Tag Archive | historical romance

Where the Lost Wander, Amy Harmon

Where the Lost Wander, Amy Harmon

Where the Lost Wander: A Novel by [Amy Harmon]

Genre: Women’s fiction, General Fiction ( Adult)

Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.

Anyway, what a fabulous book. Fiction, but with real roots. I usually read books in one fell swoop, but with this kind of story I like to read over 4 or 5 sessions, savouring the words and events, and there is so much going on its really for me the best way to get the most out of it. I mull over whats been happening, over how events are going and really enjoyed living John and Naomi’s lives with them.
The descriptions of the scenery, the way the john and Naomi met, the others on the wagon train, the harshness of the journey. Amy doesn’t shy away from the hard side of this life, the way people could be alive one moment and then a short illness, and injury, an encounter with Indians and they’d be gone. Although it charts Naomi and Johns journey it encompasses so many more families, the mix of whites and their incursions onto the land, and the lifestyle of the Indian tribes who lived off the land and could see their way of life declining.
I was heartbroken when some events happened, sometimes the loss of life seemed so sudden, so tragic after all the hard work they’d done. I loved reading the events from the day to day minutiae, that always appeals to me and I felt there with the wagon train as they made their harsh journey, and with the Indians, seeing how they lived their transient lives. It was fascinating reading about not just the physical side of Indian life, but the spiritual side, how much emphasis that had on what they did, how they chose to run their lives.

Stars: Five, a wonderful read.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Belgravia, Julian Fellowes,

Belgravia, Julian Fellowes,
Now a major TV series, from the creator of DOWNTON ABBEY

Julian Fellowes's Belgravia: Now a major TV series, from the creator of DOWNTON ABBEY by [Fellowes, Julian]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Well, I must be one of the few people who’ve not seen Downton. I haven’t had a TV for years – but my daughter and daughter in law love the series, and I recall reading another of Julian’s books many years ago. Throw in that I like historical reads and I wanted to try this.
To be honest I was underwhelmed. Its a reasonable story, intrigue, passion ( what passes for passion in the 19th century of course), some excellent characters and a real feeling of being there with them.
The historical setting was brilliant, I could visualise it and feel myself there with the characters watching scenes play out. What I didn’t like was the actual story, its very true to time in that circumstances and appearances are all, the innate snobbery of those at the top for any one a rung below, the desire to join their ilk by those who’ve made money but have no historical Name.
I just felt no excitement, no real mystery, everything was explained very fully as the story went on, so that by the end the only people who didn’t know the whole story were a very small group of those whom it concerned. I guess I like to try to work things out myself rather than be told them, told how the characters are feeling, reacting and whats going to happen next.
For lots of readers clearly that isn’t a problem, I can see the book has many stanch followers. That just proves what I’m always saying – reading tastes vary so much and a low-mid star doesn’t mean a poor story, just one which that particular reader didn’t enjoy.

Stars: Three, good historical setting but a story that didn’t really resonate with me. .

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Lost and Found, Liv Rancourt

Lost and Found, Liv Rancourt

Lost and Found by [Rancourt, Liv]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

One of the reasons I love LGBTQIA reads is that the romance that always seems to have that extra edge of passion. Maybe it’s because of the barriers, historically it was illegal, punishable by prison, and even now in our supposed enlightened terms its still frowned on. People still carry that bigotry and make life difficult for those who want to love outside what they feel is *right*. Sad isn’t it that we can’t all just live and let live in real life. Still, it makes for some fabulous fiction.

When we meet Ben its clear to see the War ( WW1) has affected him mentally, but of course its an age when such things were not only largely unknown but unspoken too, and he’s kind of floundering along, single mindedly searching for his childhood friend Elias. He can’t explain why he needs to do this for a friend but he just has to.
Its clear to the reader than they had more than just friendship, but in times like those Ben seems to have shut off his mind to the possibility that they were more, that he is attracted to men. Who can blame him when any hint of liking your own sex carried the taint of Unnatural, the threat of prison, the ostracising in society and employment prospects. Awful isn’t it that we could send people off to war, to die for their country but not let them live as they chose.
Louis is also a tenant in the building where Ben has rented a room, and at first he seems so surly, dislikable, rude. Yet their landlady is one of those who gently interferes in folks lives, caring about them as friends, really looks after her tenants, and somehow she engages Louis to help Ben. Together more they start to understand each other, learn about the things that plague them both, and Ben discovers some surprises about himself that he’d locked in his mind.

Its a wonderful story, a beautiful romance, with all the period details that allowed me to feel there with them. Books like that work best for me, where I almost feel part of the story, and am happy or sad along with the characters. Its not just Ben and Elias but a host of others here that made the story so real, they became people I felt I knew as friends.
At the end Liv talks about the story and says a certain part was at the suggestion of her agent. I’m so glad she took that advice, without that section it would be a good read, with that addition it becomes a great read. That part really moved me, let me understand Ben more, made the feelings between Louis and Ben more concrete, made the problems they faced more real.
I love it when a book delivers a love story but makes the characters have real issues, face seemingly immovable barriers to their love, and lets those problems take over a complete section of the story, not just a couple of pages. Ben needed that, I needed it 😉 and it really made the ending more satisfying.

Stars: Five, a perfect historical read, full of tenderness and emotion.

Arc via author

The Love Child, Rachel Hore

The Love Child, Rachel Hore

The Love Child by [Hore, Rachel]

Genre:Women’s Fiction

Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.

Anyway, having enjoyed many of Rachel’s stories before I knew I’d love this. Its an intense read, very emotional at times, and shows just how much ladies struggled back in the early-mid twentieth century.

Alice is nursing in WW1, at time when no-one knew if they’d see tomorrow, and many seized the chances they had. She was nursing Jack, they fell in love and like many, intended to marry after the war. Sadly for Jack there was no After, and Alice was left pregnant and unmarried, a scandal in her – and most – family.
Shipped off by her stepmother she was made to have Stella adopted. After all, though ostensibly she had a choice, loved her baby, wanted to keep this small piece of Jack, at 19 with no parental support for that course of action, she wouldn’t have been able to make a life for the two of them. Hobson’s choice as they say.
Stella becomes Irene, adored by her dad but never quite feeling wanted in the family, when it was clear that her mum favored her biological child Clayton. Its a lonely childhood, kids can be cruel, and she finds respite with Tom and his mum, a village oddity too, as an artist and unmarried mother.
Fast forward to the future, Alice becomes a devoted doctor, married and has children, but all the while there’s the secret of Irene. Irene is grown, works in an art gallery, loves Tom but he’s oblivious, as men often are ;-). She finds things that make her question the story of her birth and starts to search for her mum, someone kept secret so far. As the stories of Alice and Irene begin to connect those secrets start to come to light.

Its a lovely story, ends well, though for a while I feared Alice was in for yet more heartbreak. Its ever the way, men are expected, encouraged even to “sow their oats” but women must remain chaste, and if caught, the blame lays unfairly on them.

Stars: Four, its a lovely story, very real feeling, had me emotional at times, feeling as if I was there back in time with the characters.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife: A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women by [Coverdale, Jane]

Genre: Romance

Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.

Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.

Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.

Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.

Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Guarded Heart, Heidi Kimball

A Guarded Heart, Heidi Kimball

A Guarded Heart by [Kimball, Heidi]

Genre: Romance, Historical fiction.

This is a gentle read, veering from present to three years past, no great surprises, and the plot lines are a little cliched. The characters were OK, the way Society and the attitude to scandal works was spot on, but I wasn’t really invested in the couple enough.

I’d guessed pretty quickly what had happened, and as usual in stories instead of talking, Edmund goes off in a righteous huff. Stuff like this happens, but it makes me question just how strong feeling are if you believe someone could do that- and equally, how is it possible to just put it behind you once the truth is revealed.
I liked Eleanor and Edmund, hoped for a little more nastiness from the woman he’s currently courting, the claws came out occasionally but were pretty much sheathed. The story line involving Eleanor’s brother added a little extra to the last half of the story.

Overall though it was one I enjoyed but wouldn’t read again.

Stars: Three, a story that was a gentle read, but I wasn’t convinced of their True Passion, anyone that can drop someone that easily doesn’t deserve forgiveness so quickly.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Enchantée, Gita Trelease

Enchantée, Gita Trelease

Enchantée by [Trelease, Gita]

Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.

The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.

There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?

Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.

Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.

Arc via Netgalley

Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles

Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles

Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys Book 1) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.

I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!

Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.

Arc via author

Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess: The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore by [Leigh, Eva]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

* Sigh…Women’s Fiction again…Why? Why write off a potential clutch of readers? Men write romance, men read romance so this genre is sadly outdated.
I didn’t like Vanity Fair, and though I loved Poldark this isn’t in any way similar to those novels, except in the setting being Cornwall and past times.

Another historical that proved for me to be well written but not exciting. Its an easy read, a perfect book to relax with but not one to set the heart pounding, make emotions come alive.

I liked both characters to begin with, and love that Regency way of talking round issues, of pandering to society while working towards one’s own ends. Its a clever trick, a dance that’s hard to perfect and I love the way characters know what they want but have to use polite dissembling to achieve it. Here its Kit that needs a wife to secure his fortune and Tamsyn that needs a wealthy husband. Both have ambitions that need money, and a very short span of time in which to obtain it.
I loved the spark that ran between them, sexual tension, subtle wit and a sharp intelligence in both made them perfect for each other. Both though are holding a big secret, Kit wants the money for the dream that held him together in the depths of war, Tamsyn wants to buy her childhood home and the smuggling coves so essential for sustaining the villagers in these lean times.
It plays out well, gradually unfolding the plots each have to gain what they want. They marry, and then Kit receives a massive shock, control of the money is solely with Tamsyn, he has to ask her for everything, the promises he made about setting her up with an allowance, etc all fall flat. Tables are turned and its Tamsyn who has the deciding hand. Of course letting him have the money for his dream means letting go of hers, and can she do that with the village depending on her?

That’s where it fell back for me, she didn’t discuss anything, didn’t try to meet Kit halfway, just made her mind up and went ahead. I found that really unlike the character I thought she was, and to be honest, morally unfair too. It was Kit’s inheritance, but she’s happy to take charge of it and make all the decisions. Emasculating for any man, especially in that era. There’s also the fact that she knows how he feels about the Law, and yet she’s made him an unwitting accomplice, without ever trying to work things out another way. I’m not saying his ideas where necessarily right, but what she did felt so very wrong. I really didn’t like the way she just dashed his dreams, no discussion, no explanations just waded ahead with her own plans.
Then when it all comes to a head, well, that old 10cc seventies song springs to mind “The things we do for love…” I did find Kits about turn on what he had long believed a little hard to take, heat of the moment yes, but I thought there’d be some hard words in private, but he appears to have abandoned all his principles and it made me think less of him.

Still, its a romance, we can’t have an unhappy couple, and clever Kit finds a way to make both of them achieve what they want.

Stars: Three, a solidly written story, but at times I disliked Tamsyn intensely, and I felt Kit was way to quick to abandon all his long held beliefs.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

The Last Duke, 1797 Club, Jess Michaels

The Last Duke, 1797 Club,  Jess Michaels

The Last Duke (The 1797 Club Book 10) by [Michaels, Jess]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

I’m an eclectic reader, and sometimes I lie to dip back to gentler times – well, real life wasn’t gentler but historical romance tends to be. I was really hoping I’d Like this story because Jess has written so many novels and I’d not read any of them. There’s nothing like the discovery of a new-to-you author who has loads of novels you can then devour. Sadly though this was an easy read, it wasn’t one that gripped me.
The characters are pleasant, the storyline pretty simple, lady goes down in station when fortunes fall, becomes governess and falls in love with a duke. I liked meeting the other dukes and duchesses, and maybe if I’;d read their stories I’d have got more from this. Maybe…

I tend to want a bit more drama and angst, even in historical reads, more tension and problems that I can’t see how to work out. This was just a well written, simple, easy tale full of gentle problems, a developing romance and a sweet ending. I could see from the start how it was going to end and while I don’t mind that – after all I constantly re-read favourites while knowing exactly what will happen – in this instance I just felt it was all too light and cute for me.

As always though the reminder, what I like and what you like aren’t necessarily the same. What doesn’t work for me about this story could be just what makes it perfect for you. I’ve devoured many novels others have rated one and two stars because they hate what I love. Horses for courses and all that.

Stars:Three, A well written story but one that just doesn’t excite me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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