Wednesday, January 20, 2021

#TBRChallenge 2021: Roping in the Cowgirl

 The Book: Roping in the Cowgirl by Judy Duarte

The Particulars: Harlequin Special Edition #2505, 2016, book 1 in series, out of print, available in digital.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Duarte is a local author for me. I have an autographed copy which means I picked this up at a conference - likely RWA 2016 (San Diego) given the publication date.

The Review

CW: domestic violence

There is magic in a well-executed category romance, which makes them ideal comfort reading for me.  After a so-fast-your-head-will-spin DNF on my first choice, I randomly picked up this book which, conveniently enough, is the first book in a series.  It wasn't perfect, but I read this in one sitting.

Blake Darnell is a workaholic who has made partner at a prestigious Beverly Hills law firm and he's just gotten a letter from his Uncle Sam firing him as overseer of the family trust. After his wife died, Sam fell into a tail-spin, nearly dying himself - until he landed in a retirement home catering to retired cowboys and ranchers.  It's also a working ranch and Sam was named foreman.  He's thriving and has found love again with a younger woman.  Blake is concerned and frankly, projecting.  He recently got burned by a gold-digger ex, so naturally given his "firing" he suspects that's what's going on with Uncle Sam.  So he has his assistant clear his calendar and buy him a one-way ticket to Texas to sort it all out.

Things get off on the wrong foot when he arrives and meets the temporary head nurse, Shannon Cramer - who just so happens to be the niece of the woman Sam has fallen in love with.  Joy (who is 60) and Sam (who is 80) are genuinely happy and in love.  Shannon thinks anybody with eyeballs should be able to see that, but Blake - with his slick city polish and pessimism thinks shenanigans are afoot.  Naturally sparks fly between Blake and Shannon and even after Blake comes around on the old folks' relationship, his attraction to Shannon remains complicated. Shannon is country girl through and through, with no desire to leave Texas - and Blake's life is in California.

I loved the concept of this book, a retirement home for cowboys, and there's several secondary characters who liven up the proceedings. The romance between Sam and Joy and Blake and Shannon are also nice. That said....

Both Sam and Blake are pretty dense at times.  Blake assumes the worst in everybody and of course one gold-digger ex has shaded his opinion of Joy before having even met her.  But Sam is no better.  He's pissed at Blake mainly because he's a workaholic who has neglected his Texas family.  Um, HE'S TRYING TO MAKE PARTNER IN A BEVERLY HILLS LAW FIRM!  Should Blake get a free pass for being unable to balance his work life with everything else?  No.  But I did think the old coot could have cut his nephew a little slack.

This isn't perfect, but it's a largely pleasant read until an unexpected Very Dark Moment comes in out of left field towards the end.  I'm going to spoil it because I think it's worth spoiling.  Towards the end a severely battered, and pregnant, woman shows up at the ranch looking for one of the ranch hands.  She ends up delivering her baby prematurely and slips into a coma - not expected to live.  She doesn't die on page - but she will die, because this is all set-up for the second book in the series (I looked it up).  It's upsetting, with absolutely no foreshadowing.  I had the reaction of "wow, this came out of left field...." - I can only imagine how jarring it would be for a reader who 1) wasn't expecting it and 2) has a history with domestic violence.  I normally do my best to avoid spoilers in my reviews - but I'm making an exception here.

The romance turns out right as rain in the end, and while the men annoyed me from time to time, I did largely enjoy this story.  I also really liked the world and will likely continue on with the series. Out of nowhere domestic violence aside, it was a pleasant read.

Final Grade = B-

Monday, January 18, 2021

Top 4 Unusual Historicals for January 2021

Here's to 2021 which came roaring in with a Hold My Beer 2020 mentality that I don't think anyone in their right mind appreciated. I know I didn't. But a new year, no mater how dismal it may start out, still holds the promise of new beginnings - which brings us to this month's crop of Unusual Historicals.  There's some familiar names this month, trying new things...

In the small, bustling town of Mattawa, Oregon, the turn of the century offers a new kind of frontier for women: a vast and exciting range of possibilities--to a point. It's a time for change, and no one is more eager to embrace new paths than free-spirited outsider Hattie Taylor. If only she could embrace Jake Murdock too. 

Jake can't remember a time he was so confused. Hattie is off-limits. The provoking spitfire is under his mother's protection--his protection--and he has always belonged to another. But now, with the passing of his wife, Jake feels something shift between them. Frustratingly aware of Hattie as a woman, he struggles with new feelings, new questions, new desires. 

 But when a desperate decision born of good intentions turns out to have ugly repercussions, Hattie confronts a cruel reality she can no longer ignore: the truth of where women really stand and the actions men take to keep them there. To navigate her new world of tainted justice and privileged order Hattie will draw on the strength of the women around her--and Jake will learn what it truly means to support the woman he loves.

When I first heard about this book my immediate reaction was "Could it be?...." and yes, turns out it is THAT Susan Andersen.  The same Susan Andersen who wrote a handful of romantic suspense novels and many a contemporary single title romance during the late 1990s and 2000s.  And oh my stars - she's now published what Berkley is calling a "coming of age western romance" about a "daring young woman pushing back on societal constraints."  Get. In. My. Eyeballs.

A fearsome woman. 

Callista Hale is the beautiful proprietor of London’s most elite brothel. When a new gentlemen’s club positions itself to lure away her wealthy clientele, she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her business. Even if it means accepting a wicked offer from the club’s mysterious and sensual owner. 

A man of experience. 

From the moment he meets Madam Pendragon, Erik Maxwell vows to have her in his bed. Her sharp mind challenges him while her lush body sparks every fantasy he’s ever had. But he’ll have to use everything he knows about desire to get past the jaded lady’s formidable walls. 

An offer too wicked to resist. 

If the man believes he has the talent and skill to seduce her, Callista will gracefully accept his defeat—and his exit from London—when he fails. And he will, of course. Unless, seduction isn’t all Erik Maxwell has in mind.

This novella is the third story in Sandas' Peril & Persuasion series and oh my, if there's anything I love more than historical westerns, it's "bad girl" heroines.  And please, please be a real bad girl heroine!  If Callista turns out to be a virgin I might start throat punching innocent bystanders - but that's experience of having been burned too many times before (who am I kidding - getting burned once by a Surprise Virgin Heroine was all it took to make me distrustful).  But it's a novella, and I'm willing to take the risk (please, please, please don't be a surprise virgin....

Even a fortune forged in railroads and steel can't buy entrance into the upper echelons of Victorian high society--for that you need a marriage of convenience. 

American heiress August Crenshaw has aspirations. But unlike her peers, it isn't some stuffy British Lord she wants wrapped around her finger--it's Crenshaw Iron Works, the family business. When it's clear that August's outrageously progressive ways render her unsuitable for a respectable match, her parents offer up her younger sister to the highest entitled bidder instead. This simply will not do. August refuses to leave her sister to the mercy of a loveless marriage. 

Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, has no intention of walking away from the marriage. He's recently inherited the title only to find his coffers empty, and with countless lives depending on him, he can't walk away from the fortune a Crenshaw heiress would bring him. But after meeting her fiery sister, he realizes Violet isn't the heiress he wants. He wants August, and he always gets what he wants. 

But August won't go peacefully to her fate. She decides to show Rothschild that she's no typical London wallflower. Little does she realize that every stunt she pulls to make him call off the wedding only makes him like her even more.

I love category romance and I have a disproportionate amount of baggage I lug around because of it.  St. George has written a slew of books for Harlequin Historical but this will likely be the first book some of y'all have ever heard of her and while I'm exceedingly happy (and excited!) for her - I'll be over here petting my Harlequin Historicals and waiting for the bitter bus.  Seriously Romancelandia - you need to be reading Harlequin Historicals.  Anyway, this is Gilded Age, the first book in a series, and sounds positively delicious.  

The Earl’s heir 

And the rebel artist 

Artist Artemisia Stansfield has four months to prove herself to the Royal Academy of Arts. When she finds out that aristocratic art critic Darius Rutherford has been snooping in her studio, she’s furious! Sparks of anger turn into flames of desire, but one lapse in judgment could give Darius all the fuel he needs to ruin her, as a lady and as an artist! Unless she trusts him enough to take the risk…

Speaking of Harlequin Historical, Scott is kicking off a new series about a three female artists "looking to make their mark on the world and live life on their own terms."  And this series has the best name EVER - The Rebellious Sisterhood.  The series is set in 1820 Seasalter, on the Kent coast - a town known for two thing during this period: oysters and smuggling. Seriously y'all, you need to be checking out Harlequin Historical...

What Unusual Historicals have you read lately?  Comments are open for business!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is January 20!

It's here!  The official start of the 2021 #TBRChallenge!  Whether you are participating or just following along, #TBRChallenge Day is Wednesday, January 20.  This month's (always optional) theme is Comfort Read.

"Comfort" can mean a variety of things to readers - a favorite trope, author, or genre.  Those books we turn to when we need to sink into a story and just feel good.  And well, after 2020 and the start of 2021, I'm thinking we could all use a little comfort.

But remember, the themes are always optional.  If digging up something that would qualify as a comfort read just sounds like too much right now - hey, no problem!  The goal of this challenge is always to pull something, any book!, out of your neglected TBR pile.

To learn more about the challenge and links to the participants blogs, check out the 2021 TBR Challenge Information Page.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Stolen Secrets

Book Cover
I have a complicated relationship with romantic suspense. I started out life as a mystery/suspense reader so unlike many romance readers who want a more prominent romance thread - I'm fine if the suspense takes more of the center stage. Also, while I'm generally fine with "women in peril" plots (I cut my teeth on Mary Higgins Clark who was a master at it), I abhor Danger Banging. "Oh noes! The evil drug cartel is chasing us through the jungle but let's duck behind this tree so you can give me an orgasm."  That's the appeal of the Love Inspired Suspense line for me. I'm not going to get any Danger Banging. The trick is - how much God Stuff is going to dominant the narrative?  In the case of Stolen Secrets by Sherri Shackelford, it's not much. A instance of the heroine praying for God's strength as she's dodging bullets and a conversation the hero has with a chaplain about grief.  So if you abhor danger banging but also don't want the author to convert you? This is your book.

Lucy Sutton is a software engineer who works on drone technology and someone is trying to frame her for espionage. She's been receiving mysterious text messages, there's been a security breach at her company, and someone who looks an awful lot like Lucy was caught on camera. It's also been a year since her fiancĂ©, Brandt, was killed. He worked for the NSA (National Security Agency) and he was killed after his cover was blown.  His partner, Jordan Harris, was also hurt in the blast and he's finally keeping his promise to Brandt - he's checking in on Lucy.  But the conversation takes an unexpected turn when Brandt, planning to deliver the engagement ring that Brandt picked up overseas before his death, realizes Lucy already has the ring - an exact duplicate.  Why get a duplicate ring made? And then, right after Lucy shares her fears that someone is out to get her?  The coffee shop where they're meeting gets lit up like a Christmas tree in a hail of gunfire.  Lucy isn't imagining anything - someone obviously is framing her and now someone wants her dead.

This is a cat-and-mouse style suspense thread.  The identity of the bad guy isn't as important as the why of the whole thing - also how it all ties together.  Brandt killed overseas, a duplicate ring, a security breach, drone technology, and someone out to frame Lucy.  These various threads give the author plenty of rope and plenty of opportunity for red herrings.  After all, sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, the bad guys can just as easily be part of a large terror cell or your garden variety criminals.  Shackelford sets it up so she can take the story in several different directions and it succeeded in keeping me off balance for the entirety of the story.

The overall theme of the romance centers around grief, and how we process it - in our own way and time.  Jordan doesn't have survivor's guilt per se, but his guilt is centered around the fact that he's attracted to his best friend's girl.  Lucy loved Brandt and theirs was a whirlwind courtship.  She dreams of marriage, children and while she misses him - she knows it's time to move on.  She just didn't expect to move on with Jordan who sets off a host of butterflies.

I randomly picked this book out of my digital TBR without realizing it's part of a series, but it hangs together well and readers won't feel like they're missing anything (other than it's obvious a previous book featured Jordan's stepsister as the heroine...). I liked this, it kept me entertained, and it was a nice way to kick off my reading year for 2021.

Final Grade = B

Friday, January 1, 2021

Reading Year In Review 2020

Well, that wasn't very much fun. I think most of us are ready to put 2020 firmly in the rearview mirror and move forward into 2021 hoping for better.  Dear Lord, please be better.  2020 was a challenging year for many of you, for a variety of big and small reasons, and I'm no different.  My reading challenge every year is always to get through 100 books. I'm a slow reader by Romancelandia and blogging standards - so hitting 100 books is a pretty big deal for me. Yeah, 2020 saw me getting through 74.  Not great, especially when you consider I count DNFs, novellas, audiobooks - I count everything y'all, my challenge my rules. Here's how the number broke down:

5 Stars (A grade): 4
4 Stars (B grade): 21
3 Stars (C grade ; low B-): 28
2 Stars (D grade): 11
1 Star (F grade): 3
DNF (Did Not Finish): 7
Audiobooks: 13

These numbers are all in my usual ballpark, but 2020 saw more 3-Star reads than 4-Star reads and I always find that depressing.  Here's hoping that ship gets righted for 2021.  

Now, on to the fun part - the actual books. As a reminder, and for those of you new here, my "best of year" list is the best books I READ during said year. It's not specific to books published in that year.  There's older titles featured - mainly because I am always perpetually behind in my reading.  Now, on to the books:

The Romance (in no particular order):

The Lady's Companion by Carla Kelly (Traditional Regency, 1996) - This was my best romance read of the year and the fact it was published in 1996 isn't exactly lost on me. Gentry spinster heroine whose Daddy has ruined them financially decides to take her destiny in her own hands and accepts a job as a lady's companion to a cantankerous widow. She finds an ally and friend in the widow's bailiff. Compelling conflict, emotionally gut-wrenching, and tightly plotted. It's amazing, it's available digitally. Just read it.

To Dream Again by Laura Lee Guhrke (Historical romance, 1995) - This was a reread for me and the title link will take you to my original blog review from 2005. Second son comes home to England with the dream of making children's toys and buys the heroine's factory after the bank calls in her loan after her husband dies. Never mind she's the one keeping the business afloat while her husband chased one get rich quick scheme after another. A prickly heroine written in a time when those weren't the norm who is all out of f*cks when it comes to men. That said, parts of the story have not aged well which I detail a more in my GoodReads review. At one point the self-published digital edition was widely available but at the time of this post it's available via Kindle Unlimited.

Slow Dance with the Best Man by Sophie Pembroke (Harlequin Romance, 2017) - The Harlequin Romance line is one of my favorites because the books feel like warm hugs. Typecast Hollywood actor falls for the heroine, who is gunning for a managerial position at her hometown's Gothic manor that's been converted to a posh hotel. A fluffy concoction with the pleasing Hollywood star falls for A Nobody fantasy. I'm glad I have more Pembroke in my TBR.

Redemption of the Maverick Millionaire by Michelle Douglas (Harlequin Romance, 2020) - A hero who did the heroine dirty swoops into her adopted hometown looking to make amends, only to end up making a muck of things.  Basically this book is one long grovel, because boy howdy did the hero screw up.  Also, it's a small town romance where the author doesn't completely sweep the challenges of small town living under the rug.

Cinderella Unmasked by Susannah Erwin (Harlequin Desire, 2020) - Erwin wrote a book featuring a hero running for political office and I ended up really enjoying it. That's some kind of miracle for 2020. Heroine whose family was done wrong by hero's family ends up falling head over feet. A smitten hero in pursuit who is genuinely a nice guy (not a brooding, angsty playboy!), compelling family conflict, and a Cinderella trope that avoids heavy-handed rescue fantasy. After just two books Erwin is my newest autobuy.

Not Romance, Still Great (in no particular order):

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Nonfiction, 2018) - I read this based off Miss Bates' recommendation and this was easily the book of the year for me. At the end of 1972, Jean McConville, mother of 10, was dragged from her Northern Ireland home by the IRA, never to be seen again. It's a story of violence, of politics, where there are no heroes, and it was by far the most riveting book I had read in a dog's age. I cannot recommend it enough. I made all the incoherent great book noises during and after I finished it.

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright (Nonfiction, 2017) - I've got Sasha Devlin to thank for this recommendation and this was a great listen on audio. Kind of weird to read a book about plagues that was written pre-COVID, and frustrating in that humans have this uncanny knack for repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Engaging, written with the layperson in mind, with a touch of gallows' humor. I really enjoyed this and even learned some stuff.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (Dystopian, 2020) - A dystopian western that's queer and feminist AF.  Fleeing an arranged marriage when her best friend (and lover) is murdered, the heroine hooks up with a subversive band of traveling librarians. It's a slim book (category romance length) so the world building isn't terribly intricate, but I loved the feminist themes of the story and got sucked into the western world like whoa.  Not a typical read for yours truly, and one that I'm hoping will become a series.

Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park (Historical children's fiction, 2020) - After her mother dies, 14-year-old half-Chinese heroine moves with her white father to the Dakota territory. The author grew up loving the Little House series, while recognizing all the inherent problems with that series.  There are a lot of heavy themes in this story (racism, injustice, and the heroine is assaulted at one point - not raped) but it never feels like a heavy book. It's hopeful, with a lovely sense of place and history.  

When I started thinking about this blog post my impression was that I had a pretty dire reading year - but as I looked back I realized that there were gems - it's just said gems were buried in between mediocrity and books I'd rather forget. So long 2020. Please do let the door smack you on the way out.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Little Miss Crabby Pants Looks Ahead

As mentioned in December Unusual Historicals post, I've been doing some introspection about blogging. Which is just about as much fun as it sounds. I'll be honest, I've been hanging on by my fingernails to blogging for at least the past four years, and 2020 was an all-time low. But first, some history....

2021 will mark the 18th year of this blog's existence. Prior to that, starting in 1999 (that's over 20 years for those of you who suck at math) I started doing what I call "heavy lifting" reviewing - back in the days when finding critical reviews of romance reviews was about as easy as flapping your arms and flying to the moon.  Anyway, I started the blog in 2003, gave up the "heavy lifting" in 2007, scored RWA's Librarian of the Year in 2011, and killed my fair share of group blogs along the way (Romancing the Blog, Reader's Gab, Heroes & Heartbreakers....).  Yet still, this humble little blog kept chugging along.

So what happened?  Well, I wish I could say it was all 2020 - but no. To be honest I am not the same Super Librarian I was in 2003. I don't talk about my job much online, but I oversee a division now. I'm in management. And y'all this is my first pandemic and it's frickin' exhausting. The fact that I have an assistant and a really great boss are the only reasons I haven't had a complete mental and emotional breakdown.

On top of being all around generally exhausted, and navigating through 2020, I'm at that stage in my tenure of Romancelandia where I feel like I've overstayed my welcome.  This happens to everybody I suspect. You start feeling old. New residents emerge. They like different books and authors. You feel like you're an out of touch old fuddy duddy and pretty soon you're the crazy granny on the front porch cradling a mangy cat and stroking a shotgun. Yeah, I'm there.

Booktube, podcasts, Instagram is where it's at now - and all of 3 people bother with blogs anymore. If I had the energy maybe I'd start channeling my desire to talk about what I'm reading into those venues but here's the thing - I don't.  For one thing nobody wants to see my ugly mug, and for another I've always had a stronger writing voice than speaking voice. Yes, I'm aware this blog is a hot mess on the best of days - but trust me.  Reading me is better than the alternatives.

As for Twitter - I've seriously begun to curtail my time over there because it's too exhausting to wade through the piles of garbage and I'm already exhausted. I've come to accept the fact that nothing good comes of Twitter. Stitch that on a sampler, make a million, thank me later.

So what's the point of all this whining?  Well, I'm nothing if not stubborn. This blog has existed for nearly 18 years and will continue to do so - but, I need to accept the fact that this blog and my writing just aren't what they used to be, for all the reasons stated above. I also know that if I want this blog to survive (and I do - because hello, stubborn) I need to once again make blogging my "happy place."  

What can you (all three of you...) expect moving forward in 2021?  I'm going to request fewer ARCs, stop feeling guilty about having zero interest in whatever hot book du jour is the talk of the moment and read through some of my immense, obscene backlog. Oh the ancient ARCs that I have on my Kindle - the stories of neglect they could tell.  I'm going to spend more time reading where my mood takes me - and if that's nothing but Harlequin Presents or female private investigators then so be it.  I've never been much of a tastemaker or trend-setter anyway - now is the time for me to accept that's not where my strengths lie.  I'm going to work on writing fun reviews that amuse me and try to use this blog as a way to recenter my generally bad attitude of late.  And I'm going to figure out a way to be on Twitter without my blood pressure spiking.  That last one is going to take some time....

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Deck the Halls: December 2020 Unusual Historical Highlights

When the previous home of the Unusual Historicals column, Heroes & Heartbreakers, folded in late 2017 I opted to keep up the monthly feature on my personal blog. Then in early 2018, another former H&H’er, Suzanne, proposed that I cross-post the feature on her blog, Love in Panels. I agreed: 1) because I like Suzanne 2) because I’m passionate about “unusual historicals,” and 3) the more eyeballs that got on this column the better. Now here we are in 2020, the longest year on record, and this will be the last column featured on LiP. Both Suzanne and I have been evaluating our respective blogs of late and have come to the mutual decision to discontinue the cross-posting of this column. However, Unusual Historicals will continue to have a home here at The Misadventures of Super Librarian. I want to thank Suzanne and the entire LiP crew for hosting this column the past two years and for promoting historical romances that are about more than the terrible Almack’s lemonade. Onward and upward to what surely has to be a better year in 2021! 

Honoria Keyes isn’t the gawky, impressionable fifteen-year-old girl she was when she first met Simon Fairchild. Twelve years have passed, and she’s a successful artist, enjoying her independence to the fullest. Simon has changed, too. Gone is the beautiful, gentle boy of Honoria’s dreams. In his place is a dangerous, damaged man intent on avoiding human contact—and emotions. It would be unthinkable to fall for this difficult, wounded recluse. But then again, Honoria has never been one to do things the easy way … 

Simon returned from Waterloo a bitter, broken shell of the man he once was. As if his scarred body and mind aren’t bad enough, he’s also financially dependent on his brother, the duke, while he convalesces. The duke’s fondest wish is for Simon to marry and produce an heir—something Simon has no intention of doing. The one thing he never anticipated? All the unwanted feelings the lovely, talented, and infinitely intriguing Honoria would awaken in him … 

Can Honoria and Simon heal the wounds of the past and build a life together? Or will their attempt at happily ever after end up a portrait of failure? 

Spencer continues The Academy of Love series with what appears to be a spin around The Beauty and the Beast block, with a reunited trope tossed in for good measure. This sounds dark, angsty and right up my alley. 

Ambitious, sly, and lethally intelligent, Gideon Hawthorne has spent his life clawing his way up from the gutter. For the last ten years, he's acted as the Duke of Windemere's fixer, performing the duke's dirty work without question. Now Gideon's ready to quit the duke's service and work solely for himself. But Windermere tempts Gideon with an irresistible offer: one last task for Messalina Greycourt's hand in marriage. 

Witty, vivacious Messalina Greycourt has her pick of suitors, so when her uncle demands Messalina marry Mr. Hawthorne, she is appalled. But Gideon offers her a devil's bargain of his own: protection and freedom in exchange for a true marriage. Messalina feigns agreement and plots to escape their deal. Only the more time she spends with Gideon, the more her fierce, loyal husband arouses her affections. But will Gideon's final deed for Windemere destroy the love growing between them? 

The second book in Hoyt’s Greycourt series features a hero who is “a fixer.” In Georgian era England. And for years of loyal services he’s getting...the heroine. The heroine who doesn’t seem all that crazy about the idea. I’ll be honest, this one had me at “fixer.” 

Keep your friends close… 

But your enemies closer? 

In order to find a legendary treasure map, mercenary Louve of Mei Solis must infiltrate his enemy’s fortress under the guise of a servant. There, Louve meets beautiful maiden Biedeluue, a fellow servant with her own hidden agenda…to save her sister from the malevolent lord’s clutches! Their high-stakes missions may be at odds with one another, but their attraction cannot be denied even in this most dangerous of situations… 

December seems to be the month for hidden agendas and dubious motives, and I am here for it! Locke continues to mine her medieval world with a romance between two people with plenty of secrets between them. 

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a remarkable woman’s struggle to survive in a strange new world, and of the enigmatic man to whom she is bound . . . 

Born wild and free in a comfortable house overlooking the storm-battered cliffs of Cornwall, Bryony Wentworth’s life is shattered when she is accused of killing her husband. Transported as a convict to Botany Bay in 1808, Bryony finds herself in a harsh, unfamiliar land, where almost everything she once held dear—home, freedom, and children—has been taken from her. All she has left are her self-respect and inner strength, and a powerful will to survive. 

Assigned to a former cavalry captain with a motherless infant son and a sprawling estate on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, Bryony finds herself facing a life that is simultaneously wild, frightening, and filled with temptation. Captain Hayden St John, the powerful landowner to whom Bryony is given, is a hard man haunted by loss and the ghosts of the past. Yet as he finds himself inexorably drawn to this proud, defiant woman, Hayden slowly comes to realize that she might well prove to be his last chance at salvation. 

Set against the ruggedly beautiful landscape of colonial Australia and filled with the memorable characters for which Candice Proctor has become famous, this is a poignant, spellbinding tale of suppressed desire and raw passion, of suffering and triumph and the indomitable spirit of the heart. 

Probably best known for the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mysteries written under her C.S. Harris name, Proctor’s celebrated historical romances are seeing the light of day with new digital editions. First published in 1997, Night in Eden was celebrated back in the day and continues to pop up on long-time romance readers’ best-of lists. A heroine wrongly convicted of murdering her husband is transported to Australia where she finds a new life, and a new love with a man haunted by his own personal demons. 

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to reading this month?