Phyl's 5 Phaves from July, Pt. 1

In June I could not muster enough enthusiasm to select 5 favorite books from what I read. Not a problem for July! Of course, with all those miles to spend reading, I had much to choose from. So as a bonus I have 5 honorable mentions to go along with my 5 phaves. Aren't you all so lucky!?
My biases are definitely showing with this group of 10. Seven of the 10 are historicals (6 of those Regency-set). Only 1 book was a new-to-me author; the other 9 authors I count among my favorites and I try (when the budget allows) to purchase rather than borrow books by these authors.
So in this post, in no particular order, are my Honorable Mentions. Tomorrow I'll post the top 5.
Jade Lee's The Dragon Earl was a fascinating tale of a lost peer who has come home to take his rightful place as Earl. In this case, hero Jacob Cato was left for dead in China when he was still quite young. He had been promised to Evelyn Stanton when they were small children. Jacob returns to England just as Evelyn is about to marry Jacob's cousin, the man who had assumed the Earldom in Jacob's stead. Jacob has to learn to deal with being English, with his anger at having been left all alone in China, and his growing attraction for Evelyn. Evelyn, meanwhile, having been raised to be Countess, struggles over just what (and who) it is she really wants. The plot concerning why Jacob's family was killed is left unresolved. This screams sequel to me, but there's no indication on Lee's website that a sequel is in the works. Meanwhile, I can appreciate why many bloggers are fans of Lee's books and I'll be seeking out more of her backlist.
Jill Shalvis' books always make me laugh. Her blog is the best author blog in the business. She has two new books out right now. I recently finished Instant Gratification, book 2 in her Wilder brothers trilogy. Snappy dialogue and great chemistry made this a very entertaining read. Oooh and look! Her other new book is a baseball book: Double Play. I can't wait to get my hands on that one.
As I continue to read my way through Shannon McKenna's backlist, I found Return to Me at the library. Not quite as heavy on the suspense, this earlier book by McKenna is a fine story about high school best friends who get back together after 17 years apart. Emma now owns a successful B&B in their home town and Simon is back after traveling the world as a photojournalist. They have to deal with their history and the menace that hovers over them. This isn't nearly as tightly written as McKenna's more recent books, but still a thoroughly engaging book. And hey! Taking Heat is out now.
Book 5, This Duchess of Mine in the Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James was released in May. The 6th and final book was released last week. That's a long series! I have found James' books to be consistently witty and entertaining. This was no exception as we finally get Jemma's story. Jemma & Elijah are master chess players and the game of chess takes center stage as Jemma and Elijah engage in a chess match both literally and figuratively as they work to put their marriage back together after a long estrangement. I love stories of people finding their way back together; forgiveness is a powerful theme.
My final honorable mention has turned into a far more interesting choice than I originally anticipated. Loretta Chase is probably one of the best historical romance authors out there. Her books are often unusual in setting and her heroines are smart, self-aware, and assertive. I love the way she uses dialogue to advance the story and demonstrate the deepening relationship between hero and heroine. So, do you smell the "but?" Don't Tempt Me, her latest release, is the story of Zoe and Lucien. They were childhood friends who were separated when Zoe was kidnapped at the age of 12 while her family was visiting Egypt. Zoe was sold into a harem and after many years of slavery she manages to escape and find her way back to England and her family. This book gripped me from the first page because Chase can write. When I finished it I could honestly say that I liked it, but didn't love it. Zoe's re-adjustment seemed too easy; the secondary characters read more like caricatures; one particular secondary character could have been fleshed out and made into an interesting counterpoint to Zoe. Then I read this. My repressed inner feminist had to admit that Jessica makes a compelling critical argument about this book and its mysoginistic attitude. Wow. And then yesterday I read this. Candy does a way better job of reviewing this book than I could and her reactions closely mirror my own. I still highly recommend this book. The writing alone is worth it. And it's good to read a book that makes us ask some serious questions.


  1. McKenna is very hit or miss for me and Return To Me was a big ol' miss (for me at least - heh).

    I really enjoyed The Dragon Earl....and yes, there will be a sequel. I was so overcome I actually e-mailed Lee, who told me the original plan was to have both books released fairly close together. Well.....

    Her Dragon paranormal series for Dorchester is apparently selling so well that they decided to put that on the front burner, and push the historicals to the back. Which is good if you love the paranormal series, bad if you're waiting for that second historical. But it is under contract and last I heard they were going to publish it. Just not sure when......

  2. Oh that's great news about the sequel. And I subscribe to this wiki that'll let me know when it's coming, won't it :-)

  3. Tee Hee. Why, yes. Yes you do. That wiki sure is handy isn't it?

  4. For those of you who know not of what we speak go visit here

    That's a handy link to bookmark!

  5. Do you recommend Eloisa James' Desperate Duchesses series? I've wanted to read something by James for a long time, and these books seem to catch my attention over the last two years or so, but I never pursued them. Should I? Do you know if she is working on a new series? If so... maybe I should wait and just get on board then.

  6. I have liked most of the books in the series and would consider them all above average--with the possible exception of Duchess by Night. I wasn't so crazy about that one. I hear nothing but good things about the last one just released. I like how we've gotten to know Villiers over the previous 5 books and I'm really looking forward to having time to read it. If you don't mind a 6-book series, I will recommend you try this one. Her dialogue usually is witty and really moves the plot along. The fact that this series is Georgian-set does make it somewhat atypical (i.e. non-Regency).

  7. That's good to know about Eloisa James' Duchesses series.

    What are the major differences between Georgian and Regency, specifically for historical romance? Don't the time periods practically overlap?

  8. Here's the technical answer. "Prinny" became King George IV. So, Georgian is the span covered by the reigns of the 4 King Georges, 1714-1830. Technically, Regency is the 10-year span (1811-1820) Prinny was Regent, governing in his father's stead because of III's illness/madness.
    The ladies on the Yahoo Regency list consider Regency romances to cover roughly 1795-1820; I think this is because there was a shift in fashion, art & architecture that's more closely identified with Prinny's regency. Fashions included the empire waist dress and a shift from brightly colored clothing for men to more somber colors (e.g. Beau Brummell).
    So a Georgian-set romance would take place in the latter half of the 18th century and fashions would be characterized by panniers & powdered wigs. The characters could still freely travel to France (I think this was true until about 1803 or so). Travel to France is a big no-no in a Regency (unless you're a spy) or the book takes place after Waterloo.
    Does this help?


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