5. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn. Even though I usually prefer a little more meat to my historicals, Quinn is still one of my favorite authors. Her humor and likable characters make her books fun, and sometimes, very emotional reads. Set in her Bridgerton world, this is the first in a new series featuring the unfortunate young women made infamous by the Smythe-Smith Musicales referred to in the earlier books. Marcus and Honoria have known one another since they were young as Marcus is her brother's best friend and Marcus spent much time with Honoria's family. While it's not quite a "friends to lovers" story, it is a story of two people who begin to see one another in a new light. Thoroughly enjoyable for fans of Quinn's work, although not my favorite.
4. A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser. This is the second book by Fraser that I have read and I liked it as well as her first one. While published second, it takes place before the events in The Sergeant's Lady. Anna, a secondary character here, becomes the heroine later. Meanwhile, James and Lucy meet at a house party meant to celebrate a wedding. Lucy is secretly betrothed to Sebastian. Soon, however, Sebastian turns his eye toward James' sister Anna and Lucy finds herself attracted to James. When found in a compromising position, James and Lucy are forced to wed. James and Lucy must learn to make their marriage work amid a number of secrets which come to light. The whole story comes together very well; I like the way the characters are written. I hope to go back and re-read The Sergeant's Lady sooner rather than later.
3. Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day. I really enjoyed this story of Eliza, an heiress who has been suffering a series of "accidents" and Jasper, the thief-taker she hires to protect her from whoever wishes her harm. Eliza's a rather self-sufficient woman with no particular desire to marry. Someone wants to force her hand and she needs to find out who. Jasper is attracted to Eliza from the start and needs not only to protect her, but to discover the source of her troubles. Things become more urgent when Eliza's troubles are linked to issues from Jasper's past. There's a mystery here, but it doesn't overshadow the developing relationship between Jasper and Eliza.
2. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran. I really loved this book and it was almost #1 for the month. Nell Whitby is a desperate young woman living in the slums who breaks into the home of the Earl of Rushden seeking revenge for wrongs done to her mother. It turns out that she meets the new Earl, Simon, who becomes the hero of the book. He recognizes that Nell is actually the long-lost Lady Cornelia. Nell is worth a fortune and Simon needs a fortune. His motives are less than altruistic when he brings her into his home to prove her identity and restore her to the position she should have had. And in some ways like the Pygmalian story, Simon falls in love with Nell as he helps with the make-over. This Victorian-set novel is enhanced by its look at class differences and the precarious position of working women. Nell is a fascinating heroine and I appreciated that she didn't change too much by becoming Lady Cornelia.
1. Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer. I am fully aware that a lot of people did not like this book. The heroine Grace has put her own needs second to everyone her entire life. And when circumstances force her to marry just when she thinks she's achieved some independence, it seems like it would be the last straw and a wall-banger instead of a moving book. I think this is just one of those times when this book connected with this reader. I loved Grace and felt her pain and disappointment. I loved Diccan and the way he slowly (oh so slowly) came to appreciate just who Grace was and all the things she'd been hiding. I loved the writing and the way Dreyer peels back the layers. Grace is by no means a 21st century heroine. But -- for me -- she works as a 19th century heroine. Your mileage may vary.