Excuse me, cover designers…

Is it a ball in 1876 – or a wedding in 2017??

This trend for the enormous prom dress cover was widely mocked when it was all the rage in Young Adult fiction. However, I could (sort of) understand why it was being done for that subgenre.

Now, though, it is plaguing historical romance, and I’m not happy! Considering Regency (nor Georgian, nor Victorian) gowns looked nothing like these, not only is the trend irritating me, but it is presenting the books as another genre.

Writers as good as Lisa Kleypas, Shana Galen, etc. deserve better!

Hopefully it’s a trend that will soon pass, but I doubt it.

third-sons-a-charm-2017-survivors-series-book-1-a-novel-by-shana-galen

 Devil in Spring (2017) (The third book in the Ravenels series) A novel by Lisa Kleypas

A Temporary Family by Sherri Shackelford

a-temporary-family-by-sherri-shackelford

MAKE-BELIEVE MARRIAGE 

When Tilly Hargreaves and her three nieces are stranded at his small stagecoach station in an abandoned town and threatened by outlaws, Nolan West must protect them. And the only way he can do that is by pretending he’s married to Tilly. But can the former solider, whose only wish is for solitude, stop himself from growing attached to his temporary family? 

Tilly knows the charade is necessary to keep her and the girls safe, but now her heart is in danger. The longer she pretends the stoic station agent is her husband, the more genuine their union feels. Nolan believes he’s better off alone, but Tilly’s certain that if he’d only open his heart to his make-believe family, he’d want to claim them as his for real. 

A Temporary Family by Sherri Shackelford

Sherri Shackelford is one of the best authors writing for Harlequin’s Love Inspired lines. Her historical romances set on the 19th century US frontier all have original ideas and original characters, and the Christian aspects of her stories are so subtle you might not even notice they’re there.

I will say that it took me a little while to get into this one. The characters are guarded and so a tad hard to get to know, and then they (and the three girls the heroine is caring for) are thrown into immediate danger – before we’ve had a chance to care about them.

On the other hand, A Temporary Family gets better as it goes on, which is definitely better than the book slowing down near the end!

Even though most Love Inspired Historical reads come across as overly similar to each other at the moment (I’m dying to read a few without children in them!), if you’re going to try one of these, this is probably the author you should gravitate to.

But if only the hero fought for the Union in the war!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Patricia Briggs’ New Book

silence-fallen-mercy-thompson-10-by-patricia-briggs-cover

Silence Fallen, the tenth book in Patricia Briggs’ hugely popular Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series, is due out now.

Briggs is one of my favourite urban fantasy authors, and if you haven’t tried her books yet, I’d highly recommend going back to the beginning of the series and starting there. This is a complex world with ever-evolving characters and a strong relationship at the centre.

silence-fallen-mercy-thompson-10-by-patricia-briggs

Coyote shapeshifter Mercy Thompson is attacked and abducted in her home territory. Fighting off a crazed werewolf, she manages to escape, only to find herself alone in the heart of Europe, without money, without clothing and on the run from the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world.

Unable to contact her pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, but first she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy needs to be at her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves – and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise. . .

Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas

devil-in-spring-ravenels-book-3-by-lisa-kleypas-uk-cover

An eccentric wallflower

Most debutantes dream of finding husbands. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy – and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realise their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven.

Devil in Spring (Ravenels book #3) by Lisa Kleypas

I love everything Lisa Kleypas writes, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Devil in Spring as much as I did. My type of historical heroine is much more an Annabelle or a Helen, and so Pandora took me by surprise.

As with the other books in this series, Kleypas has chosen a later nineteenth century setting: the 1870s. It’s a fascinating era where everything was changing – this is definitely not Jane Austen’s Regency!

We’ve met Pandora in the first two books, and knew she was eccentric, fairly extroverted, and interested in creating her own board games, not in marriage. She is also a twin who – like her twin and other sister – was raised in seclusion on the family estate. Because of this she can be naïve for her age.

However, there’s much more to her than that, and she has a secret she has been hiding from everyone. In her notes at the end of the book, Kleypas also suggests Pandora has ADHD.

Something that has been bothering me about historical romance for a while is the way very young heroines are always either far too mature for their ages (it’s rare to find HR heroines beyond their early twenties, but they so often act two decades older), or that they’re condemned by readers for NOT being too mature for their ages.

So I did a mental fist-pump when the hero’s father pointed out:

‘To play devil’s advocate – has it occurred to you that Lady Pandora will mature?’

What a novel thought!

She was becoming someone new, with him – they were becoming something together – and nothing was going to turn out the way she’d expected.

The hero, Gabriel, is the eldest son of the characters from a popular Kleypas book: Devil in Winter. He will one day be a duke, and the last thing he thinks he wants is being (accidentally) trapped into marriage to someone as unsuitable for the role of duchess as Pandora.

But trapped they are, and I believed the development of their relationship. They are both good people, but people with very different ideas about the world.

Even though there are some very dark moments in this story, a lot of it – thanks to the developing relationships between Pandora, Gabriel, and his family – was light-hearted and even funny. It’s nice to have two likeable main characters.

I also liked that the hero doesn’t immediately accept challenges to gender roles. He has been raised a certain way, at a certain point in time, and has to learn to open his mind.

Kleypas does an incredible amount of research, and it is very obvious in this book, where she needed to find a plausible way to give a major character a near-death experience – and bring them back with realistic medicine of the day.

She also uses London and the Victorian setting as characters, which is why her books are more engrossing than many others writing in the same genre.

One thing: no self-respecting Englishperson would call aluminium “aluminum”!

I really am enjoying this series, and am annoyed there’s no information about book four!

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Last Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James #1) by Amelia Grey

last-night-with-the-duke-the-rakes-of-st-james-1-by-amelia-grey

Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all?

The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.

Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride?

Last Night with the Duke (The Rakes of St. James #1) by Amelia Grey

There is a fad at the moment for historical romances involving governesses (or a chaperone from a governess agency, as is the case here). They seem to have overtaken duke-who-is-also-a-spy as the theme du jour.

For example, this series that I just read. Eloisa James’ latest also has the same plot as Last Night with the Duke.

I have read one other book by author Amelia Grey, and found it was your standard Regency romance. Inoffensive, familiar to those of us who read this genre often, delivering all the things you expect from the subgenre.

This one is no different.

The book is a little slow to get going – all except for the insta-lust! The first three chapters cover just ONE conversation between hero and heroine. He walks into her office, gets a nice feeling in his loins when he sees her, and decides he absolute MUST employ her as the chaperone for his sisters.

The act of convincing her to go along with this plan takes all of those three chapters.

Chapter four is the heroine considering the offer she has accepted, while chapter five sees the hero leaving the office and meeting up with his friends. All three of these men are dukes – that’s more dukes than I’ve ever seen in one series before! – and the others are obviously future heroes of future books in the series.

Chapter five is entirely the three dukes talking.

Chapter six is entirely the heroine talking to her little sister.

I was beginning to wonder if the plot would ever begin!

There is nothing especially wrong with this book (though people’s ages seem to keep changing!); I simply wasn’t enthralled by it.

If you’re looking for a standard Regency read, Last Night with the Duke is just that. However, I’m not sure it will stay with me for long.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Passion Favours the Bold (The Royal Rewards Duo #2) by Theresa Romain

passion-favors-the-bold-the-royal-rewards-duo-2-by-theresa-romain

Yay for a cover that matches the book!

DESPERATE MEASURES
Georgette Frost’s time is almost up. On her twenty-first birthday, the protections outlined in her late parents’ will are set to expire. With prospects for employment or marriage unfavorable at best, she decides to leave London and join her brother, Benedict, on a treasure hunt for gold sovereigns stolen from the Royal Mint.
 
DANGEROUS LIAISONS
 Lord Hugo Starling has always felt protective of his friend Benedict’s sister, Georgette. So when he discovers her dressed in ragged boy’s clothes, about to board a coach for parts unknown, he feels duty bound to join her search. But mystery piles upon mystery as they cross England together, not least of which is the confounded attraction between them. As Georgette leads him to a reward he never expected, Hugo realizes he’s embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime…

Passion Favours the Bold (The Royal Rewards Duo #2) by Theresa Romain

^^^^ See what I did with the spelling!

There aren’t many authors whose books I’d pick up when they advertise two of my three most hated historical romance tropes: the heroine in breeches, and the treasure hunt. (The third is the “duke who is a spy”.)

However, I have really enjoyed most of the books Theresa Romain has written, and so I took a chance. Her books are often lighter-hearted, but usually they’re funny rather than trying to be funny.

Firstly: the silly boy’s disguise disappears near the beginning of the book.

Secondly: the treasure-hunting adventure wasn’t some relentless tale of mad capers. This was at least as much a ROMANCE, with strong character development, as it was anything else.

And that is what is so special about this author’s books: the characters take their time, have quirks, and fall in love despite all the conflicts and flaws (Kate Noble is another author who does this).

There are some steamy scenes, but there is no conventional sex scene in this book. Even the first kiss comes a while in – and I liked this pacing. Even when they’re pretending to be married, hero and heroine are not jumping into bed together.

These two characters are a little strange, and have many issues to work their way through.

However, they are both great fun, and genuinely enjoy spending time together. The forced proximity worked because it wasn’t some obvious attempt to throw them straight into passionate love.

One other thing I absolutely love is that Romain often writes characters who are *slightly* socially below those in most Regency romances. Yes, the hero of this one is the son of a duke, but he’s a *younger* son, with almost no chance of ever inheriting, and so he has a career instead: medicine.

Romain’s use of British English has improved. It’s nice to see words like pavement in this book.

HOWEVER, a sentence ends with a FULL STOP, and never a “period”. Many a Regency author from North America uses expressions like ‘put a period to their stay in Northumberland’ – this makes absolutely no sense.

I enjoyed this book because everyone in it was slightly different. It’s nice to have some new ideas in an almost-overused time period.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Glasses and Book Covers

Many gazillions of people in this world do not have perfect eyesight, and many people wear glasses or contact lenses – or both at various times.

This includes romance heroes and heroines.

Now, I could get into the fact contact lenses in books are mentioned once and then totally ignored; like the characters never have to take them out or clean or deal with them, and that nobody ever gets something under the lenses and stands there with tears streaming down their face (me every day!), however it doesn’t make for much of a romance.

But what I’m angry about right now is the covers of these books.

In December I picked up two books in a row where a main character wore glasses full-time. In the first one it was the heroine. It was the hero in the second.

The covers are below.

wrong-brother-right-match-anyone-but-you-3-by-jennifer-shirk

more-than-friends-kendrick-place-by-jody-holford

Where are the bloody glasses?

These aren’t the only books. In fact, I cannot recall a SINGLE romance book cover where the character who is meant to be wearing them has them on.

Harlequin/Mills and Boon certainly has an aversion to them. Such as this Sarah Mayberry cover with a glasses-wearing heroine:

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Because when you have poor vision, the best place to wear your glasses is ON YOUR HAND.

Historical characters are given the same treatment:

lady-claire-is-all-that-keeping-up-with-the-cavendishes-3-by-maya-rodale

I get that smaller publishers have a limited budget for their covers, which means they have to go for whatever stock photography they can get their hands on, but surely they could try harder (a side note: the guy on cover #2 isn’t supposed to have a beard, either!).

There is NO excuse for publishers like Harlequin, other than that they don’t think it’s sexy enough to have a character with an eyesight problem. After all, Harlequin gets their own models and costumes and sets and producers when they make their book covers. I’m sure they could add a couple of pairs of glasses to the wardrobe department.

It’s a small thing, but a significant one. Just as the women on covers are always Amazonian runway models, no matter how petite the author describes them as, or how a hero always has short, dark hair, no matter how long or fair it is supposed to be, I’m getting that people would be much happier if authors just kept the glasses for the sidekick characters.

So much for the diversity authors are trying to go for!