Tag Archives: Romance Garden

The Romance Garden!

Romance is everywhere, dear readers.  Love stories can be found everywhere–not only in romance novels.  We’re not just talking about “some of the characters are married or getting married” plot lines.  We’re talking about the kind of slow-burning, evolving, enriching love stories that romance readers know and love.  They just take place on the pages of a book that is shelved in mystery, perhaps.  Or science fiction.  Or thriller.   Indeed, there are a number of established romance authors who work across genres, and bring their skills in crafting relationships to any number of different books, stories, and genres.

So, perhaps you are a reader who would like more romance in your life, but aren’t really in the mood for a full-on romance?  Or perhaps the romances are your favorite part of other genre installments?  Here are a few suggestions for you from our genre experts for “Romance in non-romance genres”.  We hope you find some inspiration for your next romantic read!

Murder on Black Swan Lane: The author of this intriguing series, Andrea Penrose, also writes historical romance novels under the name of Cara Elliott, and she brings the same nuanced character development, insight, and chemistry to this tale of murder, international intrigue and…well…chemistry.  The Earl of   (fans of Elliott’s work will remember this name!) has been plagued by the satirical cartoons of A.J. Quill, an artist as brilliant as he in ruthless in skewering the hypocrisy and debauchery of the aristocracy.  But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.  Charlotte Sloan has been using her deceased husband’s pseudonym, A.J. Quill, drawing cartoons in order to keep poverty from the door.  Having anyone discover her secret would be disastrous–until Wrexford discovers her.  Instead of revealing her, however, he offers her a deal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman’s clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer.  This is a pair unlike in temperament, class, and outlook, but they work together beautifully, and Penrose expertly crafts the bond between them that will keep readers spellbound even as the mystery they investigate grows ever deadlier.  If you enjoy this book, be sure to check out the second–Murder at Half Moon Gate.  It’s even better, believe me!

What Angels Fear: If historical mysteries are your cup of tea, I cannot recommend C.S. Harris’ series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr more highly.  These mysteries are expertly crafted, the danger is real, and the history is delightful.  But at the heart of this series is a hero who has had his heart broken too many times, and has a huge amount of emotional growing-up to do.  And Harris makes him do it.  As a result, the long plot arcs in this series, featuring St. Cyr’s family drama, clandestine romances, and finally finding a real true love, are unpredictable, daring, and wonderfully fulfilling.  These stories have a bit more mystery in them than Penrose’s, but the romance, the angst, and the true love, are critically important, too!  In this first book in the series, St. Cyr is the prime suspect in a the brutal rape and murder of a young woman whose body is left in an ancient church.  Desperate to save his own skin, and ever-ready to settle old debts, St. Cyr sets out to find the true culprit–and nearly upends the reign of the Prince Regent in the process.

 

SecurityGina Wohlsdorf’s debut was by far and away one of the most unexpected, unpredictable, and strangely moving books I’ve read in a long time.  On the surface, this is a book about a hotel–the most secure, technologically-advanced, luxurious hotel ever built.  Security cameras, sound-recording devices, and a wealth of other high-tech devices have been installed to ensure that guests enjoy the ultimate in comfort, privacy, and security.  But when the security system is hacked, allowing a band of unknown, vicious killers into the building, the Manderly Resort becomes a slaughter-house.  Beneath the surface, however, this is a story about human relationships–specifically, the relationship between hotel manager Tessa and the man who has come to visit her.  And the security guard who watches it all.  To tell you anymore would be to ruin the surprise of this book, but if you are in the mood for something that will, quite seriously, provide you with All The Feelings, from fear to passion, from creeping terror to jubilation, this is the book for you!

 

WeA classic science-fiction/dystopian novel, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1921 novel (inspired by his own experiences during the Russian Revolution and Civil War) predates George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, and does it will chilling insight and stunning imagery.  But even as this book tells the story of a “world at harmony” in a totalitarian state where no one has names or individual identities, it’s also a love story.  Like all other citizens of One State, D-503 lives in a glass apartment building and is carefully watched by the secret police, or Bureau of Guardians. D-503’s lover, O-90, has been assigned by One State to visit him on certain nights.  But then, D-503 meets I-330, and his whole life is turned upside down.  And not only his life–1-330 is the leader of a revolutionary group determined to bring humanity and bird song back to the city in which she lives.  Though the results of this book aren’t specifically happy, this is a book that validates and celebrates the power of love in all its forms over and over again.  And in that way, it’s a truly powerful love story.

 

Until next month, beloved patrons–may you love all that you read!

The Romance Garden!

Well, you wouldn’t know it from looking out the window, beloved patrons, but it is most certainly calendar Spring, even if it’s not actually Spring outside.  But that is just another reason why our literary garden, filled with books about true love and changing fortunes and changing lives, intrigue and romance, is so terrific.  So join us as our genre aficionados offer you their picks for the month, and we hope you’ll find a new book (or a new genre entirely?) to savor until the warmth of the sun gets the real flowers to growing again!

Bridget: A Good Day to Marry a Duke by Betina Krahn

It isn’t often that books make me giggle out loud, but Betina Krahn’s outlandish sense of humor, and utterly delightful characters had me snickering from the first scene right up to the heartwarming finale.

Daisy Bumgarten’s disastrous debut among New York’s privileged set meant that her chances of finding a husband close to home were ruined.  So, determined to help and provide for her sisters, the plucky Nevada native sets sail to England, hoping to make a good a match as possible across the pond.  Once there, everything seems to be going to plan, and Daisy is taken under a countess’ wing and offered comprehensive lessons for a duchess-to-be.  But when the notorious Lord Ashton Graham, a distraction of the most dangerous kind, determines that Daisy’s feisty façade hides devious plans, and determines to reveal every one of them.  The two butt heads in the most dramatic–and unexpected–fashion, but when a plot threatens to show up Daisy as unworthy of the aristocracy, will Ashton be her worst detractor? Or the nobleman she needs most of all?

As much as I loved the arch humor in this book, I also loved the characters.  There were plenty of opportunities to make either Daisy or Ashton into caricatures, but they remained three-dimensional, wholly empathetic characters throughout this story.  And I adored that Daisy wasn’t afraid to call out macho posturing and covert misogyny whenever it appeared.  All in all, this was a sensational opening to Krahn’s Sin and Sensibility series, and I for one can’t wait for more!

Kelley: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

If you’re looking for a historical romance that offers something different from the norm, Lisa Kleypas’ latest entry in the “Ravenels” series is a good choice. Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only female doctor in London, and Ethan Ransom is is a former Scotland Yard detective now rumored to be involved in darker work. The two come together just as Ethan finds himself involved in an extremely risky assignment that could endanger them both. Right away, we know this book isn’t about dukes and duchesses, or earls and countesses. Instead of balls, mansions, trips to the modiste, and lives of leisure, Garrett and Ethan give readers a glimpse into a London that has dark alleys, street food, flats, and meaningful work.

Garrett believed so fully in her calling that, knowing English medical programs would not accept female students, she went to France to earn her medical degree, even though she knew that attracting patients and overcoming skepticism would be an uphill battle when she returned to London. Her profession and education lead her to live a life more typical to a man than a woman, and Ethan Ranson is drawn immediately to her courage, smarts, and individuality. Both characters are independent and deeply dedicated to their careers, but where Garrett is science-minded and practical, Ethan is passionate and poetic, and those differences prove to be the things that make them stronger together than apart.

If you’ve read previous “Ravenels” books you’ll recognize some of the supporting characters in this story, but despite their appearances in the book, Hello Stranger has a very different feel than other entries in the series. As always, Kleypas offers characters with real depth, and a story line that keeps the pages turning. Happy reading!

Until next month, dear readers, enjoy!

The Romance Garden

A Gentleman Reading In A Garden by Carl Spitzweg

It may not be gardening weather quite yet, dear readers, but it is time for a visit to our romance garden (because every mind needs a little dirt in which to grow).  To celebrate the approach of March, our Library’s romance readers bring you some of their top selections to help you find a new literary love–or to begin exploring the genre for the very first time!  Feel free to drop by the Library to get more suggestions on romance novels–or any other types of novels–soon!

Bridget:
Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

The writing duo that is Christina Lauren has certainly cornered the market on angsty/adorable romances, and this stand-alone tale about careers and quarter-life crises is yet another feather in their already-well-decorated hat.

When Carter and Evie meet at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, it’s one of those things that could either go colossally badly…or shockingly well.  Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire. But when their two agencies merge–causing the pair to vie for the same position–all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals–so why can’t they act like it? Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human?

I loved that this book allowed both Carter and Evie to be silly, smart, career-driven, and in love without judgement.  Though it takes a while for them to wake up and realize what they really want and need out of life, their chemistry together is so pitch-perfect that it’s well worth the wait to see them find their happy ending!

Kelley:
The Rogue is Back in Town by Anna Bennett

After one scandal too many, Lord Samuel Travis finds himself in a desperate situation when his marquess brother kicks him out of the house with nothing but the clothes on his back. In order to get back in his brother’s good graces, Sam must reclaim a house that is currently occupied by Miss Juliette Lacey and her scientifically brilliant but mentally scattered elderly uncle. What seems like an easy assignment proves impossible when Sam meets extreme resistance from Julie who wants to protect both her uncle and her family’s home.

With nowhere else to go, Sam takes up residence in the house and, while there, finds himself coming to care both for Julie and her uncle. In the meantime, Sam’s brother Nigel, the marquess, has other ideas about Julie’s future, and she finds herself in a tug of war between the brother who can amply provide for her but only wants her in his bed, and the brother who has no means to provide for himself let alone a wife but offers his heart.

As Julie comes to realize that she wants a more fulfilling life than a loveless marriage to a titled gentleman, Sam determines to make more of himself and seeks opportunities to make himself worthy of the woman he loves. A sweet romance complete with witty dialogue and a charming nutty professor with a romantic heart, “The Rogue is Back in Town” is a perfect Sunday afternoon read.

The Romance Garden!

It’s February, dear readers, and that means that we’re most likely going to be talking about romances a lot.  So what better way to start things off than a wander through our Romance Garden (because every mind needs a little dirt in which to grow).  Here, our genre aficionados share with you their favorite recent reads across the romance genre.  We hope you find something here that inspires you to try a new romance…or try the genre for the very first time?  Either way, we hope you enjoy!

Reading in the Garden. Susan Ricker Knox

Bridget:

Renegade Cowboy by Sara Richardson: I am not really a fan of cowboy romances, but this book, the third installment of Sara Richardson’s Rocky Mountain Riders trilogy was a rare, and really important exception.  The whole trilogy is pretty terrific, but you don’t need to have read through the whole story to fully appreciate this story.  Cassidy Greer has the world on her shoulders.  She lost her brother in a bull-riding accident several years ago.  As a result, she’s studying to be a nurse, and desperately trying to help and protect her mother, who is spiraling into alcoholic depression and dementia as a result of her grief.  So she has no time at all for her childhood crush (and her deceased brother’s best friend), Levi Cortez.  A top-ranked bull-rider, Levi has spent years hiding from the mistakes in his past, and his shame at not being there for the Greers.  Seeing Cassidy again is both a reckoning and, Levi realizes, a second chance.  But can he convince Cassidy to take a chance on him again?

There are a lot of aspects of this book that are downplayed for the sake of brevity, especially Cassidy’s mother’s mental and physical health conditions.  But having said that, the emotions in this story feel very real, and Richardson doesn’t give either her hero or her heroine and easy way out of their ingrained fears, or their awkward feelings.  This is a book about apologies and redemption and self-acceptance that was moving an insightful and honest in a way that I haven’t encountered much recently.  Even readers who aren’t a fan of ten-gallon hats or bull rings are going to find a lot to enjoy in this book–and the series, too!

Kelley:

Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet: The third book in Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles is every bit as good as the first two volumes and a worthy end to the trilogy. In book three, as they rally and train an army to take the final step in uniting the Kingdom of Thalyria, we find Cat and Griffin married and awaiting the arrival of their first child. In order to conquer the final realm, Fisa, Cat will be forced to confront the self-serving and ruthless mother who subjected her to years of terror and abuse as a child.

Cat is a child of the Gods and as such her path is often influenced by powers greater than herself. In addition, she has been given great power of her own, but has never been able to successfully channel those powers at will. As much as Heart on Fire focuses on the romantic relationship of Cat and Griffin, the book is even more powerfully a romance about falling in love with yourself. Cat realizes that unless she learns to believe in herself and find herself worthy of the life and family she loves, she will never be able to master her magic and stand in her own power. Along the way, Cat receives steady encouragement, love and support from Griffin, and when she reaches the place she needs to be in order to face her mother and Fisa, she and Griffin become a confident and powerful team who will rule their people with strength and love.

Throughout this series, Cat’s growth as a character is dramatic, and it’s enormously fulfilling to see her step fully into her destined role as Queen of Thalyria. Along the way, there is of course plenty of danger, adventure, magic and romance. More than once we see Cat and Griffin torn apart with seemingly little hope of coming together again, and more than once we’re rewarded with heartbreaking and tender scenes as they are reunited. But most powerful of all, is watching Cat earn her wings as she embraces all of the good and bad parts of herself, and learns to let her light shine not just for herself and her family but for her kingdom.

Until next month, dear readers, we wish you plenty of literary romance to savor!

The Romance Garden

Happy New Year, readers, and welcome to our first Romance Garden post of 2018!

John White Alexander, Repose, 1895

We sincerely hope your new year is full of love, intrigue, and happily-ever-afters, and, to that end, we bring your our genre experts’ favorite reads from the past month.  We hope they get your year started off on the right foot, and give you the chance to explore a new author, a new trope, or a whole new genre!

Bridget: Stealing Mr. Right by Tamara Morgan

Every time I read a description of Tamara Morgan’s romances, my initial reaction is “that…that can’t work!”.  And every single time, she proves me wrong.  Without fail, her romances are smart, funny, insightful, and genuinely touching in a way I never expected, and thoroughly enjoyed.

This first in her new Penelope Blue series features a world-renowned (or most-wanted) jewel thief, Penelope Blue, and her husband, a dedicated and extraordinarily resourceful FBI agent.  Penelope got involved with Grant Emerson simply so that she could keep her enemies close, and make sure he wouldn’t get too close to her and her fellow thieves.  But the longer she spent with the ultra-handsome, whip-smart agent, the more she finds herself falling for him.  And that will never do…he’s supposed to be her worst enemy, right?  Things only get worse when Penelope embarks on a new jewel heist…and finds out that her husband has been assigned to track her down.

I normally loathe stories where the protagonists keep secrets from each other.  In this case, however, Morgan somehow manages to make it work.  Her characters are wonderfully vibrant and driven, ensuring that readers are somehow rooting for both of them, even though it seems there is no way for them to win without losing everything.  And, despite all the odds, this is a book with an absolute, total, complete winner of an ending that had me cheering for this most unlikely of couples.  Readers looking for a snarky, fast-paced, steamy romance need look no further than this book, and the series to follow!

Kelley: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

Readers of historical romance know that you can almost never go wrong with a title by Eloisa James. High quality writing, nods to Shakespeare, humor, and just plain good stories are hallmarks of her work, and her latest book, Wilde in Love, doesn’t disappoint.

Lord Alaric Wilde is an adventurer just arrived home to England after years of traveling the world. While away, the books he wrote about his adventures became London’s best sellers, so unbeknownst to Alaric many admirers eagerly await the return of the highly eligible son of the Duke of Lindow. It seems every young woman in London has read his books and posted his picture on their bedroom walls; there is even a long running play (written by an anonymous playwright) about his life called, of course, Wilde in Love.

Appalled by his newfound celebrity, Alaric finds himself drawn to the only woman in England who hasn’t read of his adventures, Miss Willa Ffynche. Of course, Willa is a private woman who prefers a suitor with far less notoriety. Unlike most women in Alaric’s circle, Willa is well-read and easily holds her own in conversations of business and the world. She fascinates him and, much as Willa hates to admit it, the feeling is mutual.

Watching the couple come together, surrounded by an enjoyable cast of friends and Wilde family members, is fun as well as heartwarming. Readers should look forward to the upcoming stories of The Wildes of Lindow Castle.

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!