Saturday, June 19, 2021

Unusual Historical Picks June 2021: Crimes and Other Shenanigans

Where I live has lifted a number of COVID restrictions, I have an honest-to-goodness vacation planned to see my family in early July, and oh yeah - The Day Job is insanity right now. It's that time of year where Wendy is closing out one fiscal year, preparing for another, and under fire with very hard deadlines that I can't miss. That means trying to make time for happy things because without the happy - I'm no fun to live with.  So let's bring on some happy with this month's crop of Unusual Historicals which is just frickin' obscene y'all.  We also have a very definite theme running this month, so this post will be grouped into two sections.  Enjoy and happy browsing!


The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance. 

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She's also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it's a pleasant existence. Until the men show up. 

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he's under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman. 

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her--hopefully proving, once and for all, that she's as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

Holton's debut is being billed as a romcom that mixes fantasy elements with historical romance. There are flying houses, pirates, an assassin, a gothic abbey and "presumptuous women."  I'm no expert, but this sounds like a perfect summer vacation read. It's also the first in a series.

The Hellion's Waltz
by Olivia Waite

It’s not a crime to steal a heart... 

Sophie Roseingrave hates nothing more than a swindler. After her family lost their piano shop to a con man in London, they’re trying to start fresh in a new town. Her father is convinced Carrisford is an upright and honest place, but Sophie is not so sure. She has grave suspicions about silk-weaver Madeline Crewe, whose stunning beauty doesn’t hide the fact that she’s up to something. 

All Maddie Crewe needs is one big score, one grand heist to properly fund the weavers’ union forever. She has found her mark in Mr. Giles, a greedy draper, and the entire association of weavers and tailors and clothing merchants has agreed to help her. The very last thing she needs is a small but determined piano-teacher and composer sticking her nose in other people’s business. If Sophie won’t be put off, the only thing to do is to seduce her to the cause. 

Will Sophie’s scruples force her to confess the plot before Maddie gets her money? Or will Maddie lose her nerve along with her heart?

A heroine looking for one big score for noble purposes finds herself attracting the attention of a suspicious, and observant, newcomer who despises swindlers and cheats (with good reason!).  This sounds positively delicious!

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb
by Cat Sebastian 

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires. 

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying. 

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit. 

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts overcome the impediments in their path?

A former thief longs for the "good old days" when opportunity comes knocking on his coffee shop door.  Sebastian's latest is Georgian-set .

Subtle Blood
by KJ Charles 

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan--disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control. 

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong. 

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.

The third, and apparently final, book in The Will Darling Adventures finds our heroes embroiled in a murder at a gentleman's club and dealing with Kim's less-than-welcoming elite family.  

Other Shenanigans

The Devil and the Heiress
by Harper St. George 

No one would guess that beneath Violet Crenshaw's ladylike demeanor lies the heart of a rebel. American heiresses looking to secure English lords must be on their best behavior, but Violet has other plans. She intends to flee London and the marriage her parents have arranged to become a published author--if only the wickedly handsome earl who inspired her most outrageously sinful character didn't insist on coming with her. 

Christian Halston, Earl of Leigh, has a scheme of his own: escort the surprisingly spirited dollar princess north and use every delicious moment in close quarters to convince Violet to marry him. Christian needs an heiress to rebuild his Scottish estate but the more time he spends with Violet, the more he realizes what he really needs is her--by his side, near his heart, in his bed. 

Though Christian's burning glances offer unholy temptation, Violet has no intention of surrendering herself or her newfound freedom in a permanent deal with the devil. It's going to take more than pretty words to prove this fortune hunter's love is true....

The second book in St. George's Gilded Age Heiresses series finds our heroine waiting for an opportunity to escape a marriage she's not interested in to pursue her dreams to become an author. Unfortunately her family's fortune is all too tempting for a financially strapped Earl (isn't it always?)

A Wager to Tempt the Runaway by Bronwyn Scott 

She’s a free spirit 

He’s a serious businessman 

Josefina Ricci has run away to fulfill her deathbed promise to her father to travel the world! During her stop in England, the free-spirited artist is embroiled in a wager—to paint an award-winning portrait of oyster businessman Owen Gann in exchange for room and board. Owen is her opposite in all ways, pragmatic and responsible, but as he reveals a wild, passionate side, might Josefina have found her greatest adventure…in him?

The third book in Scott's Rebellious Sisterhood series is an opposites attract romance that finds our artist heroine painting the portrait of a staid, upright businessman in order to win a one does.  

Her Royal Payne
by Shana Galen 

He’s a pain…literally. 
Rowden Payne, known as The Royal Payne, makes his living in the high stakes world of bareknuckle boxing. The disavowed son of a duke likes the focus boxing requires. It keeps his mind off the tragedies in his past. But just as he’s poised to knock out his biggest rival, he’s mesmerized by a pair of exotic hazel eyes in the crowd. He finds himself flat on his back and short fifty pounds. 

She’s a prude with a problem. 
Modesty Brown’s father has vanished. The strict minister has never disappeared before, and Modesty is left having to rely on elders of the church for help. But when she becomes a burden to them, she has to seek out her aunt, a woman of high rank. Modesty’s only way of finding her is by asking the only man she knows of that class—Rowden Payne. Unfortunately, she’s the one responsible for the Royal Payne losing his crucial fight. 

Sometimes the hardest hit is the one to the heart. 
Rowden doesn’t want to care for anyone or anything, but if he can just help Modesty find her father, he can be rid of her. Soon the revelation of her father’s secrets and lies puts Modesty, Rowden, and their friends in danger, and if Rowden can’t admit his feelings for Modesty, he’ll lose her forever.

Galen's Survivors series keeps chugging along with this 10th (!) book. An unacknowledged duke's son turned boxer falls for a sheltered heroine looking for her missing minister father. Opposites attract uniting to solve a mystery.

The Viking Chief's Marriage Alliance
by Lucy Morris 

A challenging wife

For a warrior Viking 

When Thorstein Bergson rescues a beautiful woman from a storm-tossed longship, he little expects to broker a powerful marriage alliance with her. This high-status ice queen is not the comfortable wife the warrior chief is seeking. But maybe the bittersweet pain in Gyda’s eyes hides another woman beneath? The one he tasted that first night when she’d kissed him with such pent-up longing…?

Another debut this month! Lucy Morris scored a two-book deal with Harlequin Historical after submitting this book as part of their Warriors Wanted submission blitz. 

Ruthless Heart
by Beth Williamson

He led her astray, and she never wanted to go back. 

Sheltered all her life, Eliza Hunter never imagined herself alone in the vast Utah plains, much less trailing a mysterious, rugged man hired to hunt down her beautiful younger sister. Unable to reveal the truth about her pursuit of him, Eliza plays student to the teacher, transforming herself in the process. And she when she finds herself sharing the warmth of Grady’s campfire, wrapped in his arms, hypnotized by his power, soon she is a naive spinster no more… 

Grady Wolfe is more than a loner, he’s a man forever on the run, an assassin with a dark past and an even darker future. With a body and soul finely honed from living off the land, Grady knows he should leave the irresistible woman alone, but she stirs something in him he hasn’t felt before. Now he’s lost in the woods for the first time in his life—with a dangerous job to do. And no one—not even the distracting Eliza—is going to stop him.

Originally published in 2010 by Kensington Brava under her Emma Lang name, Williamson will republish the next two books in this series later this year. It's a western set in Utah (not a terribly common locale...) and it was a Brava - so expect some sexytimes!

Whew! That's a whole lot of Unusual Historicals to choose from this month. What are you looking forward to reading?


Jen Twimom said...

I recently read The Wisteria Society and it is a hoot. It's such a silly premise, and there are lots of fun jokes, including some literary cracks. The romance is slow and sweet. I love silly and fantasy, so this one was a winner for me.

Wendy said...

Jen: That's good to hear! I typically like to focus these posts on "strict" historicals, but even with the fantasy elements blended in, Wisteria Society "fit" so well with the other books this month that I couldn't NOT include it.

Cheryl St.John said...

You still amaze me with how many books you review! You are definitely super. xoxo

k said...

After at least a 4 year hiatus, I've jumped back on the historical train. I've been rereading a number of Lisa KeePass books so I'm looking forward to Devil in Disguise.

Wendy said...

Cheryl: Well, these I just round up ;)

Kristie: Heee, autocorrect strikes again! Right now I seem to be waffling between historicals and mysteries. I think once I finish up my latest mystery read, I'll be jumping back over to a historical. But we'll see where my mood takes me!