Best Selling Romance

Heat Level: Mild

Redeemed Unto Freedom by Journey Jackson

Redeemed Unto Freedom*

Love and Order in the Classroom

Melissa Kettering, from Baltimore, makes the journey to Clear Water, Montana, after the deaths of her husband and child to start a new life as a school teacher. Rob Forrester is the schoolmaster in Clear Water. While they get along personally, they have some differences of opinion about how to handle order in the classroom. Will Melissa soften Rob’s ways? Or will he demand that she be more like him? As they come to know each other, will romantic sparks fly?

This book has more than the typical issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Commas are problematic. The book takes place in Montana in the 1870s. Yet the author uses words and phrases that are more modern and seems jarring in the context of the story. For instance, Rob initially referred to Melissa as Ms. Kettering. The use of the title *Ms.* is a more modern invention; she would have been called Mrs. Kettering. There are lots of awkward phrases and juxtapositions, and the dialogue doesn’t sound natural. Their journey to love was not shown in a way that made it seem believable.

One Last First Date by Kate O’Keefe

One Last First Date*

Literally Made Me Laugh Out Loud!

Cassie and her two best girlfriends make a pact on the beach. Whomever they go on a date with next will be the man they marry, their “last first date.” It took three months for one of them to finally make that move after some heavy-duty vetting and research of the man, Parker, a doctor. Cassie is working on a big project at work at this time as well, partnering with the number one sales agent in the office whom she considers to be a bit of a jerk, Will. The last first date starts off as a bit of a disaster when she accidentally punches her own nose trying to get her skirt uncaught. But the rest of the dinner goes well.

Will Parker, that hopeful last first date, truly be that? Does he have any old girlfriends lurking around in the past? What about Will? Will their project be successful without coming to blows or oneupsmanship?

This book was a very fun, light-hearted read. It is based in Australia. It’s written with a great deal of humor. I actually did laugh out loud at times! Sometimes at the situation Cassie had gotten herself into or her reaction to it. In a fun way that I love in good sitcoms, the author would occasionally create what would become an in-joke, as in she would set up fact early on and then used it to create a humorous situation. It is rare to see such a comedic device in a fluffy romance, so it was a delight.

Mr. Darcy’s Feigned Courtship by Elizabeth Goodrich

Mr. Darcy's Feigned Courtship*

In this unusual Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy proposes not in Kent but at Netherfield while Jane is recovering from a much more lengthy illness then she has in canon. As is normally the case, Elizabeth is surprised by this, and of course, rejects him vehemently. But this is not the last she will see of Mr. Darcy. She visits Charlotte in Kent. After a few weeks there, she is drawn into a scheme to throw a ball for Lady Catherine’s 50th birthday. As she, Mr. Collins, Charlotte, and Anne are discussing this, Mr. Darcy shows up. Soon, Darcy and Elizabeth are working together on a joint task for the ball, spending much time together to Darcy’s delight and Elizabeth’s initial dismay.

The proposal scene at Netherfield was shown in flashback as Elizabeth approaches Rosings. I thought that the author wrote dialogue that didn’t feel realistic on a couple of different levels. At times, it seems to be trying to mimic Regency patterns, but it didn’t quite work out, feeling stilted. At times, too, the characters would speak for a bit before switching to the other character. If you are familiar with the original, you know that Jane Austen only occasionally had these kinds of protracted soliloquies. Rather, she preferred a quick back and forth for conversation. I would have liked to have seen this scene written more in that less blocky, more rapid-fire way.

I also thought that Elizabeth quite often behaved inappropriately. She at times takes Darcy to task with the shrewishness that one would expect from her mother, not the witty and insightful Elizabeth we know and love, and she does so in front of others, which would not be acceptable by Regency propriety standards. Also, there are quite often long stretches of narrative; I would have liked to have seen that more interspersed with dialogue for balance.

That being said, this was an enjoyable variation on the typical story. I particularly enjoyed the idea of bringing in an important person from Lady Catherine’s past. It was funny to watch Lady Catherine’s reaction to all that Anne and crew put into place.

Love to Declare by C. B. Maurice

Love to Declare*

A Trying Time at Customs

I think this title is a little bit misleading. This is a very short story that mostly just details a problematic trip through Customs for young women who has just come back from a year teaching primary school children English in Korea. There is a young man, Jake, whom she didn’t know before her plane trips to get her to the US, but stands by her during this drama.

I wonder if the author just had a particularly trying time at Customs after one of her plane trips abroad. That being said, this short story can be read in less than a half hour–perhaps while you’re waiting in line!

The Key in the Loch by Blanche Dabney

The Key in the Loch*

Time Travel Romance with Unbelievable Conflict

In this time travel romance, the heroine, Rachel, is a young English woman who is preparing for her Masters in medieval studies. After her adoptive mother dies, she receives a strange gift to that she cannot open without a key, which was luckily found by her brother when going through things at the adoptive mother’s house. When opened, the gift reveals a necklace, which when touched transports Rachel back to Scotland in the 1100s. She is immediately involved in a predicament that some clansmen believe will require human sacrifice.

Will she be sacrificed? Will the laird, in whose bedroom she initially appeared, become wrapped up in the drama or will he’ll be able to control his clansmen? Will the attraction between Rachel and the Laird come to anything?

This book did not sit right with me. The crux of the conflict is based on the idea that ancient Celts or druids performed human sacrifice. Nowadays, it is not believed that this happened. I do understand that this is fiction, but at least the historical Scotland part should have some basis in Scottish reality.

Also, I thought that the book spent too much time relating feelings and events in contemporary time that didn’t matter in the Scottish part of the story; only what was relevant should have been laid out. The book has some of the common issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, but this is not overly distracting.

The cover had two pet peeves of mine. First, the heroine is said to have fiery red hair; she is very dark haired on the cover. Second, a bare-shouldered style of dress more typical of modern Mexican restaurant waitresses was not favored in medieval Scotland.

If you enjoy time travel Highlander romance and can buy into the human sacrifice aspect, you might find this an enjoyable read.

The Portrait Problem by Jamaila Brinkley

The Portrait Problem

Meddling Mothers, Wedding Planning, and Intrigue…Oh, My!

The portrait isn’t the only problem in this novella in the series supposedly taken from Anastasia Galipp’s files.  Wedding planning takes on a whole other, and often hilarious, dimension when both Anastasia’s mother and Simon’s mother show up, and it becomes a double wedding with Simon’s sister, Juliet, as the other bride. Intrigue is added to the mix when Juliet feels faint after sitting briefly for a sketch for a possible wedding portrait.

Will the double wedding go off without a hitch? How does Anastasia feel about the co-opting of her wedding by their mothers? What is causing this portrait fatigue amongst certain young brides?

I found this novella to be a quick, fun read. The author was able to maintain an irreverent, dry humor throughout.

The Prince Who Captured Me by Joanne Wadsworth

The Prince Who Captured Me

False Marriage Thwarted by Kidnapping

Lady Olivia, the heroine, met Anteros–a sea captain and gentleman’s club owner–at a ball a year-and-a-half before the book starts. We don’t get to see much of this backstory except in the prologue and snippets of recalled memories, but apparently, Anteros has been a good friend to Olivia and her family. Lady Olivia has also gotten to know his sister, Adrestia. For all that has transpired in their past, Anteros believes that Lady Olivia owes him a favor. So when his father demands he marry–even though Anteros has no desire to–he asks Lady Olivia to perform false vows with him to appease his father. His father accepts this compromise. Lady Olivia is later kidnapped.

Is Anteros’s father genuinely willing to accept an English noblewoman, not his chosen Austrian archduchess, for his son’s bride? Will Anteros risk to pursue and rescue lady Olivia? When will he tell her that he is actually an Italian prince whose family has been deposed by Napoleon? Will they speak false vows of marriage? Will they fall in love?

As I have often felt in this series, the book is missing something by not fully including the couple’s backstory. We are just told they have this complex past relationship with only brief moments of that history shown. I would like to understand that the dynamics between Olivia and Anteros better, and that can only be done by showing the scenes where their relationship evolved. The author prefers to write the series as novellas rather than novels, but to me, the complex character dynamics and plot shifts require longer telling to be fully satisfying for the reader.

In this series, the author creates some fascinating secondary characters. Like in this story, Anteros ’s sister, Adrestia would make a fantastic heroine. I would encourage the author to both write some of the romances for these interesting secondary characters and consider making them longer so we can understand the couple’s backstory instead of just being thrown in at a much later time in their relationship.

The book had some of the common issues of grammar, punctuation, and usage, but this did not distract from the story. She did misspell the hero’s dynasty, Bourbon, as Bourdon twice.

If you enjoy historical romances with a little bit of adventure on the high seas, you might enjoy this story.

Sweet Compromises by Dean Hodel

Sweet Compromises*

Romance and Reticence

This book is an odd combination of romance and reticence. Skye, the heroine, is coming up on the first birthday that will not be shared with her twin. He was a nurse in the military and was accidentally fatally shot. He has tasked a friend to bring her a final note from him on their birthday with the instructions that this man is here to help her through her grief so that she can move on. Caleb is a strange hero. It takes a bit to pick apart his history but suffice to say he is very closed off emotionally. Skye appears to be all happiness, but her pain at the loss of her family makes life difficult for her. Did twin Stephen hope to heal both his friend and his sister and bring them together? Is Caleb willing and able to open up himself up to someone else? What about the new project manager at a neighboring ranch, who seems to have an interest in Skye? Part of what makes this book odd for me is that it is often touching in recounting some of their separate histories, fears, and doubts while at other times, characters discuss concepts in a way that people just don’t talk and think about them. For instance, at the very start, Caleb talks about wanting to help heal Skye. It just seemed odd to see him think like this when he barely knows her. The problem had more than the usual amount of errors with grammar, punctuation, and usage. For instance, the need for another quotation mark at the start of a new paragraph of dialogue said by the same person was not followed. The story had some interesting characters aside from the main ones, and it looks like from the epilogue that this is the start of a series.

The Viscount’s Promise by Joyce Alec

The Viscount's Promise*

Fascinating Hero in This Regency Suspense

What a dramatic beginning for this book! We are placed in a courtroom where a man is being sentenced for murder. On the dock, the accused man proclaims his innocence and asks his friend in the courtroom take care of his sister. After exacting this promise, the accused then drinks from a vial and keels over dead. After a year of mourning has passed, this friend, Lord Sharpe, as well as a kindly marquess and marchioness, come to town to support this sister, Julianna, in a London season. Lord Sharpe has been troubled by the brother’s claim of innocence and is not quite willing to believe that his former friend is guilty. Will Lord Sharpe figure out the correct murderer who framed his friend? Will he fall for Julianna himself or help her to wed another man?

I found the character of Lord Sharpe to be an interesting one. He is not portrayed as the typical Regency romance hero, who can definitely be a little touchy-feely to appeal to modern readers. Instead, he is portrayed as stiff and formal at first, bringing to mind Mr. Darcy (although he is more willing to dance!). He’s one of the reasons I think the book should have been longer. It would have been more appropriate for him to gradually become more comfortable in Julianna’s presence, and a longer book would have been needed for his character to relax. For a novella, this book has some surprising twists and turns. In fact, that’s the second reason why I think the book should have been expanded: to give more insight into thoughts, emotions, and events of the story.

I thought it odd that states that it takes place in “Nineteenth century, England” while the cover states it is a Regency; why not be specific if you are as on-point as Regency? The Regency period is a very narrow timeframe in English history and certainly not nearly as vague as the 19th century!

There are some issues with grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Surprisingly, even a character’s name was misspelled. Sometimes the baron is either referred to as Baron Holland or Baron Hollard. There are some issues with word choice as well, as sometimes the same or similar words were used right next to each other.

Despite all that, this is a relatively well written short Regency suspense.

The Earl I Adore by Joanne Wadsworth

The Earl I Adore*

A Smart Heroine Who Will Not Be Ignored

I adored this book! Regency is probably my favorite subgenre of historical romance, and this writer did it up right!

The hero and heroine formerly courted, but James broke it off before he went to fight in the Napoleonic wars (second son), not wanting to have Sophia wait in case he didn’t return. He does return two months later after both his father and elder brother die in what he thinks are mysterious circumstances. Now the earl, he is determined to figure out what happened to his father and brother, and he is determined to keep Sophia safe by not resuming the courtship while he still feels his family is in danger. He tells her decidedly that she must look elsewhere for a husband (all the while wishing that man could be him!). While James was away, Sophia kept up her friendship with his sister. She hasn’t completely forgiven him for severing the courtship, but she knows he is the one man for her. She convinces him to at least let her continue being friends with his sister, but she is definitely hoping he will change his mind about marrying her.

Sophia was written beautifully! She’s a smart lady, one that other books would derisively call a “bluestocking,” but in this book, she talks about current breakthroughs in steam technology and her informed opinions of what the future will be like without anyone saying that a woman should know or understand these kinds of things. That happens a lot in historical romance but not here. Quite refreshing! She also is adept at playing a cat-and-mouse game with James. They banter and tease each other in a way that you can’t be helped but caught up in; she often gets the upperhand in the conversation.

The author also has a good sense of plot structure. For example, at the quarter mark (end of Act 1), the romance story line heats up AND James gets a clue that will lead him in his investigations of the circumstances around his father’s and brother’s deaths (found by Sophia no less!).

The book is meant to be a sweet version of her more steamy The Earl’s Bride, but their attraction (and the ways they acted on it) were still satisfying. I find myself wondering how she wrote the other version.

If you like Regency romance, I think you will enjoy this slightly different take on the genre!

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Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I’ve purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

All Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I get a tiny percentage if you decide to buy one of the books.

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