Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Top 5 Unusual Historicals for April 2018

Spring seems to have finally sprung for most of us in North America, and April is the beginning of what is the start of my busy time at the office. My favorite way to unwind? Browsing the virtual and physical shelves looking for historicals to add to my insane TBR. Hey, some people play golf, I go book browsing. Here are the historicals catching my eye this month:

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan
To seal their bond, they must break the ties that bind.
Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek. He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.

Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark. There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them. 
OMG, gimme gimme gimme. First, look at that cover. Seriously. Second, we’ve got a romance between an opium-addicted hero who falls for a male prostitute. I have to read this if only to see how the author pulls off the happy ending. (Note: newly self-published, this was originally published via Samhain. Check your digital TBRs before one-clicking!)

The Art of Love by Suzette D. Harrison
Ava Lydell is chasing her dream. A gifted artist, she’s fled the violence of the Deep South for the seduction of sunny California. As luck would have it, the economic crisis of The Great Depression interferes with her hopes and plans. Without patronage and reliable sales, her fledgling art studio fails. Now, she faces poverty, eviction…and the distraction of a mysterious, young stranger engaged in a questionable trade that delivers danger to Ava’s front door.  
In an age of Prohibition and poverty, Chase Jenkins has more than most Colored men. He’s savvy, successful, and hazardously employed. A bootlegger living on the wrong side of the law, he’s determined to discover who murdered his baby brother. He has no time for diversions. Especially one packaged in the form of a “midnight” beauty with sultry lips and curvaceous hips. Unable to deny her allure, he involves himself in her affairs despite better judgment. What begins as a crisis quickly becomes a risky romance. Join Chase and Ava on their journey to outlive danger and indulge in the art of love. 
I am stupid excited about this book because it’s set during The Great Depression. I think (maybe?) the late Dorothy Garlock wrote some books during this era, but I’m hard-pressed to recall any others (hey, let me know in the comments section!). California was a destination for many during this time, desperate for a fresh start and a better life. And while I’ve been vocal on my dislike of the trend of criminal heroes in contemporary romances - well Prohibition is another kettle of fish entirely. Contrary thy name is Wendy.

Lady Rogue by Theresa Romain
As far as London’s high society knows, Lady Isabel Morrow is above reproach. But the truth is rarely so simple. Though the young widow’s passionate fling with dashing Bow Street Runner Callum Jenks ended amicably months ago, she now needs his expertise. It seems Isabel’s late husband, a respected art dealer, was peddling forgeries. If those misdeeds are revealed, the marriage prospects of his younger cousin— now Isabel’s ward—will be ruined.  
For the second time, Isabel has upended Callum’s well-ordered world. He’s resolved to help her secretly replace the forgeries with the real masterpieces, as a . . . friend. A proper sort of friend doesn’t burn with desire, of course, or steal kisses on twilight errands. Or draw a willing lady into one passionate encounter after another. Isabel’s scheme is testing Callum’s heart as well as his loyalties. But with pleasure so intoxicating, the real crime would be to resist . . . 
This is the third book in Romain’s Royal Rewards series, and while it’s Regency-set, the intriguing pairing a widowed heroine, her former Bow Street Runner lover, and art forgeries is too tempting for me to pass up. Be sure to check out Romain’s recent interview about this book and her new upcoming series over at Love in the Panels.

From Courtesan to Convenient Wife by Marguerite Kaye
Every woman wants to marry him  
But what if he is already taken?  
In this Matches Made in Scandal story, Jean-Luc Bauduin, Parisian society’s most eligible bachelor, is determined to take only a wife of his choosing. But until that day comes, he’ll ward off his admirers by hiring Lady Sophia Acton to wear his ring! The passion Jean-Luc shares with his convenient bride is enormously satisfying—until he discovers Sophia’s utterly scandalous past! 
Kaye is one of my favorites in Harlequin Historical and she continues her new Matches Made in Scandal series moving the action to Paris. I love, love, love the “fake relationship” trope.

Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian

The one you love…
Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever. 
May not be who you think… 
Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp. 
But is who you need… 
When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined? 
I feel like the blurb does this story a disservice because it makes it sound like your run-of-the-mill Chick In Pants historical and I suspect that will drive some potential readers away. However, early word is that Sebastian has written a “very very queer and very very delightful” romance. Be sure to check out Amy’s thoughtful review over at Love in the Panels. It just makes me want to read this book more.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?


cleo reader said...

Wow, I’ve read two of these! That may be a first.

I read the Cullinan when it was issued by Samhain - it’s good but very angsty and soapy and emotional. And major cw for bad things happening to all the main characters - mostly off page and in the past, but there’s one child in danger scene that I found upsetting.

I really, really enjoyed the Cat Sebastian - I love that she keeps querying historical romance tropes, this time queering the “chick in pants” trope and making it clear that Robin / Charity is non-binary, not a cis woman in pants. And the romance is just lovely.

cleo reader said...

That’s supposed to be queering not querying. Argh.

willaful said...

_If It Ain't Love_ by Tamara Allen is a lovely Depression era romance.

Wendy said...

Cleo: And now I just want to read the Cullinan more. You got me with "angsty" and "soapy." LOL

Willaful: And it's FREE (at least at The 'Zon) right now. What a bargain! Thanks for the tip!

cleo reader said...

Wendy - can’t wait to read your review!

Willful - oh, I really liked If It Ain’t Love.