Review of “Rogue Most Wanted” (Cavensham Heiresses #5) by Janna MacGregor

MacGregor, Janna. Rogue Most Wanted. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250295996 | 371 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

I didn’t know what to expect from Rogue Most Wanted, since Lord Will Cavensham did not make the strongest impression in prior books, aside from one particularly fiery scene between him and Emma in The Bride Who Got Lucky. But I was pleasantly surprised with him in this one. While he is in no way a “rogue” as the title suggests, that only makes him even easier to fall for, especially as he finds himself falling in love again while still recovering from the damage wrought by a long-ago heartbreak.

But Thea is who really had me excited, given that I was aware of some female peeresses, but hadn’t seen many of them represented in historical romance. I wholeheartedly rooted for her to succeed in claiming the earldom and taking charge of the estate she loved so much, and my heart broke for her when she contemplated marriage to her rival to not only preserve her claim, but save her tenants as well.

On that note, I love that MacGregor really did her homework when it came to the nuances of inheritance law. I feel like lots of writers shirk doing serious research, and readers don’t care, because they are under the impression that history is boring. However, MacGregor manages to blend history and fiction masterfully, leaving me, a Regency reader who had thought she had studied the period extensively and as a result came to view some Regency romances with cynicism, learning something new not only about that, but about the more minute societal details as well.

This series just gets better and better, and I can’t wait for the next book (or two?) for what’s coming next. I know Avalon and Devan’s book has already been announced, and the way they interact with each other in this one already gives me high hopes (“Lady Warlock!” xD) I also hope that the writer of the Midnight Cryer gets what’s coming to him soon, given that all his ridiculous scribblings made me wish some sort of suit for slander would be in his future…and MacGregor has announced he’ll have his own book, so I’m equally excited there!

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Review of “Midnight on the River Grey” by Abigail Wilson

Wilson, Abigail. Midnight on the River Grey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0785224129 | 323 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

4 stars

I was excited to get around to Midnight on the River Grey, given that I really enjoyed Abigail Wilson’s debut novel. And while I enjoyed this one marginally less than the first, I still found it a pretty solid read overall.

The characters took a bit longer to grow on me this time around, especially Rebecca, since I wasn’t really sure what to think of her. But she and Lewis endeared themselves to me over the course of the book, as both let their walls come down. Lewis admittedly took a bit less time for me to get attached to, which is funny, as we’re never in his head, but despite the doubts sowed by other characters, he is always presented in his interactions with Rebecca as a good person who is trying to do the best he can.

As a heroine, Rebecca was much more immature than Wilson’s prior book’s naive heroine, and while her motivations for not wanting to marry had interesting, due to a perception of inherited madness, the reveal of the true source of her mother’s madness further highlights this. I mean, I know it was common for women to be kept somewhat ignorant in that period, but even the way the reveal was addressed suggested that she should have known. Nevertheless, I still admired her for her bravery and determination to solve the murders.

On that note, kudos to Wilson for a well-crafted mystery with an ending that I did not see coming. Like her previous effort, she had me suspecting everyone, and when the answers were revealed, my jaw dropped at the unexpected nature of it, yet how it all made sense with the clues planted earlier in the book.

This was a delightfully fast-paced and suspenseful read, only further cementing Abigail Wilson as one of my new favorite authors. And I once again recommend this to fans of romantic historical mysteries.

Review of “For the Duke’s Eyes Only” (School For Dukes #2) by Lenora Bell

Bell, Lenora. For the Duke’s Eyes Only. New York: Avon Books, 2018.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062692498 | 368 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

For the Duke’s Eyes Only is yet another book that got sadly lost in my TBR over the past several months, and it’s really a shame, because Lenora Bell is one of the handful of authors in historical romance who continues to give me absolute pleasure. And it’s no different this time around, with her blend of the treasure hunting exploits of Indiana Jones with the espionage of James Bond.

India is an absolutely lovable, feisty heroine. I love her independence and daring, and she’s absolutely someone I’d love as a best friend. And while I wasn’t completely sure about Daniel at first, given that he seemed cut from a similar cloth from some other roguish dukes, it mostly being a cover notwithstanding, I really admired that the reason he chose the life he did was in an attempt to right the wrongs done to his father. And as much as I hate the trend of pairing a domineering duke with a heroine with a ton of spine, I do admit that this is a case where I feel the balance actually works, and I love that they have a dynamic that highlights how they’re equals in spite of any societal inequalities based on gender, a topic which is tackled wonderfully here.

This is yet further proof that Lenora Bell is a great author, and despite still being fairly new to the game, an author well worth reading. I would recommend her and this book especially to any historical romance fans who haven’t tried her yet.

Review of “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson

Wilson, Abigail. In the Shadow of Croft Towers. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0785223665 | 324 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

5 stars

I bought In the Shadow of Croft Towers on a whim after seeing an ad for it on Facebook, and looking to try another new Christian Regency author…although of course, it did inevitably end up sitting on my TBR shelf a bit longer than I am proud of, something which I now regret. Abigail Wilson crafts a strong Christian Regency mystery that could easily rival her read-alike authors, Julie Klassen and Sarah E. Ladd (the latter of whom also provided a blurb for the book, describing it as “mysterious and wonderfully atmospheric…full of danger, intrigue, and secrets.”

And that pretty much sums up this book to a tee. Wilson perfectly captures the landscape of the mysterious Croft Towers, making it come to life as a character in its own right, rife with many secrets. And as the back cover blurb suggests, there is a sense of unease throughout, as I was left feeling incredibly unsure of who to trust as I (and Sybil) encountered them, although there were some I became attached to as she did, and began to root for. And while the villains have done bad things, I like that they aren’t cardboard cutout bad, and that there is a way to kind of see things from their perspective to an extent, even if their actions are morally wrong.

Sybil also has a great character arc that fits both with the context of the period and her circumstances and the conventions of the semi-Gothic narrative, starting more naive and then growing more brave over time as revelations are uncovered, and she’s faced with some pivotal choices.

This was an enjoyable debut historical, and I am excited to pick up her next one in just a few more days to see what she does next. And as I mentioned prior, I would recommend this to Julie Klassen and Sarah E. Ladd fans looking for another solid read-alike, or to romantic Regency mystery fans.

Review of “A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh” (Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley #1) by Carolyn Miller

Miller, Carolyn. A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0825445897 | 316 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

4 stars

A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh is a great start to Carolyn Miller’s latest Regency Brides sub-series. And while it’s not my favorite of Miller’s books, it has all the hallmarks of her work, including rich period detail and examination of deeper issues in a historical context.

Caroline and Gideon are both interesting characters. I really enjoyed the exploration of Gideon’s love and science and how he negotiated that alongside his faith, a topic which Miller noted she had in mind when working on the book. And while Caroline was a bit less interesting to me at first, I was somewhat moved by her spiritual growth.

One of my favorite aspects, however, was the subplot around Emma and domestic violence. It’s handled delicately although I did kind of want it to be resolved a bit differently to give her her own story sometime down the road with the person she ended up with, although I understand that it might not work with Miller’s series as outlined, and delaying it to the next one (if another spinoff is in the pipeline once this one finishes) might not work for other reasons.

This is a heartwarming Regency romance, and one that I would recommend to all Regency fans.

Review of “A Duke in Disguise” (Regency Impostors #2) by Cat Sebastian

Sebastian, Cat. A Duke in Disguise. New York: Avon Impulse, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $5.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062821614 | 291 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

Cat Sebastian strikes again, returning to form with another solid read with A Duke in Disguise, after the near-miss of her last release, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score. And admittedly, a lot of it has to do with the heroine, Verity, one of the most personally compelling Sebastian characters I’ve read about to date. She was a nice surprise, and hearing about her being bisexual in some of the promotional material led me to go from “maybe I’ll check it out if I like Unmasked by the Marquess” to “OMG, I’m so excited to finally see more bi rep, especially in the context of the fact that ending up with someone of the opposite sex not erasing the fact that this person is bi.”

And it completely blew away my expectations in my regard. I feel like there’s such different expectations for queer women than there are for queer men in socially conscious historicals, because of the fact that men were more frequently criminalized in those days. Still, it’s so fascinating to see someone who isn’t confused about who she is or who she’s attracted to, even to the point of assuming everyone else feels the same way, but just goes with the opposite sex due to societal pressure. And it’s great that Verity is a woman with a sexual past, making her stand out from the flock of virginal heroines, and her past lover is someone that readers of UbtM will recognize (although there are no connections to that book other than that, so this is for all intents and purposes a standalone).

Another factor in my adoring the book is the friends-to-lovers dynamic, and how it’s shaken up by Ash’s discoveries about his origins. Ash is one of those heroes I love, who is incredibly sweet, and I loved the genuine bond that he and Verity share, and I genuinely felt for them when it seemed impossible for them to be together without there being some consequences.

The book also feels like one of the most “historical” of Sebastian’s books, if that makes any sense, dealing with topics of the day that would be relevant to the characters like the gothic novel craze and issues surrounding equal rights. It’s so refreshing to read a historical romance that is well-grounded in its era and aims to provide the reader with some enlightenment, as well as provide an escape, as the former is becoming all to rare these days.

I do have some minor quibbles with the climax and the way the villain was built up to not be much of a threat in the end. It all wrapped up a little too quickly, and I felt he had been built up too much to just go out without really having some kind of final showdown with Ash.

Otherwise, this was a great book, and a great blend of discussing more complex issues in the context of a sweet and gripping romance. I would recommend this to fans of a more unique take on historical romance.

Review of “The Bride of Ivy Green” (Tales from Ivy Hill #3) by Julie Klassen

Klassen, Julie. The Bride of Ivy Green. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2018.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764218170 | 444 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

5 stars

Sometimes you just need a comfort read, and this was one of those times, with some stressful real life stuff going on, and feeling agitated with some of the other things I attempted to pick up for various reasons. So, I finally decided to soak into Julie Klassen’s most recent book and the conclusion of her Tales from Ivy Hill series, The Bride of Ivy Green.

And I received just the comfort and escape I craved. Despite it being over a year since I’ve spent time with these characters and I did find myself a bit fuzzy on some of the details of the last two books, I quickly was able to engross myself in their lives again. And I remembered why I looked forward to this one, because Mercy was a character I had rooted for since the beginning, and I was excited to see how she would overcome some of the obstacles in her way.

And she did so beautifully, especially in the face of an incredibly antagonistic sister-in-law, who along with her brother, played a major role in destroying the livelihood she had been so proud of in the last two books. And to see her become fulfilled again not just professionally, but also romantically was beautiful.

And Klassen once again crafts a love triangle that is so endearing in the fact that the characters are all such good people, or if they have made mistakes in the past, are working to atone for them. As with the prior books in the series, I had a feeling about who I wanted Mercy to end up with, but I could also see the merits in her other love interest as well.

And I loved the focus on reunited families in this book as well. Jane, for one, is on the verge of marrying Gabriel Locke, when she is reunited with her father, and it was great to see how things played out with the secrets of his other life coming out. And given his involvement in India and having formed a whole other life there, I appreciated that Klassen did her research, and wrote what (to my perspective at least) feels like well-rounded portrayals of Indian people and the complex relationship they had with England at the time.

There was also another instance of reunited family which was foreshadowed from the first book, coming to fruition with a story arc around a new arrival in Ivy Hill. I enjoyed seeing it play out, trying to figure out this newcomer’s connection to it all, although admittedly I would have figured it out a little faster if I had more recently read the other books and had the other puzzle pieces fresh in my mind.

This was a great conclusion to the series, concluding all the most relevant plot threads, but still leaving me feeling sad to leave them behind. And it definitely filled the void I was feeling for something that was heartwarming, but also featured a dash of intrigue. I would enthusiastically recommend this to other Regency and period piece fans, especially if you happy to love some of the works Klassen has compared this to, like Cranford,. Larkrise to Candleford, or Thrush Green.

Review of “The Lady Hellion” (Wicked Deceptions #3) by Joanna Shupe

Shupe, Joanna. The Lady Hellion. New York: Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp., 2015.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420135565 | 338 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

Joanna Shupe is an author I admired for her choice to go in a different direction with her Gilded Age romances, but I waited a while to get into her first series set in the Regency for a couple reasons, the chief one being the way some reviewers described the heroes of books one and two made them seem less than flattering, so therefore, even this book, which sounded promising, ended up falling by the wayside due to my determination to rarely read out of order. However, in my search for exciting historicals to read, I finally picked up The Lady Hellion, and feel happy that I did so.

It definitely has a bit of an odd premise, even in the context of my limited understanding of the series pitch as a whole. But it’s one of those books that seems improbable, yet charming. I loved seeing Sophie’s dedication to helping the poor, with a special interest in the prostitutes in a brothel, especially as misfortune begins befalling them. It was fun to see a heroine wearing trousers who could shoot a gun, but also had insecurities and vulnerabilities from her past that get explored in the most beautiful and heartbreaking way.

However, Quint was the real draw for me, as he was pitched in some of the reviews I’ve read as dealing with some sort of anxiety disorder, which I always find fascinating to see translated into a historical context, before more correct medical terms were assigned to different psychological conditions. He’s a recluse often characterized as being insane, and I could identify with his fears regarding the possibility that he would go mad in a similar manner to his father, especially given that he was a witness to his father’s descent into madness.

And the relationship between the two is just beautiful, hitting all the elements I love in a romance, and more. I love that they had this history of friendship that turned to love, and that I truly felt there were obstacles in the way of their happiness that they had to work through together. And one of the things that I’ve really grown to appreciate recently was the sex positivity. It’s not something that is completely alien to the historical romance genre where a woman has been violated sexually or betrayed following the act itself (as was the case here), but I loved having Quint show Sophie that she is desirable to a man for more than her virtue, and that she is allowed to feel passion.

This book was a wonderful read that has a lot of heart, yet doesn’t feel overly intense, and has lovely characters at the forefront. It’s definitely a book that any historical romance fans should consider picking it up if they have not already.

Review of “What a Lord Wants” (Capturing the Carlisles #5) by Anna Harrington

Harrington, Anna. What a Lord Wants. New York: NYLA, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1798484678 | 309 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

What a Lord Wants is a nice conclusion(?) to the Carlisles’ series, although I admit at first I completely forgot how this was meant to be a Carlisles’ book in the first place. Thankfully, this is explained for the most part, and, due to having the loosest connection to the other books (with the exception of book 3, with this book’s heroine and that one being sisters), it can more or less stand alone.

This book felt oddly paced to me at first, and I found myself boggled at my lack of investment in comparison to others’ glowing reviews for it. I could feel the romantic tension right away, but I wasn’t sure I connected with Dom or Eve until at least halfway through the book. There were things I enjoyed, like being enmeshed in the world of art at the time, and I liked that Eve, in spite of being enveloped in scandal, was unafraid of risking another when she found herself in one, but still, I was fully prepared to drag my way through it, which would not do any favors toward my perspective on the current stale state of the genre.

But somewhere after that halfway point, it got better for me, and I started to formulate what was wrong, along with seeing things be solved for me. And the crux of the issue was Dom’s dual persona. I’m not the biggest fan of heroes who put up walls for whatever reason, and while I found it to be a new take, it did not endear me to him, especially since I felt the solution to his problems of lacking inspiration so obvious. But as things progressed, I found myself warming to him somewhat, and a pivotal moment concerning a letter he receives from a past love moved me and showed a moment of revelation and growth, particularly as it’s revealed that the woman’s father (also his former mentor who instilled the “art before all else” way of thinking) also eventually found love that altered his perspective,c and I found that beautiful and poetic.

While I did not find it as enjjoyable as I had hoped, having really liked or even loved quite a few of Harrington’s other books, I feel it’s mostly me and my funk with historicals lately, and I would not dissuade anyone from picking it up, especially if they have consistently loved Harrington’s work in the past and also really love historicals.

Review of “Believe in Me” (The Worthingtons #6) by Ella Quinn

Quinn, Ella. Believe in Me. New York: Kensington, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420145205 | 374 pages | Regency Romance

3 stars

I admit I sadly did not have high hopes for Believe in Me, after having difficulties with its predecessor. And while this one also fell a little flat, I do feel like this one is marginally better.

Once again, I must give praise to Quinn’s dedication to getting the details of the period correct, and also introducing readers to lesser known facts about the Regency era in a fun and engaging way. The concept and overall execution of the idea of a woman who is more interested in pursuing higher education is a unique one for the time period, but it is great to know that it was not outside the realm of possibility for those with connections and the means to travel, as Augusta did.

And the situation led to some great development of her as a character in the context of the extended Worthington family as well. It was great to see the determined Augusta appealing alternately to her more traditionally minded mother, who hopes to see her married off, and her brother Matt, who is slightly more open to the idea. It led to some great moments of development to see how everyone progressed in the three-year time jump since the last book’s events.

The romance felt a little more lackluster to me, which is unfortunate, as on paper, it seemed like it could easily have been one of my favorites, due to the slightly slow-burn nature of the relationship and how things start off with Phinn and Augusta being friends first, and them being well-suited to each other due to both being intelligent. But it was one of those books where I felt like the conflicts were resolved a bit too quickly, and then there was a lot of slow-moving travel scenes. It helped to illustrate the scenery and what it would have been like to actually make the trip, but it did little else but make me wonder how much longer it would be until something happened.

On the whole it is a fairly decent entry, although it does make me question whether this series has gone on a bit too long. There are numerous other family members left, so we’ll see if Ella Quinn can write something a bit more engaging for the next family member. And in the meantime, I do still feel it’s worth reading, even if primarily for the heroine’s arc alone. As I noted previously, Ella Quinn’s adherence to accuracy is pretty much unrivaled, and she is an author I would recommend for those looking for a historical that will both entertain and educate, this one is for you.