Historical Feed

A Gentleman's Position by K.J. Charles

Charles-k-j-a-gentlemans-position-society-of-gentlemen-3I have been eagerly anticipating this romance since we were first introduced to Lord Richard and his trusted valet David Cyprian. Richard is the linchpin around whom all the Ricardians revolve.  The Ricardians (bisexual, gay or transgender) all look out for one another, protecting each other from those who would happily send them to the gallows for their orientations, preferences and predilections but it is Richard who sets the standards,  provides the listening ear or chastising word if needed and sees that the Ricardians problems are solved.  

David Cyprian however is really the person who makes it all happen.  Officially as valet he makes sure Richard always looks flawless but unofficially he the person that pays the bribes, gathers the illicit information and makes sure Richard has absolutely everything in his life go smoothly. He is the rogue with all the connections, who fixes the problems before Richard even has any inkling of them. He is incredibly proud of how far he has risen in life, but has not risen so far that he doesn't know how to work on the street.  

The one wrinkle in David and Richard's relationship is that while Cyprian is beyond devoted to Richard & Richard trusts him like he trusts no other their mutual attraction has become impossible to ignore. While David is more than willing enter into a liaison with Richard, Richard is resolute to never importune someone in his employ (unlike his father, who used and abuse anybody under his power). Their facade of mutual indifference crumbles completely in the aftermath to a surprise death-bed summons from Richard's estranged mother. 

Once their mutual attraction is no longer something they can ignore, Richard ends up hurting David while trying not to hurt him and as a result he is deprived of David when he and the Ricardians need him most.  Richard must convince David to return and if they all survive, help him figure out how they can be together.

I loved this romance. I usually avoid boss-employee/servant-master romances for all the reasons for all the same reasons Richard wants to avoid one. KJ Charles however has a great handle on the issues of consent, agency, dignity and the nature of partnership that are such a large stumbling block in their relationship.  I loved how hard it was for Richard to unbend, and realize he was wrong. Richard has to eat a lot of humble pie, and comes truly appreciate and recognize all that he has taken for granted in David. David also grows, setting boundaries and demanding Richard truly see him and value him. He is able to demonstrate that his love is not servile even if he is Richard's servant.  

Charles exploits the intimacy of David's role as Richard's valet to explore the anguish of denial and build sexual tension but the biggest loss they feel when they are apart is for each other's companionship. I loved that despite the deep chasm between them, it is the absence of their easy relationship, the effortless conversation, that wrecks them both. 

Like all the endings in the Society of Gentlemen series, I believe in David and Richard's love and felt hopeful for them despite having a great awareness of the many risks they continually face.  Charles also provides a great pulse pounding and satisfying conclusion to the overarching series plot. I highly recommend this whole series.

I received a review copy via NetGalley from the publisher Loveswept.  A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles will be available starting April 5th.


Frederica by Georgette Heyer #TBRCHALLENGE

Heyer_0002This is my third Heyer and I enjoyed it just as much as the previous two I read. It is so much fun to recognize tropes and romance character archetypes, that I have seen in many later romances.  The Marquis is behaves like many later billionaire care-taking Alphas, discovering his ability to care and love for someone other than himself as he tries to love an independent woman who doesn't fall at his feet or dangle after him.

Frederica Merryville is the story of a managing young woman of small fortune who has declared herself a spinster at twenty-four. Frederica the eldest sibling, has been raising her younger siblings since the death of her mother.  With her father's death she was able to take control of the family finances and engineer a way to bring her siblings to London. She plans to launch her beautiful younger sister Charis into high society in hopes of securing for her a comfortable marriage.  She appeals to a very distant relation, Vernon, the Marquis of Alverstoke, in hopes that he might help them.

The Marquis of Alverstoke circulates at the very top of Tonnish society.  A thirty-seven, Vernon is confirmed bachelor and a flirt, he has no time or attention for people who bore him, including clingy mistresses, and his demanding sisters. He prides himself in his selfishness and cynicism. Curiosity and boredom inspire him to visit Frederica, and Vernon ends up charmed and inspired by the fresh chaos of her household (she has two rambunctious younger siblings and a very large dog) to maliciously trick his sister into sponsoring the Merryville sisters and pose as their guardian.

For most of the novel, Frederica is blind to how the Marquis has slowly been falling in love with her, while his friends and family are struggling to understand why he would act so uncharacteristically, mistakenly believing him to be infatuated with Charis. I loved that he falls in love with Frederica slowly, recognizing her intelligence, and sense of the ridiculous.  His love for Frederica opens him to new relationships and he develops an independent relationship with the two younger boys, Jessemine and Felix, enjoying getting to know them for their own sakes. He is also develops a growing concern for his loyal secretary's future prospects. Frederica

5133AnbAYBL._AA300_I was bored to tears like the Marquis by the romance between Charis and Endymion and I could have skipped this whole subplot except that it is the trigger that wakes Frederica up to the fact that she has been living vicariously through her sister and enabling her worthless brother Harry to shirk his responsibilities. Her anger at and awareness of how misplaced her efforts have been is the push she needs to realize that she is worthy of grabbing at her own happiness.

I am going to declare this is was my March #TBRChallenge book in that is one of the many Heyer novels recommended to me in the last year. 


A Queer Trade by K. J. Charles

K.J. Charles has built a fascinating magical Victorian world through her numerous Charm of Magpies related novels.  I'm not completely caught up on the main Charm of Magpie books, but I couldn't resist jumping ahead to read this one because is features victorian era black hero.  A Queer Trade is the prequel to Rag and Bone which was released last week and I am currently in the middle of reading.

Crispin Tredarloe's master dies while he is away visiting family and returns to discover his master's heir have started emptying the house and have disposed of many magical papers. He is desperately searching for the paper waste man that hauled away his masters' spells before they can harm someone and expose him. This particularly urgent because Crispin Tredarloe isn't simply a magician's apprentice but an illegal warlock. If the blood magic is exposed and traced back to him, his life might be forfeit.

Ned Hall's trade might be unusual trading in paper, recycling people's old letters, and discarded notes into wrapping and packing, but it is honest work, and its freed him destitution after his family cast him out for being gay. His attraction to Crispin is quickly tested by Crispin's casual snobbishness and likely insanity.

I love how Charles's is aware of  and then layers various impediments and conflicts into Ned and Crispin's relationship, race and class differences on one end, and then give them a shared understanding of familial rejection.  I look forward to reading more about these two.


March RT Reviews

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert I love knitting. I always carry a project with me and knit at every opportunity. I was equal parts wary and excited when I started reading this romance but I loved it. It got the knitting right and I found the romance very lovely and honest, especially as they struggled to make time for each other and to accept love. I will be looking for more of Annabeth Albert's work in the future.

Duty Before Desire by Elizabeth Boyce I was initially really enjoying this story. I am sucker for the rake reformed & fake relationship tropes but I ended up deeply disappointed with it.

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan This RS-tinged romance lost all momentum in the last few chapters and ended with a deflated whimper.


Backwards to Oregon by Jae


513XIPvy6JL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_
Luke Hamilton has been living as man since, her mother died when she was 12. Guarded and reserved Luke awkwardly tries to avoid the advances of Fleur, a prostitute former military buddies have paid for as parting gift.

Although warned by the Tess, the brothel's owner and one of the few people privy to Luke's secret that Luke's has special needs that require her discretion, Fleur, whose real name is Nora is puzzled and distressed by Luke's reticence and brusque refusal of her services.  

Both Tess and Nora are truly shocked however when Luke returns to the brothel with a marriage proposal shortly after rescuing Nora's young daughter from a ugly altercation on the streets. Confused, wary but convinced of Luke's good-nature Nora agrees to join Luke on the grueling cross-country journey from Missouri to Oregon in hopes of providing herself and her daughter a more promising future.

Along the way Luke and Nora grow closer but their marriage is tested in several ways by the journey and the secrets they keep from each other.

I believed in this romance and the conflicts and tensions that drive Luke and Nora to make the unconventional but believable choices they have made. Jae carefully developed the characters and built up the tension around their secrets, slowly unwrapping the pasts that shaped them.

The only low-light in the novel for me was one of the encounters the caravan has with a Sioux, where a Lakota man tries to trade a pony and young woman for the red-headed Nora or Amy, much to Luke's frustration.  Up to that point the novel had done a good job staying away from stereotyping Native Americans. That scene felt unnecessary to the story.

 


Viscountess of Vice (Regency Reformers, book 3) by Jenny Holiday

51-mDlewAnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_To tonish society Lady Catherine, Viscountess of Cranbook is a somewhat scandalous widow whose pleasurable but short liaisons with younger men draw little notice.  When an old associate of her late husband asks her to join his espionage ring, and pose as courtesan in order to help uncover a plot against the British government, the risks are an incentive rather than a deterrent. But her task becomes harder and more complicated when she meets James Burnham. James is doctor and earnest social reformer who engages Lady V out of a very personal desire to understand the reasons women enter prostitution at all levels.  At first she enjoys tempting and needling him but sincerely comes to like and admire him. When Lady V uncovers a scheme involving children that deeply distress her but is of little interest to her home office handlers she turns to James for help, endangering both their lives and reputations.

I really enjoyed getting to know Lady Catherine's backstory and watching her struggle to discover her personal ethics and boundaries.  While her interest in James prompts some of it, it is really her own journey to finding purpose and meaning in her life.  I  found James's journey less compelling and complete, as he lets go of past resentments .  However their romance and the sacrifices they have to make for it was wholly satisfying.  I liked the humor and playfulness to Catherine and James initial interactions. I particularly like how Catherine comes to consider James's feelings without giving up her agency and autonomy.

I very much enjoyed the historical details and the broader scope of Regency life, Holiday portrayed in the Viscountess of Vice. I will be going back and reading the previous Regency Reformers books, to catch up on this different corner of Regency world.

 

I received a review copy of The Viscountess of Vice from the author.

 

 


Four-Novella-Day Mini-Reviews

Saturdays are usually crazy hectic at our house. We run our girls to different activities, choir, karate & other social events and then often head out ourselves in the evening.  This Saturday I had a great excuse to stay in my PJs all day as my youngest daughter was feverish but recovering from a mini-bout of flu. She wanted company but not conversation so I sat next to her and read novella after novella. I enjoyed an eclectic but solidly good mix.

41AD8Zm7tCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I started my morning with Play With Me by Alisha Rai.  It is really book 1 in the Bedroom Games triology but the romantic arc in this first novella is satisfying & hopeful enough that it can be read as a stand-alone. Tatiana and Wyatt were each other's first lovers. They had a passionate seven year relationship that broke down dramatically for lots of reasons that carry little weight anymore.  When Tatiana's newly discovered brother makes a horrible mistake, stealing in desperation from Wyatt's casino, she rushes to intervene.  This short is heavily in the erotic side of erotic romance, but I really loved the romantic turn in the last half, when Wyatt and Tatiana surface from their lust-filled night to untangle their feelings for each other and explore if they want more from each other than a one-night reunion now that they can play as equals.

51K7Ugb1xbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Blizzard Bliss by Kelly Maher was written and published during Storm Jonas and it was a delightful sexy little story. Two co-workers are finally able to break the ice and get together after months of secretly crushing on each other.  When Cecilia is stranded in DC, Rory offers her a place to stay.  The story is sweetly flirtatious as they go out sledding together and share kisses in the snow.  There is not a lot of tension in the book because it is clear fairly early on that they both like each other and just needed an excuse to get to know each other outside of work. I would love read more books related to this one, as there were a lot of intriguing hints to deeper backstories. 

518qU1Z85wL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Next, I read Tessa Dare's latest Spindle Cove story, Lord Dashwood Missed Out.  Miss Nora Browning grew up loving Dash, the wild orphaned boy-next-door, that was her brother's best-friend and her quiet comfort after his unexpected death.  When he unexpectedly and cruelly dashes all her hopes,  treating her abominably during her first season, then departs without notice on five-year cartographic mission, Nora pours all her disappointment and frustration into a pamphlet titled: Lord Ashwood Missed Out. The pamphlet becomes hugely popular with young overlooked misses and Nora refashions her life around writing and speaking for young women, finding new purpose and passions through it.  She is on her way to Spindle Cove for a speaking engagement when she unexpectedly runs into a livid Dashwood, who has just recently returned to England to find his reputation in tatters.  A series of storm-related travel mishaps strands Nora and Dash together in a frigid gamekeeper's hut, where they have to confront all their hurt feelings and searing attraction.   When Nora fails to arrive in Spindle Cove, Dare reunites several previous heroes in a comedic quest to rescue the missing visiting authoress.  The last few chapter's bordered on mad-cap ridiculousness and farce but remained grounded through the sincerity of Dash and Nora's conflicted feelings for each other.  

26067203After finishing these three novellas by mid-morning I struggled to find another book to read.  I started and abandoned several good books after a few chapters because I wasn't in the right mood before sinking into K.J. Charles' A Fashionable Indulgence. The first book in her new Regency-era series is about the son of political radicals that is plucked from his working-class life by his domineering aristocratic grand-father. His cousin recruits a friend and consummate dandy, Julius, to help Harry learn how to dress and navigate high-society. It started out very strong but I had a niggling feeling that I was missing something. I did some googling and discovered that Charles had released a short-story set before the first book. The short-story is not a prequel, but did offer just enough backstory on Richard Vane and the Ricardians that I feel more secure in returning to A Fashionable Indulgence after reading it.

The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh is a enemies-to-lovers story.  Ash is the somewhat hapless, unloved youngest son of a Duke.  He loses his whole fortune in one very ill-advised night of gambling against Francis Webster, a long-time enemy of his older brother. He is contemplating suicide or fleeing to the France when Webster summons him. Unexpectedly Webster offers him an opportunity to win back his fortune. The tension and conflict in this face-off was fantastic. I loved how slowly Ash comes around to realizing what Francis really wants from him and how long he has wanted it himself. I am very glad I went back and read this as I adore enemies to lovers.

These four novellas were really very different but they were just what I need to read yesterday. 


The King's Man by Elizabeth Kingston

51tRptIWeJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Ranulf Ombrier earned his lands with blood. He murdered his foster father and the king's rival as a teenager, earning himself the king's favor and the scorn and suspicion of all others.  That his foster father was an abusive monster was well known but you simply didn't kill a man in his bed.  Since then Ranulf has faithfully done Edward's bidding, but when Ruardean armed party stumbles upon him and nearly kills him, he is deep in Wales far from the court, ignoring the king's summons. Ranulf is a haunted man seeking peace and redemption but trapped by a reputation and legacy of dishonor and brutality.

Gwenllian of Ruardean is the chief of that armed party. She is the daughter of an absent mad Marcher Lord and an ambitious Welsh noblewoman who holds his lands in his place. She leads a mighty armed forced and has many reasons for wanting Ranulf Ombrier dead.  But instead of letting him die, she nurses him back to health only to forcibly escort him back to Edward. Gwenllian is a consummate warrior but is just as trapped as Ranulf when they arrive at court. Her loyalties and ethics are deeply tested.

There are not a lot of medieval romances on the market anymore but even if there was a crowded field Elizabeth Kingston's The King's Man would rise to the top.  I listened to the audiobook narrated by the industry legend, Nicholas Boulton.  I was riveted and not just because Boulton is an excellent narrator. I was reduced to manufacturing errands so I could justify staying in my car a little longer to listen. In the end I ended up listening to the audiobook while my children were in the car with me because the build up to the final conflict and tension was so great I couldn't bear to stop and I didn't have a copy of the ebook to switch to.

The novel is rich in political and interpersonal conflict as these two protagonists are physically powerful people who have to learn to be vulnerable to each and put each other first defying everyone's expectations.  I absolutely loved Gwenllian and Ranulf and the unlikely and hesitant bond they develop. Their relationship is at times awkward, frantic, rough and deeply passionate. Their commitment and loyalty despite their own fear and insecurity was remarkably compelling.

I would absolutely love to read a series related to King's Man. I would love to see more of Gwenllian and Ranulf and the many rich secondary characters Kingston created. I loved Gwenllian's Ruardean men, faithful, steadfast soldiers, loyal to her and wary of the future.  Gwenllian's ambitious mother, with her machinations and political games, born to rule. All of them have feel like they have some much solidity and promise for more.

The King's Man was the January selection of "The Not-a-bookclub" twitter discussion group I participate in.  We discussed it together last Sunday and I have embedded below the tweets from our discussion.  It is extremely rare for all of us to love the same book but we did. The King's Man just pleased us all so much.  Rich in historical detail, powerful story, and compelling characters. 


One Love with stories by Roxie Rivera, Farrah Rochon, Liliana Lee, Jill Sorenson, Genevieve Turner & Audra North

CYrh_04WYAEMNqxOne Love collects a lot of great previously released multi-cultural romances along with one new story by Audra North. The stories are great introductions to some wonderful authors and are well worth the .99 price tag.

In Roxie Rivera's Her Cowboy Protector, Cruz Montes, a heavily pregnant Doctoral student in Math, must go into hiding when her undercover DEA agent brother, Carlos discovers that her rapist and wanted assassin is looking back in town and looking for Cruz. 

When his old army buddy calls him, Niall Campbell doesn't hesitate to step up and help.  He will do his best to keep Carlos's sister safe even if he doesn't have much more than a desolate farm and war-honed instincts to offer.

If that seems like a lot of plot, it is only a fraction of what goes on in this book.  Rivera's action packed plots are always intense, complicated and over-the-top. Somehow her books are fun to read despite the many hard topics she tackles.  While I rolled my eyes at points, I enjoyed the ride. 

All You Can Handle by Farrah Rochon 

Madison "Sonny" White left the behind medical school, a social climbing fiancee and the ever-present pressure of her parents' expectations to pursue a life of her own choosing.  Flirting outrageously with the wickedly handsome stranger in a suit on her first night in a new town is a risk she would have never dared before but hopes never to regret.

Ian Landry almost always has grease under his fingernails from the engines he repairs on his off-days.  His life is dedicated to caring for his younger sister and making a better life for both of them, so he rarely ever has an opportunity to share drinks with his friends at his old bar but he has cause to celebrate.  Madison is alluring and a temptation he doesn't want to walk away from after one night, especially when they both awkwardly discover he is her new landlord the next morning.

All You Can Handle is the sixth book in Rochon's Moments in Maplesville novella series and is the kind of story I am always asking for:  a small town romance that is sexy and fun, has a great sense of place and has POC leads. As soon as I finished it I picked up the rest of the series. If you are fan of small-town contemporary romances similar to Shannon Stacey's Kowalski series, pick these up. The first two are available as a free bundle.

The second-to-last story in the collection was Audra North's Cabin Fever, a second-chance-at-love story. The last time Rico Cardenas and Becca Neubaum saw each other their friendship fell apart with harsh words and a misunderstanding. It has been five years polite distance, punctuated by awkward avoidance, regret and unexpected challenges. 

Rico and Becca's reunion is not easy. They have both grown up a lot in 5 years, their lives changing in directions they never anticipated and as much as they are familiar with each other, they need to get to know each other in a different way and learn lessons from how they hurt each other before.

I had previously read Liliana Lee's Obsession, Jill Sorenson's Wild for Him and Genevieve Turner's Summer Chaparral, so I didn't re-read them this time around even though I enjoyed them all when they were first released.  Liliana Lee is the another name for Jeannie Lin, whose Tang Dynasty historical romances I adore.  Obsession is first of a historical erotica series.  

The events in Jill Sorenson's story Wild for Him, happen concurrently with her full-length novel Wild but can be read as stand-alone.  Gwen Tagaloa is a tattoo artist who finds herself falling for her best-friend's long-distance-not-quite-ex-boyfriend Mitch when they work together to try to rescue Helen in the aftermath of massive earthquake.  

Summer Chaparral is the first of Turner's historical romance Las Morenas series about three sisters from an Old Spanish family in a rapidly changing California.  Jace and Catarina are both flawed people carrying heavy family burdens.  They have to overcome a lot to turn their shot-gun marriage into a love match.

One Love provides a great mix of multi-cultural romances across genre and time-periods showcasing the amazing variety of multi-cultural romances available.

 

 


RT Review Round-up January

51EGLMxuqpLThe One for Me by Sydney Landon  There was some really fun twitter flirtation in this book but final conflict confrontation was really hard to come back from.

Winterwood by Jacey Bedford  This is absolutely my favorite book I have ever reviewed for RT. I gave it 4.5 stars, RT Top Pick. The first I have ever given out.  I really enjoyed it cross-dressing female pirate captain, ghosts, shape-shifting wolf and a very interesting magical world.  I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.