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!
The Fighter and the Fallen Woman by Pamela Cayne
To say I’ve been waiting for a story like Cayne’s debut since I first fell in love with historical romance would be an understatement. I love Lords and Ladies as much as the next girl, but what I really want is some grit. Some angst. Some serious dark edges floating around the edges of a swoon-worthy romance. That’s exactly what Cayne delivers in this story about a former prostitute turned mistress to a violent Victorian crime lord and the hero, a boxer and hired muscle for the same villain. It’s dark, gritty, sexy and never have I wanted a happy ending for a romantic couple more.
Whispers at Court by Blythe Gifford
I feel like Blythe Gifford doesn’t get enough attention for her wonderful medieval romances. I can always count on her stories featuring a very strong sense of place and she always weaves in realistic for the era conflict. This is the second book in her Royal Weddings series that features plenty of political shenanigans for our romantic couple to get mired in. This time out our heroine makes a pact with a French hostage in King Edward III’s court in order to protect the princess’ reputation. Naturally sparks fly.
Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist
Gist built her reputation writing several fine inspirational historical romances and Tiffany Girl marks her entrance into what I’m calling the “secular Americana” market. A heroine desperate to forge her own identity takes a job making stained glass for Louis Tiffany’s famed chapel at the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. She takes a room at a boardinghouse where she runs up against the hero, a reporter who scorns this new-fangled notion of “New Women.” Don’t let the just-kisses, behind-closed-doors sensuality fool you, this book positively sizzles with sexual tension.
This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman
Western fans have seen it time and again—favorite authors who abandon ship to write books set in Merry Olde England. I spent most of the early 2000s weeping into my pillow and scouring used bookstores for backlists. So let me take a moment to crow over the fact that western fans stole Jo Goodman back from the evil clutches of Prinny and Beau Brummel. We marked her return with 2009’s Never Love a Lawman and she’s been keeping us going with westerns ever since. This Gun for Hire ups the ante—featuring a bodyguard sharp-shooting hero and a bodyguard sharp-shooting heroine. As they say, Annie get your gun!
A Virtuous Ruby, A Most Precious Pearl, and A Treasure of Gold by Piper Huguley
It’s been quite a year for Piper Huguley. She won the Debut Author of the Year award at Romance Slam Jam 2015 and Samhain published all three books in her Migrations of the Heart series. The trilogy follows the lives (and loves!) of three sisters who take part in America’s greatest internal migration in the early part of the 20th century—when southern blacks moved to northern urban cities for educational and employment opportunities. This is a fascinating time in American history and it forever changed the landscape of the country. Huguley’s idea to explore that era against the backdrop of romance is truly, very inspired.
A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin
What I love about Jeannie Lin’s books is that she makes Tang Dynasty China totally accessible to this ignorant American. She’s written quieter books (My Fair Concubine comes to mind), but largely her historicals are what I would classify as adventure stories. There’s action, adventure, and feats of daring-do. There are characters wrestling with notions of duty and honor while skating around some darker fringes of society. A Dance with Danger is the second book in a series and tells the story of a hero bent on revenge and the heroine who aims to convince him that nothing is sweeter than falling in love.
Warrior of Ice and Warrior of Fire by Michelle Willingham
After detours writing Regencies and Vikings, Michelle Willingham came back to the era that launched her publishing career with this new Irish-set medieval duet. A mix of Game of Thrones and Beauty and the Beast, readers fell in love with a bastard hero, illegitimate son of an odious king, a scarred heroine determined to save her traitor father, a Norman hero turned assassin, and a heroine desperate to escape an arranged marriage to an undesirable man. Featuring couples who travel together and must figure out ways to navigate increasingly tricky political situations, I so enjoy Willingham’s medievals for her complex, often haunted characters, and the criminally under-utilized Ireland settings.
As 2015 has indicated, the historical romance is still going strong, and for readers looking for variety, there’s plenty to be had. This is just small sampling of the titles we featured at H&H this past year and were some of our favorites. What were some of your favorite not-your-usual historical reads in 2015?
Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:
Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.