Great Historical Romance Novels

You don’t need me to tell you to read the Spymaster’s Lady.  After all, it was nominated for a Rita. But, I just finished the novel and I’m still humming with the passion and intrigue that electrifies every single page. So, allow me to reach through the cyber-universe, grab you by the shoulders and say, with grave sincerity, “read. this. book.”

Rather than explore the plot, gush over the characterization or reveal the cleverly concealed secrets, I’ll focus on Annique and Robert’s first kiss.

There are kisses in romance that are beautifully described. There are kisses painted so passionately the reader needs a strong beverage when she is finished reading. And, there are kisses that make the reader sigh and stare off into space, remembering her own particular shimmering moment.

Annique and Robert’s first kiss goes beyond such fribble. It’s a three paragraph kiss in a careening carriage during a moment of pure terror.  Packed into those three paragraphs is, one, the first major turning point of the romance, two, about ten pages of unspoken dialogue (subtext), three, what would normally be a full chapter of characterization and, four a scared promise to the reader of the passion that will explode once these two have a moment alone. That kiss is one of the best kisses I’ve ever read in historical romance.

If this romance is in your TBR pile, make it top priority. If you’ve already read it, read it again. And, if you haven’t bought it, well, get thee to a bookstore, and quickly go.

The clever, cheeky opening of Victoria Dahl’s A Little Bit Wild lulled me into believing I was in for a light-hearted Regency romp with a scandalous but redeemable heroine. Which, would have been fine with me. Wonderful, in fact. I love a good romp. But, A Little Bit Wild is so much more. Page by wonderful page I was drawn deeper into the hearts and minds of two of the most complicated characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

The heroine reminded me, in part, of Austen’s Emma. Like Emma, Marissa believes she understands How-the-World-Works and blissfully unconcerned by effects her actions have. Also like Emma, she is at once both sympathetic and maddening and she matures very much against her own will. Not only does the reader have the pleasure of seeing her mature, we get the chance to feel with her as she learns the difference between the pleasures of her blossoming sensual nature divorced from true feeling and the torrid passion that explodes as she finds her true nature exposed, but blissfully accepted. Take this lovely passage:

 “Marissa put her fingers to her lips as if she could hold in the emotions that pressed at her throat. Excitement and fear and joy and regret…an intense combination. In that moment, she felt almost as if she were being chased. And as if she wanted to be caught.”

As well wrought as Marissa’s transformation is, the hero places this book firmly on my top keeper shelf. Jude is sexy and engaging as the not-quite-handsome or refined but intuitive & confident foil to Marissa. I was already in love with his character when Ms. Dahl deftly changed the game. I didn’t see his crisis coming and when it did, my heart utterly broke for him.

The moment of realization for the heroine was fraught and anxious and dark–perfect and justly rendered for a heroine used to getting her way. And, by that time, I was so connected to both characters I had forgotten all their flaws and was turning pages with an internal please, please, please let them feel happiness.

Let me just say, A Little Bit Wild is as satisfying as a romance can possibly be.

I just finished reading Susanna Fraser’s debut The Sergeant’s Lady for the second time.

I don’t know where to begin talking about the book. The multi-layered conflict is gripping from page one. The prose is stark when it needs to be stark, and lush when lush is warranted. Most importantly, I will remember the characters, Anna and Will, as among my favorites in Romance.

Not many romance novelists would tell the story of Officer’s wife who is “following the drum” (traveling with her husband’s regiment during the peninsular campaign). Fewer still would be so fearlessly honest when describing her marriage gone wrong and widowhood followed by her deeply transformative relationship to a very unsuitable gentleman. I loved feeling through these characters as they struggled against their attraction and I loved watching them develop the will to fight for the love they know will sustain them.

When I write, I return to a single theme over and over: the difference between a partner the world thinks is suitable and a partner others may condemn but whose love brings light and hope to the character’s life. This story carries that theme to a deeper level.

If you enjoy novels about characters who must fight to survive and, in learning to fight, also learn to thrive, then this is a book you cannot miss.