Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Like a Box of Chocolates: Unusual Historicals for February 2024

February always seems to be a bit of a "slump month" for me and this year that manifested in both reading and blogging. I've had a terrible case of the blahs.  Which is why this month's Unusual Historicals post is a little later than usual - I couldn't find the spoons to draft it up last weekend because I knew it was going to be long. Hey, it's a good problem to have but long blog post means Wendy has to find words, and words have been hard.  Luckily I seem to have adopted Azteclady to my unusual historical payroll, who has been doing a bang-up job on sending me suggestions as she comes across them - it's why these posts have been so robust of late. So if you've been enjoying these posts lately, raise a glass to AL who has been a tremendous help!

The Temple of Persephone by Isabella Kamal

Persephone Honeyfield is witty, intelligent, and very aware that the only way to escape the monotony of the life she shares with her father and sister in the English countryside—and the wagging, ever-critical tongues of the people around her—is through marriage. She also knows the likelihood of it being a love match is nearly zero.

Aidon Barrington has carried on the legacy of his family’s funeral furnishing business, losing himself in the process. A shell of his former charming self, he’s traded his reputation as a rake for that of a recluse and regularly appears in the scandal sheets as London’s mysterious Lord of the Dead.

When Persephone finds herself at Gallowsgate—the old Barrington estate—on a seemingly simple errand, an unexpected run-in with the Lord of the Dead himself leaves her on the brink of ruination. With no other way to silence the village rumor mill, or save her sister’s reputation, Persephone agrees to marry Aidon, becoming the wife of a man she hardly knows.

Persephone finds herself increasingly fascinated by her new husband, whose kind, patient nature stands in stark contrast to the ever-swirling rumors about him. But when the gossip begins to sound more like reality than fiction, she attempts to uncover the truth behind the Lord of the Dead while discovering she may have already lost her most guarded possession: her heart.

OMG, the hero is essentially a funeral director y'all! Go ahead, try to think of the last time you read that in a romance novel, let along a historical romance novel. Essentially the Persephone myth dropped in Regency England, this also happens to be the author's debut.

A Gentleman Never Tells by Jodi Ellen Malpas

Frank Melrose is on the cusp of taking his father's printing business global—the last thing he needs is the distraction of any woman, let alone the dazzling Taya Winters.

He's under pressure from the newspaper to unmask the mysterious highwayman causing havoc in Belmore Square, but his infuriating clashes with Taya keep slowing him down.

What's more, he's sure that the highwayman is right under their noses—and that exposing their identity will end not only his story, but ruin his family, too...

The second book in the author's Belmore Square series features a hero running the family's printing business whose work gets tangled up with the heroine. How much you want to bet she knows more about the mysterious highwayman than she's letting on?

Knight of Darkness by Sherry Ewing

Sometimes finding love can become our biggest weakness…

Wymar Norwood understands responsibility. His two brothers have been in his care since his parent’s death. With his title and lands stripped from him by the usurper Stephen, he aligns himself with the Empress Matilda, the rightful Queen of England. If he can win her favor and become her champion knight, he prays all will be returned to him.

Lady Ceridwen Ward of Norwich is out to prove not only to herself but the Empress that she is more than capable of protecting those she loves. She hides herself in the guise of a knight and follows along with her men to Lincoln to raise her sword for the Empress’s cause. But life can become complicated, especially after your identity is revealed.

::Kermit flailing:: ENGLAND DURING THE ANARCHY OMG! I'm hard-pressed to think of another medieval that mines this period in English history. A hero who lost everything and a heroine (a chick in pants story!) with something to prove. This also appears to be the first book in a series (I mean, the hero does have two brothers so...

In Want of a Viscount by Lorraine Heath

American Leonora Garrison has come to England in desperate search of investors to keep her family business afloat but instead finds surprising pleasure when she visits an exclusive ladies’ club and dares to kiss a stranger, who leaves her yearning for more.

With a libertine for a father, Viscount Wyeth, more commonly known as Rook, vowed to live his life above reproach, with nary a hint of disgrace. Until one night, he takes a mysterious beauty into his arms, a lady who tempts him to cast his sterling reputation aside in favor of more wicked pursuits.

When fate reunites the couple, they are torn between desire and duty. Leonora may want the viscount, but she needs a stakeholder not a lover. When caught in a compromising situation that places everything they hold dear at risk, they must determine how best to win. However, in this scandalous game, nothing except love takes all.

The third book in Heath's Chessmen series has a nice twist on the American heroine traveling to England - she's not looking for a titled husband, she's looking for a investor to save the family business. Adding a hero who is overcompensating to live down the sins of his father and I'm intrigued...

Margins of Love by Sara Adrien

When Feivel “Fave” Pearler, is the golden boy of the Ton, but the haute-couture jeweler has a secret. Rachel Newman, a debutante who dares to defy societal expectations for a chance at true love. Their spicy romance is a perilous journey of love against all odds, challenging the confines of their world. When a gossiping blackmailer puts their impossible hope for a future together in jeopardy, they both navigate the greed and scorn of the aristocracy. Read their story and find out how they find a way to sidestep fate and gain a chance at forever in this historical romance that captures your heart?

If all illustrated covers looked this one I wouldn't hate them so much. Someone make a note of that, will you?  Anyway, this is the first in Adrien's Infiltrating the Ton trilogy, and while I firmly believe that people are "neither genre nor trope" I want to point out the series features Jewish characters; although what makes this first book unusual is that the hero is a jeweler who, naturally, has a secret. Because what's a romance without some secrets?

The Return of His Caribbean Heiress by Lydia San Andres

An unforgettable first kiss 

An unexpected second chance… 

It’s been five years since the night Leandro Díaz kissed heiress Lucía Troncoso before she left for Europe. He’d known they were from different worlds and would have to part, yet losing her still hurt… Now she’s returned but Leo isn’t the man he once was. Hardened by life, he holds Lucía at a distance and refuses to give in to their reignited attraction. Until danger hits and they’re forced closer than ever before…  

Every month I look at the new Harlequin Historical offerings and every month I resolve to go on a binge of them through my TBR. Set in the early 20th century, San Andres' latest Caribbean-set historical features a reunion, cross-class romance.

The Husband Heist by Alyxandra Harvey

As a duke’s twin sister, Lady Summer is used to being both noticed and ignored---and she finally means to use it to her advantage.

First, she steals art from The Mayfair Art Collectors Society with none the wiser. Well, except for Eliot Howard, the Earl of Blackpool, a rakehell and the bane of her existence. But as the art she steals with her madcap friends rightfully belongs to Eliot’s aunt, Summer is certain he will not get in the way.

The trouble is, she has also accidentally stolen a list of women spies working for the Crown. Someone is using the art exhibit to pass messages about an auction to sell off the code that will reveal the names and put them all in danger. Summer is determined to protect them.

A heist gone wrong when the heroine steals from the wrong person and unwittingly stumbles across espionage. This is the third book in Harvey's Dainty Devils series featuring unconventional heroines. 

To Steal a Marquess by Maeve Greyson

Alec Douglas, Duke of Lionwraith, a war hero betrayed on the home front while he was away at battle, trusts no one and prefers his solitude. But when his sister begs for help because she is ruined, he vows to make the man responsible pay. When the vile rakehell proves impossible to find, Alec isn’t swayed. He can just as easily destroy his enemy with a subtler attack. The Marquess of Ardsmere’s business provides the best wines and rarest imports to the finest houses in all the realm—but by the time Alec is finished, West Belgium International will cease to exist.

But the despicable marquess can’t be the ruination of Alec’s sister, because the man does not exist. However, Lady Francis, better known as Frannie and sometimes as the Marchioness of Ardsmere, is quite real. Born in Belgium after a terrible accident killed her father, Frannie was introduced to the world as the family’s ward rather than an Ardsmere daughter, and a fake Ardsmere son was fabricated for her to marry to keep the wealth, lands, and privileges of the title away from a heartless cousin. The ruse has served quite well, but now some quarrelsome duke threatens everything because his lightskirt sister tossed her reputation to the wind and ridiculously named the pretend marquess responsible.

Frannie is not about to lose her lucrative empire or expose herself as a fraud. There’s naught to be done but assume her usual role as the imaginary marquess’s wife and put the deplorable duke in his place. However, when she meets Alec’s sweet, trusting sister, she can’t bring herself to finish the poor girl off or take down her handsome brother. Cursing her soft-heartedness, Frannie agrees to help Alec. Not just because he’s a tempting challenge she can’t resist, but also because his sister is kindness itself.

While tracking down the real foe responsible, Alec and Frannie come together in a complicated dance that not only risks riches and reputations but also their hearts. Frannie’s life of lies has always provided everything she needs—except love. What’s she to do when the man who steals her heart despises anything that isn’t true?

OK, I'll be honest - back cover blurbs that are long enough to be the novel tend to annoy me - but I'm still intrigued. This is the second book in Greyson's Sisterhood of Independent Ladies series and features a hero bent on avenging his sister's honor except for the minor detail that the man who did her dirty doesn't actually exist. He's a fabrication created so the heroine wouldn't lose everything after her father's death. Now the heroine is a quandary, her delicate house of cards about to topple.

Convenient Vows with a Viking by Lucy Morris and Sarah Rodi

Two Viking short stories

Two alliances at the altar!

In Her Bought Viking Husband by Lucy Morris, Orla strikes a deal with enslaved Jarl Hakon to protect her land. She’ll buy his freedom if the handsome warrior marries her! In Chosen as the Warrior's Wife by Sarah Rodi, at the emperor’s bride show, Viking Fiske must choose noblewoman Kassia to save her from an unhappy fate. But his new bride holds a secret that threatens their newfound desire…

What's better than one Viking? Well two Vikings of course! Every Morris book I've read so far I've enjoyed and Rodi is an author I still need to try.  Both of these stories sound great, so in the pile it goes!

The Lady of a Lyon by Linda Rae Sande

She's a former courtesan. He was once her favorite client. Will a conniving earl thwart a matchmaker's efforts to see them reunited?

Newly widowed viscountess and mother to a young boy, Annabelle reluctantly returns to London in the hopes of securing invitations to Society events. Although she’s more than able to run the Burwick viscountcy on behalf of her son, Benton is in need of a titled father to help him along in life. Worried someone will recognize her—she was one of the ladies of The Elegant Courtesan before Burwick made her his viscountess and took her off to his country estate—Annabelle soon realizes she can’t hide her identity when one of her former clients confronts her. Embarrassed and angered by his overtures, Annabelle decides to leave her fate in the hands of matchmaker Bessie Dove-Lyon.

As a lieutenant colonel in the British Army and the second son of an earl, Jeffrey never expected to inherit an earldom and have to marry. Now he's in a quandary. He’s in desperate need of funds, for the Year of No Summer has left the earldom’s coffers empty. When he spies his favorite flame-haired courtesan in a tailor’s shop with a young boy, Jeffrey doesn’t realize she’s become a respectable lady. His comment about her son is mistaken as an insult, and he fears he may have missed his opportunity with the woman he still finds irresistible.

Learning he can win a wealthy woman in a game of chance at The Lyon’s Den, Jeffrey agrees to the Black Widow of Whitehall’s matchmaking method.

When he discovers Annabelle is the prize, the stakes may be more than he can afford, for if she ends up in the arms of a man he trusts, his heart—and a friendship—will surely be broken.

A former courtesan who married well, now widowed, in need of a new titled husband to aid in her young son's development and a second son who suddenly finds himself inheriting the keys to the kingdom. Oh, and it just so happens that he was once her favorite client.  This is another entry in the larger "Lyon's Den" world and I am nothing but trash for heroines who have "reputations." 

The Hawk Laird by Susan King (Reprint)

When a haunting prophecy leads to revenge - will the truth lead to love?

From the moment Isobel of Aberlady sees the stranger emerge from the shadows to spirit her away from a besieged Scottish castle, she knows it is at the cost of her freedom—and his. Renowned for her visions, the lovely, isolated Isobel has been protected until the Scottish rebel takes her hostage for his own ends. Outlawed and unjustly accused of betraying his leader, falconer Sir James Lindsay needs his good name restored—and Lady Isobel, whose prophecy caused his undoing, is his only weapon.

Intending to exchange the valuable lady for another hostage, James takes Isobel deep into his forest lair. He does not count on finding an abandoned goshawk who needs his help—nor does he expect to fall in love with the beautiful prophetess. Amid treachery and hope, passion and betrayal, their love becomes the one shining light, a source of retribution, renewal, and finally destiny foretold—and forever ....

For us old farts who still read blogs (😂), King is one of the authors part of the long-running Word Wenches blog. This medieval is a reprint of her 1998 book Laird of the Wind that was published by  Penguin's long-running Topaz line. A heroine who has a vision of her own abduction and a falconer (!) hero desperate to clear his name. This sounds like my favorite kind of a medieval - one you can really sink your teeth into, swooning along the way.

Whew! Another robust month.  What Unusual Historicals are landing in your TBR this month?


azteclady said...

You've been doing all the work by yourself, for all of romancelandia for what, over a dozen years? I'm more than happy to help when I can.

As you know, several of these are now in my own TBR or wishlist, but good lord, that thing about long-ass blurbs? So much same; if you tell me every detail of the novel in the blurb, 99% of the time that kills my interest entirely.

Wendy said...

AL: I appreciate the help! Amazon continues to be more than useless and my traditional librarian resources are spotty when it comes to self-published and some of the smaller presses.

Ugh, yes - long-ass blurbs or even worse, blurbs written in first person that don't tell you a damn thing.

SonomaLass said...

Grateful as always that you keep making these lists, here whenever I cycle back to historical romance. And thanks to AztecLady for helping out!!

Jo Wyrick said...

Went straight to Amazon for The Lady of a Lyon! It sounds right down my alley.

-- Jo

Wendy said...

SonomaLass: The last historical I read I inhaled but I keep picking up contemporaries for some reason? Or not romance at all - but mystery/suspense/thriller. I've got a TON of historicals waiting for me, I need to go on a binge.

Jo: I LOVE heroines who have "reputations" and that one does look good.