Saturday, October 1, 2022

Review: Big Chicas Don't Cry

Big Chicas Don't Cry by Annette Chavez Macias was a Bad Decisions Book Club read. I read probably 20% over a Saturday afternoon and then decided to read "a few chapters" before bed Sunday night. When I had to work the next day. So of course I stayed up until 1AM and finished the book - and then of course was unable to fall asleep right away because my brain was too busy thinking about the book.

I. Regret. Nothing.

Cousins Mari, Erica, Selena and Gracie grew up together, spending a fair amount of time with their Abuela and Welita (what the girls call their great-grandmother). They're inseparable until Mari announces that her parents are getting a divorce. She's off to live with her mother leaving behind the Southern California Inland Valley area for...Whittier.  Which to pre-teen girls is like the ends of the Earth.  They promise to remain best cousins forever, but as inevitably happens as one grows up, and family ties get tangled, they drift apart.

Erica is a journalist for a local paper whose boyfriend has just broken up with her. That's what boyfriends do to Erica, they keep breaking up with her.  Already hiding her vulnerability behind a sarcastic shell, her mouth runs away from her (again) and she ends up making a bad first impression on her new boss. Her new boss who seems like he's "out to get her."

Selena calls herself "whitina." Her Spanish is abysmal and she doesn't care for traditional Mexican food, and yet she's the "token Latina" at the boutique advertising firm where she works and endures some pretty textbook microaggressions that still made my jaw drop.  She's also commitment-phobic, having been seriously burned by a college beau. She's currently carrying on a long-distance F-Buddy relationship with Nathan and against her better judgement, things seem to be heating up in more ways than just in the bedroom.

Gracie is the good girl now teaching elementary students at the Catholic school she attended as a child. At one point she thought she might become a nun. She's shy, she's reserved, and yes, she's still a virgin.  Then her former high school crush comes waltzing back into her life as the new temporary PE teacher and they're thrown together to plan the school's annual fundraising event. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Finally there's Mari. Mari of the divorced parents whose teen years were financially unstable. This translated into an all-consuming need for security. She married a successful lawyer, spends her days moving her way up the society ladder, doing charity work, and taking care of a fabulous house - and naturally she's incredibly unhappy.  She's estranged from her cousins, she barely sees her family, her husband is constantly railroading her, and she's lost herself. Who is Mari? What does Mari want? Mari has no idea. I mean, all this is complicated enough and then her husband's law firm partner tells Mari he's in love with her.

This is very much women's fiction but Chavez Macias (who also writes romance as Sabrina Sol) cannot help herself so there are very strong romantic elements in this story.  However that isn't to say they all end "happily," so readers should adjust their expectations accordingly. What this book does do is keep it's women's fiction promise in that it is a very centered female story through the female gaze and all women are in "better places" at the end of the book then they were in the beginning of the book. Mission accomplished. 

What sucked me into this story was the way the author crafted her characters. I always know I loved a book when I close the last chapter and start to think of the characters as "real people." People I would like to know. People I would like to have coffee with.  All four of these cousins felt flesh and blood to me, like I could step out my front door tomorrow, go to the local coffee shop and potentially meet any one of them.  Their trials and their triumphs also felt very relatable, their bond as friends and family firmly rooted.  I loved each and every one of these women even as they may have been doing things that occasionally frustrated me.

However that isn't to say the book is perfect or there aren't challenging aspects to it.  Gracie's story in particular is one I initially loved but I found challenging by the halfway point. Talking about it more is HUGE HONKIN' SPOILER TERRITORY but I'll just say something happens to Gracie that happens to a lot of romance novel heroines and there's a lot to unpack with how her relationship with her high school crush plays out that the author mostly skirts around.  Was I angry? Yes. Did it make me love this book any less? No. If anything it made me want to shove the book in everybody's hands so I could talk to people about it in a book club style setting 😂

I'm honestly sh*t for writing reviews for books I loved and I'm staying on brand with this one - but y'all I loved this book. I loved this family Chavez Macias created, I loved these four cousins, and I did not want to let them go after the final chapter.  In fact, that's the mark of a good story to me. I didn't want to let them go and I don't have to. The Garcia Cousins are now living rent free in my brain and I'm imagining all sorts of ways their lives have played out after the end of the last chapter.  This was a triumph, heartwarming and heartbreaking all shoved in between the covers of the same book.  Congratulations Annette Chavez Macias and welcome to Wendy's autobuy list.

Final Grade = A

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

#TBRChallenge Review 2022: Abby and the Bachelor Cop

The Book: Abby and the Bachelor Cop by Marion Lennox

The Particulars: Harlequin Romance #4241, Book 1 in series, 2011, Out of print, Available digitally.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Lennox is an autobuy. As simple and as uncomplicated as that.

The Review: I am not a reader who gravitates towards books with cute doggies on the cover but I generally enjoy Marion Lennox and something about the back cover copy of this book must have tickled me at the time I bought it.  The final verdict? The dog was really the best part of the story for me.

Abigail "Abby" Callahan is weeks away from her wedding to Banksia Bay golden boy, Philip. Philip is a defense attorney currently representing a guy who swindled half the town out of their life savings, but somehow Philip's sh*t doesn't stink.  Anyway, Abby is also a defense attorney and Philip's partner.  On paper it should be perfect. Philip is decent and steady, so what if his kisses don't light her world on fire. So what if he painted the living room in the house they're going to share after the wedding beige?  Philip is decent and steady and her parents love him.

Unlike Rafferty "Raff" Finn, former town bad boy now one of two small town cops in Banksia Bay. The "good townsfolk" thought he was trash before and then there was a car accident that left his younger sister, Sarah, with permanent disabilities.  She needs care, stability, and familiarity. Leaving Banksia Bay is not an option. Anyway, that car accident also seriously injured Raff (he has some memory loss from the night of the accident) and killed his best friend Ben.  Ben Callahan, Abby's older brother.  Raff was Abby's first love and while they had broken up over a tiff prior to the accident, that accident severed any hope they may find their way back to each other.  Also there the night of the accident? Philip. Yep, they were all friends.  Messy. The relationships here are messy.

Anyway, Abby and Raff are due in court what with Raff being the cop on record and Abby helping to defend the swindler. A car accident involving a vehicle containing animal shelter dogs has slowed them down and snarled traffic (as snarled as traffic gets in a small town - sorry I live SoCal, I laugh in the face of traffic).  Anyway, Raff dumps a dog named Kleppy into Abby's lap. Take the dog to the vet, his owner died and the dog is scheduled to be put down.  We all know what happens next - Abby can't do it. She rescues Kleppy, even though Philip doesn't like dogs, and before she finds out why he's named "Kleppy."  Yep, this dog is a known kleptomaniac, a thief, and generally a loveable menace.

Lennox is going for romantic comedy with this story and for the most part she succeeds when the focus is on Kleppy's antics. This dog is a charmer.  He'd probably drive me to the brink of insanity but in romance novel form he's a delight.  The romance though....

Here's the issue: I didn't like Raff. He rubbed me the wrong way from the jump and I had a hard time putting my finger on why.  It eventually hit me though, he railroads Abby.  Here's the thing, everyone is railroading Abby in this book.  Philip and his beige life. Her parents who want her to have a sensible career (lawyer) and a sensible husband (Philip) and Abby just drifts along accepting all of it because Ben's death has left her that shattered.  Raff's genius idea is to badger her over her engagement, snipe at her in the early chapters, kiss her senseless a couple of times, and continue to badger her over her engagement, showing up at her house with lights flashing when Kleppy steals something, her career, her defending a criminal yada yada yada.  

Eventually Abby gets there on her own. She realizes she can't marry Philip for various and sundry reasons but I felt like that was in spite of Raff's "help" in opening her eyes.  

Does Raff start to grow on me a bit by the end?  Yeah, kind of? I mean he's taking care of his sister whose personality turned child-like after the accident. He's living in a town that has tarred and feathered him with the bad-boy-no-good-family-brush for his sister. But his personality in the early chapters really grated.  I liked Abby. Yes she's drifting through a life she doesn't want and hasn't fully realized that yet, but I liked her. I kind of wanted her to tell Banksia Bay to go to the devil and run away to Sydney and live with Kleppy in some swanky condo where he can pilfer jewelry from the neighbors, but whatever.

So, yeah. I didn't love this but I also didn't hate it. It's a quick read and Lennox does nail the light, romantic comedy feel while delivering a foundation of Angst-O-Rama-Jama.  A nice enough heroine, a hero I never warmed to, and a pretty great dog.

Final Grade = C

Monday, September 19, 2022

Unusual Historicals Spotlight September 2022: Small, But Mighty

Publishing, she's a fickle mistress. Some months are a bonanza for unusual historicals, see August 2022 which had 7 titles (7!) that caught my eye.  September 2022? Just three. At least the lighter months slow down the exponential growth of Ye Olde TBR - that's something right? 
Claiming the warrior 

For one night of pleasure! 

When Glynnis had to make a noble marriage, Iain Mackenzie Cameron’s illegitimacy stood in the way. She married another—but now she’s returned to the clan a widow, and Iain is an assured warrior, the chieftain’s heir. Glynnis would make him a more than suitable bride—except for her inability to produce heirs. Iain must marry elsewhere…but only after she claims one precious impassioned night with him!


This book immediately jumped up several spots in my TBR queue after finishing the previous book in the series, The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride, just last week. Glynnis was featured prominently in that story, assigned to the heroine betrothed to the future laird to help get her settled in, make her feel at home etc. Glynnis was not an evil other woman in that book but she was seen as something of a paragon, the type of heroine raised from the cradle to make the ideal nobleman's wife. And wouldn't you know it? She's in love with the guy born on the wrong side of the blanket. I'm expecting a lot of pining and angst and OMG CANNOT WAIT!

She’s rescued a knight 

Now she needs the favor returned… 

When widowed Lady Johanne happens upon an injured knight, she sees an opportunity to form an alliance and protect her home, Castle Brae, from her enemies. The betrothal she proposes might be merely for appearances, but the very real attraction between her and Sir Alewyn thrills and disturbs her. For it’s clear he’s hiding something… 

Can she trust him with so much at stake?

Nothing gets me from the jump quite like a resourceful historical romance heroine. The kind of gal who is very much aware of how the world operates around her and finds a way to circumvent those challenges.  In other words, I like sneaky, resourceful heroines. And Lady Johanne here sounds right up my alley. There are enemies. Her home is threatened. So naturally when she stumbles across an injured knight she sees a potential solution to her problems.  This is the third book in The King's Knights series.

As children, Eliza Blacknall and William Denton ran wild over the fields of southern Ireland and swore they would be friends forever. Then fate took Will away to England, while Eliza stayed behind to become a proper Irish countess. 

Years later, Will finally makes his way home-as an English soldier sent to crush the Irish uprising. When he spies the lovely Eliza, he is captivated by the passionate woman she has become. But Eliza's passions have led her to join the Irish rebel cause, and Will and Eliza now find themselves on opposite sides of a dangerous conflict. 

When Ireland explodes in bloody rebellion, Will's regiment is ordered to the front lines, and he is forced to choose between his duty to the English king and his love for Eliza and their Irish homeland.

This former RITA finalist was originally published by Hachette in 2010 under McCabe's Laurel McKee pseudonym and is the first book in her Daughters of Erin series. Set in Ireland in the late 18th century, y'all need to ignore the fact that Amazon has this currently listed under subject headings for Victorian and Regency (Go home Amazon, you're drunk. Also time periods and eras should actually mean something...) Ahem, anyway. An Irish hero who leaves behind a childhood sweetheart and comes home to quash a rebellion in the name of the enemy while the heroine is on the other side of the fence. My own personal catalog (yes, I'm a nerd) tells me I have a print copy of this buried somewhere in the TBR Mountain Range of Doom. It's probably past time for me to unearth it.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is September 21

Hey, hey, hey it's that time of the month again - #TBRChallenge time! The next Challenge is set for Wednesday, September 21.  This month's (always) optional theme is Animals.

This was another suggestion that came out of the theme poll I ran last year, and is all about those furry, fluffy animal companions that sometimes crop up in romance novels. Or maybe it could mean your average Harlequin Presents hero 😂.  See? You really can interpret these themes however you wish!

However, the themes are completely optional. I gotta be honest, this month's theme is going to take some work for me since I seem to not purchase single title contemporaries with dogs on the covers and I'm probably not alone here.  Hey, it's OK!  Remember 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. The themes are just for fun 😉

It's not too late to participate in this year's Challenge!  If you're interested or you just want to follow along with those participating, be sure to check out the TBR Challenge 2022 Information Page

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Review: The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride

Sometimes the right book finds you at the right time, although in the case of The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride by Terri Brisbin, I think it was a matter of the right author finding me at the right time. That moment in time when you pick up a book, read the first chapter and realize that everything will be alright, you're in the hands of a pro. I inhaled this book.

When Robbie Cameron was a lad he was fostered by the MacLerie clan.  The younger daughter, Sheena, was a pest. Always underfoot, always trying to tag along with Robbie and her brother Aidan. One day Robbie has enough, lashes back in a typical young boy way and it ultimately leads to him being shamed and punished (a whipping...) by Sheena's father. This leads to hard feelings, avoidance and a simmering animosity between Sheena and Robbie that festers on until Robbie is eventually called home to his own clan.

In the years that follow, Robbie's fortunes change. He was the eldest son of a second son but circumstances soon find his father becoming laird, which means Robbie is now next in line. This is the 14th century Scottish highlands, alliances are everything, and a marriage between the MacLerie and Cameron clans is advantageous.  Yep, you guessed it - Sheena and Robbie are betrothed and neither of them is terribly happy about it.

Things get off on the wrong foot rather quickly, what with old grudges being hard to dismiss, especially grudges born out of a childhood hurt.  In Robbie's mind, Sheena is selfish and impetuous.  She only cares for herself and will make a terrible laird's wife.  To her mind, Sheena feels guilty over the childhood incident and a mess of other things - oh, like she's a constant disappointment to her father and mother who cast long, long shadows. She knows she'd make a terrible laird's wife thanks to a Big Secret that she is desperately trying to hide.  She was an outsider in her own clan and family and now here she is in unknown territory.  It's a disaster in the making.  

This book is spin-off of two series, A Highland Feuding and The MacLerie Clan, both of which are lengthy series. Honestly this could have been a disaster. The author has to engage new readers but satisfy fans who want to catch glimpses of past characters and Brisbin does an excellent job of this. The world-building is great, the secondary characters interesting, and for the first several early chapters they keep the reader engaged until Robbie and Sheena "get over" that past childhood incident.  I want to go back and READ. ALL. THE BOOKS! which is honestly the whole point of writing series.  You want the reader to be engaged and pick up the other books regardless of which book they start with.

The nature of Sheena's Big Secret is compelling and relatable. To give more away borders on spoiler territory, but I will disclose they are issues that many people in modern times struggle with and in a less enlightened medieval age probably would have had her burned at the stake as a witch or tortured by the Church for being possessed by the devil.  The fear in Sheena's life, the shame, the disappointment is a tangible, living, breathing thing.  It makes for engrossing conflict. (If you need spoilers: Sheena suffers from dyslexia and panic attacks)

For his part, Robbie is a dynamite hero. This is a guy who realizes through the course of the story how badly he has misjudged Sheena. How he truly never knew her at all.  Then, as he falls in love with her, he turns into the very best sort of romantic hero - the guy who will give up everything, do anything, to see her safe, loved, and protected.

I started this book before bedtime and finally forced myself to go to sleep at 1AM at the 75% mark. I woke up in the morning and my first order of business after caffeine (priorities, I haz them) was finishing this story.  I really, truly enjoyed it.  I've always liked Brisbin's stories but hot damn, why am I not reading her books like all the time?!

Final Grade = B+

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Review: Pippa and the Prince of Secrets

I'm coming up on my one-month anniversary of not posting any content on this blog and it was starting to make me twitchy. The problem with blogging for almost 20 years is that between work sucking out my brains I sometimes fall into the pit of "What more could I possibly say about the romance genre that I haven't already said?" Add to this that my reading of late has been very lackluster. Unfortunately while it's been bad, it hasn't been "interesting" bad which has left me with no spoons to blog about any of it. Then, right on queue, I land on Pippa and the Prince of Secrets by Grace Callaway. Was this a good read for me? Well - it was interesting and just absurd enough that I want to blog about it. So here we go...

Pippa is a widowed countess whose husband was a sack of garbage. He was a painter, she fancied herself in love, and after he made her wait for an interminable amount of time he finally married her - only to belittle her, box her in, and make her feel small. Eventually the man ends up dead and Pippa is at a low ebb. Thanks to events in the first book of this series (more on that in a bit) she meets Lady Charlotte who runs a discreet investigative service catering to society ladies. Her operatives are all women and Pippa joins their ranks needing a purpose.

The series is called "Lady Charlotte's Society of Angels" and Charlotte goes by Charlie.  Yes, it's Charlie's Angels set in Victoria London, I sh*t you not.  Right down to chain mail enforced corsets and the Angels being trained in self-defense and evasive street-fighting techniques.  If your eyes are already rolling out of your head, yeah - this book is probably not for you. And normally that would have been me - but seriously y'all my reading of late has been not good. I was desperate so I decided to roll with it.

Anyway, Pippa is trailing the husband of their latest client when she ends up in the soup. She gets rescued by The Prince of the Larks AKA Timothy Cullen.  She first met Tim as a teenager, through his sister who was a student at a school her parents ran for disadvantaged youth. She was smitten with him, but he eventually returned to the shadows.  Cull is the head of a gang of children and youth known as the mudlarks who earn their keep "gathering information." This has somehow been financially rewarding for them even though the author skirts around it mightily.  Hey, it's OK. I mean, he's Fagin but a more cuddly version. You know, without the thievery, abuse or anti-Semitism.  Leading a gang of children and teenagers though?  Still kinda icky.  Although this is Victorian London. I mean, the kids could be losing fingers and limbs working in a textile factory so - lesser of two evils I guess?  But I digress, adding another trope to the fire, Tim was burned in an accident some years before so now wears a mask so there's a Beauty and the Beast thing going on here along with the fact that he's been pining after Pippa for years even though he's not good enough for the likes o' her.

Eventually what happens is that because Cull is an over-protective ninny, he ends up mucking around in the Angel's latest case and soon the two join forces to track down a murderer.

Honestly, it's absurd. But it was at least entertaining absurd which is more than I can say for the last several books I read which ranged from just plain bad to bad and boring to just plain boring. Pippa does a little too much foot-stamping nonsense in the beginning but at least the sparring is entertaining. Also there's past guilt she has over her husband's death that kept me interested even though I had it figured out early on.  The middle sags a bit, the "I care about you" stuff shows up early - but once the murder mystery shows up I was all in. This was actually the best part of the book for me. I felt like the author did a really good job with it, throwing in a few false leads and red herrings to keep things humming along.

The sex scenes were a bit of an odd choice however. You'd got a book about a Victorian era Charlie's Angels group. I'm not going to take it too seriously. To a certain extent I'm expecting "playful." But the sex scenes read more "erotic romance" to me. I mean the couple finds themselves at an orgy at one point and there's another scene where they use a swing. Given that Pippa's husband shattered her confidence and gave her some hang-ups about sex, I think the author did a good job of using the scenes as "character growth" - but an orgy? A swing? Plus there's too many of them and they start to feel like word count padding. I don't know, they didn't really gel for me with the rest of the story.

So interesting beginning, saggy middle, and an ending that kept me reading because intriguing murder mystery.  This is just the sort of polarizing book that makes the romance genre interesting.  I'd wager about half of you reading this already want to stab your eyes out, while the other half of you can't one-click this fast enough.  

Final Grade = C+

Friday, August 19, 2022

Hit the Books: Unusual Historical Spotlight for August 2022

August has shaped up to be a busy reading month because Past Wendy volunteered to do some contest judging that Present Wendy had conveniently forgotten about. Y'all, next time hold me back from doing these sorts of things, will ya? I've had a pretty good reading year (73 books so far!) but it's been coming in fits and starts. In the meantime, oh my look at all these Unusual Historicals landing in August! It's enough to distract a girl when she's got assigned reading to do...
To Catch a Raven by Beverly Jenkins 
Lying and cheating may be sins to some people, but for Raven Moreaux, it is a way of life. She comes from a long line of grifters and couldn’t be prouder…Until she’s forced to help the government. 

A former Confederate official is suspected of stealing the Declaration of Independence, and Raven, posing as his housekeeper, is tasked with getting it back. Her partner is the too handsome Braxton Steel. Masquerading as a valet/driver, Brax is also supposed to be her “husband.” He has his own reasons for doing this job, but when their pretend marriage ignites into fiery passion, they’ll have to put everything—including their hearts—on the line.
Jenkins excels at writing great heroines and crafting community in her stories (I think every librarian should recommend her historicals to folks who devour small town contemporaries).  I'm intrigued by this one because while the heroine certainly sounds very Jenkins-esque, we've basically got a spy story, so it'll be intriguing to see how the community atmosphere manifests itself here. I'm looking forward to this one because Raven sounds magnificent!

Compromised into a Scandalous Marriage by Lydia San Andres 
From island scandal 

To dutiful vows! 

When heiress Paulina Despradel is banished from the family quinta in a storm, she seeks shelter with her dashing new neighbor, Sebastian Linares. Their attraction may be as electrifying as the lightning outside, but the night they spend together is totally innocent. Barely more than strangers, they must now marry. But left alone with their simmering chemistry, can they build a true union from the ashes of scandal?

I have an ARC of this that I wanted to read soon and...well, see this blog post intro. Anyway, it's set in the Dominican Republic in the early 1900s! And if that weren't enough, thanks to this review at The Smut Report, I know I'm going to get a dastardly brother and some Drama Llama! This one is on tap soon for me.

A devil’s bargain burns the hottest…. 

For years, fiercely independent Gwen Cully has worked as the village blacksmith, keeping her family’s business going. But when a local rival threatens her livelihood, Gwen has nowhere to turn ... until a devastatingly handsome fugitive takes shelter in her shop and sparks fly. 

Unrepentant rogue Kellan Fox’s entire existence has been a dangerous game of deception that leads him into a fight for survival—and straight into the arms of a tall, fiery beauty. When Gwen protects him from an angry mob of villagers, Kellan sees the perfect solution to both their troubles. A marriage—in name only—that will last a single year. 

Only a marriage of convenience can’t hide their searing attraction. It glows hotter than Gwen’s forge and reaches deep below the tempting mask Kellan wears for the world. With every sizzling glance and scorching kiss, Gwen surrenders more of herself to the molten passion she finds in Kellan’s strong embrace. But can she ever truly trust her heart to a scoundrel?

This is Book 3 in Jordan's Duke Hunt series and y'all I typically glance right over most historicals with "Duke" mentioned somewhere.  But, but, but....the heroine is working as a blacksmith! And yeah the hero is a fugitive and will probably turn out to be a Duke in hiding but THE HEROINE IS A BLACKSMITH!

The Bluestocking's Whirlwind Liaison by Bronwyn Scott 
The quiet sister 

And the only man to charm her! 

Rebecca has always been the inventor of the family, much preferring her workshop to a ball. But she’s thrust out of her familiar life when she meets Jules Howells, a member of a manufacturing family that is interested in her latest invention. At first, Jules seems a carefree rogue…until their ever-more-passionate encounters show Becca a depth to him she cannot resist!


This is the fourth book in Scott's Peveretts of Haberstock Hall series and OMG, so much Wendy catnip here. The quiet sister! And she's an inventor! And the hero comes from a manufacturing family!  Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Callahan Kelly is a conman, pure and simple. With his dark hair, dark eyes, and dimpled smile, he can smooth talk anyone out of anything and has a keen nose for sniffing out liars and thieves. So clearly someone somewhere made a mistake including him on a train heading toward a training ground with an elite group of agents for the Crown. But Baron, the leader of the newly formed Royal Saboteurs, makes a deal with Callahan: stay until his troubles in London die down, and if he still wants to go, he’ll be paid and discharged. But Cal finds the training at the camp fascinating, and even more intriguing is Bridget, the red-haired beauty who’s immune to his charm. When Cal is asked to partner with Bridget to infiltrate a group of Irish separatists or return to London, the choice is neither simple nor easy. 

Bridget Murray was sent from London to serve as Baron’s secretary. She never expected to be given the chance to carry out a mission for the Royal Saboteurs. She doesn’t like Callahan Kelly from the moment she meets him. But when they’re paired to infiltrate the Irish nationalists, she reluctantly agrees to pose as his wife. Living in close quarters with Callahan isn’t as awful as she expected, and that’s just the problem. The closer they become and the more real the danger surrounding him, the more she realizes she doesn’t ever want to let him go.
A conman hero who stumbles his way into a modicum of respectability. I call this the Han Solo Complex. And then there's the heroine who shows up to do one respectable job (secretary) and finds herself thrust into spy games. It's like if Moneypenny was shoved out into the field (which, come to think of it, happened in the Craig Bond Universe).  Anyway, this looks like it could be fun and Smexy Books has a nice review for it. It's also the start of a new series.

The Viking’s captive 

Bonded by more than chains…? 

Renowned Viking warrior Ulfric can’t stop thinking about his runaway concubine, Eithne. Their powerful connection seared his soul…and still she’d escaped, scarring his face in the process! But now he’s found her. He intends to teach her a lesson, but the white-hot passion between them has only grown hotter, wilder. Is he the one in danger of falling captive to the emotion only Eithne rouses in him…?

Crews also writes as Megan Crane, but under the Crews name I'd say she's best known for her Harlequin Presents work. And just like a Harlequin Presents, this historical sounds like it could go one of two ways. It's either going to be a problematic hot mess or else I'm going to inhale every delicious word and not come up for air for a few hours. Y'all I love this game!

Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry 
The four McBride brothers have their worlds turned upside down when their precocious younger sister secretly places an advertisement for a mail-order bride. 

Kit McBride knows that Buck's Creek, Montana, is no place to find a wife. Between him and his three brothers—plus little Junebug—they manage all right on their own, thank you very much. But unbeknownst to Kit, his sister is sick to death of cleaning, cooking, and mending for her big brothers, so she places an ad in The Matrimonial News to get them hitched. 

 After Maddy Mooney emigrated from Ireland, she found employment with an eccentric but poor widow. When her mistress decides to answer an ad for a mail-order bride, Madd​y is dragged along for the ride to Montana. But en route to the West, Maddy is suddenly abandoned and left to assume the widow's name, position, and matrimonial prospects…. 

With no other recourse in the wilderness, Maddy must convince Kit she’s the wife he never knew he needed.
I'm going to be honest here - I'm including this book because it's a historical western and if y'all know me - IT'S A HISTORICAL WESTERN!  But, but, but...pretty sure this is going to be a Funny Ha Ha western and y'all - not my favorite. By a long shot. Give me ALL the Will We Survive Winter westerns, Funny Ha Ha? Not so much.  But, it's a western. Which means yes I'll have to try it but yes it's gonna be a library read.  It also appears to be the first book in a new series.  Barry has written a few westerns in the past under the name Tess LeSue.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to?