<i>Knight Protector</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Knight Protector: Exclusive Excerpt Rue Allyn "Desire raced in his heart, and his head swam." <i>Out of Nowhere</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Out of Nowhere: Exclusive Excerpt Roan Parrish "We kiss so slow it’s like melting together." <i>Follow Me Into Darkness</i>: Excerpt Follow Me Into Darkness: Excerpt Santino Hassell, Roan Parrish, J.R. Gray, J.C. Lillis and Kris Ripper <i>To Catch a Rake</i>: Exclusive Excerpt To Catch a Rake: Exclusive Excerpt Sally Orr “If not a touch, perhaps a pleasing stroke in just the right place?”
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Mon
Dec 21 2015 2:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2015, Part 2

Radiance by Grace Draven

Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.

It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 2 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1, and stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4:

Maggie Boyd:

My number one pick for Best of 2015 is Radiance by Grace Draven. I've re-read this book numerous times since purchasing it and have recommended it to anyone who stands still long enough to listen. It's the story of an arranged marriage between two different species - Brishen Khaskem is a prince of the Kai, a second son whose only marital worth is to secure an allegiance. Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, is valuable only as a pawn in a strategic marriage. To the Kai, the Gauri look repellent with their round eyes, square teeth and mollusk colored skin. To the Gauri the Kai look like monsters with their razor sharp claws, fang like teeth and eel like coloring. But brave hearts and compassionate souls are the makeup of our hero and heroine and they forge a bond that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with love.

[More greats reads for the end of the year ...]

Sun
Dec 20 2015 10:30am

Wishing You a Mary Christmas: Mary Balogh Holiday Stories, 2015 Edition

A Regency Christmas III by Mary Balogh, Sandra Heath, Melinda McRae, Edith Layton, and Mary Jo Putney

This week I changed my playlist to my Christmas setting. Most of the songs on the list I have heard countless times, but listening to them again always leaves me with a smile on my face, a lump in my throat, and a feeling that, to borrow a phrase from Dickens, I am honoring Christmas in my heart. Mary Balogh’s Christmas stories give me the same feeling. It is hardly surprising then that I started my Christmas celebration a little early this year by downloading Christmas Gifts and Christmas Miracles, two newly reissued collections of Balogh’s Christmas novellas. With these six stories and the four included in Balogh’s 2003 collection Under the Mistletoe, all ten of Balogh’s novellas from Signet Regency Christmas anthologies are now available.

Christmas Gifts includes “The Best Christmas Ever” (1991, A Regency Christmas III), “The Porcelain Madonna” (1992, A Regency Christmas IV), and “The Surprise Party” (1995, A Regency Christmas VII). All three have a poignant note, feature children, and end with unexpected gifts.

In the first story, Edwin Gwent, Viscount Radbrook, only son of the Earl and Countess of Crampton, is concerned because his five-year-old daughter Anna does not join her cousins in the family tradition of making a Christmas wish before the fire the night before Christmas Eve. Anna has not spoken since her mother accidentally drowned trying to retrieve Anna’s ball. That happened more than two years ago, and Anna, who lost her voice after screaming for two days, has lived in silence since then. However, she has other ways of making her preferences known, and she makes it clear she prefers Miss Emma Milford to the beautiful Miss Chadwick whom her father is considering as his next bride. Anna’s undeclared wish was for a new mama, “someone very quiet and ordinary. Someone who smells of roses. Someone with soft, slim hands.” But Emma shattered Lord Radbrook’s heart nine years ago when she allowed her parents to persuade her to reject the young viscount’s offer of marriage. Even his daughter’s inexplicable choice of Emma’s company is not enough to make Lord Radbrook risk his heart—and his pride—again, but Christmas can work magic in the hearts of small children and in the scarred hearts of adults as well.

[Balogh has a special place for Christmas and it reads well ...]

Thu
Dec 17 2015 2:30pm

Dancing Under the Mistletoe: Top 3 2015 Historical Christmas Anthologies

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Anne Gracie, Patricia Rice, Cara Elliott, and Susan King

Historical Christmas anthologies are among my most anticipated holiday treats. They are the perfect reading for the season because I can read a full story between baking batches of Christmas goodies, while waiting for more energetic family members to race through one more store at the mall, or while enjoying a cup of spiced cider before gift wrapping. In the digital age, these anthologies have increased in number. I have read a dozen or so this year and have found something to please my romance-loving, Christmas-cherishing taste in most of them, but three earned a spot on my Christmas keeper shelf so that I can reread them during holiday seasons to come.

1. The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Anne Gracie, Patricia Rice, Cara Elliott, and Susan King

This is the second anthology from this group known collectively as the blogging Word Wenches, and it is my favorite of this year’s offerings. I think it is even better than their first anthology, Mischief and Mistletoe. The prologue (written by Jo Beverley) opens with the Dowager Countess of Holbourne, familiarly known as Lady Holly, reminiscing about past Christmas balls as her companion writes invitations to the fiftieth such ball. Lady Holly, who takes pride in the matches made at her balls, has carefully included on her guest list those she deems most in need of a match. In fact, some might say that the Christmas ball is their last chance for an HEA.

One strength of this anthology is the bounty of good stories—eight of them. Another is that the voice of each author comes through clearly.

[HEA's for the holidays ...]

Tue
Dec 15 2015 9:30am

First Look: Bliss Bennet’s A Man Without a Mistress (December 15, 2015)

A Man without a Mistress by Bliss BennetBliss Bennet
A Man Without a Mistress
Bliss Bennet / December 15, 2015 / $3.99 digital

In the second book of her Penningtons series, Bliss Bennet gives readers a heroine who refuses to accept the neatly labeled box into which her culture and her family try to force her. Sibilla Pennington has her own idea of what her life should be, and it does not include marriage. Her aunt and her brothers are all committed to seeing her safely wed, trusting that marriage will tame her unconventional ways, but Sibilla, reared by a politically astute father to become a political hostess deftly advancing the cause of “temperate reform,” is determined to keep her promise to her dying father. She believes that she can persuade Theo, her eldest brother, to take his place in the House of Lords, following in their father’s footsteps as a respected and able politician. She plans to serve as her brother’s hostess. Her marriage is unnecessary.

Yes, I’ll see that Theo takes up the cause in your stead, she’d whispered by her father’s   deathbed. And I won’t forget it, either. Not like Jane Carson, and Cissy Hubbard, and the others who abandoned politics as soon as they married. Husband and household, bedding, breeding, and babies—it all left wives far too little time for any pursuit beyond the domestic. No, far better to remain right here at Pennington House, working by her brother’s side, than to risk taking on a husband.

[Enter Sir Peregrine Sayre...]

Mon
Nov 9 2015 12:30pm

First Look: Terri Osburn’s Our Now and Forever (November 10, 2015)

Our Now and Forever by Terri Osburn

Terri Osburn
Our Now and Forever (Ardent Springs #2)
Montlake / November 10, 2015 / $9.99 print, $5.49 digital

When Caleb McGraw sweeps Snow Cameron off her feet, she never expects their whirlwind romance to lead to a Vegas wedding chapel. Before she can catch her breath, Caleb starts talking kids and college funds while his wealthy parents make their disapproval painfully clear. Convinced she was blinded by lust, not love, Snow takes off for Ardent Springs, Tennessee, two months into the marriage.

Heir to a media conglomerate, Caleb never experienced struggle or rejection, until Snow sends him on a wild hunt for his runaway bride. When he finally finds her—managing a curiosity shop beloved by the quirky locals—she agrees to give the marriage another chance, but on one condition: no sex for a month. Can their love stand the test, or will they give in to their attraction.

In this humorous and heartwarming Ardent Springs romance, two lost hearts start over in a town where everyone deserves a second chance and love always wins in the end.

Small-town romance novels are filled with characters who return home to reunite with a former love and live happily ever after. In fact, that is exactly what happened in His First and Last, the first book in Terri Osburn’s Ardent Springs series, but in Our Now and Forever, the second book, two people from separate worlds find a world they can share and in which their love can thrive in Ardent Springs.

[How long can you go without? ...]

Sat
Nov 7 2015 3:45pm

Sparkle with Substance: The Romance Novels of Tessa Dare

The Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa DareMany readers first became aware of Tessa Dare when she was competing in Avon’s first FanLit contest in 2006. Dare went on to take top honors in that competition. Her winning entry “Forget Me Not” was published in the HarperCollins e-book These Wicked Games, and her debut novel, Goddess of the Hunt, was published three years later by Ballantine Books. 

Critical reception was enthusiastic, with Goddess of the Hunt receiving starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and a Top Pick from Romantic Times. Dare’s deft characterization, her wit and humor, and sensual appeal all earned praise. PW observed, “Dare seems to have fit all the best of romance into one novel.” Goddess of the Hunt was named Best First Historical Romance in the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice awards and appeared on the American Library Association’s 2009 “Reading List” for outstanding genre fiction.

RT declared that Dare was “on the path to stardom,” and readers were just as enthusiastic. They chose Dare as 2009 Debut Author of the Year in the annual poll at All About Romance, and Dare generated considerable buzz on social media. Although Surrender of a Siren and A Lady of Persuasion, the other books in the series that came to be known as the Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy, did not generate the love that Goddess of the Hunt received, they earned generally high marks, and Dare’s wit and humor were widely praised.

Dare’s use of humor is definitely a significant part of her appeal for me. Like other Dare fans, I can point to favorite scenes that make her one of my top authors for the humorous romance. One such scene is the opening of Goddess of the Hunt in which Lucy Waltham decides that her old friend Jeremy Trescott, Earl of Kendall, is the perfect partner with whom to practice her seduction skills. Jeremy’s reaction—well, I’ll let the scene speak to that.

[And what a scene it is...]

Thu
Oct 22 2015 12:00pm

First Look: Sally Kilpatrick’s Bittersweet Creek (October 27, 2015)

Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick

Sally Kilpatrick
Bittersweet Creek
Kensington / October 27, 2015 / $15.00 print, $10.99 digital

From the author of The Happy Hour Choir comes a Romeo and Juliet story with Southern flair—witty, warm, and as complex and heart-wrenching as only love and family can be.

For a century and a half, the Satterfield and McElroy farms have been separated by a narrow creek and a whole lot of bad blood. Both sides have done their share of damage. But the very worst crime either family can commit is to fall in love with the enemy. As teenagers, Romy Satterfield and Julian McElroy did exactly that. Then, on the night they were secretly married by a justice of the peace, Julian stood Romy up.

Ten years later, Romy is poised to marry the scion of one of Nashville's most powerful families. First she has to return home to Ellery to help her injured father—and to finalize her divorce. For Julian, seeing Romy again brings into relief the secrets he's kept and the poison that ran through his childhood. Romy has missed the farm and the unpretentious, downright nosy townsfolk. In spite of her efforts, she's also missed Julian. But though she suspects there's more to that long-ago night than Julian ever revealed, the truth will either drive her away for good, or reveal what is truly worth fighting for. . .

If you mixed Romeo and Juliet with The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, added a bit of Sweet Home Alabama for levity, and then set the mix to a soundtrack that included repeats of Kenny and Dolly singing “Islands in the Stream,” you might end up with something approaching Sally Kilpatrick's Bittersweet Creek. Romy Satterfield even refers to herself and Julian McElroy as “star-crossed lovers.” After all, their families have been neighbors and enemies since before the Civil War, and a long history of fights, fires, and deaths testifies to the enmity.

[Lots of drama to look forward to...]

Thu
Sep 17 2015 12:30pm

The Adventures of Sam and Nick: Marie Force’s Fatal Series

Fatal Affair by Marie Force

Note: This post may contain spoilers for all books in Marie Force's Fatal series. We tried to be careful, but sometimes you just can't contain explaining just how awesome a couple is, and in the case of Sam and Nick, well, that meant revealing a few tidbits. Reader beware!

No list of my favorite fictional couples would be complete without Marie Force’s Sam and Nick. In late May 2010, Carina Press published Fatal Affair, the first book in Force’s Fatal series which features Nicholas Cappuano, best friend and chief of staff for Senator John O’Connor, and Detective Sergeant Samantha Holland of the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department. When the popular young senator is brutally murdered and Sam is assigned to the case, she chooses not to disclose that she and Nick had a memorable close encounter of the intimate kind six years earlier. (The novella, One Night with You, released in June 2015, tells the story of their one night stand.)

Sam’s career took a hit when a child was killed in a shoot-out Sam ordered at a crack house.  She needs to stay on this high profile case and solve it for herself, her chief, and her department to offset the negative press they have received since the shoot-out went awry. She tells herself that her relationship with Nick will remain strictly professional during the case, but the chemistry between the two is as explosive as the case itself.  From the moment Sam learns the identity of the victim, she is “surprised and unsettled to discover the memory of [Nick] still had power over her, that just the sound of his name rolling off her lips could make her heart race.”  Nick’s awareness of Sam is no less powerful. Even in his shock and grief, he can’t help wondering where they might be if she had received his messages after that one memorable night.

[Adventures with Fatal's Sam and Nick ...]

Tue
Sep 15 2015 3:30pm

First Look: Connie Brockway’s Highlander Undone (September 15, 2015)

Connie Brockway
Highlander Undone
Montlake / September 15, 2015 / $6.98 print, $4.99 digital

While recovering at his uncle’s estate from wounds sustained in the Sudan, Jack Cameron—a loyal Scottish captain in the British army—is haunted by the words of a dying officer: one of Her Majesty’s Black Dragoons is aiding the slavers they were sent to suppress. But how will he find the traitor without sending the culprit to ground? He finds a way while listening to the voices beneath his open window—particularly those of Addie Hoodless, a beautiful widow, and her brother, Ted, a famed artist commissioned to paint portraits of the Black Dragoons’ senior officers.

Posing as an artist, Jack decides to infiltrate the close circle of friends at Ted’s studio to listen in on the unguarded conversations of the officers. But first, he must win Addie’s trust despite the emotional wounds of her past. Will Jack dupe the only woman he has ever loved or stand down from hunting the traitor? If his real identity is exposed, Addie’s life will be in terrible danger.

Several years ago, Bookbug on the Web asked around 200 romance authors what qualities a hero should always have. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequent answers across subgenres was a strong sense of honor. If honor is essential for a character to be considered hero material, what happens when a hero is faced with a choice that forces him to violate his honor no matter what he does? This is the situation in which Jack Cameron finds himself.

[He is the definiton of a hero ...]

Mon
Aug 24 2015 8:30am

First Look: Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the Knot (August 25, 2015)

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare
When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After #3)
Avon / August 25, 2015 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

In When a Scot Ties the Knot, the third novel of her Castles Ever After series (after Romancing the Duke and Say Yes to the Marquess), Tessa Dare chooses a liar and a blackmailer as her heroine and hero—not exactly what readers expect of the lead characters in a Regency historical romance. Madeline Eloise Gracechurch is a most atypical heroine in ways other than her less than faithful adherence to truth. Rather than having aspirations of becoming a belle, she is a Cinderella wannabe.

Oh, to be Cinderella in all her soot-smeared, rag-clad misery. Maddie would have been thrilled to have a wicked stepmother lock her in the tower while everyone else went to the ball. Instead, she was stuck with a very different sort of stepmother—one eager to dress her in silks, send her to dances, and thrust her into the arms of an unsuspecting prince.

[Maddie prefers Cinderella over belle...]

Sun
Aug 23 2015 1:30pm

First Look: Robyn Carr’s Wildest Dreams (August 25, 2015)

Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point #9)
Mira / August 25, 2015 / $8.99 print, $6.99 digital

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he's never had. In the quiet coastal town he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes. 

Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son, Charlie, are fixtures at Winnie Banks' house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, Lin Su is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie's health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions she doesn't want to answer. 

When Charlie enlists Blake's help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue, and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

Robyn Carr may not have invented the small-town romance, but she certainly qualifies as one of the most successful authors in the popular subgenre. Her breakout Virgin River series was introduced in 2007 with a trilogy: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, and Whispering Rock. By the time the series ended in 2012, annual sales had reached almost 2.2 million copies in print and digital, and Carr had moved from a midlist author to a perennial bestseller. The following year Carr introduced the Thunder Point series with The Wanderer, The Newcomer, and The Hero. In the first book, Hank Cooper, former Army helicopter pilot, arrives in Thunder Point after spending time in Virgin River with his friend Luke Riordan (Temptation Ridge, Virgin River #6).

[Small town love needs a strong community...]

Tue
Jun 9 2015 10:00am

First Look: Mary Balogh’s Only a Promise (June 9, 2015)

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh
Only a Promise (Survivor's Club #5)
Signet / June 9, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on...and find a wife so as to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes an outrageous suggestion: Strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

In the fifth book in her Survivors’ Club series, Mary Balogh proves that she can take a marriage of convenience, one of the oldest and most frequently used tropes in romance fiction, and create a story that is original and unmistakably Balogh. Only a Promise is a tale of two unhappy people uncertain of their very identities who marry with limited expectations and in the process discover themselves as well as a happily-ever-after.

[How deep do the vows go?]

Tue
Jun 2 2015 8:30am

First Look: Anne Gracie’s The Spring Bride (June 2, 2015)

The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie
The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3)
Berkley / June 2, 2015 / $7.99 print, $7.99 digital

On the eve of the London Season, Jane Chance is about to make her entrance into high society. And after a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane intends to make a good, safe, sensible marriage. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog.

Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable—a former spy, now in disguise, he’s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane Chance for his own.

If that means blazing his way into London society, in whatever guise suits him, that’s what he’ll do. Jane knows she shouldn’t fall in love with this unreliable, if devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined—and he‘s a man accustomed to getting what he wants.

Anne Gracie channels Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and fairy tales, most obviously Cinderella, in this third book of her Chance Sisters series, and the result is an enchanting story in which the hero and heroine save one another. 

Gracie uses quotations from the novels of Jane Austen as epigrams for each chapter, and early in the story Jane Chance first encounters Zachary Black in an episode involving a rescued mutt that would have delighted Heyer’s Arabella, who understands the appeal of unprepossessing, endangered canines. However, it is the fairy tale theme that is woven into the story in a fashion that both evokes and subverts the original tales.

[The story goes on...]

Thu
May 21 2015 4:00pm

First Look: Shannon Stacey’s Under the Lights (May 26, 2015)

Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey

Shannon Stacey
Under the Lights (Boys of Fall #1)
Jove / May 26, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…

Chase Sanders’s life has taken a lot of crazy turns lately. But returning to his hometown to help his old coach keep his high school football team afloat might be the craziest thing to happen to him yet. That is, until he starts falling for the last person he should—Coach’s gorgeous daughter…

Kelly McDonnell learned the hard way that cocky, charming men are nothing but trouble, so she knows Chase is bad news. Still, she can’t resist his smile—or the rest of him. But when his loyalty to her father conflicts with their growing attraction, any hope for a relationship might be blocked before it can even begin…

Shannon Stacey adds a new twist to the sports romance with her Boys of Fall series in which the heroes are not professional athletes or even college stars (current or former), but rather former members of a high school football team that won the first championship for tiny Stewart Mills, New Hampshire. Fourteen years later, the town is suffering from the economic downturn, and one result is a tight education budget that means cutting the football team. Kelly McDonnell, daughter of the town’s beloved football coach, and her friends Jen Cooper and Gretchen Walker spearhead a fundraising effort to save the team with a festival that includes an exhibition game between the current team and members of that first championship team. Although the romance between Kelly and Chase Sanders, running back on that famous team, is the heart of Under the Lights, the novel is also a portrait of football and its role in small-town America.

[A little football and small town romance goes a long way...]

Wed
May 20 2015 1:00pm

From Merchant Heiress to Countess: Cross-Class Romance in Mary Balogh’s Traditional Regencies, Part 2

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh

This post is Part 2 of a two-part series exploring the cross-class romances featured in many of Mary Balogh's traditional Regency romances. For the other types of cross-class romances Balogh has written, see here for Part 1.

The Middle-Class Protagonist

In Mary Balogh's three novels with middle-class protagonists, she presents families from the merchant class as warm, loving boisterous clans whose open-hearted affection for one another is contrasted with the formal and sometimes cold family life of their social superiors. The hero of A Christmas Promise (1992), Randolph Pierce, the new Earl of Falloden, has inherited heavy debts along with his title. Joseph Transome, an immensely wealthy coal merchant, wants to see his daughter and heiress, safely married before his death. Transome purchases all of Falloden’s debts and offers to cancel them and to settle half of his fortune on Falloden if the earl agrees to marry Transome’s nineteen-year-old daughter. If Falloden refuses to marry Eleanor within the month, Transome will call in the debts, and Falloden will go to debtor’s prison. Reluctantly, Falloden agrees to marry Eleanor immediately, to bed her within a week of the marriage, and to live in the same house with her for at least the first year of the marriage.

Eleanor is no more eager for the marriage than is Falloden. Each is in love with a member of his/her own class, and each has firm class prejudices. The earl expects Ellie to be a “loud and vulgar creature,” insensitive and incapable of entering the “the ranks of his class.” She may be a beauty, but he is convinced she will be the very antithesis of the “delicate and delectable Dorothea” with whom he has been in love for the past year. Ellie concedes that Falloden is handsome, but she also believes him to be a “harsh and a proud man . . . the sort of man who lived an idle life . . . a spendthrift and probably a gamer.” She is persuaded he will be nothing like the hardworking cousin whom she had hoped to marry.

[Class, wealth, love and more of Mary Balogh's cross-class romances...]

Wed
May 13 2015 9:00am

Fall from Grace: Cross-Class Romance in Mary Balogh’s Traditional Regencies, Part 1

A Chance Encounter by Mary Balogh

This post is Part 1 of a two-part series exploring the cross-class romances featured in many of Mary Balogh's traditional Regency romances. Part 2 will be coming soon!

The cross-class romance has historically been one of the most popular tropes in romance fiction. In A Natural History of the Romance Novel, all of the novels Pamela Regis includes in her discussion of “The Romance Novel, 1740-1908,” including Pamela (1740), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Jane Eyre (1847), involve cross-class romances. Lists of cross-class romances such as the approximately 250 novels on All about Romance’s “Across the Tracks” list suggest that the popularity of the trope has continued through the late twentieth century and into the current century. But perhaps no romance author has written more cross-class novels than has Mary Balogh.

Balogh began her career in 1985 with the publication of three Signet Regencies. The third, A Chance Encounter, published in December of that year, was the author’s first use of the cross-class trope. In her thirty-year career, Balogh has returned to the trope more than twenty times, most recently in Only Enchanting (2014), the fourth book in the Survivors’ Club series. These books include some of her most beloved works and some that are rarely read now except by devoted fans. The cross-class romances among her traditional regencies can be divided into three groups based on characters: the gently born lady fallen on hard times and forced into service; the lady turned prostitute in order to survive; and the middle-class protagonist (which will be explored in Part 2).

The “Servant” Heroine

A Chance Encounter belongs in the first group. Elizabeth Rossiter is of gentle birth, but she has been forced to seek employment as governess to Cecily Rowe. Treated as a member of the family by the Rowes, Elizabeth has found a welcome sanctuary in their home for six years. She has no reason to suspect that the arrival of William Mainwaring, a “single man in possession of a good fortune” whose presence in the community has all of Granby abuzz, will jeopardize her peace, but when Mainwaring and his guests call on the Rowes, Elizabeth finds that one of the guests is Robert Denning, Marquess of Hetherington, a man Elizabeth has been trying to forget. Based on a misunderstanding and with a heroine many readers find annoyingly stubborn, Chance Encounter is not one of Balogh’s most popular romances, but it does serve to demonstrate her interest in cross-class matches early in her career.

[Should we call her the cross-class romance Queen?]

Fri
May 8 2015 8:30am

First Look: Mary McNear’s Moonlight on Butternut Lake (May 12, 2015)

Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNearMary McNear
Moonlight on Butternut Lake
William Morrow / May 12, 2015 / $14.99 print, $10.99 digital

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Up at Butternut Lake comes the third novel in the Butternut Lake series—a dazzling story of two wounded souls seizing a second chance at life and love

On the run from her abusive husband, Mila Jones flees Minneapolis for the safety and serenity of Butternut Lake. Ready to forge a new life, Mila’s position as home health aide to Reid Ford is more than a job. It’s a chance at a fresh start. Though her sullen patient seems determined to make her quit, she refuses to give up on him.

Haunted by the car accident that nearly killed him, Reid retreats to his brother’s cabin on Butternut Lake and lashes out at anyone who tries to help. Reid wishes Mila would just go away...until he notices the strength, and the secrets, behind her sad, brown eyes.

Against all odds, Mila slowly draws Reid out. Soon they form a tentative, yet increasingly deeper, bond as Mila lowers her guard and begins to trust again, and Reid learns how to let this woman who has managed to crack through his protective shell into his life. While the seemingly endless days of summer unfold, Reid and Mila take the first steps to healing as they discover love can be more than just a dream.

In some romance novels, the hero saves the heroine. In others, admittedly fewer in number, the heroine saves the hero. My favorites are the novels in which the hero and heroine save one another. That is exactly what happens in the third novel of Mary McNear’s Butternut Creek trilogy. Mila Jones and Reid Ford are both survivors. Mila has survived marriage to an emotionally and physically abusive husband, and Reid has survived an automobile accident that left him trapped in his wrecked vehicle for three days before help came. But in both cases, the survivor is caught in a kind of half-life in which fear of what they have escaped imprisons them. But as the attraction between them gradually develops, they open themselves to love and to the wonders of the ordinary.

[It's a slow burn...]

Fri
Apr 17 2015 8:30am

First Look: Terri Osburn’s His First and Last (April 21, 2015)

His First and Last by Terri OsburnTerri Osburn
His First and Last (Ardent Springs #1) 
Montlake / April 21, 2015 / $12.95 print, $4.99 digital

At eighteen, Lorelei Pratchett couldn’t wait to get out of her hometown. Twelve years later, her Hollywood dreams have fizzled and she’s back—temporarily, she thinks. Though she throws herself into saving the old theater and starting a baking business, small towns have long memories, and Lorelei’s wild past still haunts her. It doesn’t help that her ex-boyfriend, Spencer Boyd, is even hotter, smarter, and more distracting than before.

The fiery Lorelei that Spencer knew years ago may have become closed off and cautious, but their chemistry hasn’t faded one bit. Losing her a second time is unthinkable to him, yet Lorelei is convinced she doesn’t belong in Ardent Springs. Somehow, Spencer needs to show her that everything she needs is right here: family, friendship, new beginnings…and a man who’s never stopped loving her.

Warm, sexy, and laugh-out-loud funny, His First and Last is an irresistible story of first love and second chances.

The reunion trope has long been a staple of romance fiction, and in the first book of her Ardent Springs series, Terri Osburn gives readers a book with multiple reunions. Paramount, of course, is the reunion of the hero and heroine, but Lorelei Pratchett is also reunited with Ardent Springs and its citizens. She left a dozen years earlier after breaking her brief engagement and telling the people of her hometown how eager she was to shake the dust of their dead-end world and its hypocritical inhabitants. Now she is back, disillusioned and more fearful about her reception than she is willing to admit. Understandably, the town is not eager to embrace this prodigal, but a second chance brings surprising rapprochement.

[Second time's the charm?...]

Tue
Apr 7 2015 9:45am

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s The Duke’s Disaster (April 7, 2015)

The Duke's Disaster by Grace BurrowesGrace Burrowes
The Duke’s Disaster (True Gentlemen #1)
Sourcebooks Casablanca / April 7, 2015 / $7.99 print, $6.15 digital

Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm, spent months sorting and courting the year's crop of debutantes in search of an ideal bride. When the sweet, biddable young thing he selected accepts another's proposal, Noah decides to court her companion instead.

Thea Collins, though, is anything but biddable. She has learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted, especially the handsome ones. When she reluctantly accepts, Noah rushes Thea to the altar before she can reveal her deepest secret. Can she finally move on from her past, or will it come back to haunt her?

Pragmatism is not a quality many romance readers would include in a description of the perfect hero, but it is exactly that quality that makes Noah Winters, eighth Duke of Anselm, the perfect hero for Lady Thea Collins in The Duke's Disaster by Grace Burrowes. Anselm is in need of a wife, and when his first choice prefers another suitor, he does not hesitate in proposing to her companion instead. His reasons are practical, as is his forthright proposal.

[Forthright can be a good thing...]

Thu
Mar 12 2015 4:30pm

5 Favorite Families in Historical Romance from James, Chase, Quinn, and More!

Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa JamesWhen Julia Quinn announced that her next book will be a return to the Bridgertons, much discussion ensued among a group of online friends with some cheering for more Bridgerton books and speculating on what we might get and others expressing the opinion that perfection was best not tampered with. I belong to the former group. I love family groups in my historical romances, and the Bridgertons are longtime favorites. I count another thirty family series among my historical keepers, but my top five are books to which I keep retuning again and again, falling in love with the characters more deeply with each reading.

1. Eloisa James's Essex Sisters

Only Austen and Heyer outrank Pleasure for Pleasure, the final book in this series, on my list of all-time favorite romances. It’s a measure of how much I love the series that it holds first place on this list despite the third book which features the third sister Imogen, one of the two Eloisa James characters whom I dislike. Fortunately, a wonderful hero saves the book for me (Taming of the Duke). I adore the other three sisters: the maternal Tess, who feels responsible for her sisters’ happiness (Much Ado About You); the practical Annabel, whose HEA arrives via apparent disaster (Kiss Me, Annabel); and witty, vulnerable Josie who grows up during the series (Pleasure for Pleasure). I also adore all four heroes: luscious Lucius, honorable Ewan, sweet, reforming Rafe, and particularly the rakish Garret Langham, Earl of Mayne, whose character arc across five novels I find endlessly fascinating. I’m also sentimental enough to cherish this series especially because it was my first EJ series. The first book was current when I read “A Fine Romance,” an op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Times under the author’s real name, Mary Bly. In two sentences, she defined my reading experience:

[And many other's we're sure...]