Here in the States, July means summer vacations, barbeques, July 4th fireworks and soaking up the sun. This month’s crop of not-your-usual historicals certainly gives historical romance fans plenty of options for time traveling while lounging on the beach or by the pool. Whether you want to escape the Regency ballroom in favor of Egypt or India, or fall in love against the backdrop of World War I, July offers a little something for everybody.
Erin’s Gift by Nancy Fraser
Prohibition Era, Chicago
Caught in a raid at an illegal speakeasy, good girl Erin O’Mara loses everything: her job, her home, and her reputation. Handsome and so out of her league attorney Seth Harrison, her best friend’s brother, rescues her not once, but twice. He bails her out of jail and offers her a job as nanny for his son. Seth has no intention of falling in love after the death of his wife. But despite his better judgment, he can’t help being drawn to Erin’s innocence. This Christmas, letting go of the past and embracing the future may be the greatest present of all.
Originally published in last year’s multi-author anthology A Very Scandalous Holiday, Erin’s Gift is now available for purchase as a stand-alone novella. At the time of this posting, it was also free at various digital retail outlets.
The Awakening of Poppy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye
Los Angeles, 1924
Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he's watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man's suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.
Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won't lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won't be satisfied until he's claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.
The Undoing of Daisy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye
Stage actress Daisy Edwards goes looking for escape at a wild party. Instead she finds reckless passion with a total stranger. Like Daisy, Dominic Harrington is reeling from the Great War, desperate to feel again. But the erotic force of their encounter leaves Daisy unsure whether to run or succumb….
Even if he hadn't met her in a police cell, Dominic would have no doubt that Daisy is trouble. For the first time in years, he feels intrigued, aroused and vibrantly alive. Both insist there will be no promises, only the rapture of the moment. Pleasure is its own reward—but when it's this addictive, how can they ever walk away?
Marguerite Kaye is one of my favorite historical romance writers working today because she’s somehow had the luxury of not getting pigeon-holed. These two digital short stories feature sisters who are both actresses and living separate lives across the Atlantic.
Deputy’s Desire by Kianna Alexander
Suzanne Evans is eking out a simple existence waiting tables at the Decklin Café in 1850’s Pennsylvania, hoping to save enough funds to open a bakery of her own. Buoyed by secret meetings with Deputy Andrew Powers, she presses on even when her cruel boss puts her down for being black and a former whore.
As a black lawman, Andrew takes his duties seriously yet he can’t shake his desire for Suzanne. Slipping away from his post for a few torrid moments with her keeps him sane even as wanting her drives him toward madness.
When Decklin Café burns to the ground Suzanne’s bigoted boss accuses her of arson and forces Andrew to arrest her. If she’s found guilty, she may face the hangman’s noose. Angst, fear and mistrust drive a wedge between the two lovers. But love has a way of fighting back and heat doesn’t always come from a fire.
The cover art may look and smell like a western, but Pennsylvania pre-Civil War is anything but. A heroine with past, a hero torn between duty and desire, and published by Ellora’s Cave certainly promises plenty of steam for readers.
Lily’s Leap by Tea Cooper
Born into the rough, but still privileged society of the Australian colonial landowners, Lilibeth Dungarven finds herself married, widowed, and, much to her distress, back under her father’s thumb, all before her twenty-first birthday. Determined not to forgo her dream of breeding the perfect racehorse, Lilibeth ignores propriety and sets out to restore the family’s flagging fortunes.
When Captain Tom and his mismatched band of bushrangers stumble across a mob of the best horses they’ve ever seen, and the daughter of the famed Dungarven horse stud, they know their fortunes have changed. Their catch is worth a king’s ransom. All they have to do is hold the daughter for seven days. How hard will controlling a pampered farmer's daughter be?
Australian-set historicals are as rare as hen’s teeth, and this new historical from Harlequin’s Escape digital imprint is described by the author as a historical romance that is a cross between western and rural.
Beguiled by Her Betrayer by Louise Allen
Falling unconscious in the Egyptian sand at Cleo Valsac's feet is not part of Lord Quintus Bredon Deverall's plan. He's supposed to be whisking this young widow away from her father's dusty camp and back to England—to her aristocratic grandfather and a respectable husband.
Despite Cleo's strong-willed nature, she can't help but feel comforted by Quin's protective presence. But she has no idea of this wounded stranger's true identity…or of the passion that will begin to burn between them under the heat of the desert sun!
Louise Allen has an impressive backlist filled with Regency historicals. While set during the Regency era, she takes readers out of England when the diplomat hero is pressed into service by King and country to extract a scholar, who may be a traitor, out of war-torn Egypt. Naturally it all gets very complicated when our hero falls head over feet for the alleged traitor’s beguiling daughter.
The Mistress of Normandy by Susan Wiggs
Rand Fitzmarc has fought his way to prominence under the banner of King Henry V. At long last, his loyalty to the English crown will be rewarded with a title and land…in Normandy, France's richest prize. Now the freshly knighted nobleman will have to battle once more for the right to possess his French barony, and for the hand of the woman who holds it.
Lianna of Bois-Long is determined to keep her lands free from the usurping English king and the husband he's chosen for her…and her heart safe from any man. Yet when she meets a golden stranger in a sunny forest glade, Lianna is seduced by the heat of his tender gaze and his strong embrace.
But when her forest lover is revealed as the English baron who has come to claim her ancestral home, will Lianna be able to forgive his deception? Or will pride keep her from the man who has managed to steal her heart?
I normally focus on new releases for these monthly round-ups but I’m making an exception for The Mistress of Normany, which was first published as The Lily and the Leopard back in 1991. Hard to find and out of print for many years, this marks the first of a series of Wiggs historical reissues by Mira over the next several months and will introduce new fans to the authors’ impressively deep historical backlist.
An Inconvenient Kiss by Caroline Kimberly
Georgiana Phillips always conducted herself according to the rules of polite society. So catching Simon Ashford in a compromising position should have been shocking. Instead it was...arousing. And kissing him herself was absolutely delicious—until it led to her ruination.
That perfect, scandalous kiss has haunted Simon for six years. He doesn't regret it, though he's tried desperately to restore Georgie's reputation. When he's ordered to look after her in the wilds of India, it's an opportunity to finish what he started. But he's no match for Georgie's adventurous spirit—she seems set on getting herself killed, diving in after hungry crocodiles and braving monsoons to hunt for lost treasure.
Georgie wouldn't trade her exciting new life for anything in the world, including marriage. And yet Simon seems determined to rein her in, rewarding her brief moments of propriety with kisses far more exotic than any tribal ceremony or archaeological expedition. How can he convince her that she's so much more than a beautiful obligation?
Reunited with the man who “done her wrong,” the heroine is six years older, wiser and with extensive travels under her belt. Needless to say she’s not entirely ready to believe him when he claims to be a changed man. The first in the author’s Ashford Brothers series, An Inconvenient Kiss is also her debut.
Salvation in the Rancher’s Arms by Kelly Boyce
Rachel Sutter's world is turned upside down when Caleb Beckett rides into Salvation Falls. He brings news of a poker game gone disastrously wrong—not only has her wastrel husband been killed, he's also gambled away Rachel's home!
Suddenly, Rachel is left with nothing but an unpaid debt, and Caleb is holding all the cards—not to mention the deed to her land! There's something about the enigmatic drifter that she is instinctively drawn to, but how can she begin to trust him when so much of his past is shrouded in mystery?
Most recently self-publishing her Regency era Sins & Scandals series, Boyce turns her attention back to the American west with this first book in her Salvation Falls series. Readers won’t have too long to wait for book two, which is slated for an early 2015 release.
The Gunslinger by Lorraine Heath
Chance Wilder never wanted to be a hero. A road-weary gunslinger with a ruthless reputation, he focuses only on his next target—and his next payday. That is, until a young boy offers Chance everything he owns—a piece of string, a harmonica, and a bent penny—if he'll save his sister from a couple of thugs. Chance agrees, only to discover that the beautiful, fierce young woman in need of rescue is actually the very person he's been hunting: his next mark.
But after he saves her, Lillian Madison awakens in him long-buried dreams and possibilities. Facing the demons of his past, Chance is forced to question his next move. Dare he risk everything by following his heart … and trust that the road to redemption begins with Lillian?
This is an expanded version of a novella that originally appeared in the To Tame a Texan anthology in 1999. Featuring a textbook Heath hero (emotionally wounded to the core), I was immediately charmed by the heroine’s younger brother, who hires the notorious gunslinger to protect his sister.
The Spirit of the Wolf by Karen Kay
Grey Coyote stands on the knife edge of desperation. An ancient curse dooms his people to a half-life in the mists, neither living nor dead—unless he can solve a deceptively simple riddle. As time runs short, he’s sure the answer lies in beating a white trapper in a game of chance.
Among the trapper’s possessions, though, is a prize he never expected. A golden-haired woman as beautiful, delicate and stubborn as a prairie rose.
One moment Marietta Welsford is wondering how long it will take her hired guide to finish his game so she can hurry home to Rosemead, the English estate to which she hopes to lay claim. The next, she is abandoned with a man whose magnetism tugs at her body and soul, and makes her heart out-thunder the storm.
With so little time to lift the enchantment, Grey Coyote at first views Marietta as a trickster-sent distraction. But as sure as the star that guides him, it soon becomes clear she is the clue that could ultimately free his people…and capture his heart.
Blending culture and mysticism, the second book in Kay’s Lost Clan series features conflict as old as time. The heroine who falls in love despite having more pressing concerns to attend to—in this case, getting home to England.
Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner
Wounded in body and spirit after a shootout, Rayford Jessup leaves his career as a lawman and uses his gift with damaged horses to bring meaning to his solitary life. Hired by a Scotsman in Heartbreak Creek to purchase thoroughbreds, he travels to England, unaware that a traumatized horse and a beautiful Englishwoman will change his life forever.
Josephine Cathcart loves two things: her illegitimate son and her injured stallion. Faced with her father’s looming bankruptcy, she must choose between a loveless marriage to the man who ruined her, or risk her horse and her future on a handsome, taciturn Texan and a high-stakes horse race. But as vengeful forces conspire against them, will Rafe’s love and healing touch be enough to save her horse and protect her and her son?
In 2011 Warner won a RITA for her debut novel, Pieces of Sky and hasn’t looked back. This second book in her Heroes of Heartbreak Creek has drawn praise from both Library Journal (“…a compelling, radiantly written romance that boasts a rich assortment of unusual, appealing secondary characters and is laced with wry humor and a surprisingly chilling dash of very real danger.”) and Publisher’s Weekly (“Warner's transatlantic story is rich with character development, and emotion suffuses the tender romance between the privileged yet resilient Englishwoman and the tough American horse trainer.”).
World War I!
Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye
“A Kiss Goodbye”
As war looms, genteel Flora yearns to be more than just an observer. She finds a revolutionary kindred spirit in soldier Geraint—but will their fragile love be crushed before it can start to bloom?
Soldier Robbie cannot forget his one hedonistic night in Paris with beautiful waitress Sylvie. But as Europe burns, can these two star-crossed lovers ever be reunited?
“Forever with Me”
Nurse Sheila is horrified to discover her new boss is the French surgeon she woke beside after Armistice Day! Fighting for their love will be the bravest thing she's ever had to do….
Kaye has transported readers to the 1920s, Regency London, Regency Arabia and now World War I. These three stories tackle three very different stages of the war, and illuminate that even amidst the devastation; the dawn of the 20th century meant new, unexplored horizons for women.
What unusual historicals are landing in your summer beach bag?
Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.