Category Archives: Historical Romance

Darius by Grace Burrowes

Darius Cover
Click to Add on Goodreads

Released April 1, 2013
Published by Sourcebooks 
Obtained for Review from NetGalley

One thing I love about regency historicals is the pretentious Ton. So many rules, so much propriety. Polite society dictates how things must be done, and I can only imagine that many among its ranks spent their time trying to cover up mistakes or turn the other cheek.  All this for the sake of keeping up appearances and furthering their sacred lineage. 

Right from the beginning Darius proves no social grace or boundary is sacred. Darius Lindsey himself is somewhat of a rake; not only is he free with his favors, but for the right amount of coin, he indulges the ladies. A second son in need of some financial solvency is left to his own devices, right? This leads to him being propositioned by the aging William Longstreet who finds himself in need of an heir before his health fails.  William’s younger, second wife Vivian needs to become pregnant in order to secure Longstreet’s property & title for future generations. Unable to perform the duty himself, he contracts Darius to do it for him. Can you say scandal? Just hope those society papers don’t catch wind of that. It’s not like Darius’s family doesn’t already have enough skeletons in its closet.

Vivian is a devoted, loving wife who has become a spinster before her time. Perhaps this is due to all the time she spent as companion to the first Lady Longstreet? Maybe from being married to someone so much her elder? For whatever reason, she finds herself several years married and still untouched. At first I was a bit surprised by that, but after seeing how utterly dedicated William was to his first wife, it made complete sense. Vivian & William’s relationship is based on love, trust & security, not passion. Vivian’s virginity gave an interesting twist to Darius’s task, that’s for sure.

Kudos to Grace Burrowes for turning what could have been a routine, formulaic historical romance into something different. This isn’t your classic reformed rake meets naive debutante, although there are elements of that trope you’ll recognize. It’s also not your classic forbidden, star crossed lovers, even though that’s certainly in there too. (Oh the longing. *sigh* Sometimes my heart broke for them.)  I felt like Burrowes creatively meshed many classic components to give this story a fresh twist on regency romance that is both complex and commanding.  The plot never falters and evolves until the very end. 

Darius is the first book of the Lonely Lords series, one I’ll be sure to stick with as it grows. It appears there’ll be eight stories in all released over the next couple years. I’m already looking forward to picking up book two, Nicholas, about Nick Haddonfield and Leah Lindsey whose story gets its start in Darius. It’s a must-read to see what’s in store for them!

RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!

The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne by Jayne Fresina

Release Date: January 1, 2013
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Obtained for review from NetGalley

What a wild ride! Wicked might be too mild of a word to describe Ellie Vyne. At the age of 27, Miss Vyne should be firmly on the shelf by 19th century standards, and she’s more than content to be there. She’s looking forward to easier days with less meddling from her sisters and fewer responsibilities. The trouble is her reputation for being up to no good is well earned, and it’s going to take a lot to untangle the web she’s woven.

Not to be outdone, the hero of our story is a notorious rake. I don’t know about you, but as a fan of historical fiction, a good rake is ALWAYS welcome. James Hartley is the typical rich nobleman from the country residing in London and partaking whereever and whenever he pleases.  He finds himself in several unexpected situations and faced with the ultimate question all rakes must eventually ask: to reform or not to reform?

I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment in the Most Improper series by Jayne Fresina.  Ms. Fresina is a new author for me, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed her writing style.  Her manner of storytelling is easy-going, unburdened with unnecessary details and very witty. Her characters are well developed, likeable and relatable. For me much of the challenge with historical fiction is in keeping the story interesting and avoiding too many of the predictable patterns of the genre. This story uses many icons/establishments identifiable to genre readers: gambling halls, country estates, the Ton, the Season, etc., but the approach toward the relationship between the two characters is new and interesting. These are not young innocents out hunting for spouses, they’re two older adults who are finally realizing what they need and possibly recognizing it in each other. Each may set out with intentions that say otherwise, but watching them come to that conclusion is really satisfying.

RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!

 

The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer Ashley

Release Date: Decemeber 31, 2012
Published by Berkley Sensation
Received from Jennifer Ashley in ARC contest/giveaway

Before I get start giving you my reaction to this book, can we just have a moment of silence for that cover? HOLY HOTNESS! A man in a kilt with a tan and those abs? YES! What’s even better is this cover is perfect for Elliot McBride. Romance (or any genre for that matter) covers aren’t always accurate representations of the characters, but in this case it’s DEAD ON.

This story is book five of the Highland Pleasures series – sometimes referred to as The Mackenzies –  which I absolutely LOVE. I’ve been reading them since the very beginning and have enjoyed following the cast of characters as they grow, change & come together in many ways. The series takes place during the late 19th century, one of my absolute favorite settings for historical fiction. The ton in all its glory is always interesting with its balls, aristocrats, rules and oppressive ways.  Throw some Highland Scots into the mix and it just gets better and better. :)

Because of my love for the previous books in this series, I couldn’t wait for this one. I was a little apprehensive since it was the first which didn’t directly involve a Mackenzie main character. A pet peeve of mine is when authors try to stretch out a series beyond it’s potential by continuing to develop secondary characters. In this case it totally works. The ties are there from the very beginning, the relationships of all the players laid out. Lady Juliana St. John is a proper lady preparing for her wedding day, and Ainsley Mackenzie, Cameron’s wife, is her matron of honor. This same Ainsley Mackenzie is the sister of Elliot McBride who also happens to be a childhood friend of Juliana St. John. What’s clear early on is Juliana’s wedding to her long-time fiancé isn’t going to happen as planned.

Elliot McBride has returned from India where he escaped a brutal imprisonment that continues to haunt him. He hopes coming to his Scottish homeland will help free him from his demons, and his plans involve Juliana. What he doesn’t expect is for her to ask him to marry her and save her from uncertainty once she’s jilted at the altar. The adventure they embark on involves one very neglected Scottish manor, dark secrets from Elliot’s past and a danger that follows him.

Jennifer Ashley spins a story that’s compelling, and I never once felt like these characters didn’t own it or deserve it. I appreciated how secure Juliana & Elliot were about their relationship. Each seems to be smitten with the other, committed to their marriage and never questions or strays. It’s really refreshing to find that in a romance novel. It also makes the steamy scenes (and there are MANY ;) ) that much more satisfying.  There’s also plenty of one of my favorite Mackenzies, Daniel, which is only fitting since the next Highland Pleasures novel will be his, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie.  The wait for that one will be long – October 2013 *cries* – but luckily I’ll have A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift to help take my mind off it.

RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!

 

 

The Recruit by Monica McCarty

Highland Guard Series #6
Published October 30, 2012
Published by Random House
Obtained for Review from NetGalley

I think this is my favorite of all the Highland Guard novels. Then again I say that EVERY TIME I read a Highland Guard novel. It’s possible that they just get better and better or that I just love this group of warriors that much more with each story.

I was thrilled to get this book for review early on NetGalley since it’s been killing me to wait for it after reading Highland Guard #5, The SaintKenneth Sutherland has appeared before, but as his role became more significant I was really anxious. This story was everything I hoped it would be and more. I tweeted that these books are like crack, and I swear they are. I couldn’t put it down!

The depth of emotion you feel in the writing is incredible, and there’s quite a range: anticipation, fear, anger, happiness and regret to name a few. I love how these strong, fierce warriors are tender and sensitive at times. There is always that untold vulnerability lying underneath, and for Kenneth it’s Mary. He doesn’t expect his reaction to her, and I enjoyed watching them both realize and accept what was growing between them. The sadness and despair Mary suffered from her first husband was heartbreaking. To see them find happiness together was really satisfying, but it’s not without it’s ups and downs. There were so many times I wanted to scream at them – I didn’t care how they fixed it, I just wanted them to make it better.

As if Scottish Highland warriors and English knights aren’t enough, Monica McCarty paints truly picturesque imagery as if you’re there. You become part of the story and can imagine the castles, the weapons, the conflict, the people. It’s all breathtaking. I love how she mixes in just the right amount of fiction & history. I’ve learned quite a bit about 14th century Scotland and Robert the Bruce from her novels and the great detail she gives in her author’s notes. See? I’m not just reading for the hot, steamy scenes, it’s about HISTORY. ;)

Speaking of the hot, steamy scenes this book has PLENTY. I can’t tell you how hot these two are together. Not to give too much away but there’s a scene in a barn that was just… WOW. I’ve never thought two people could spontaneously combust when they weren’t even touching. IT WAS HOT.

RATING: STILETTOS!