun and let loose.
The London Prep series currently has six books in it and we couldn’t love it more. If you want to see London like a local, than you’ll want Mallory’s friends Noah, Harry and Mohammed showing you around. Mallory gets to experience local culture, while also visiting tourist favorites like Harrods. This series is perfect for fans of light and fun contemporary books.