Monday, January 18, 2021

Top 4 Unusual Historicals for January 2021

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

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

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

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

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

A fearsome woman. 

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

A man of experience. 

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

An offer too wicked to resist. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Earl’s heir 

And the rebel artist 

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

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

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


azteclady said...

OH MY GAWWWWWWWWDDDDD!!!! I am SO excited about the Susan Andersen! I have only read two books by her, and one was a DNF, but the other one? Oh the other one was GREAT! (review here) You best believe I'm getting this, first chance I get!

I'm crossing my fingers and waiting for your reaction to THE SECRETS HE KEEPS--wouldn't it be awesome to have more experienced heroines in historicals? (I'm thinking of Bonnie Dee's THE COUNTESS TAKES A LOVER, and lamenting so few authors go full hog with that as a trope)

All four of the books this month look amazeballs, Wendy; THANK YOU for continuing to do this. My TBR will bitch, but my heart will be happy.

A Library Girl said...

I hate that my local Walmart completely stopped selling Harlequin Historicals a few years ago - I used to impulse buy anything that looked interesting. Now they just carry the Love Inspired Suspense, which I never read, and Harlequin Presents.

Wendy said...


I pre-ordered The Secrets He Keeps and it's a novella - so hopefully soon. Although I've currently overextended myself between contest reading and library books because apparently Wendy never learns.

Library Girl: So as much as I love to throw Walmart under the bus when I can - I seem to recall *something* about Harlequin no longer distributing Harlequin Historical in print in physical retail spaces. You can still get print from online retailers, but you won't find them in physical brick & mortar places. Which - don't even get me started on that decision. But also don't quote me because of course my 3 seconds of Googling didn't pull that up. I just seem to recall....something along those lines.

azteclady said...

Wendy, yes, there was something about that bit--and Walmart has also reduced their physical book space to nothingness, in general, to the point that my neighborhood store has magazines, greeting cards, and something like six of the hardback bestsellers and nothing more. The supercenters nearby still have something like a full shelving unit, but again, very limited variety.

A Library Girl said...

@Wendy - That's interesting, I had figured it was just a decision my local Walmart made. It really cut back on my Harlequin buying - my online impulse buys are much different than my physical, and Harlequin titles are exclusively physical impulse buys for me (I think Jeannie Lin's Tang Dynasty Harlequin Historicals might have been the only exception).

@azteclady - Yeah, Walmart has definitely reduced their physical book space. And sadly, that small amount of space is still larger than any other new book space in my town. We don't have any stores that sell new books anymore, and even used bookstores are limited. My favorite local used bookstore is technically a frame shop that happens to have devoted a third of its store space to used books. I'm glad online shopping is an option, but it definitely has an effect on my buying habits.

Barb in Maryland said...

Reading the synopsis for Harper St George's book had me rolling my eyes. Duke of Rothschilds? Really?? She co-opts one of the most famous surnames in 19th century European banking for her hero's title??? And her hero's surname is Sterling????
Save me, please...

Wendy said...

AL & Library Girl: A billion years ago, before ebooks and social media were a thing, I was on a number of romance email loops and some of the gals would always talk about how great the book areas at their local Walmarts were and I was like "Really? Cuz every Walmart near me has a meh selection." I was always covetous.

Barb: I never seem notice things like that - and when I do it's years after the fact. Let me tell you about the time I read a category romance and the hero and heroine were "Charles and Diana." Flew completely over my head at the time, and when I reposted the review on my blog years later it hit me and I was like, "I thought Romancelandia would have gotten together and banned that naming combination for all eternity." Oh, and the book was published WELL after THAT Charles and Diana divorced. In fact, it was years after Diana's death. Sorry Ms. Romance Author. It'll always bee too soon.