romance, series

Bingeable series: Desperate Duchesses

Yes I know I’ve already done a whole post of books on offer this week, but I spotted this one after I’d written the June Discounts post– and it inspired me to write a whole post. And yes, Villiers got a mention in the Reformed Rakes Recommendsday, but the rest of the series weren’t as good value at that point or I’d have done them a post of their own before this!

These are Georgian-set romances – which is an earlier and naughtier time than the Regency. In Georgette Heyer terms, we’re Masqueraders and These Old Shades sort of times, in fashion (as you can see from the cover pix) it’s bodices to the actual waist rather than the Empire-lines of Bridgerton. Kiera Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice rather than Jennifer Ehle. In trope terms we’ve got a several already married couples among the duchesses with a variety of issues, as well as a cross dressing plot, so some of my favourite things. And then there is Villiers – as previously mentioned, the rake of rakes who gets his book at the end of the series when you’ve had time to watch him develop.T

These were written in the late 2000s – and the first four got a UK release, making them on of the first series I discovered when rampaging through my local library in search of more books like Julia Quinn. So if you’ve read the Bridgerton books after watching the Netflix series, these were written around the same time and gave the same sort levels of heat. There were six books in the initial Desperate Duchesses series, but there’s a spin off Desperate Duchesses By Numbers that Amazon and Kindle count as the same series but is a second generation so if you like them, there are 9 to binge on – and if you read the first six, you’ll figure out whose second generation it is and who you’ll get to see again. I think the later ones are slightly more steamy, but still fairly restrained by the levels you see in contemporary romance novels written at the same sort of time.

Hilariously you can chart the progress of historical romance availability by looking at how I consumed this series: I read the first four from the library, I own three in the American step back editions – the final two because they weren’t available in the UK in paperback or on kindle and Duchess by a Night because it was my favourite of the first four and I wanted to read it again and had moved away from the library service who had copies. And when I ordered it, the copy that turned up was the US version not the UK one. And then I have the Desperate Duchesses by Numbers on the kindle because that had changes by the time they came out!

Anyway, if you want to start a binge, Desperate Duchesses – aka the first book in the series is on offer for 99p on Kindle and the rest of the early books in the series are also quite cheap right now.

Happy Friday!

Book of the Week, Book previews, historical, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting

There were lots of options for this post today. I like a week like that. I’ve gone for a historical romance because it’s been a few weeks and this was a lot of fun and I needed something fun and frothy and if I hadn’t written it already, another entry for the marries the person you’re trying to save someone from post.

Kitty Talbot’s parents have died, leaving their daughters with debts and an uncertain future. Determined to secure her sisters’ future, she decides the solution is to marry well and heads to London with the last money they have to try to secure a rich husband. She’s never moved in this sort of society before, but with the help of her mother’s best friend she’s sure she can succeed. And indeed she soon attracts a suitor and is intent on reeling him in, until his older brother, Lord Radcliffe comes to town to put a stop to it. He knows she’s a fortune hunter and is determined to keep her out of his family, but somehow he finds himself helping her ingratiate herself with the ton…

As you might be able to tell from that summary – which doesn’t even cover half the book – this has got a lot of plot and a lot of twists. It rattles along so fast that you don’t have time to think about it, but when I was trying write that plot summary I realised how much had gone on beside the whole fortune hunter main idea. It pulled it off, but I do wonder whether there are any ideas left for Sophie Irwin’s next book! But I enjoyed this a lot so I’ll definitely be looking for it when it comes to see. It’s “not quite in the common way” of the historical romances I have read recently, not least because the steam level is basically smouldering glances for most of the book and never gets higher than kissing – so not so much enemies to Lovers as enemies to soon to be marrieds!

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s coming out on Thursday in ebook and hardback and if you pre-order it today it’ll drop onto your Kindle or Kobo or your doormat on release day.

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: People who end up marrying the person they’re trying to save someone else from

Long title I know, but all the shorter versions didn’t really cut it! Two weeks ago for Recommendsday we had Reformed Rakes in honour of Anthony Bridgerton. Today’s post is in honour of Kate – who in the book is 26 and on the shelf, but in the TV series is putting her younger sister first. So I went looking for historical romances with characters who are unmarried and trying to save someone important to them from marrying someone they think is unsuitable (and end up marrying the unsuitable person themselves) Before I get to my suggestions, I’ve read a lot of articles with reaction to the Sharma family in series two Bridgerton and what it means for South Asian representation – among them this one from Bustle and this from Glamour. Well worth a look. Anyway, to the books!

And it turns out it’s actually really hard to find heroines who aren’t desperate to jump off the shelf and who are saving someone from their heroes. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park – after all, I’ve read a lot of romances over the years. But I’ve put in proper time on this and unless I’m missing some super obvious options – or my search strings are out – it’s a tougher ask than I thought! I can find plenty of spinsters who want one night to find out what passion is (but aren’t expecting it to go beyond that), or who enter marriages of convenience because it’s the least bad option and then fall in love. But not a lot of Kates. But maybe that’s why the Bridgerton series are special?

In The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, Sir John Hartlebury is definitely not a spinster but he is uninterested in marriage and High Society – so KJ Charles’s novel is actually quite close – Hart is trying to rescue his niece from dashing fortune hunter Robin Loxleigh, but ends up falling for Robin himself. There’s a slight Pretty Woman type situation that ends up going on, but handled well and without many of the pitfalls of that sort of thing.

The Georgette Heyers that are closest are probably Black Sheep or Lady of Quality – the key difference from The Viscount Who Loved me being neither of them end up marrying the man they’re trying to save their relation from. In Black Sheep our heroine, Abigail, is busy saving her niece from a fortune hunter when she falls in love with the fortune hunter’s uncle – just returned from India having made a packet. In Lady of Quality, Annis rescues a runaway heiress and falls in love with the heiress’s guardian. Ok so they’re not quite the same, but it’s closer than some of the other options – Frederica is trying to get her sister a dashing match and ends up falling for the cousin who has agreed to help them (rather than stopping her sister from marrying him), Hester in Sprig Muslin is an older heroine who is not expecting to marry, but she’s not trying to save anyone from Gareth – in fact she turns down his first proposal because although she (secretly) loves him, he doesn’t love her and Mary in Devil’s Cub is not so much determined to not to marry as doesn’t like the options she’s got, and although she does marry her sister’s original beau, he wasn’t planning on marrying her sister just absconding with her (Vidal, such a dastardly rake until he falls in love. Ahem).

In other slightly tenuous options, you could also probably count Alexa Tarabotti, the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate is a confirmed spinster at the start of the series in Soulless – but she’s not looking or trying to save anyone. Ditto Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank – whose age ends up being quietly reduced once it’s clear it’s gong to be a series and we’re going to keep going through til Ramses is an adult… Phyrne Fisher is also determinedly unmarried, but it doesn’t stop her from having as many boyfriends as she wants, so it really doesn’t count for this purpose!

And there you have it. An awful lot of work on my part, for not a huge amount of results. Tell me all the books that do this that I’ve forgotten about – or that I should have read – in the comments!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Reformed Rakes

So some of you may already have finished the new series of Bridgerton, which is based on the second book in the series – the Viscount who Loved Me. In case you need a recap, our hero Anthony is a reformed rake and the heroine Kate doesn’t think she’s ever going to get married but is determined to stop him marrying her sister because she doesn’t think he’ll make a good husband. So if you’ve watched the series and want to read something similar I am here for you. And so today we are looking at historical romances with reformed rakes for heroes.

And I’m going to start with the daddy of all rakes (in my eyes at least) the Duke of Villiers from Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series. You don’t need to have read the five previous books in the series, but if you have by the time he gets his own book A Duke of Her Own, you’ve seen him being all rake-y through all the previous books – he’s even got the children to prove it and isn’t hiding them. Which probably explains why his matrimonial options are not huge. But that makes the happy ending (when it comes) even better. When this series originally came out, this one wasn’t initially published in the UK, but I was so keen to find out what happened that I ordered myself a copy from the US. But that’s not a problem now because you can get it on Kindle.

In Sabrina Jeffries The Truth About Lord Stoneville, the hero has been raking it up since the death of his parents but has to reform himself because his grandmother is threatening to disinherit him. The plot involves a fake engagement, an American heroine and a very feisty matriarch. It’s also the first in a series – with all of Stoneville’s siblings also having to get married if they don’t want to lose their inheritance from her.

My first Sarah MacLean book, as I’ve told you many times before, was Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake – and if you’re in the US it’s just come out in a new edition. Lisa Kleypas also has a lot of rake-y heroes – my favourite of them is probably Devil’s Daughter but I know lots of others Love Cold Hearted Rake. In the previous book of the week stakes, there’s also The Governess Game by Tessa Dare. And of course also in the Bridgerton series, is my favourite When He Was Wicked.

Happy Wednesday!

Book of the Week, book round-ups, romance

Recommendsday: Secret identity/double identity romances

Off the back of yesterday’s book of the week, today we’re talking romances where one (or both) partners are living a double life or have a secret identity

Let’s start with Georgette Heyer – because she has a few of these of various types. The Masqueraders has a cross dressing brother and sister who are trying to lie low after the Jacobite rebellion, False Colours has one twin pretending to be his missing brother and These Old Shades – one of my all time favourites has Leon the page who is actually Leonie. And that’s before you get to The Corinthian (girl runs away from home dressed as a boy and drops out of the window into the hero’s arms), and Arabella (heroine pretending to be a great heiress). Is it any wonder I love this trope so much?

Duchess by Night was my first Eloisa James – and I picked it up at the library because it mentioned the heroine in disguise. Now it’s much, much more steamy than Heyer – but as all you get in Heyer is a kiss, then that’s not a surprise. This’ll anyway, our heroine dresses up as a man to sneak into the house of a notorious rake to see what his debauched parties are actually like. You see where this is going (and why it’s not closed door!). Anyway, as an introduction to the series it was great – although I haven’t reread it in a few years so I hope it holds up!

I came to Eloisa James after discovering Julia Quinn and after James I moved in to Sarah MacLean who I have now written about a lot but has a secret identity type – but telling you what it is is a spoiler and a reveal and you need to have read the rest of the series to get the most out of it. I had to go back and read the Rules of Scandals series again after the shock twist at the end of No Good Duke Goes Unpunished because I was so convinced that MacLean must have slipped up at some point and she hadn’t. It is a master stroke.

Let’s go contemporary! And Jen De Luca’s Well Played which has a heroine who has been emailing back and forth with someone all year who actually turns out to be someone else. It just about manages to stay on the Cyrano side rather than the catfishing, the latter of which is the risk in all the modern day twists on this and obviously I love the Ren Fair setting because I made the first book in the series a BotW – and I read Well Matched (which is the third book) in two giant gulps last week. And maybe the aforementioned catfishing situation is why I can’t think of any other contemporaries to include here – it’s hard to come up with a twist on this that doesn’t create an insurmountable issue on the romance. Which is maybe why I was so impressed with Playing with Love! So please – if you have more, put them in the comments!

Happy hump day!

Authors I love, historical, Series I love

Series I Love: Veronica Speedwell

Today I want to talk about Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, because the latest book in the series came out this week, and it seemed like a really good moment to introduce newbies to the wonderful world of Veronica (and Stoker).

Our heroine, Veronica Speedwell is an orphaned, independent woman. When we meet her at the start of the series, she has just buried her aunt and is about to resume her life of travelling the world in the pursuit of butterflies. But while she is back in Britain, she is drawn into a mystery and into the orbit of the incredibly grumpy taxidermist and natural historian Stoker. The latest book, An Impossible Imposter, is the seventh in the series and so far we have discovered secrets about Veronica’s family and about Stoker’s past, romped through artists colonies, archaeological circles, women’s clubs, private clubs and gothic Cornish castles. The latest one promises an amnesiac heir and I can’t wait. Although I may have to, because I’m not meant to be buying hardcover novels at the moment, no matter how much I want to.

It’s hard to talk about them much more than that, or you give too much away – as you’ll see if you click through to the BotW reviews for A Treacherous Curse and A Dangerous Collaboration, but basically they’re fast paced Victorian-set adventure capers with a feisty heroine and a grumpy hero, if Stoker can be classed as such (he definitely wouldn’t like it). They’re also witty and have clever premises as well as good mysteries. What is not to like?

I forgot to check if Foyles had any in stock when I was in there the other weekend, but my suspcion is that if you want this in physical editions, you’re going to have to order them specially. But they are on Kindle and Kobo and do try and read them in order if you can, it will work so much better if you do. And if you’ve already read all of these, then you should really check out some of Raybourn’s other books – especially the Lady Julia series.

Enjoy!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Enemies to Lovers Romances

As my top romance pick of the year was an Enemies to Lovers romance, I thought it was about time that I did a Recommendsday post about one of my absolutely favourite romance tropes! And honestly, it actually turned out to be quite difficult to find ones I haven’t already written about before – particularly contemporary ones because so many of them have already been Books of the Week!

My much-loved TV tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice

Lets start off with something very obvious: Pride and Prejudice. This is the grandaddy of them all. If you’ve never read it, you should, but there are also stacks of retellings of it from pretty much every different twist you can think of. My favourite is probably still Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is set in modern day (well modern five years ago) Cincinnatti, which has a lot of the wit that makes Austen so much fun but which you don’t always get in the retellings.

Next up, The Viscount Who Loved Me – second I Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and the basis for the upcoming next season on Netflix. Who knows how they’ll make it play out in the TV series (although the first one was quite faithful to The Duke and I) but in the book Kate is determined to save her older sister from marriage to reformed rake Anthony Bridgerton. Anthony has decided that he needs to marry (for reasons that you don’t really ever get to the bottom of in the book) but is determined not to marry for love (for reasons that you do discover). The two of them really don’t get on – until they do and it is delightful. Read it before the second series drops at the end of March.

Very worn copy of Regency Buck

I mentioned Regency Buck years ago in a post about comfort reads (and even longer ago in my post about Georgette Heyer), but it is one of my favourite historical romances with this trope. Judith and her brother come to London against the wishes of the guardian that they have never met. Of course they discover the Duke of Worth is the annoying man they met en route, the son of a man their father was friends with. Judith spends most of the book fighting against Worth’s every word and the reader isn’t really sure what he is up to until the reveal – which makes the resolution all the more satisfying. Side note: if anyone has come up with a modern (non problematic) twist on the guardian and ward trope, let me know in the comments!

Before I move on, I’ve featured a lot of Sarah MacLean books here before, and she does a great line in truly epic grovelling – which does often goes hand in hand with the enemies to lovers trope – like Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, which is the last in her Love By Numbers series and has a deeply rule following hero who thinks the rule-breaker heroine is trying to trap him him to marriage. The Rogue Not Taken is also an enemies to lovers.

Cover of Act Like It

I have featured a lot of contemporary romances with this trope, to the point where it is hard to find stuff I haven’t already recommended! Basically all Lucy Parker’s books are enemies to lovers – but as well as Battle Royal being my favourite romance of last year, Headliners, The Austen Playbook and Pretty Face have been books of the week and Making Up got a mention in a summer reading post too. So that only leaves me with Act Like It that I haven’t already given a big old plug to. So here it is: it’s a fake relationship between two actors who can’t stand each other, to try and help a bad boy actor to rehab his image. It’s the first in the London Celebrities series, and when I read it I had a few issues with some of the British-isms not being right (Parker is from New Zealand) but even writing about it here has made me want to read it again!

If you want to go old school romance, then a couple of Susan Elizabeth Philips’ Chicago Stars books also have enemies to lovers going on. Nobody’s Baby But Mine is that rare thing – a pregnancy romance that I like. And that surprised me because the heroine deliberately sets out to get pregnant by the hero which is so far from my thing. But Jane is actually a very different character than you would expect from that description- she’s a scientist who thinks she’s making a rational decision about her life. Cal, our hero is the quarterback of the team and is (unsurprisingly) unhappy about Jane’s entire plan for his only involvement in their baby’s life to be conception. It’s funny and touching and very escapist. The first in the series, It Had To Be You, is also an enemies to lovers, with a heroine who inherits a football team and the team’s extremely Alphahole head coach. But that has rape in Phoebe’s backstory which I know is a no-no for some people.

Other contemporary romances that have been Books of the Week include: Talia Hibbert’s Act your Age Eve Brown , Ali Hazelwood’s Love Hypothesis, Christina Lauren’s Unhoneymooners (see also The Honey-Don’t List which was in a Mini review roundup), Jen De Luca’s Well Met, Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, Alisha Rai Hate to Want You and Kate Claybourn’s Love at First. All of those are relatively recent releases (as in new or new ish when I wrote about them) but if you want something else a bit older, then how about Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me – which is now nearly 20 years old (!) – and features a first date that’s the result of a bet…

One last book before I go and that doesn’t really fit into any of the other categories – Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which is the first of the trilogy set in the world at the centre of Cath’s fandom in Fangirl – and is the equivalent of Harry and Draco in Harry Potter books.

Happy Reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: July 2021 Mini Reviews

Here we go – another month, another batch of books that I wanted to talk about but didn’t have quite enough to say about to give them a post all to themselves. There’s romance, comedy, adventure and history here – so a nice mix.

Surfeit of Suspects by George Bellairs

Cover of Surfeit of Suspects

I picked a British Library Crime Classic for Book of the Week last week – and this is another cracker. It was actually a close call for BotW this week, but I thought I might look too one note (not that that’s ever bothered me before). A Surfeit of Suspects is the 41st (!) book in the Inspector Littlejohn series, and concerns an explosion at a joinery company, that kills three of the company’s directors. The company itself is teetering on the brink of insolvency and there is a suspicion that the explosion may have been an insurance job on a rather spectacular scale. But why would the firm have had any dynamite to explode if it hadn’t been planted there. And why had the previously profitable firm fallen so far? There is potential fraud and corruption, but also personal rivalries and love affairs. There’s also a lot of focus on the local banking eco-system – which as Bellairs had worked in a bank, he was very well placed to write. And despite the fact that banking has changed a lot in the fifty plus years since this was published, it’s all easy to follow – and actually quite informative for those of us who have grown up in the era of big banking chains. Oh and it’s a good solution too. I got it on Kindle Unlimited, but it’s also available in paperback.

The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst*

Cover of The Lock In

I keep talking about the summer reading post (I promise it is coming) and this was a contender for that, but it’s a little too domestic for a sunlounger read. Or at least it is for me, so I’m writing about it here instead. Ellen, Alexa and Jack are housemates. They’re also locked in their attic on a Saturday morning, with terrible hangovers and Alexa’s Hinge date from the night before. Why are they locked in the attic? Well the kitchen is flooding and they were looking for the way to switch off the water when the handle broke off the attic door. They only have one phone – and it’s Jacks that’s very low on battery and the signal is poor. But he’s mostly live tweeting the situation. Ben and Alexa are getting to know each other, and Ellen is becoming convinced that she’s met Ben before.  Will they get out? Will they still be friends when they do – and will they survive the wrath of their landlord? I think I’m a little too old for this – I did my dating before apps were a thing – but this is a funny portrait of possibly the worst hangover ever. I was sort of expecting more romance, but it’s much more of a comedy than it is a romantic comedy. Worth a look. Newly out this summer – should be fairly easy to get hold of.

The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters

Paperback copy of The Camelot Caper

This one is probably only worth a look for Elizabeth Peters completists. This is from the very late 1960s and is interesting because it’s sometimes listed as a prequel to the Vicky Bliss series. It’s much less connected to that than that makes it seem – basically the connection is to “Sir John Smythe” in a way that I can’t reveal without giving some big old spoilers for Vicky Bliss. And it’s quite a minor connection – so don’t go into this expecting lots of him. And if you’ve not read Vicky Bliss (or Amelia Peabody to which its even more tenuously linked) then it’s just a late 1960s thriller-slash-cozy-mystery with no murder but a lot of chasing around Britain by an American Tourist, who is being hunted down by mysterious thugs, and the charming Brit who is helping her out. Your mileage on that may vary. I’m glad I read it, but if I’d read it first, I probably wouldn’t have read the rest of the Vicky Bliss series, and that would have been a shame. Second-hand only, and no ebook.

Hellions Waltz by Olivia Waite

 Cover of The Hellions Waltz

Sophie’s family has moved to a new town to start over after they were taken in by a conman who ruined their business. Maddie is busy planning to ruin the draper who has been cheating and defrauding the local weavers for years. When recently cheated Sophie sees that Maddie has some sort of con going on, she starts to investigate. And of course the only thing for Maddie to do to distract her is seduce. And it all goes on from there. The middle book in this trilogy, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows was a BotW pick here earlier this year, but be aware the connection between three books is looser than you usually see in romance series – there’s barely any mention of the previous leads, and there was nothing in the previous book to mark out who was going to feature in the next (if you know what I mean) or if there was it was so subtle that I missed it. The link between them is women with a craft or a passion – in this case a musician and a silk weaver. But this was a fun read – I liked all the details about the various pianos and about the silk reading, and the denouement – although fast – is satisfying.

Meet the Georgians by Robert Peel*

Cover of Meet the Georgians
I’m including this one in here because I think if you don’t know anything about the Georgians, this would be a good introduction to some of the characters in it – and also to the idea that the Victorians were the prudish ones and that life before that was much more interesting/racy! For me (degree in history in which I mostly did post 1700 stuff in Britain, France and wider Europe) there wasn’t a lot new here. But that said: I like the idea, and the choices of who to feature are good because the people are fascinating, but the writing style is strangely uneven – at times it feels like the author is wants to emulate Greg Jenner‘s chatty informal style but is trying to hard and it’s only in patches before it reverts to something more standard for a history book. It’s still very accessibly written in the rest of it, but it has these weird bits where it all sounds a bit “how do you do fellow kids”. For me, the introduction also spoilt a bit of the fun/mystery of finding out who the people were – a lot of the key details were in there. Thinking about it, it’s a bit like a history essay in book form: here is my theory, here is the evidence for my theory, here is my conclusion with a reminder of my theory and a look ahead. Additionally the cover is a bit out of step with the audience I feel like it’s trying for. Great idea and if you’re a newbie to the era, it will probably work better for you than it did for me!

 

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in July were Empire of Pain, The Guncle, Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light and Smallbone Deceased. And finally, just to complete the link-fest, here are the links to the mini reviews from January, February, March, April, May and June.

Happy Reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: June 2021 Mini Reviews

The end of another month has been and gone, and despite the fact that I forgot to trail it yesterday or Monday, it’s time for another set of Mini Reviews! It was a very varied month in reading, and there more books from last month that you’ll hear about in my summer reading post, but here are a few things that I read last month that I wanted to talk about.

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Cover of Mrs England

Lets start with a new to me author. Mrs England is Stacey Halls third novel, but the first of hers that I’ve read – despite the fact that I own at least one of the other two. This is a clever and creepy story of Ruby, a Norland Nurse who takes a job in the household of an northern mill owner in after she turns down the chance to move abroad with her previous family in 1904. From the start you know there’s something not quite right in the new house, but on top of that there’s also something in Ruby’s past that she’s hiding as well. I had several different theories at various points about what was going on, but the reveal surprised me. For some reason, dark and damp are the words that spring to mind about this book – but I kind of think that makes it perfect for reading in the sunshine if you know what I mean!

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery*

Cover of the Stepsisters

Susan Mallery is an author who has appeared on my reading lists a lot over the last few years – with her Fools Gold and Happily Inc romance series. The Stepsisters is one of her women’s fiction novels – it has romantic elements, but it’s definitely not a romance. The Stepsisters of the title are three women, all with the same father (but two different mothers), who find themselves thrown back together as adults after one of them has an accident. They have a complicated history between them abd all have different problems in their current lives, but over the course of the book you watch them try and work out if they can they put their history behind them and move forward. Told from the points of view of two of the stepsisters, Daisy and Sage, this has the characters finding themselves and each other. Another read that’s perfect for a sunny garden with a glass of something chilled.

Tommy Cabot was Here by Cat Sebastian

Cover of Tommy Cabot was Here

I’ve written about Cat Sebastian here before, and this is the first in a new series of novellas. Like Hither, Page this is another more modern historical story, this time set in the 1950s with the scion of a family that sounds very Kennedy, and his best friend from school. They meet each other again for the first time in years when Tommy is dropping his son off at their old school – where Everett now teaches. The rediscovered romance between the two of them is very nice to watch and there’s a refreshing lack of the sort of unmasking peril that you find in a lot of historical m/m romances. Very relaxing and charming. There next in the series is set a year or so later and features Tommy’s nephew – who we meet briefly in this – and is due out in September.

Love in the Blitz by Eileen Alexander*

Cover of Love in the Blitz

I’ve mentioned how much I’m interested in the history of the first half of the twentieth century, and last week I picked novel set in the same period that this book is set in, so it’s not easy to see why I wanted to read Love in the Blitz. And on top of that people who I like a lot have really enjoyed this. But I really struggled. This is a collection of genuine letters written by the very real Eileen Alexander to her fiancée, Gershon Ellenbogen. Eileen was the eldest daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, who lived in Cairo, but also had homes in London and Scotland. At the start of the book she’s recently graduated from Girton College and through the book you see her searching for war work at various of the ministries as well as the progress of her relationship, the tensions with her parents and the general day to day of living through the war. I found Eileen’s style a little hard going and I didn’t actually like her much. But as a look at what it was like in a corner of England during the Second World War it is an insightful document – particularly as Eileen and her family are Jewish and have a lot of connections abroad and this gives you a different perspective than the one that you so often get on what it was like being on the Home Front.

The Last Party by Anthony Haden-Guest

Cover of The Last Party

This really surprised me: it takes a fascinating subject and makes it hard to follow and dare I say it – dull. Having read Empire of Pain the week after finishing this, it really hit home to me that this had so much promise but under delivered. But I think the problem was the breadth of subject that Anthony Haden-Guest was taking on – and the fact that he was part of the scene at the time and knew everyone involved. I think that affected his ability to pick a narrative through line and make it make sense. Characters appear for a couple of pages and then vanish again. Some times they get loads of background about who they are, sometimes none. It jumps from club to club but also around in time a bit. I learnt a few new things, but not nearly as much as I expected and it was hard going all through. I would definitely read more about this time period and this club scene – it just needs more focus.

So there you have it, another month finished and another batch of mini-reviews. And in case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in June were Yours Cheerfully, Second First Impressions, The Feast and sort of Circus of Wonders, which was published in June but read in May . And finally, just to complete the link-fest, here are the links to the mini reviews from January, February, March, April and May.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical, romance

Book of the Week: Wilde Child

As I said yesterday, a busy week in real life last week and a lot of reoccurring authors on the list. But for today’s BotW pick I’m back into my romance happy place, with the latest book from an old favourite author of mine – Eloisa James.

A little bit of my historical romance reading origin story first: Eloisa James was one of the first current historical romance authors I read back when I discovered that there were modern authors doing takes on Georgette Heyer, back in my Southend days so circa 2009 – about a decade after I first read Georgette Heyer – I know. What took me so long? I don’t know – except I suppose that back when I was reading Georgette Heyer originally there wasn’t really a section of the UK market that was historical romance that wasn’t Mills and Boon – and that was what my granny read. Then – and I know exactly how it happened – I saw Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London in the window of Waterstones on Southend High Street and went to investigate. The Essex Library system was good – and I then requested and worked my way through every Julia Quinn they had and started to look for other similar authors. And it turned out there were a few authors who had made the jump across the Atlantic – and you just had to know what to look for in the cover art. My first Eloisa James was Duchess by Night – with a blindfolded lady in a corseted dress on the cover. And I ate up that series – or as much as it as was published in the UK. Which was not all of it – and at that point they weren’t available on Kindle – even if I had had one* so I started looking at the US editions, with their very, very different covers to the UK ones and started ordering them so I could get to Villiers’ story. And so what I’m saying here is that I have a long history with Eloisa James and I see her books as reliable comfort reads for me.

This is the sixth in the Wilde’s of Lindow Castle series, and the titular Wilde Child is Joan, who the Duke of Lindow has raised as his own despite the fact that her father is the Prussian count who his (now ex) wife had an affair with. This fact of her birth has made her some what scandalous – and she has done every thing in her power to scandalise the polite society who judge her for something she can’t help or change. Our hero is Viscount Greywick, who needs sensible scandal free wife but just can’t help trying to keep Joan out of trouble. The two of them strike a bargain – he’ll help her achieve her dream of acting on stage (incognito of course) and then she’ll settle down and marry a man of his choosing. We all know where this is going, without me even saying any more than that.

Now, this is not perfect. I like others of James’ books more. I think the relationship skips a stage – they go straight from antipathy to liking each other, without really properly explaining how. Yes, there are a lot of “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop touching your hair” books out there – but there’s usually a big revelation moment where they work out that that it’s not actually hate, it’s repressed desire – and that doesn’t quite land here. I still think James’ earlier books are cleverer and funnier, but I read it this in under 24 hours and it made me smile – and having read all the other books in this series, I’m just a touch invested and I liked seeing the previous couples reappear. I am going to go on record that I have been holding out hope throughout the series that the at some point Horatius, the dead eldest son, is going to turn out not to be dead and reappear to close the series, not just because of The Drama but also because that would solve one of the ongoing problems of one of the couples – which makes a reappearance in this story (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read North’s book). James has her first book out under her own name (Mary Bly) soon – which is a contemporary women’s fiction novel – so I’m hoping this isn’t it for Eloisa James – but it may well be.

My copy of Wilde Child came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback – and these are often spotted in the supermarkets and book stores – at time of writing, Foyles have it in stock in six of their seven stores.

Happy Reading!

* I got my first Kindle in May 2012 before I went to Poland to work at EURO 2012 – because lord knows I wasn’t going to be able to take enough books to read with me for a month.