I’ve been on a real historical romance kick recently, so I thought I’d round up some quickfire thoughts on a few of my recent reads, both good and bad! I read all of these as ARCs, which were provided free of charge either through NetGalley or through the author’s own ARC team.
The Rigid Duke by Darcy Burke
This was such a sweet little novella – it has just enough space to tell a really heartwarming story, without all the bells and whistles of too much drama or too many obstacles for the main couple. Instead, the plot revolves mostly around Juno and Dare slowly warming up to one another, and realising that they’ve finally found someone they can be themselves with; I enjoyed their banter very much! I sometimes find Darcy Burke’s plots a little bit too action-packed for my taste, so it’s really nice to see something so stripped-back from her that really lets her characterisation and dialogue shine and has such cosy vibes.
The Queen’s Man by Jess Michaels
Content warnings: death of a spouse; emotional neglect/abuse from spouse
I’l be honest, I’m not a fan of this author’s writing style – I find her sentences, particularly her dialogue, clunky. That being said, her plots are really sweet, so I will occasionally get tempted by her new releases, and I’m glad I did for this one! I’m always interested in a romance between two older characters, and both leads here are in their fifties, but get just as sweet a love story as any young couple. This is the last book in a series, and it does feel like a sort of epilogue to the main series, which focused on Gia’s children as they each found love – there are lots of moments that feel like they wrap up those previous stories, that are presumably nice cameos for long-term readers. These moments don’t at all spoil the main story for a new reader (which I was!) but they lend a sort of cosy, happily ever after feel from the very beginning, which I really liked. Overall, this was very sweet.
The Marquess Meets His Match by Laura Martin
Content warnings: death of a spouse; childbirth-related death; death of a parent (all prior to story, discussed)
The author’s note in this book says that the series it begins is inspired by matchmaking reality shows like Love Island, translated into a Georgian setting, which sounded like great fun – and was, though things are perhaps not as messy and dramatic as the inspiration! I love a story set at a house party, especially when the host is specifically aiming to play matchmaker among their guests, and while that theme is kind of in the background here, it’s still a good time and I’m excited to see if the matchmaker gets a little more hands on in the rest of the series. I didn’t love the heroine to start with, as she came across more rude than feisty, but once she began to mellow out a bit and dropped her unreasonable grudge against the hero, I really liked their dynamic.
A Tryst by the Sea by Grace Burrowes
Content warnings: death of a child; death of a parent (both prior to story but heavy themes)
This one was not for me, and I think if I end up disliking the author’s second book in this shared quartet, I might give up on reading her work entirely as I’ve had misses from her before. Nothing in the blurb or marketing of this book indicates that it’s going to be a story about child loss, and that’s pretty much the main theme of it; I find the lack of content warning or even mention of it really insensitive, as I prefer to avoid this kind of plot. Apart from the content just not being my cup of tea, I felt this had some unnecessarily nasty things to say about women who do have children (referring to them as ‘broodmares’ and painting them all as smug), and also felt that all the characters except the main couple were bafflingly caricaturish and evil, and none of the character motivations made sense. The main couple clearly feel everyone else in the world is out to get them, and the narrative just backs that up without interrogating it, which makes it feel quite unfulfilling. I’m really disappointed in this one.
An Affair by the Sea by Erica Ridley
The second book in this quartet, though, was lovely. It’s perhaps a little silly in its set up – a solicitor who wants to be a chef posing as a fictional pirate fiancé to rescue a young woman trapped as an unpaid servant to her cousins – but it quickly shifts past the more ridiculous elements of the plot to a really cute story about finding what makes you happy and trusting yourself to do it. I liked Allegra, who’s a typical modern-minded Erica Ridley heroine, and though I rolled my eyes at John a bit to begin with, he actually won me over fairly quickly and ended up being really sweet. Allegra’s hilarious and lovely cousins stole all the scenes they were in, though – this one is really funny in places!