Random (but not really)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance

An important reminder: I generally dislike boinking in books. Yet, there are a lot of really good stories out there with boinking, which means that boinking romance novels I like have managed to overcome an extra hurdle.

That said, I’ve read quite a few romances this year–and several books in other categories that are ALSO romances, and I’ll note them in those posts.

Historical Romance

I enjoyed most of the Lisa Kleypas historical romances I read, but these were four that I especially like.

The first series, the Hathaways, is set in the 1850s.

Married By Morning (2010) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Leo Hathaway, Lord Ramsay, spent several self-destructive years after the death of his fiancee. It took him several years to forgive Merripen for saving his life, and it was only being sent to accompany his sister Win to rehabilitate in France that saved him.

After Leo became Lord Ramsay (and after Leo and Poppy headed to France) the Hathaway family hired Catherine Marks to help his sisters Poppy and Beatrice to properly come out in society. Since the two first met, they argued and bickered and generally disdained each other.

Although the first three books were fine, this is the first book in the series I loved. When we see Leo in the first book, he’s drunk and his sister has gone to fetch him from a gambling house before he completely ruins the family. His redemption comes over the course of the first three books, so by the time you reach this book, he’s earned is HEA. But it’s not just Leo’s redemption that makes this story so good, it’s also the fact that he has four sisters and is very aware of how women fare in society.

“Think of it this way,” he said. “Marriage would change hardly anything between us, except that we would end our arguments in a much more satisfying way. And of course I would have extensive legal rights over your body, your property, and all your individual freedoms, but I don’t see what’s so alarming about that.”

He’s just a nice guy.

Also, there is lots of sibling bickering, which is always a favorite.

Love In The Afternoon (2010) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Beatrix is the youngest Hathaway sister, and the least tame of the family, preferring to spend most of her time with animals. But when a friend is going to dismiss a letter from a soldier without responding, Beatrix asks to reply in her friends name, feeling that the gentleman desperately needed a response.

Captain Christopher Phelan is a second son, and a bit of a rake, living for pleasure while leaving the responsibilities to his older brother. But when he is moved to the Rifle Brigade, and sent to war in Russia, his life changes dramatically, turning him from a wastrel to a soldier.

I’ll be honest that I was reluctant to read this story, because I tend to dislike convoluted misunderstandings, however, that’s now where the story went. Christopher is pretty damaged by life, and has PTSD (not called that at the time). And Beatrix has no interest in marriage, but despite their initial conflicts and misunderstandings they actually talk to each other and listen to each other.

Devil in Spring (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10) (The Ravenels) was not at all what I was expecting from the title.

Lady Pandora Ravenel doesn’t want to marry. She wants to make board games and live on her own, because women lose all their right as soon as they marry. But when she’s found in a compromising position with Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, he is forced to propose, and she has to decide if her independence is more important than well-being of her family in light of the impending scandal.

The hero is NOT a rake or at all scandalous. He just carries the reputation his father made. And the heroine is marvelous with a loving and adoring family.

“Lady Berwick told me there’s no choice. If I don’t marry, the only other option is to hurl myself into the nearest live volcano. Wherever that is.”

“Iceland. And the only way you’ll marry St. Vincent is if you can convince me that you’d prefer him to the volcano.”

It’s a very sweet story.


A Modest Independence (2019) Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) (Rating: 8/10)

This is set in the 1860s and is the sequel to The Matrimonial Advertisement which I very much liked.

Solicitor Tom Finchley has worked his way up from nothing. He craves security, which is why he puts up with a job that often leaves him feeling uncomfortable, since the men he represents aren’t always good people.

Jenny Holloway became a companion for her cousin, to escape her life in a small town, where she was expected to look after her alcoholic father (since she hadn’t married). After her cousin’s marriage, she has received a modest independence, and plans to spend her life traveling, to escape the rules and strictures of society.

First, no boinking here! Yay!

Second, after being at the mercy of men because she had no rights, and seeing that her friend was almost put in an asylum because women lacked rights, the main character has ZERO interest in marriage once she has gained an independence.

“Come. You can’t expect me to believe that you’ve never dreamed of marrying and having a family.”

“And giving up all of my rights? Not only over my money and property, but over my body? No thank you.”

I was actually worried about the resolution of the book, because I didn’t see how the characters could compromise on their deep needs that were so far apart.

However, I recommend that you read The Matrimonial Advertisement first, since it gives some of the background of Tom, but also helps clarify just why Jenny is so opposed to having to answer to any man–even one she might trust.

This is one of the few boink-free romances I read this year.


Historical Romance, LGBT

At the end of last year I binged on a lot of K.J. Charles, so there were fewer books for me to read this year. I did re-read one, and another was a new publication.

Think of England (2014) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Set in England in 1904

Archie Curtis lost three of the fingers on his right hand as well as much of his company when a delivery of guns proved tragically defective.

“It was a damned business. My company lost as many men in two minutes’ practice firing than in six months of war before it.” Seven deaths on the field; six more in the field hospital; two suicides, later. Three men blinded. Mutilations and amputations. “The entire crate of guns was deadly.”

Now, two years later, he is searching for clues as to why it happened.

This is a mystery and a M/M romance (with boinking) and I really love the characters.

Archie is a considered a bit dense–probably the modern equivalent of the star of the HS football team. Although his life changed completely after the accident that maimed him and took the lives of so many of his men, he is expected to be the same as he was before he went off to fight. I really adore Archie. He’s a decent guy and doesn’t know what to do with himself and the world he now finds himself inhabiting.

Daniel de Silva is a dandy and an effete. Curtis has no idea how he ended up at the house party, but he the man makes him uncomfortable.

He grabbed for the nearest serving dish and proffered it, in the hope of changing the subject. “Ham?”

“No, thank you.”

“It’s a jolly good one.”

Da Silva blinked, slowly, like a lizard. “I dare say, but I fear I haven’t converted since we last spoke.”

“Con— Oh. Oh, I beg your pardon. I quite forgot you were a Jew.”

“How refreshing. So few people do.”

de Sliva is a jew, a poet, and it’s known (although not with certainty) that he’s a homosexual. He is also far more than he seems. I liked him just as much as I liked Archie, because I can’t imagine precisely how difficult his life must have been, yet still he has beliefs he stubbornly sticks to.

This is a M/M boinking book, and a mystery, and it’s one of my favorites.

Any Old Diamonds (2019) (Rating: 8/10)

Set in England in 1895.

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes–who goes by Alec Pyne–desperately wants revenge upon his father. So he hires the Lilywhite Boys to steal the diamond parvane his father is planning to give his second wife on their 20th anniversary. But Jerry Crozier knows far more than Alec is comfortable with–and Jerry doesn’t trust Alec not to back out of the deal once things are set in motion.

This story is single POV, which is unusual for KJ Charles, but worked extremely well for this story.

There is also a bit of mystery here, and a lot of surprise.


Romance, LGBT

Family Man (2017) Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (Rating: 8/10)

This is a M/M boinking book.

This is an unusual book for me. It’s a modern romance–no mystery, no magic, no supernatural creatures, just two lonely men with complicated families.

After three failed marriages, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro has started wondering whether he family and religion are why he has denied to himself so adamantly that he might be interested in guys.

Trey Giles is working his way through school, one class at a time, while holding down two jobs to support his mother and grandmother. He’s been so busy that he’s never had time for a relationship, and has never been interested in hook-ups, but when he finds Vinne looking completely out of place at a gay bar, the two flirt and develop a friendship that seems odd–even to them.

Apparently closeted men are a trope in modern M/M romance, but since I don’t read modern romances I was perfectly fine with the trope. Additionally, part of why Vinnie is in the closet is because of his family and the homophobia he perceives there.

What I liked best about the story was Trey. It’s clear he’s not your typical young, gay college student. His mother is an alcoholic, and there is no easy solution to her problems, and her alcoholism his deeply impacted the lives of Trey and his grandmother.

It’s hard, reading about Trey’s family, but I haven’t read many books where the main characters have to deal with addicted family members and the difficulty this makes for their lives, and the complexity of loving someone who is addicted.

This is a very good story, and I highly recommend it.

The Books of Mid-Year 2019 Great Covers
The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries
The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

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