E-Originals from Allyn, De Salle, Lerner & Co., and Varlet | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 20, 2017

Allyn, Rue. The French Duchess. Crimson Romance: S. & S. Sept. 2017. 257p. ebk. ISBN 9781507206485. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Despite her lofty position, Marielle Petersham, Duchess of Stonegreave, is disgraced in the eyes of society. Several years ago, she was implicated in a scandalous affair, leading to the death of her father and, indirectly, her fiancé. Even her childhood friend Capt. Sir Richard Campion wants nothing to do with her. Nevertheless, when the English government asks for Richard’s help in unmasking a Bonapartist spy, he reluctantly agrees to renew his old acquaintance with the beautiful but dangerous duchess. Before long, the pair find themselves unwilling allies working to avert an international crisis in the aftermath of Napoleon’s 1814 surrender.
Verdict Allyn’s (Knight Protector) first foray into the Regency era offers a somewhat unconvincing romance, set against a drastically oversimplified historical backdrop.—Lindsay Morton, Pub. Lib. of Science, San Francisco

De Salle, Thea. The Lady of Royale Street. Pocket Star. (NOLA Nights, Bk. 3). Aug. 2017. 247p. ebk. ISBN 9781501156106. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
After their vile wedding planner is inconveniently killed by a bus, Sol DuMont and Arianna Barrington, aka “Kitten,” are left in a bind when it comes to their upcoming union. They call upon Best Man Alexander DuMont and Maid of Honor Theresa Ivarson to try to figure out what the plans were and what can be salvaged. Photojournalist Theresa is not immediately a fan of Alex’s, who attacks her when he mistakes her for one of the many paparazzi who’ve gotten wind of the nuptials. However, the two team up to coordinate the perfect wedding. Both Theresa and Alex are religious, but the attraction between them is hot and the eventual sex adventurous. Alex’s more staid personality and strong faith cause complications that must be overcome if the two are to find their own happy ending. Sol and Kitten remain the most amusing and compelling characters here, but Alex’s and Theresa’s bemused reactions are entertaining.
Verdict Readers of the series (The King of Bourbon Street; The Queen of Dauphine Street) will enjoy revisiting characters from the first two books and sympathize with the protagonists of this sexy, funny novel.—B. Allison Gray, Goleta Lib., CA

starred review starLerner, Rose & others. Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances. Courtney Milan. Oct. 2017. 394p. ebk. ISBN 9781937248598. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
A connection to Alexander Hamilton unites three sets of diverse lovers before and after the Revolutionary War. Rachel has disguised herself as a man to fight in Washington’s army, but her identity is threatened with exposure when she captures an old love in Lerner’s “Promised Land.” In Courtney Milan’s “The Pursuit of…,” a handsome black soldier fighting on the American side is befuddled by his feelings for a talkative ex-British officer as they make a 500-mile journey together. Alyssa Cole’s “That Could Be Enough” features a relationship between two women of color: Eliza Hamilton’s straitlaced maid Mercy Alston and the vivacious, alluring dressmaker Andromeda Stiel.
Verdict Taking a page from the musical Hamilton’s diverse cast of characters, these stories tackle issues of race, sexual orientation, religion, and class while still managing to be heartwarming and humorous. Lerner (A Taste of Honey) and Milan (Unveiled) are established authors who continue to deliver satisfying romances, while rising star Cole (An Extraordinary Union) adds a unique new voice to the genre. Highly recommended.—Kathryn Howe, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Varlet, Elizabeth. Brave & Beautiful. Carina: Harlequin. (Sassy Boyz, Bk. 3). Oct. 2017. 249p. ebk. ISBN 9781488079184. $3.99. MALE/MALE ROMANCE
Tam Kis is looking for a new home for the Sassy Boyz dancers just as the Boyz want to celebrate his new apartment. Biker/bartender/construction worker Driver Ellis is pet-sitting in the neighboring apartment. While doing laundry one night, he mistakes Tam’s feminine looks as “female,” and he’s immediately taken in. But when Driver comes to realize his error, he’s now determined to get to know Tam more intimately as Driver is not bound by sexual identity. Though having made a good life for himself, years of therapy and honing his dance skills haven’t erased Tam’s memories of a checkered and abused past. Driver might be someone he could finally let go with…that is if Driver is ready to take on the baggage they both carry. The language in some scenes might border on erotica to some readers, and certain sequences may carry trigger warnings, as well.
Verdict This third installment in Varlet’s “Sassy Boyz” series (after Dark & Dazzling) is less about the label of a male/male relationship and more about feelings, attraction, and letting the right person help heal one’s pain through genuine intimacy.—Frannie Strober Cassano, North Bellmore P.L., NY

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