An Unusual Courtship by Katherine Marlowe

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An Unusual Courtship was written by Katherine Marlowe. This is a Regency-era m/m historical romance novel, and I first found out about it because of its availability on Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t want to read my entire review, all you need to know is that I enjoyed this book so much that I purchased my own copy.

Percival Valentine likes his quiet life in the village of Linston, where he works in an informal capacity as estate manager. There’s a more detailed explanation, involving an extinct barony and an inherited house, but needless to say, Percival is a gentleman. When he finds out that Linston Grange has been rented to a trio of young people, he looks forward to the new opportunities for socialization.

Mr. and Miss Bolton are delightful, but it is their friend the enigmatic Mr. Everett who really catches Percival’s eye. There is clearly a spark of mutual attraction, but they skirt around it and never talk about it because of the forbidden nature of such a relationship.

But Mr. Everett has secrets of his own- are they enough to doom the potential for anything more than friendship? Read more

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My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes

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My One and Only Duke is the first book in Grace Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I enjoyed Burrowes’ Windham Brides series, and a new series meant a fresh start with new characters.

Quinn Wentworth started with nothing, and built a prosperous banking empire for himself and his siblings. But as the story begins, Quinn is in Newgate, facing execution for a murder he did not commit. It is there that he meets Jane, a pregnant vicar’s daughter. Jane is not married; she eloped to Scotland with a handsome soldier, who turned out to be a rogue, but he was killed in a duel. Jane already caused one scandal by eloping, and now she faces a second one. Quinn offers to marry Jane, so that his estate can provide financial support for her and the unborn baby. He’s going to die anyway, so why shouldn’t he do one final magnanimous gesture? Read more

Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch

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Salt Magic, Skin Magic was written by Lee Welch. This is a Victorian-era m/m romance novel with elements of fantasy and magic. I found out about this book in one of my Facebook groups, and it sounded like the perfect book for me.

Lord Thornby had a pleasant life in London, but after being summoned home by his father to their remote estate, he finds that no matter what he does, he is unable to leave. He is physically trapped on the estate with no hope and no one to help him.

John Blake is a trained magician who arrives at the estate as a favor to a friend. Thornby’s young stepmother believes that she is the victim of dark magic and that Thornby is the one cursing her. Blake is prepared to eliminate the threat, but he realizes that while the house most certainly is cursed, Thornby is as much of a victim as his stepmother. Read more

Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman

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Kiss Me at Christmas is the tenth book in Valerie Bowman’s Playful Brides series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed the other Playful Brides books.

Readers were first introduced to Daffin and Regina in the last book- A Duke Like No Other. As this next adventure begins, Regina has given up on marriage, but she has decided that she wants to lose her virginity to commemorate her 30th birthday. She attempts to recruit Daffin, a Bow Street Runner, to help her with this, but naturally, he refuses. However, when it appears that someone is targeting her family, her cousin Mark hires Daffin to serve as bodyguard. Despite some initial awkwardness stemming from Regina’s earlier request, they strike up a friendly rapport. Soon enough, they realize that there really is a genuine attraction that is getting harder and harder to deny. But even though they have retreated to the countryside for Christmas, it seems as though that threat has followed them from London. Who is trying to hurt the family and why? Read more

First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennett

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First Earl I See Tonight is the first book in Anna Bennett’s Debutante Diaries series of Regency-era historical romance novels. This might be a new series, but I thoroughly enjoyed her Wayward Wallflowers series, so I was looking forward to the experience.

Fiona’s father is not an aristocrat, but her sizeable dowry has the ability to open doors that might otherwise be closed to her. Fiona has always intended to marry for love, but when she receives a note from a blackmailer threatening to expose family secrets, she knows that she needs to act fast. If she marries quickly, she can use her dowry money to pay off the blackmailer and protect her sister’s reputation.

She chooses David Gray, the Earl of Ravenport because his financial situation is an open secret. He was also recently jilted, so Fiona hopes that these factors will work in her favor and compel Ravenport to go along with her wild scheme. Read more

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Band Sinister is a Regency-era m/m romance novel by KJ Charles. I received an ARC of this book, and before I launch into my review, I want to share how excited and grateful I am for the opportunity. For Charles’ last two books, I stumbled upon the submission form for review copies too late. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was able to submit a request for Band Sinister.

Guy and Amanda Frisby live in bucolic mediocrity, and while they aren’t necessarily happy with their forced seclusion, they endure it because that’s the way things need to be.

As the story begins, Amanda has just written a gothic novel based on their neighbor Sir Philip Rookwood and his friends. Amanda breaks her leg in an accident, and is taken to Rookwood Hall to recover. Guy is obligated to join her in order to maintain a sense of propriety; no decent woman will serve as chaperone because of the rumors surrounding Sir Philip and his friends. They are certainly an eclectic bunch, but they are kind to the Frisbys.

Guy realizes that Rookwood Hall is not the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he was led to believe. There’s clearly a connection between Guy and Philip, but Guy has never allowed himself to even acknowledge such feelings, let alone act upon them. Philip is much more (so much more) experienced, but he’s gentle and patient with Guy, who proves to be equally adept and curious. Guy is so shy that he can’t even say what he wants in English- he reverts to Latin. And if that’s not the sweetest most precious thing in the entire world, I don’t know what is.

In many books, conflict stems from a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a frank conversation. Conflict in Band Sinister does not fall victim to this pitfall; it’s much more realistic, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate the weight of obligation versus doing what the heart wants.

I loved everything about Band Sinister. I took two classes about gothic novels in college, so I appreciated the inclusion of a gothic novel as a plot point. I’d like to think that Charles named the Frisbys after the family of mice in the children’s modern classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would be so delightfully perfect.

Speaking of delightfully perfect, I’m grateful for the lessons in some of the salacious lines from Latin literature.

On a more serious note, despite the frequent doses of levity, this book presents some serious points on family bonds, friendship, love, redemption, consent, and trust.

I would absolutely recommend Band Sinister to fans of m/m historical fiction. This is absolutely my favorite KJ Charles book. I received my copy at the end of August, and I’ve read the book at least 3-4 times since then. I plan to buy my own copy of this book, and if an audiobook is produced, I’ll buy that too. I can’t wait to read Charles’ next book, but in the meantime, I will content myself with another readthrough of Band Sinister.

 

Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

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Carols and Chaos is a young adult historical fiction novel written by Cindy Anstey. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have enjoyed her three previous books.

Carols and Chaos serves as a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, but each of the two books offers a very different perspective. Both books are set during the Regency era and both have young adults as their protagonists, but Suitors features members of the gentility whereas the two protagonists in Carols are servants. Upper servants, yes, but servants nonetheless.

Kate Darby has established herself as a lady’s maid. This is not to be a permanent occupation- Kate intends to open up her own dress shop one day when she has saved up enough money. The young ladies she assists are amiable, but her job is not always easy because her mother (who lives nearby) asks for help and doesn’t understand that Kate’s focus needs to be on her duties at the manor house. Kate also does not need to be distracted by the handsome Matt Harlow, who serves as valet to the Steeple brothers, who have come to stay at the house for the Yuletide season. Read more

Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen

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Last Night With the Earl is the second book in Kelly Bowen’s The Devils of Dover series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I enjoyed A Duke in the Night, which was the first book in the series.

Rose’s sister was Clara was the heroine of A Duke in the Night. Rose is happy for her sister, but she is perfectly happy to remain at Haverhall School, giving art lessons to young ladies and taking on commissions for personal portraits. However, her plans for a predictable future change when a man from her past quite literally tumbles into the house.

Eli Dawes has not been seen for years, and is presumed to have died during the Battle of Waterloo. He has been hiding on the Continent for a number of years, but his father’s death compels him to return and reluctantly claim the title he has inherited. Read more

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Jonathan Auxier. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed some of Auxier’s other books, and I thought it would be a good fit for my three girls who are in the fourth and sixth grades.

Nan Sparrow works as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. It’s a miserable existence, with no end in sight, but that changes when she meets Charlie, a gentle creature who befriends her. Nan has never really had a friend, and she is fiercely protective of Charlie. She understands that he would never hurt anyone, but is there a place in the harsh world for a monster? Read more

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

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Mistletoe and Murder is the fifth book in Robin Steven’s Wells & Wong series of middle grade historical mysteries. My oldest daughter is eleven years old, and she is a big fan of this series. We actually own the UK editions of most of the series (including this one), but we were super excited when we received the opportunity to read an ARC of the American edition.

In fact, my daughter was so excited about reading this book (again) that she asked if she could write the review. So, here you go:

My review on Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Note: this is my first review EVER so, sorry if you think it’s short :/

Hello whoever is reading this! This is my review on Mistletoe and Murder.

This book is part of a series called Wells and Wong in the US, but in England, it’s called A Murder Most Unladylike.

The book takes place during Christmas time in England, and Hazel and Daisy-the main characters- are staying in wintry Cambridge for the Christmas holidays.

But-of course-a murder happens. Two days before Christmas, a person is murdered, and Hazel and Daisy have to solve the case- But they have competition with the Junior Pinkertons, a rival agency, and they have to find the killer before Christmas day! Talk about all that stress!

But a big twist comes at the end, something you’d never see coming!

If you liked Mistletoe and Murder, you should try more Murder Most Unladylike books! I DEFINITELY recommend them, the books are so great, like this one! Robin Stevens is an amazing author, and I definitely love this series!

Okay, back to my adult/mom perspective now!

Boarding school books are my absolute favorite, so I was a little sad to see Daisy and Hazel leave their school for the holidays. However, it was quite pleasant to see them reunite with some of the characters from previous books in the series.

I found the mystery to be quite satisfying, and although I did pick up on the direction the book was going to take in its earliest stages, I was surprised by the Big Reveal. I do think it’s great that Hazel and Daisy go about solving their cases. Everything is very methodical and organized. Details and observations are written down in a notebook, and they discuss points before reaching conclusions.

I loved the way this book tackled tough subjects like gender and race in such a meaningful way by incorporating them organically into the plot. I also loved the evolution of Daisy and Hazel’s friendship; like many teen girls, their friendship has suffered ups and downs, but manages to persevere.

I would absolutely recommend Mistletoe is Murder to middle grade readers. I would suggest starting with the beginning of the series and then reading the books in order. Stevens is an extremely talented author, and the books are surprisingly nuanced- not your typical middle grade fare! As a mom to girls, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate such a wonderful series with strong female leads who work together and are very very clever. We are both eagerly looking forward to finding out what is going to happen next for our intrepid sleuths!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.