Sunday, April 18, 2021

Spring Bouquet: Unusual Historical Picks for April 2021

After whining about my lack of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine last month, it's like the universe heard me. Or maybe the Pfizer Gods?  I had my first shot on Saturday and other than a sore arm, I've been fine. OK, so I was wiped out with fatigue Saturday afternoon, but honestly that's pretty much been my constant state for the past year so....maybe she's born with it, maybe it's the vaccine?  So in honor of being one step closer to being protected, I thought it was time to celebrate with some unusual historicals - and boy howdy, there's a bunch to choose from this month!
Caught in a Cornish Scandal by Eleanor Webster

Will saving a stranger 

Start a scandal? 

With her family facing ruin, and desperate to avoid an arranged marriage, Lady Millie Lansdowne must work with smugglers. Millie knows smuggling isn’t going to be plain sailing, but rescuing a mysterious gentleman in a storm embroils her in a thrilling family drama! Helping handsome stranger Sam recover is a risk to her plans—and her emotions. He makes her feel alive, but she will be gambling on her family’s future if she goes with her heart…

A heroine with her back against the wall turns to smuggling and inconveniently (well, isn't it always?) falls in love.  I loved Webster's A Debutante in Disguise (another unusual historical!) and am looking forward to this one. 

Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ. 

Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and she’s not looking for employment. 

Amelia Smith was taken in by English missionaries as a child. She’s not interested in Captain Hunter’s promises or his ambitions. But the harder he tries to convince her, the more she realizes that there is something she wants from him. She wants everything. And she’ll have to crack the frozen shell he’s made of his heart to get it.

Oh my, a hero upended by his assumptions finds out the "reclusive genius" he seeks is actually a woman.  And wouldn't you know it? The woman seems very not interested.  Milan is back with this third book in her Worth Saga

She’s trying to make ends meet. He’s out for a bit of fun. 

Cordelia Kelly is busy, focused, worried about the future of her fledgling bookbinding business. When a handsome man stops her on the street to pester her with questions, she gives him the consideration he deserves: none. That handsome man happens to be the Duke of Stroud, and he finds Cordelia’s hostility hilarious. He gives chase, if only for the pleasure of provoking her again. 

He thinks life is a game. She doesn’t play around. 

Within days of meeting Cordelia, Stroud sets a marching band on a matchmaking mama, defaces a local monument, and ropes Cordelia into a round of his favorite game. In that same time, Cordelia stitches together the complete works of Mary Wollstonecraft, enthusiastically devotes herself to a petition demanding expanded legal rights for married women, and beats Stroud at his own game. 

She defies all expectations. So does he. 

Most people dismiss Stroud as a fool—himself included. When Cordelia sees past his lighthearted facade, he’s terrified and also... in love? Stroud barges into Cordelia’s life, offering her all the material and sensual temptations she’s learned to do without. She usually has willpower to spare, but turning him down takes all of it, and then some. He’s oddly irresistible. 

Or maybe they’re just perfect for one another.

Oh Lord, this is one of those tropes I love that really isn't a trope per se.  The earnest heroine who finds herself entering the orbit of a hero who thinks life is one big party - or perhaps one big joke. Plus the heroine is a bookbinder - I mean, how can you not love that?  

Surviving a shipwreck en route to London from Jamaica was just the start of Jemina St. Maur's nightmare. Suffering from amnesia, she was separated from anyone who might know her, and imprisoned in Bedlam. She was freed only because barrister Daniel Thackery, Lord Ashbrook, was convinced to betray the one thing he holds dear: the law. Desperate to unearth her true identity, Jemina’s only chance is to purloin dangerous secrets with help from The Widow’s Grace—which means staying steps ahead of the formidable Daniel, no matter how strongly she is drawn to him . . . 

Married only by proxy, now widowed by shipwreck, Daniel is determined to protect his little stepdaughter, Hope, from his family’s scandalous reputation. That’s why he has dedicated himself not just to the law, but to remaining as proper, upstanding—and boring—as can be. But the closer he becomes to the mysterious, alluring Jemina, the more Daniel is tempted to break the very rule of law to which he's devoted his life. And as ruthless adversaries close in, will the truth require him, and Jemina, to sacrifice their one chance at happiness?

A heroine who survives a shipwreck (!) only to get amnesia and a stay at Bedlam for her troubles.  That's England for you - putting their best foot forward. I've a sucker for heroes trying to live down reputations (their own, their family's, whatever...) and reading between the lines of this blurb I'm detecting some Drama Llama.  Sign me up!

An impossible choice: 

His family or love 

Born into different worlds, formidable steward Erik Ward could only admire sheltered noblewoman Linota Leofric from afar. Now he must escort Linota on a dangerous journey—a route that could also enable Erik to finally find his missing sister. Only when Linota is kidnapped, Erik must stop at nothing to save her, and ultimately faces an impossible choice: his vulnerable sister—or the courageous beauty in his arms…

This third book in Matthews' House of Leofric series is a road romance featuring a couple of very different classes.  A Wendy Top Tip - if you love road romances you really need to be reading medieval settings.  The sub genre is ripe with them! 

A beholden man finds himself falling for the war hero he’s destined to double-cross. 

Three hundred pounds for one night of protection. It’s a job offer, but it’s also a ruse. Captain Benjamin Frakes, war hero and de facto head of the Society of Beasts—a club for gentlemen who prefer gentlemen—is tempted to turn it down. But August Weatherby, the sexy, brazen stranger making the offer, has captivated him completely. 

August is hardly the flush flirt he claims to be, however. An indebted man, desperate to save his infirm sister, August makes an ideal pawn for a lord eager to bring down the Society of Beasts once and for all. But August’s charge to find evidence against Frakes is at odds with his own virgin desire to entice the captain into showing him the true meaning of pleasure. 

As August’s infiltration pushes him deeper into the beguiling world of delights behind the Society’s closed doors, he and Frakes discover new ways to push the boundaries of their own cravings. But with mounting pressure to complete his devious mission, August finds himself torn between the man his heart yearns for and the sister whose life depends on his betrayal.

Greene continues her Society of Beasts series for Carina Press with a twist on the bodyguard trope - a war hero takes a job he's unsure of only to find out he's guarding a man who is essentially working with a villain to bring down his gentlemen's club.

Pippa Montgomery never thought her life would go like this. When she found out her late husband was a bigamist and had been murdered, she thought nothing could ever be the same. When she met his brother Rhys, the Earl of Leighton, she knew it. 

Now they must navigate a scandal that will tear them both apart. They must make decisions that will affect the illegitimate child Pippa’s late husband fathered behind her back. And ultimately they must fight, for as long as they can, the simmering desire between them that is bound to explode. 

Two people, broken by a desperate scandal. They can only turn to each other, but they know they can never be together. Will they overcome the obstacles in their way and find a way to love one another? Or will the last consequence of one man’s conduct be the loss of a love that could last all time?

The second book in Michaels' The Three Mrs series features Wife #2 who has found out her murdered husband was a bigamist and she's embroiled in an inconvenient (again, isn't it always?) attraction with her brother-in-law. 

Continue to stay safe and stay healthy Romancelandia. Get your vaccine if/when you can.  And may many amazing unusual historicals await you!  What are you looking forward to reading this month?

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