Random (but not really)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Comfort Reading, Part the Third

Time for more comfort reads–this round is historical romances.

I’ve loved historical genre fiction from my introduction to Sherlock Holmes (and then Agatha Christie). Which I recognize weren’t initially historical fiction, but they gave me a love of stories set in the past. When I discovered that some authors actually do tons of research on the periods in which their stories were set, I was hooked.

Banquet of LiesI’ll start with the only books without boinking, the Regency London series by Michelle Diener: The Emperor’s Conspiracy (2012), Banquet of Lies (2013), A Dangerous Madness (2014). (She has also written a series about two actual historical individuals, Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, which is also good.)

But there is something about this mystery/romance series I find particularly comforting. The second book is my favorite—it features a young woman who is hiding from her father’s killer, and uses her hobby of cooking to hide in plain sight—as a young French chef just starting on her own. I love her trips to the market and the descriptions of the meals she makes—as well as her search for someone she can trust with the information her father gave her.

The first book is the least likely of the three, but once I got past the premise of an older woman being willing to adopt an orphan sweep stuck in her chimney, it’s quite good.

She does an excellent job with her characters, giving them distinct personalities and realistic motivations, which makes the whole thing enjoyable.

All the rest of the books have boinking. Just so you know.

A Talent for TrickeryI discovered Alissa Johnson when I picked up the first book in her Thief-Takers series: A Talent for Trickery (2015), A Gift for Guile (2016), A Dangerous Deceit (2017). These are mysteries as well as romances, and the first two stories deal with the daughters of a confidence man who, after his death, left London and changed their names to hide from the many people who might want to take revenge upon them. The thief-takers of the title worked with her father, and hope the man’s old journals might give them a clue in solving a series of thefts that ended in murder.

The third book is especially interesting as it has a young woman who has an auditory processing disorder as the heroine. I generally don’t care for stories where a lack of communication causes the problems between characters, but in this case she has excellent reasons for hiding her problems—especially since she doesn’t initially believe she is in danger.

Her other two series, The Providence Series: As Luck Would Have It (2008), Tempting Fate (2009), McAlistair’s Fortune (2009), Destined To Last (2010) and Haverston Family series: Nearly a Lady (2011), An Unexpected Gentleman (2011), Practically Wicked (2012) and thoroughly enjoyable historical romances, all of which have lots of witty banter (which is always a favorite of mine). They’re fun and very enjoyable.

The Countess ConspiracyCourtney Milan has written some excellent historical books, but my favorite is the Brothers Sinister series: The Duchess War (2012) A Kiss for Midwinter (2012) The Heiress Effect (2013) The Countess Conspiracy (2013). There is another book and novella, but I stopped here in my re-reading.

The Countess Conspiracy is my favorite of all her books, but the novella A Kiss for Midwinter comes in a close second. In the Countess Conspiracy, Sebastian presents Violet’s scientific work as his own, because no one will accept a woman as being capable of such work. Eventually, the lies get to Sebastian and their long friendship falls apart because of that, as well as the secrets Violet has been hiding.

A Kiss for Midwinter has a young doctor looking for a wife, and the young woman who believes the doctor is judging her for past mistakes. This story is set just as doctors were discovering germ theory, and the doctor is a proponent of both germ theory and of women not having babies until they wear themselves out and die. But all four of these stories are excellent and well-worth your time (as are the following two, I just don’t love them quite as well).

An Unseen AttractionKJ Charles writes queer romances, primarily MM. And she also has diverse characters, which is something you don’t often find in historical romance. Sins of the Cities: An Unseen Attraction (2017), An Unnatural Vice (2017), An Unsuitable Heir (2017) has one main character who is the son of a noble and a nursemaid (CW: it’s made quite clear the nursemaid was raped, and then went back to India, leaving her bastard son behind. Which is a lot.) The rest of the series deals with the mysteries uncovered in the first book but has different main characters.

The Society of Gentlemen series: A Fashionable Indulgence (2015), A Seditious Affair (2015), A Gentleman’s Position (2016) has a lot of focus upon just how dangerous MM affairs could be, leading not just to social ruin, but possibly to jail and deportation.

Think of England (2015) is a stand-alone mystery and one of my favorites. A young man is trying to discover why a batch of guns exploded, killing and maiming so many of his men (he did not escape unscathed).

Band Sinister (2018) is her take on Georgette Heyer’s Venetia. It’s a delightful romp.

Cat Sebastian also write queer romance, and the best of the lot is A Gentleman Never Keeps Score (2018) (Seducing the Sedgwicks), which is The Sound of Music with a young rector instead of a nun. It is a LOT of fun.

Any suggestions for comfort reads? Here are some of my non-romance and romance-adjacent recommendations.

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