Tag Archives: Romance

The Romance Garden!

John Singer Sargent, In a Garden: Corfu, 1909

We’re getting a jump on the new month today with a stroll through our genre experts’ favorite reads of the month.  The holiday period is certainly a stressful one for many, so be sure to take some time to relax with a good book now and then.  The act of reading has been shown to lower blood pressure, ease stress, and makes you better at empathy, but romance novels have been shown to be specifically useful to our health by activating the part of our brains that feeds on interpersonal interactions.  Which isn’t terribly surprising when you think about it, but it is an excellent excuse to check out and read a good romance novel if I ever heard one.  Here are some of the titles we enjoyed this month!

 

BridgetThe Bride Who Got Lucky by Janna MacGregor

I owe Janna MacGregor a tremendous debt of gratitude for breaking my romantic reading slump, so I can only hope it might do the same for other readers.  Though this is the second book in her Cavensham heiresses series, it is very easily read on it’s own (though the first book, The Bad Luck Bride is also charming).

The son of a cold-hearted duke, and a confirmed introvert, Nicholas St. Mauer has none of the skills, the temperament, or the desire to be involved in society, or find a bride. But despite himself, he always keeps a watchful eye on Lady Emma Cavensham.  Her energy and determination make her the most unsuitable woman for Nick–but he can’t seem to keep away from her.  And a good thing, too, because Emma is on a dangerous mission to prove her deceased friend’s husband was responsible for her death before he lures another innocent woman into a brutal marriage.  But a single compromising moment upends all her well-laid plans–and makes her relationship with Nick a much more formal arrangement than either every imagined.

I loved the quirkiness of MacGregor’s characters. Neither Nick nor Emma fit into the moulds we’ve come to expect from historical romances, but they work so well together than it’s a treat to watch them.  I also adored the honesty between them about matters big and small.  There is something wonderfully refreshing about characters who trust each other enough to be with each other, and admit their insecurities and emotional confusion.  The main plot of this book was interesting, but I would have been happy to read another 100 pages of nothing but Emma and Nick talking together.  I cannot wait to read more of MacGregor’s work after this impressive novel!

Kelley: A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe

There is much to love about A Daring Arrangement,  the first book in Joanna Shupe’s “The Four Hundred Series.” Set in New York City’s Gilded Age, the setting of Honora and Julius’ story immediately offers readers something unique in historical romance. The opulent lifestyle celebrated by wealthy Americans at that time is introduced to us through Julius Hatcher, one of the wealthiest investors in the city, who just so happens to have built himself a castle for a home, and lives a life so outrageously extravagant he throws himself a birthday party at one of New York’s finest restaurants where are guests attend the entirety of the event on horseback.

Enter Lady Honora Parker, just arrived in New York after being exiled from London by her powerful father who found her with her artist boyfriend. Knowing that only a scandal will convince her father to call her back to London and to the artist she loves, Honora convinces Julius to pose as her fiance, knowing her proper English father will be appalled. Honora is in love with another, and Julius has no intention of ever marrying, so neither is prepared for the feelings that develop between them.

What I love the most about this book is that when their feelings begin to change, Julius and Honora are honest with each other throughout the process. Things aren’t simple, but there are no secrets or intrigue, just two people who are perfectly matched and need to find their way to being together. To top it off the storytelling is excellent, making this book difficult to put down. A Daring Arrangement is easily the best romance I’ve read in quite awhile. I highly recommend that you check it out.

Until next month, dear readers, we wish you happy reading!

The Romance Garden

Girl in Green by Sara Hayden

The weather has turned at last, dear readers, and, rather suddenly, it is not longer garden time.  But that means it’s the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book!  Thankfully, here in our romance garden, there is always sunshine, and always plenty of books to help you through those lengthening winter evenings.  Here are just a few from our genre experts for this month!

 

Bridget: London’s Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch

I’ve been in a bit disillusioned by the romance genre of late, so I went back to an oldie by goodie for this month.  This was one of the first romance novels, and still remains a favorite of mine.  Though it’s the second in Enoch’s Lessons in Love series, new readers won’t have any trouble getting into this story.

the Marquis of St. Aubyn’s may be referred to as “Saint”, but all of London society knows that him as a dangerous–if alluring scoundrel.  Evelyn Ruddick would normally have nothing to do with him, but St. Aubyn is the head of the board of trustees for the Heart of Hope Orphanage, and she will do anything to get them the help and support that they need, even if it means forming a partnership with this rakehell.  But when their working relationship takes a turn for the scandalous, Evie and Saint are both forced to reconsider who they really are, what they really want…and how many rules they are willing to break to make their hearts happy.

First and foremost, I loved the chemistry between these protagonists.  Saint may be selfish and spoiled, but he is also quite smart, and therefore has the capacity to recognize and respect Evelyn’s intelligence and determination.  He may enjoy making her blush, but he’s not cruel, and he’s honest, which is my favorite part of a hero.  For her part, Evie is no simpering miss–she is strong and determined and doesn’t back down.  The result is a book full of snappy, witty banter that doesn’t do much to hide the growing respect and devotion these two characters feel for each other, both in spite of, and because of, their differences.  It was a treat to see how well this story has aged, and I hope it can bring a smile to other readers, as well!

Note: The cover image on the Boston Public Library’s site is incorrect for this listing. The book is indeed by Suzanne Enoch.  And is very good!

August Macke “Blue Girl Reading”, 1912

 

Kelley: The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

When an American gunslinger finds herself pitted against a notorious Scottish earl, things are bound to get interesting, and that’s just what happens in Kerrigan Byrne’s latest Victorian Rebels book, The Scot Beds His Wife.

Samantha (“Sam”) Masters, former member of an American family of train robbers, comes to the Highlands posing as a Scottish heiress in order to hide from dangerous associations from her past in the American West. Upon arrival she immediately meets Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, her new neighbor, and the person intent on purchasing her property which has been unoccupied for years. When Gavin finds Sam unwilling to sell, the two quickly become adversaries, but the arguments and banter that ensue lead them to a reluctant respect and powerful physical attraction to one another. When Sam finds herself in danger, she and Gavin marry for mutual convenience, her for protection and him for the ownership of the land he believes to be hers, but what they don’t expect is to fall in love. Gavin’s devotion to his family and tenderness with his wife are not at all what Sam expected, and as for Sam, Gavin is deeply affected by her unique blend of strength and vulnerability.

This is one of my favorite types of romance, one with well-developed characters all around, including many secondary characters who would be welcome additions to upcoming books in the series. It’s also both fiery and fun, never taking itself too seriously, but still managing to pack in plenty of danger and passion to make for a good story. For those who, like me, didn’t love The Highwayman, the first book in this series, I encourage you to give Kerrigan Byrne a second chance. The Scot Beds His Wife was a fun read, and I look forward to exploring some of the Victorian Rebels books that I missed between this one and the first.

Until next month, beloved patrons!

The Romance Garden!

And after a downright autumnal week, dear readers, it seems that summer has decided to come back for a visit–so it’s a perfect day to return to our Romance Garden, where our genre experts bring you some of their favorite reads from the past month!

Lady Reading in the Garden (1894). Niels Frederik Schiøttz-Jensen

 

Bridget: Lord of Lies by Amy Sandas

This is the third installment in Amy Sandas’ Fallen Ladies series, but that will have no effect at all on your ability to enjoy this–though, if you’re anything like me, it will definitely make you want to track down the others in the series to read them, too!

Portia Chadwick had once resigned herself to a life of quiet (and boring) decorum–until the day her sister is abducted by a moneylender.  Desperate, Portia tracks down Nightshade, a man who knows England’s darkest shadows, to help her find him.  Dell Turner grew up in the bleakest of circumstances, and he’s never shaken the dirt of the gutter off his shoes–or the chip off his shoulder.  He’s perfectly willing to help the young lady who comes begging for help finding his sister, but he never anticipates that she’ll want to be involved in the case…or that he’ll be so eager to keep her by his side.  But when their partnership is dissolved, what hope will Dell have that Portia will want any more to do with him?

I’m really tired of the “delicate miss decides to have an adventure” story, but Portia’s honesty, and her genuine interest in learning made her feel like a different kind of heroine.  I also really appreciated the fact that she and Dell could be upfront and honest with each other during their partnership–and learned how to transfer that honesty into their real life relationship, too.  Though some of the situations here were a little outlandish, the heart of this story is a really fantastic, visceral, pulse-pounding and heart-warming romance that made me an instant fan of this series.

Kelley: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare


Tessa Dare’s newest series, “Girl Meets Duke,” is off to a great start with the story of the Duke of Ashbury (Ash), a scarred war veteran, and Emma Gladstone, a seamstress trying to make her way in the world after being cast out by her vicar father. After a firm rejection from his fiance, Ash believes that he is too hideous to be loved or desired by any woman, but he knows that he needs to have an heir to ensure that his tenants and employees are cared for when he is gone. Enter Emma Gladstone.

When Emma shows up demanding to be paid for the wedding dress she made for the duke’s former fiance, Ash offers her two choices: he can pay her what she is owed for the dress or he can make her a duchess. While it’s not the most flattering of proposals, due to financial reasons and the opportunity to help a friend, Emma accepts under the condition that the duke join her for dinner- with conversation- every evening.

The book is full of Tessa Dare’s signature charming touches like comical pet names and Shakespearean insults. Add a well-meaning butler, a meddlesome maid, an incorrigible teenage boy, and an ornery cat, and you have a romance that has as many funny moments as romantic ones. And all of those moments lead our main characters closer to each other, closer to healing, and closer to love.

Until next month, dear readers, remember…every mind needs a little dirt in which to grow!

The Romance Garden!

And so we come once more to a new month, and a new sampling of our genre experts’ favorite selections from their romance reading.  We hope you enjoy–perhaps in your own summertime garden?  Or someone else’s?  Or the beach?  Or the mountains?  There is no where that Library books cannot travel!

Joseph Farquharson 1846-1935 Scottish painter

Bridget: Lady Clare is All That by Maya Rodale

It’s been a while since I found a romance that really worked for me, so it was a treat to come across Maya Rodale’s newest book and remember all the things I love about her romances.

Lady Claire Cavendish is a mathematician, even if no one finds brains attractive in a woman.  She has come to England to find a man–a specific man–another mathematician.  But instead, she finds the handsome, beguiling, and infuriating Lord Fox.  Fox has been nursing his ego ever since his fiancee jilted him.  So when he is offered a bet that he can transform Lady Claire, Society’s roughest diamond, into its most prized jewel, he figures it is the perfect way to divert his attention.  He never bargained on his subject being a real, actual–and fascinating–person.

Maya Rodale is one of those writers who really thinks about the romances she is writing, and the journey on which she sends her characters, so this Pygmalion-esque plot had a lot of depth, and a lot of transformations (though not the kind that either character imagined).  I loved that Claire never bothered to hide her brains, and that Fox, even though he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about, loved her for it.  All in all, this was a really fun, diverting, and heartwarming romance about loving someone both because of, and regardless of their looks.

Kelley: Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen

Regency Romance writer Kelly Bowen is back with the third volume in her “A Season for Scandal” series. Angelique Archer is the unfortunate sister of a thoroughly debauched marquess. Since the death of both of their parents, the Archers find themselves on the brink of financial ruin, and Angelique knows for certain that her brother will do nothing to remedy the situation so she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Given her strength in mathematics and skill at cards, Angelique tries her luck at a gaming hell that allows masked women to attend anonymously. The success she has at the vingt-et-un table allows the Archers to keep up appearances, but it also attracts the attention of the gaming hell’s owner Alexander Lavoie. Alexander is initially attracted by Angelique’s mysterious beauty, but that attraction becomes something much more when he witnesses her quick mind, independence and resourceful nature firsthand.

A romance that includes mystery, a taste of London’s underworld, and a surprising plot twist, Between the Devil and the Duke is not your traditional Regency, but I think my favorite aspect of this book is that Alex and Angelique’s “happily ever after” is refreshingly different as well. However, if you want to know what happens, you’ll have to read the book. No spoilers in the Romance Garden! Happy reading!

Until next month, dear readers!

The Romance Garden!

And so we come to the opening of a new month, dear readers, and a mid-week holiday!  Don’t forget, the Library will close at 5pm today (July 3), and will be closed for Independence Day!

A mid-week holiday is the perfect time to indulge in a good book, and today, our genre experts have a few new suggestions for you to keep your heart fluttering and your imagination fired up.  We hope you enjoy!

Bridget:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

When I teach history, one of the things I try really hard to impress on my students is that people haven’t changed all that much–what’s changed, is the way we tell stories, and who the heroes and heroines of those stories are.  Mackenzi Lee reinforces this lesson is a hug, bawdy, over-the-top novel that is full of the kind of characters who normally get overlooked in history books.

Henry “Monty” Montague may have attended the best boarding schools, and raised to be a proper English gentleman, but there is nothing in his world capable of taming him.  He’s flamboyant, reckless, and more than willing to dally with women and men alike.  But Monty knows his time is limited–after his Grand Tour, he’s supposed to be settling down to his familial obligations, which he is wholly unsuited to do.  He’s also harboring a crush on his best friend, Percy, who is traveling with him, which just makes everything more complicated. But Monty decides to make the best of what time he has and, with Percy and Monty’s sister by his side, sets out for the wildest Grand Tour that Europe has ever seen.

And what a ride it is!  The action in the middle part of this book get a wee bit absurd, but this book is so grand, and so enthusiastic, and so adventurous that any traditional trip around the continent would just seem silly.  Instead, we get pirates and manhunts, and derring-do a-plenty.  We also get a wealth of fascinating characters who embody a number of identities not typically seen in any book, let alone a historical.  But Lee’s historic notes at the back of the book justify her choices, and help us realize how vital it is to tell the stories she is.

And best of all, this is a smashing good romance that deals with self-acceptance and loyalty and passion, and is just the kind of book to sweep you off your feet–and off on the adventure of a lifetime!

Kelley:

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J.Maas

With A Court of Mist and Fury, Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series leaps from a mediocre read to a strong and engaging romantic fantasy that will leave readers eagerly seeking out the next volume when they finish this one. This book picks up where the first left off, with Feyre engaged to Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court, but suffering from depression, due to events from the first book, which is exacerbated by the overly protective and controlling nature of her high fae fiance.

For the first part of the book, Feyre is forced to divide her time between two of the Fae courts of Prythian, Spring which she considers her home, and the Night Court, where she must visit one week each month after being forced into a bargain with the court’s high lord, Rhysand. While she reluctantly visits the Night Court, Rhysand gives Feyre opportunities to master her newfound fae powers, and she finds herself feeling less powerless and less accepting of the restrictive life Tamlin imposes on her. When those restrictions cause her to reach a breaking point, Rhysand arranges for her rescue, and brings her to stay at Night Court as long as she wishes. Throughout the story, war looms on the horizon, and Fayre may be the key to winning the battle for Prythian.

The romance that develops between Feyre and Rhysand is one of equals who empower each other. Despite their mating bond, a fae connection between two people that goes deeper than an ordinary marriage but can be rejected by either party, Rhysand always makes sure that Feyre knows that she has choices and is powerful in her own right. Despite their magical and physical power, Rhysand and Feyre are both vulnerable and in finding each other they find comfort for the lonely parts of themselves. In addition to intensely romantic, their courtship is fun- Rhysand’s flirtatious nature and Feyre’s foul mouth are pure gold in the world of romance banter. Pair all of that wonderful romance with some fantastic world building, and I can easily say this is the best romantic fantasy I have read since A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet.

A disclaimer for those who read the first book in the series and found themselves disappointed: Having read the first volume, A Court of Thorns and Roses,  and been completely disappointed by the last third of the book, which in my opinion felt like a Hunger Games rip-off, I was reluctant to continue the series. In the end, the good reviews and readily available status on Overdrive won out,  A Court of Mist and Fury went on vacation with me, and it turned out to be the kind of book that made me wish my plane ride was just a little bit longer.

Until next month, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The Romance Garden!

Many patrons over the weekend were bemoaning the fickle nature of springtime in New England, and the general inability to get any productive gardening accomplished in the face of Mother Nature’s ill-humor.

We can’t fix the weather, sadly dear readers, but there is one thing we can do, and that is promise you plenty of reading material (as well as viewing material, listening material, etc…..) to get you through these less than sunshine-filled days.  And there are few books that are quite literally designed to make your days a little happier than a romance novel.  Which is why our genre experts are back for a round-up of their recommendations for your reading pleasure.

And just a silly note to keep you smiling: We feature “women reading” a lot in this particular series of blog posts, and it’s tricky to find new (and attributable) art sometimes.  So here, if you’re interested, is the MFA’s online gallery, entitled “Women Reading“.  Enjoy!

And so, without any further ado…

Bridget: I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett

I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy (Oscar Wilde)

Anna Bennett’s new book may have some familiar tropes–the innocent lady governess (of sorts), the notorious, ne’er-do-well Duke, and the “battle of wits” between them.  What really surprised me here, however, was how much this book ran counter to traditional tropes, giving us a heroine with backbone and confidence, and a hero whose thin veneer of misogynistic bluster barely hid a smart hero who knows when and how to apologize.

Miss Elizabeth Lacey is the middle girl in a family of wallflowers.  As such, she has become a companion to the Dowager Duchess of Blackshire–the grandmother of one of the more notorious Dukes in England.  And upon their first meeting, Alex, the Duke of Blackshire, he of the handsome face, the mysterious burns, and the dark reputation, more than lives up to his reputation, bursting into the house and promptly firing Beth.

Alex knows exactly what people say about him, and he doesn’t care.  But someone wants him dead, and until he can unmask the villain, he refuses to take any chances–he needs to get his Grandmother out of London and hidden safely away before any harm can befall her.  But it seems he must match wits with the most cunning and determined woman in London in order to succeed.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this romance.  There was something Jane-Eyre-esque about Beth’s relationship with Alex, where they both saw each other from the first as humans, and their class and positions of power fell away when they were together.  I really appreciated that Alex’s Grandmother was not a plot point, but a living, breathing human character who I really came to care for over the course of the story.  And Bennett’s writing was spot on, providing a book that was genuinely funny, emotional, and suspenseful by turns, making this an ideal bit of reading fun.

Though I’ve not read much by Anna Bennett in the past, I know I’ll be placing a hold on her other books soon!

Kelley: My Fair Duchess  by Megan Frampton

In the world of historical romance novels, there are a few things that readers can almost always expect to find: a trip to the modiste, at least one ball and possibly a house party, scandalous behavior on a carriage ride…. You see where I’m going with this. But for readers looking for something a bit different, Frampton’s latest “Dukes Behaving Badly” novel offers a pleasant surprise: the “duke” behaving badly is a duchess!

After her father’s death, Genevieve learns that he fought to have the title passed to Genevieve if his sons predeceased him. The scenario was unlikely at best, so when Genevieve becomes a duchess, she finds she is entirely unprepared to take on the role and duties that come with it. A concerned  letter to her godmother leads to the arrival of Archibald Salisbury, “Archie”, a war hero and steward who just happens to be the disowned son of a viscount, and therefore the perfect person to teach Genevieve what she needs to know to navigate society and manage her estates.

What I loved about this romance wasn’t just the unconventional title inheritance; it was the way that Archie and Genevieve challenged each other to confront the challenges in their lives. Archie admires Genevieve and loves watching her grow confidence and embrace her position of power as a duchess. In turn, Genevieve becomes the bridge that brings Archie to take steps to mend his relationship with his family. The two encourage each other to embrace who they were born to be, but at the same time it’s clear that they will do things their own wonderful way.

Until next month, beloved patrons–may all your books have happily ever afters!

 

The Romance Garden!

Look!  I found actual flowers!  It’s like it’s spring or something!

Yesterday was the first day of baseball season, dear readers, which, as far as I’m concerned, means that it’s spring, regardless of whether there is still a snow bank at the end of my driveway.

So, as you begin to think about your own gardens, about the pansies and the forsythia that will grace your pots, about the crocuses popping up through the winter-hard soil, and about the beautiful colors that will be gracing our gardens in a few months’ time, why not come in and check out the romances gracing our shelves?

Because, as we say here, every mind needs a little dirt in which to grow….

The Artist’s Wife (Périe, 1849–1887) Reading
by Albert Bartholome

Bridget: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

I love Meredith Duran’s books.  I love that she picks historic time periods or themes that most writers wouldn’t touch.  I love that her heroines are tough as iron, and I love that her heroes aren’t macho stereotypes.  And this book reminded me just what a terrific romance writer she is.

Facing an unwanted marriage that will rob her of her fortune (and, most likely, her sanity), Jane Mason no longer cares about her reputation.  Desperate to get as far away from her past as possible, she strikes a bargain with the most notorious man she knows–a politician with a bright future, but a dark reputation.  Crispin Burke learned the hard way not to let down his guard around anyone.  He agrees to Jane’s scheme, knowing that he simply can’t get hurt.  But when Crispin’s whole world get turned on upside down, Jane may be the only person left who can save him.

For all the high stakes in this description, there is a lot of humor in this book; Crispin himself is a brilliant young man, and the banter between him and the quick-witted Jane are delightful.  More than anything though, I loved that the emphasis of this book was on trust, and how important trust is to true love.  Though this lush and lovely novel is the fifth in Duran’s Rules of the Reckless series, this is a perfect place for newcomers to start reading.

KelleyFalling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands

When Lady Murine Carmichael runs away after her brother tries to trade her for horses, the last thing she expects is to be rescued by and fall in love with the man who refused to take her as payment, but that’s just what happens in this delightful Highland romance that’s as sweet as it is funny. Although the threat to Murine from her family  is complicated, the relationship between her and Dougall Buchanan isn’t. Dougall admires Murine’s bravery, and Murine immediately trusts Dougall to keep her safe. Dougall never questions that he wants to be with Murine, but his quiet hesitation as he figures out just how to pursue her respectfully and with care makes him an easy hero to fall in love with. As to Murine, her bravery is underscored by her unsurety when it comes to being in a relationship. She knows what she wants, but her quiet surprise at the discovery adds depth to her already enjoyable character.

Falling for the Highlander is the fourth in Sands’ “Scottish Highlanders” series, and not knowing that at the outset, I still had no trouble beginning here. If you’re looking for a romance with characters you won’t hesitate to root for from the start, you won’t regret an afternoon spent with Murine and Dougall.

Until next month, beloved patrons, happy reading!
Henri Matisse, Reader on a Black Background, 1939