Romance Reviews | August 2013

Diverse Delights It should be common knowledge by now that romance is one of the most inclusive and diverse of all fiction genres—and one of the most inventive. Almost any setting, theme, plot, sensuality level, or combination of characters is at home within its flexible, love-laced boundaries. And when you think there couldn’t possibly be another twist on the core courtship story, some creative author invents one, sparking interest and perhaps a new subgenre, as well (for example, steampunk romance, Victorian romantic suspense, and the “new adult” romances). What all of this means is that romance readers are lucky! There’s something here for everyone, as the titles below will demonstrate—and this is just the tip of a very large romantic iceberg.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewBalogh, Mary. The Arrangement. Dell: Random. (Survivors’ Club, Bk. 2). Sept. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780345535870. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780345535887. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Tired of his family’s matchmaking attempts and their kind but annoying cosseting, war-blinded Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, takes his valet and secretly escapes to the small Somerset village where he grew up. But peace and anonymity are not to be had. When Sophia Fry sees her shallow, marriage-minded cousin leading the unwitting viscount into a compromising situation at a local assembly, she foils the plan—and ends up turned out by her relatives and, in a surprise twist, married to Vincent herself. Determined to be a helpmate to Vincent—at least for the agreed-upon year—Sophie gradually helps him to take charge of his life, even though she fears he eventually will no longer need her. VERDICT This touching, totally enthralling story overflows with subtle humor, brilliant dialog, breathtaking sensuality, and supporting characters you want to know better. Balogh (The Proposal) lives in Canada.

Cross, Kate. Breath of Iron. Signet Eclipse: Penguin Group (USA). (Clockwork Agents, Bk. 3). Aug. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780451240064. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101615447. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE

Abducted and whisked off to an airship by Gavin MacRae, the pirate lover she’d broken off with years earlier, Evelyn Stone, one of the top surgeons in the Wardens of the Realm (W.O.R), is stunned to find she has been brought to attend to Mac’s seriously wounded new wife. Yet all is not as it seems, and the feelings between Mac and Evie haven’t abated in spite of their distance—or their loyalties. VERDICT A pair of former lovers reconnect and must deal with old feelings and present realities in this emotionally intense, action-and-violence-packed adventure that will draw readers into a fantastic steampunk world. Cross (Touch of Steel) lives in Connecticut.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewPutney, Mary Jo. Sometimes a Rogue. (Lost Lords, Bk. 5). Zebra: Kensington. Sept. 2013. c.352p. ISBN 9781420127157. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420127188. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Not about to leave her pregnant twin, Mariah, Duchess of Ashton, to the mercies of the two thugs who arrived at the isolated chapel where the sisters stopped when Mariah went into labor, Sarah Clarke-Townsend passes herself off as the duchess and ends up kidnapped and whisked off to Ireland in Mariah’s stead. Fortunately, Rob Carmichael, an intrepid, canny Bow Street Runner with a rejected aristocratic past, is soon hot on their trail. Though Rob quickly rescues Sarah, avoiding the relentless villains and getting back to England are not so easy. Complications multiply as inheritance issues, duplicity, social status, Irish nationalism, and at least one wickedly insane villain spice up the action for all concerned. VERDICT Witty humor, deep character development, thrilling sexual edginess, and a remarkable pair of protagonists combine in this exhilarating addition to Putney’s addictive and exquisitely written series. Putney (No Longer a Gentleman) lives in the Baltimore area.

The following titles are reviewed in the August 15, 2013 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Barnes, Sophie. The Trouble with Being a Duke. Avon. (At the Kingsborough Ball, Bk. 1). Sept. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780062245076. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062245137. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Evans, Katy. Real. Gallery: S. & S. (Real, Bk. 1). Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781476752198. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476755434. NEW ADULT EROTIC ROMANCE

Garwood, Julie. Hotshot. Dutton. Aug. 2013. c.368p. ISBN 9780525953012. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101624258. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Hart, Regina. Trinity Falls. Dafina: Kensington. (Trinity Falls, Bk. 1). Sept. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780758286529. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9780758286536. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Kelly, Carla. The Double Cross. Camel Pr., dist. by Epicenter. (Spanish Brand, Bk. 1). Aug. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781603819459. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603819466. HISTORICAl romance

Miller, Linda Lael. Big Sky Wedding. HQN: Harlequin. (Parable, Montana, Bk. 5). Sept. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780373777747. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY romance

Novak, Brenda. Home to Whiskey Creek. Mira: Harlequin. (Whiskey Creek, Bk. 4). Aug. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780778315422. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460316405. CONTEMPORARY romance

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewOwens, Robin D. Heart Fortune: A Celta Novel. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 372p. ISBN 9780425263938. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101604939. FUTURISTIC ROMANCE

Scott, Regina. The Courting Campaign. Love Inspired Historical: Harlequin. (Master Matchmakers, Bk. 1). Aug. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9780373829767. pap. $5.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460317341. HISTORICAL INSPIRATIONAL romance

Stuart, Anne. Never Kiss a Rake. Montlake Romance: Amazon. (Scandal at the House of Russell, Bk. 1). Aug. 2013. 276p. ISBN 9781477807323. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781477857328. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Second Time Around

Gaffney, Patricia. To Love and To Cherish. (Wyckerley Trilogy, Bk. 1). 326p.

Gaffney, Patricia. To Have and To Hold. (Wyckerley Trilogy, Bk. 2). 388p.

Gaffney, Patricia. Forever and Ever. (Wyckerley Trilogy, Bk. 3). 355p.

ea. vol: InterMix: Penguin. 2013. ebk. $6.99. HISTORICAL

Gerritsen, Tess. Keeper of the Bride. Severn House. Aug. 2013. c.256p. ISBN 9780727881229. $29.95. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

That’s So Victorian!

Remember when those words were the ultimate insults labeling something hopelessly old-fashioned? Well, wake up and smell the coffee tea—or the smelling salts, or even the opium—because the Victorian Era is suddenly cool! Or should I say hot? As LJ mystery columnist Terry Jacobsen and I discovered during one of our brainstorming sessions, Victorian England is quickly becoming a setting of choice, at least when it comes to today’s popular mysteries and romances. Naturally, the period gets different treatment in each genre, but its appearance of late made us curious. What makes this time period so special, and how does each genre deal with it?

The Victorian period is not new to romance; in fact, it spawned any number of romances, although the works of the Brontës, especially Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, are among the few still popular. The Gothic craze of the Sixties, launched by Victoria Holt’s brooding, windswept Victorian Mistress of Mellyn, guaranteed instant popularity. Although its appeal faded somewhat when the Regency period became the setting du jour for historical romance, “Victoriana” is once again in.

With its rigid social structure and restrictive behavior codes that contrast sharply with the dark sensuality of the times, the era is made to order for traditional romance, providing conventions for plucky, intrepid heroines to flout as they head off on exotic adventures, take on thorny social issues, or simply make a good match on their own terms. Betina Krahn, Sherry Thomas, Lisa Kleypas, Laura Lee Guhrke, Connie Brockway, and Victoria Alexander are some of the authors who use the setting to good effect.

Murder, mayhem, kidnappings, espionage, blackmail, and other assorted dangers (thank you, Jack the Ripper) add a suspenseful edge, as Victorian romantic mysteries with their great crossover appeal attract both romance and mystery fans. Amanda Quick, Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey series), Kat Martin (“Heart” series), Jillian Stone (“Gentlemen of Scotland Yard”), Stephanie Laurens (Where the Heart Lies), and Shannon Drake (When We Touch; Beguiled) are a few writers who have written in this vein.

Finally, one of the more intriguing uses of the period has been the appearance of romances set in alternate Victorian worlds. Vampires, werewolves, magic, alchemy, and steampunk elements are woven into a variety of mind-bending stories that will captivate fans of both romance and speculative fiction. Isabel Cooper (No Proper Lady; Lessons After Dark), Bec McMaster (“London Steampunk” series), and Kristen Callahan (“Darkest London” series) are three stellar writers to check out.

See Terry’s column (p. 60) for the mystery/suspense take on the scene.

About Kristin Ramsdell

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader's Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (Libraries Unlimited)