Tag Archives: Regency

Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Sunday, March 23, 2014

23 Mar

Sorry to have been away so long. We have a lot to catch up on!

Upcoming Books and New Releases

 Anyone who reads this blog knows my undying admiration for Nalini Singh, who has captivated me with both her amazing Guild Hunter series (for urban fantasy or angel fans) as well as the fabulous Psy-Changeling series, which features the SnowDancer Wolves and DarkRiver Leopards and the humans and Psy who interact with them as the world inches closer to a major change. Now Whisper of Sin, a terrific novella that is one of the prequels in the Psy-Changeling series, is available as a stand alone novella for only $2.99 as of late February. Previously only published in the Burning Up anthology (published in 2010 and containing a great novella from Meljean Brook from her Iron Seas steampunk series), this novella tells the story of high-ranked soldier Emmett and how he helps rescue a human in San Francisco’s Chinatown only to realize that she is his mate.

Bella Andre‘s Sullivan series fans will want to make sure that the latest volume of the Sullivans series, Just To Be With You, made it to their mailbox or ereader on March 5th (and if it didn’t, get on it!). Can you believe it’s the 12th book in this hit series? These Seattle Sullivans are just as compelling as their California cousins, with the jaded, successful CEO of Sullivan Investments, Ian Sullivan, about to fall for the gorgeous actress, Tatiana Landon. She’s been waiting for a strong love like this, but with Ian’s history of failed relationships, nothing is going to be easy about this happily ever after.

Donna Grant knows her Highlanders, which is probably one of the reasons she’s begun a new novella series, Rogues of Scotland (love the name). First up is The Craving, which came out on March 6th and features a woman who retreats to her family home in order to mend a betrayed heart, only to find a man trapped by a woman and a gypsy curse in a mirror. Trusting and loving the woman who finds him will take a leap of faith he’s not sure he can give, but it might be the only way to set them both free.

Historical romance writer Katharine Ashe just came out with her first book in a new (self-published?) Regency series, My Lady, My Lord, on March 10th and it looks wonderful. When an intelligent book reading lady is forced to give the time of day to her libertine neighbor, sparks are sure to fly, particularly since he adores torturing her as much as watching fast horses at the races. At only $2.99 for over 300 pages, Ashe fans have quite a bit to rub their hands in glee about.

Kit Rocha‘s unbelievably good erotic dystopian Beyond series finally added Beyond Jealousy this week, and weren’t we all waiting with baited breath? Tattoo artist and former gigilo Ace has wanted Rachel from the moment she left her comfortable, sheltered life and became an O’Kane to settle her father’s debt, but all he’s done is hurt her, especially after he became a couple with a man she had tried a relationship with, the resident hero and former special ops soldier, Cruz. Neither Cruz nor Ace have ever stopped loving Rachel so when the opportunity presents itself for all three of them to come together, the results are combustible, particularly in trying to work through everyone’s emotional baggage while a major turf war erupts in the sector.

We all know what a fangirl I am for anything written by Jennifer Ashley and I have big circles on my calendar for every installment of her Shifters Unbound series. Well, Feral Heat, Jace and Deni’s story, came out this week and it did NOT disappoint! This novella is right between the two full-length novels, Tiger Magic and the upcoming Wild Wolf (April 1st cannot get here soon enough), and is just as phenomenal as every other book in the series. It’s a hot, sexy love story that still manages to propel her fascinating story arc of the shifters attempting to discover how to rid themselves of the collars that keep them second class citizens. This author does not know how to write a mediocre book and I for one applaud her high standards!! Did I also mention this outstanding volume is only $1.99 and it’s not a short novella, but a meaty one equaling a lot of category romance novels. Great writing and an awesome value – I heart Jennifer Ashley!

Book seven of Eloisa James‘ Desperate Duchesses series will come out on March 25th, and Three Weeks With Lady X looks like a keeper. A bastard son of a duke needs to marry a woman with a serious reputation and he turns to Lady Xenobia India, an independent woman who quickly becomes the focus of his efforts. But this woman is no wallflower to go into a marriage of convenience, and the gentleman in question finds he must give everything to get everything if she’s to agree to his terms. Keep in mind if you pre-order this puppy and provide proof of your purchase with a picture of a receipt or a screenshot of your browser screen confirming your purchase, James is having a contest for a lucky reader to get special bonus content sent directly from her!

Also out on March 25th is the next book in Nora Roberts‘ latest trilogy, The Cousins O’Dwyer, Shadow Spell. This fantastic series has a strong paranormal story arc linking an Irish brother and sister and their American cousin to their long ago Irish ancestors. With evil sorcerers, plenty of magic and an abundance of animal familiars set in the Irish countryside, Roberts’ fans get to see this writer in her element once more. Don’t worry about having to wait too long for the final volume. The third book, Blood Magick, will be out on November 4th and is already available for pre-order.

March 25th is clearly a big day for romance, since Lori Foster’s next book in her Love Undercover series, Dash of Peril, also debuts. This series is outstanding, and I for one am eager to see construction business owner Dash help his brother’s frosty lieutenant take down nefarious human traffickers with a little heat on the side. Mrrrrooowww. If you haven’t yet indulged in this series, get your butt in gear as there are sexy alpha males galore as well as beautiful woman who inspire fierce protectiveness and love in the worst of circumstances. So good!!

It’s never too early to begin looking at the spring releases (and pre-ordering them to lock in great prices). Elle Kennedy has an addition to her Killer Instincts series coming down the pike on April 1st, and fans of “mercenaries with a heart” stories will want to take note of Midnight Pursuits. The fourth in this highly rated series has a rookie to the group assigned to assist a loner deep in Eastern Europe on a mission gone horribly wrong. While she usually has no use for working with someone, this former Marine has a skill set that she can definitely use…and the heat between them seems to have the added bonus of warming her cold heart.

In addition to the Cousin’s O’Dwyer paranormal novel mentioned above, Nora Roberts also has one of her romantic suspense novels, this one entitled The Collector, due out in hardcover on April 15th. When a professional apartment sitter is the sole witness to a heinous crime, the brother of the main suspect seeks her help as he knows his sibling could not possibly be responsible. The two are drawn closer as they come closer to discovering the actual perpetrator, hopefully before it’s too late.

Historical romance author Amanda Quick announced she will be publishing a stand alone novel, Otherwise Engaged on April 22nd, featuring her usual brand of bold heroine (this one a world traveler) who finds herself the target of a madmen obsessed by her name being linked to that of a gentleman scientist. That the man in question is also a spy for the crown thickens the plot and he has no intention of her reputation suffering – or of the fiery beauty getting hurt – due to his actions.

Paranormal doyenne Christine Feehan will be publishing the third book of her Sisters of the Heart series (a spin off grouping that takes place in the same town as the Drake Sisters books), Air Boundon May 27th. Each book focuses on one of six women who have come together as part of a special grief support group for women who have lost someone to violent crime. The heroine of this book not only suffered with her paranormal ability by growing up in a special government facility, but also recently lost her mother at the hands of a murderer. Kidnapped and aboard a ship, she finds herself at the mercy of an intriguing captor, one who intended to use her for his own purposes, only to find himself drawn to her instead.

Maya Banks‘ KGI series fans need to circle June 24th on their calendar as that is the publication date for the next novel in this wildly successful series, When Day Breaks. When a wounded and scarred Afghanistan veteran is assigned to protect a stunning model with a violent stalker, no one could have predicted that these two people would find something in common. But serious heat and attraction exists and neither party is about to let a murderous stalker get in the way.

The husband-and-wife writing team of Ilona Andrews have been blogging for months about a paranormal romance they have been working on for Avon Publishing – and the link is finally live! The official name is Burn For Me and it will be the first of their Hidden Legacy trilogy which the authors have confessed is more like a paranormal political thriller versus the paranormal heroic journey/police procedural of the Kate Daniels series (which is phenomenal). As the only thing I wish for in the Kate Daniels series is a little more sexy times between Kate and Curran, I was thrilled to hear that the heat level is a bit more “fan yourself” in this upcoming work. The only bad news? We’ll have to wait until October 28th for it to come out, but with the current ebook price at a mere $4.99 for almost 400 pages, it’s worth pre-ordering now in case the price raises a little closer to the fall.

Contests and Giveaways

Paranormal author Robin D. Owens is embarking on an urban fantasy series starring a woman who can see ghosts and the sheriff who finds himself drawn into her life, all with a Western setting. The aptly named Ghost Seer (series with the same name) is debuting on April 1st and from now until March 24th, you can enter a contest on Goodreads to win a copy of the book. With the second book due out in early September, fans of instant gratification won’t have long to wait to see how this storyline develops.

You can win a signed copy of the first book in historical romance writer Elizabeth Hoyt‘s Prince series, The Raven Prince, which came out in both in 2006 and then was reissued under a new (and gorgeous) cover in 2012. When a widow in dire financial straits is almost mowed down by a aristocrat in desperate need of a secretary, problems for everyone seem solved, except that the Earl’s newest secretary takes exception at his decision to visit a brothel to assuage his “manly” needs…and so she decides to be a mystery woman who will take care of his every wish, in and out of the study. Enter before March 31st to win your autographed copy!

Category romance fans who enjoy the secret baby trope will definitely want to put Andrea Laurence‘s His Lover’s Little Secret (a Harlequin Desire novel out on April 1st) on their to-read list. When a millionaire has a chance run in with the lover he never forgot, he can do the math and realizes her little son is his child – and he’s not about to let either of them go. But while the mother of his son might be willing to let him into their life, she’s not about to give into his bossy ways and let him into her heart again. Enter by March 31st for a chance to win a copy.

Fun Stuff

If you are looking for a fun activity for a bachelorette party or your best friends’ sleepover, look no further than Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults. Actually written by a master of the art of origami, this guide takes a beginner through making fun looking spermatozoa all the way to a realistic vajayjay. Do I hear a drinking game coming out of this book? You bet I do.

Allison Yates at the Kinsey Confidential blog has an intriguing post about the recent startling mannequins which appeared in the American Apparel stores on Valentine’s Day who clearly were sporting bushy pubic hair amidst all their provocative underwear. The rubbernecking by passers-by was purportedly astonishing (and these are jaded New Yorkers we are talking about) but Yates dissects some fascinating trends and insights regarding our culture’s view of sexuality and body hair.

Librarian and romance lover Amy Alessio put up a wonderful article in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on the Romance University blog featuring some perennial favorite books featuring Ireland (or sexy Irish heroes and heroines). From J. D. Robb’s Roarke to Mary Jo Putney’s Irish setting in Sometimes a Rogue, she’s picked some winners worth reading.

I’m a big fan of the Etsy shop, Spunky Fluff, who produces amazing signs with heart-inspiring sayings to adorn your walls. Whether it’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” or “Suck It Up Buttercup” these wall adornments always seem to contain heart and humor. With the majority of stock ranging between $40 to $60 and around 12 x 18 inches, these signs come in colors to match any decor and are truly unique items that will inspire a smile and a sigh each day.

Great Deals

There are a lot of good boxed sets and there are a LOT of “meh” boxed sets, but this one looks fabulous! Fated Mates: The Alpha Shifter Boxed Set offers readers twelve shifter books by authors such as Adriana Hunter, Georgette St. Clair and Eve Langlais among others – for only $.99! Just out on March 4th, the description page warns that the special price is for a limited time (and then it will go to $9.99, still a bargain) so get it at the special price while it lasts.

Carrie Ann Ryan has got a terrific book bundle for the first three books in her Dante’s Circle series, featuring paranormal creatures who find their future in the form of humans with a bit of the otherwordly in them. Usually these books go for $3.99 each, but you can get over 650 pages of the three novels together for only $2.99 right now. Yowza! Grab it before the fourth book, Tangled Innocence, comes out in April.

Tawny Weber‘s fun short, Rules of Engagement, is only $.99 and it’s a good example of the great brand of military hero you get when signing on board for a Weber romance. When a woman who has always crushed on her brother’s best friend finds herself being propositioned for hot sex in a moonlight garden she says, “yes!” knowing she’s not his type. While the hero has always steered clear of the feisty due to the sister card and the fact that she’s nothing like the petite, little woman types he’s preferred in the past, he’s a little astonished to discover what his “rules of engagement” have been designed to discover – the perfect woman for him – might have been all wrong all this time.

Six well-known romantic suspense authors – Elisabeth Naughton, Alexandra Ivy, Cynthia Eden, Laura Wright, Katie Reus, and Joan Swan – have banded together to produce the Sinful Seconds Boxed Set (meant to follow their other highly successful set, Wicked Firsts). Out on St. Patrick’s Day, you’re the one who will feel lucky reading quality books from these best-selling authors, it’s only $2.99 (and the preceding boxed set has been marked down to a mere $.99) so read the descriptions and see if these tempting novels should be in your ereader.

Fans of romantic suspense (particularly ones who enjoy the occasional paranormal element) will want to pre-order the great bargain, Dangerous Dozen Romantic Suspense Box Set while it’s only $.99 for twelve books by authors like Paige Tyler, Maureen Child, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, and Charity Pineiro among others. Nothing like getting 3300 pages (no, that is not a typo) for this kind of bargain, right? Undercover cops, investigative reporters and determined shifters pepper these pages, but that price seems to have a deadline, so I plan on ordering this long before its April 7th release date and encourage you to do the same!

That’s it for this week. Happy reading! 🙂

December Read-a-Thon: Snowbound Wedding Wishes Anthology Gives Us a Holiday Dose of Harlequin Historical

24 Dec

Snowbound Wedding Wishes by Louise Allen, Lucy Ashford, and Joanna Fulford (Harlequin Historical, November 1, 2012)

I’m really picky about my historical romance authors – REALLY picky – so much so that I often don’t try new authors until I’ve read every review on Amazon and Goodreads of a given book. The slightest whiff of something off – using language not yet invented in the time period, extremely unconventional behavior for the era or excessive dickishness of the hero – and I won’t even pick it up. I guess my paranoia stems from the fact that with a history/biology double major in college, I know enough about historical periods that it’s easy to jar me out of the story with the result that I feel like I’ve wasted my time.

With this caveat, you can imagine that I actually do like anthologies (and anyone who reads this blog knows I love them as a method of finding new authors). When I saw that Harlequin Historical had produced an anthology last year entitled Snowbound Wedding Wishes, containing stories by Louise Allen, Lucy Ashford and Joanna Fulford – all Harlequin authors I have seen receive good reviews – it occurred to me that this volume was an excellent opportunity for me to perhaps highlight a great book for the December Read-a-Thon while also dipping a toe and seeing if I would like these authors as much as everyone else.

Mission accomplished. I was impressed with not only the writing but particularly the historical detail provided in each of these stories, which all possessed accuracy in the historical representation of the Regency period, lovely heroes and heroines, and a distinct voice.

“An Earl Beneath the Mistletoe” by Louise Allen

Major Hugo Burnham can’t believe he survived the Penisular Wars to be caught on a freezing cold night a few days before Christmas so he can die of exposure in the English countryside. On his way home to his ancestral manor, circumstances detoured him from his original route until he is more than a little lost. Both he and his horse are thrilled to see a light in the distance and even more astonished when a lovely widow answers the door to the alehouse he finds tucked away in a small hamlet. Her twin boys are bright as copper pennies and the more time he spends with them, the more Hugo realizes that Emilia and the boys have him wanting – wanting a real family. Despite her having a cultured accent, it’s clear they are not nobility (if they were, they wouldn’t be in an alehouse) and any protectiveness he feels toward her must just be a result of empathy for her circumstances.

In addition to numerous historical romances, Louise Allen is also the author of the well-rated nonfiction book, Walking Jane Austen’s London, a guide I hope to one day take to heart while exploring that city with an eye to a favorite author!

Emilia Weston realizes that the handsome serious major is definitely above her station, at least her station now. Having eloped with a poor younger son from a good family earned her family’s disinheritance, leaving Emilia with few options. Now she exists in limbo in the village, politely tolerated by the villagers and given the occasional head nod from the local gentry but belonging to neither. She wants to make sure that the boys have everything they need to at least enter the law and have a chance at financial success and happiness. She’s made the best of her circumstances and she wouldn’t have given up the time with her loving husband for anything, even with her hardships – Giles was a wonderful husband who did his best for her. Some of the side benefits of that relationship are foremost in her mind as the honorable Hugo can’t seem to keep his hands and mouth off Emilia despite his best intentions and she’s frightened to discover she doesn’t want him to. As the snow deepens and this officer stays under her roof for Christmas, Emilia can’t imagine that any Christmas miracle can be forthcoming regarding her growing feelings for someone she’s sure is an aristocrat.

I adored this story! Emilia is plucky and yet real, with frustrations that make her a three-dimensional character and one easy for the reader to fall for, to say nothing of Hugo (the poor man didn’t stand a chance). Allen’s details about Emilia’s daily work with the ale were fabulous and yet never crossed into “info dump” territory – very skillful. Hugo’s character is totally understandable and coming home from the war, taking up his role as the Earl of Burnham, and then falling in love with an alewife had to equal not just a hell of week but a tough adjustment for him. Hearing about Hugo’s childhood gave further insight into his immediate understanding of Emilia’s unique and loving mothering style, and this helps him begin the mental trek to thinking about what he wants in a wife and family. The resolution was plausible and extremely emotionally satisfying, causing me to turn the final page with a huge grin on my face. I’ll be checking out other Louise Allen books for sure!

“Twelfth Night Proposal” by Lucy Ashford

Theo, Lord Dalbury has experienced a strange series of events. A former officer in Wellington’s army, he returned to England after Waterloo and was happy with his friends and a minor barony to his name. Then an elderly woman he had only met once left him a property in Derbyshire with some strange instructions and his life has taken a strange turn. His immediate goal is to simply take a look at the property while conveniently avoiding all the matchmaking mothers of the ton, but the vicious country roads and uncooperative weather is making what should be straightforward all too difficult. An odd encounter with a group of children, led by a blond beauty dressed as a lad, ends in a fall from his horse and unconsciousness – a rather ignominious introduction to Northcote Hall, his new property.

The Captain’s Courtesan by Lucy Ashford (Harlequin Historical, September 1, 2012)

What he finds is at once horrifying and mysterious. Northcote Hall is in shambles with only a flighty housekeeper and corrupt steward at the helm. After witnessing the steward sexually threatening the young blond woman he met at the scene of his accident, Theo fires him and attempts to figure out what exactly is going on. The blond, Miss Jenna Bruchs, is no peasant but neither is she gentry and she and her mother are fiercely attached to the Hall. In fact, she and many of the locals appear overly eager to see him take up residence, an attitude undoubtedly linked to the former steward’s vicious rein of terror. Theo guesses that Jenna is the natural daughter of an aristocrat stemming from when her mother worked as a housekeeper, and the more time he spends with her the more he wants her. But what kind of future can they have together, even during the twelve days of Christmas?

This was a wonderfully written story with a compelling hero and a feisty young woman trapped in almost impossible circumstances. The villain is horrible and yet more than just a two-dimensional vehicle to move the plot along. Terrific conflict and a very satisfying resolution from the unconventional Theo made me love the ending. My only criticism is how disappointed I am to find that Lucy Ashford does not appear to have any social media presence to speak of, with just a basic (if lovely) website for readers. I worry her talent is not being as showcased as it could without this way of reaching the many fans she must have. Reading hundreds of romance novels a year, I’ve seen the correlation that authors with no social media presence always have fewer reviews and, I imagine, fewer sales. My fingers are crossed that she overcomes her reticence and embraces more of a digital footprint!

“Christmas at Oakhurst Manor” by Joanna Fulford

This is a reunion romance (which normally I’m not a huge fan of) but Ms. Fulford made this quite realistic and lovely. Ten years ago Max Calderwood told the woman he loved that he was leaving her to go to India and make his fortune. Vivien was high-born and Max felt he could not give her what she deserved or even keep her in the style she was used to. Setting her free was the hardest thing he had ever done, especially after hearing her plea to take her with him while he sought his fortune, but he knew he was doing the right thing, even when he told her not to wait for him. Working hard in India, Max realized he made a huge mistake based on how he was devastated by the news of her marriage, but it was the bed he made and he resolved to lie in it.

A decade later, Max is incredibly rich and has finally made his way back to England to purchase a property and enjoy that for which he labored all those years. Startled to see Vivien at a house party for Christmas, he’s astonished not only with the realization that she is even more beautiful than he remembered, but the news that she has been a widow for 18 months and has two children. Her sadness and vulnerability call to him, but he’s unsure if she would be willing to take a chance on the man who hurt her all those years ago.

The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford (Harlequin Historical, 2009)

Vivien actually knew Max was going to be at the Christmas party but she couldn’t disappoint her friend or her children and back out at the last minute. It’s unfair that he’s even more handsome than ever – and clearly the target of other women’s matrimonial designs – to say nothing of the fact that he’s wonderful with her children, something their father never was. Vivien married a much older man, convinced respect would make for a good marriage and she’s regretted the decision so much that even his death was a guilty relief. She’s glad to have her children, but with her husband a poor money manager, their future is extremely uncertain. Yet Vivien is strong enough to stand her ground and not make the mistake again of accepting marriage where there is no love. When Max attempts to convince her that his feelings are still strong even after all this time, Vivien is forced to face her demons to see if she is the still the brave woman she once was.

I enjoyed this novella very much and want to sample Joanna Fulford‘s other writing after reading it. With my recent interest in the surge of Viking romances, I was interested that Fulford, mostly a Regency historical author, has dabbled in the Viking genre to good reviews. I’m going to have to look at those and at some of her other Regency tales since this one had a sweetness to it (it was the only story of the three with no sex, just kissing) that was period appropriate and endearing. Perhaps because of that, it felt very accurate to me, with both the hero and heroine taking a while to work up to anything beyond polite pleasantries. That undercurrent of the unsaid subtext felt very Austen, which I liked. The characters are still extremely honest about their feelings to themselves which keeps the story moving.

New UK cover for the anthology

Snowbound Wedding Wishes is an anthology I can heartily recommend to historical romance authors who enjoy the Regency period, particularly when the holiday season is the focus. While I had held onto this book since last year, I’d like to point out that it’s recently been reissued by Harlequin UK with a different cover for their British audience, who I’m sure will also greatly enjoy it.

At less than $5 for almost 300 pages, the cost of this anthology feels like a good bargain to me (although you might also want to check your local library since it has been out for a year). I’m pleased to have found three authors who have published enough that I have a nice body of their work to explore and to gain further confidence in Harlequin’s Historical line to know that their editing and author choice is rock solid.

Happy reading (and Merry Christmas)!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 6, 2013

6 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Historical Romance writer, Katherine Ashe, is giving readers a fantastic Christmas present with the release of her holiday novella, Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance. When a rakish earl stumbles across the diary of a wallflower princess whose fantasies are anything but demure, sparks are going to burst into flames that will light the Yule fire, for sure. One of the best pieces of this novella? It’s currently only $.99 on Amazon. If you’re too eager to wait until December 3rd, then check out Ashe’s website for a tantalizing snippet. Ashe fans might also want to note that her full-length Regency ghost story (with a romance at its center), Captive Bride, is also reduced down to $.99 as well.

Samanthe Beck’s McCade Brothers series has just become one of my favorites since I read the associated novella in Lovers Unmasked and bought and read the first book in the series, Lover Undercover (awesome!!!), so I was thrilled to see that the next installment of the series, Falling for the Marine, will be out at the end of October. A marine helicopter pilot with a back injury is anxious to get back into the pilot’s seat but when he’s hot neighbor is the masseuse assigned to him she’s not the only one with straying hands. Entangled publishing is great with pricing, so this hot novel by a great author is only $2.99. Mine is already pre-ordered!

Dianne Duvall just released the fourth book in her Immortal Guardians series, Darkness Rises, featuring a beautiful swordswoman who gets the drop on vampire and the two-hundred year old guardian who realizes the vamps she’s killing have influential friends, a fact that puts her and his fellow guardians, in danger. Released on October 1st, this 400+ page paranormal romance is under $6 for its ebook version which suddenly places the series on my “to-read” list!

Fantastic new author Kat Latham (who blew me away with the first book in her rugby-based London Legends series, Knowing the Score) will be offering a connected Christmas novella to her series, Mine Under the Mistletoe, due out on December 5th. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy! No cover art as of yet, but I’ll let you know when it comes out.

I was impressed with the intensity of Shannon McKenna’s One Wrong Move, which made me thrilled to see its sequel, Fatal Strike, was just published in trade paperback and ebook form at the end of September. Containing more of a pronounced paranormal element than its predecessor (which still had one, it was just subtle) this book features a captured woman tortured like a lab rat with injections that bring out psychic powers. She finds herself escaping to a safe place where a handsome, protective man exists who always makes her feel better but she thinks he’s a product of her imagination until he bursts through the door. Bring. It. On.

Giveaways and Contests

While Lauren Dane fans are reveling in the publication of her latest book in the Brown Siblings saga, Drawn Together, this week, they need to not forgot that this prolific author does not rest on her laurels, but always has yet another amazing book coming out. Her Bound By Magick series is about to have the fourth book published in early November, Wild Darkness, but readers should note that Goodreads is actually having a giveaway (ending October 11th) if you wanted to see if you could win a copy.

Author Cassandra Carr has always given us great sports romances, so it’s not a surprise that her recent contest is running under a “Hockey Hotties” moniker! Enter to win a selection from her backlist of great hockey romances by leaving a comment on the webpage.

Sports romance fans need to run not walk over to Give Me Books in order to enter that blog’s Extreme Jock Giveaway. I’m still reeling from the prizes – 44 author signed paperbacks, 97 ebooks, 19 ebook sets, various swag and even a few book retailer gift cards!! Be warned that the Rafflecopter giveaway is naturally extensive with so many authors participating (you’re going to spend a decent amount of time tweeting and clicking those Facebook like buttons for entries) but it’s so worth it.

Entangled Teen has collaborated with Hesperia Loves Books to produced an unbelievable giveaway to support Breast Cancer Awareness and research. Running for the month of October, this giveaway gives participants the chance to win over twenty books, many of them signed, by authors such as Jeaniene Frost and Lori Foster. Tweeting and posting on Facebook about the giveaway gives extra points, but consider the multi-point bonus that comes with donating to the National Breast Cancer research program (the link is right in the rafflecopter giveaway). I did in honor of my Aunt Martha who is currently fighting breast cancer (and who loves romance) and I’m sure you can think of someone who has suffered through this disease. SUCH a great cause!

Paranormal romance readers who like their books a little to the left of steamy hot are already familiar with Joey W. Hill’s Vampire Queen series, but right now on Goodreads, she’s also giving away the first book in her Arcane Shot series, Something About Witches. Featuring a witch who prefers the reliability of a handgun to a spell and the sorcerer she pushed away years before who needs her help, this book (and series) is worth a look. This was the intention of Berkeley Sensation publishing who are gearing up for Hill’s new release on December 3rd, Unrestrained, by giving away books from all her various series. Thanks, Berkeley! Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

Historical mystery readers who love their puzzles with a touch of romance will want to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener. In Regency London a young woman must pose as the French chef of a nobleman in order to be positioned to ferret out her father’s killer and protect the document he entrusted to her prior to his death. Her employer’s curiosity and obvious romantic interest runs the risk of exposing not only her identity but also attracting exactly the one person she needs to avoid if she is to survive. Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

If Banquet of Lies has you thinking about French food and Paris, you might want to check out the Travel Channel’s contest to win the “Parisian Trip of a Lifetime!” Six days and five nights for two at a cushy hotel in the City of Lights, including a half-day private tour (I think I’d go just for this), a two-hour Parisian bakery workshop (okay, nix the previous statement, I’d go for this), and $1500 spending money. *sigh*

Karen Hawkins’ second book in her The Duchess Diaries series is also being offered as a Goodreads giveaway and historical romance readers will definitely want to give How to Pursue a Princess a good look, whether they win or not. A young woman is pressured to make a good match and hopes she’s going to fall for the wealthy Earl her godmother thinks is perfect, until the hot and penniless Russian prince walks into the room. Whoops. Enter before October 12th to take this one home.

Signet Publishing deserves some major kudos for the outstanding covers of Marie Claremont’s historical series Mad Passions. This Victorian romance series has just had the second book in the series, Lady in Red, come out on October 1st, but if you haven’t yet picked it up, you may want to try to win a copy by entering the Goodreads giveaway before October 15th. This dark series’ installment features a young noblewoman who manages to escape the asylum in which her father has placed her, to run right into the arms of a duke who might very well be her salvation. That he finds her torment to mirror his own only binds them together as they fight for her future.

Fun Stuff

My deep-seated admiration for Laura Kaye’s writing is hardly a secret, and I’ve put on the Sunday posts how much I’m looking forward to her upcoming book, Hard As It Gets, which is the first in her new Hard Ink series. Thankfully for her fans (and quite frankly, any woman who enjoys eye-candy!), Avon Publishing has produced a fantastic video with her being interviewed about her inspiration for the characters. She’s delightful, the Baltimore backdrop lovely, and the tattooed figures…um…quite inspiring. Take a look!

Macy’s is selling a dress by Tommy Hillfiger featuring a great print that is row upon row of books. In the shirtwaist style, this looks awesome with boots and is a reasonable $79.95. I’m so on this.

For every girl who used her mother’s bangles to mimic Wonder Woman’s cuffs or pretended to be Barbara Gordon turning into Batgirl, there is a great nonfiction book, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid. Right now this informative text is an amazing $1.99 at Amazon, so feed your inner Superwoman and download it in a flash.

Great Deals

I was thrilled to find on M. L. Buchman’s blog a note that some of his fantastic novellas which accompany his The Night Stalkers military romance series were being offered in a “romance bundle” from StoryBundle. Not having heard of that particular store, I went to take a look and was wowed by the mission of the website. Designed to promote indie authors by offering their books together with other books as a “bundle” around a given theme, the site’s founders hope to encourage you to find new authors you might enjoy. Unlike the great $.99 bundles on Amazon I often promote, StoryBundle also 1) lets you set your own price for the bundle (although it suggests an incredibly affordable one) and 2) encourages you to add an extra percentage which they donate toward charities encouraging writing and literacy among children. How awesome is that? Books are downloaded in either .mobi or .epub form so Kindle users or other ebook readers can all handle the files. Take a look at the romance bundle to realize that this is no pure donation – not only Buchman’s books but also independent books from Stephanie Laurens, Jo Beverly, Mary Jo Putney and Kristine Grayson. WOW!

Historical romance writer Courtney Milan’s Turner series novella, Unlocked, is on sale for $.99 right now on Amazon. A little over 100 pages, this story features a wallflower determined to stand up to her former tormentor upon hearing he’s returned to England. That he’s here to apologize for his past behavior doesn’t seem to quench her ire and the nobleman in question finds he wants much more than her forgiveness.

I’ve never read a suspense story that happened to be a Western, but I’m about to change that with the news that B. J. Daniels’ Harlequin Intrigue novel, The New Deputy in Town, is free for download on Amazon right now. When a new lawmen has to solve a bridal shower murder and everyone in the heroine’s family had a motive, things are bound to become complicated quickly.

Lyndsay Sands’ Argeneau Vampires series is understandably famous, so it’s always a good deal when they are discounted. Right now, The Accidental Vampire, the seventh book in the series, is marked down to only $1.99, a terrific deal. Starring a new vampire trying to adjust to coffin life on her own who gets set up by well-meaning friends on a blind date, the heroine is thrilled to discover the experienced vampire Victor Argeneau on the other side of the table. He’s good-looking enough to have his pick of woman with a heartbeat or without, but he definitely wants to help her, particularly after the realization that someone wants to put an end to his sweet fledgling’s new existence.

Having just reviewed Jennifer Ashley’s latest in the Highland Pleasures series, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, I’m thrilled to note that the accompanying Christmas novella, A Mackenzie Family Christmas is actually FREE right now on Amazon for its ebook form, so run over and grab it while the price lasts.

I love Cat Johnson’s Westerns but her Red, Hot and Blue series has always demonstrated she knows her way around a man in uniform (and out of it as well, mrrrrooow!). The third book in the series (each named after the hero), Jimmy, is now available for free download at Amazon, so check it out. An undercover Special Forces hero, the red-haired daughter of a senator, and one unbelievably hot one night stand (did I mention terrorists?) all make for an unbeatable combination.

That’s the scoop for this week. Happy Reading! 🙂

Breaking the Regency Romance Mold: A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol

24 May

A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol (January 31, 2012, Avon)

I adore Regency romances because the time period is so fascinating. The early nineteenth century shaped a country in a state of flux, one that was either experiencing the Napoleonic Wars or recovering from them, and the whole nation was poised on the brink of an industrial revolution which would change the world, to say nothing of Great Britain itself. From a writing standpoint, social strictures were still a little looser, a hold-over from the more licentious period of the late 18th century, which has fortunately given authors more wiggle room for creating interesting scenarios that allow romance to flourish in a compressed period of time for our hero/heroine.

But as much as I love Regencies, I’m really picky about the writers I love. Not like – I like plenty of Regency authors – but really love. You know, love, love. The majority of novels in this sub-genre are kind of, well, “meh” for me. It’s writers like Stephanie Laurens and Sarah MacLean that have me forking over full price for both the ebook AND the print version of their books. Most other authors just don’t get my steam engine running on all cylinders even though I still enjoy the immersion into the time period.

Months ago, I saw a contest on Facebook for Avon Books about proving how enthusiastic an Avon reader you were by filling out this long survey. I purchase Avon books constantly and had enormous fun writing the little responses and talking about my favorites. I didn’t hear anything more and totally forgot about it, until I got a package in the mail about 8 weeks ago that held two Avon books. *doing happy dance*

One of them was A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol, a book I was so interested in reading that I had already purchased it in ebook form. With other reading more pressing, it made its way to my back burner, until the other day when I had the need of a marathon bubble bath. iPads and baths don’t go well together, so I perused my paper to-reads and my Avon freebie leapt into my hand.

I was riveted, to the point of shooing my husband away when he wanted to catch up on the latest Mad Men episode (which is usually a solemn occasion in our house). Never have I read a Regency romance which manages to convey the customs of its time period yet paint such an evocative sense of place (in this case, the Ottoman Empire). There isn’t a ton of reliable information about this time period from a Western perspective, but Randol has some lovely historical information that is so seamlessly interwoven through the plot that you just swallow it and say “yum” afterward. I think this is the mark of great historical fiction.

I worry when my female protagonist is described by other reviewers as “empowered” or “non-traditional” simply because my disbelief can only be suspended so much. In a desperate bid for a new slant on the Regency heroine, we get authors making women into pirates or bohemian artists who have slept with a bunch of lovers yet miraculously never gotten pregnant (but they have no fertility problems after marrying the hero). Really, people?

The Topkapi Palace, which actually plays a key part in the conclusion of the book

In the case of A Secret in Her Kiss, our heroine is unique and strong for her time period, but the reader buys it, hook, line and sinker. Strikingly beautiful Mari Sinclair is the daughter of a damaged archeologist father, who has raised her in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, leaving her to her own devices. A talented artist, Mari has become a naturalist painter with has strong personal ties to the local Pasha, but she has been coerced by the British into using her drawing to spy on local fortifications. The reason for this is not her loyalty to the British Empire – she has none for the country that she feels rejected her and her mother – but rather due to her imperative to keep resources near the Greek rebels trying to throw off the yoke of the Ottomans. Mari, you see, is the daughter of a Greek slave, a beautiful and intelligent woman who her father fell for and freed prior to marriage.

Major Bennett Prestwood, son of an Earl, is fresh off the battlefield where over the years he has both won honors and witnessed atrocities all in the name of the King. While admired for his golden good looks and military prowess, Bennett has a total focus on duty – to King, country and family, in that order. When he hears that his sister has returned to her abusive husband, he buys a ticket for England immediately to save her, but his plans are derailed when he receives urgent orders to head to Turkey to guard a female spy for England. Bennett is stuck with the job because his cousin is the British ambassador, offering him unobtrusive cover for his assignment.

Bennett promised to keep his sister Sophia’s secret when she left her husband last time, so he doesn’t feel alerting the rest of the family to the gravity of her situation is within the boundaries of his oath to her. He resolves to finish this assignment as quickly as possible so he can get home and save his sister further abuse. Always a soldier and an excellent spy himself, he rapidly assesses the political landscape in which Mari is at the center. Fascinated by her despite his feelings of urgency, they both experience attraction and the usual misunderstandings as they grow to understand each other’s character. Bennett helps Mari be a better spy, even though he wars with the desire to protect her from everything, and Mari helps Bennett understand that a blind sense of duty which fulfills oaths while ignoring the larger good might not really support the honor that makes up his core sense of self.

While this book would only fall about midrange on the sensuality scale in terms of content, Randol does an excellent job at letting the reader feel the incredible sexual tension and attraction between the couple. Mari, surrounded by Turks, is more than cognizant of the intimacies between men and women and has even read the Kama Sutra (in the original Hindustani). Rather than be offended by Mari’s innate sensuality and knowledge, Bennett accepts it as part of her exotic upbringing. It simply makes him even more attracted to her while she finally gets to see what a reliable and honorable Englishman looks like, and it’s an compelling sight.

Randol is to be applauded for her outstanding writing. It’s hard to believe that a novel with such three-dimensional characters is a debut author’s effort! Bennett, who secretly writes poetry, is a true heart-breaker of a damaged hero and any reader will be moved reading about Mari’s neglected childhood. I feel that the location of the Ottoman Empire is so well drawn that it is another protagonist, moving the plot along and lending depth of understanding to the hero/heroine’s actions.

A Most Naked Solution by Anna Randol (Avon Impulse, June 26, 2012)

I cannot wait for more from this author, and luckily, I won’t have to be patient for too long. Although not yet in the Amazon database despite a June 26th release date, the enovella, A Most Naked Solution, Bennett’s sister Sophia’s story, is in the works (why can’t I order this anywhere?). I’ve already preordered Randol’s next novel, Sins of a Virgin, even though I have no idea what it is about, simply based off Randol’s writing and the kick-ass cover – seriously, who is she giving a supply of chocolate to at Avon to get these amazing covers????

Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol (Avon Impulse, August 28, 2012)

People looking to get more from Anna Randol can keep up with her on Facebook or on Twitter as well as periodically check her website. I was interested to discover the collaborative blog on which she posts, The Dashing Duchesses, comprised of other historical romance writers and have added this little gem into my Google Reader.

It’s thrilling that in a field of standard Regency romance writers I can find an author who can put a fresh spin on a favorite time period. Anna Randol has shattered the Regency mold with her debut book and the whole genre is a little better for it.

A Fabulous Male/Male Regency Novella: The Sartorialist by Cecilia Ryan

30 Apr

There is no lover of Regency romance who doesn’t have a little crush and a lot of admiration for George Bryan “Beau” Brummel.  An elegant trendsetter from modest beginnings (compared with the aristocrats with whom he rubbed shoulders), Beau Brummel served as a captain in the Dragoons prior to the outbreak of the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars, catching the eye of Prince Regent.  Included in the Prince’s inner circle for years, they eventually had a falling out, with Brummel finally fleeing Great Britain with his creditors on his heels and living out his days in poverty in France.

Brummels understated and elegant style of dress not only set a new trend known as “dandyism” but eventually became the foundation upon which the modern men’s suit is based. His fashion sense was only equalled by his wit and he made or broke many a man or woman’s reputation during this time period. Perhaps due to his rapier tongue, I’ve always wanted to include him on my short list of people from history I’d invite to dinner (and I would just make sure to dress really, really well).

When I came across the description of Cecilia Ryan‘s novella, The Sartorialist, and realized it was a male/male romance starring my favorite Regency fashion arbiter of taste, I was extremely curious.  Written in the first person, Ryan does a fabulous job at embodying the spirit of Brummel with all his wit (the whole book is from Brummel’s first person perspective), while still crafting him as a far more compassionate and empathetic creature than other renditions of this historical figure I’ve seen fictionalized.

In just the brief biographies I’ve read of him, I really haven’t heard Brummel’s sexuality discussed with abandon (I really need to read a full-length biography to tackle this topic) but since he never married despite his many debts, I could easily believe him to have had male lovers.  The Sartorialist does a wonderful job at showing how the recent war hero, Toby, catches Brummel’s and the Prince Regent’s eye with his good looks albeit unrefined taste.  Beau tells the Prince he will take him under his wing and make him more presentable, but the more he knows Toby (who is more than happy to fall into bed with the witty and elegant Brummel) the more he realizes he is falling in love with him.

The cover is beautiful, naturally, but I’m also a firm believer in the book cover hinting at the level of sensuality in the text – and this stunning look hints at no more sexual content than a Georgette Heyer novel, which may cause some readers to be misled.  The only inaccurate point I noted was the mention in a few scenes where Beau is undressing/dressing Toby were there is a reference to all the “shirt buttons”.  Regency lovers know that buttons on men’s shirts the way we envision them came much, much later in time (think of the shirt Colin Firth wears when he jumps into the pond in Pride & Prejudice and you have a good sense of how they were constructed back then). If there were buttons on a man’s shirt, it was likely to be just one to help shut the placket, although the cravat did the majority of the work in that respect.  It’s a small detail, but considering Brummel’s attachment to fashion, a point worth noting for the story.

There is a great deal of passion and tenderness in Beau’s and Toby’s love scenes, which Ryan writes with a very Regency voice (in many ways, this would be a good introduction to male/male romance for readers who worry they might be uncomfortable with the material but who still want to dip their toe into this popular sub-genre – it’s just about love and passion, people, like every other romance!). Knowing how Brummel lost favor with the Prince and was drummed out of the country, I was particularly worried about the chance for a Happily Ever After (HEA), but I thought the author did a great job melding the facts of Brummel’s actual life with a very believable happy ending.

I don’t know if Cecilia Ryan plans on writing any other Regency based romances M/M or otherwise, but I would definitely buy them considering the success of this wonderful novella.

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