Posts tagged “historical romance

The Girl Who Started Something New

Earlier today, Jayne Ann Krentz revealed the full cover for her upcoming novel, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (written under the pseudonym Amanda Quick) on her Facebook page.

In her next historical novel, Ms. Quick is going to take on a whole new era – the 1930s! Romantic suspense against the backdrop of old Hollywood seems like the perfect recipe for a great story, so I am very excited to see where she takes her latest novel.

The American 1930s is an era that hasn’t been explored all that much in the romance genre. Writers, like Johanna Lindsey, have taken on the Wild West – which makes for a romantic read – but Old Hollywood seems to be left mainly alone…with only some of the older novels by Anne Stuart coming to mind. In fact, Goodreads lists only a total of a little over fifty books set in this time frame – which is a very small number considering how large the romance industry actually is.

And it’s not just the American 1930s that lack exploration, but whole other eras and even countries – with that much left unwritten, imagine how many stories we’ve missed out on. Oh, the lost words!

I hope other historical romance writers begin to expand out of the Regency and Victorian eras in Britain – not that I don’t love those eras, because I do and I will always read more stories set in these times – but for those rainy days when you crave variety, it’s time to tell new stories!

Thank you Amanda Quick for taking on something new and for reminding me that there are always new stories to tell!

The ever grateful,

Rika Ashton


Review: MAD FOR PLAID by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: I received an arc copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

After reading heavy research tomes and biographies for a whole week, I was ready to dive into something lighthearted, humourous, and romantic…and where better to look than a Karen Hawkins’ novel. Her latest novel, Mad for Plaid, is everything I could have hoped for and more…

27409186Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!

After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.

He was an imposing figure with broad shoulders, thick black hair, and green eyes so dark they appeared almost black. In public, he took the character of a man of town, charming and easily amused, flirting with women one after the other, and never speaking anything political or of consequence. Indeed, most of Europe believed him a wastrel of a sort…

Mad for Plaid is by far my favourite book in the Oxenburg Princes series! It wasn’t until I started reading the novel that I realized I was waiting for Nik’s story forever. As the Crown Prince, he is very different from his brothers. Previously we learned that he is a bit of a playboy, who can be charming, but in Mad for Plaid we learn more about his true character. He has the responsibility of inheriting the kingdom, which doesn’t allow him the same choices as his brothers, but at the same time he is shown as someone who can be witty, caring, stoic, powerful, and much more. In short, he can be whatever the situation requires and this adaptability has allowed Nik to become a skilled diplomat. But, of course, this also means that no one truly knows him. As the plot unfold, we see him begin to the true facets of his character beyond the title of “Crown Prince.”

Ailsa’s hair was a darker, less noticeable ash blond, her eyes grey, her form stalwart, while her nose could only be described as “prominent.” 

Ailsa is similar to Nik in many ways. For one, her father has left the responsibilities of the estate entirely to her. And despite being young, Ailsa has shown herself capable of meeting her responsibilities. However, she is also quick tempered, creative, and has often been underestimated due to her age which has caused her to be stubborn. In part, it is Ailsa’s need to prove herself (to both her staff and herself) that she is able to run the estate, protect her people, and save Tata Natasha (who has been abducted) without the interference of her father and Nik that makes up the base of the plot.

However, eventually Nik and Ailsa do end up working together to find Tata Natasha, but that is where the mystery of her abduction takes on a plot twist…which was surprisingly well-developed with red herrings to throw the reader off track.

“My grandmother has gone missing,” [Nik] announced shortly. “Lady Ailsa believes Her Grace to have been abducted.”

Apraskin’s mouth dropped open. 

“Someone took Her Grace? On purpose?” Rurik said in obvious disbelief. 

And as in the other novels of the Oxenburg Princes series, Tata Natasha is necessary in bringing the two characters together…as her matchmaking antics have become a signature in this series.

However, my one quibble with this novel was the sudden “forbidden romance” angle. I found it an unnecessary subplot. For one, with Nik’s reputation as a wastrel in Europe, I hardly believe there would have been many eyebrows lifted should he have simply married Ailsa. And secondly, the story had enough intrigue and romance without the need for this secondary addition.

That said, I would still give this novel four our of five stars. It’s tone – both comedic and romantic – embodied summer!

RATING - 4

Mad for Plaid releases tomorrow (August 30th) in bookstores and online.

Happy reading,

Rika


Blurb Reveal: THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Amanda Quick

Edited to add (August 17, 2016): Jayne Ann Krentz tweeted me about a name change for the hero. I will edit to add the new name once we have details.

Edited to add (August 18, 2016): The hero’s new name has been added. The old name was Hutton Axton in case anyone was interested. 

I stumbled across some news about the next Amanda Quick novel by accident, but it comes from a trusted source. Get this, the next novel is titled The Girl Who Knew Too Much (which sounds amazing) and it’s set in the 1930s!

And here’s the amazing back blurb I found:

Welcome to Burning Cove, California, an idyllic small town on the coast that has become a refuge for Hollywood moguls and stars seeking privacy for scandalous trysts and wild parties…

Cordelia Carter is a reporter working undercover for Whispers, a Los Angeles based gossip tabloid. She arrives in Burning Cove on the trail of the biggest story of her career.

Oliver Ward is the new, enigmatic owner of one of the most elegant resort-spas in Burning Cove. Before he can get a read on the mysterious Cordelia, she discovers the body of a beautiful, fast-rising film star in one of the hotel spa pools. It soon becomes apparent to Oliver that Cordelia, as the first person on the scene of the murder, may be a suspect. As for Cordelia, she is convinced that the killer she’s trailing has committed murder again.

I did a little (or a big) happy dance after reading this blurb. The whole concept seems so exciting and new, but have the romantic suspense undertones that we know and love in an Amanda Quick novel.

As of now, the novel is set for a May 9, 2017 release. And, of course, because the release date is so far away some details of the book may change (title, etc)…but I hope not, because it sounds pretty exciting as it is!

Can’t wait,

Rika Ashton (aka Breaking News Reporter)


Review: THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Sabrina Jeffries‘ second installment of the Sinful Suitors series, The Study of Seduction, has hit the shelves!

25814323When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife … if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

The Study of Seduction was a pleasant surprise for me. Ms. Jeffries explores some darker issues in this novel that haven’t been discussed in her more recent works – all of which were more lighthearted. This novel has the signature Jeffries warmth and humour, but becomes a more dense, emotional read as details of Clarissa’s past are revealed.

At first, I found it difficult to relate to Clarissa – in part, because she was not behaving according to my own bias of how I thought a trauma victim would behave. However, my judgement was subconscious at first. It sound insensitive to say – and it absolutely is – which is why I needed to check myself (and throw my own biases out the window) before I began to reread the novel with a broader perspective. I have often heard that everyone reacts a different way to trauma, but I have been fortunate enough never to experience this first hand. My inexperience made me judge Clarissa, much to my shame, and forget what I have been taught about reading a work of literature from multiple perspective – and never, NEVER, judge a character by how you think they should act. (Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, but none that apply here.)

On my second read through, although I still found aspects of Clarissa’s character contradictory or even historically beyond her time, I was more able to recognize some of her behaviors as coping mechanisms for her tragedy (at least, I believed they were intentionally written as such). I found myself able to see her as a real individuals – one who does not behave according to a preset mold, but makes us question what we know about human psychology.

Very deep stuff, I know.

But on a less deep, and more superficially attractive eye-candy level, we have Edwin. (I’m not kidding…have you seen the cover model?)

In all seriousness, I found Edwin to be a decent, like-able character on both my first and second reads, but he paled in comparison to Clarissa on my second read and I found him less memorable. The amateur psychologist in me was more intrigued with analyzing aspects of Clarissa’s character on my second foray into the novel and I didn’t pay much attention to Edwin. I found him to be a pleasant (and for Clarissa, necessary) addition to the novel but less complex in terms of development.

But, who knows, this could change on my third read?

Nonetheless, based on my two reads so far, I would give this novel a solid 4 out of 5 rating.

RATING - 4

Happy reading,

Rika Ashton

(aka The Self-Credited Psychologist)


Review: WHAT HAPPENS UNDER THE MISTLETOE

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this anthology in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe is a delightful, Christmas-themed anthology perfect for snuggling up in a warm blanket on a chilly day…or any other day for that matter!

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’s delightful yuletide story, The Heiress and the Hothead.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in Twelve Kisses when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In By Any Other Name, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In Sweet Ruin, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

The book gave me a chance to return to the worlds of Karen Hawkins and Sabrina Jeffries, as well as introducing me to the newer writing styles of Meredith Duran and Candace Camp.

In “The Heiress and the Hothead” by Sabrina Jeffries, we get a closer look at Amanda Keane – sister of Jeremy Keane (from the Art of Sinning). Amanda is the owner of a cotton mill in America and her hero, Stephen, writes about the abuse of cotton mill workers in England. They are electric from the moment they meet and share a kiss under the mistletoe. The amount of history research that Ms. Jeffries packed into the novella is astounding, and yet it does not take away from the pleasure of the romantic elements in the story. The history background enhances the experience for the reader, and adds a sense of realism to the “The Heiress and the Hothead.”

Karen Hawkins’ “Twelve Kisses” is an equally delightful story. The characters Marcus and Kenna are reunited after 10 years and one stolen kiss under the mistletoe proves that these two have some unfinished business. Despite the short length of the novella, Ms. Hawkins is able to inject her signature humour and wit into a Scottish romance.The romance of the two characters is helped along with the aid of a fairy godmother – none other that the Grand Duchess from the Oxenburg series – who will make a fortune of her cupid-esque skills one day.

Candace Camp’s “By Any Other Name” is an entertaining read. It features a case of mistaken identity, but will with a lighter twist. The heroine, Rylla Campbell, sneaks away dressed in her brother’s clothes, who she is searching for. She meets with misfortune when leaving a gaming club during her search and is rescued by the hero, Gregory. It’s love at first sight for the hero – a refreshing change – but it’s not so easy for him to win Rylla’s love in return (an interesting prospect for the reader because it proves to be delightfully entertaining).

In “Sweet Ruin” by Meredith Duran, a story about a bluestocking daughter of a peer and a commoner, we have a tale of epic proportions. The distinct social backgrounds of the characters provides an engaging backdrop for the tale of a a stolen letter and a diplomatic mission. The story is engaging and full of witty banter. However, it’s short length let me wanting more.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a light holiday read that will leave you with a feel-good mood!

RATING - 4


Review: THE PRINCE AND I by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

A Robin Hood retelling with a twist! Karen Hawkins‘ latest installment in the Oxenburg series, The Prince and I, features a colourful cast of characters…

Gregori Romanovin, Oxenburg’s warrior prince, is escorting his grandmother to a house party deep in the Highlands when he and his entourage are robbed at sword point by a group of ruffians led by a man the locals have dubbed “The Scottish Robin Hood.” The battle-savvy prince instantly realizes there’s something different about this thief, and it’s not just the Scottish accent—it’s the fact that “he” is really a “she.”

Lady Murian, a young widow out for revenge against the powerful earl who killed her husband and stole his birthright, is now living in the woods with her family’s banished retainers. To stay alive, she and her band of men rob rich nobles coming to visit the evil earl. But when she ambushes the Prince of Oxenburg’s golden coach, she gets far more than she expected. For when the prince uncovers her true identity, she’s afraid that he might be the real thief…of her heart.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Prince Gregori – the scarred warrior prince of Oxenburg’s story, and The Prince and I  delivers an entertaining backstory. Prince Gregori was the highlight of the novel for me. He is an impressive character, who is loyal to both his family and later to Muriel as well. Although described as physically strong and heroic, he’s a realistic character who admits his faults and can actually apologize for when he becomes a bit high-handed:

Max looked past her to the village where his men worked, and suddenly he saw it through her eyes. Who was he to ride into her village like some arrogant knight on a white horse and, without consulting her or anyone else, “fix” everything in sight?

“I should have asked. I’m sorry.”

Gregori was a refreshing character. Funny and witty…he’s not easily fooled by anyone, especially not the villain of the novel. Though a renowned war hero and a prince, his retains his humour and does not view everything with cynicism.

Muriel was also an interesting character. Her actions as “Robin Hood” would certainly have been more entertaining for me if Gregori hadn’t stolen the show. There is nothing wrong with Muriel as a heroine. She’s a sympathetic character, who takes fate into her own hands and takes measure to rescue herself and her loved ones from their circumstances. She portrays her loyalty in a myriad of ways and she is creative and ingenious.

But…

Gregori!

He literally stole the show from his own love interest – at least for me. From the second Gregori and his grandmother appeared on the scene in their carriage to the moments later when they were getting held up by highwaymen, his character literally leapt off the page.

The supporting cast and their subplots, especially Tata Natasha’s were captivating in there own way, but truly no one captivated me in quite the same way as Prince Gregori of Oxenburg!

For him alone, I name this a great summer read!

RATING - 4


Blurb Reveal: TILL DEATH DO US PART by Amanda Quick

When I read book news, there are few things that get me as excited as reading about an upcoming Amanda Quick release! I recently came across a blurb for the third book in the Ladies of Lantern Street series, Till Death Do Us Part, on Goodreads and I just had to share the news with you all!

Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

The novel is slated for release on April 19th, 2016 – yes, 2016 – so we have quite a wait ahead of us…

On a side note, who else is psyched for the upcoming release of Siren’s Call under Ms. Quick’s pen name Jayne Castle on July 28th?

Rika Ashton

(aka Lantern Street Resident)


Review: THE ART OF SINNING by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher. (Also, beware of spoilers…maybe…)

What happens when you pair an American artist who looks like Adonis with an opinionated, but kindhearted lady of the ton? Well, nothing less than a masterpiece called The Art of Sinning to be sure!

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

The first book in Sabrina Jeffries new series, Sinful Suitors, is certainly a work of art…not to mention that cover! (Is anybody else falling deeper in love with Jeremy just staring at the cover?)

But, truthfully, Jeremy is more than just a pretty face. He’s witty, charming, wicked, and not to mention, downright hilarious at times. Though he is rumoured to be a rakehell, Jeremy proves himself to be a decent and (contrary to his own opinion of himself) selfless.

Yvette is an equally “arresting” character. Wary of rogues and men in general, Yvette is skeptical of Jeremy’s intentions.

Mr. Keane’s warm gaze poured over her like honey. “I don’t recall ever seeing you at my exhibit. Trust me, I would have remembered.”

A shiver danced down her spine before she could steel herself against reacting. Very nicely done. She’d have to be on her toes with this one. “We attended it in the morning. I daresay you were still lying foxed in some gaming hell or nunnery.”

“Good God, here we go,” Edwin [Yvette’s  brother] muttered under his breath,  recognizing the vulgar slang for bawdy house.

“I am rarely foxed and never in a nunnery,” Mr. Keane retorted, “for fear that it might tempt the ‘nuns’ to bite me.”

“I should love to know what you consider ‘rarely,'” Yvette said. “That you even know that ‘bite’ means ‘cheat’ in street cant shows how you must spend your days.”

“And how you must spend yours,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “After all, you know the terms, too.”

Though Yvette and Jeremy have a mutual attraction to one another, they each hold back for different reasons. Yvette is wary of rogues in general because of both the scandal that haunts her family and her own past. Likewise, Jeremy is also haunted my the memories of his first marriage and home. And, though, Jeremy’s past is shaded with death, I still felt that Yvette’s past was more heartbreaking – especially after the full truth is revealed towards the end of the novel. It went completely against my expectations of a family reunion – and it showed how much of a scoundrel Yvette’s disowned brother, Samuel, truly was. Samuel is, in some ways, the true villain of this novel even though his is not physically present on the story.

But it goes to show that a well-written villain still has the ability to manipulate others, even from a distance.

It isn’t until they individually overcome their pasts that Jeremy and Yvette can admit what they feel for the other. Both characters grow stronger in the course of the narrative and the reader is witness to both a tale of friendship and love.

Speaking of friendship, the growing bromance between Jeremy and Edwin was equally as touching (and funny) as the interactions between Jeremy and Yvette. Brought together by their individual wariness (aka fear) of their sisters, Edwin and Jeremy decide to open their own club…but that is a tale for another time. (No, really, Ms. Jeffries should write a novel based solely on the interaction between these two because they are so entertaining….it’s like watching a sketch comedy!)

The Art of Sinning is an imaginary masterpiece that combines humour and romance, and is home to a cast of characters with honourable intentions – some of which are hilariously misguided. A summer must-read!

RATING - 5 And look out for Edwin’s novel, The Study of Seduction, soon!

Study of Seduction

Rika Ashton

(aka Jeremy’s Muse – though he knows it not!)


Cover Reveal: COLD-HEARTED RAKE by Lisa Kleypas

We have a quick cover reveal for Lisa Kleypas‘ upcoming historical novel – SQUEEEEEE! – Cold-Hearted Rake:

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?

Anyone else looking forward to this one?

Rika Ashton

(aka Brief Blogger…”Oh Gods, I just realized how that sounded!”)


Lisa Kleypas…Back in the Land of Historical Romance

If you thought my four month-ish break from blogging was something…then what do you have to say about Lisa Kleypas‘ FIVE YEAR break from historical romance…what?

Five years!

But what I’ve been hearing and reading of her upcoming novel, Cold-Hearted Rake, seems to have made the wait worth it (though it’s not officially over till October).

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny-and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?

I did read somewhere that the heroine’s name was Diana, but my reviewer site (which has yet to let me down) and this blurb is officially calling her Kathleen…but anything could happen till October I guess.

Did I mention that this book releases in October?

October!!!

Argh!

Rika Ashton

(aka The NOT Very Patient)