The opportunities welcomed by self-publishing e-books has opened the doors not only for authors who color just slightly beyond the lines, but for veteran authors to dust off their out-of-print (OOP) and/or hard-to-find (HTF) books, digitize them, spruce them up with a new cover, and upload them to any number of direct publishing programs. The list of authors self-publishing their backlists is substantial and growing by the day, but here is a short but sweet list of books I personally recommend you rediscover.
From the talented pen of Laura Lee Guhrke comes one of my absolute favorite romance novels, To Dream Again.
To save her London factory, widow Mara Elliot is forced into partnership with handsome inventor Nathaniel Chase, but his plans soon put everything she’s worked for at risk. Mara fights him at every turn and sparks his desire like no woman before, but Nathaniel is determined to follow his dream. Can he convince Mara to follow it, too? Or will he have to give up his dream in order to win her heart?
The title and description of the book is literal—this is about dreams and what one does to keep them alive, as well as what happens when one allows it to wither and die. Mara, a truly wounded heroine, is one of the strongest written characters I’ve ever come across in romance. Nathaniel, a dreamer and an eternal optimist, is light to her darkness, and watching them wrestle with the construction of a toy factory and their desire for one another is a fascinating character study. Guhrke pulled no punches, be it emotionally, plot-wise, or romantically. Best of all, Mara and Nathaniel begin the book as complete opposites, but end as complementary to one another’s strengths and weakesses—which is what love is about, right?
Robyn Carr is best known for her highly popular Virgin River series, but long, long ago, she began her career with historical romance. From Carr’s small but excellent backlist of historical romance titles is Chelynne, a meaty book set during the English Restoration (1660s).
Orphaned and raised by her uncle, the sixteen-year-old Chelynne resolves to show her gratitude by marrying the man of her uncle’s choice. Bracing herself for a graying, sickly noble, the last man she expects for a husband is the dashing future Earl of Bryant, Chadwick Hawthorne—suddenly, being a loving wife doesn’t seem too hard a task. But he spurns her affection and remains her husband only in name, never in deed. Tormented by unfinished business from his past and an uprising threatening his land, Chad resolves to keep his distance from everyone, including his young wife.
Chelynne will go to any lengths to ignite her husband’s passion and save their marriage. But when she finally goes too far, the Earl must share his dark secret before Chelynne loses her reputation—or worse, her life.
Chelynne sparked my love affair with Restoration England (shhh...don’t tell the Edwardian Era) and its politics. Carr weaves this colorful backdrop masterfully into her story, and the conflicts of the Restoration make the conflict between Chelynne and her husband that much richer. One of the reasons why I loved this book upon first discovery is that Chelynne is acts her age, but is intelligent, warm-hearted, and extremely likeable. Chad, of course, is dark and dangerous and mysterious, but his motivations are believable and sympathetic. Carr throws in many breath-taking twists and turns in the plot, and the romance is HOT!
Last but not least, we have Marsha Canham’s pirate duology, Across a Moonlit Sea and The Iron Rose.
In Book One, Across A Moonlit Sea, Isabeau Spence and her father Jonas come across an apparently deserted ghost ship adrift on the ocean. When they go aboard they are met by the guns and trickery of Simon Dante, known as the Pirate Wolf. What follows is a rip roaring high seas adventure that sends Isabeau and Simon into a breathtaking attack on the Spanish port of Cadiz, sailing in the company of Sir Francis Drake and his fellow sea hawks.
Book Two, The Iron Rose, is the story of Simon and Isabeau’s daughter Juliet, known throughout the Caribbean as The Iron Rose. Captain of her own ship, she sails to the rescue of an English courier bound for the Indies. On board is Varian St Clare, an emissary from the king who has been dispatched with news of a truce between England and Spain, and a command to to stop all privateers from attacking Spanish shipping. The one man who does not believe a truce will be honored by the Spanish is the Pirate Wolf Simon Dante. He and Juliet must now convince Varian that a second armada is being armed and readied to sail against England.
Canham writes real pirate romances: Treacherous seas, grizzled seafarers, battles, booty, and booze. Nothing easy or romantic or sweet here. The heroes and heroines of this duology are cunning, smart, colorful, and unique. I really enjoy Across a Moonlit Sea, but my heart belongs to the story of Beau and Simon’s daughter Juliet, who commands her own ship on her terms in The Iron Rose. Canham eschews any short-cuts one might normally take in writing a female pirate captain, and Juliet is all the richer for it. She is in charge and skillful with a blade, but she doesn’t need to be cold and unfeeling, or need to be taken down a peg to become a “real woman” by the end of the book. In fact, it is the hero, Varian, who must come down to her level, stripping away his fripperies and notions of proper early Stuart womanhood to love Juliet as she is. Of course both have sharp wits and blades, and they clash often, but the best part of the HEA is their going into battle at sea together, as equals.
So there you have it: three old favorites available at the click of a button (though digital reissues won’t take the fun out of scouring used book stores). Tell me, what old favorites have you discovered through e-books, and what old favorites are you dying to see reissued in digital format?
Evangeline Holland is a writer of historical romances, an amateur milliner, and a really great cook. When not writing or reading, you can find her blogging about the Edwardian era on her website, the aptly titled Edwardian Promenade.