Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sign-Up for the 2021 #TBRChallenge

Thank you everyone who recently took the time to fill out my Google Form soliciting theme suggestions for the 2021 TBR Challenge.  2020 has been...difficult. What little creativity I had fled the scene months ago, with reading and blogging continuing to be a struggle. But I'm nothing if not stubborn, which means hanging on to this Challenge and looking at my blog with fresh eyes.  But that's for a later post.  For now - Let's. Talk. TBR Challenge!

But first, the "rules:"

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: once a month pull a dormant book out of your TBR pile and read it.  On the 3rd Wednesday of the month, talk about that book.

Participation is as easy as being on social media!
  • If you're on social media all you need to do is use the #TBRChallenge hashtag - there's no need to sign-up and your participation can vary throughout the year.
  • You can use this hashtag on any day, at any time - but we're still going to concentrate on the 3rd Wednesday of every month to kick our commentary into high gear.  
  • The idea is to have at least one day a month where we can always count on there being book chatter.
Want to let your blogging freak flag fly?  If you have a blog and want to post TBR commentary there, drop me a comment on this post with a link to your blog or hit me up on Twitter.  I like to post links to the various blogs on my TBR Challenge page so those who follow along can start following you.

Sound good?  Of course it does!  So what are the themes for 2021?  So glad you asked!

January 20 - Comfort Read
February 17 - New-To-You Author
March 17 - Book by a Favorite Author
April 21 - Old School
May 19 - Fairytale / Folktale
June 16 - Book with One Word Title
July 21 - Secrets and Lies
August 18 - Author with More Than One Book in TBR
September 15 - Unusual (Time/Location/Profession etc.)
October 20 - Gothic
November 17 - Competition
December 15 - Festive

All of these themes, save one (yes, it's December's Festive theme....) were suggestions culled from the survey - and yes, some of these were suggested more than once.  Some of these are going to require a bit of planning on my part (for a change!), but remember - if it all seems like too much bother - the themes are always optional. The goal of this challenge isn't so much what you read, so long as you're reading something (anything!) out of your TBR.

My hope is always for this Challenge to be low-key, stress-free and fun!  So I hope you'll consider joining this year. Be like me - use this Challenge to delude yourself into thinking you're actually making some progress on your book hording 😉.  

Edited to Add: YOU GUYS! OMG! Look at this amazing graphic that @ardentlyaarya made!  If you're participating on social media, feel free to use this graphic.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankful for Unusual Historicals: November 2020 Highlights

I’m not sure how November can feel like the fastest and slowest months at the same time, but it’s 2020 and I’ve given up trying to explain anything anymore. At this point it’s a minor miracle I’m not in a bunker surrounded by books and booze. The holidays are here, COVID cases are rising, and I don’t know a single person who isn’t tired down to their bones. My advice? Snatch your moments of joy where you can, make new traditions, be kind to yourself and others. What better way to take my own advice than to gaze upon some shiny new unusual historicals that debuted this month.... 

Book Cover

The year is 1963. In Harlem, the epicenter of Black culture, the fight for equality has never been stronger. The time is now. Enough is enough. Yet even within its ranks, a different kind of battle rages. Love thy neighbor? Or rise up against your oppressors? 

Jason Tanner has just arrived in New York to help spread the message of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of passive resistance, while beat poet Anita Hopkins believes the teachings of Malcolm X with all her heart: that the way to true freedom is “by any means necessary.” When Jason sees Anita perform her poetry at the iconic B-Flat lounge, he’s transfixed. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this… 

One movement, two warring ideologies—can love be enough to unite them? 

So there will be some folks who think that a book set in 1963 shouldn’t be classified as “historical” and I’m going to tell those folks that they are wrong. Set nearly 60 years from the time it was published? Historical, y’all. Hill has a long romance pedigree, and I like that she’ll be addressing the different ideologies that sprung out of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Also, and this cannot be overstated - the heroine is a beat poet!!! 

“What do I get if I help you?” 

“Whatever I have to give…” 

The only person who can help Katla flee a violent marriage is the Viking in her father’s dungeon, the strong and honorable Brandt Sigurdsson. Except Brandt is hungry to see justice done for his family’s destruction, the final vengeance on behalf of all the sons of Sigurd. Is there any persuasion she can offer that will free them both to live—and love—together? 

This is the fifth and final book in the Sons of Sigurd series and we’ve come to Brandt’s book. Brandt would be the brother whose wife and unborn child were murdered on their wedding day. Oh, not to mention that his father was also killed that day. So there’s been plenty of angsty build-up leading to this final installment. 

My name is Sylvie Duchene and I am a dancer. There is no network. I am just a dancer. I know nothing. Please…I swear it… 

An unknown location, occupied France, 1944 

Dropping silently behind enemy lines, Sylvia Crichton, codename Monique, is determined to fight for the country of her birth and save it from its Nazi stranglehold. 

As one of the dancers at the nightclub Mirabelle, Sylvie’s mission is to entertain the club’s German clientele and learn their secrets. In a world of deception and lies, she can trust no one. Not even Mirabelle’s enigmatic piano player Felix… a part of the resistance or a collaborator? 

But despite her SOE training, nothing can prepare Sylvie for the horrors she is about to face – or the pain of losing those she grows closer to undercover… 

I’m not sure how I didn’t know about this book’s existence before now - but here we are. Hobbes has written some very enjoyable books for Harlequin Historical and I am here for anything French Resistance. 

Life at sea sharpened Captain Phillip Dalton into a shrewd and strategic military man...yet none of those skills prepared him for the intricacies of planning his daughter’s upcoming Christmas wedding. His family, most especially his wife, are all but strangers to him thanks to his service to the Crown. But if Phillip finds himself bewitched by his practical, charming, and guileless wife, he does his best to hide his struggles. 

Annalise Dalton raised two children and built a comfortable life for herself while her husband of convenience provided for them from afar. But now Phillip's home to stay, and she finds it impossible to ignore his gruff manner, brilliant blue eyes, or the gentle way he looks after her needs. And if Annalise is unnerved by the budding feelings her husband inspires in her, she does her best to hide how they unsettle her. 

When past secrets and misunderstandings threaten the tenuous steps they've taken to create a real and loving marriage, can Phillip and Annalise overcome the years they spent apart to forge a happy future together, and for every Christmas to come? 

I don’t know about y’all, but my struggles this year with lack of concentration hit epic status in November. Thank heaven for novellas, and lookie here - a Christmas novella! Featuring a sea captain hero and maybe not a hardcore marriage in trouble trope - but at the very least a falling in love after a marriage of convenience trope. Either way, gimme, gimme, gimme! 

Letting down her guard 

Might save her life… 

With their family name in tatters, Katherine Leofric and her sister are headed for a new life at their brother’s estate. They are escorted by the hardened Jarin, Earl of Borwyn, who Katherine believes is only after her dowry! Until her sister is abducted on the treacherous journey, and Katherine must rely on Jarin’s protection. Now, seeing a different side to the man she swore to hate, it’s her heart that’s most at risk! 

This is Matthews second book for Harlequin Historical and the Leofric brother was the hero in her first book, The Warrior Knight and the Widow. A medieval featuring “tattered” nobility and an enemy-to-lovers trope is Wendy catnip. 

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to reading?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: His Secret and Their Secret

Admittedly I had an entirely different book picked out for this month's Challenge, but when I still hadn't read a single word of it as of Monday I knew 2020 had struck again. With my concentration continuing to be shot I knew I was going to have to leave my print TBR in favor for my digital TBR and find a novella that fit this month's Series theme. What I found was the Secret Pleasures quartet by Portia Da Costa and just to be an overachiever for a change - I read the first two.

The Book: His Secret by Portia Da Costa

The Particular: Erotic romance novella, originally published as The Retreat 2009, self-published edition 2014, eBook only, book 1 in series

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Da Costa has been an autobuy for me for as long as I've been reading erotic romance. Um, that's a long time y'all!

The Review: Sarah met Ben at work, and they've been quietly dating for a while. Truly, he's the perfect boyfriend: dashing, charming, considerate, and good in bed.  Really, what more could a girl want?  But Sarah can't help having this feeling like something is missing.  And she finds out what it is when Ben whisks her away on a weekend getaway at the posh boutique hotel, The Retreat.  Because wouldn't you know it?  The Retreat is one of those quietly naughty hotels that cater to their guests every need (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). And perfect boyfriend Ben is, well, kinky. This turns out to be OK because Sarah discovers she likes it very much indeed when Ben is, well, kinky.

This is a short read, only clocking in around 50 pages. Even at that page count I wasn't disappointed in things like character development. Do you get to crawl around in the dark, deep recesses of their minds?  No. But they're an established couple and I got enough internal musings to not feel like the marriage proposal at the end of the story was a huge rush.  The erotic elements are what I would classify as light BDSM. There's spanking, there's a blindfold, there's some sex toys. I'm read tamer, I've read kinkier. 

Did this story change my life? Well, no. That's Wendy speak for "It was fine." But it was a quick read that made me feel like I managed to accomplish something.  Also, I wasn't upset that I had the next 3 novellas in  my TBR.

Final Grade = C+

The Book: Their Secret by Portia Da Costa

The Particulars: Erotic romance novella, originally part of Mastered box set (no longer available), self-published edition 2014, eBook only, book 2 in series

The Review: Maggie Jenkins has met a man she only knows as "Mr. Jones" in a kink chat room. The online correspondence has been going on for a while, long enough for them to float the idea of actually meeting in person. Maggie works, and is friends, with Sarah from the first book and she recommends Maggie meet her mystery man at The Retreat. Between their reputation and their security, it's the safe bet.  Maggie almost chickens out, but decides she has to know - so she heads for the rendezvous.  What she gets is the surprise of her life when she finds out who "Mr. Jones" really is.

This is slightly longer, at around 80 pages, and I think the story is better for it.  It's obvious who Mr. Jones is going to turn out to be once Da Costa tips her hand - but given the short word count that's expected.  This is, once again, light BDSM with spanking, blindfolds, and some outdoor sex to round out the shenanigans.  What keeps this from being a retread of book 1, just with different characters, is that Da Costa gives readers a glimpse of the fall-out afterward.  Once our couple leaves the secluded hideaway of The Retreat, having explored their kinky desires, how will that translate once they're back to "their real world."  Especially given who Mr. Jones turns out to be.

This was another quick, sexy read and the final chapters really tie it all together.

Final Grade = B

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is November 18!

A reminder that #TBRChallenge day is Wednesday, November 18.  This month's (always optional) theme is Series.

This month's optional theme should be like shooting fish in a barrel.  Everything in Romancelandia seems to be a dang series these days!  So go diving into your TBR and see what lands in your lap.

But what if you're a freak who has read all the series books in your TBR (ha!) or if you just feel like a stand-alone this month?  Hey, no problem!  Remember, the themes are always optional.  The goal is to read something out of your TBR pile 😁

Also a reminder that I'm looking for theme suggestions for the 2021 TBR Challenge!  If you're so inclined to volunteer some - I've got a handy Google Form you can fill out.  You can provide up to 5 suggestions and I promise on my Librarian Secret Decoder Ring that I am not harvesting email addresses.  It's not how I roll y'all.

More information about the 2021 TBR Challenge coming soon (uh, probably early December? Let's go with that....)

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Review: The Paragon Hotel

I dragged my feet a good long while before finally deciding to read The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye.  I was completely besotted, over the moon, borderline trash for her Timothy Wilde trilogy.  However I was the only reader on the planet who really did not like her first book post-trilogy, Jane Steele.  But seriously y'all, I loved the trilogy - so one bump in the road wasn't going to put me off.  However, the plot description for The Paragon Hotel almost did.  Land mines. So many, in fact, that I'm finally reading this book nearly two years after it's publication date.

It's 1921 and Alice "Nobody" James has just landed in Portland, Oregon with a bullet wound in her side and $50,000 in impeccable counterfeit bills.  She hustled her sweet behind out of Harlem (where she got said bullet wound and currency) thanks to a crooked cop - leaving behind a mobster guardian, a childhood friend turned sociopath, and an unrequited love who couldn't kick heroin.  It's on the train to Portland that she befriends a black Pullman porter who, seeing her in a bad way, spirits her to The Paragon Hotel - the only all-black hotel in Portland.  None of the residents are happy to have a white woman in their midst (for obvious reasons), but they patch her up all the same.

It's at the Paragon that Alice's attraction to Max (said Pullman porter) grows, she meets the borderline belligerent Dr. Pendleton, the all-seeing, all-knowing Mavereen, and the charming, can't-take-your-eyes-off-her, nightclub singer, Blossom Fontaine - just to name a few.  But then a young orphan who everyone takes care of at the hotel goes missing, the Ku Klux Klan heats up activities, and naturally there's a vile, crooked local cop stirring the pot.  In the middle of the stew is Nobody - a woman with a nose for secrets, who can blend in anywhere and go unnoticed, a woman who finds herself untangling a web that spun up around her.

Reading that synopsis you can probably guess the elephants in the room.  You've got a white main character surrounded by a large, mostly black, supporting cast.  Is this a white savior narrative?  I think that's up for the individual reader to determine.  I can see how some readers would think so.  For me?  I found there was nuance to it.  Is Alice a white savior?  Yes.  Does Alice, in turn, get saved by some of the black characters?  Yes.  Make of that what you will.  

This is also a story featuring LGBTQ characters and to really dive deeply into this aspect of the story pretty much gives ALL the spoilers.  I don't identify as LGBTQ so take this for what it's worth - but this aspect of the story largely worked for me in a setting and era where it was extremely difficult for people to "live out loud" when they're black and queer - never mind in a city like Portland.  Hell, it can be extremely difficult in the 21st century...

Is this Faye's story to tell?  As a white writer who identifies as queer?  Some readers won't think so - and as readers that is our right.  It largely worked for me.  Does that make me part of the problem?  Some readers will think so - and as readers that is their right.

Not to say I was madly in love with this however.  For one thing the mystery of the missing orphan boy didn't work for me at all. Largely because I didn't see the need for The Big Secret surrounding his disappearance.  It's kept a secret from people who love Davy Lee - and I couldn't abide that - especially when I saw absolutely no reason to keep them in the dark.  Very plausible explanations could have been given. Instead these people who love the boy will never know what happened to him and I cannot abide that.  Also, as much as I liked the audio edition, I'm glad I decided to not read this in print because the beginning is slow.  Really slow.  It takes a while to get anywhere. 

There are flashbacks employed in this story - to Alice's childhood days in Harlem, how she ended up as the ward of a mobster, and what transpired before she found herself on a cross-country train with a bullet wound. 

Did I love this as much as the Timothy Wilde books?  No.  Did I like this more than Jane Steele?  Lord above, yes.  Yes, it's problematic.  Yes, I can see why this problematic content would be a bridge too far for some readers.  I recognize this - but I still liked it.

Final Grade = B

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Library Loot Review: A Spell For Trouble

A Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison is the first in a new cozy mystery series that I must have read about somewhere because I put myself on the wait list at work. When my turn came up the in the queue I literally lost all collective memory on why I requested it.  Once upon a time as a wee baby Super Librarian I primarily read mysteries, of all stripes but cozies were a favorite.  However, over time, I changed, cozies changed, and we parted ways.  Reading this book it finally hit me why as a Bitter Old Crone Reader I have such difficulty with this sub genre.  Cozies are to mysteries what Harlequin Presents are to romance.  That is to say, they live in an escapist niche.  Hey, nothing wrong with reading for escapist pleasure - we all do it at some point even if we won't admit it - but over time cozies stopped being my escape.  I'm still trash for Presents though - ahem.

Also, here's the other thing, I read cozy mysteries for THE MYSTERY just as I read small town romances for THE ROMANCE.  I am not here for the superfluous cutesy precocious crap. Any patience I had for such shenanigans fled the scene once I accepted the fact that I'm now a Bitter Old Crone Reader.  So why exactly did I put this book on hold?  No clue. Because it's set in a small town, there is cutesy crap, and Lord help us all - it's a paranormal cozy mystery.  Paranormal, typically, is not my thing.  That said?  I liked this.  No, really - I did.  It kept me entertained and the mystery is good.  A cozy that doesn't neglect the mystery?  I am HERE for this!

Aleksandra Daniels has just quit her high-powered risk assessment job in New York City.  Her mother died in a tragic accident when she was younger, and she was raised by a police officer father who kept her away from her mother's hometown of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina.  For "reasons." Well Dad is now gone, Alex doesn't have a job, and she's got family in Bellamy Bay she wants to reconnect with - an aunt (her mother's sister) and two cousins.  So he packs up her car, and her K-9 drop-out German Shepherd, Athena, and plans for a nice long visit.  Her Aunt Lidia runs the local herbal apothecary and Alex wants to learn more about her aunt's business.  Naturally it all goes sideways when a dead body turns up.

Randy Bennett is a local real estate developer who is down on his luck - his business is rocky, his marriage is heading to divorce court, so he stops by the apothecary to get some of Lidia's "good luck" tea.  The problem is Lidia cannot stand the man.  As in bad blood, long held grudge, cannot stand the man.  And she lets him know it.  In fact everyone in the store knows it because Lidia loses her temper is rather epic fashion.  Unfortunately later that night Randy is found dead, poisoned by the tea that he bought at the apothecary.  The handsome police chief that Alex was flirting with just hours earlier (and who asked her out on a date even!) promptly arrests Lidia and rumors start flying.  There's nothing for it.  The police have the wrong woman and having made the arrest seem disinclined to search for the true culprit.  So Alex starts snooping and unpacks a heaping helping of family and Bellamy Bay secrets.

It eventually comes out that Aunt Lidia, the cousins, and even some other town residents are Magicals.  Alex, while also Magical, has suppressed early childhood memories - and was raised as a Mundane (non-magical folk) by her father, who didn't want Alex to have any knowledge of her true identity.  There are reasons for this that are somewhat explored in this first book and I suspect will be fodder for future entries in the series.  Addison bases her world on the Mermaid of Warsaw - Alex's family being of Polish descent and water witches.  The author employs a light touch, it's different, interesting, and provides just enough world-building to intrigue without making my eyes glaze over.

Alex blunders around a bit like many amateur sleuths before, and does run off a bit halfcocked towards the end, but the author keeps the mystery humming and throws in a decent amount of red herrings.  There is some potential love triangle groundwork laid (ugh) but given revelations in the final chapters I don't think the author will be able to realistically sustain it in future books (at least for me - one corner of this "love triangle" does something beyond the pale).  But it does give our heroine more angst to fret over and question exactly who she can trust and what exactly doesn't she know about her own past and family history that the rest of the town seems privy too.  The ending is exciting and fast-paced, the villain suitably villainous, and Addison has laid just enough groundwork to build up future books in the series without drowning me in superfluous cutesy precocious crap.

If you're trash for cozies, pick this one up.  I'm not trash for cozies and liked this quite a bit - enough to pick up the next book in the series which is due out in July.

Final Grade = B

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Lucky Number 7: Unusual Historicals for October 2020

September saw me talking about nine new unusual historicals. Here we are in October and I have seven. It’s like authors and publishers are maybe clueing into the fact that Wendy needs a mental vacation - because obviously an actual vacation ain’t happening anytime soon. So for now my rest and rejuvenation is just going to have to take the form of bygone eras. Here are the October releases that caught my eye: 

Book Cover
The future looks bright for former sailor Jack Merion. His wartime heroics have won him influential contacts, and his good looks and flair for business are definite assets. With funds to invest, he's on the brink of financial success in the high-stakes world of Regency London. 

And buying the house in Soho Square is a can't-miss opportunity. Once a fashionable brothel, the property will yield a good income in commercial rents and a clear path to the respectable life Jack has never known. 

There's only one problem - another prospective buyer. With a dark past, a desperate future, and some unmistakable assets of her own, Miss Cléo Myles is a formidable obstacle, one that Jack would be wise to steer clear of. 

But instead, he proposes a bargain that's as scandalous as it is irresistible. Five afternoons. Five rooms. Uncountable pleasures... ...In a neighborhood that's seen better days. And a house that's seen everything except love.  
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new release from Rosenthal who wrote several well-received erotically lush historicals back in the day. I’m a sucker for a house party romance, and this puts an entirely different spin on it - with a hero determined to claw his way to respectability and a heroine with a past vying for the purchase of the same house in Soho Square. I’m expecting plenty of wit and naughty shenanigans afoot! 

As a young man, Sir Gabriel Winters left behind his status as a gentleman, turning his back on his secret desires and taking a self-imposed vow of celibacy. Now a chaste hard-working vicar, his reputation is beyond reproach. But, try as he might, he’s never forgotten the man he once desired or the pain of being abandoned by his first love. 

Edward Stanhope, the Duke of Caddonfell, is a notorious rake, delighting in scandal no matter the consequence. With a price on his head, he flees to the countryside, forced to keep his presence a secret or risk assassination. When Edward finds Gabriel on his estate, burning with fever, he cannot leave him to die, but taking him in puts them both in jeopardy. 

With the help of a notorious blackmailer, a society of rich and famous gentlemen who prefer gentlemen, and a kitten named Buttons, they might just manage to save Edward’s life—but the greatest threat may be to their hearts. 
I’m a sucker for a vicar hero and when he’s paired with someone who has a highly dubious reputation I want the story in my eyeballs Right. Now. And I’m getting that plus a reunited/second chance trope as well? Happy day! This is Greene’s debut and the first in a series. 


Daisy Daring dreams of what she cannot have—a career as an architect like her famous father, yet society will never tolerate a woman architect. When her father falls ill, Daisy takes up his work herself in order to provide for her family. Soon, she isn’t just finishing his old floor plans and designs but creating brand new ones herself—all done secretly under her father’s name. The ruse works well. No one suspects…until Hugh Whitby walks into her life. 

Hugh Whitby isn’t taken seriously by society, his family…well, by anyone. He’s too loud and boisterous, too colorful, too impetuous, too…Whitby. So when he decides to build a new home for orphans, he seizes on this chance to prove himself by hiring the best architect he can. However, it’s not Elias Daring who greets him but his lovely daughter Daisy. For Whitby, it’s love at first sight, but for Daisy, the attention that Whitby draws is dangerous. If anyone discovers her secret, it would end her father’s career and her dream right along with it. No, best to stay away from him—in public, because she can’t help falling for his charms when they’re alone. 

When an unintended act of betrayal threatens all she holds dear, can they overcome the obstacles between them and learn that home really is where the heart is? 
Who doesn’t love short reads this time of year? Especially with, you know, life right now. Lady architect hiding behind her father’s name so she can do what she loves must tread carefully when a do-gooder hero with a flakey reputation comes calling. A smitten hero who falls hard and fast and a heroine with everything to lose - including her heart. 

Make Merry at Court 

…with three Tudor Christmas stories! 

In Blythe Gifford’s Christmas at Court, Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice’s secret betrothal must wait until Henry Tudor claims the throne. Next in Secrets of the Queen’s Lady by Jenni Fletcher, the lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves is unexpectedly reunited with a handsome—younger—diplomat at the palace’s festivities! And in His Mistletoe Lady by Amanda McCabe, Catherine seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard to free her father in time for Christmas! 
And so it begins. That time of year when Harlequin starts pumping out holiday romances and conspiring to separate me from my money. We rarely see Tudor set stories in Romancelandia and all three authors have written stories I’ve enjoyed in the past. An easy one-click for me. 

Book CoverTemptation Incarnate by Isobel Carr (Novelette) (Kindle Unlimited)
An impossible challenge … Eleanor Blakely is all too aware that her reputation dangles by a very slender thread, unfortunately, she’s found herself in the midst of a delicious series of wagers with a consummate charmer, and she can’t seem to stop herself from saying yes to every wicked proposition. Whatever twist of fate has kept his best friend’s sister on the shelf is a mystery to Viscount Wroxton, but when the inveterate little gamester suddenly catches his attention, she’s entirely is too fascinating to ignore. The fact that she has five enormous brothers is hardly worth thinking about—she’s thrown down the gauntlet, and he has no intention of losing, whatever the cost… 

With a bonus short story, Three Courtesans, which was originally written as a blog post for the Twelve Days of Christmas (I got Three French Hens). 
Not quite a novella but longer than a short story, Carr gives readers a Best Friend’s Sister trope wrapped in decadent Georgian packaging. Plus there’s naughty gambling and a bonus holiday short story included. 

Eighteen years ago, Henry Asquith, Duke of Avesbury had to leave his kept lover, Kit Redford, in order to devote himself to raising his young family. Now, a lifetime later, his children are moving on and for the first time in years, Henry is alone. 

During a rare visit to London, Henry unexpectedly happens upon an old friend of Kit’s and learns that Kit did not receive the financial pay off he was entitled to when Henry left him. Instead Kit was thrown out of his home and left destitute. Horrified, Henry begs Kit to see him and allow Henry to compensate him. But Kit, who now owns a discreet club for gentlemen of a certain persuasion, neither needs nor wants Henry’s money. 

“Perhaps you should earn the money you owe me the way I had to earn it? On your knees, and on your back, taking my cock like a whore.” 

Kit thought he had put his old hurts and grievances about Henry behind him, but when he sees Henry again, he discovers that, not only is the old pain still there, so is the fierce attraction that once burned between them. When, in a moment of fury, Kit demands a scandalous form of penance from Henry, no one is more surprised than Kit when Henry agrees to pay it. 

As Kit and Henry spend more time together, they learn more about the men they have become, and about the secret feelings and desires they concealed from one another in the past. 

Henry realises he wants to build a future with Kit but can he persuade his wary lover to trust him ever again? And can two men from such different worlds make a new life together? 
OK, so this sounds like it could be a hot mess (y’all our Duke needs to grovel) but it also sounds deliciously angst-y. And Wendy cannot, will not, turn away from angst-y historical romance. Cross class, redemption, and second chance romance all rolled into one. I need this now. 

Can she find freedom… 

In her lover’s arms? 

Desperate for a divorce from her violent, adulterous husband, Vita runs away to the Roman Baths, where she is brought face-to-face with forbidding, handsome slave Ven. In him she finds an instant connection and ally. Yet to escape with their lives, they’ll have to resist their burning chemistry! And as Vita realizes that their freedom comes at a high cost, she might have to make an impossible choice… 
As readers I don’t think we talk enough about power dynamics in romance, especially in historicals. It’s how authors navigate through and around them that I find interesting - in eras where women lacked options and agency. Well here we have a story about a Roman slave and a desperate woman fleeing a violent husband. It could end up being problematic, it could end up being awesome - I won’t know until I try. 

What unusual historicals are you looking forward to this month?