J’adore Elizabeth Hoyt! Her latest novel, Lord of Darkness, lived up to my high expectations. Godric St. John has a secret. He is the infamous Ghost of St. Giles and he spends his time fighting crime in a dangerous slum. Godric has a wife named Margaret but the marriage is one of convenience and the St. Johns lead totally separate lives. Both Godric and Margaret lost their first loves and neither believes they will ever love again. But when Margaret decides she wants a baby she moves in with her husband to make it happen. When they begin to develop romantic feelings for each other it is a surprise to them both. Lord of Darkness really hit the spot for me. The book is richly atmospheric, romantic and sexy. I devoured the novel in close to one sitting and highly recommend it.
My recommendation this week is Deeanne Gist’s Love on the Line. While conducting an undercover investigation, Texas Ranger Luke Palmer poses as a telephone repairman. The position gives him an excuse to get to know almost everyone in the area in which he suspects an infamous gang of train robbers hides. Switchboard operator Georgie Gail has been solely in charge of the region’s telephone office and isn’t thrilled when her authority is usurped. Despite that tension, as Luke and Georgie get to know each other they fall in love. Things get complicated because Luke can’t tell Georgie who he really is. Moreover, he doesn’t feel he can get married as long as he has the job he has. This novel was a pleasure to read. I found it to be sweet, stylish, emotional, and romantic. I was rooting for Georgie’s and Luke’s happily-ever-after throughout the story and found the ending both surprising and gratifying.
Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride is a wonderfully dear story about five lonely, down-on-their-luck women who make a connection and decide to create their own family. The romance is a secondary plot and in some cases that might be a deal-breaker for me – this is a romance recommendation blog, after all. Yet, The Autumn Bride is absolutely a love story – it’s just that, for me, it was primarily about friendship and family. Abigail Chantry, her biological sister, and two other young women are all in dire straits. They band together, believing they are stronger together than apart, and declare themselves sisters. Soon they meet another distressed soul: Lady Beatrice Davenham, a sick and shockingly neglected elderly woman. Beatrice offers the girls a home, they offer her care and soon the family has grown to five. By the time Max, Beatrice’s long-absent nephew comes to town, Beatrice is referring to the girls as her nieces. Max is convinced Abigail is taking advantage of his elderly aunt. Sparks fly as Max and Abigail try to deal with each other and soon they find themselves falling in love. The romance felt a little rushed to me, but like I said, it really wasn’t what I loved about the novel. I found the women’s story moving, beautiful and current – the ‘non-traditional’ family the women create for themselves is every bit as valuable as any other family – and that’s a point worth making. Ms. Gracie does so with her usual charming style and I definitely recommend this novel.
Alison Atlee’s The Typewriter Girl was on my e-reader moments after reading a review of the novel. Jennie at the Dear Author Blog wrote “The book is marketed as historical fiction rather than romance, but I will go out on a limb and say that even though it’s only January, The Typewriter Girl is easily one of the most romantic books I’ll read all year.” The description sold me immediately – I am always on the hunt for stories that are truly romantic and they can be hard to find.
Betsey Dobson is a smart, capable, tenacious woman who also seems to be a perennial screw-up – this is in part due to her own poor choices but mainly due to the impossible restrictions and lack of opportunity an unmarried woman in Victorian England had to deal with. A rare and wonderful professional opportunity comes her way when John Jones sees her potential and offers her a job as the excursions manager at a resort by the sea. John is an ambitious optimist and sees straight through Betsey’s circumstance to her core strength and goodness. Sometimes he sees her more clearly than she sees herself and his faith in her gives her the boost she needs to take on new challenges when her self-confidence wavers. The romance between John and Betsey develops slowly – their strong mutual attraction is an unwanted complication for both of them. I don’t want to say more and risk spoiling the novel for you, but I will say that the book is engrossing, moving, and has a wonderfully satisfying ending.
Teresa Medeiros’ The Temptation of Your Touch is a lot of fun. Cadgwyck Manor is haunted by a ghost – the terrifying White Lady of Cadgwyck has managed to scare away every person who has purchased the house for years. That is until Max Burke arrives, much to housekeeper Anne Spencer’s dismay. Anne and a motley group of servants have their reasons for not wanting the owner of the estate on the premises and they try to make Max’s stay unpleasant, hoping he will leave as soon as possible. Max doesn’t scare easily, however, and is soon absorbed by the mysteries he encounters at Cadgwyck Manor. The romance between Max and Anna unfurls slowly. Neither is looking for love and both are punishing themselves for past mistakes. Each sees the good in the other more easily than they see it in themselves. Ms. Medeiros’ writing is smart, wonderfully charming, a little bit wacky, and heavily laced with humor. I always enjoy reading her books and The Temptation of Your Touch was no exception.
I was in the mood for something different this week and noticed Kaki Warner’s Runaway Brides series is on Smexy Books’ recommendation list. I almost never read westerns and had never read one of Ms. Warner’s books before. I am now a huge fan of hers – I started with Heartbreak Creek and devoured the novel in close to one sitting. Edwina Ladoux is at the end of her rope in the war-torn South. She answers an ad for a mail-order bride and is soon married by proxy to Declan Brodie, a widower with four children. It’s a wild gamble for both of them and neither is pleased when Edwina arrives at his ranch in Colorado. Declan needs someone who can work hard at his ranch and Edwina is a seemingly useless, pampered miss. Edwina sees Declan as a silent, severe giant and his children are hooligans. More drama is added to the mix when a madman hell-bent on destroying Declan’s life starts making trouble. I enjoyed every page of this book and the ending is very satisfying. There are many intriguing secondary characters including the protagonists of the next two books in the Runaway Brides series which I am really looking forward to reading.
Gaelen Foley’s The Duke has been on my to-be-read list for ages. Certain books sit on my bookshelf for years, picked up on occasion and then put back down in favor of something else. For some reason The Duke was one of those books for me, even though I have heard nothing but good things about it. I am so glad I finally read it and will now look forward to reading more of Ms. Foley’s work. The novel tells the tale of Robert Knight and Belinda Hamilton. He is a wealthy, straight-laced Duke and she is a much sought-after courtesan. They have an enemy in common and get together to try to bring the man to justice. The chemistry between Robert and Belinda sizzles and soon the unlikely pair find themselves falling in love. Robert and Belinda are loveable and the story moves at a good pace. I was immediately sucked in to this novel, read it straight through, and highly recommend it.
Erin Knightley’s A Taste for Scandal was the good part of an otherwise really crappy week for me because I was battling the flu. In between bouts of shivering in bed I escaped into the charming world Ms. Knightley created. The novel tells the tale of Jane and Richard who meet one day when Richard mistakenly thinks Jane is in danger and tries to save her. Richard crashes into Jane’s bakery like a raging bull and attacks a man he believes is threatening Jane, causing much havoc and destruction. He is absolutely shocked when it turns out he has not saved her from trouble but has been the cause of it. The misunderstanding does not get these two off to a good start and differences in their social classes ensure the road to their happily-ever-after is not a smooth one. I found A Taste for Scandal to be romantic, emotional, and sweet. I was rooting for the couple through every page and found the ending satisfying. (I also really enjoyed reading the scenes describing the pre-appliance baking process and have a new appreciation for my electric mixer!)
Candice Hern is on my auto-buy list and has been ever since I read her Merry Widows series a few years ago. This week I read her latest: a short story called Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure. Ms. Hern writes heartwarming, charming romance and this story is no exception. Ann sneaks out for one last adventure before doing her duty and marrying a man she doesn’t know, but to whom she has been promised since childhood. As she makes her escape from her father’s house, Ann gets stuck in a tree. A charismatic, handsome stranger rescues her and they end up spending the day together. The story is only about 12,000 words, so I can’t say more without giving too much away. I will say, however, that if you’re in the mood for short and sweet, this story will really satisfy.
I came across a recommendation for Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret Countess (first published as A Countess Below Stairs) on the National Public Radio website in an essay called Don’t Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance. I had never heard of Ms. Ibbotson before but I am always on the hunt for new-to-me authors and downloaded the book to my e-reader within minutes. I really enjoyed the novel and am recommending it with a caveat: the book does not really qualify for the romance genre because the romance is only a very small part of the overall story. Nonetheless, The Secret Countess is a gas – chock full of well-rendered characters who all have their own wild agendas which are all neatly resolved by the final page. The Secret Countess takes place right after World War I. Anna, an impoverished Russian Countess, finds work as a maid in the home of Rupert, an engaged Earl who must marry for money to save his estate. Anna and Rupert inconveniently fall in love with each other even though they know their love can never be. Like I said, the love story is not the focus of the novel, so if you’re in the mood for a strong romance this is not the book for you. But it is a very enjoyable story and I do recommend it. Happy New Year, everyone!