Jul 20 2015 10:00am

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.

England, With a Twist!

Lady Be Good by Meredith Duran

Lady Be Good by Meredith Duran


Born to a family of infamous criminals, Lilah Marshall has left behind her past and made herself into the perfect lady. Working as a hostess at Everleigh's, London’s premier auction house, she leads a life full of art, culture, and virtue. All her dreams are within reach—until a gorgeous and enigmatic viscount catches her in the act of one last, very reluctant theft.


Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, is society's most dashing war hero. But Kit’s easy smiles hide a dark secret: he is haunted by a madman’s vow to destroy anyone he loves. When his hunt for the enemy leads to Everleigh’s Auction Rooms, he compels Lilah to help him. But one tempting touch may be their undoing—for what Kit needs threatens all Lilah holds dear, and losing her may destroy Kit.

The first book in a new duet series that centers on an exclusive London auction house, Duran is a fan favorite, garnering rave reviews over the course of her career. She ups the ante with this series launch featuring a heroine from a family not born with silver spoons in their mouths.  From the sounds of it, if they have silver spoons it’s likely they stole them. 

The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

An American artist meets his match in a spitfire heiress.  Jeffries has a long career in historical romance and this is the launch title of her new Sinful Suitors series (say that three times fast!).


Lady Scandal by Wendy LaCapra

Lady Scandal by Wendy LaCapra

Sophia Baneham has lived in the poison of her dead father’s shadow for longer than she cares to admit. Now she exists outside of polite society’s influence, holding gambling parties for London’s most dangerous men. When a man walks into one of her soirees, a compelling mix of charisma and icy control, he offers the lady of sin a wager she can’t refuse…

Lord Randolph is a spy in the service of His Majesty, but he’s given an oath to protect the daughter of his mentor. Even as his gamble of marriage starts to spiral out of control and his passions ignite, Randolph is determined that he’ll handle things his way…

But when danger closes in, Randolph won’t just have to protect Sophia from an intended killer. He’ll have to protect her from himself…

Following quickly on the heels of her debut, Lady Vice, this is the second book in the author’s The Furies series.

Danger Wears White* by Lynne Connolly

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.

The third book in the author’s The Emperors of London series has a family feud, the Jacobite rebellion, and a potential Stuart secret so shocking that it could rock England off her foundation.  A heroine determined to put the past behind her, a former military hero playing spy, and a great Georgian backdrop.

*Read H&H’s First Look review on Danger Wears White. 

Great Migration!

A Virtuous Ruby by Piper Huguley

A Virtuous Ruby by Piper Huguley

After fifteen months of hiding from the shame of bearing an illegitimate child, two words drive Ruby Bledsoe to face the good citizens of Winslow, Georgia. Never again. She vows to speak out against injustice. For her sisters. For her parents. For her infant son, Solomon.

When she comes to help an injured mill worker, she bristles when a tall, handsome man claiming to be a doctor brushes her aside. Despite his arrogance, Ruby senses he’s someone like her, whose light skin doesn’t quite hide who he is.

Up north, Dr. Adam Morson easily kept his mixed race a secret. Now that he’s in Georgia, summoned by his white father, he can feel restrictions closing in around him.

Something powerful draws him to the beauty whose activist spirit is as fiery as her name. And soon, Adam wants nothing more than to take Ruby and her child far from Georgia’s toxic prejudice. But Ruby must choose between seeking her own happiness and staying to fight for the soul of her hometown.

I’ve been excited about this book since it was a Golden Heart finalist.  A romance set during The Great Migration?  How awesome is that idea!  Huguley is also the author of the inspirational Home to Milford College series set during the Reconstruction era and she won the Debut Author of the Year award at this year’s Romance Slam Jam conference.


Rake Most Likely to Thrill by Bronwyn Scott

A rakish thrill-seeker… 

Archer Crawford has come to Siena to compete in its notorious horse race—only daredevils need apply! But on his first night, he meets the beautiful Elisabeta di Nofri, a young noblewoman whose love of thrill-seeking is second only to Archer's. 

A woman longing for more… 

Elisabeta is determined to savor one last taste of freedom before an unwelcome marriage is forced upon her. But one night of wild desire isn't enough. And Archer and Elisabeta will have to risk everything if they're to win what they truly want…

Bronwyn Scott has written romances featuring fencing, yacht sailing and billiards – so why not a horse race in Italy?  This is the second book in her Rakes on Tour series and future books are to be set in Venice and Greece. 


A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine

A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine

He'd defend her keep...

After proving himself on the field of battle, Ramon de Segrave is appointed to the Council of Barons by Richard the Lionheart. But instead of taking his most formidable warrior on his latest Crusade, the king assigns Ramon an even more dangerous task-woo and win the Lady of Thistle Keep.

If only she'd yield her heart

Isabel of Camoys is a capable widow with no intention of surrendering her valuable estate. She's fought long and hard for her independence, and if the price is loneliness, then so be it. She will not yield...even if she does find the powerful knight's heated embrace impossible to ignore.

But when her land is threatened, Isabel reluctantly agrees to allow Ramon and his army to defend the keep-knowing that the price may very well be her heart.

While busy writing erotic romance under her Dawn Ryder pseudonym, Wine is not abandoning her historical roots.  This medieval is launching her new Courtly Love series, and her Hot Highlanders series is still going strong, with book eight slated for Spring 2016.

Post-World War II!

Twice in a Lifetime by Dorothy Garlock

Clara Sinclair has learned to live one lonely day at a time. It was the only way she managed to survive her husband's death in World War II and raise their young son alone. But now she's at a loss as to how to handle the defiant teenager he has become, even as she struggles to keep her family financially afloat. She's fresh out of ways to turn her luck around-until a daring stranger's unexpected kindness sparks hope she hasn't felt in a long time...

Drake McCoy lives for risk, speed, and putting his incredible drag racing skills to the test. One night in this quiet rural town is all he needs to win a big score and be on his way . . . until he meets Clara. Drawn in by her quiet strength and her beauty, Drake is tempted to become someone he never imagined-a family man.

But a vicious and unseen enemy is closing in fast, throwing Drake and Clara's fragile future into a dangerous tailspin. Can their love survive?

Garlock’s history in the romance genre is longer than a country mile, with over 50 novels under her belt and being one of the original authors who launched Bantam’s Loveswept line back in the day.  She’s also been around long enough that she can get away with more – hence setting a romance in the 1950s.  When was the last time you read that?

Roaring ‘20s!

The Runaway Daughter by Lauri Robinson

The Runaway Daughter by Lauri Robinson

From stowaway…

After years of playing the local gin joint to pay off his father's debts, talented musician Brock Ness has landed a radio gig in Chicago. Now he's on the up-and-up, his next stop is securing the dame of his dreams, Ginger Nightingale…

…to Chicago celebrity!

If Brock is headed for fortune and fame, Ginger won't be left behind! She may be the youngest of the Nightingale sisters, but she's old enough to know what she wants. And Brock is right at the top of her wish list!

The Bootlegger’s Daughter by Lauri Robinson

Of all the speakeasies, in all the world… 

Mysterious city slicker Ty Bradshaw might have won her father's trust, but everyone knows Norma Rose is the true boss of Nightingale's resort. And it'll take more than that charming smile to shake the feeling that Ty is not all he seems… 

He walks into hers 

Ty is a federal agent on a personal mission of revenge. But he hasn't figured on falling for a bootlegger's daughter. Suddenly, flirting with headstrong Norma Rose seems far more exhilarating than chasing gangsters!

Robinson has a sizable backlist filled with westerns but these are the launch of her new series with Harlequin, Daughters of the Roaring Twenties.  The Runaway Daughter is a prequel novella available through the Harlequin Historical Undone line, and The Bootlegger’s Daughter is the first full-length story in the series.


Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

Fate brought them together. His past may tear them apart.

Miranda Hayes' life was changed the day she faced down infamous gunslinger Jake Harkner...and walked away with his heart. Their fates have been intertwined ever since. Hunted by the law, fleeing across a savage land, their desperate love flourished despite countless sorrows. Now, twenty-six years later, their family has finally found some measure of peace...balanced on the knife's edge of danger.

Jake has spent his years as a U.S. Marshal atoning for sins, bringing law to the land he once terrorized. But no matter how hard he fights the demons of his brutal past, the old darkness still threatens to consume him. Only Miranda keeps the shadows at bay. But when outlaws looking for revenge strike a fatal blow, Jake risks losing the one woman who saw past his hard exterior and to the man inside.

He always knew there'd be the devil to pay. He just never realized he might not be the one to bear the ultimate price.

Last month saw the rerelease of a Bittner fan favorite, Outlaw Hearts, which was first published by Bantam in 1993.  The Sourcebooks reprint was the kick-off to this long-awaited sequel, which features the same couple 26 years later.  But that’s not the end of the good news for fans of historical romance sagas – Bittner is currently working on a third book in the series.

Sequins and Spurs by Cheryl St. John

Her last chance at redemption 

Singer Ruby Dearing is tired of life on the stage and yearns for a place to belong. She returns home to beg forgiveness from her mother and sister, only to find stubborn Nash Sommerton—her sister's widower—in charge. 

Nash is prepared to fight this unruly beauty for his ranch, but Ruby amazes him with her determination to restore the house to the home it once was. Can he persuade Ruby to forgive herself and see the second chance they've both been given?

St. John is one of my favorite western authors, so I’m really excited about this long awaited new release.  She has a way of infusing angst and emotion in her stories without the romance dragging down under the weight.  She’s the very definition of a comfort read for me and I have yet to not like a book she’s written.

Home by Morning by Kaki Warner

Home by Morning by Kaki Warner

Thomas Redstone—a former Cheyenne warrior seeking new purpose by following the ways of his white grandfather—is returning to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado, when he decides to give the woman he loves one last chance to accept him into her life.

Prudence Lincoln’s beauty and education have brought her little joy. Envied by blacks for the advantages she’s had, and reviled by whites for her mixed blood, she’s proving herself by helping ex-slaves prepare for newfound freedom. Thomas has no place in her future, no matter how much she loves him.

He’s suffered only hardship. She was raised in privilege. Their only common ground is the spark between them that won’t die. Yet even as evil forces tear them apart again, they discover that courage can be a weapon, happiness is a choice, and love can triumph over anything.

RITA award winner Warner returns to her Heroes of Heartbreak Creek series with this third and final book in the trilogy.

The Gem by Beth Williamson

Charlie Chastain is an oddity, and it doesn’t bother her a bit. Her life in Ft. Laramie—hunting game, up to her elbows in carcasses, stitching hide clothing—suits her independent spirit.

So what if she’s not a great beauty like her sisters? No one will force her into society’s mold, much less a dress. But to say she is completely happy would be a lie—and no one understands that better than the only man in her life she trusts. Elijah Sylvester.

Aside from serving as the fort’s resident fix-it man, Eli has spent a lifetime fighting bullies who consider him stupid, a throwaway. He fights his feelings for the woman who makes his heart hammer, but considers him nothing more than a friend.

When Charlie’s restless feet send her off on a new adventure, Eli saddles up so she doesn’t go unprotected. But their trip takes a dangerous turn and suddenly the hunters become the hunted. And by the time Charlie realizes how much Eli means to her, it could be too late. 

After a five year hiatus between books, Williamson has returned to her popular Malloy family series with a vengeance, making up for lost time.  The Gem is the 12th book in the series, and the fifth book in the series to be published in the last two years.

There is a lot of variety this month for historical fans looking to get a breather from Prinny, Almack’s and Beau Brummel.  What not-your-usual historicals are you looking forward to?


Learn more about the books mentioned in this posts: 

The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal  
Lady Be Good by Meredith Duran  
Lady Scandal by Wendy LaCapra  
Danger Wears White by Lynne Connolly  
The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries  
A Virtuous Ruby by Piper Huguley  
Rake Most Likely to Thrill by Bronwyn Scott  
A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine  
Twice in a Lifetime by Dorothy Garlock  
The Runaway Daughter by Lauri Robinson  
The Bootlegger’s Daughter by Lauri Robinson  
Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner  
Sequins and Spurs by Cheryl St. John  
Home by Morning by Kaki Warner  
The Gem by Beth Williamson  

















Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kahintenn
Great post! Lots of these are going on my TBR list. Thanks!
2. lauralee1912
I loved Wendy LaCapra's first book, so Lady Scandal was on this week's buy list. Rake Most Likely to Thrill byBronywn Scott looks interesting since it is set in Italy and I read about the Siena horse races in a Marguerite Henry book as a girl.
Wendy the Super Librarian
3. SuperWendy
I just read Sequins and Spurs by Cheryl St. John while traveling to the RWA conference and zipped through that during the plane ride. I also liked the Georgian flavor in Lynne Connolly's Danger Wears White.

I've got more than a few of these already in my TBR. I'm super excited to get to Piper Huguley's A Virtuous Ruby, and also have the Lauri Robinson 1920s titles and the Rosanne Bittner on tap. So. Many. Books!
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