Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Struggle Is Real: Unusual Historicals for September 2023

I sold my soul to Amazon sometime in the early 2000s because it was the one place I could feed my Black Lace addiction. I've given Bezos plenty of money over the years for him to to fund his Evil Empire projects, like shooting himself into the sun (hey, a librarian can dream...).  Really, it shouldn't be too much to ask that the site's search features not suck harder than a Hoover.  Because of Amazon's dominance in the self-publishing market, I rely on them mightily for pulling together these unusual historical posts. However, the past couple of months the "search feature" has been so dreadful I've finally thrown up my hands and gone directly to publisher web sites.  Sorry self-published historical romance authors, I couldn't find your books but I found plenty of porn thanks to Bezos. Look, I got nothing against porn, but Daddy kink and words like "creampie" should not be displaying when I'm looking for historical romance published during September 2023. 

Rant over, now let's get on to featuring the books I did manage to find with zero help from our Evil Overlord.

An Irish warrior who craves vengeance...
After losing the woman he loved, Trahern MacEgan will stop at nothing to avenge her death. His body is honed for battle, his soul tortured—and he has sworn never to love again. 

A woman who has endured suffering...

Morren Ó Reilly sacrificed herself for her sister’s sake, but she holds her head high even as she recoils from a man’s touch. When Trahern saves her life, their tentative friendship begins to heal the loneliness inside. 

A passionate redemption... 

Can Morren be the light to Trahern’s darkness and be made whole again by her surrender?
I don't normally lead these posts off with reprints, but this book was made for rule-breaking. Willingham's sixth book in her MacEgan Brothers series that was first published by Harlequin Historical in 2010 just might be my favorite of hers to date. This is a very heavy read, featuring a former bard/storyteller hero seeking vengeance against the Vikings who murdered his betrothed and the heroine, who survived a gang rape and subsequent miscarriage, thanks to the exact same Viking raid. So yeah, this isn't happy, fluffy, sunshine time but this book damn near ripped my guts out when I read it over 10 years ago.  You can find my review over at The Good, The Bad and the Unread.

An arranged marriage 

An unexpected love…? 

Recently widowed, Rhianon had hoped to never find herself bound to a man again after being raised by a violent father and married to an unpredictable husband. But to seal a strategic alliance, she’s forced to marry Peredur ab Eilyr—a warrior lord with a formidable reputation! Rhianon may be a reluctant wife…but ruling with Peredur is revealing a passionate side to her new husband Rhianon is anything but reluctant to explore… 

Morgan's third book is also the first in a new series, The Warriors of WalesUnlike her neighbors on the exact same island, Wales is not a setting we see all that often in historical romance and I enjoyed Morgan's debut. Seriously, I need to dive into my Harlequin Historical TBR and not come up for air for like 3 years...

An unexpected family 

For the lone-wolf warrior 

Nothing daunts Viking Tylir, until unassuming Melkorka Helmsdottar upends his life by revealing he has a secret heir! Mel has looked after little Katla since the girl’s mother died, but now Tylir intends to claim his child. Yet this battle-hardened jarl has no idea how to be a father. Mel is the perfect person to help him. Only, spending time with the captivating Mel binds him closer to her than he ever thought possible…

Woot! A new book from Michelle Styles, an author I typically find quite reliable. Her latest appears to be a stand-alone and puts a new spin (Vikings!) on a familiar trope (a secret baby!).  Also, look at that cute little moppet on the book cover - how can I say no to that face?!

Susannah Fletcher has everything a young lady could desire: wealth, the attentions of well-to-do duke, and a reputation as spotless as an angel’s petticoats. Yet, she would throw it all away for one opportunity to perform her music on stage–scandalous as that may be. Which is precisely when the rich and menacing “Wolf of Mayfair” makes her an offer she couldn’t possibly refuse… 

Born on the streets of London, Rafe Winters knows only ruthless ambition. But he’s missing one thing: respectability. It’s within reach…if he can draw the polished aristocrats to his establishment with a classically trained musician, and just a soupçon of mystery—like the flame-haired Susannah. Of course, he’ll have to make it worth her while. After all, he’s not a complete beast. 

Now Susannah performs in a red cloak as the enigmatic “Red Duchess,” and all of London is entranced—along with Rafe. He promised her he’d do everything to protect her reputation on stage. But off-stage, the wolf is waiting for Susannah to stray from the path and into his arms. No matter the risk… 
Described as Little Red Riding Hood meets Moulin Rouge, this stand alone from Drake features an ambitious "low born" hero and a well-bred lady heroine with the scandalous desire to perform.  This is a recipe many a historical romance fan has a hard time resisting, myself included...

She’s a counterfeit lady 

But he’s stolen her heart! 

After her criminal father is killed, Miss Nancy Black is forced to seek out her estranged aristocratic grandfather. He offers her a new life as a debutante, but only if she stays out of trouble! Easier said than done when she starts to fall for rebellious Lord Matthew Stringham. Can Nancy risk her heart by telling Matthew the truth about her identity before her dangerous past catches up with her?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I cannot say no to historical romance heroines with secret identities and playing dangerous games. Hastings' second book for Harlequin featuring a heroine pretending to be someone she most definitely is not, who then compounds her precarious situation by getting tangled up with a Lord.

A scandalous way 

…to meet a duke! 

Having tarnished her reputation, Irene Fairfax flees to Devon to focus on her art. Her latest life drawing is going well until her naked subject reveals he’s not the man she thinks he is. He is, in fact, the Duke of Redcliff, a notorious rogue who seems amused by her discomfiture! This duke may be even more of a threat to her reputation, yet she can’t help craving more… 

Besides heroines with secrets? I cannot say no to heroines with "reputations." The second book in Shepherd's Rebellious Young Ladies series features an artist heroine licking her wounds in Devon and a model who turns out to be...a Duke?!  Good luck sweetheart, you're gonna need it...

Dressmaker Miss Lily Martin knows too well the sordid dealings of London’s corrupt underbelly. She should have known borrowing from one of the city’s most reviled moneylenders was risky. Horribly so. Now the loan has come due—and there’s nothing standing between Miss Lily and her darling sister’s ruin. Until a dashing American with flashing, defiant eyes intervenes… 

Ship captain James Blakefield may be the new Duke of Ashbridge, but he’s only in London for six weeks to secure his estate before returning to America, and far from the watchful eye of the ton. He’ll be damned if he’ll attend another society event where eligible ladies fling themselves at his title. But when he discovers Miss Lily’s desperate predicament, James realizes he might have the perfect arrangement. 

By assuming the legal guardianship of Lily’s sister, he can keep them both safe and ensure someone cares for the estate. But it means having Lily under the same roof for the next six weeks. No chaperones. No betrothal. As their undeniable attraction charges the very air between them, both propriety and restraint are threatened. But scandal is the least of their concerns when James’s secret threatens to pull everything apart at the seams...
This is the second book in Devon's Once Upon a Wallflower series and it caught my eye because the dressmaker heroine (I'm guessing desperate...) borrowed money from the wrong man and now she's in the soup.  Throw in an American ship captain who finds himself the uncomfortable new heir to a title (a Duke no less) and arrangement is struck that should address both their current circumstances.  Naturally I think it's easy to assume that nothing goes according to plan.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

#TBRChallenge 2023: Violet Grenade

The Book: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

The Particulars: Young Adult, 2017, Entangled Teen, Out of Print, Available in Digital

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: My former Teen Fiction Selector at work was talking about this book so I grabbed the ARC copy we received - where it sat in my print TBR for the past 6 years 🙄

The Review: This is a book that is shooting for gritty and realistic but it never quite hits the mark - mainly because the author kept it firmly in Young Adult. For any semblance of realism about teen prostitution this book needed to be a whole lot uglier and marketed as adult. Does that make this a "bad" read? No. It's compulsively readable and it kept me up late at night turning the pages.

Domino Ray is a runaway, squatting in a derelict house in Detroit with "her person," Dizzy. They steal, they forage, they get by. Then one day Dizzy is nabbed by the police and thrown into lock-up.  Domino needs to bail him out but for that she needs money she doesn't have.  Then the answer to her prayers arrives in the form of Ms. Karina. You're talented, artistic, come work in my home for "burgeoning entertainers."  You'll earn money. You'll have a life.  Domino needs Dizzy out so she agrees - soon finding herself in a rambling farm house in west Texas with a slew of other girls.

We're all adults here - we know from the jump who and what Ms. Karina is and that Domino finds herself living in a brothel. Sort of. Most of the girls start out as companions or entertainers. Customers show up, the girls dazzle and sparkle, chat and perform. But there's no sex acts just yet. The higher up the ranks you work within the house means the more money you make and that's when the sex comes into play. This set-up strained for me - the girls aren't pushed into full-blown prostitution from the jump? Like really?  Also Domino, a teen runaway with a jacked up past was entirely too naïve for me in the beginning. There's part of her that suspects what she's getting into but she's a little too dense for a little too long for believability. Especially for someone who has been living on the streets of Detroit (of all places!) for well over a year.

Anyway, once at the house there's back-biting and bullying as Violet works her way up the ranks - wanting and needing to make money and in a twisted way, wanting to please Ms. Karina. She becomes friends and teams up with another girl, aiding in her goal and falling for Cain, a brooding young man who works for Ms. Karina and lives in the basement.  Soon Violet begins discovering that the house and Ms. Karina have secrets, as does Cain, and escape seems the only option.  One small problem though - Ms. Karina does not like to lose inventory.  Good thing Violet has secrets of her own and a bag of tricks to draw from.

There's a smattering of romance and suspense to keep the story humming along. Violet soon learns the hard lesson that Dizzy may not care about her as much she does him, but the attraction with Cain unfolds in a slow burn and is quite compelling given both of their completely screwed up pasts.  It's those respective pasts plus the mystery of a missing girl that Violet replaced in the house that kept me up late reading, and Violet's past (the entire reason she ran away) does not disappoint. It's a doozy and readers should expect some violence (I personally didn't find it overly graphic, but if you avoid suspense novels as a rule, then avoid this one).

Are any of these characters "good" people? Ehhhh.... Is this story a gritty and realistic portrayal of sex trafficking and teen prostitution? Ehhhh...  Does that make it any less compelling to read? No. If nothing else this was interesting and it kept me engaged, which given how my reading has gone this year is essentially a ringing endorsement.

Final Grade = B-

Friday, September 15, 2023

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is September 20

Hey, hey, hey the (OMG!) ninth #TBRChallenge of 2023 is fast approaching! The magic day is Wednesday, September 20 and this month's (always) optional theme is New Author.

Another theme suggestion born out of the survey I ran late last year.  You can spin New Author a couple different ways, either a debut or an author in your TBR who is "new-to-you" - someone with a backlist but that you haven't gotten around to reading yet.  

That being said, remember that the themes are completely optional.  Maybe you're in the mood for a comfort read from a tried-and-true author this month?  The goal of the challenge has been, and always will be, to read something (anything!) that's been languishing in your mountain range of unread books. 

It's never too late to join the Challenge! To learn more about it and to see a list of folks participating head on over to the information page

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Review: How the Italian Claimed Her

How the Italian Claimed Her by Jennifer Hayward is a welcome return by an author who hasn't had a book out since late 2018 (by my count) and this was a quick, steamy read that avoids a number of common Presents pitfalls. Basically what we have here is a Presents for readers who don't necessarily think they can like Presents.  More on that in a bit...

Cristiano Vitale is now the CEO of his family's Italian fashion house after the death of his legendary designer grandfather and it's his job to save the family business. The label still has some prestige attached to it, but frankly not much else - and Cristiano's job is to drag the business into the 21st century.  He's got a hot up-and-coming designer and against his better judgement he's hired supermodel Jensen Davis to be the face of the revamped brand.  The problem being that Jensen is failing to meet her obligations to the contract she signed and stirring up mountains of gossip that reflect badly on the business.  It's time to bring her to heel.

Jensen is famous for being famous. Her mother a fading Hollywood actress who jumped on the reality TV bandwagon.  Having grown up in the spotlight and tired of her mother's shenanigans, Jensen has decided she's done with the reality TV show.  The problem being she still has her mother, with her various addictions (drink, drugs, gambling) and unspecified mental health issues.  Yep, you guessed it, in order to protect Mom and ensure she doesn't lose the TV show, Jensen keeps getting pulled back in - working triple time to keep her mother's finances afloat and agreeing to various "stunts" (like skinny-dipping in a notable Italian fountain with a prince!) to generate ratings for Dear Old Mom.  The problem being that the skinny dipping stunt (really, she was wearing lingerie - why does everyone insist she was naked?!) and resulting royal scandal has brought an enraged Cristiano to her doorstep.

What quickly follows is Cristiano whisking Jensen away from all her other obligations to his Italian villa so she can devote her every waking moment to honoring her contract to him. Inevitably what happens is that these two spark off each other immediately, a fact neither is terribly pleased about because 1) business relationship and 2) they're not what the other person "needs."

When one reads a Presents one expects a certain level of jackassery from the hero, and that's not what Hayward has written with this book. Oh sure, Cristiano is 1) Italian 2) Powerful and 3) Wealthy but his form of jackassery is a single-mindedness and workaholic nature. Yes, he railroads Jensen to Italy but he's doing it because she's not honoring the terms of her contract.  He also is an observant Presents hero, which honestly now is odd 😂.  Jensen's wild child reputation doesn't jive with the hardworking woman who doesn't do drugs and barely drinks any alcohol.  He recognizes that he's not getting the whole story with her and boy howdy, he wants the story....among other things.

I liked Jensen. She's got a bit of poor little rich girl in her but she's smart and hardworking, she just needs to stop enabling Dear Old Mom.  Her two sisters are cash-strapped trying to get their boutique off the ground, so it's all falling on Jensen to keep Mom afloat.  There's also some latent Daddy Issues and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  She's mightily attracted to Cristiano (and he to her!) but she's this messy former reality TV star and he's this scion of an Italian fashion dynasty.  And naturally there's another woman in the latter half of the story fanning the flames of those insecurities. (To call her The Other Woman stretches things considerably, Cristiano is past done with her....)

There's naturally a third act separation (seriously, this IS a Presents) with Jensen's mother once again throwing a wrench into the works and Cristiano angry over what he sees as Jensen falling back into bad habits.  What I liked here is that after the heat of the moment, when he truly stops to think things through, he realizes something is "off" with what he thinks he knows.  He's a Presents hero who readily turns his thinking around using logic and ferreting out the truth of the situation.  Seriously, it's odd 😂.  It's a romance that works well with two characters who rub each other in all the right and wrong ways, featuring some great tension and plenty of steaminess (boy howdy the scene in the pool!).

I'm glad to see Hayward back in the saddle and here's hoping we don't have to wait as long for her next book.

Final Grade = B

Note: At the time of this review posting the book is available direct from Harlequin. It releases wide to all retailers on September 26, 2023.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Library Loot Review: How to Kill Men and Get Away With It

I know blogs have been "dead" for at least the last decade, but nothing will get me to pick up a book faster than a long-form blog review.  Bonus points if it's a book I didn't know existed.  It was Whiskey's review of How to Kill Men and Get Away With It by Katy Brent that caused me to immediately add myself to the wait list at the library.  

Kitty Collins is a poor little rich girl living in London.  Her father made his money in slaughterhouses and meat packing, and when Kitty saw the family business up close and personal she quickly went vegan. The family money affords her a fabulous London penthouse that her mother gave her, but otherwise she makes her living as a social media influencer and has a group of equally vacuous social media influencer "friends" - although Kitty's follower numbers outstrip them all.

She didn't set out to start killing men. The first one happened quite by accident. A drunken lout who accosts Kitty outside of a club. Seriously, it was an accident! But soon Kitty finds herself an avenging angel - taking out men who so richly deserve it (rapists, molesters, real upstanding citizens all). The cops aren't on to her - the problem is someone else is. Our Kitty has a stalker.

This book is like if Sex and the City, Dexter and the movie version of American Psycho had an unholy baby.  It strives for humor and satire but it doesn't always quite hit the mark.  Part of the problem is that for a very long time you pretty much hate everybody in this book. This could partly be a Wendy Problem. I'll admit, I find Influencer Culture largely gross and there's nothing in the first half of this book that changed my mind.  These are all vacuous, shallow people with really pathetic lives.  Can Influencers "do good?"  Sure, they can. But by and large the feeding of consumer culture and preying on peoples' insecurities makes my left eye twitch.

But there's dead bodies, and nothing will get Wendy to keep reading a book quite like dead bodies (don't judge). Things start to even out a bit once Kitty gets a love interest as it gives her character more dimension.  Although if I think about it for more than a hot second, the fact that it takes a man to give Kitty's character more dimension is a problematic development for a book trying to make the statement that this particular book is trying to make.  Also the "twists" in this story, the various "big reveals" come out of left field.  What you think you know you don't really know - and here's the problem with that...

There's no foreshadowing. Like none.  These juicy nuggets are just tossed on to the page with all the subtlety of a live hand grenade.

There's an inordinate amount of pop culture references that will age this book exponentially as the days tick by (but really, it's a book about a social media influencer so...) and somehow Kitty having her cell phone on her every time she kills someone doesn't seem to get her in trouble (Hello, GPS tracking? Pinging off cell phone towers?  But again, probably too much to expect from what this book's ultimate goal is...)

Did I like this book? Not entirely. Could I stop reading this book?  Reader, I could not.  And while Whiskey points out very valid criticisms about the latter portion of the book in her review, these issues didn't bother me quite as much.  If anything the second half worked a bit better for me than the first half - mainly because by that point I was past the live hand grenade twists and Kitty was more "in peril" than simply vacuous and blood-thirsty.

I wasn't madly in love, but I'll read Brent's next book.

Final Grade = B-

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Mini-Reviews: Dream Factories

I like traveling...once I get where I want to go.  It's the getting there that tends to be annoying, although the one solid benefit I've discovered over the years to getting on an airplane is Airplane Reading.  I am a champ for reading on airplanes and my recent trip back to the American Midwest (work conference) gave me the opportunity to plow through some books.  That means it's time for another round of Wendy's patented mini-reviews.

The Bull Rider's Cowgirl by April Arrington was a completely random pick off my Kindle.  The thought process went something like this "I haven't read a Harlequin American in a while..." Albeit this book was released under the rebranded "Western Romance" banner that Harlequin put out to pasture in 2018.

This is the third book in the Men of Raintree Ranch series and while past characters do show up, it stands alone just fine.  Colt Mead is a bull rider clawing his way up the ranks and the playboy of the circuit.  Jen Taylor is a barrel racer with ambitions as wide as the Grand Canyon, determined to make something of herself and show all those naysayers back home in the nothing small town where she grew up.  She's mightily attracted to Colt, they shared a kiss, and naturally Colt pushed her away - because while's he's attracted to her that's what guys like this always seem to do.  This incident has made Jen prickly around him, until a tragedy brings them together.

Colt's father and stepmother die in an accident leaving him the guardian to his 9-year-old half-sister.  Jen can't say no to a friend, so takes time away from the circuit to help Colt out in his hour of need.  As Colt reconnects with his sister he realizes that his drifter lifestyle traveling the rodeo circuit ain't all it's cracked up to be.

The world-building is solid and it was an interesting spin to have Colt come from a cold fish wealthy family who chucked it all to be his own man (his father is a piece of work, naturally). Jen is extremely relatable, a wrong-side of the tracks kind of girl that everyone wrote off.  She's going to work hard, bust her butt, and show all those jerks back home!  And Arrington, bless her heart, writes the child characters in the book like kids. They read authentic and not like plot moppets.

Here's the problem, it's one of those books where the heroine chucks aside all her dreams once the hero tells her he loves her.  That's not an automatic nope for me, but I have caveats: 1) It has to be the heroine's idea and 2) The hero damn sure better recognize exactly what the heroine is giving up.  And that doesn't happen here.  Colt's all like is that what you really want, stay me with me, blah blah blah.  To say he needles Jen is overstating it, but he pleads and protests a little too much.  And of course all those dreams the heroine had at the start of the story?  Suddenly don't seem to matter so much anymore.  Sigh.

Final Grade = D+

I love the way Loren D. Estleman writes about the city of Detroit, one of the great all-time settings for crime novels. City Walls is the 31st book to feature Amos Walker, world-weary old-school PI and it delivered exactly what I wanted - snappy writing, Detroit shenanigans, and Amos playing catch-up to piece it all together.

This time out Amos is hired by Emmett Yale, a muckity-muck in the electric car industry to look into the "murder" of his useless stepson.  Amos knows Detroit like the back of his hand, frankly the murder looks and smells like a totally random, senseless killing.  But Yale thinks one of his former employees and the stepson were mixed up in an insider trading scheme and the "random killing" was actually a hit.  Amos has doubts, but takes the case anyway (because of course...) and is soon mixed up with Yale's head of security and the staff at a dying airfield, including a sexy aviatrix, an aging barnstormer and a surly maintenance man.  

When it comes to turning a phrase Estleman is one of the best in the business and as always I was sucked into the writing and world-building from the jump (the story opens in Cleveland, which was serendipitous since that's where my work conference was!) .  Unfortunately the whole thing doesn't tie together as neatly as I would have liked.  Look, sometimes a coincidence truly is a coincidence and people will exploit those coincidences for their own gain.  Doesn't mean I want that in my crime fiction reading. I like tidy, all wrapped up in a bow, where all the pieces fit neatly together.  I had a good time reading this, I enjoyed what I always enjoy about books in this series, but I wanted a bit more oomph in the mystery.

Final Grade = B-

Saturday, August 19, 2023

The Few, The Proud, The Mighty: Unusual Historicals for August 2023

As I'm finalizing this post my part of the world is under a Tropical Storm warning thanks to Hurricane Hilary.  I was in the process of trying to decide how freaked out I should be, when My Man suggested I call my sister, a former Florida resident who had been through several hurricanes.  She talked me down off the ledge and said "Make sure your cars have full tanks of gas and gather supplies like you could be without power for an extended period of time."  So that's what I've been up to for the last 48 hours. I feel about as ready as I can be, so that means moving on to other storm preparation tasks, oh like reading!  August is a pretty thin month in the unusual historicals department, not helped any further by Amazon's search "function" which has been even more dreadful than usual the past couple of months. It's a small list, but still with some intriguing titles to share!

London, 1832: Isabelle Lira may be in distress, but she's no damsel. Since her father’s death, his former partners have sought to oust her from their joint equity business. Her only choice is to marry—and fast—to a powerful ally outside the respected Berab family’s sphere of influence. Only finding the right spouse will require casting a wide net. So she’ll host a series of festivals, to which every eligible Jewish man is invited. 

Once, Aaron Ellenberg longed to have a family of his own. But as the synagogue custodian, he is too poor for wishes and not foolish enough for dreams. Until the bold, beautiful Isabelle Lira presents him with an irresistible offer . . . if he ensures her favored suitors have no hidden loyalties to the Berabs, she will provide him with money for a new life. 

Yet the transaction provides surprising temptation, as Aaron and Isabelle find caring and passion in the last person they each expected. Only a future for them is impossible—for heiresses don’t marry orphans, and love only conquers in children’s tales. But if Isabelle can find the courage to trust her heart, she'll discover anything is possible, if only she says yes.

I craft these Unusual Historical posts around the edict that "people are neither genre nor trope" so while having Jewish main characters in a historical romance isn't something you see every day of the week, that isn't what makes this role reversal Cinderella/Pygmalion romance "unusual."  Nope.  It's the fact that THE HERO IS A CUSTODIAN OMG!!!  Ahem, anywoodle. The delightful Miss Bates recently posted a dynamite review for this one and she rarely steers me wrong. 

The Viking She Loves to Hate by Lucy Morris 
Her rival 

Is her most dangerous temptation! 

Astrid Viggosdottir’s father has ordered a competition between her and new arrival Viking Ulrik to prove who is the better boat builder! If she loses, Princess Astrid will be duty-bound to marry a jarl. If Ulrik loses, he will be banished, leaving his motherless daughter homeless. With the stakes so high, Astrid should hate this man, but during the long hot summer, their rivalry turns to a heated passion that neither can ignore!


I still need to read the third book in Morris' Shieldmaiden Sisters trilogy that released in February (😭) and here's a new book, this one a stand alone.  Ship-building! A cross-class romance! A single father hero! And a competition that rivals a 21st century reality TV show!  This sounds great and it's getting tossed onto my TBR pile.

The ton’s newest member 

Is not all she seems… 

Diplomat Marcus Wolfdon can’t forget the alluring woman he met in Paris, the passionate night they shared or that she stole his money and disappeared! A year later, Wolf meets Juliana again in Brighton, seemingly a member of the ton. She begs him to keep their former liaison secret, and the emotion in her eyes compels him to agree. Desire still flares between them, but first Wolf must uncover the lady behind the masquerade… 


This second book in Gaston's Family of Scandals series is Regency-set but the plot description is giving me life! A heroine who liberated the hero from some money "reunites" with him in England where he catches her passing herself off as a member of the ton.  I'm always up for a good masquerade and I'm itching to uncover all the heroine's secrets now.

The Gunslinger... 

Mad Billy Maddox, aka the Angel of Death, comes to the tiny town in Johnson County, Wyoming as a gun for hire to scare away the settlers. He’s a man who makes his living with his guns, and he never expects to find someone to make him want to change his ways. 

The Lady... 

Sara is the sweet and shy wife of the biggest bully in town. She’s learned not to let anything scare her, but the way Will Maddox looks at her shakes her up far worse than her husband’s heavy fists. She knows she should hate him, but she can’t. 


He’s a bad man, and she’s a good woman. There’s no future for them in the wild Wyoming territory. But Maddox is a man who gets what he wants, no matter how high the price, and he wants Sara. Not even the fact that he killed her husband will get in his way.
This novella was first published in the St. Martin's Press anthology One Night With a Rogue back in 1995. This is your first clue that this story could feature some WTF'ery shenanigans, and the name Anne Stuart would be your second clue 😂. I missed this when it was first published and there's enough in this description (and the hope for some Grade A WTF'ery) that I'll give this baby a whirl.

Stay safe out there Romancelandia and feel free to share what Unusual Historicals have caught your eye lately in the comments section.