Do you remember the enormous stack of historical romance I was given by a neighbour at the start of the summer? Well, I’ve been working my way through it, and here are my thoughts on the first eleven books!
The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James
Wow, this was pretty terrible. I actually really enjoyed the first half, which was a cute childhood friends to lovers romance, but then it got extremely weird. All the hero’s personality was instantly replaced and also the author seemed to forget that the Napoleonic Wars happened. I read the whole second half through gritted teeth. I hated both main characters by the end, and the historical errors and Americanisms drove me up the wall. That being said, I would read more from the author if the story was more straightforward, as the first half was fun.
Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss – Annie Burrows
Another book that I really didn’t love. It’s hard to pull off an amnesia storyline that isn’t swiftly resolved, I think – in this case, the heroine doesn’t remember her identity until around the 75% mark, which kind of made it difficult to connect with her as a reader, but also made it hard for me to believe in her connection with the hero, as her personality was sort of just nonexistent. I really didn’t like the hero, who was domineering in his insistence that Mary was his missing fiancée, to the point that he scared her multiple times and really felt like he was taking advantage of her, refusing to take no for an answer. Just not the plot for me.
Lady Beneath the Veil – Sarah Mallory
Luckily the third book I picked up was far more of a hit! I really enjoyed this read – it starts with a very farfetched concept, of two strangers tricked and blackmailed into marriage respectively, so we meet them literally as the marriage ceremony becomes binding, and then they meet each other. So I was expecting a slightly silly read, but actually this was a quiet, sensible book that really delved into the emotional work of pulling a marriage together from nothing. I liked both main characters, though the hero was quite flawed in his stubbornness, and I loved seeing them just trying to get along each other as they went through life. It felt like it took place over quite a long time, so I really got a sense that they were developing. The subplot about the sister trying to make her husband jealous got a little bit too much page time for quite a shallow storyline, but I think this just suffered in comparison to the richness of the main couple’s characterisation.
Society’s Most Scandalous Rake – Isabelle Goddard
There were good bones to this one, but it creeped me out the whole way through with the narration’s constant insistence on repeating phrases about the heroine’s innocence and young, lithe body. I didn’t spot any mention of exactly how old she was, apart from under 21, nor how big the age gap was between her and the hero, but I shuddered every time he had lustful thoughts about her ‘young flesh’. Ruined the whole book for me.
Scandalous Lord, Rebellious Miss – Deb Marlowe
This was another great one! I very much liked the heroine, who was less rebellious and more a practical woman with no particular aspirations to be a society belle; she just wanted to get on with her work for her own fulfilment. I also liked the hero, although he was a little less well-fleshed-out. There was nothing in the blurb to indicate this was a childhood friends to lovers story, which is a trope I tend to adore, so that was a nice surprise – I thought it was done really well here, with just enough history between the two leads that I believed in their connection, but not so much that there wasn’t enough to discover in the current plotline. I liked this and will look out for more by the same author.
His Enemy’s Daughter – Terri Brisbin
This one was a DNF for me – not because of any fault in the writing, just because I’ve realised that I really don’t tend to enjoy medieval settings as there’s too much violence inherent in the set-ups of most. I prefer to stick to the cut direct rather than real wounds.
Rogue’s Salute – Jennifer Blake
I also decided not to read this one for similar reasons. New Orleans 1842 is too different from my preferred UK Regency setting for me to get into – plus this particular paperback is in a terrible state and I don’t want it to fox anything else!
The Inconvenient Duchess – Christine Merrill
This one was a difficult read only because the book itself was completely falling apart – I had to read it in sections that fell out of the spine! I liked the heroine, who was practical and active, but the hero in this was a bit of a domineering dick and the plot largely revolved around his brother trying to coerce the heroine into an affair, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable romance I’ve ever read.
A Rogue’s Proposal – Stephanie Laurens
This is a properly dated bodice ripper! A hero named Demon, lots of sweaty horse-riding scenes, and just an air of drama that is difficult to explain – the kind of know-it-when-you-see-it feeling of Jilly Cooper et al. Too much extraneous stuff for me around the romance, with very little focus on the feelings of falling in love – just a lot of lust, and head-hopping so we’re unable to forget about the heroine’s ‘creamy globes’ even in her point of view scenes. A DNF for me.
The Elusive Bride – Stephanie Laurens
This one, too, was a DNF. It is noticeably more modern (2010 compared to the above 1999 release date), and the vibes are far less dated, but it’s still not the kind of romance I enjoy.
A Gentleman’s Honour – Stephanie Laurens
And while I was at it, I thought I’d give this last Stephanie Laurens a shot too, but it was another DNF! This was the closest to my taste, but it still felt more like the author wanted to tell a historical action story about the hero than a romance, and the headhopping drove me up the wall. I think this author is just not my cup of tea!
So I’ve read six and DNFed five – that’s just about a quarter of these books ready to pass on. So far there’s only been a couple of hits, but I’ve found a couple of new authors to check out, and it’s definitely been interesting to do a bit of a check on my historical romance taste. Onto the rest!