Review of “To Tempt a Rebel” (The Scarlet Chronicles #4) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. To Tempt a Rebel. [United States]: Shana Galen, 2019.

Paperback | $11.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1090208668 | 404 pages | Historical Romance–French Revolution

‘4.5 stars

Shana Galen’s talent for blending fact and fiction once again shines in To Tempt a Rebel. And it contains all the strengths that made the previous book, Taken by the Rake, such a great read, in particular adding some nuance to the French Revolution, in balancing both the revolutionary and Royalist perspectives, perhaps even more so this time around, what with the fact that the hero and heroine start off on opposing sides.

Once again, the hero is the one who goes through the major growth, and that is not a bad thing, especially given the situation. I loved seeing his transition from someone who embraced the Revolution and its ideals to coming to see it had become too dark and bloodthirsty, especially when he began to consider the life of the young Louis Charles, now considered King by the Royalists and thus a threat to the revolutionaries, who abuse him in prison, in spite of him having done nothing but be born the son of a king.

While the heroine, Alex, like Honoria, does feel a bit like the standard strong historical heroine, I did like that the Revolution and their initial reluctant partnership allowed for some tough conversations, like about how the revolutionaries are all about liberty and equality for men, but there is still a lack of consideration for giving women the same rights.

This is a delightful final book in the Scarlet Chronicles series, and it checks all the boxes of excellent setting, action, and romance. I would recommend this to all historical romance lovers.

Review of “Taken by the Rake” (The Scarlet Chronicles #3) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. Taken by a Rake. [United States] Shana Galen, 2019.

Paperback | $11.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1796607147 | 459 pages | Historical Romance–French Revolution

4 stars

I admit, prior to reading both Taken by a Rake and the novella prequel, I was a bit concerned, that due to the weird intricacies of publishing rights, book two, Traitor in Her Arms, was only available in eBook, so I worried about skipping it, even if the same intricacies led to a somewhat odd sequence to the publishing order of the series. However, upon starting this one, my fears were completely assuaged, as it seems each book focuses more on developing its connection to the original Scarlet Pimpernel books, featuring major players I recognized from my recent read of the series, as well as establishing the atmosphere of the Revolutionary France, as opposed to developing any camaraderie between the heroes and heroines across the series in the traditional sense that most romance series do. As such, this book works as a standalone, just as, I assume, the others do as well.

That being said, Galen’s depiction of the period is excellent, feeling well-researched and giving you a sense that you are there in Revolutionary France. And while they’re not major characters by any means, I loved how she captured a sense of humanity to the French Royal Family, to add some credence to the rescue missions the League were undertaking.

While I was already aware that King Louis, Marie Antoinette, and the children weren’t all ignorant spendthrifts, it was nice to see from the perspective of someone like Laurent who knew they cared for the less fortunate, and also saw the goodness in the children as well. It was a time period where it seemed like all aristocrats had to be punished, so it was great that Laurent comes to recognize his privilege and begins to do something to make a difference by joining the cause.

I found myself rather unimpressed with the heroine, Honoria, by contrast. She is everything a great romance heroine is: intelligent, practical, and doesn’t fall at the aristocratic hero’s feet right away. But that’s kind of the problem; so many heroines are like that, and there’s nothing that distinguishes her, especially when Laurent goes through such an amazing arc that outshines her.

This was a more or less enjoyable historical romance, although more so for the hero’s development and the depiction of the setting than the romance itself. However, it’s still beautifully written, and one of Shana Galen’s better books (with the exception of her Survivors series, but I may be biased there). I would recommend this to all historical romance fans, especially those interested in the French Revolution.

Review of “The Claiming of the Shrew” (The Survivors #5) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. The Claiming in Shrew. [United States]: Shana Galen, 2019.

Paperback | $12.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-978-1094814841 | 378 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

After finishing the previous book, I was excited to hear that the next book, The Claiming of the Shrew, would follow Colonel Draven and his estranged wife, Catarina, especially since, once I started it, I saw it both began with and was building off her initial introductory short story, previously a perk only for newsletters subscribers that I actually did not read at the time, so I’m glad it was included.

One of the first things that shocked me, not having read the short before and only relying on context clues in Catarina’s brief appearance in Unmask Me If You Can, is that she’s actually significantly younger than Draven, being around twenty in the short, while Draven is about forty. And while May-December couples aren’t necessarily my favorite, I felt it worked with the dynamic here, and I enjoyed it throughout, especially as it really played into the problems they had to work through. She initially proposes a marriage of convenience due to needing protection, but later, they end up butting heads, due to her feeling imprisoned, and him trying to protect her from a man trying to do her harm, but going about it more like an autocrat and giving orders, as opposed to demonstrating his concern for her safety and love for her.

But in spite of the problems they worked through, I loved that they both were holding out for each other during their separation, even if Catarina felt forced to seek an annulment to appease the bad guys. And Draven remaining celibate out of respect for his wife is the sexiest thing. I feel it’s far too common in this setup where the couple is separated for an extended period, for whatever reason, for one (usually the man) or both to be with other people before something brings them back together, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially the latter. But I love a hero who is so devoted to someone, even if he doesn’t know he’ll see her again, that he can’t contemplate being with anyone else.

This is my favorite in the Survivors series, and while it’s not as emotionally intense in the issues it tackles in comparison to the last book, it’ makes up for it by being a beautiful, heartwarming love story that triumphs in spite of the danger the couple are in and the factors that could tear them apart. I would recommend it to all Regency romance fans.

Review of “Unmask Me If You Can” (Survivors #4) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. Unmask Me If You Can. [United States]: Shana Galen, 2018.

Paperback | $12.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1727153989 | 334 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

Each entry in Shana Galen’s Survivors series has struck a great balance between being action-packed and emotionally moving, and Unmask Me If You Can is no exception…in fact, it might be the most beautiful and moving of the entire series, because of the character growth for both hero and heroine.

Jasper was a character who intrigued me from the first book in the series, and I was glad getting to know more about him didn’t disappoint. Galen strikes the right balance with him between him being ashamed of his physical scars while also battling emotional guilt, all without it being overly angsty or heavy-handed. IT was beautiful to see his confidence grow from hiding in the shadows to confidently coming to the light to fight for the woman he loves.

But the real star for me is Olivia. I could empathize with all her fear in the aftermath of her sexual assault, and applauded her courage in facing down her assailant, who was more determined than ever to possess and degrade her, due to the way Society worked in his favor.

I also love the beautiful way consent was emphasized in Jasper and Olivia’s relationship. Some might think it ridiculous, but I feel like, especially given the stories that have come to light in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, there needs to be more discussions around consent and more clarity in terms of what consent is. Given that her assailant uses language that isn’t an unfamiliar defense, or at least it wasn’t not that long ago (” You said no, but inside, you wanted it”), I love that Jasper is such a gentleman, and applaud Galen for writing such a respectful hero.

This was a beautiful story, and one I loved from start to finish. I would recommend this to other fans of historical romances that deal with tough topics.

Review of “An Affair with a Spare” (Survivors #3) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. An Affair with a Spare. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2018. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1492638957 | 406 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

An Affair with a Spare is another great installment in what is shaping up to be a fantastic series. And this one is Shana at her best, combining steamy romantic tension with a heart-pounding espionage plot with lives at stake.

While I’m not typically a fan of the rakish-hero-with-a-hidden-vulnerable-side, Galen imbues Rafe with a likability and relatability that is often missing in heroes of this type. He’s incredibly charming, but he’s also intelligent, and is a truly caring person at heart, even if he doesn’t realize it at first. While I had read stories where the hero met the heroine through some kind of investigation before, with this being a secret he kept from her, I truly could feel the evolution from his thinking about her as “just an assignment” to coming to truly see her as a friend, then falling in love with her.

And I love Collette for being different from the standard romance heroine in the best ways. She’s not an innocent, and I love that she is willing to put herself in a dangerous position in order to save her father’s life. Despite the fact that her father does not get a lot of page time, the impact he has clearly had on her life is beautiful, and was another highlight of the novel.

One of the consistent things I continue to love is the banter between the Survivors and how well they work together and influence each other. I loved the interaction between Rafe and Ewan in particular, where they go through a hilarious conversation where Rafe muses about being like Ewan in order to think of new ways to plan his seduction strategy, and Ewan’s response is just relief that Rafe isn’t asking to him to think like him.

I would recommend this book to fans of historicals that are lighthearted, with a mix of both emotional depth and high action. This combination can be hard to pull off, and I think Galen does it magnificently in this book.

Review of “No Earls Allowed” (Survivors #2) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. No Earls Allowed. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2018. 

Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1492639015 | 377 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

No Earls Allowed was not only an improvement on its predecessor, but checked all the boxes for me when it came to what I look for in a romance. An untitled hero, who also happens to a be virgin? A heroine who isn’t interested in society, engaging in more altruistic, sometimes dangerous, pursuits? A supporting cast of colorful characters, including a rambunctious and lovable group of children? Check, check, and check.

I love how nuanced Neil is as a hero. I love how his upbringing as the illegitimate son impacted some of the moral choices he made, and how it led to his decision to abstain from all sexual intercourse (but not any acts that could be considered precursors to it) to avoid bringing any more unwanted children into the world the way he was. This presents a nice change from the rakish heroes who have had scores of lovers in the past and, more often than not, have very few bastards, if they have any at all. I also liked how he managed to be an efficient army officer without coming off as being too autocratic, striking the balance the children needed between disciplinarian and nurturing father figure. even if the latter came about more reluctantly.

As with Juliana, it could have been easy for her character to come off as yet another rich debutante rebelling against her rich parent(s), but that is not her at all. I love how the loss of both her sister (through death) and subsequently her nephew (when his cruel father chose to take him away) inspired her to do good in the world and help out other children who may be in similar situations to her nephew, being unwanted, or born to parents who aren’t fit to take care of them.

I would recommend this one to fans of Regency romances, especially those that don’t fall into the typical tropes that populate the genre.

Review of “Third Son’s a Charm” (Survivors #1) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. Third Son’s a Charm. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2017. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1492657033 | 408 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

Third Son’s a Charm and the Survivors series in general was what originally inspired me to start reading Shana Galen’s books, as I was looking for traditionally published authors who frequently wrote about heroes who weren’t titled. And despite taking a lot longer than I intended to to finally read this one, I very much enjoyed it.

One of the major strengths of the book, is, of course, the hero. My heart truly hurt for Ewan when I read about his struggles dealing with “word blindness” (what we now know as dyslexia), and the abuse and rejection he faced from his father and others because of it. Yet, I also love that he didn’t lose the capacity form other attachments, as while he does have difficulty understanding what it is to love when thinking about his feelings for Lorraine, he has a close bond with his comrades that he served with as a soldier.

Lorraine grated on me a little bit, as she is somewhat TSTL in taking so long to grasp that Francis doesn’t care about her. But, when I put it in context with the fact that she was pretty sheltered, in combination with being incredibly headstrong, I did understand where she was coming from a little more. And as she bonded with Ewan, another side to her came out that was nurturing of him and his potential to learn to read.

I also liked how, while initially, the scenes between her parents just seemed like a subplot that could go either way in terms of being good or being one of the duller parts of the book, it did tie together in the end. I loved how the parents worked out their differences and worked to make sure that their daughter was sure of what she wanted, so she wouldn’t be in a similar situation to theirs a few decades down the road.

I think fans of fun historical romances will enjoy this, especially if they love quirky heroines and brooding, but good-hearted heroes.

 

Review of “Love and Let Spy” (Lord and Lady Spy #3) by Shana Galen

Galen. Shana. Love and Let Spy. Napervile, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2014. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978–1-4022-9173-9 | 367 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

Love and Let Spy is much weaker than the first two books in the Lord and Lady Spy series. It still had its good points, but for at least the first half of the book, I found the cbaracters and their relationship uninteresting. My opinion did change, however, at least regarding the hero. Initially, I didn’t like Dominic at all, but as the secrets of his past were revealed, I felt for him much more, and felt that, given the abuse he endured in his past, his development as a character felt authentic, while also giving him a happy ending that not everyone in his situation gets.

Jane was a different story. I like how she comforted Dominic and made him feel at ease with her, but I just didn’t warm up to her. I can’t deny that she’s a good spy, but I just didn’t care for her.

But I did enjoy the way the over-arching external plot wrapped up, along with its revelations about Fonce’s past. And over the course of the book, I enjoyed getting updates on what the other couples from the past books had gotten up to since they got their happy endings.

This book is a cute historical romance, recommended for Shana Galen fans, fans of spy books, and those who want to read a new twist on the James Bond story.

 

Review of “True Spies” (Lord and Lady Spy #2) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. True Spies. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2013. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1402276026 | 346 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

True Spies is another fun Regency twist on a contemporary spy movie, in this case, True Lies, and despite not being familiar with the film in question, it did not impair my enjoyment of the book. Like its predecessor, I like that it once again tackles the strained relationship between a married couple who are reunited through one’s involvement in espionage, but with a different twist this time around.

I really felt for Elinor, as she felt abandoned by her husband and trapped in a boring life consisting of endless balls and domestic duties. And while I could understand the importance of Winn keeping his secret agent activities a secret, I found I could relate to Elinor’s plight much more when it’s shown how focused Winn is with his work, with time for nothing else. As a result, it took a while for me to really warm up to him. However, I could understand his reluctance to Elinor’s continued involvement, especially since it isn’t so much an issue with her gender this time around, but the result of having lost someone else he cared about during a mission.

Review of “I Kissed a Rogue” (Covent Garden Cubs #3) by Shana Galen

Galen, Shana. I Kise. IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2016. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1402298776 | 341 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

While I Kisseed a Rogue is not a bad book, it does suffer from not being nearly as good as the prior books in the series, especially the prior installment, The Rogue You Know. While the mystery element is one of the highlights of the book, culminating in an action-packed climax that I’ve come to expect from Shana Galen’s books, I found the reveal of who was behind Lila’s abduction seemed too predictable and cliche.

While I got off to a rough start with Brook and Lila, as they have such animosity standing between them, I do think their characters and emotions were well-written. I love that Lila looks back on some of her superficial mistakes from her past with new eyes, and has grown up. And while I’m not often a fan of the heroes that are jaded against love, Sir Brook provides a nice twist on this trope, as I truly felt he had good reasons for not believing in love or believing a future with Lila, given how she hurt him. I did find the sex a bit much in this one, especially since they are both convinced, despite their growing feelings and/or desire for one another, that they would be parting, but I feel that there is enough of them baring their souls to one another that it isn’t a case of mistaking lust for love.

I also feel like this book could have gone through another round of edits, perhaps with someone who is an expert at all the intricacies of the British titles and forms of address giving it a look as well. Because there were a ton of inconsistencies. Between Lila’s brother being referred to as both “Lord Granbury” and “Lord Danbury” and the faux pas as to how to address a knight and his wife, the latter of which kept changing, I felt perturbed. I did appreciate that there is a conversation in there about whether she would be addressed as “Lady Derring,” as befits a “Miss Lastname” who married Sir Brook, or “Lady Lila”/”Lady Lillian-Anne,” out of respect for her being the daughter of a duke. But there were also inclusions of the blatantly incorrect “Mrs. Derring,” as well as addressing her husband at times as “Sir Derring,” which made me cringe so much while reading. While I have gotten upset over incorrect forms of address, the inconsistent ones are even worse.