Monday, October 18, 2021

No Tricks, All Treats: Unusual Historical Spotlight for October 2021

So you've probably noticed that this blog hasn't exactly been a hotbed of activity lately (even less so than usual - which is just super sad).  Can I blame work? I'm totally blaming work. Also after a particularly dreadful spat of reading I fell down the comfort reading rabbit hole - which for me means mystery/suspense. The upcoming Loren D. Estleman, relistening to a few Sue Grafton's (N, B and J), the next book in Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone series that I'm working my way (slowly) through. All series featuring tried-and-true characters and Wendy knows exactly what to expect.  One of these days though I'll try reading something new, which means it's time for my monthly browsing for the latest unusual historicals to catch my eye.  Here's what intrigues publishing in October 2021:
In the autumn of 1707, old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England. At the same time, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to bring the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger. 

Queen Anne's commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun paying out money sent up from London to settle the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier—an ill-fated venture that left Scotland all but bankrupt. 

When the young widow of a Darien sailor comes forward to collect her husband's wages, her claim is challenged. One of the men assigned to investigate has only days to decide if she's honest, or if his own feelings are blinding him to the truth.

This is the third book in a series that started with The Winter Sea - and has Wendy read any of them? Of course not.  Anyway, Kearsley writes the kind of meaty historicals I like to lose myself in and Miss Bates (who writes stellar reviews) just gave this book a great one.

The Earl Who Sees Her Beauty by Marguerite Kaye 

Unaware of her beauty… 

Until he awakens her. 

Prudence Carstairs knows her scars leave her with no romantic prospects—instead, she’s content revolutionizing her employer’s home with her technological marvels. Then he unexpectedly perishes and his mysterious younger brother, dashing Dominic Thorburn, reluctantly takes over. In the new earl, Prudence finally finds someone who meets her gaze without flinching. Might he see the beautiful, intelligent woman beyond her scars?

Kaye has taken her victory lap as co-author of Her Heart for a Compass with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and is back to give readers a brand new series, of which this is book one.  While we've got a typical titled hero (an earl) what caught my eye with this book is the heroine who is "revolutionizing her employer's home with her technological marvels." A smart, resourceful heroine?  Yes, please!

Of Trust and Heart
by Charlotte Anne Hamilton 

The Great War changed everything for Lady Harriet Cunningham. Instead of being presented at eighteen, she trained to be a nurse and shared forbidden kisses with her colleagues. 

But now in 1923, at the age of 24, Harriet is facing spinsterhood. 

It's not such a ghastly prospect to her, but as the daughter of the Earl of Creoch, there's a certain expectation that she must meet. So, in a last attempt to find a match for their daughter to see her safe and secure, they send her to her aunt and uncle in New York. 

Only when she gets there, she and her cousin, a man who, like her, suffers from the weight of expectation from his father, decide on one last hoorah as a memory to hold close to their heart in their later life. 

But when they arrive at the speakeasy hidden beneath a small bookstore, Harriet finds herself entranced by the singer. No matter how hard she wants to please her family and do her duty, she finds that there's something about the woman that she can't stay away from — that she can't ignore her heart. Which is loudly calling for Miss Rosalie Smith.

OK, I want both of these dresses in my wardrobe. Think they'd be too much for say the library or grocery shopping?  Surely not!  Look, I know World War I was a major downer, but the 1920s were a really interesting time for women and it's a big reason why I'm always drawn to that era for historical romance. You've got a modern heroine expected to do her familial duty by marrying well, except for the minor detail that she's a lesbian.  Also, a speakeasy hidden beneath a bookstore? As soon as I win the lottery I'm building myself one of those.

The Knight's Maiden in Disguise
by Ella Matthews 

Risking her life

To save a knight! 

Disguising herself as her late twin brother keeps Avva Carpenter, and her family, safe. Until Sir William Devereux arrives in her town. As the castle’s stable master, Avva can’t avoid the knight—or the desire he instantly stirs in her. He’s everything she never knew a nobleman could be: honest, kind, brave. When danger surrounds them, the only way to help William is to reveal her true identity, but can she trust him enough?

Turn up your nose all you want, but I know plenty of readers who can't get enough Chick In Pants stories. This medieval features a heroine (obviously in some sort of danger) disguising herself as her late twin brother.  Then the hero shows up and makes her all tingly in her girly bits.  Ain't that always the way?  This is the start of a new series for Matthews.

The Larks Still Bravely Singing by Aster Glenn Gray 
Kindle Unlimited at time of this posting

The Great War cost Robert his left leg and his first love. 

A shattering breakup leaves Robert convinced that he is a destructive force in romantic relationships. When he finds himself falling in love with David, an old friend from boarding school, he's sure that he shouldn’t confess his feelings. But as their meandering conversations drift from books and poetry to more intimate topics, Robert’s love deepens - and so do his fears of hurting David. 

Since he was wounded, David has been batted from hospital to hospital like a shuttlecock, leaving him adrift and anxious. His renewed friendship with Robert gives him a much-needed sense of peace and stability. Slowly, David opens up to Robert about the nervous fears that plague him, and when Robert responds with sympathy and support, David finds himself feeling much more than friendship. But he’s afraid that he’s already a burden on Robert, and that asking for more will only strain their developing bond. 

Can these two wounded soldiers heal each other? 

Content warning: period-typical homophobia and ableism (probably less than is strictly period typical, but this is a romance novel, not a historical essay), implied/referenced suicide

I knew nothing about this book until it crossed my timeline thanks to GoodReads friends and some bloggers. Post-World War I, former boarding school friends reconnect as wounded soldiers.  The author describes this book as "tenderness after a time of suffering," and I'm not gonna lie - I may have swooned.

The Brightest Star in Paris
by Diana Biller 

She never expected her first love to return, but is he here to stay? 

Amelie St. James is a fraud. After the Siege of Paris, she became “St. Amie,” the sweet, virtuous prima ballerina the Paris Opera Ballet needed to restore its scandalous reputation, all to protect the safe life she has struggled to build for her and her sister. But when her first love reappears looking as devastatingly handsome as ever, and the ghosts of her past quite literally come back to haunt her, her hard-fought safety is thrown into chaos. 

Dr. Benedict Moore has never forgotten the girl who helped him embrace life after he almost lost his. Now, years later, he’s back in Paris. His goals are to recruit promising new scientists, and maybe to see Amelie again. 

When he discovers she’s in trouble, he’s desperate to help her—and hold her in his arms. When she finally agrees to let him help, they disguise their time together with a fake courtship. Soon, with the help of an ill-advised but steamy kiss, old feelings reignite. Except, their lives are an ocean apart. Will they be able to make it out with their hearts intact?

OK, honesty time. I haven't read Biller's much lauded debut - mainly because it was published by Macmillan and landed at that moment the publisher decided to be a butt to libraries. On top of that, what I learned about the book at the time led me to believe that the marketing of it was a mess. Honestly though, the butt to libraries thing was enough to turn me off.  Of course now it's been hyped to the hills so who knows if I'll get to it - but maybe this second book is the place to start? The Franco-Prussian War isn't exactly well-trod territory in historical romance, plus we have a ballerina heroine and a doctor hero.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to?


Lover Of Romance said...

These definitely look interesting. I have become more picky with my historicals so trying to delve into older books although I have been hearing good things about Elisa Braden.

Wendy said...

LOR: Ha ha ha! I was just over at GoodReads and saw KristieJ had read an Elisa Braden. I've been on a mystery/suspense glom for the last month and I'm hoping to get back to historicals again soon.

Miss Bates said...

I'm blushing and thank you! I have both Billers on the TBR and hoping to read them "one of these days". Famous last words.

Wendy said...

Miss Bates: You are welcome! You always write fantastic reviews!