Historical romance is my jam. Georgette Heyer, queen and founding mother of the regency romance, was the first romance author I ever read with purpose (to this day, my bookshelves are stacked with Heyer paperbacks so worn they must be held together with rubber bands). Oh, I’ll flirt with other sub-genres—I have my favorite contemporary authors, and I did just go on that two-month-long paranormal binge, but I always come back to the historical. So I was surprised to discover, when I consulted the Seattle Public Library’s Romance Genre’s Checklist, how many of the sub-sub-genres I had somehow overlooked. For one thing, apparently approximately 85% of everything I read takes place in a twenty-year time span. For another, I really need to get off the island of Great Britain once in a while.
World War II
Pioneer/ Cowboy/ 1800’s American West
Men in Kilts
Because it turns out that historical romance really takes place over a much-larger-than-twenty-year time span, I’m splitting the historical post in half. This week I’ll be covering Regency, Middle Ages, World War Two, Men in Kilts, and Asian. Oh, and I’ve decided to change the format of these round-ups. Instead of finding any book that meets the criteria and reviewing it, the books you’ll find in this series from here on out are going to be ones I recommend.
On to the books!
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean
A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.
This book is my recommendation of choice when trying to sell people on the romance genre. MacLean is a hilarious writer, the sex scenes are smokin’, and her heroines are adventuresome and fun. Nine Rules is a particular favorite of mine, and its hero, Ralston, seems to be a new entry into a lot of people’s favorite heroes lists.
The Phantom Bride (previously Of Midnight Born), by Lisa Cach
IN SEARCH OF
Alex Woding had come seeking peace. And though the young astronomer was thrilled to discover a place where he could pursue his passion undisturbed, he had another motive for seeking out Maiden Castle. There, in his youth, Alex had glimpsed a beauty that had haunted him ever since. Staring now into the evening sky, the gentleman saw again the reason for his return.
For five hundred years Serena had been a ghost--since the days of the Black Prince--and she had never known peace. But watching the keep's handsome new tenant, happiness was easy to imagine. Which made her all the more determined to drive him away. Alex made Serena burn to be flesh once more, to revel in a touch she'd once reviled. He made her dream that she could be saved, for there was no power greater than that of love, even one Of Midnight Born.
I have to be honest—I usually steer clear of romance novels set in the Middle Ages. It’s the lice. And the dirt. And the disease. I even have trouble with the Renaissance. Too much bubonic plague, ya know? And rats. Don’t like them either.
That said, I actually have a great book to recommend here, and it’s one we’ve mentioned before: The Phantom Bride, by Lisa Cach. It’s set in two time periods—the Middle Ages and the 1800’s—and I think Cach does a great job of bringing both eras to life for the reader. The Phantom Bride is a powerfully imaginative book, and it’s stuck with me both because of its unconventional romance and because of its underlying sweetness.
World War Two
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach--an "outlander"--in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Okay, okay, yes, most of this book is set in 18th century Scotland. And yes, its status as a romance novel is continually in question (I don’t really think there’s much doubt that Outlander itself, the first book in the series, qualifies). But World War Two is in many ways present throughout the book—both in the beginning, which takes place shortly after the end of the war, and in how the heroine reacts to her new environment.
And now there’s a show! By the guy who did Battlestar Galactica! And the first episode is surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly?) good. And here’s a fun picture, for your viewing pleasure.
Rogue with a Brogue, by Suzanne Enoch
A Rogue For Every Lady
London, 1817: Stuck in a Mayfair ballroom, thanks to his lovestruck brother, Highlander Arran MacLawry wants nothing but a bit of distraction from an arranged betrothal—and a clever auburn-haired lass in a vixen's mask promises just that . . . until he discovers that she's the granddaughter of the Campbell, chief of clan MacLawry's longtime rival. Despite their families' grudging truce, falling for fiery Mary Campbell is a notion too outlandish even for this Highlander…
The Thrill Of The Forbidden
Raised on tales of savage MacLawrys, Mary is stunned to realize the impressively strapping man in the fox's mask is one of them. Surely the enemy shouldn't have such a broad chest, and such a seductive brogue? Not that her curiosity matters—any dalliance between them is strictly forbidden, and she's promised to another. But with the crackling spark between them ready to catch flame, love is worth every risk…
Since I’ve already burned through Outlander, probably the most famous Scottish romance of all time, it’s a good thing we just reviewed another excellent Scottish historical! This is a totally adorable story that does the whole hunky men in kilts thing right.
My Beautiful Enemy, by Sherry Thomas
In this spellbinding romance by the acclaimed author of The Luckiest Lady in London, a beautiful and cunning woman meets her match in a man just as dangerous and seductive as she is, putting both her heart and her future at risk…
Hidden beneath Catherine Blade’s uncommon beauty is a daring that matches any man’s. Although this has taken her far in the world, she still doesn’t have the one thing she craves: the freedom to live life as she chooses. Finally given the chance to earn her independence, who should be standing in her way but the only man she’s ever loved, the only person to ever betray her.
Despite the scars Catherine left him, Captain Leighton Atwood has never been able to forget the mysterious girl who once so thoroughly captivated him. When she unexpectedly reappears in his life, he refuses to get close to her. But he cannot deny the yearning she reignites in his heart.
Their reunion, however, plunges them into a web of espionage, treachery, and deadly foes. With everything at stake, Leighton and Catherine are forced to work together to find a way out. If they are ever to find safety and happiness, they must first forgive and learn to trust each other again…
You guys. YOU GUYS. This book.
First, look for a review on it next week. Once I’ve stopped squeeing and can put some reasonable paragraphs together.
What you need to know: it features a Chinese-English heroine, it’s split between London and Chinese Turkestan (today the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), and it’s amazing. The richness of the detail (Thomas is herself Chinese), the depth of the characters, the fun of it all, the emotional tension… In short, if you read one romance novel this month, please make it My Beautiful Enemy.