Thursday, June 21, 2018

Top 5 Unusual Historicals for June 2018

Summer time! Sum-sum-summertime! The weather is warming up (for some of you it’s positively boiling…), my favorite sporting pastime time is in full swing (baseball!), and what better way to unwind during the busiest months at my day job than with some new historical romances. Here is what is catching my eye in June:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07CRL79H5/themisaofsupe-20
Pride and Passion by Carla Buchanan
Behind the soft smile, perfect manners, and helpful air, Constance Ray is a woman struggling to make it through the day. After her husband is killed in the Korean war, his death leaves her lost, knowing she can never be the woman she was before. Although, when a handsome navy officer shows up with a final word from the grave, Constance can’t ignore the message. She also can’t continue to be indifferent to the man who brought it, or his involvement in the war – the one for everyone’s right to be treated equally.

Nathaniel Kelly never means for it to happen, especially not with Constance. He is supposed to fulfill the final wish of the man he owed his life to, but he can’t help it when he instantly falls for the soften-spoken, bereaved preacher’s daughter. But as much as he wishes to court her, to love her, his loyalty to his friend and his obligation to make up for sins of the father, stand in the way. Remaining true to his friendship, and his mission, is hard when pride for the movement unites Nathaniel with Constance and his passion for her finally sets her free.
I know I have been featuring the latest Decades of African American romance book nearly every month, but seriously, how can I not?! These are settings you just don’t see every day in Romancelandia. A Korean War veteran? Seriously, tell me the last time (if ever!) you saw that in a romance novel. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B075HY5LVV/themisaofsupe-20
A Touch of Flame by Jo Goodman
 Dr. E. Ridley Woodhouse is like no physician Ben Madison has ever met--she's a woman. As the newly elected sheriff of Frost Falls, Colorado, Ben is tasked with welcoming Ridley to the community. But while Ben might be tempted by the new doc's charms, getting the town to accept a big-city, female doctor is no easy feat. To earn their trust she'll have to prove herself and Ben determines to help her...even if she's the most stubborn woman he's ever met.

When the husband of one of Ridley's patients threatens her, forbidding Ridley from treating his wife or children, all of Ben's protective instincts kick in. Ridley has come to rely on Ben's steady presence and the delicious tension that simmers just below the surface of their easy friendship--but as much as she trusts that his warnings to steer clear of Jeremiah Salt are sincere, she's never been one to back down from a challenge and she refuses to abandon her patient.

But sticking to your guns can earn you trouble in the rough terrain of the Wild West and danger threatens Ridley from unexpected places, forcing Ben to confront his deepest fear in order to save the woman he loves.
Goodman is a standard bearer in historical western romance, crafting well-developed historical worlds and creating meaty stories you can sink your teeth into. You’re not going to get a fluffy bit of brain candy with a Goodman western. She’s not an ideal candidate for me when it comes to pool lounging or beach reading - more like I want to shut myself in my bedroom one Sunday afternoon and not come up for air until I finish the last page.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B079JX8TRJ/themisaofsupe-20
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The Gunslinger’s Vow by Amy Sandas
Three runaway brides
Determined to escape their fates
Flee West to find freedom that can only be had in a cowboy's arms...

Alexandra Brighton spent the last five years in Boston, erasing all evidence of the wild frontier girl she used to be. Before she settles, she's determined to visit her childhood home one final time. But when she finds herself stranded far from civilization, she has no choice but to trust her safety to the tall, dark and decidedly dangerous bounty hunter, Malcolm Kincaid.

Now that Malcolm finally has the location of his brother's killer, he has no intention of wasting time protecting a pampered Eastern lady. But something about Alexandra speaks to the heart he long thought frozen—and her slow transformation from proper miss to wild-eyed beauty leaves him shaken. By the time they reach Montana, Malcolm must decide if seeking justice for past wrongs is worth losing a future with the woman he never expected to need…
A debut, of sorts. Sandas’ first three books for Sourcebooks were Regency England and she’s making the switch to the American West with this first book in a new trilogy. I’m a western fan from way back. I saw the mass exodus of western writers fleeing for English-set historicals in the early 2000s. Trust me, to have it happen the other way around is still not terribly common. I’m intrigued by the road romance premise of this one.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B077XZL15P/themisaofsupe-20
Secrets of a Wallflower by Amanda McCabe
A secret shared… But can she trust him?

In this Debutantes in Paris story, Diana Martin is thrilled to be a writer covering the Parisian Exposition. But her new role must be kept quiet—her parents would never allow it! When enigmatic Sir William Blakely discovers her ruse, he knows it could lead her into danger. With the sparks igniting between them, William realizes the only way to protect Diana is by staying as close to her as possible! 

Ah, Paris. Who doesn’t love Paris in the springtime? McCabe has a varied historical backlist, having written everything from mysteries, to Regencies, to Elizabethan. I’m looking forward to this one, a start of a new series for Harlequin Historical.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B077XWLX2M/themisaofsupe-20
Beguiled by the Forbidden Knight by Elisabeth Hobbes
He’s her enemy…
…and she must not fall for him!

When her mistress is claimed as an enemy knight’s betrothed, handmaiden Aelfhild knows it would be too dangerous for her lady; she must go in her place. But there’s more to the scarred knight than she first thought—she isn’t expecting to fall for him! As the line between friend and enemy blurs, Aelfhild realizes she might be protecting her mistress, but not her heart…
I’ve hopscotched around her backlist, but so far Hobbes’ has been a very consistent writer for me and I’ve enjoyed all the medievals I’ve read by her. I love the high stakes often found in this era (where a matter of loyalty could get one killed) and enemies-to-lovers works really well within that framework. I can’t wait to dive into this one.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#TBRChallenge 2018: A Dime Novel Hero

The Book: A Dime Novel Hero by Maureen McKade

The Details: Historical western romance, Avon, 1998, Out of print, Available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  It's a western and it's Maureen McKade.  I won't tell you how long it's been in my TBR though.  Years.  I'm not exaggerating...YEARS!

The Review:  For those of you keeping score at home, my reading of late has been the pits.  I mean, the literal pits.  So this month's Comfort Read theme for the TBR Challenge was just what the doctor ordered.  I opted for a historical western (a sub genre I love) and Maureen McKade - who has written some amazing books and some ho-hum meh books, but who has never delivered an outright stinker.  And boy howdy, I've read some steaming piles of you-know-what lately.  A Dime Novel Hero was her second published book and no, it's not perfect.  But it's competently, and compellingly, written and I sunk right into the story.  I read this in two sittings, practically gulping it down like a man near death from thirst.

Kit Thornton was a motherless pudgy little girl with spectacles whose father didn't have time for her and worse still, didn't "get" her.  She loves to read books, take care of injured stray animals, and needless to say is a favorite target for bullies.  Then one day wild Jake Cordell comes to her rescue and hero worship quickly turns to puppy love. 

Years later, Jake is working as a law clerk in Boston when he gets word his father, a prominent judge, is gunned down by an outlaw.  Never close with his father, his mother having abandoned him at a young age, Jake is determined to exact his revenge.  He saddles up as a bounty hunter and six years later has finally brought the killer to justice.  Now he's back home to claim the family ranch.  Except the family ranch is now owned by Kit Thornton.

Thanks to a stipulation in Jake's father's will, Kit was able to buy the ranch and she lives there with her two hired men (both of them "not white" - so that goes over just about as well as you'd expect with the "good townsfolk") and her adopted 5-year-old son.  The boy, Johnny, is Jake's.  A product of a relationship he had with a saloon girl who Kit nursed in her dying days.  But Johnny doesn't know that and neither does Jake.  And now he's back in town.  Further complicating Kit's life?  She borrowed money against the ranch to buy some horses, that loan is nearly due, and Kit doesn't have the money.  Oh, and did I mention she's the secret writer of dime novels starring Jake Cordell?  Yeah, those books have expounded on his reputation and needless to say Jake's not terribly pleased.

We all know where this is going.  Jake has done what he set out to do, which is find his father's killer.  However his relationship with his father was complicated and Jake has a lot of unresolved baggage.  Kit's books (which nobody knows Kit is the writer) have elevated Jake to this mythic-like hero, when he's really a flawed man.  A man that Kit has to pick up off a saloon floor and bail out of jail in the early chapters.  But Kit, bless her heart, can't help herself.  She's still rescuing strays and her feelings for Jake are complicated.  Now he wants to buy back his family ranch, doesn't know she wrote those novels about him, doesn't know he has a son, and doesn't know about her current financial straits.

There's a Sword of Damocles hanging over most of this story because both Jake and Kit are lying to each other by omission.  Kit's reasons are fairly easy to understand.  I don't necessarily like that she doesn't come clean about little Johnny straight away, but she has her reasons - most of them wrapped up around the mother's wishes and Jake's footloose track record.  Jake is one of those complicated romance heroes that runs hot and cold.  He's a good guy underneath everything, which is what Kit sees in him.  But man, there are times you want to slap him into next Tuesday.  Kit is so good, and so giving, and frankly he does her wrong (by omission - but still done wrong) in more than one instance in this story.

This is a romance, so naturally it all works out in the end and there are some really heady emotional scenes during The Black Moment that I actually felt a few tears leak out.  That said, this ain't perfect.  Kit is the sort who claims she doesn't care what people think of her, but the cruelty hurts her all the same.  She's the sort that if she were pregnant out of wedlock she wouldn't hide away for 9 months, and yet everyone in town just assumes Johnny is biologically hers. This is a plot hole the author never explains. The conflict hinges on several Big Secrets and in the end the fact that Kit is the author of the dime novels is dashed off as an afterthought, which is a sign (in my opinion) that there were too many elements being juggled at once.

There's also a few elements that some readers may find upsetting that I feel like need to be mentioned in a minor spoiler sort of way.  One of Kit's hired men is black, and the n-word is dropped during one scene by a villainous character who just got done beating up Kit's other hired man, who is half-Pawnee.  There's a near rape of the heroine (because of course there is - this is a 20-year-old historical after all) and over the course of the story a horse has to be put down. 

But in the end, even with the faults and nit-picks, I really fell right into the story.  It's well-written (nit-picks aside), I was invested in the characters, and easily kept swiping left to read the next page.  It's nowhere near my favorites by McKade, but it was a pleasant, memorable read that found me in the nick of time.  As my reading of late has showcased, I definitely could have done worse.

Final Grade = B-

Friday, June 15, 2018

Reminder: #TBRChallenge for June 2018


Hey, hey, hey!  For those of you participating in the 2018 #TBRChallenge, a reminder that your commentary is "due" on Wednesday, June 20.  The theme this month is Comfort Read.

However you define comfort read.  For me it's a book and/or author almost guaranteed to make me happy.  A story I can fall right into, a story that brings me that happy glow.  Or in the case of my reading trends right now?  I'd be happy with something that doesn't suck.

But what if the concept of comfort reading is foreign to you?  What if you're like, "Whatever are you talking about Wendy? Comfort read?!" Hey, that's OK.  The themes are optional and really, you can read whatever you want.  The whole point of the TBR Challenge is to read something that has been languishing in your TBR.

Reminders:

1) If you're participating via social media, remember to use the #TBRChallenge hashtag

and 

2) It is not too late to sign-up!  You can get further details and links to all the blogs participating on the 2018 TBR Challenge Information Page.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: Transcendence

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00IFV9AXY/themisaofsupe-20
Folks, this is going to be one of my more challenging reviews to date.  Why?  Because Transcendence by Shay Savage took parts of Romancelandia by storm a few years ago, including captivating my good buddy, and RWA roomie, KristieJ.  Kristie told me I had to read it.  So I bought this when it was 99 cents and it sat on my Kindle until finally Kristie said I had to promise to read it before RWA in July.  So, I did.  My experience with this book can be wrapped up in one simple, inelegant, response:

WT-Actual-F did I just read?!?!

Seriously.  I want to drown myself in a vat of brain bleach.

The story opens with some half-baked science-y explanation on why our hero can't talk or understand language. Blah, blah, blah SCIENCE!  Once past the prologue we meet our caveman (seriously) hero, Ehd, trying to stay alive after the death of his tribe (wiped out by a fire).  He digs a pit, manages to catch an antelope (or whatever) and in his state of hunger accidentally leaves his spear behind.  When he goes back he notices his pit has captured something else.  A young woman wearing strange clothing and making a lot of weird mouth noises.

The young women, Beh, is from "the future."  But Ehd doesn't know that because he can't communicate or understand what she's saying and damn she makes all these weird mouth noises that hurt his head.  She basically cries a lot and is generally the most annoying thing on the planet Earth, which takes some doing since the reader isn't given her point of view.  That's right kids!  This story is told in first person, present tense, from the hero's point of view.  Yes, the hero who can't talk or understand language.  How he can tell a story to the reader then defies logic - but whatever.  Ours is not to reason why.  Ehd takes one look at our idiot heroine, immediately starts thinking of her as his "mate" and spends the rest of the novel desperately wanting to get her pregnant.

Yes, it's all just as insulting as I'm making it sound.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at the notes I highlighted while reading last night:

At 9%:
However, she seems so frightened of me now, I don’t think she would readily position herself on her hands and knees so I can fill her.  Still, I am much stronger, and if I want inside of her, I can just hold her while I enter her body.  Joining with her in such a way would still feel very good, I imagine, but I don’t like it when she yells and cries, and I think she would probably do that if I have to hold her down to mate with her. These thoughts are making my penis lengthen and become stiff.  I consider stroking myself, but I am afraid it will wake her.  I sigh as I look down on her sleeping face and wonder how long it will be before I can properly mate with her.  I touch her cheek softly again, and I know when I decide to lie with her, I want her to enjoy it.  So how do I get that to happen? Finally, after thinking about it a long time, I decide I need to make her like me.
Wendy's Notes: WT-Actual-F am I reading?!  And wait, how does a caveman hero who cannot understand language know the word "penis?"

At 16%:
As much as I need water and food and shelter, I need to be inside of her—I need to give her a baby.
Wendy's Notes: Sure, why not? Let's roll feminism back 100 years.

At 22%:
I hope if I am patient, she will let me put a baby inside of her soon.
Wendy's Notes: Kill. Me. Now.

At 36%:
We have to mate now before it’s too late. I have to put a baby in her.
Wendy's Notes: Seriously dude. WE GET IT ALREADY!

At 41%:
I can feel the heat in my groin and the hardness of my flesh under my furs, and I know my body is straining to put a baby inside of her as soon as possible.  Before long, the weather will be cold, and Beh will have to have a baby in her soon so it will be big enough to survive the next winter.
Wendy's Notes: Barf and kill me.

At 43%:
I mean—if she touched me there, then surely she’ll let me put a baby in her now, right?
Wendy's Notes: You know, sometimes I'm a little slow but I think I'm beginning to notice a pattern here.../end sarcasm.

At 69%:
My mate likes everything to be clean and dry, and putting my penis in her while she is bleeding is clearly not an option.
Wendy's Notes: What sweet hell is this?! 

At 71%:
We eat; I put my penis inside of her for a while, and then I fall back to sleep.
Wendy's Notes: Proof that some 21st century men haven't evolved all that much from their cavemen ancestors.  Booya!  

And really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  You've got a time traveling heroine whose point of view you don't get, who cries All. The. Time and doesn't do a damn thing THE ENTIRE STORY to figure out how she got there, how to get back to her own time etc.  Color me wacky, but I think I'd make that my priority over giving it up to a caveman who can't talk.  But the piece de resistance?  When the heroine gets her period the caveman hero fashions up some maxi-pads for her using antelope hide and dried grass.  

People, I can't even. 

Harlequin kills SuperRomance for, presumably, low sales  and THIS!  This is the sort of story that earns glowing 5-star reviews out the ying-yang.  A heroine (yes, she's an idiot - but still...) reduced to broodmare, a story concept that defies logic (How does he know the word penis? How can this story be told from his point of view when HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND LANGUAGE?!), and a time travel element/explanation that makes even less sense than your typical time travel romance - which, long time romance readers will attest to, takes some serious doing.

I'm done.  I'm out.  I want wine.  Send wine.  Lots and lots of wine.

Final Grade = F 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

DNF Review: Hanover House

I wouldn't say I'm cheap, more like frugal.  Yes, audiobook sales are about the only corner of the publishing industry making money right now - but yeah...I don't buy audiobooks.  That's why Sweet Baby Jeebus gave us libraries.  The downside to getting all of your audiobooks from the library is that, you know, sometimes you have to wait.  My glom of Marcia Muller is temporarily on hold while I wait my turn for the next book in the series, so I thought I'd listen to Hanover House by Brenda Novak to pass the time.

Oh Wendy.  Foolish, foolish Wendy.

This is a prequel novella to the author's latest romantic suspense series.  Evelyn Talbott is a psychiatrist who specializes in psychopathy.  It's not the sort of thing you would think a gorgeous (because of course she is...) young woman would be interested in - but when she was a teenager her boyfriend murdered her friends and held her captive.  The kicker?  She coughed up her virginity to this guy.  Needless to say 30-something Evelyn doesn't date and doesn't have sex.  Instead she has convinced the government to build a high security prison/hospital/whatever to house and study psychopaths.  The lower 48 were, naturally, not receptive to this proposal, which is why Hanover House is being built in semi-isolated (there's a town nearby) Alaska.

I'll be honest, I wasn't madly in love with this story from the get-go but it was hovering somewhere in middling C territory and I still needed to pass the time before my next audiobook hold came in.  What moved this from Meh Territory into Hell No Territory was at about the halfway point when the heroine heads to Alaska.

The hunky local State Trooper, who was (naturally) against the proposal to house a bunch of psychopaths in his town's backyard, calls to report that the still-under-construction Hanover House has been vandalized.  He suggests that Evelyn may want to mingle with the townsfolk a bit more.  If she's less standoff-ish maybe they'll magically be OK with Hanover House being in the neighborhood.  So he takes her to the local bar where she proceeds to get drunk off her butt (because of course she does), dances with a bunch of the locals, and when she starts dancing with the cop, she starts rubbing up against him and sucking on his neck.

You know, the girl who doesn't date or have sex because she was victimized by a psychopath.  Dump a few drinks in her and she's like a co-ed at a frat party.  Anyway....

Our hero doesn't want to take advantage and hauls her drunk butt back to her house.  She confesses she had to leave her gun in the lower 48 because she didn't want to deal with the hassle of bringing it on the flight to Alaska.  He pours her into bed and then LEAVES HIS GUN ON THE NIGHTSTAND NEXT TO HER BED SO SHE'LL FEEL "SAFE."

WHEN SHE'S BORDERLINE BLACK-OUT DRUNK!!!!!

She wakes up in the morning, notices the gun and the events of the night before (including puking in the hero's truck - seriously) slowly come back.  Then she sees the note taped to her bedroom door "Don't shoot, I'm one of the good guys."

WT-ACTUAL-F?!?!?!

And that's when I was done.  I don't know what I was expecting here, but at the very least, a heroine with a background like this I was maybe expecting someone cool, methodical, analytical, with some vulnerable emotional baggage.  I was not expecting her to morph into a idiot damsel the moment she lands in Alaska, gets an eyeful of the hunky hero and bellyful of booze.

On the bright side, I can now weed the first book in this series out of my TBR because nope.  Nope, nope, nope.  I don't want to see these people ever again.

Final Grade = DNF

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Mystery Round-Up

I'm neck-deep in a slump at the moment and, unfortunately, it is rooted in a lot of factors feeding off of each other.  I'm super busy at The Day Job, current events are depressing me, and my habit of checking Twitter is making me increasingly passive aggressive (not a good look for me).  It's also sapped my blogging mojo to the point where, for the first (serious) time in 15 years of blogging I'm wondering why I bother (note to self: stop checking your stats).  But nobody wants to hear me whine and frankly I'm kind of sick of myself - so desperate times call for desperate measures.  Yep, it's comfort food of choice for Wendy: mysteries.  I fell in love with reading because of mysteries so it makes sense I turn back to them when I'm feeling a mite low.

I'm still completely swept up in my nostalgia trip with the Sharon McCone series by Marcia Muller.  I read the first 19 or so books in my teens/early 20s, then dropped off when I fell head over feet for romance.  I've been positively gorging on them in audio and it's been just what the doctor ordered.

I recently finished Book #7, Eye of the Storm, and it has been the highlight of the nostalgia gorge so far.  Why?  Because I didn't remember a lick about it, and frankly, that shocks me.  Why?  Because it's like Muller wrote this book specifically with Teenage Wendy in mind.  Imagine if a Gothic and a really good episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? had a baby - and that's Eye of the Storm.  Sharon heads to a tiny, nothing town in the Sacramento Delta area after her baby sister gets in over her head with a new beau (who fancies himself a chef) and a rundown old mansion she wants to turn into a B&B.  The locals are insular, the mansion is on an isolated island (you need to take a ferry to get to it), there's a creepy old legend (because of course there is) and someone is trying to scare them off.

I liked this story quite a bit, again for the nostalgia.  The rest of it doesn't work quite as well because other than Sharon, you pretty much end up disliking every other character in the story.  Even Sharon's nieces and nephew (still kids!) - which takes some doing.  Plus Sharon is operating outside of her usual San Francisco setting, which is half the charm of this series (if I'm being honest).  Still, I'm a Scooby Doo nerd and the "creepy old house" angle always (ALWAYS!) reels me in.

Loren Estleman writes what I call Macho Guy Books.  He's best known for his crime novels set in Detroit, despite the fact he's got a couple of different series (including westerns!) under his belt.  I read the Amos Walker (private detective) series where everyone talks like they've stepped out of a noir gangster film and there's not a single honest person in the entire city of Detroit.  Black and White Ball finds Amos working for Peter Macklin, a hitman featured in another series by Estelman.  So this is #27 in the Walker series and #7 in the Macklin series.  Technically speaking.

The story opens up with Amos looking for the wayward husband of a former flame.  The guy embezzled money from Chrysler, hooked up with a blonde half his age, and is suspected to be somewhere across the border.  However, just as Amos is ready to storm the motel near Toronto, his mark is found dead, a bullet to the head while the blonde was taking a shower.  It has professional job written all over it - which is how he comes into the orbit of Macklin.  Amos has no stomach for those that make their living off murder for hire, but through a series of circumstances, he takes a job to protect Macklin's soon to be ex-wife.  Someone is threatening to kill her, Macklin knows who it is, he just needs time to run the guy down (literally and figuratively).

I've hopscotched my way through about a dozen of the Amos Walker books, haven't read a single Macklin story, but didn't have a problem keeping up.  But this is a read that takes some getting used to.  The Walker stories are in first person, the Macklin's in third, and Estleman shifts between the two styles.  Luckily he does this during chapter breaks (and not mid-paragraph) but shifting between the two within the same book isn't always easy going, even though I didn't find it to be a completely terrible authorial decision (but I can totally see how it will drive some readers batty).

What I liked about this one is what I tend to like about all the Amos books.  The tough guy cliches, the femme fatales, the crooked cops, the noir-ish shroud Estleman spreads over the city of Detroit.  I also loved how this book started (the Canada scenes) and ended.  Given that this is the most recent book in two long-running series, newbies aren't going to find a ton of in-depth character development here - which is mainly where I'm going to ding this one.  But if you're already a fan of one, or both, of the series, this was time well spent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Top 4 Unusual Historicals for May 2018

Is there anything worse than a reading slump? Because, that, my friends is exactly where I’m living these days. If it weren’t for revisiting some old favorites on audio I’d literally be getting nothing read. But one thing sure to cheer me up? Browsing for books. Even if, you know, I’m not reading them. May is kind of quiet when it comes to not-your-usual historicals, but there’s potential all the same.

Kept by the Viking by Gina Conkle 
Loyalty to the Brotherhood comes before all. Including women.  
Formidable Viking leader Rurik knows the law. His loyalty to the Forgotten Sons is his bond, and no woman will threaten what he’s built from the ground up. But the Sons are a roving band of Vikings, and Rurik is growing restless—so when Normandy’s chieftain offers land, the proposal intrigues him. And the sultry Parisian thrall he finds in his tent intrigues him even more…  
Safira is cunning and clever and full of secrets. Rurik’s men have no interest in securing her safe passage home, but, piqued with lust, Rurik views Safira’s wiles as a captivating challenge—one he’s determined to conquer, even if lying with her is as defiant as it is inevitable.  
Traveling with Safira has been a fantasy come true—what started as lust is quickly turning to the kind of partnership Rurik could never have dreamed. But their arrival in foreign lands marks a new chapter, one that demands a Viking wife. With impossible decisions to be made, Rurik’s alliances are fraying, and past promises may not be enough to save him from having to betray those he’s sworn loyalty to—including Safira. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a literal unicorn. A historical romance published by Carina Press. How momentous is this? Let me put it this way - if you go to the Carina website, click on the Historical Romance link, and sort by publication date? This is the first historical they’ve published since September 2016. Two years ago. I’m one-clicking this on principle.

Love’s Sweet Melody by Kianna Alexander 
Autumn, 1946

Warner Hughes returns home from war with the lingering effects of battle. Abandoned by his sweetheart and ostracized by his community, he feels he has no real home. 
Elizabeth “Betty” Daniels has one love: music. Betty’s family wants to see her married, busy with affairs of the home, leaving no time to pursue her art.

Warner’s only solace is in the sweet melody of Betty’s music. To Betty’s mind, marriage means giving up the freedom to pursue her art. Can Warner let love in, and can Betty make room for love? 
The latest in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series chugs along with Alexander’s entry set post-World War II. This sounds incredibly promising, with a returning veteran with, from the sounds of it, PTSD and a musically-inclined heroine. Alexander is no stranger to historicals, having written contributions for the Daughters of a Nation and The Brightest Day anthologies.

The Bashful Bride by Vanessa Riley 
A friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom nets the most famous actor in London, Arthur Bex. Shy heiress Ester Croome proposes to elope with the handsome man, who she's secretly loved for two years, in order to escape an impending engagement arranged by her overbearing family.
Trying to outlive the shadow of his villainous uncle, Bex needs to marry quickly—to a woman of good character. And smart, beautiful Ester fits the bill. But a harrowing trip to Gretna Green and dangerous abolition rallies prove to be a more treacherous stage than either imagined. Infatuation and a mutual love for Shakespeare might not be enough to bind a couple looking to outrun the chains and secrets of family and the past. 
The second, and final, book in the author’s Advertisements for Love duology, features that most tempting of reader catnip - a road romance! I also love that we’re getting an actor hero looking to outrun his family’s reputation and a heroine who has secretly been in love with him for years.

Bound for Eden by Tess LeSue
Alexandra Barratt has found the perfect man--it's a shame he thinks she's a boy... 
Fleeing from the murderous Grady brothers, Alexandra disguises herself as a boy and joins a frontier party heading West, with her brother and sister in tow. The wagon train is captained by the irresistible Luke Slater, who's never met a woman he couldn't charm. 
At first, Alex can't believe the way every woman in town falls at Luke's feet, including her suddenly flirtatious sister. But when she sees him naked in the bathtub, she finds herself swooning over him too. If only she could wash the muck of her face and show him who she really is. Unfortunately she has more pressing concerns... 
The Gradys aren't about to let Alex, nor the small fortune she stole from them, slip through their fingers. Only by maintaining her ruse does she have a chance of protecting her family. But fate, it seems, is conspiring against her. 
This debut has Old School written all over it - I mean, hello? We’ve got a chick-in-pants story, and she spies the hero naked in the bathtub. I’m...well, I’m reserving judgement on this one. But I love historical westerns, and we have a debut author. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and give this one a whirl. Plus, you know, another road romance and a heroine on the run. I’m only human.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?