Lord Livesey’s Bluestocking, Audrey Harrison, 2018Phoebe doesn’t quite fit in with society. She’s not conventionally attractive, wears glasses, and has a reputation as a bluestocking, thanks to being intelligent. She has no need to marry, and little desire to. But, at the request of her family, she spends a couple of weeks at the estate of Lord Livesey. Livesey is a young widower with three girls, who has largely withdrawn from society after the suicide of his wife six years ago. His sister and aunt convince him that his girls need a mother, and arrange for half-a-dozen eligible ladies, along with an equal number of single but less-appealing-than-Livesey men, to spend two weeks at his estate. Livesey decides not to follow his heart, and selects Lady Jane for his bride, but the aunt keeps Phoebe in view, and a few assumptions add complications. Sweet and light, with a strong heroine and good writing. The Complicated Earl, Audrey Harrison, 2014 I went from what appears to be Harrison’s latest to her first, sold with the notice that it was professionally proof read after the initial release. Isabelle grew up with loving parents, but found her suitors distasteful, and has settled down with a cousin, planning to live independently. Now her brother is planning to marry the sister of the Earl of Standish, Tom. Tom is cynical of marriage, having witnessed his mother’s affairs, but kept that from his sister. When problems arise in the planned marriage, Isabelle and Tom work together to resolve matters, and both reconsider their view of marriage. But her brothers attempt to rush her into to marriage, concerned they may given her too much freedom, leads to problems, and a previously rejected suitor leads to a suspense subplot. Not as sweet or as light as Lord Livesey’s Bluestocking, but still a good read. The Duke’s Cautious Governess, Fanny Finch, 2018 Lady Agnes lost her mother many years ago, and when her father dies unexpectedly she is penniless and shunned by relatives. She finds work as a governess to a spoiled little girl, the young sister of a Duke. The Duke and his sister also lost their parents early and unexpectedly. While Agnes was taught how to run an estate, the Duke was not, and she winds up teaching him as well – everything from how to manage the staff to how to host a ball. The ball is a great sequence. Although balls and associated events are common in historicals, this is the first one I’ve read from the perspective of a hostess, as she tries to keep guests entertained and sober, and breaks up fights. The conflict and resolution are predictable (and no less enjoyable for that), but the subplot of the late mother is dark, so this is sweet but not that light. Having the epilogue as an online bonus is mildly annoying, and unusually, the story is almost completely from the perspective of Agnes. The Love List, Deb Marlowe, 2013 Brynne Wilmott’s father has arranged for her to be married to an evil man, so she runs away to a home for women. But her troubles are just beginning. Someone is planning to republish an updated version of Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies, with her and some of her acquaintances in it, for both personal revenge and political gain. Meanwhile, the Duke of Aldmere, who rescued Brynne from her nominal fiancé at a ball, is looking for his missing brother, who is somehow involved in the new book. Lots of action and suspense as the couple work together, lots of time in the seamier side of London, and we are back where this list started, with political terrorism in the Victorian age. As this list makes clear, historical romances, even limited more-or-less to Regency, have a variety of heat levels and plot structures. I appreciate those that show me famous figures, and provide insights into lesser known aspects of Victorian life, and escapes from peril are fun. However, as with contemporary romances, my preferred reading is towards sweet and light.
I am behind in reviews, thanks to a busy month which has had more opportunity for reading, but less for writing. I praised historicals in my last post, have read many recently, and I’m going to try and catch up on reviewing them here. Click a title in the list to jump to that review. Hello Stranger, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 2018 Heart of Fire, Kat Martin, Mira (Harlequin), 2008 Traitor’s Kiss / Lover’s Kiss, Mary Blayney, Bantam, 2008 The Ice Captain’s Daughter, Suzanne G. Rogers, 2014 Jessamine’s Folly, Suzanne G. Rogers, 2014 Lord Livesey’s Bluestocking, Audrey Harrison, 2018 The Complicated Earl, Audrey Harrison, 2014 The Duke’s Cautious Governess, Fanny Finch, 2018 The Love List, Deb Marlowe, 2013 Hello Stranger, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 2018. Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female doctor in England (inspired by Dr. Elizabeth Garrett), connects with Ethan Ransom, a former police officer and now possibly a spy. They met in a previous book in the series, which apparently explains why he is stalking her when this story starts. She’s a virgin but DTF, so we get a relationship largely driven by sexual tension and desire. Both characters are strong, and rescue each other. The couple get tied up in a political terrorist subplot, which threatens to overwhelm the romance plot at times. Lots of action and Victorian detail. Heart of Fire, Kat Martin, Mira (Harlequin), 2008. After enjoying Heartless and Royal’s Bride, Kat Martin is a name I look for on the historicals shelf. Coralee, a viscount’s daughter, writes for a ladies magazine. When her sister commits suicide, Coralee suspects an Earl, and contrives to enter his employ, under a false identity, to learn the truth. Romance blossoms, but when her identity is revealed, he’s forced to marry her. Coralee finds herself in a loveless marriage, and someone is trying to kill her. The suspense aspect is a significant part of the story, and the sister’s death and the circumstances around the marriage cast shadows over the story. Traitor’s Kiss / Lover’s Kiss, Mary Blayney, Bantam, 2008 Two books in one, so two reviews in one. Traitor’s Kiss opens in France, in 1813, with the resourceful and mysterious Charlotte arranging for Lord Gabriel Pennistan to escape from prison. She’s not interested in the politics that put him there, or him (at first), but he becomes very interested in her. Lots of tension, romantic, sexual, and otherwise, in the earlier part of the story. Later, in England, the plot takes a more conventional tone, but Charlotte and her goals dominate the plot. Lover’s Kiss has a similar story structure, but this time the hero dominates the story, and the sexual tension is more drawn out. Michael Garrett, an unemployed soldier, finds a naked and unconscious woman in the forest. His rescue of Lady Olivia Pennistan is complicated by the need to keep her kidnapping a secret and her reputation intact. Michael’s subsequent employment at her brother’s estate, in recognition of poor security there, allows the relationship to continue in a more conventional fashion. The Ice Captain’s Daughter, Suzanne G. Rogers, 2014 The cover image notwithstanding, this story is sweeter that those above, as well as lighter, later, and without a suspense subplot. There is no sex, but there are phones. Jillian is en route to London (with her maid) when their carriage is attacked. She receives a minor bullet wound, but manages to stab one of her assailants with a hatpin. Lord Logan, staying alone at a hunting cottage on his estate, comes to her rescue, bandages her thigh wound, and they stay the night (chastely) in his cottage, thanks to a severe storm. Her virtue compromised, her relatives insist they marry. She’s attracted to him, but refuses to have him marry her out of obligation, and carries on to London. Logan, who had previously rejected the notion of marriage after an engagement gone wrong, decides to pursue Jillian in London, but his former fiancé is eager to try again, and does not care for competition. Notwithstanding the opening attempt on her life, the stakes are relatively low, but this is a sweet story that comes together nicely, and even includes a happy ending for one of the bad guys. Jessamine’s Folly, Suzanne G. Rogers, 2014 Another sweet Edwardian historical, more complicated than The Ice Captain’s Daughter, but still concerned primarily with manners and propriety. The sudden death of Jessamine’s parents leaves her without a dowry, and the estate is entailed away from her. After enduring a few years of cruelty from relatives (reminiscent of Cinderella), she finds employment as a companion/governess to Lord Kirkendale’s sister. Sparks fly between the Lord and Jessamine, but she is conscious of her standing (thanks in part to other staff), and he is obliged to marry another. The plot is enriched with subplots of the sister’s romance, a scandalous aunt, and scheming cousins and rivals in both families.