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Showing posts by: Wendy the Super Librarian click to see Wendy the Super Librarian's profile
Feb 16 2016 5:30pm

First Look: Nico Rosso’s Countdown to Zero Hour (February 22, 2016)

Countdown to Zero Hour by Nico Rosso

Nico Rosso
Countdown to Zero Hour (Black Ops: Automatik #1)
Carina Press / February 22, 2016 / $3.49 digital

Former Special Forces agent Artem “Art” Diaz is tattooed, muscular and undeniably dangerous. He's also deep undercover, posing as mob muscle for a deadly bratva boss. His mission: gain the Russians' trust. Then lead the strike team that will take them down.

Chef Hayley Baskov knows better than to get involved with someone with such close mafia ties, but the handsome bodyguard who brought her to this sprawling estate full of ruthless mobsters is inexplicably kind. A little flirtation may keep her safe amid the growing menace.

As Art's timetable for action escalates, so do his encounters with Hayley. Stealing what illicit pleasure they can keeps them both sane in the face of evil. But when things get dangerous, Art has to tell her about his assignment, bringing her deeper into the shadowy world of black ops…and putting her life on the line.

Now Art has a new objective: protect Hayley from the men who'd see them both dead.

I cut my reading teeth gnawing on mysteries, suspense and Gothics of various stripes, which has led me over the years to feel quite strongly that romantic suspense is the hardest romance subgenre to pull off.  The writer has to figure out a way to blend the romance with mystery and danger while somehow satisfying both camps of readers.

[Romantic suspense is hard to pull off, but Nico does a great job ...]

Jan 13 2016 2:30pm

Ringing in the New Year: Not-Your-Usual Historical Best Bets for January 2016

Less Than a Lady by Eva Devon

A new year means new beginnings, and a whole new crop of not-your-usual historical romances to land on your shopping list!  This month features new books from fan favorites, new releases in series and a bumper crop of actresses and servants.


Less Than a Lady by Eva Devon

To win a lord, you can’t be a lady…

Darcy Blake, Earl of Chase, is a soldier, rogue, and a loyal King’s man. Commanded to spy on the luscious actress Amelia Fox, Darcy must pretend to be her student for a court theatrical. He is certain he can school her in the art of seduction while discovering if she is a traitor. But to his shock, he finds Mrs. Fox teaching him an entirely different kind of lesson.

As London’s most popular actress, Amelia is famous at court, and she doesn’t have a husband to tell her what do. Unfortunately, the king has ordered her to train the rakehell, Lord Chase to act for the court. Before long, the Earl is driving her wild with desire and awakening her heart to love. As an actress, society dictates she can never be more than Lord Chase’s mistress, and Amelia has vowed never to be less than a lady.

When Darcy learns the witty actress is indeed linked to a traitor, he’ll have to decide if love or loyalty will rule the day.

A former Golden Heart winner, Devon has also published romances under the name Maire Claremont–most notably the dark Victorian Mad Passions series.

[2016 is bringing us many historical best bets ...]

Dec 24 2015 3:00pm

Stepping Back in Time: Reliving Some of the Best Not-Your-Usual Historicals of 2015

Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner

I have a deep, abiding affection for historical romance and while I like Regencies as much as the next gal, I’ve always been drawn to those historicals that veer a little bit off-the-beaten path. This is why I love putting together the monthly Not-Your-Usual Historicals column for H&H. I love seeking out historicals that feature unique elements, different characters and unusual settings. Some months there are just a few titles to highlight and other months it’s a bonanza. Here at H&H, we thought it would be fun to take a look back and highlight some of our favorites from 2015.

Outlaw Hearts and Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

Remember when historical romances read like sagas? Do you miss those days? Well Bittner’s now-series (20+ years in the making!) should be right up your alley. Reprinted by Sourcebooks this year, Outlaw Hearts was first published in 1993 and tells the story of a heroine who has lost everything and a hero who is a notorious gunslinger and wanted man. A favorite among fans (and the author!) the book saw further new life with the publication of Do Not Forsake Me, a brand new story featuring the same couple 26 years later. The author has announced that books three and four are currently in the works, so saga fans have even more to look forward to in 2016!

[Some of the best historicals of 2015 to read ...]

Dec 21 2015 3:00pm

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 ...]

Dec 15 2015 4:00pm

Not-Your-Usual Historical Romance Best Bets for December 2015

The Lady Who Lived Again by Thomasine Rappold

The perfect picture this time of year is a reader, cozily snuggled up in their favorite chair, next to a roaring fire, immersed in whatever their latest lovely read may be.  The reality is that more often than not we’re all running around half-crazed trying to get everything set to rights before the holidays hit.  So why not take a moment to relax and unwind, or just do a little shopping for yourself this holiday season?  There are lots of tempting not-your-usual historicals on sale this month, and if you’re a medieval lover?  Well my friend, your ship has come in!


The Lady Who Lived Again by Thomasine Rappold

Madeleine Sutter was once the belle of the ball at the popular resort town of Misty Lake, New York. But as the sole survivor of the community’s worst tragedy, she’s come under suspicion. Longing for the life she once enjoyed, she accepts a rare social invitation to the event of the season. Now she will be able to show everyone she’s the same woman they’d always admired—with just one hidden exception: she awoke from the accident with the ability to heal.

Doctor Jace Merrick has fled the failures and futility of city life to start anew in rural Misty Lake. A man of science, he rejects the superstitious chatter surrounding Maddie and finds himself drawn to her confidence and beauty. And when she seduces him into a sham engagement, he agrees to be her ticket back into society, if she supports his new practice—and reveals the details of her remarkable recovery. But when his patients begin to heal miraculously, Jace may have to abandon logic, accept the inexplicable—and surrender to a love beyond reason…

I don’t always highlight historicals with paranormal elements, but I kick off this month with two of them. Rappold is a three-time Golden Heart finalist and her debut novel is the first in her Sole Survivor series for Kensington Lyrical.

[We have picked these historicals for you ...]

Nov 19 2015 2:30pm

A Bountiful Cornucopia: Not-Your-Usual Historicals Best Bets for November 2015

A Treasure of Gold by Piper Huguley

November means Thanksgiving, spending time reflecting on our many blessings and trying not to throttle Aunt Gertrude over the turkey when she makes yet another snide comment that you can’t seem to hang on to a man.  In the name of family harmony, why not ignore ol’ Aunt Gertie by diving into a historical romance?  The options this month are plentiful!

20th Century!

A Treasure of Gold by Piper Huguley

When you follow your heart, never count the cost.

Migrations of the Heart, Book 3

Trusting in the One who orders her steps, Nettie Bledsoe is determined not to deviate from her route to the charity kitchen. Don’t stop for anything, her sisters say. Pittsburgh isn’t like Georgia, they warn.

Yet when low moans of unholy suffering drift from an alley, she can’t help but investigate. It’s a man. The most beautiful man she’s ever seen. Despite his scandalous reputation, something within her responds to his sinfully rich voice. 

Jay Evans is trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, and doesn’t want help from any church do-gooder. But until his wound heals, he needs help caring for his young daughter, Goldie. Especially since Nettie saw fit to fire Goldie’s barely competent nanny. 

Despite their mismatched backgrounds, Nettie and Jay fight a losing battle against their growing attraction. But it’s only when Nettie is kidnapped that Jay realizes that if he doesn’t get her back safe and sound, his heart will shatter into uncountable pieces.

This third book in Huguley’s Migrations of the Heart series follows middle sister Nettie as she learns to navigate the urban streets of Pittsburgh after leaving rural Georgia behind.  The beautiful cover is also a finalist for RT Book Reviews Best Cover of the Month poll.

[Enticing historicals to get you through the Thanksgiving ...]

Nov 10 2015 2:00pm

Please Madam, May I Have Some More?: A Not-Your-Usual Historicals Wishlist for 2016

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

What I appreciate the most about the romance genre is you can literally find just about any type of book to fit your mood.  I can read a tortured vampire hero one day and the next I can pick up a sweet just-kisses category romance.  But even as much as I love variety, historical romance will likely always be my favorite.  However it’s hard for me as a reader to have a steady diet of just one thing – so I’m always on the lookout for historical romances that give me something a little different.  I’m a girl who cannot live on Dukes alone, and while every month Not-Your-Usual Historical Best Bets for October 2015 brings a variety of not-your-usual historicals to choose from, I’m just selfish enough to always want more.  What more could a girl possibly want?  Well, let me tell you.


I get it. I truly do. Dukes and gently born ladies dressed in finery provide readers with a ready-made fairy tale. And while that’s all well and good, what I really want is less upstairs and more downstairs. Maids, butlers, housekeepers, valets, yes please! Beneath this cynical candy shell beats the heart of a true romantic. In other words, I like to believe that footmen were capable of falling in love just as well as Viscounts.

In Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist, the heroine is a parlor maid with her sights set on becoming the lady’s maid to Mrs. Vanderbilt. However her careful plans go awry when she meets our hero, a new hire at the estate who needs a serious makeover. What makes this book so wonderful is that while the Vanderbilts play healthy secondary roles, it’s not their romance. It’s the romance of a lady’s maid and a wannabe footman. How can you not want more of this?

[A variety of historical plots for your pleasure ...]

Oct 22 2015 5:00pm

Plenty of Treats, No Tricks: Not-Your-Usual Historical Best Bets for October 2015

Star Dust by Emma Barry & Genevieve Turner

Historical romance is a lot like trick or treating–you never know what you’re going to get.  You can lurch around one neighborhood in your homemade zombie costume and come up with nothing but mini-boxes of raisins (if Dickens had written “A Halloween Carol,” Scrooge would have given out raisins—yuck!).  However, when you venture two blocks over you discover a wonderland of full-size Snickers bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups.  This month’s offering of not-your-usual historicals is a lot like the latter—there’s a little bit of everything and it all looks tasty!


Star Dust by Emma Barry & Genevieve Turner

Houston, 1962
Anne-Marie Smith wanted normal: a loving husband, two beautiful kids, and a well-kept house. But when she catches her husband cheating, she decides that normal isn’t worth it. Now in a new city with a new job, she’s trying to find her new normal—but she knows it doesn’t include the sexy playboy astronaut next door.

Commander Kit Campbell has a taste for fast: fast cars, fast planes, and even faster women. But no ride he’s ever taken will be as fast as the one he’s taking into orbit. He’s willing to put up with the prying adoration of an entire country if it will get him into space.

But Anne-Marie and Kit’s inconvenient attraction threatens both normal and fast. As the space race heats up, his ambitions and their connection collide and combustion threatens their plans… and their hearts.

When was the last time you read a romance novel set during the Space Race?  Yeah, never.  Barry and Turner partnered up for this self-published endeavor, inspired by their mutual love of early space history. They thought, there’s been books, movies, even TV shows–so why not a romance novel? Why not indeed.

[Fly us to the moon...]

Oct 8 2015 9:30am

First Look: M. O’Keefe’s Everything I Left Unsaid (October 13, 2015)

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O'Keefe

M. O’Keefe
Everything I Left Unsaid 
Bantam / October 13, 2015 / $15.00 print & $7.99 digital

Fans of Jodi Ellen Malpas, K. Bromberg, and Joanna Wylde will be unable to resist this sexy, deeply intimate tale of a woman running from her past, and the darkly mysterious man who sets her free.

I didn’t think answering someone else’s cellphone would change my life. But the stranger with the low, deep voice on the other end of the line tempted me, awakened my body, set me on fire. He was looking for someone else. Instead he found me.

And I found a hot, secret world where I felt alive for the first time.

His name was Dylan, and, strangely, he made me feel safe. Desired. Compelled. Every dark thing he asked me to do, I did. Without question. I longed to meet him, but we were both keeping secrets. And mine were dangerous. If I took the first step, if I got closer to Dylan—emotionally, physically—then I wouldn’t be hiding anymore. I would be exposed, with nothing left to surrender but the truth. And my truth could hurt us both.

I have yet to meet a romance reader who, upon reading a really good book, doesn’t then want to run out and press that book into the hands of other readers.  Librarians do a slight variation of this practice in our professional lives, which we call reader’s advisory.  That practice of matching up the right books with the right readers. Molly O’Keefe’s latest endeavor as M.O’Keefe is the stuff reader’s advisory interviews are made of. It’s a crossover book. It’s an amalgam of romance, women’s fiction and suspense. It’s the kind of book I want to buy a million copies of and give it to every reader who claims they don’t like romance. Buckle your seatbelts kids and prepare to have your mind blown, because you’ll like this one.

[Everyone has a past, but sometimes you can't hide it ...]

Sep 9 2015 4:30pm

Shades of Autumn: Not-Your-Usual Historical Best Bets for September 2015

The Forgotten Daughter by Lauri Robinson

Is summer over yet? As the kids go back to school and we once again settle into a routine, we start coveting falling temperatures and snug autumn days curled underneath the blankets reading a good book. The end of summer brought a wide variety of unusual historicals to choose from, while this start of autumn seems more in tune with familiar, English, settings with some interesting twists.

The Forgotten Daughter by Lauri Robinson

Often the quietest people…

Josie Nightingale has always been the odd girl out. While her sisters swoon over guys, she's busy trying to change the world! Which isn't easy with Eric “Scooter” Wilson watching her every move.

…have the biggest secrets!

She may be out of his league, but the day Scooter rescued Josie from jail and discovered her secret, he vowed he'd do anything to protect her. And if keeping Josie safe means not letting this stubborn dame out of his sight—then so be it!

The final installment in Robinson’s Daughters of the Roaring Twenties series features a good girl with a big secret (ooooh, what could it be!) and a hero who has been pining away for her. Robinson’s next project has her completely switching gears – a Salem Witch Trial story due out from Harlequin in early 2016.

[Fall is near with these historical best bets ...]

Aug 13 2015 1:00pm

Hitting the Books: Not Your Usual Historical Best Bets for August 2015

A Most Precious Pearl by Piper Huguley

August is the time of year we start admitting that summer is almost over and autumn is just around the corner.  The kids are getting ready to go back to school and their parents are more than likely past ready to send them.  If you’re looking to fill out your beach reading for one last gasp of summertime surf and sand, look no further than this month’s intriguing line-up of not-your-usual historical offerings!

20th Century!
A Most Precious Pearl by Piper Huguley

Asa Caldwell returned from the Great War with nothing to show for it—as in nothing below his left knee. Forget about the journalism career he loved. His story is over. Done. 

Yet he finds the strength to journey to Winslow, Georgia, to get Ruby Bledsoe Morson’s sister out of trouble. Before he can bring Mags Bledsoe home, though, a spate of mysterious attacks reawakens his investigative instincts.

During the war, Mags did her duty to God and country by stepping into a management role at the textile mill. Now she’s been shuffled back to the rank and file—and Asa has her hard-earned job. Not only is the infernal man doing everything wrong, her plan for revenge against the mill owner who lynched her childhood sweetheart is farther out of reach than ever.

As they clash over almost everything, Mags begins to set fire to Asa’s soul, bright enough to dim the memory of the killing fields of France. Enough to give him a new mission in life—to make her feel the same way.

This is the second book in the author’s Migrations of the Heart series, which follows the Bledsoe sisters during America’s “Great Migration,” when large numbers of southern, rural African-Americans were relocating to northern urban industrial cities.  The first book, A Virtuous Ruby was an RWA Golden Heart finalist in 2014, and the author has a third book in the series planned for a November 2015 release.

[Where's the time machine?]

Aug 5 2015 9:40am

Let’s Talk About Sex, or Not: Sexual Tension For the Win!

Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein

As long as the romance genre has existed, it has had unimaginative critics.  Sometimes even before the word “trash” is uttered, we get “Mommy porn.”  Women should know their place.  If it’s something you enjoy, if it’s something you take pleasure in, it must be wrong, and nothing screams wrong quite like dismissing readers and suggesting they are “dirty” for liking something.  What these critics are really reinforcing is the old adage that women shouldn’t like sex, talk about sex, and heaven help them, they shouldn’t want sex.  The truth is that if these critics asked a large sample of romance readers why they enjoy the genre, “I read it for the smokin’ hot sex!” is pretty far down on the list, if it’s on the list at all. Oh dear, silly, hopeless naïve critics. We don’t read romance for the sex. We’re looking for all the delicious things that lead up to sex. The tension, the chemistry, the foreplay, two characters who are beginning to realize that taking on the world together is ever so much better than taking it on by themselves.

To illustrate this point, all three of these recent releases, of wildly varying heat levels, illustrate that it’s the not the actual falling into bed we love – it’s the journey the characters take to get there.

[It's not just about the sex...]

Jul 20 2015 11:00am

Fill Your Beach Bag and Grab Your Parasol: Not-Your Usual Historical Best Bets for July 2015

The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal

I’m convinced that in a former life that most librarians were carnival barkers.  We’re book pushers and summertime is our time to shine baby!  Here in the US, with children free from the confines of school, libraries embark on their annual summer reading programs–filled with programs, reading challenges and incentives galore.  Over time libraries have expanded this program to include teens and adults.  Summer reading selections for adults can include everything from trashy celebrity tell-alls to big, fat tomes with literary pedigree.  But what if your summer read of choice is historical romance?  Have no fear!  Because there is a beach-bag bonanza of unusual historical options to entice and intrigue as you lounge by the pool.

Ancient Rome!

The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal

Phaedra, a dutiful daughter of Rome’s most influential senator, has no choice but to marry a man chosen by her father. But a chance encounter with handsome gladiator Valens Secundus sends her pulse racing—and, for the first time, makes her wish she could choose her own fate. They make each other a promise: she’ll insist on having the right to select her next husband, and he’ll do everything within his power to win his freedom.

A gladiatorial champion, Valens has fought his way up from poverty to become a star in the arena. The only two things he craves are his freedom and the luscious Phaedra, both seemingly far out of reach. But four years after their fateful meeting, Phaedra returns to Rome and soon becomes a widow, and Valens answers to no one but himself. They’re finally free to explore their fiery passion—while evading a powerful and wealthy new suitor of Phaedra’s—until Valens must return to the arena one last time. And in order for Phaedra to control her own destiny and claim her love, Valens will need to survive the battle of his life.

Bokal has published a few other titles, but this marks her debut with a big publisher (Amazon Montlake) and also the start of a new series, Champions of Rome.

[So let's be the champions for a few more unusual historicals...]

Jul 2 2015 4:30pm

First Look: Lynne Connolly’s Danger Wears White (July 7, 2015)

Dangers Wears White by Lynne Connolly

Lynne Connolly
Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3)
Lyrical Press / July 7, 2015 / $15.00 print, $4.99 digital

Hoping to live down her family’s connections to the traitorous Jacobite cause, Imogen wants nothing more than a quiet life in the country. When she stumbles upon a wounded man, the white cockade in his coat tells her he’s a Jacobite, and a danger to the crown. Yet there’s something about him she can’t resist . . .

In search of a document on behalf of his powerful family, Tony is shot and left for dead. Secreted away to a hidden chamber, he finds himself both a guest and prisoner of a beautiful but mysterious woman. What she wants and who she serves, he cannot know. But what he does understand is the desire burning strongly between them. And that neither of them will be spared until their lust is sated.

When the action moves to London, suddenly it’s Tony who has to act to save Imogen. Forced to become a lady in waiting to Princess Amelia, she is in peril from the Jacobites, who are convinced she is their salvation. Only the strength of Tony and Imogen’s love can save them now.

Full Disclosure: On top of being a writer, Lynne Connolly is a blogger at Heroes & Heartbreakers and has blogged with Wendy the Super Librarian at The Good, The Bad and the Unread.

[A true Georgian historical about a spy and his heroine...]

Jun 17 2015 2:00pm

Claymores and Cowboys: Not-Your-Usual Historical Romance Best Bets for June 2015

Beauty’s Curse by Tamara Hughes

My monthly endeavor of looking for historical romances that skewer slightly off the beaten path is like a box of chocolates: I never know what I’m going to get.  Sometimes it’s a venerable Whitman’s Sampler of variety and sometimes you get conked over the head with one or two particular themes.  For medieval and western fans, in particular, this is your month.

The High Seas!

Beauty’s Curse by Tamara Hughes

Wherever she goes, catastrophe follows…

England, 1722

Amelia Archer will be the ruin of her family. Her extraordinary bad luck is burden enough, but her sweet, trusting nature often lands her in impossible scrapes. After the last straw, Amelia’s harried father ships his unfortunate daughter off to the Colonies to live with her aunt. But wherever Amelia goes, bad luck is sure to follow…

Pirate David Lamont is taken with the lovely young Englishwoman the moment she’s pulled aboard from her sinking vessel. But sailors are already a superstitious lot and Amelia is unwelcome. In a feat of chivalry, David defends and claims her for himself…

Now their fortunes-for good or ill-are invariably tied. But as much as she longs for him, Amelia cannot allow a romance. For a lady of misfortune can only bring ruin to those she loves…

[More not-your-usual historical Best Bets for June 2015...]

Jun 2 2015 5:15pm

First Look: Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding (June 2, 2015)

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot
Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries #11)
William Morrow / June 2, 2015 / $14.99 print, $9.99 digital

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch.  Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Fifteen years ago Meg Cabot launched her wildly successful young adult series, The Princess Diaries.  I was fresh out of college, newly employed in my first professional job and making up for lost time in the reading for leisure category—something I did not do much of while toiling away on my degrees. I had just discovered the romance genre by way of chick lit and, while it’s hard to recall now, that’s probably what drew me to the this series about a gawky New York City teenager who learns one day that she’s heir to the throne of the fictional principality of Genovia. Written in diary format, with Mia Thermopolis leading the way, I fell hook, line and sinker—laughing my fool head off and swooning in satisfaction when Mia got her happy ending in 2009’s Forever Princess.  It was such a great example of how to end a series, with Cabot hitting all the high notes and wrapping up the series in a way that left this fan totally satisfied. So imagine my delight when I heard that she was resurrecting Mia and the gang for the first adult novel in the series! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.

[And neither can we...]

May 18 2015 4:10pm

Love Is In the Air: Not-Your-Usual Historical Romance Best Bets for May 2015

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

Spring, when a not-so-young-anymore girl’s fancy turns to…..more historical romance! There’s a nice variety of historical romance this month to help you shake up any impending Regency ruts that may have befallen you, but never fear! There are still some English settings to make even the most hearty Anglophile content.


Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

Gist has been slowly moving away from the inspirational subgenre with her last couple of releases taking on a more secular Americana feel.  But fans shouldn’t fear that she’s gone full-blown Fifty Shades on us, she’s still writing some of the strongest sweet romances around.  I liked the Tiffany historical tidbits, and the fact that the characters behaved in an era appropriate manner.  However my favorite parts of this story centered around the boardinghouse that the heroine lives in. 

[More Not-Your-Usual Historical Romance Novels...]

May 15 2015 9:30am

How to Seduce a Billionaire by Portia Da Costa or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Virgins and Billionaires

How to Seduce a Billionaire by Portia Da Costa

If ever a book was created to have me run screaming in the other direction, it was this one.  Twenty-nine year old virgin heroine finds her groove thing with billionaire hero. Typing that last sentence literally gave me an eye twitch.  However, this isn’t your average virgin meets billionaire romance.  No, it’s one written by Portia Da Costa.

This is a concept that non-readers would find absurd, but that all readers, specifically genre readers, will understand.  I trust Portia Da Costa.  I’ve been reading Portia Da Costa for close to fifteen years.  For all intents and purposes, I have built up a relationship with her work and I know that, while I’ve liked some stories more than others, I’ll be in capable hands.  Which means, yes.  I’m going to keep an open mind about the virgin and the billionaire.

Jess Lockhart is an amateur artist with a job as an insurance company drone.  Then said insurance company gets bought out by Ellis McKenna, an eccentric billionaire who pops by the office after the acquisition to ruffle a few feathers.  Instead it’s a whole flurry of hormones that get ruffled, which means the tango between Jess and Ellis begins fast and furiously.

Oh shit. Oh Lord. I want him.  I’ve no practical idea how to do sex, but I want to do it with him, even if I will be the most hopeless lay.

[Her V-card is on the table...]

May 12 2015 4:30pm

The Magnificent 7: Top Western Historicals Not To Be Missed (An Opinionated Opinion)

Always to Remember Lorraine Heath

After years of speculation that never quite seemed to materialize, Westerns finally seem to be making a comeback in the romance genre. The trend towards small town contemporaries has certainly been a driving force, with more cowboys, ranchers, and farmers showing up in contemporaries. This has begun, somewhat, to translate over into historical Westerns. Authors like Jo Goodman and Katy Madison, who were working in English historicals, have transitioned over to historical Westerns and authors with layoffs, like Rosanne Bittner and Linda Broday, have found new contracts.  I have loved historical Westerns from the moment I clamped eyes on the genre, from gritty and lawless to sweet and tender.  Here are some of my favorites:

Always to Remember by Lorraine Heath

Heath wrote several great westerns, but this one is her masterpiece.  Winning a RITA Award in 1997, start to finish this is possibly the best romance novel I’ve ever read.  The heroine has lost her husband and three brothers in the Civil War and is determined to make the hero, a conscientious objector, pay for his perceived cowardice and betrayal.  It’s the story of a woman and a whole town, twisted by grief, and a man who shows them what it truly means to be brave.  It’s sublime from the first page to the last.

The Horseman by Jillian Hart

Everything that is awful seems to happen to the heroine at the start of this story, but it’s a textbook example of why some of us love the Beta hero. The hero in this story puts the “dream” in McDreamy. A Mr. Nice Guy who feels he’s not good enough for the heroine, but loves her all the same. For her part, the heroine has to find a way to recover from an abusive marriage, a miscarriage that has left her barren, and parents who shun her for ruining their “good” family name. It’s sweet and tender, the type of romance that leaves you with a happy sigh on your lips after you finish the last page.

[More Top Western Historicals to Read...]

Apr 28 2015 5:00pm

April Showers: Not-Your-Usual Historical Romance Best Bets for April 2015

Starling by Virginia Taylor

April is a time for spring showers to bring us May flowers.  What else does April bring?  Apparently a bumper crop of not-your-usual historicals with bountiful options for different settings, non-titled characters and time periods that take us outside of the Regency era. 

Starling by Virginia Taylor

 Let your heart soar…

An aspiring dressmaker, orphaned Starling Smith is accustomed to fighting for her own survival. But when she’s offered a year’s wages to temporarily pose as a wealthy man’s bride, she suspects ulterior motives. She can’t lose the chance to open her own shop, but she won’t be any man’s lover, not even handsome, infuriating Alisdair Seymour’s… 

To prevent his visiting sister from parading potential brides in front of him, Alisdair has decided to present a fake wife. He lost his heart once, and had it broken—he doesn’t intend to do it again. But stubborn, spirited Starling is more alluring than he bargained for, and Alisdair will risk everything he has to prove his love is true… 

Having published two romantic comedies with Random House Australia, Taylor makes her historical debut with Kensington’s Lyrical Press, the first book in a trilogy set in 19th century south Australia.

When a Rake Falls by Sally Orr

He's racing to win back his reputation

Having hired a balloon to get him to Paris in a daring race, Lord Boyce Parker is simultaneously exhilarated and unnerved by the wonders and dangers of flight, and most of all by the beautiful, stubborn, intelligent lady operating the balloon.

She's curious about the science of love

Eve Mountfloy is in the process of conducting weather experiments when she finds herself spirited away to France by a notorious rake. She's only slightly dismayed-the rake seems to respect her work-but she is frequently distracted by his windblown physical magnificence and buoyant spirits.

What happens when they descend from the clouds?
As risky as aeronautics may be, once their feet touch the ground, Eve and Boyce learn the real danger of a very different type of falling...

The first book nominated for an RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award, Orr continues her Regency romp Rake’s Handbook series with this second title.

[More Not-Your-Usual Historical Romances.]