Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Comfort Reads for the Polar Vortex

After a cold and snowy November and a deceptively mild December, winter has reasserted itself here in the upper Midwest. Today's forecast high was -4 degrees F, and I am pathetically grateful that the actual temperature has climbed two degrees above that.

To add insult to injury, my Amazon pre-order of Miranda Neville's The Duke of Dark Desires and Tessa Dare's Say Yes to the Marquess (which shipped on December 30) has still not arrived -- I fear the delivery vehicle is frozen in a ditch somewhere.

Fortunately, I have stockpiled a sufficient supply of romance novels to help keep me warm this winter. I recently read Suzanne Enoch's Rogue with a Brogue. I bought it over the summer but didn't get to it until after Christmas. I am not generally a fan of Scottish romances, but I usually enjoy Enoch's Regency historicals. I stuck with her latest series because the first book, The Devil Wears Kilts, was about a Scottish laird who came to London for the Season. The Scottish elements were balanced with enough London ballroom catnip for me to enjoy it. The Scottish elements are a bigger part of the plot of the second book, which involves a hero and heroine from rival clans fleeing arranged marriages and falling in love on their way to Scotland. To my surprise, I found myself liking this book even more than the previous one.

That may be because road trip romances are also catnip to me. One of my favorite authors, Cecilia Grant, recently released an e-novella, A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, which was free for a while in December as a gift to her readers. It is a tale of chance-met people traveling together on their way to separate family holiday gatherings who find themselves weathering a series of disasters. Imagine a Regency romance version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I found it perfectly delightful.

My all-time favorite road trip romance novel is A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. Its heroine is a shy bluestocking and its hero a charismatic and mischievous rake with hidden insecurities. Yum.

The Kindle app on my smartphone has been getting more of a workout lately. I prefer to read print books, but some excellent romances are occasionally available at deep discounts (or sometimes only) in digital versions. I discovered Courtney Milan last year. I have been trying to ration myself when it comes to buying her books, both because they tend to be expensive and because I have a long list of other authors I wish to try. When The Duchess War was available for free as an ebook last month, I jumped. The first full-length novel in the Brothers Sinister series did not disappoint. I enjoyed it as much as I did the prequel novella, The Governess Affair. I suspect I'll be purchasing the next few books in the series in the not-too-distant future. I really want to read The Countess Conspiracy, but I always try to read a series in order.

I recently started Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner because the reviews intrigued me, and the e-book is on sale. I love the research she put into Regency-era Parliamentary elections and voting laws. Historical politicking fascinates me. The one aspect of the book that makes it hard for me to suspend my disbelief is the hero's admiration for Byron, not only his poetry but also his impassioned (but completely ineffective) speech in the House of Lords and his courage in going about with a club foot. In real life, Lord Byron swanned around the peninsula during the war with an officer's uniform that he would occasionally wear when it was to his social advantage to do so, despite having never served in the military. He was a vocal armchair general who delighted in snarky criticism of the British army. The hero of Sweet Disorder is a wounded veteran of the Peninsular War who found his army service to be the most satisfying period of his life. It seems odd to me that he would admire Byron. I am enjoying other aspects of the book, though.

Since I try to limit my screen time each day, I have also been reading Emma Holly's The Demon's Daughter in print. I wanted to explore steampunk paranormal romances, and this one came highly recommended. I am about halfway through it, and I am really enjoying it so far. The world-building is very engaging. The book is quite steamy -- it probably qualifies as erotic romance -- without the emphasis on BDSM (at least thus far) that seems so prevalent in the erotic romance genre. All in all, it is a good choice to raise one's temperature on a bitter cold winter day.

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