Some computer problems have kept me off other blogs as well as my own over the last couple of weeks. So I apologize that this is so late. I just hope I can remember enough about what I read back in October to make this coherent!
The 5 books I've chosen for this list all have something in common--they have an uncommon twist in location (the historicals) and/or gender roles. It made for some rather fun reading last month and if you find yourself interested in any of these, I hope you, too, will appreciate what makes them different.
5. The Surrender of a Lady by Tiffany Clare. When I finished this book I was not at all certain that I would include it here. Surrender is Clare's debut historical romance and while I thought that this highly sensual book was beautifully written, it wasn't terribly romantic. The book begins as Elena is sold by her husband into Constantinople's slave market in order to pay a debt. Her husband is weak and foolish and loses his own life. When Elena is sold into a very exclusive brothel to be made over into an expensive and highly desired whore, she realizes that she has no way out of her predicament and no one who will come to her aid. She makes the conscious decision to learn contentment, if not happiness, and adapt to her new life. Fast forward 5 years: Elena is now Jinan and one night she is recognized by the man she had once hoped to marry 10 years previously when she was a young debutant in England. Griffin has been battling his own demons the last 10 years, including the one that reminds him that he ran away from England, leaving Elena behind. Griffin purchases a 3-month contract for Jinan's services and the two proceed to have an affair. The book is largely about their sexual affair and during it they never really acknowledge Jinan's true identity. As a result they don't really know one another anymore and it's hard as a reader to believe they are really in love with one another. Griffin is determined to free Jinan so that she can become Elena again. Elena has reasons why she wants to remain Jinan and she doesn't share those with Griffin. I won't venture into spoiler territory, but Clare does a wonderful job of helping us understand why Jinan makes the choices she does. Elena/Jinan is a woman who has been totally at the mercy of the men in her life and I appreciate how Jinan has come to terms with being Jinan. The book reminds us that we can never go back, only forward. Jinan goes through tremendous growth in the book. Griffin doesn't seem to grow until it's almost too late; I was left unconvinced that he really understood Jinan. Nonetheless, they have their hard-earned HEA and ultimately I was left wanting to read more by Clare.
4. Warrior / Zoe Archer. Everyone is talking about Archer's Blades of the Rose series. These books blend historical with magic and unusual place-settings. Archer's heroines are smart and capable. Each book has the hero and heroine on a mission to save the world's magic from a group that would seek to use the magic to enslave the world to their ideals. Warrior is the book with the Indiana Jones-like cover and in the tradition of Indy, it is a fast-paced adventure through Mongolia. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I can understand why so many bloggers are talking about the series. I've also read the second book, Scoundrel, and today the third, Rebel, was a FREE Kindle download!
3. Whisper of Scandal / Nicola Cornick. Here's a Regency romance that is set in large part north of the Arctic Circle! Cornick's latest trilogy begins with this story of Lady Joanna Ware, widow of a famous adventurer who finds herself at odds with Alex, Lord Grant, best friend of Joanna's late husband David. The two of them have very differing views of David and now they find that they've been named co-guardians of David's illegitimate child, a little girl who has been left in the care of some Russian monks on a small island in the Arctic north. Together they travel there to claim the girl and in the process come to understand one another, and David, better, and of course eventually fall in love. The romantic themes are familiar, but the location is not. Cornick is one of my favorite Regency authors, and this was another well-written and emotionally satisfying romance.
2. Dagger-Star / Elizabeth Vaughan. I've been waiting a couple of years to read this. Vaughan publishes a book a year and when this trilogy began I decided to wait until all 3 were published before reading it. So when I got my Kindle in September, this is one of the first books I bought. This book is set in the same world as the Warprize trilogy (which I love!), but is separate from that trilogy. Red Gloves is the name of a female mercenary who is traveling with her "sword sister" looking for work when they happen upon a man living alone in the middle of the remnants of a once-prosperous farm. The land has been burned out; the people scattered or killed. But the threat remains and Red is the woman to deal with it once and for all. What I particularly liked about this book is the way Vaughan turned our gender expectations upside down. Red has the skills, personality, and habits of your typical Regency rake. Josiah is no innocent miss, but he is more gentle and nurturing; he is working to bring his farm back to life. Red and Josiah are good together; they complement each other. Within the first few pages it may seem as if Red will be hard to like, but Vaughan gave me enough clues to keep me reading. I really liked this story and I have the next book ready to read soon.
1. The Dangerous Viscount / Miranda Neville. I wrote a full review of this here last month. It was easily my favorite for the way this book also turned our gender expectations upside down and for the way Neville made me like two flawed characters who need to forgive and be forgiven.