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.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Spring Has Sprung: Unusual Historicals for April 2024

Looking at this month's crop of unusual historical offerings it's safe to say spring has sprung in Romancelandia!  This bumper crop of 12 books is actually whittled down, if you can believe it. I know the rage the last few years has been contemporary romance, all of them slapped with interchangeable cartoon covers (don't at me, y'all know I'm right) but these unusual historical posts always give me a bit of hope every month that maybe the dearth of interest in historical romance in this moment is greatly exaggerated. Now sit back, relax and feast your eyes...

The Lady He Lost by Faye Delacour

Her only interest is in making her own way in the world. Luckily, he can help.

Lieutenant Eli Williams was supposed to be dead. In the two years since his shipwreck, his friends and family mourned him, his brother spent his savings, and his fiancée married someone else. So, when he turns up in the middle of the London social season, he quickly becomes the talk of the town. All Eli wants is to set his life back in order and reconnect with Jane Bishop, a friend who has always meant so much more to him, before returning to sea.

Jane refuses to waste any more of her life pining over Eli, who chose her cousin instead of her. She needs to focus on gaining her financial independence by establishing a ladies' gambling club. Never mind that Eli keeps trying to atone for his past mistake by bringing in new members. He's obviously keeping secrets about his disappearance, which means that she can't trust him with her heart even if she did kiss him in a moment of weakness. Or three.

As Eli works to regain her trust, Jane's defensive walls begin to crumble. But when Eli faces a court of inquiry on suspicion of desertion, Jane must decide if she can let go of the past to build a future with Eli, or risk losing him for good.

A debut and the first in The Lucky Ladies of London series features a presumed dead hero who returns in the middle of the whirl of the London Season to discover everyone has moved on - including the woman he always considered a friend. That friend is our heroine, who is working to establish a ladies' gambling club and she apparently has no interest is getting stuck back in the hero's Friend Zone.

Wake Me Most Wickedly by Felicia Grossman

Solomon Weiss has little interest in power, but to repay the half-brother who raised him, he pursues money, influence, and now—a respectable wife. That is, until outcast Hannah Moses saves his life, and Sol finds himself helplessly drawn to the beautiful pawnshop owner.  

Forever tainted by her parents' crimes, Hannah sees only a villain when she looks in the mirror—no one a prince would choose. To survive, she must care for herself, even if that means illegally hunting down whatever her clients wish. So, no matter how fair or charming she finds Sol, he belongs to a world far too distant from her own.   

Only neither can resist their desires, and each meeting weakens Hannah’s resolve to stay away. But when Hannah discovers a shocking betrayal in Sol’s inner circle, can she convince him to trust her? Or will fear and doubt poison their love for good? 

The second book in Grossman's Once Upon the East End series features a pawnshop owner heroine and a riff on the Snow White fairy tale. I found the first book in this series a little uneven, but I was so taken in by the worldbuilding I knew I'd pick up this one (which, hello, already have...)

Alliance with the Notorious Lord by Bronwyn Scott

Mixing business…

…with rakish pleasure!

Recently widowed Antonia Lytton-Popplewell is determined to carve her place in a man’s world. Yet turning a ramshackle property in London into a world-class department store isn’t easy. Especially when her inheritance comes with strings in the form of her late husband’s business partner, infuriatingly attractive Lord Cullen Allardyce. To ensure success, Antonia needs Cullen’s guidance. But her alliance with society’s most notorious rebel becomes even more complicated when begrudging respect turns into mutual desire…   

The second book Scott's Enterprising Widows series features another widowed heroine who lost her husband in the 1852 Homfirth Flood.  Determined to open her own department store in London, she finds herself saddled with her late husband's business partner, our hero, who is not only attractive (naturally) but also a bit of a maverick.

The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall by Rebecca Anderson

For years, rumors have flown through the village of Suttonsbury about Ashthorne Hall—that its occupants hoard pirate treasure, that a ghost walks its halls—but botanist Hyacinth Bell only cares about the estate's extensive, one-of-a-kind orchid collection. As an independent woman, she is eager to focus on her career, even if it means waiting to pursue a romantic relationship. After all, love—like an orchid—must be nurtured and tended before it can bloom.

What she doesn't expect is to be swept away by Lucas Harding, the manor's caretaker, upon their first meeting. He is handsome and charming, and the connection between the two is nearly instantaneous. Hyacinth is certain this autumn will be the season that everything good in her life takes root

But then strange things start happening in the seemingly empty halls of the estate: unexplainable noises, items appearing then disappearing from her room, threatening messages, and glimpses of a woman in white who vanishes into the dark. Lucas dismisses Hyacinth's worries, insisting that there is no ghost at Ashthorne Hall, but she suspects he is withholding information and decides to investigate the mystery herself.

Armed with little more than her instincts and her courage, Hyacinth must venture deep into the shadows of Ashthorne Hall to uncover the truth Lucas is keeping secret before she herself falls victim to the dangers hidden in the estate.

A botanist heroine, a caretaker hero, an estate in Cornwall shrouded in rumors and mystery - folks, it's textbook Gothic and I am HERE for it. 

The Lady Plays with Fire by Susanna Craig

As the daughter of a clergyman, Julia Addison knows she’ll never be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of acting on the stage. But writing forthright reviews of the Season’s most popular plays for Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses, popularly known as Goode’s Guide to Misconduct is surely the next best thing. Even better, she’s got a ticket to Ransom Blackadder’s latest irritating satire about English society. Best of all, she’s sharing a theater box with the gruff but handsome Lord Dunstane, which is enough to make Julia call for an encore . . .

Graham McKay, the Earl of Dunstane, rarely leaves his home in the Scottish Highlands. Why would he? Nothing about London has ever held his interest—until he meets Julia. But when Graham realizes she is the critic who panned his last play—and she discovers he is in fact the man behind Blackadder’s wicked pen—will it bring down the curtain on their romance—not to mention the magazine that published the humiliating review? Or can an unexpected collaboration set the stage for a scandalous love affair?

The second book in Craig's Goode's Guide to Misconduct has our daughter of a clergyman penning theater reviews for a ladies' magazine and running afoul of an Earl whose last play she panned. Unfortunately for both of them feelings are caught before true identities are revealed - who said love isn't complicated?

A Perfect Match by Margaux Thorne

Marriage and babies are the farthest things from Miss Myfanwy Wright’s mind. Cricket is her one and only love, which is why she created the Single Ladies’ Cricket Club. A club where like-minded single women can bond together over sport; it is a sanctuary for those who don’t wish to spend endless hours gossiping over tea and needlepoint or compromise their interest with a husband’s.

But after three straight years of losing to the Matron’s Club, Myfanwy’s team is showing signs of collapse. And the fact that her best friend might be next in line to get married—and desert the club—is too much to bear.

If Myfanwy’s going to beat the Matrons and save her team, she will have to find a coach who can lead the Single Ladies to victory. Luckily, she doesn’t have to search far. Her guardian is one of the best cricketers to ever play the game. Unfortunately, he can only see out of one eye, walks with a limp, is drunk half the day, and is the most disagreeable—and handsome—man she’s ever met …

Ex-cricketer, Samuel Everett is resting on his laurels. Injury might have taken him out of the game he loved, but he is a rich man now who can retire into a quiet life of mini-celebrity. He is done with the crowds, done with the constant traveling and living on the road. Cricket might have been his life; however, that life is now over.

But when Myfanwy nags him into coaching her little club, Samuel finds that old habits die hard. And the more time he spends with the talented team—and Myfanwy—the more he realizes that there is still some fight left in him. With Myfanwy’s help, Samuel rehabilitates his mind and body, gaining a fresh perspective on what he still has to offer the sport—and his opinionated, obstinate, gorgeous ward.

Banding together Myfanwy and Samuel butt heads and hearts as they prepare the club for victory. But as the match with the Matrons draws near and their love grows, Myfanwy faces the ultimate conundrum. As team captain of the Single Ladies’ Cricket Club, she made the rules, and she knows them better than anyone—there’s no room for married women.

Lord help me A LADIES' CRICKET CLUB?!?!??!  I once had a college professor try to explain cricket to me and I was so hopelessly lost that I'm half convinced that's why the sport isn't seen more in romances - but hot damn, I'm willing to learn. A LADIES' CRICKET CLUB Y'ALL!!!!!

A Lyon to Die For by E.L. Johnson

Crossed in love and sent to London for almost ruining her reputation, Emmeline is the only female proprietor in an exclusive row of London shops whose owners aren’t the most welcoming. But with a sharp tongue and fiery temper, Emmeline can deal with her unfriendly neighbors, even Mr. Horatio Whittaker, an arrogant, reserved, opinionated young man with fixed opinions and cold manners.

Horatio Whittaker has given up on happiness. Abandoned at the altar for his scheming best friend, he never expected to find love again. He hardly notices women until he crosses paths with Miss Emmeline Harcourt.

Emmeline hopes to never encounter Mr. Whittaker again, but when she accepts an invitation to the Lyon’s Den, they find themselves at the heart of a mystery, entangled with Horatio’s former fiancée and deceitful best friend.

From false accusations, rumored affairs, and even a deadly party game, Emmeline and Horatio must work together to prove their innocence and find the culprit. Pretending they are courting should make investigating easier, so long as they don’t fall in love.

Part of the extended Lyon's Den universe, a betrayed hero who has sworn off women and a shop owner heroine with a "reputation" get swept up in a mystery.  I am nothing but a sucker for heroines with a reputation and grumpy heroes with valid reasons for being grumpy.  Bring it on.

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart by Katherine Grant

Six years ago, Amy Lamplugh decided not to elope with Nate Preston. Ever since, she has been working hard to convince herself she was right to choose her family over Nate.

Now, Nate is back. After an illustrious career as a naval captain, he faces a court martial for disobeying orders while fighting the slave trade. He accepts an invitation to await the trial at a country estate outside of Portsmouth - and discovers he is suddenly neighbors with Amy.

Nate is shocked to find that Amy didn’t end up marrying someone rich and titled. Instead, she is a glorified companion to her younger sister - and is clearly battling some unnamed illness.

Thrown together by circumstances outside their control, Nate and Amy try to be friends. Soon, it becomes clear that their feelings for each other never died.

This fourth book in The Prestons series features a naval captain hero on trial for following his conscience and defying orders being reunited with the heroine who refused to elope with him years earlier. A reunion romance against a compelling backdrop of uncertainty (will the hero hang or will they live happily ever after?) 

The Wrath of the Marquess by Barbara Russell

An earthquake brings Cora and Ethan close. Literally.

They find themselves trapped together under an altar in a half-collapsed church. With nothing better to do but wait for the rescue party to free them, they form a bond of friendship and shared secrets.

She endures a loveless marriage with her abusive husband, Lord Roxbury, who mistreats and neglects her and their son, David. Ethan, a soldier and the next Marquess of Hertford, is about to be deployed to a Pacific island to fight against pirates.

Cora and Ethan meet again a few years later after he returns to London to keep open the centre for veterans his father founded. Not an easy task since he needs Lord Roxbury’s support for legal reasons.

When Cora tries to leave her husband to start a new life and protect her son, he shoots her. Desperate to help his mama and scared, David takes Cora to Ethan’s house and begs him to save her.

Ethan hides them in his house and takes care of Cora’s injury. Helping Cora leave England and hiding her from Lord Roxbury proves to be a challenge for Ethan. The future of dozens of soldiers, who suffer from permanent physical and mental problems, depends on his good relationship with Lord Roxbury.

On top of that, he didn’t expect to develop strong feelings for both Cora and David. As they carve their places into his heart, he has to decide which path is the worst. If he helps Cora and David move somewhere Lord Roxbury won’t find them, he won’t see them again. But if Cora gets a divorce, Lord Roxbury will take his revenge on Ethan, destroying everything important to him. Including Cora.

This third book in the author's Victorian Outcasts series features a heroine trapped in an abusive marriage being reunited with a hero who needs her odious husband's support to help the country's veterans. Things get complicated when the heroine tries to leave said husband...

A Duke a Day Keeps the Doctor Away by Emily EK Murdoch

Moses Warwick, Duke of Chetnole, is not going to allow a literal stab in the back to slow him down. Getting robbed and left for dead? That might do it.

Thankfully, someone finds him, drags him to their cottage, and tends to his wounds. When Moses comes round, he wants to thank the doctor who so expertly cared for him. That was when the woman he knew as Jenny Powell revealed that she was a doctor.

Unable to call her such a ridiculous title, and trapped by his lost memory in her cottage until it returns, Moses struggles against his growing admiration for the woman who surprises time and again. But Jenny can’t have this stranger in her home forever. She’s hiding a secret no one has been told for three years—a secret that will change the way Moses looks at her.

Good thing she gave him a good slap the first time he stole a kiss…right?

With traitors in France on one hand, mistrust of a woman doctor on the other, and fierce attraction growing between the two unlikely friends, will a duke each day manage to keep away from this delightful doctor?

Part of the author's long-running Dukes in Danger series, a Duke left for dead is saved by our doctor heroine, and if we can read between the lines of the back cover blurb, unsurprisingly behaves like a jackass that a mere woman saved his life 🙄.  That said, I have this sick fascination for reading about heroes like this having their notions about "womanhood" challenged and of course I'm now intrigued by the heroine's "secret." Oh, and traitors in France you say?

The Swan Laird by Susan King (Reprint)

Scottish-born Sir Gawain Avenel, raised in England and pledged to the English king, keeps his Highland origins secret when sent north to rout Scottish rebels. Saving a Highland girl from drowning, he recognizes her years later as a Scottish captive in the English court. In a cruel jest, the king orders Gawain to marry her and command her Highland castle as a warning to rebels.

Juliana Lindsay risks her life each time she disguises as a legendary swan maiden to lead the English enemy away from rebels. Captured and forced to marry a mysterious English knight and relinquish her castle, she recognizes her rescuer–who now poses danger. Drawn back to the rebellion, Juliana begins to trust Gawain–yet as love grows passionately between them, he must guard his secrets or lose all.

The hero is reunited with the Scottish heroine when the King orders him to marry the rebel and take over her Highland castle. Originally published under Penguin's Signet imprint in 2001 with the title, The Swan Maiden, this reprint features newly added content.

The Madness of Miss Grey by Julia Bennet (Reprint)

Everyone thinks Helen Grey is mad but, despite ten years imprisoned in a crumbling Yorkshire asylum, she’s managed to cling to sanity. When a new doctor arrives, she sees an opportunity. William Carter may seem like an honorable man but she's sure he'll prove easy to seduce…and trick into helping her escape.

Will would never bed a patient, no matter how tempting she might be. But once he realises Helen's been imprisoned for no good reason, he's determined to save her. They need to work together but freeing her won’t be easy, not when her mysterious benefactor is determined to keep her locked up and hidden from society forever.

When Helen is entangled in her own trap and begins to fall for Will too, she must fight not only for her liberty but for her right to love.

Originally published in 2019 by Entangled (with a clinch cover), this Gothic romance features a presumed "mad" heroine (whose only illness is probably having a mind of her own 🙄) finding in an ally in the hero who she was planning to seduce in her bid for freedom. I somehow missed this one back in 2019 and bland illustrated cover aside (come for the unusual historicals, stay for Wendy hating on illustrated covers....) this sounds great.  

Whew! That was a lot. Here's hoping we all find something delicious to read among this bountiful crop of unusual historicals.  What are you looking forward to reading?


azteclady said...

TWELVE? Holy cow!

Am I correct this is the most in a Unusual Historical post? Or just the most in recent memory?

Wendy said...

AL: I was pondering your question and was thinking there were 13 one month - then I checked my archives. Just last month there were 14 titles! Which says loads about both of our memories 🤣

azteclady said...