British author, Dilly Court-who is also writing under the pseudonym of Lily Baxter-began her career writing scripts for television commercials before turning her attention to historical fiction and family saga novels. Now, with more than 30 books published, Dilly Court is well known for her bestselling novels like The Button Box, The Orphan’s Dream, and more.
How to read Dilly Court’s Books in Order?
Reading the River Maid series in order
- The River Maid (2017) – London, 1854: twenty-year-old Essie Chapman lives with her father in poverty stricken Limehouse, working on the river as a boatman. Her life seems set before her, never to leave this part of London and forever at her father’s beck and call. Then, one night, she must transport a mysterious man from a foreign ship to the banks of the Thames, a man who ends up renting a room in Essie’s house, identifying himself only as ‘Raven’. When curiosity gets the better of her, Essie follows him and unwittingly becomes involved in something far greater than she could ever have guessed.
- The Summer Maiden (2018) – 1873. When Carrie Manning’s father dies her mother, Esther, is heartbroken. Essie leaves London to convalesce with her good friend Lady Alice, and it is down to Carrie to look after her family and take charge of the shipping company that her father has left behind. But the company is in dire straits, forcing Carrie seek work as a companion to Maria Colville. When Carrie and Maria try to track down Maria’s mother, they have no idea of the secrets that they will discover.
- The Christmas Rose (2018) – Standing on London’s Victoria docks with the wind biting through her shawl, Rose Munday realises she’s been abandoned by her sweetheart. She had risked everything to get to London but, stumbling through the peasoup fog, she has nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. Scared and alone, Rose steps straight into danger, only to be rescued by two women with even less to their names – a woman of the night and her young sidekick, Sparrow. With only a cluster of love letters to her name and all hope of her sweetheart’s return fading, Rose finds herself forging a new life with her unlikely companions.
Reading the Village Secrets series in order
- The Christmas Wedding (2019) – 1867. Jilted at the altar, heartbroken, Daisy Marshall flees to the small village of Little Creek, nestled on the coast of Essex. There she is warmly welcomed – but the village is poverty-stricken, suffering under a cruel Lord of the manor. And when cholera hits, the villagers are truly in dire straits. Determined to help, Daisy makes new friends in earnest doctor Nicholas and dashing smuggler Jay – but also dangerous new enemies, who threaten to destroy everything she’s built.
- A Village Scandal (2020) – April 1869. It’s spring in Little Creek and wedding bells are ringing. After their hasty marriage the Christmas before, Daisy is overjoyed to be finally marrying dashing Jay properly, in front of the whole village. But then, on the evening of their wedding, amid the festivities, Jay disappears. Daisy doesn’t know if Jay is dead or alive, if she’s his wife or his widow. And what’s more, without her husband, she has no means of supporting herself or her household.
- The Country Bride (2020) – 1879. For most of her life, Judy Begg has been a loyal servant at Creek Manor and to Jack Fox, its future lord. But just as their childhood friendship blossoms into a secret engagement he abandons her. And with Creek Manor up for sale, Judy and her family lose everything. Devastated, Judy is nonetheless determined to make the best of her life. Resolving to forget about Jack, she battles to keep her family from poverty’s door and her mother from the hands of her violent husband.
Reading the Rockwood Chronicles in order
- Fortune’s Daughter (2021) – Abandoned by their parents and left to fight for themselves, headstrong Rosalind Carey has no choice but to take charge of her younger brothers and sister in Devonshire’s grand Rockwood Castle. But their once much-loved home is crumbling like the family that lives within it. Living hand to mouth and desperate to provide for the estate that depends on them, the Carey family are one debt away from ruin. Until the day comes when the dashing Piers Blanchard appears on their doorstep from Cornwall, claiming he is Rosalind’s distant cousin and that Rockwood Castle is his.
- Winter Wedding (2021) – Christmas is coming to the village of Rockwood. But the happiest time of the year is marred by the news that Rosalind Blanchard’s husband, Piers, is close to death after a shipwreck at sea. The fate of her beloved family home, the crumbling Rockwood Castle, is once more in her hands. She must find the strength to keep her family together.
- Runaway Widow (2022) – When Lady Patricia Greystone’s husband dies suddenly, she is left with nothing. At twenty-four, she finds herself a penniless widow. Determined not to return to her family cap in hand, she strikes out on her own. In the rougher parts of London, Patricia’s voice is her only hope. She makes her living singing at inns and on the streets. But a dangerous figure from her family’s past is lurking in the shadows, and before long she finds herself fleeing London.
- Sunday’s Child (2022) – Left on the steps of an orphanage when she was just days old, Nancy Sunday was brought up in hardship – until the kindly Rosalind Carey took her in. Now eighteen years old, Nancy is an adopted member of the Carey family. But she can’t help wondering who her parents really were… When Nancy is sent away to finishing school, she finds herself in the midst of London society. There she meets Freddie Ashton – kind and warm-hearted, he might just be the man of Nancy’s dreams. But she knows his wealthy parents would never let him marry a penniless foundling.
- Snow Bride (2022) – A chance encounter brings Nancy Sunday to the streets of London, where she finds herself amongst a band of street urchins. Her heart may have been broken by love but it’s big enough to help those less fortunate than herself, and Nancy takes these unloved orphans in – but when one of them is accused of a serious crime, the neighborhood turns against her.
- Dolly’s Dream (2023) – Dolly Blanchard dreams of a bigger life. She wants to make a mark on the world, not simply wait for a husband to come along. So when an impoverished actress offers her a lifeline, Dolly flees to London, determined to make it on the stage and prove to her family – and herself – that she can strike out alone. But the dark city streets are full of danger. With her dreams fading to dust, Dolly soon finds herself in peril. And with the family’s future under threat at Rockwood Castle, and secrets tumbling out of the shadows, she faces a difficult choice.
Reading other novels by Dilly Court in Order of Publication
- Mermaids Singing (2005) – Born into poverty and living under the roof of her violent and abusive brother-in-law, young Kitty Cox dreams of working in a women’s dress shop in the West End – a million miles away from the reality of her life as a mud-lark, scavenging on the banks of the Thames. Fate soon intervenes and Kitty finds herself working as a skivvy for Sir Desmond and Lady Arabella Mableton in Mayfair. Bullied by the kitchen maids, Kitty is soon taken under Lady Arabella’s wing and for the first time in her life, Kitty dares to hope.
- The Dollmaker’s Daughters (2006) – For Ruby and Rosetta Capretti life in the slums of the East End holds little promise. Although very similar in looks they dream of very different futures. Coquettish, flamboyant Rosetta is desperate to leave the claustrophobic confines of the sewing sweatshop to follow in her wayward aunt’s footsteps and work under the bright lights of the music hall. Ruby, quieter and more modest, has always longed to train as a nurse, a pipe dream for a girl from her humble background. And then, by the side of their father’s grave, they meet handsome Jonas Crowe. But little do they know how much one man will affect both of their lives forever.
- Tilly True (2006) – Dismissed from her position as a housemaid under a cloud of misunderstanding, Tilly True is forced to return home. But Tilly is determined to make something of her life and, rather than admit the truth to her poverty-stricken family, she sets out once more in search of employment. Her journey takes her to the London law courts, a grim parsonage in one of the most notorious parts of the East End, and a house of ill-repute. But when she falls for the dangerous charms of Barnaby Palgrave, Tilly soon finds that her troubles have only just begun…
- The Best of Sisters (2007) – Twelve-year-old Eliza Bragg has known little in life but the cold, comfortless banks of the Thames. Living above her uncle’s chandlery she has grown accustomed to a life of penury and servitude, her only comfort is the love and protection of her older brother, Bart. But one day Bart accidentally kills a man and is forced to flee to New Zealand. Alone, barefoot, beaten down and at the mercy of her cruel uncle, Eliza realizes that her very survival is at stake…
- The Cockney Sparrow (2007) – Gifted with a beautiful soprano voice, young Clemency Skinner is forced to work as a pickpocket in order to support her crippled brother, Jack. Befriended by Ned Hawkes and his kindly mother, Nell, Clemency struggles to escape from life in the slums of Stew Lane. She finds work with a troupe of buskers run by larger-than-life Augustus Throop, and is spotted by the manager of the Strand Theatre.
- A Mother’s Courage (2007) – When Eloise Cribb receives the news that her husband’s ship has been lost at sea she wonders how she is ever going to manage. With two young children, the rent overdue, and almost nothing to live on, she has no alternative but to turn to his estranged family for help. She sets off on the long and arduous journey to Yorkshire but is met with hostility and soon realizes she has little choice but to return to London. Virtually destitute and desperate, Eloise is faced with her worst nightmare.
- The Constant Heart (2008) – Despite living by the side of the Thames, with its noise, disease, and dirt, eighteen-year-old Rosina May has wanted for little in life. Until her father’s feud with a fellow bargeman threatens to destroy everything. To save them all, Rosina agrees to marry Harry, the son of a wealthy merchant. But a chance encounter with a handsome river pirate has turned her head and she longs to meet him again. When her father dies a broken man, Harry goes back on his promise and turns Rosina out onto the streets.
- A Mother’s Promise (2008) – When Hetty Huggins made a promise to her dying mother that she would look after her younger sister and brothers, little did she know how difficult this would be. But despite the threat of being turned out onto the streets by the unscrupulous tallyman and the never-ending struggle just to exist, Hetty is determined her family will never starve or want for a roof over their heads. Longing for something better out of life than the daily grind of making matchboxes for a pittance, she dreams of setting up her own business.
- The Cockney Angel (2009) – East London, 1865. Eighteen-year-old Irene Angel lives with her parents in a tiny room above the shop where her mother ekes out a living selling pickles and sauces while her father Billy gambles away their earnings. It is all Irene can do to keep the family together. Billy’s addiction soon leads him into trouble. Despite having been brought up by her father to fear and distrust the police, Irene finds herself forced to collaborate with them to save him from ruin.
- A Mother’s Wish (2009) – Effie Grey has fallen on hard times since the death of her husband. Forced to live on a narrowboat owned by her tyrannical father-in-law, Jacob, Effie must put aside her own despair in order to protect her brother, Tom, and her young son, Georgie. Life becomes even more unbearable when Jacob hires the villainous Salter and his vile wife Sal to run the barge. When Tom is sent away without a penny, Effie is forced to make a choice to protect her family.
- The Ragged Heiress (2010) – On a bitter winter’s day, an unnamed girl lies dangerously ill in hospital. When two coarse, rough-speaking individuals come to claim her, she can remember nothing of the events that brought her to her present state, not even her name. According to the men, she is their young sister, Lucy. As her health improves and her memory gradually returns, she realizes she’s been kidnapped. But she has no means of escaping the hideous confines of the filthy basement room in which they have imprisoned her in.
- A Mother’s Secret (2010) – When seventeen-year-old Belinda Phillips falls in love with a handsome Anglo-Indian officer, she knows that he is a man she can never hope to marry. When he is reported missing, believed killed in action, Belinda discovers that she is pregnant. Facing disgrace and ruin, she has no option other than to accept an arranged marriage with a middle-aged widower, knowing she must keep the secret of her child’s birth forever.
- Cinderella Sister (2011) – East London, 1880. Lily Larkin is the youngest and least important member of her family. When tragedy strikes, she is left at home to look after the house whilst her older siblings go out to work. When a fire threatens to destroy the nearby docks, Lily’s act of kindness towards a handsome foreigner has disastrous consequences for the whole family. Losing their home, the family struggles to make ends meet. And just when things might finally be looking up for them, Lily makes a terrible error of judgment. . .
- A Mother’s Trust (2011) – Phoebe Giamatti lives with her boisterous Italian family in the heart of London’s East End. Phoebe’s father was killed in gang warfare and she and her family share a deep hatred for the Paxman brothers – whose lawless ways strike terror into the whole community. Despite her English mother’s feckless ways, Phoebe is fiercely protective of Annie. Then just as the family is about to go to Italy for the winter, Phoebe discovers Annie is in trouble – and the Paxmans are involved.
- The Lady’s Maid (2012) – In the quiet of a warm summer’s evening, two young mothers are forced to give up their babies. Whilst Kate grows up knowing only poverty and servitude, Josie’s world is one of privilege and luxury. Despite the differences in their circumstances, Kate and Josie have been friends since childhood. But their past binds them together in ways they must never know. Until a chance meeting forces Kate and Josie to confront the truth of that night nearly twenty years before – a truth that turns both worlds upside down and threatens to destroy their friendship forever…
- The Best of Daughters (2012) – Despite her privileged upbringing, Daisy Lennox has always longed to make something of her life. She is drawn to the suffragette movement, but when her father faces ruin they are forced to move to the country and Daisy’s first duty is to her family. Here she becomes engaged to her childhood friend – a union both families have dreamed of. But, on the eve of their wedding, war is declared, and Daisy knows her life will never be the same again…
- The Workhouse Girl (2013) – Circumstances force eight-year-old Sarah and her widowed mother to enter the notorious St Giles and St George’s Workhouse. When her mother dies in childbirth, the independent-minded Sarah falls foul of the workhouse master, Trigg, and his cruel wife. Sarah’s ordeal seems to be over when a sugar mill owner takes her into his home. But her wealthy benefactor reports Trigg and his wife. And blaming Sarah for their misfortune, in a fit of revenge, the couple decides to take the law into their own hands.
- A Loving Family (2013) – Eleven-year-old Stella Barry is forced into service when her family finds themselves living hand-to-mouth. Leaving her mother and younger brother and sister behind, Stella goes to a big country house outside London. When she returns home one Sunday, she discovers they have disappeared. Thrown out of their lodgings, no one knows where they have gone. Seven years later it looks likely Stella will soon become Cook. But circumstances compel her to flee with no references and only a few personal possessions to her name.
- The Beggar Maid (2014) – From the age of eight, sixteen-year-old Charity Crosse has been living rough with her grandfather and begging on the streets. When he grandfather passes away, Charity is helped by a kindly doctor who introduces her to a bookseller, Jethro Dawkins. Jethro takes Charity in to help in his bookshop and keep house in their one room behind the shop. Charity sleeps under the counter and is not well treated, but Jethro instills in her the love of books that began when her grandmother taught her to read. And she starts to hope for a better future for herself.
- A Place Called Home (2014) – Born out of wedlock when her mother was only fourteen, Lucy Pocket has spent all her life in the care of her disreputable but charming grandmother, Eva. They dodge from one poor lodging house to another, always in debt and resorting to theft in order to exist. Until her wealthy paternal grandfather buys her from Eva, determined to bring Lucy up to be a lady. When her grandfather dies, his despicable nephew cheats Lucy out of her inheritance, except for a run-down lodging house in Whitechapel, where she is forced to look after his three illegitimate children.
- The Orphan’s Dream (2015) – Motherless since she was five, Mirabel Cutler was raised by her father to be a lady. But when he dies suddenly, Mirabel finds herself cast out on the street by her ruthless stepmother. She is taken to a place of refuge by a charismatic sea captain, Jack Starke. But the safe haven turns out to be a house of ill-repute. Here she becomes a parlor maid and catches the eye of an elderly, retired army officer, Hubert Kettle.
- Ragged Rose (2016) – With the fate of her family in her hands, Rose has to make a terrible choice. Be thrown onto the streets without a penny to her name, or watch her loved ones fall into ruin . . . Rose is keeping a dreadful secret, and too scared to ask her strict father for help, it’s down to her to keep her brother from the hangman’s noose – whatever it takes. Her innocent sister Cora is on a different road to ruin, bewitched by a handsome cad whose intentions are anything but gallant.
- The Swan Maid (2016) – Lottie Lane is all alone in the world. As a chambermaid at one of London’s busiest inns, condemned to a life of drudgery and at the mercy of a vicious landlady, Lottie is too worn out to even dream of a better life. Until one night an injured soldier is brought to The Swan.
- The Christmas Card (2016) – She turned the picture of the Christmas card over with her frozen hands, a pretty picture of a family gathering at Yuletide. How different from her own life; stiff with cold on the icy cobbles, aching for shelter . . . When her father dies leaving Alice and her ailing mother with only his debts, the two grieving women are forced to rely on the begrudging charity of cruel Aunt Jane. Determined to rid herself of an expensive responsibility, Jane tries forcing Alice into a monstrous marriage. And when Alice refuses, she is sent to work in a grand house to earn her keep.
- The Button Box (2017) – Clara held onto the precious button, glimmering like a jewel in the dark alleyways of London’s notorious Seven Dials. She needed to save her family… but who was going to save her? There was a time when the Carter sisters’ father was their hero. Now he’s a drunk who’s gambled away everything they had and put them all in peril. It’s on Clara’s shoulders to save the four sisters from destitution. Clutching her precious button box, the only thing of value they have left, Clara dreams of starting a shop that could put a roof over their heads and keep them safe…
- The Mistletoe Seller (2017) – It’s Christmas Eve. Flurries of snow fall on the cobbled streets of Whitechapel and an abandoned baby, swaddled in a blanket, is found on a doorstep in Angel Lane . . . Named after the street on which she was found, Angel Winter was blessed to be taken from the harsh streets into a loving home. But fate deals a cruel blow and she’s torn from the only family she has ever known and thrown onto the cobbles of Covent Garden to fend for herself.
- Nettie’s Secret (2019) – London, 1875. Thanks to her hapless father, Nettie Carroll has had to grow up quickly. While Nettie is sewing night and day to keep food on the table, her gullible father has trusted the wrong man again. Left with virtually nothing but the clothes they stand up in, he’s convinced that their only hope lies across the English Channel in France. Nettie has little but her dreams left to lose. Even far from home trouble follows them, with their enemies quietly drawing closer. But Nettie has a secret, and it’s one with the power to save them.
- Rag-and-Bone Christmas (2020) – Snow is falling fast and Sally Suggs is working tirelessly to bring in enough money to keep bread on the table. Her father, a skilled rag-and-bone man, has fallen ill and now Sally has taken up his trade. But this is a man’s world and competition is fierce, and Sally’s rival Finn Kelly always seems to be one step ahead. Her family’s one valuable possession is their horse, Flower, yet with no one to protect them, London’s underbelly of black-market traders circle closer. Sally needs to find help in the most unexpected places if they are to survive…
- The Reluctant Heiress (2021) – East-End London, 1858. In London’s twisting streets, it’s hard to tell friend from foe. And for Katherine Martin, arriving back in London after years away, the city is far crueler than she remembers. Her eyes opened to the plight of London’s poor, Kate is determined to do what she can to help. In secret, she opens a soup kitchen. But there is a world of criminals within London’s poorest alleys. Catching the notice of Harry Trader and his gang, Kate is out of her depth. Until she begins to discover that her true enemies might not be who she thought . . .
- A Thimble for Christmas (2023) – Living hand to mouth ever since her mother’s tragic death, Amelia sells the last of her treasured possessions to avoid being cast out of her home onto London’s streets. Her estranged grandfather unexpectedly bequeaths a small, struggling factory making mourning dresses and Amelia dares to dream… Drawing sketches by candlelight, she longs to sew elegant gowns from fine silks and beautiful ribbons for the rich. As the cold winter wind begins to bite, Amelia’s future hangs by a thread – can she keep her hopes alive?
- The Lucky Penny (2024) – Flora is forever grateful for the day the Stewart family rescued her from her life of poverty on London’s streets. Adopted as one of their own, she shed her rags and was finally given a place to call home. When a twist of fate calls her back to the cobbles, Flora’s new life is torn apart. Flora must make her own way if she is ever to find where she truly belongs…
If you like our article about the Dilly Court reading order, don’t forget to bookmark it! Also, if you like Dilly Court’s novels, you may want to check out authors like Rosie Goodwin, Anna Jacobs, Anne Bennett, and Katie Flynn. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.