Of Rakes, Rogues and Romance

Today was release day for three of my favorite historical romance authors. I began writing about them and it got me thinking about why I love them so much.

I think my first historical romance was one of the old “bodice-rippers”, stolen from my mother’s side table: Prairie Embrace, by FR Bittner. Actually, I’m not even sure if I read the entire thing. I confess, my best friend and I may have just read the juicy parts. Shortly thereafter, my mom brought home Jude Devereaux’s A Knight In Shining Armor. Not strictly a historical romance, as it’s a time-travel story, it nevertheless got us into her historical books all about the Montgomery family. Which then led to Kathleen Woodiwiss and Catherine Coulter, and then scores of others.

And the genre back then…well, it’s come a long way. Back then, many of the heroines were innocent virgins, unwillingly swept along on some adventure. There were a lot of kidnappings that grew into love.

What, then, was the draw? It might have been the pretty dresses. Seriously. Women living in a different time, experiencing things I never will, good and bad. Balls and dances and days at court, being wooed by a gentleman. The essence of reading for escapism: to visit new places, live in new worlds, if only for a little while.

Heroines–and heroes–have really grown up. Today’s historical heroines are smart, sassy, independent, and passionate women, giving back as good as they get. I’ve come to appreciate them for different reasons. It’s still a new world to visit, but now as a writer, I love the authors’ voices. They are melodious in a way that contemporary books are not. It’s hard not to try to replicate it, but as a contemporary author, my voice works for me. 🙂 So I get to just enjoy reading someone else’s works.

And there’s something to be said for the way things were back then: the modesty, the etiquette. The tension built by catching a glimpse of ankle, of being unable to touch each other in public, and barely able to escape for a private interlude away from the prying eyes of society, parents, and chaperones.

For a few years I just read whatever I could find at the library. But some friends recommended Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, who sort of led the way with the “newer” heroines. And my tenure as an Avon Addict introduced me to a few new-to-me authors. Here are the three who released today:

Wallflower Gone Wild by Maya Rodale.  This author has a relatable, almost contemporary voice and interesting, modern characters in a historical setting. The series is interspersed with contemporary novellas in an interesting way; the one that corresponds with this book is The Bad Boy Billionaire’s Girl Gone Wild.

The blurb:

In the second in Maya Rodale’s delightful Wallflower series, London’s Least Likely to Cause a Scandal is taking Society by storm . . .

Being good has worked out very badly for Lady Olivia Archer. All she has to show for four seasons on the marriage mart is the nickname Prissy Missy. Her prospects are so bleak that her parents have betrothed her to a stranger with a dire reputation. If Phinneas Cole—aka The Mad Baron— wants a biddable bride, perhaps Olivia can frighten him off by breaking every ladylike rule.

Phinn has admired Olivia’s poise and refinement from afar . . . qualities that appear to have vanished now that they are officially engaged. This Olivia is flirtatious, provocative, and wickedly irresistible. She’s not at all the woman he bargained for, yet she’s the only one he wants.

He’s determined to woo her. She’s determined to resist. But Olivia is discovering there’s nothing so appealing as a fiancé who’s mad, bad, and dangerously seductive . . .

I was intrigued by the modern takes in the novellas of the historical stories going on in the novels. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Moonlight on my Mind by Jennifer McQuiston

To ruin a man’s life once takes a regrettable mistake. To do so twice takes a woman like Julianne Baxter.

Eleven months ago, Julianne’s statement to the authorities wrongly implicated Patrick, the new Earl of Haversham, in his older brother’s death. The chit is as much trouble as her red hair suggests, and just as captivating. Now she has impetuously tracked him to the wilds of Scotland, insisting that he return home to face a murder charge and save his family from ruin. A clandestine wedding may be the only way to save her reputation—and his neck from the hangman’s noose.

Julianne has no objection to the match. More and more she’s convinced of Patrick’s innocence, though when it comes to igniting her passions, the man is all too guilty. And if they can only clear his name, a marriage made in haste could bring about the most extraordinary pleasure . . .

While the previous book in her Second Sons series may be my favorite due to its freestyle-swimming heroine (simply NOT DONE in those days), this was equally entertaining. I loved how she took an unlikable character from the last book and made her the heroine here. Seeing characters evolve over the course of more than one book is always satisfying. And with the addition of a mystery to solve, bringing in the romantic suspense angle, this was a great read. I also may or may not have a girl crush on the author, as she has the job I wanted myself, once upon a time. A great new voice.

Between The Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

She might look like an angel . . .

The moment orphaned American heiress Titania “Tansy” Danforth arrives on English shores she cuts a swath through Sussex, enslaving hearts and stealing beaux. She knows she’s destined for a spectacular titled marriage—but the only man who fascinates her couldn’t be more infamous . . . or less interested.

But it takes a devil to know one . . .

A hardened veteran of war and inveterate rogue, Ian Eversea keeps women enthralled, his heart guarded and his options open: why should he succumb to the shackles of marriage when devastating good looks and Eversea charm make seduction so easy?

And Heaven has never been hotter!

When Ian is forced to call her on her game, he never dreams the unmasked Tansy— vulnerable, brave, achingly sensual—will tempt him beyond endurance. And fight as he will, this notorious bachelor who stood down enemies on a battlefield might finally surrender his heart . . . and be brought to his knees by love.

******

A couple years ago, a friend posted she’d just read one of her favorite books of the year. It was A Notorious Countess Confesses, an earlier book in the Pennyroyal Green series. She was right, it was fantastic. I was immediately drawn into the town, into the feud between the Redmond and Eversea families. Like many readers, I can’t wait for the resolution and to find out what happens between Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea. But that will be bittersweet, because it will be the end of the series.

The characters are real, flawed and likable; her voice is beautiful and no one, no one, can convey sexual tension like Julie Anne Long. At least once per book, I have to set it down to fan myself. Talk about electricity.  When I read the first book, I had to go through and buy her entire backlist. She’s now an auto-read author, one whose books I anxiously await, and I hope she becomes that for you, too.

 

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About Kerrie Strong

Years ago, I chose to suppress my creative side in favor of a career (or two, or three) in science. This blog is filled with exercises intended to reverse the atrophy of my right brain. I hope you enjoy my ramblings.
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