Thursday, August 22, 2019

Unusual Historical Best Bets for August 2019

I’m not sure where 2019 has gone, but here we are - already in August. RWA has come and gone, the kids are either already back in school or will be very soon, and large swaths of the US are looking forward to Pumpkin Spice Everything. While, on one hand, I felt energized at RWA to come home and “read all the things,” the reality has been “um, not so much.” Distracted and cranky seems to be the mood of the moment. So to snap myself out of it, why not browse for intriguing sounding unusual historicals? Here are the August releases that caught my eye.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07Q3LDH34/themisaofsupe-20
Dalliances & Devotion by Felicia Grossman
A change in course can be refreshing…when it’s done together.

1871

After two disastrous marriages, beauty columnist Amalia Truitt’s life is finally her own—well, it will be if she can get herself back to Delaware and demand access to her share of the Truitt family fortune. After all, the charity she’s organized for women who can’t afford their own divorces won’t fund itself.

However, not everyone wants her to reach her destination. When her family learns she’s been receiving anonymous death threats, a solo journey is out of the question.

Enter David Zisskind, the ragtag-peddler-turned-soldier whose heart Amalia broke years ago. He’s a Pinkerton now, and the promotion he craves depends on protecting his long-lost love on the unexpectedly treacherous journey across Pennsylvania.

That their physical connection has endured the test of time (and then some) is problematic, to say the least.

In very close quarters, with danger lurking around every curve, with each kiss and illicit touch, the wrongs of the past are righted. But David can’t weather another rejection, especially with his career in jeopardy. And Amalia can’t possibly take a lover, never mind another husband…not with so much depending on her repaired reputation. Not when she’s hurt David—her David—so badly before.
Wendy general rule of thumb: it’s a historical romance published by Carina - one-click it on principle (seriously, they publish so little of it - I’m hoping the ol’ “vote with your dollars” might start to actually work). This is the second book in Grossman’s Truitt series and honestly what isn’t to love about this back cover blurb? A twice divorced heroine, a Pinkerton agent hero with a tattered past, and a reunion romance. Wendy catnip y’all.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07MGRLZ3H/themisaofsupe-20
A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian
A seductive thief

Lady’s maid Molly Wilkins is done with thieving—and cheating and stabbing and all the rest of it. She’s determined to keep her hands to herself, so she really shouldn’t be tempted to seduce her employer’s prim and proper companion, Alice. But how can she resist when Alice can’t seem to keep her eyes off Molly?

Finds her own heart

For the first time in her life, Alice Stapleton has absolutely nothing to do. The only thing that seems to occupy her thoughts is a lady’s maid with a sharp tongue and a beautiful mouth. Her determination to know Molly’s secrets has her behaving in ways she never imagined as she begins to fall for the impertinent woman.

Has been stolen

When an unwelcome specter from Alice’s past shows up unexpectedly at a house party, Molly volunteers to help the only way she knows how: with a little bit of mischief.
It’s like romance authors got together and decided to publish all the Wendy Catnip in the month of August. This novella, part of Sebastian’s Turner series, features a thief turned Lady’s maid and an upright Lady’s companion. Library Journal gave this a starred review and called it a “fun, sexy romp.” If I wasn’t sold already, that sealed it.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07QKL63CD/themisaofsupe-20
Reclaimed by her Rebel Knight by Jenni Fletcher
Married to a perfect stranger…
Reunited with her warrior husband

When Constance inherited her father’s lands, she had no choice but to marry cold-hearted Matthew Wintour. He left her for the battlefield, without even a wedding night. Five years later, Matthew has returned a valiant knight! But Constance is no longer a frightened girl. And, this time, she must reach out to discover the honorable man behind the armor and what pleasures await them in the marriage bed…


Ah, the hero who takes off before the wedding night - seriously, will these guys never learn? And it was an arranged marriage no less. The back cover blurb entices me with the promise of a heroine with gumption and I’m a sucker for marriage of convenience tropes of all stripes.

A pretty light month as far as unusual historicals go. What are you looking forward to reading this month? What unusual historicals have you recently unearthed from your TBR?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#TBRChallenge 2019: Bound To You

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07DZCSTDQ/themisaofsupe-20
The Book: Bound to You by Shawntelle Madison

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, first in series, 2016, In Print, Self-published reprint, originally published by Loveswept (check your digital TBRs folks!)

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I have an autographed copy I picked up at RWA 2018.  I cannot recall specifics, but I think I may have purchased this at the Literacy Signing.

The Review: Books like this one depress me. Look, part of this is Wendy being Wendy.  There are BDSM themes in this book and anyone who has been reading this blog for any stretch of time will know that I was over BDSM by the time That Trilogy got a hold of the public consciousness.  So some of this on me.  But the rest of it?  There are bones of a good story here, one I think I would have really enjoyed - but the execution, what was focused on and what was not?  Oh, what might have been...

Sophie Ashton lives in Boston and is a personal concierge.  She's used to dealing with demanding clients who have more money than good sense. Her latest client is Xavier Quinn, a tech start-up hotshot visiting from the west coast.  He's trying to land a deal with a Japanese firm, and getting rebuffed as an "upstart" at every turn. His fish is currently in Boston, so Xavier makes the trip to hopefully get a sit-down and close the deal.  And for that he needs Sophie.  The problem?  They're both attracted to each other.  Xavier is cognizant of that fact that Sophie is his employee (even if only temporarily) and Sophie has been burned before by mixing business with pleasure - a relationship that ended poorly and that she's still not quite over.

So where does the BDSM fit in? Well, Sophie is "kinky" and a sub. Xavier is "kinky" and a Dom.  And naturally Sophie has a BFF and roommates all with various leanings - because, of course.  As far as how heavy the BDSM is?  It's pretty light.  Sophie is still wearing the leather cuffs given to her by her former lover and likes to be tied up in bed, given orders etc.  That's about the extent of it - and that's probably what my problem was.  It didn't always feel organic.  Like it was tossed in for "kinky flavor" but not really delved into too deeply as part of the character development.  Where it was interesting was in relation to Sophie's and Xavier's past relationships but the author only gives us teasing glances which added to my frustration.

Given the way the relationship ended, and WHY it ended, a "showdown" with Sophie's ex is inevitable.  When it arrives on the page?  It's a couple of pages.  That's it.  Oh, Sophie's part in it is great - she pretty much verbally slaps the guy into next Tuesday, but it could have been so much more.  And Xavier's ex?  She got ill and died.  It's teased that Xavier is still haunted by her death but the extent of that revelation was epic disappointment.
I was one of the richest men in the world, yet I couldn't even save a woman who didn't love me as deeply as I loved her.
THAT'S IT?!?!?!  You drop a bomb like that and don't go into any past history of why Xavier felt like his ex didn't love him as deeply as he loved her?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PROCESS THIS?!  And this isn't the only way Xavier's character gets short-changed.  He has a strained relationship with his family.  He was once the golden child, something happened, now he's no longer the golden child.  The author dashes of an explanation at the end, but it's weak sauce and not delved into very much at all (an injury ended his athletic career which was apparently a big deal to his mother? I guess? Why? Who knows!).  Xavier's family doesn't come into play until the last couple of chapters and frankly that dynamic was just screwy and interesting enough that I felt like the author ended up short-changing it by not spending more time developing that angle.

Look, I get that the author was aiming to create a world and that a lot of romance readers get frustrated when the hero and/or heroine lack friendships.  But those friendships shouldn't come at the expense of the meat and potatoes of the romance. You know...the thing we're all reading romance novels for. Just when I thought I was going to get a deeper dive into the characters, their pasts, their complicated relationships with family and exes, the author veers left and skates around the edge of it.  It ends up being fairly surface and teases of so much more that never really pays off.  At only 263 pages (I read a print copy), I alternated between wanting a red pen to cut out filler or wishing this was beefed up to 300+ pages to flesh everything out.

Which makes it sound like I didn't like this book.  I did like it, but I could have loved it and that's my issue.  I was all geared up for some emotional heavy lifting and it just didn't bear fruit.  Oh well.

Final Grade = B-

Friday, August 16, 2019

Review: Their Amish Reunion

At RWA this summer one of my friends book-talked the hell out of Their Amish Reunion by Lenora Worth.  My immediate response was, "This sounds totally like my jam."  My unspoken response was "Amish romance? Um...we'll see." 

There are readers who gobble up Amish romance and then there are readers who are highly critical of a subgenre that essentially fetishizes "whiteness" and insular religious communities.  I'm not here to say they're wrong.  No, I'm here to tell you 1) how amazing this book is while 2) Amish romance is unlikely to ever be truly my jam and 3) give the RITA-judging pool a reality slap into next Tuesday.  If I can read this and say, "Not my thing but hot damn is this an amazing book!" then you RITA judges who mark down very solid, well-written stories because they're about not-white people or because it's erotic romance?  Yeah, please step to the front of the line so I know never to read your books because your "judgment" is not sound.  I refuse to believe that I'm somehow "special" because I can recognize a very well-written romance even if it's "not my jam." If I can do it, everybody should be able to do it.  OK, lecture over. Now, onto the review:

During Jeremiah Weaver's rumspringa he befriended a young Navy SEAL whose wealthy parents lived nearby in their small Pennsylvania town.  When the young man dies during a dangerous mission, Jeremiah chooses to leave behind his Amish community and enlist in the Navy.  He trains to become a SEAL, survives several missions until the last one goes sideways.  Upon discharge he gets word that his father is very ill and he's called home.  Not just for a visit.  No Jeremiah is coming home for good, which means being baptized and working his way back into the community he left behind all those years ago.  That also means coming back to the girl he left behind.  A girl, now woman and widow, who isn't sure she can forgive.

Ava Jane Graber was devastated when Jeremiah left.  Not only did he leave her and their community, he essentially abandoned everything Amish. To go off and fight? To commit violence? Unthinkable in their community.  Eventually Ava Jane marries Jeremiah's best friend, they have two children, and they settle into a good, happy life.  Ava Jane loved her husband and when he dies tragically by drowning, she mourns his loss.  To see Jeremiah back in town is something that rocks her to the core. She knows she should forgive. She knows she should welcome him back into the community.  But she's not sure she can.

This story is one gut-punch after another, a perfect example of an emotionally rich story that never wallows in excessive angst.  All inspirational fiction has some sort of religious theme at it's core, and Worth focuses this story on the power of forgiveness: Jeremiah needing to forgive himself for the mission gone bad, Ava Jane needing to forgive Jeremiah for leaving all those years ago, Ava Jane needing to forgive herself over the guilt she feels over her husband's death.  And the tension in this story!  Whoa doggie!  Look, it's an Amish romance so no, there's absolutely no sex (closed door or otherwise) but the sparks these two set off, the looks, the touches, the emotionally charge dialogue!  Dear Lord, more of this please!

I suspect some readers will think Ava Jane is "too hard" on Jeremiah and hangs on to her anger for too long, but I understood it in relation to the community she's living in.  Jeremiah not only abandoned her, he abandoned everything they were raised in.  Amish do not pick up weapons of war and go off to shoot people.  Even has Jeremiah is reconciling his past, making peace with his bedridden, comatose father, and the members of the community, so too must Ava Jane make piece with the Jeremiah of today, so different from the boy she once deeply loved.

So if this book is emotionally charged, angsty and all things Wendy loves - why do I say Amish romance may not be "my jam?"  For one thing: too much God stuff.  Which, hello - Amish romance.  OF COURSE THERE'S TOO MUCH GOD STUFF!  Ahem.  Also, I could never completely get past my reservations of reading a romance set in an insular religious community.  I'm not sure squirky is the right word, but it was something I just couldn't entirely let go of.  Look, I know fetishizing when I read it (I can smell it like a fart in a elevator in m/m), and Worth doesn't do that here.  But still...Insular. Religious. Community.

But look, if Amish romance is your jam?  This one is amazing.  It finalled for a RITA this year and the writing alone in this book?  It should have finalled for the damn RITA.  Says the girl who swears in reviews for Amish romance novels.

Final Grade = A

ETA: I highlighted some of my favorite passages on GoodReads.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is August 21!

Hey, hey, hey!  For those participating in the 2019 #TBRChallenge, a reminder that your commentary is "due"on Wednesday, August 21.  This month's theme is Random Pick!

This month's optional theme is that there is no optional theme!  Whatever random pick means to you? Go with it.  Maybe it's a book that you have no idea how or why it landed in your TBR. Or maybe you close your eyes and read the first book your hand touches on your book shelf.  Or maybe it's a book in a sub genre you happen to be in the mood for right now. Whatever it may be - this is one month where we're all going to be "on theme."

If you're participating on social media, please remember to use the #TBRChallenge hashtag so people can follow along.

And it's not too late to sign up!  Simply leave a comment on this reminder post.

You can learn about the challenge and check out the full list of blogging participants on the information page.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Retro Wendy: The “I Only See You” Scene in Jeannie Lin’s My Fair Concubine

This post originally ran on Heroes & Heartbreakers on August 7, 2012 and was part of their Delicious Despair series - posts that talked about emotional "rip your guts out" moments in romances.

When I settle in to read a romance I always hope for two things: 1) that I’ll enjoy the story and 2) that the author will rip my guts out. I love emotional angst. I love moments of delicious despair where the characters are figuratively bleeding on the page. Moments where it seems like all hope is lost, that there is no way to break free. Those are the moments that feed my insatiable appetite for the genre, and it’s such a moment that makes My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin so emotionally satisfying. 

Chang Fei Long is a man who is trying to clean up a mess his now deceased father has left behind. In order to do that, he needs to keep the financial turmoil of his house under wraps and secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom by marrying off his younger sister. The rub is that sister has no desire to enter into this arranged marriage and takes off to be with her true love. Fei Long needs this marriage to happen and since the man arranging it has never met his sister? Why not replace her with a lowly tea house girl? It’s win-win. His family escapes ruin, and Yan Ling, a girl with no future or prospects, gets to live the life of a princess.

What follows is a story set to the Pygmalion theme—a My Fair Lady that takes place in Tang dynasty China. Naturally, as tends to happen with stories of this nature, teacher and pupil end up being attracted to each other, and falling in love. It’s especially poignant here because Fei Long literally has his back up against a wall. This marriage has to take place. If it doesn’t? He’s doomed. His household is doomed. His name, his family’s name, will mean less than dirt. So he feels he must deny his feelings for Yan Ling.
“I think of you, Yan Ling, more than I should.” A wave of longing struck him. “When I see your face at night, I don’t see the tea girl or the elegant lady. I only see you.”  
He could see her now, even though he couldn’t face her.  
“I think of you, too.”  
Her soft confession nearly unraveled him. He had to get this out and be done with it.  
“If I acted on these feelings, if I…if I took what I wanted, it would be an abuse of authority. You’re under my care. That was what I meant when I spoke of our positions. I won’t treat you like that.” His mouth twisted. “As if you’re here for my pleasure.”  
The whisper of silk told him Yan Ling had risen. She approached him while he counted each step with the thundering beat of his heart.  
“You told me I wasn’t your servant,” she said.  
“You aren’t, but that doesn’t change who I am.”  
He turned before she could reach him and took a step away. They had to keep their distance. Yan Ling came closer anyway.  
“The only hours of the day when I’m truly awake…” her lower lip trembled “….are when I’m with you.” 
Not only is it poignant and emotionally draining, it seems so final. How the couple is able to find their way through this moment, a moment that seems to brook no argument, is what makes the happy ending that much sweeter. That, ladies and gentlemen, is romance.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

How Publishers Continue To Be Wrong About Libraries and Ebooks

Dear Publishing Industry,

Why? Why must you make it so hard for me to actually like you? I love books. I love authors. Heck, I want to love publishers.  After all libraries + publishers should be a peaceful symbiotic relationship.  It shouldn't be this hard.  And yet?  You continue to willingly cast yourselves in a villainous role.  After spending the entirety of the annual Romance Writers America conference last week in a state of low-level, barely contained rage, I have decided I'm done being nice.

My current (or in their case, continued...) ire is with the news that Macmillan Publishing is expanding their "experimental" Tor/Forge imprint embargo to include all their imprints.  The details of the embargo are as follows:
  • Libraries will be allowed to purchase one (yes, one) copy of new Macmillan titles that will be perpetual access.  Libraries can only order one (yes, one) copy at this license level in the first eight-weeks from publication date. 
  • After eight weeks is up, libraries will no longer be able to purchase a perpetual access copy.  Instead, we can then purchase additional copies at metered access (52 check-outs or 2 years, whichever comes first) at full library digital list price (typically, $60)
This situation might be OK for small libraries (assuming they can afford to purchase ebooks in the first place...) but for larger libraries?  Like say, New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle and any other major metropolitan area?  That won't frustrate patrons at all.  Only one lonely copy in the digital collection for 2 months while wait lists get out of control and we can't do anything about it.  Like, say, purchasing more copies in a timely fashion.

Despite sharing zero data to support this move, Macmillan feels that libraries are undercutting their bottom line.  They're losing money because people aren't buying retail in favor of libraries.  Libraries are making it too easy. 
In the memo, Sargent asserted that 45% of Macmillan’s U.S. “e-book reads” were now “being borrowed for free” from libraries," a trend he attributed to a mix of factors, including the lack of "friction" in e-lending compared to physical book lending, the "active marketing by various parties to turn purchasers into borrowers," and unnamed apps "supporting e-book lending regardless of residence, including borrowing from libraries in different states and countries."
Libraries are funded by tax dollars.  Tax dollars paid by the constituents in the areas where we provide service.  I can assure you, we're pretty fanatical about making sure users meet the residency requirements.  And "lack of friction?" What does he consider long wait lists and charging libraries more for the same ebook file they're selling retail via Amazon?  Never mind our budgets have largely remained stagnant and we're buying multiple formats of the Exact. Same. Book. that they published (print, Large Print, audio on CD, e-audio, ebook, and a partridge in a pear tree...)

I hate to break it to Mr. Sargent, but libraries are not the reason why his bottom line has been undercut.  I'm not an economist (nor do I play one on TV) - but I can give you a few reasons why publishing is in the state it's in right now. It doesn't take a genius economic mastermind. It just takes a basic understanding of history and a willingness to pay attention.


  • Remember when ebooks first became "a thing?"  Remember when they really took off?  Remember how traditional publishing buried their heads in the sand, acted like cranky old men who feared change, were slow to adapt, and allowed Amazon to get a stranglehold on the market with the power to dictate pricing?  Which they, predictably, did. Yeah, that. The Big 5 refused to see the writing on the wall until it was too late and now we have the Monolithic Giant Amazon Elephant in the room. 
  • Writers realized that they now had options to get their stories out there and avoid the "gatekeepers" that stood in their way for too long.  Authors told for years that their stories wouldn't sell because "nobody will read that" or "we can't market it" turned to self-publishing and started doing well.  It can also not be dismissed that many, many, many POC tired of banging their heads against the wall of New York went this route. Readers desperate to see themselves represented in books have gravitated towards these writers and self-publishing - leaving New York behind and playing catch-up.
  • The Retail Apocalypse has not only meant the shrinking of physical retail spaces for books, but it also is signalling that we may be on the cusp of another potential economic downturn.  Fewer options has meant publishers are selling their souls to appease Amazon and Walmart.  Retail consumers have fewer places to buy books and, assuming we are headed towards another downturn, are already tightening their belts.  Books are awesome but so is being able to pay your rent and buy food.  
  • Consumers have realized that when they "buy" an ebook - they aren't buying that book.  They're buying a license to view the book, a license that, in theory, could be yanked at any moment.  There is no First Sale Doctrine for ebooks.  Some people don't want to pay $12.99 for an ebook that they don't own, can't do a darn thing with after they're done reading it or lose access to should their retailer of choice deem it so.  Also, publishers refuse to explain the logic of charging more (in some instances) for an ebook copy than a physical copy.  Physical copies mean cost of paper, printing, distribution, etc. while ebooks don't have any of that so why the heck are you charging us more?  I personally know some readers who have stopped buying any Big 5 published book unless it's on sale and the rest of their dollars?  Moving to self-published authors.
  • Rumors are circulating that Amazon is driving the narrative that libraries are the problem, although, predictably, Amazon is denying this.  Look, I don't know if they are or not - but publishers? Really?  If Amazon is telling you this...YOU'RE REALLY THAT STUPID TO BELIEVE THEM?  The same SkyNet monolith that has just signed Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell and Sylvia Day away from you?  AMAZON IS NOW YOUR DIRECT COMPETITION! THEY HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN YOUR DOWNFALL!  And your answer?  Make things more difficult for those of us who aren't Amazon.  Smooth move.
Look, libraries are not unreasonable.  Most of us are agreeable to metered access.  We're not agreeable to price gouging and embargoes.  Ultimately what you are doing is cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Because what libraries are playing is the long game.  In a nutshell?  We frickin' build and create your consumer base.  Without us out here fostering the love of reading and giving access to people of all ages (especially children...), your business is not sustainable.

Libraries buy books. We buy a lot of books.  Some of us have budgets in the millions of dollars that we allocate every year.  One would think that publishers would want a piece of that. You may think we're powerless in light of your maneuverings.  You may think you're safe from a boycott since our core mission is to provide access to information. You've got us on that one.  But never mistake that for libraries being powerless.  We're not.  We can hold you accountable in the court of public opinion and you've been enjoying the fruits of our free publicity machine for years.  When the chickens come home to roost, you'll have nobody to blame but yourselves.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: A Debutante in Disguise

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07K8QXJB5/themisaofsupe-20
Is there anything better than when a book comes along that restores your faith in a sub genre?  I love historical romance. I would dare to say it's my first love in the genre. But either I've changed or historical romance has changed (or both) and while I still enjoy historical romance, the ones I love seem to be fewer and farther between. Then along comes a book like A Debutante in Disguise by Eleanor Webster, a romance about an unconventional heroine, one ahead of her time, and it doesn't completely disregard the Regency era in which she's living in. 

Lettuce "Letty" Barton is living a double-life. Before his death, her father indulged her curious mind and interest in science. But then her father passed and her mother is much less indulgent. Letty's mother "married up" and has the same desire for her daughter.  So Letty is put into dresses with a proliferation of ruffles, told to not wear her spectacles, and for heaven's sake, talk about normal things like the weather and not cow pox!  Through a series of events, and with the aid of her brother's name and her sister-in-law's subterfuge, Letty attends and graduates medical school - disguised as a male, of course.  Women not being permitted to practice medicine at the time.  She now lives in the country, taking care of the ailments of the local (and poorer) population and delivering babies.  She lives in one cottage as Miss Barton, and the neighboring cottage is the home of the male, powdered wig wearing, "Dr. Hatfield."

Lord Anthony "Tony" Ashcroft is a younger son and having no interest in the clergy, decided on a military career.  When Napoleon happened, he joined the fight - along with his older brother and best friend.  Tony comes home, with a bullet lodged in his ribs and scars, his older brother and best friend do not.  When their father found out his oldest son and heir was dead?  He dropped dead of a heart attack.  And the best friend who died on the battlefield? Was married to Tony's sister, who only recently learned that she's pregnant.  Tony, drinking heavily as a coping mechanism, with a heaping amount of PTSD and survivor's guilt, agrees to go to his sister's country house where she can ride out the rest of her pregnancy.  But there are complications and the local doctor has to be called - the local doctor being "Dr. Hatfield."

The complication is that years ago, before Tony went off to war, when he was a young, rascally playboy, met Letty at a house party.  She was hiding out in the library reading a medical text.  Their conversation is one neither of them has forgotten.  At first Tony has no inkling that Letty is the same person as "Dr. Hatfield," and naturally when he makes the discovery?  He thinks very differently of the woman he had pegged for being so honest and forthright. A woman who was making him feel something other than empty.

Letty is a marvelous heroine. A heroine with dreams and ambition hemmed in by what society deems is "acceptable" for a lady. When her Big Secret is revealed, Tony's reaction is very typical for what one would expect of men in this time period. "But WHY would you ever want to expose yourself to death and disease? WHY as a lady would you want to do such a thing?"  Frankly, he's a jackass when he finds out.  But half the joy in this romance is watching him come around.
But he could not limit her. He could not take her purpose, but must find his own. He had survived hell. For some reason, he’d lived. He had not asked for life and at times during his recovery he’d wished for death and still felt the heaviness of guilt that he could see and feel and breathe while others could not. He had lived. And he must ensure that he was worthy of this life.
Other conflict comes into play with Tony coming to terms with now being the heir (no longer the spare) and his fear over his sister's health, complicated pregnancy, and health of the unborn child.  Frankly it's a marvelous, grown-up, adult romance with tangible conflict. A heroine who is "unconventional" but does not disregard the societal mores that she is forced to operate in.  If her identity is exposed? Her dreams not only die but the scandal would be irreparable for not only her, but those closest to her.

Which begs the question, how does the author work in a happy ending without having the heroine give up her dreams?  Ah, dear reader, you'll just have to read the book to find out.  In short. I think the author does a marvelous job of it. Neither Letty or Tony give up anything - instead, they become partners.  And if that isn't romance, I'm not sure what is.

Final Grade = A