Tag Archives: romance

Love and War in the Time of Napoleon

Napoleon’s myriad attempts to conquer Europe featured his struggle, from 1807-1814, to dominate Portugal and Spain. Of course the British were part of this fight, and the conflict plays a part in many Regency Romances. Two recent series portray the impact on individuals and families whose participation on the war front and behind the scenes leave a lasting impact of life and love.

proposalMary Balogh’s seven-book, romance series features the Survivor’s Club, six men and one woman who return to England, broken of body, mind and heart. They spend three years together at the seaside estate of the Duke of Stanbrook, supporting and encouraging each other as they heal, preparing to venture forth and live out their lives among the town and the country folk they each belong to. Balogh, in her usual sensitive style, relates these romantic tales with strong parallels to our disabled veterans returning home from the Middle East wars of today. Each of the seven characters meets physical and mental challenges as they vie for independence and love. The last book in this series, Only Beloved, will be published in May 2016. Balogh excels at developing relationships. She takes the time to portray how people start at one place and change, usually driven by hope and longing for a life of peace and contentment while treasuring those special moments of fleeting joy or happiness.

Survivors’ Club

pinkcarnationAnother excellent Regency romance series has wrapped up this past fall. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series is told from the point of view of contemporary Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly, who travels to England to do research into a ring of British spies tracking the movement and secret strategies of Napoleon and his armies. Eloise lands at the doorstep of Arabella Selwick-Alderly and her grand-nephew, Colin, who reluctantly open their family archives to Eloise. As the months go by, Eloise begins to unravel the elusive tidbits of information about the spy training school run by her ancestor, Richard Selwick (the Purple Gentian), that sends its spies—both male and female—behind enemy lines and into Parisian parlors and boudoirs of many historical personalities of the Regency era. Their intrigues reach as far as India and end on the Iberian Peninsula, where the final mission of the Pink Carnation is played out. These stories are rich in humor and historic detail and as Eloise not only discovers the identity and destiny of the Pink Carnation, she finds for herself a husband and a different kind of future for herself than she intended at the start of the series.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

 

-Sheila

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Spizzerinctum!

I have a not-really-secret fondness for outdated teen romance novels – the older and cheesier, the better. My most recent find, dredged up with the help of NoveList, is Wedding in the Family by Rosumand du Jardin. Since I’m pretty sure that you’ve never heard of her either, here’s a little background information from Contemporary Authors.

Although author Rosamond du Jardin wrote several novels for adults, she was best known for her novels for teenagers, all of which have gone through numerous printings. Critics consistently praised her ability to write about the teenage years with humor and understanding. Most of her books have been published in other countries, including Japan, Italy, Holland, and Sweden.

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. (accessed 08/24/15)

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Will darling Midge ever find true love? Well, probably.

In addition to her teen fiction, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, Red Book, and Good Housekeeping, and contributed to a variety of radio serials. She attended public school in Chicago, married a bookstore owner, had three children, “played gold and bridge, bowled, and liked to read and hew.” (Well, that’s what Contemporary Authors says. I’m hoping there are some typos in there.)

Anyway, let’s explore the world of Rosamund Du Jardin. It’s a magical place where all skillets are copper-clad, all curtains are crisp and white, no one worries about skin cancer, and young people are full of spizzerinctum.

The book starts off with a bang, with the wedding of Midge’s sister Tobey. Here’s what happens when Midge is introduced to best man Johnnie Randall, a southern charmer who apparently doesn’t care that Midge is only fifteen, while he’s like, at least 23. Reading it just makes you feel icky (page 48).

Randall

I think I need to take a shower now.

Don’t worry too much – with the help of her wise older sister, Midge realizes that Johnnie isn’t the man for her (whew), Learns A Valuable Lesson, and Grows Up A Little.

The morning before the wedding, the bridal party sets out to decorate the soon-to-be newlyweds’ car. But they have to find it first, because newlywed-car-hiding is apparently a thing in Midge’s hometown. Good thing they have spizzerinctum (page 70) and hamburgers to keep them going. (And yes, they find the car.)

Spizzerinctum! And check out the names - Suz, Brose, Jim, Denny, George, Sox, Midge, and Ellen!

Suz! Sox! Brose!

The wedding goes off perfectly (it’s super romantic, and we learn that All Good Boys Want To Get Married), but the book’s only half over. Fortunately, that’s just enough time to take a family vacation!

Midge and company set out for a month at the lake, where (surprise) Midge is confronted by two vastly different suitors. But after the aborted Johnnie Randall affair, has Midge finally learned her lesson about love?

Well, duh. Of course she has. This book was written in 1958, after all.

Overall, Wedding in the Family is an unintentionally amusing and fairly (but not painfully) monotonous read. If nothing else, it’s a great romp through the world of 1950s teenager cliches. You’ll see:

  • double dates
  • a soda fountain
  • fashion and hairstyles galore
  • repeated use of the word “golly”
  • punches thrown in defense of a lady
  • a lad with a lawn mowing business
  • an utterance of the phrase “ever so much”
  • a family vacation
  • summer romance
  • a distressing lack of telephones
  • excessive tanning
  • dishonestly bleached hair
  • a midsummer dance
  • and more!

Keep your ponytails high and bouncy,

– Amy

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By George: Georgian Era Historical Romance

As a student of the works and life of Jane Austen and devotee of historical romance, my favorite time period is the Regency era, which roughly falls between 1811 and 1820, when King George III’s son, the Prince of Wales, took over the throne for a time due to his father’s madness. Dubbed the Prince Regent, he was a flamboyant and gaudy personality, and thus the Regency era was born.

But to be honest, I’ll read almost any historical romance if it’s a good story, is well written, and set in England. Except medieval. I do like the etiquette, civilities, and genteel manners of a polite society.

Read on for some recommended Georgian era romances (1714-1830) that I’ve greatly enjoyed.

Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt

Set in the London neighborhood of St. Giles in the 1730s, this is a gritty, dark, and dangerous series. It’s also breathtakingly romantic. Throughout the series, there is a running thread about the Ghost of St. Giles, a sort of Batman figure who saves the good people of St. Giles from peril. Passionate, raw, and real.

Wylder Sisters series by Isabella Bradford

This is the nice and elegant side of Georgian society. Three aristocratic and very wealthy but very sheltered sisters must marry for duty but are hoping to marry for love instead. This was a period in history when romantic love was just beginning to influence the choice of a marriage partner rather than as a mere business alliance between two families. Isabella Bradford is a pseudonym for historical fiction writer Susan Holloway Scott.

A Gentleman ‘Til Midnight, A Promise by Daylight, A Wedding by Dawn by Alison DeLaine

Though these books do not have an official series name, they are all connected by recurring characters. The series features strong and independent women including a female pirate, a medic, and the female equivalent of a lady’s man; I guess that would be a gentleman’s lady?

Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James

This sparkling and witty series by Shakespearean professor Eloisa James–and also the daughter of poet Robert Bly–is more about social manners and mores in Georgian England rather than true historical romance. The descriptions of the intricacies of ton society, the elaborate headgear and fashions, and the daily life of privilege and wealth in the very upper class is vividly brought to life in a very snappy and snarky way.

-Maria A.

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My Favorite Romances of 2014

I’ve read so many good romance novels this year. And this time last year, I spotlighted the books I most enjoyed, so I thought I’d make it an annual post.

Read on for my favorite romance reads (and my shortest post) of 2014.

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-Maria A.

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Heart O’Scotland

As a devoted reader of historical romance and Jane Austen, I prefer to read stories set in England during the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. But with the recent news of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the overwhelming resurgence in popularity of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon on television, I’m inspired to feature some wonderful historical romances either set in Scotland or that feature Scottish protagonists during the Regency period. Read on for some that I have absolutely  loved.

The Bride Says No, The Bride Says Maybe, and The Groom Says Yes 

by Cathy Maxwell

The enchanting Brides of Wishmore series is wonderful and uplifting. The small village of Aberfeldy is the setting for the happy endings of the beautiful but very different Davidson sisters, Tara and Aileen, and their widowed cousin, Sabrina. There are lots of sticky situations to get them to their happy endings including a runaway bride, a love triangle, and a dissolute father who sells his youngest daughter to a local laird in order to settle his gambling debts. Despite the drama, these stories are joyful and fun, especially when read with a charming Scottish brogue on e-audio by Mary Jane Wells.

The Devil Wears Kilts and Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

Ranulf and Arran are the eldest brothers of Clan MacLawry, desperately trying to save their changing way of life amid clan clashes and the influencing ways of the English. One will fall for an Englishwoman against his better judgment while the other will be enchanted by the daughter of a rival clan member. Though it mostly takes place in London, the unique Scottish ways of Ranulf and Arran dominate the story and it’s fascinating and fun to read. The third book in the Scandalous Highlanders series comes out next March.

claimed

Claimed by the Laird by Nicola Cornick

The third book in British author Cornick’s Scottish Brides series is the best. Christina McMorlan is the eldest daughter of a selfish widower who has set aside her own happiness for that of her family. But when her whiskey smuggling business is threatened by Lucas Black, a stranger out for justice, she takes a chance on a different kind of fate. This is a unique and beautiful story featuring an older brave and independent heroine and the handsome and protective gentleman who unexpectedly enters her life.

highlander

How to Marry a Highlander by Katharine Ashe

This is a truly charming and fun e-novella. Teresa Finch-Freeworth goes after the only man she has ever wanted, Duncan, the Earl of Eads, a man she once locked eyes with across a crowded ballroom. He thinks she’s daft and, besides, he has his hands full with seven sisters he must see married and settled on limited funds. But when Teresa storms into his unsuspecting path, the results are delightful and dangerous. This novella is part of Ashe’s wonderful Falcon Club series.

laird

The Laird by Grace Burrowes

And now for something much more serious. Husband and wife Michael and Brenna must get to know one another all over again when he returns to Scotland after nine years at war. Brenna’s painful and secret past threatens their future happiness as the menace has not gone away and is in fact very close to home. A sensitive romance that tackles abuse, love, and family written by one of the most consummate storytellers writing historical romance today. This is the third book in Burrowes’ dark and dramatic Captive Hearts series, but it can be read as a standalone.

-Maria A.

*This is the fifth in a series of recommended notable historical romances.

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Brooding Dukes and Damsels in Distress

Gothic novel: a novel in which magic, mystery, and chivalry are the chief characteristics.

A Handbook to Literature (6th edition) by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon

Windswept moors, drafty and remote castles, stormy nights, and a dark and dangerous hero suffering lots of angst. Jane Austen spoofed it in Northanger Abbey in 1816 while the Bronte sisters epitomized it in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the Victorian era. But what about today? Read on for some historical romances with a darker journey to happily ever after.

Máire Claremont’s Mad Passions series.

darklady

In the Victorian era, it wasn’t considered unusual for powerful men to send their troublesome women to an insane asylum for reasons such as, say, having a nervous breakdown after the death of a child (The Dark Lady) or witnessing a father murder a beloved mother (The Lady in Red). Men, however, are not immune to commitment by a parent for opium addiction (The Dark Affair).

Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell. (Sons of Sin series)

seven

As payment for her married sister’s gambling debts, Sidonie Forsythe agrees to replace her sister in Jonas Merrick’s bed. In doing so, she will give up her virtue to a man haunted by his past and determined to prove his parentage.

Taken by the Duke by Jess Michaels. (Pleasure Wars series)

taken

Lady Ava Windbury is kidnapped by Christian Rothcastle and taken to his estate in revenge for one sibling’s death and another’s incapacitation in this Romeo and Juliet love story.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. (Castles Ever After series)

duke

Take one penniless and homeless orphan, add one tormented duke, and a dash of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and you get this charming gothic spoof.

A Duke’s Temptation by Jillian Hunter. (Bridal Pleasures series)

temptation

Lily Boscastle is the biggest fan of the mysterious and handsome Duke of Gravenhurst’s “horrid” novels. When she becomes his housekeeper at his remote estate, she discovers the real secrets behind the man. Another gothic spoof, this one is best listened to aloud on e-audio, read by the enchanting Justine Eyre.

-Maria A.

Note: This post is the fourth in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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Amusing, Whimsical, and Diverting Historical Romance

I started reading historical romance a little over two years ago because I was sick and tired of reading sad and depressing books that were highly touted in literary circles, The New York Times Book Review, and book clubs. I once derided the entire romance genre as frivolous until I actually read one.

I now only want happy endings, sparkling dialogue, and a passionate love story; even better: a book that can make me laugh and smile.

I thoroughly enjoy the witty works of Jane Austen, so historical romance is my favorite reading pleasure. I can always count on a lovely story and, with these three authors, laugh out loud humor.

wicked

The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflowers series) by Maya Rodale

We don’t own all of this author’s delightful books except for her Writing Girls series, about Regency era working women who write for the scandal sheet, The London Weekly–which, incidentally, makes a recurring appearance as it reports on scandals in almost all her novels.

Isn’t this a great cover?! In this story, the first in the series, Lady Emma Avery is a wallflower whose name is falsely linked with the handsome and rich Duke of Ashbrooke in The London Weekly. They decide to keep their pretend engagement so that he might redeem his debauched reputation and find investors to fund his invention and she, in turn, can raise her social standing in society. Of course, things don’t work out as planned. This book is part of an amusing concurrent historical/contemporary series–the contemporary part being a series of novellas called Bad Boyswith a similar theme of a pretend engagement–Rodale calls it a “fauxmance”–on Facebook and other social media. Fun fact: the heroine is a librarian at the New York Public Library.

“’It can’t be any more torturous than a wallflower’s fourth season on the marriage mart.’” (p52)

“It was official: she’d had more callers in this one hour than in four seasons combined. Behold: the power of Ashbrooke.” (p26)

heiress

In the Arms of the Heiress (Ladies Unlaced series) by Maggie Robinson

With her cheeky Courtesan Court series about the everyday lives of a group of mistresses on Jane Street to her London List series about a Regency-era scandal sheet of provocative personal ads spoofing today’s craigslist, to her most recent Edwardian-era series, Ladies Unlaced, which takes place around a slightly unorthodox employment agency, I can pretty much count on Maggie Robinson to always make me laugh.

A wacky, independent yet vulnerable heiress, Louisa Stratton hires Charles Cooper, a traumatized war veteran down on his luck, to pose as her fiancé on a visit home to her undeserving family. She hopes to display a veneer of successful independence with a loving, artistic husband while Charles just wants the cash.

“Louisa Stratton was a handful who would drive the average man to drink. Hemlock, if it was handy.” (p175)

”’If you were my wife, I’d rescue you. You could live just as you pleased—I wouldn’t interfere with whatever cork-brained scheme you dreamed up.’” (p240)

Any husband she’d have would risk being henpecked until he resembled a dartboard.” (p289)

secrets

The Secret Brides series by Valerie Bowman

Bowman is a newcomer to historical romance and her lighthearted and charming Regency era Secret Brides series is wonderfully entertaining and funny. Each title represents the scandals in the books, written in pamphlets–think of today’s zines–and are the same titles as the books:

  • Secrets of a Wedding Night is about what really happens on a wedding night as written by an unhappily married young widow.
  • Secrets of a Runaway Bride depicts the adventures of a young and impetuous debutante who tries to run away with a young man who does not requite her love.
  • Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage, the last in the series, is penned by a death-row duchess accused of murdering her husband. There are also two novellas that round out the series.

From Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage:

Since coming in the back door, she was already warming up, and she hadn’t had a proper bath in over a fortnight. No doubt she smelled like a foot. A very dirty foot.” (p44)

‘If you’re going to be a scandal, darling, be a complete scandal.’” (p318)

From Secrets of a Runaway Bride:

“First of all, you should not have been eavesdropping. It’s unspeakably rude, and second, what would you know about a marital bed? You’re not married!” (p59)

“Arthur isn’t here now to see, is he? If you’re heaven’s gift to the fairer sex, why don’t you prove it?” (p61)

-Maria, who is done with sad books forever

Note: This post is the third in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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