The weather’s hot, the ocean is refreshing, and the crazy flowers my Bohemian landlord planted are in bloom. You know what that means: summer’s almost officially here, and it’s time for beach reads.
Here’s a confession though: I don’t prescribe to the normal theory that beach reads should be something light and fluffy, something you automatically forget about once you’re done sunbathing. Instead, I want a story so moving I want to stay out of doors, sunburn be damned, because I refuse to move until I’ve finished this book.
But looking back on the post I did last September in which I named the five books I’d save from a burning building, it occured to me that since this blog started I have read some truly exemplorary historical romance novels. Books that are so well-written they left a profound impact on my writing and my life. Books that were so hot I had to fan myself, that make you need to retreat to air conditioning because they’ll steam up your summer. Books that stuck with me long after I turned that last page, and made me add a new author to my “must buy right now because I need it” list. Some of these are older releases, but they were new to me and they might be new to you too.
When I went to compose this list, I found I couldn’t just limit it to five books. So, because every blog needs a rule-breaker, I’m changing it up and bringing you six of my new favorites. Three in this blog, and three in my next entry on July 10th.
Because I am primarily a regency author, the historical romances I read are 90% of the time set in England or have to do with British people. There are many other great romances out there dealing with other cultures and time periods, but I tend to read what I write in historical, so this entry might be a bit myopic.
1. Forever and a Day, Rumor Series # 1, Delilah Marvelle
I’ve spoken before about my love for this book, set in both New York City and London in 1830 (the time period of my book as well, so there was squeeing involved). Roderick Tremayne is a British aristocrat and the heir to a dukedom–only, he can’t remember any of it. Georgia Milton is a washerwoman with ties to the notorious Forty Thieves gang, and she may be just the answer “Robinson” needs to not only get his memories back but find a love thats last forever and a day.
Delilah Marvelle has made a name for herself writing unconventional, poignant romances and Forever and a Day sets the bar high for the Rumor series. She’s clearly researched everything about New York City and London down the very last detail and her incorporation of omnibuses, haut ton, and even a water pump ring true to the era. (And she’ll share that research too, if you ask nicely, because she is just THAT lovely). What I love about Delilah’s writing is that she invests you so deeply in the world she’s created that you can almost feel the 19th century around you, in the hubbub of the streets and the patriarchy of the Upper Ten Thousand.
Robinson is at first a man without a country, but he is a man of strength and intelligence. His defense of Georgia and dedication to her makes him hero-worthy, and he’s delightfully sinful in the book’s hotter scenes. Georgia has such fire, loyalty, and sass that she remains one of my all-time favorite heroines. She’s the epitome of the brassy New York Girl–certain she knows how to defend herself and pursuing her dreams with dogmatic determination. I personally challenge you to read this book and try to not fall in love with Georgia–it’s a bet I’ll win, because you’ll end up just as enamored as I am.
Robinson and Georgia are an unlikely pair to the eyes of the world, but they compliment each other perfectly. Delilah bills this book as her version of the Prince and the Pauper, and I love the spin she’s taken on it. I actually gifted people this book for Christmas because I fell so hard for it, and then promptly bought the rest of the series (which is next on my to read list).
2. Ripe for Pleasure, The League of the Second Sons #1, Isobel Carr
Though Isobel Carr has written two other books under her previous pseudonym Kalen Hughes, for me this was the first book I’ve read by her. Admittedly, because Isobel is a dear friend who I admire, I was a little hesitant to read her work for fear that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I should have known that like she does with everything else, Isobel would once again knock me flat on my rear with her brilliance.
Ripe for Pleasure is one of those rare books that upon dissecting it, when you try and find a single thing you can say that you really didn’t like because you want to sound fair balanced, you turn up empty and then risk sounding like a blithering sychopant. But it’s that good, people, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to listen up.
This book follows the story of Lord Leonidas Vaughn, a strong, powerful man who’s every bit the alpha male romance readers dream of with none of the rudeness, and the famed courtesan Viola Whedon. Their paths are drawn together by the possibility of treasure hidden in Viola’s cottage–a treasure which could save Leo’s floundering estate and make it a viable settlement. The trouble is, Leo needs to get close to Viola to gain access to the treasure, and he can’t resist her charms any more than she can seem to stay away from him. Add in a meglomaniac cousin and some truly hysterical secondary characters and you’ve got the makings of a smashing adventure.
Those of you who read my posts know that I am an absolute sucker for strong women (as you’ll see in every one of my book recommendations, there’s a heroine at heart with strength of characters). Viola is that hard to achieve mix between strong and vulnerable–passionate yet burned in the past, so she keeps her heart reserved. She doesn’t expect Leo to understand her like he does, or accept her for who she is. I loved that Viola wasn’t repetent about her courtesan past: she did what she had to do and she made a life for herself. I also loved that she was very sexually aware and in charge of her own desires, which Leo appreciated instead of trying to change.
Ripe for Pleasure sets up the League of Second Sons quite well and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
3. Never Love a Scoundrel, Secrets and Scandals # 5, Darcy Burke
I was fortunate enough to get to beta read this book for Darcy, and I absolutely consumed this book in 2 days. Normally, I’m a slow reader and I read about seven things at once, but Never Love a Scoundrel kept me coming back for more. Though this is book # 5 in Darcy’s series, it can be read as a stand-alone (and in fact, I read it having only read the novella To Love a Thief). Returning fans, however, will appreciate that several of the hero/heroine pairings in earlier books appear in this one.
Jason Lockwood is a reprobate, outcast from polite society and sporting a nasty facial scar from one infamous fight several years prior. Lydia Prewitt is a regency “mean girl,” a gossip manipulated by her guardian. She’s feared by the members of the haut ton, but never loved for who she really is — a girl simply trying to find acceptance and happiness in a cold world. Though neither will admit it at first, they’re two unhappy, alone individuals who really need each other to survive.
Never Love a Scoundrel is a fun book for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about it is the way that Darcy easily maneuvers between the high echelons and the London underworld. She’s as comfortable writing a ball as she is describing the vice parties held by Jason, and the certainly scandalous items locked away in secret rooms at his estate. I spend a lot of time reading about the lower class during the regency, and I’m really happy to say that Darcy’s depiction holds true to everything I’ve read. Jason’s half-brother, Ethan (hero of the upcoming Scoundrel Ever After), steals the show and adds another level of danger and intrigue to what was already a compelling plot.
I promised that these would be “sizzling” reads, and Never Love a Scoundrel is certainly that. I loved that Lydia completely defies what Jason originally thinks of her, in the bedroom and out. For these two characters on the fringes of acceptance, they’ll find that each other are the only real society they’ll ever need.
So what are you reading this summer? Let me know! I’m in the middle of Julie Anne Long’s The Perils of Pleasure.