Today’s Steals and Deals at AAR…..
Today’s Steals and Deals are all historical romances. But–woo hoo!–they’re not all Regencies. We are mixing it up… just for you.
We gave Love is a Rogue a B. (Here’s our review.) We wrote:
Lady Beatrice Bentley is the daughter and sister of a duke, which allows for certain quirks. Born with palsy of the facial nerves, Beatrice can’t summon the full dazzling smile that most debutantes sport. She also has some unique interests, which include reading extensively, and writing an etymological dictionary. While her mother is determined to get Beatrice married off in spite of these idiosyncrasies, Beatrice is desperate to work on her dictionary. So the two strike a deal. Beatrice will spend a summer alone at the family estate to work on her projects, and when she returns for the Season she will put a real effort into finding a husband.
Unfortunately for poor Beatrice, the country estate does not prove as quiet as she’d hoped. Rather, a carpenter named Stamford Wright is working with his team on renovations to the manor, so she’s constantly distracted by the noise of construction… and the fine-looking carpenter himself. A few run-ins with Ford shake Beatrice up and out of her dreary everyday life. When provoked by him, she finds herself making the bold statement that finding new words for her dictionary is better than kissing, but then spends her whole journey back to London wondering if that is actually true.
For his part, Ford is sad to see the lovely Lady Beatrice go, but knows it’s for the best. He has enough on his plate preparing to return to the Navy after his work on the manor is finished. Before that can happen, though, Ford needs to get in contact with Beatrice’s brother, to alert the duke that his steward may be embezzling from him. This particular errand sees Ford following Beatrice to London, and even running into her at the duke’s townhouse. There the two find that their attraction has not lessened in the slightest.
While Beatrice doesn’t know why Ford needs to see her brother, she does find it convenient that he’s come to town. Not only does she enjoy spending time with this interesting and vexing man, but his carpentry skills are a blessing for a new project she’s working on. In between all of the balls her mother has dragged her to, Beatrice has discovered that she inherited a London bookshop from her black-sheep aunt. She hires Ford to renovate the shop, which has fallen into disrepair, and begins to sneak off regularly in the afternoon to oversee his work (and test her theories on how kisses compare to etymology). As the two fall in love, there are a few more twists and turns in store related to Ford’s family and Beatrice’s plans for her future.
You can purchase it at Amazon for 1.99 here.
This classic romance was first published in 1997! (Here’s our review from 2008 when it was re-released.)
The story begins with Major Lord Justin Belforte on the run. Formerly one of Wellington’s top intelligence officers on the Spanish Peninsula, Juston was captured by the French during the escape of a captive French general. These same French let him escape under suspicious circumstances, and attacked again close to British lines. When Justin hears that a dead body has been found which bears a strong resemblance to himself, and it is actually declared to be him, he believes that he is being framed for the general’s escape, and that someone wants him dead quite desperately.
Justin returns to England and contacts the few people he absolutely trusts: an officer friend, his mentor at the Foreign Office, a clerk who owes him a favor, and a member of the London underworld. Then he leaves London, intending to lie low on one of his father’s lesser seats. (His estranged father is the Duke of Sheffield.) Instead, while on the road he saves a lady and her dog from a collapsing shed and gets hit on the head. When he regains consciousness, he has no idea who he is. He remembers only a few hours later, but once he does so, he quickly recognizes his hosts’ home as the perfect hiding place, and so he continues to pretend that he is still amnesiac.
The family who have so kindly taken in ‘John Smith’ are Lady Jane Winter, her granddaughter, Miss Catherine Meade, and their cousin, Mrs. Mariah Bredelove. Although their house, Winter’s Keep, is close to London, they live a very quiet life with little company. Many years ago, during her first season, Catherine ran away with a fortune-hunting rogue, who claimed (wrongly) that she had slept with him to pressure her into marriage. Her eyes opened to his perfidy, she refused him, but paid for it by becoming an outcast from society. Now approaching 30, she successfully manages her own estate, and has little interest in romance.
This changes almost instantly when she meets Justin. They are strongly attracted to each other, but there are some obstacles. Justin soon remembers the scandal surrounding Catherine, and thinking her virtue has been breached before, he makes a pass at her. He accepts being rejected with good grace, but Catherine gets upset with him. In addition, she (rightly) feels he remembers more than he’s letting on, and wonders if she can trust him.
Justin is a man who does not like himself. As a boy and young man, he faced constant criticism from his father, leading him to see himself as a bad person. Living the life of a spy with all the lies and deceptions necessary to the job has done nothing to improve his sense of self-worth. Catherine and the reader instantly see that Justin is really a good and honorable man, but Anne Barbour leaves an ambivalent side to him which shows itself when he tries to seduce Catherine or in his attitude towards his father.
It’s on sale for 0.99 at Amazon here.
This one is old-skool. (Here’s our review.)
The Perfect Scoundrel begins with fourth Season spinster Jane Wentworth mooning silently after Quentin, her stepsister Clarissa’s suitor. On the night of a masked ball, Clarissa is taken ill. Due to a series of mishaps, Jane decides to wear Clarissa’s costume. Quentin meanwhile is scheming to compromise Clarissa to force her into marriage. When he sees Jane at the ball he mistakes her for Clarissa, hustles her out to the garden and begins kissing her. You can just imagine how angry and humiliated Quentin is to discover that he has trapped the wrong girl into marriage.
But on the day that Quentin and Jane are married, this light, humorous Regency takes an unfunny turn. On their wedding night he becomes disgustingly and furiously drunk. When he comes to Jane that night, she mistakes his reluctance for nerves and tries to comfort him with affection. In a shocking scene, Quentin brutally rapes Jane and leaves her sobbing. Not long after this he banishes her to his ramshackle estate.
Jane is astonished and frightened when Quentin arrives a few months later. Apparently Quentin’s father has insisted that he go to Jane for a few months and try to make the marriage work. Quentin has no intention of making a go of the marriage, but he has no choice but to spend a few months with his wife.
I’ve read about many mean heroes this year. Quentin is certainly in the top two or three and he’s bound to be controversial. I have to hand it to the author – when she wants to make a hero repulsive, she doesn’t flinch.
One reason this book worked for me in spite, or perhaps even because, of Quentin’s flaws, was that the book portrayed him as bad and not just tortured. Quentin’s behavior was too horrible to brush away with explanations of a difficult childhood and Cullman seems to know that. The transformation of Quentin from dissolute rake to loving husband is slow and satisfying. It’s fair to say that the first half of this book describes a poor excuse for a man, while the second half describes a man who learns to grow up. If you can’t abide a genuinely reprehensible hero who reforms, you’re going to have trouble with this book. I like that kind of hero as long as I’m convinced that the change is real. In this case I was convinced, but Quentin was a test of my taste in this regard.
Just as Quentin changes from a shallow selfish rake, Jane blooms into her own person when she is away from the London social scene. I had some problems with Jane’s character. I understood that she was an unusually good and gentle person, but I found it surprising that she didn’t work harder to guard her heart after Quentin’s vicious behavior. Jane seems to become not only more self confident, but smarter as the novel goes on. Then there is the little matter of the passionate reconciliation when Jane is seven months pregnant. Yes, I know that many pregnant women have great sex lives, but having been pregnant twice I could not but shake my head in amazement at the ease with which these two came together. Ah, if only life was like a romance novel. . . .
It’s on sale at Amazon for 1.99 here.
Sick of the Regency? Here’s a Renaissance romance for you! (Our B+ review is here.)
Shona MacGowan is the only daughter of Flanna MacGowan, known as The Flame, and Roderic, known as The Rogue (heroine and hero from Highland Flame). The year is 1519, and she has just returned from the court of King James V of Scotland, who is still a young boy. Her parents host a tournament, hoping one of the contenders will catch Shona’s eye. Though she flirts with then all, Dugald Kinnaird is the only one who really holds her attention.
Dugald is a rather mysterious figure. His ancestry is foreign, and his reasons for being present in the MacGowan home is unclear. Although he is pretending to be in the market for a rich wife, he has actually been sent by one of the king’s ministers to kill Shona; Shona is supposedly behind the assassination attempts on the young King James. Dugald is from European and Japanese ancestry, and is a highly skilled assassin, capable of killing with a single touch. But he is immediately attracted to Shona and decides to find out for himself who is behind the assassination attempts before he kills her. Meanwhile, Shona is enjoying the tournament, flirting with several suitors, but falling hard for Dugald.
There is a lot going on in Highland Scoundrel. In addition to the assassination and tournament intrigues, there is a magical amulet, and Shona has a young ward who has a secret past. Someone is also out to get Shona, and Dugald saves her from danger more than once. Then, half the characters go on the road to Blackthorn Palace, answering a summons from the king. In addition, there are secondary characters everywhere, many of whom have their own books.
Somewhere in there, Shona is briefly engaged to one of them, but she can’t deny her attraction to Dugald and breaks the engagement. Looking back, I’m not sure how all this action got packed in there, but somehow it all made sense.
Shona and Dugald are both good characters. Shona is free-spirited, athletic, and a magnet for trouble. Dugald is more aloof, but his attraction for Shona is believable. Even more enjoyable are the secondary characters, particularly Shona’s parents. Their interaction with Shona and Dugald, and their still-apparent love for each other, really added something to the story. Most heroines seem to be orphans. If their parents are alive they are often out of the country, or else flawed in some way so that there is distance between the heroine and her family. It was refreshing to see an alternative.
It’s on sale for 2.99 here.
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