Five Historical Romances I’m Loving Right Now!!

If you’re like me, end of summer sloth is starting to take over. That time of year when the air is sweet, the sun golden but sets earlier every evening, and nothing beckons louder than your backyard/balcony lounge chair. Maybe you’re on holiday. Maybe holidays are done and you, like me, want to recapture that lazy feeling on your weekends. At this time of year, there’s no luxury like a good book, a fruity drink, and an afternoon to relax through.

In Romancelandia, the sunny season had seen published an unusual amount of LGBTQ+ historical romances, and I, for one, am not complaining. Five of the most talented authors around have put out incredible books, and so it’s time to give my fellow historical writers some love in one of my favorite features, Five Things I’m Loving Right Now (Historical Romance Edition).

So take advantage of the last days of summer to soak in a few rays and travel back to far more adventurous (and repressed, it must be said) times. After you’ve read Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, of course. ūüėČ

Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

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Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. And this cover is not only gorgeous, but a perfect reflection of the story inside. I’d read paranormals by the wonderful Liv Rancourt, but her historicals were new to me. Boy, am I glad I dove into this one! A rare historical set in the 1950s, Mrs. Rancourt brings the era we think we know through movies and TV brilliantly to life. You will fall as hard for Russell and Skip as they do for each other, and be bedazzled by the dialogue and period detail. A must-read for any historical romance fans.

A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers

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The author of the astounding Enlightenment series journeys to Porthkennack, a Cornish seaside town with a moody beauty and a stormy atmosphere. Especially when it comes to its newest and most inscrutable resident, Ward, a disgraced scientist chasing the ghost of his dead brother. Salt of the earth Nicholas is blackmailed into helping him with his experiments into weather and spirits, and gets more than he bargained for when sparks fly between them. Need I say more? A master of the genre at the top of her game.

Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

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The shadow world encroaching on 1920s London was never so beguiling as in the hands of Mrs. Charles, who expands her world of occultists and invisible entities established in The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, but a generation later. As always, the period detail and the level of research into folklore is gold-standard–you will learn ridiculous amounts of the most fun kind of information reading this book. But the deep emotion with which she imbues her characters, wounded Saul and sardonic Randolph, are what makes this so glommable.

The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

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Mrs. Sebastian is my favorite new discovery this year, earning one-click status with her first book A Soldier’s Scoundrel and my undying devotion with her second, The Lawrence Browne Affair. This gem concludes her trilogy, but is hopefully not the last historical we get from her golden pen (or, er, keyboard). Courtenay, who has the reputation of a Cassanova thanks to someone publishing a book of his exploits, is the titular rake. He finds his foil in Julian, an ultra-proper man with dark secrets. Together, they try, and fail, to resist their best instincts and the lust that burns between them. Much to the reader’s delight.

The Bones of our Fathers by Elin Gregory

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Okay, so I’m cheating a bit with this one. It’s a contemporary, but it involves a museum curator and the discovery of an ancient burial cist, so I hope I’m forgiven. It’s also bloody fantastic. The lovely Mrs. Gregory doesn’t get enough love or attention, despite being an incredible author, so do yourself a favor and pick up this treasure about… well, the power struggles over some ancient treasure in the form of two intertwined male Bronze Age skeletons. Mal, the curator, and Rob, a local boy with an unfortunate nickname and hidden depths, also find their lives intertwined, in the best and sometimes most difficult ways possible. Wit, warmth, and welcome are the hallmarks of this book–don’t miss it.

Happy reading!

Selina

Five Things I’m Loving Right Now – Winter 2016

After the January we’ve had, I think we could all do with a little positivity. A generous dollop of fun in your fancy coffee to ward off the winter blahs. A sprinkle of the old pop culture fairy dust, if you will. Periodically on this blog, I like to¬†trumpet¬†a few of my latest obsessions.¬†Some I may end up loving and leaving in a few weeks, some I’ll be happily ever after with. All¬†are best enjoyed with a steaming cuppa, under a fleece blanket, with a cozy (or furry) someone¬†by your side.

Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May mysteries

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With the Peculiar Crimes Unit, it’s all there in the name. The eccentric septuagenarian¬†British police detectives¬†Arthur Bryant and John May, along with their equally¬†lovable support team,¬†investigate crimes that are, well, peculiar, and¬†always involve an occult/mythical aspect. Their superiors may always be trying to shut them down,¬†but no one else can solve these¬†gripping cases with as much bumbling panache as Bryant and May.¬†Whether it’s a highwayman terrorizing the city’s museums, a disappearing pub, or a murderous elk creature stalking the streets (or the famous Leicester Square vampire), Fowler always finds a way to tie the fantastical to¬†contemporary issues.¬†He knows more¬†about the hidden history of London¬†than some leading historians, but also how to write endearingly flawed characters and terrifyingly¬†vivid¬†villains. I would recommend all of his books; he only started writing this series when he was around twelve books into his career and is also¬†a master of the short story. But on a chilly winter’s night, I personally love nothing better than to tuck in with my friends at the Peculiar Crimes Unit and see what mad clues they are chasing down this time. You truly never know what strange places they will lead you.

Manhattan

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There are so many treasures in the current trove of excellent television that some gems are bound to get overlooked. Manhattan is one of those. Possibly because it’s about two competing groups of scientists racing to invent the atomic bomb before the Germans do in the midst of WWII.¬†If a top-secret¬†military outpost in the middle of the Nevada desert doesn’t exactly strike you as an exciting place to set a TV series, well, you would be wrong. Wherever big egos clash, drama is sure to spark, and Manhattan doesn’t just follow the intellectual battles and spy-vs-spy intrigue of the narcissistic scientists, but adds in military men with their own twisted agendas, lethal and¬†covert CIA operatives, and¬†the innocent but not clueless wives fighting for lives of their own, not to mention the ethics of this whole ‘building a nuclear weapon’ thing. Best of all, this series promotes intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and humanitarianism. Its “heroes” are complicated people confronting the biggest questions of human existence/nature, and the result is just plain riveting. Don’t let its lack of sparkle fool you–this series is gold.

Black Sea

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Made redundant by his long-time employers, estranged from his wife and son, with a specialized skill that new technology has made obsolete, submarine captain Robinson doesn’t just need a hail Mary, he needs help from the father, son, and the holy ghost. When he hears about a downed Nazi submarine containing $40 million in gold at the bottom of the Black Sea, he hears a choir of angels. Assembling a half-Russian, half-British crew of fellow laid-off technicians, they convince a rich dude to bankroll a rickety old sub for a cut of the treasure they mean to salvage.¬†A gang¬†of surly, desperate men, only one Russian translator, and a vessel that’s seen better days cruising under the Russian militia–what can go wrong?¬†Finding out is half the fun.¬†With a quorum of great performances, mostly from Jude Law as the captain and Ben Mendelsohn as, duh, the dodgy one, this¬†masterfully suspenseful thriller from director Kevin Macdonald will have you clutching to your cocoa (and vowing to stay on dry land). Serious fun on a frosty¬†Sunday night.

Ryan Adams’ 1989

I’m not proud of this one, but if I’m honest, I really enjoy this record. I’ve never been a fan of Taylor Swift. I respect that she’s a female artist basically owning the world right now, one who writes all her own music and is the boss of her career; I just don’t like her stuff. I’m not a huge pop music¬†fan in general, and… well, I should probably stop there. But¬†my sister played me Adams’¬†version of her latest record, with completely different production¬†and tempo to the songs,¬†without telling me what it was, daring me to guess.¬†Once she made the big reveal–because there’s no way I ever would have figured it out on my own–I couldn’t believe it. Same songs, but completely different aesthetic–more indie, more moody, definitely more my thing. I’ve¬†had it on rotation ever since,¬†and the songs just get richer the more I listen to it. A credit to both Swift and Adams, IMHO.¬†Consider this my mea culpa, Taylor… though I¬†won’t be buying the original 1989 anytime soon.

Valrhona Hot Chocolate

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Hello, my name is Selina, and I’m a chocoholic. Not being able to drink tea or coffee, my winter¬†poison of choice is hot chocolate, and there is no better chocolate on the market than Valrhona.¬†Don’t believe me? You’ll find that the¬†pastry chefs of the best fine dining restaurants all use this brand of chocolate to make their delectable creations. But thanks to an expanded product line, it’s not out of the reach¬†of regular¬†consumers. If you’re going to splurge–because this is a luxury item–the hot¬†chocolate should be top of your list this¬†time of year. More like a¬†cup of melted chocolate than its milkier cousins, if you like¬†chocolate like I do–and when I indulge, I indulge in the best–you have to sample some of this liquid heaven.¬†Valrhona is also a great baking¬†chocolate and is available in¬†large bars at reduced rates, if you hunt around. So, cheers to you all!

Hit me up in the comments with some of your lately obsessions, and enjoy the season!

Selina