Tag Archives: historical romance

Cross-cultural Victorian romance alive with heart, hope and strength

After the Wedding: A Worth saga romance by Courtney Milan

The only thing more inconvenient than Camilla’s marriage at gunpoint is falling in love with her unwilling groom…

So begins the story of Camilla Worth and Adrian Hunter. I’ve always enjoyed Courtney After the WeddingMilan’s Victorian romance but I really loved this one. Humorous. Passionate. Angry. Heartfelt. As I read the final words, I was filled to the brim with the happy, bubbly, lighter-than-air feeling I get from a truly beautiful book. 

There is something heartwarmingly-everywoman about the heroine Camilla (Cam) Worth, her unquenchable spirit and hope for the future despite the fact that deep down, she doesn’t believe she deserves love. Camilla is the daughter of a treasonous earl, trying to stay hidden so as not to bring any further shame on her family. The hero, Adrian Hunter, is the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, an artist and a businessman, strong but gentle and always willing to believe the best of everyone. Brought together by circumstances beyond their control, they work together to wrest their futures back from the men who want to deny them control of their own destinies.

Adrian gives Camilla the right to be herself, and she finds the strength and anger to fight back against with the people who would put her – and Adrian – down. He helps her to look back, and she helps him to look forward. The result is a love match started for all the wrong reasons but finding all the right reasons to continue.

Aside from her memorable characters, Courtney Milan also always digs below the surface of Victorian England to uncover bits and pieces of history that still influence us today. In this case, it is china, as in crockery.  Britain was the workplace of the world for several decades of the nineteenth century, fuelled by a rise in domestic demand thanks to a growing middle and upper working class. There’s a delightful sub-plot in After the Wedding about the creation of a fine china design for display and sale at a trade exhibition.

After the Wedding got me thinking about diversity in Victorian England. A little bit of digging on the web got me the information that there were roughly 10,000 black men and women in London at the time, more around the country, as the result of English tentacles stretching into every continent. They were a distinct minority, under threat of slavery before 1833 even although slavery hadn’t been legal in England since the time of William the Conqueror. However, they were probably not as feared or hated as the Irish. As always in England, class played the largest role in social standing. If you would like to do more research about Black Britain, I found this article from History Today, a helpful overview, although, of course, it does not delve into all the ethnic minorities that make up British society.

After the Wedding is book 2 in the Worth Saga but can be read as a stand alone novel. I did, although I have remedy this fault in my bookshelf by downloading book 1, Once Upon a Marquess, to read immediately.

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Blurb

Adrian Hunter, the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, is determined to do whatever his family needs-even posing as a valet to gather information. But his mission spirals out of control when he’s accused of dastardly intentions and is forced to marry a woman he’s barely had time to flirt with.

Camilla Worth has always dreamed of getting married, but a marriage where a pistol substitutes for “I do” is not the relationship she hoped for. Her unwilling groom insists they need to seek an annulment, and she’s not cruel enough to ruin a man’s life just because she yearns for one person to care about her.

As Camilla and Adrian work to prove their marriage wasn’t consensual, they become first allies, then friends. But the closer they grow, the more Camilla’s heart aches. If they consummate the marriage, he’ll be stuck with her forever. The only way to show that she cares is to make sure he can walk away for good…

Courtney MilanAuthor

Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets and smartwatches. As one does. You can find out more about her and her  books here.

 

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Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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Thief of Hearts, a Christmas novella

December. It’s time to feel the warmth and love of the Christmas Spirit. If she (or he) has not yet visited your home, I suggest you download Thief of Hearts, read it and be inspired to decorate, wrap and spread good cheer.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]Elizabeth Ellen Carter is one of my favourite Australian historical novelists. I am constantly amazed at her ability to switch time periods and write with the same level of authenticity, accuracy and passion regardless of whether she is writing about Ancient Rome, medieval England or, as in this case, Victorian England. Her last novella was the delightful Nocturne, a Valentine’s Day release, set in Regency England. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Hearts, a historical suspense caper involving a Duke as a magician and a young lady as a sleuth. Elizabeth does always like to turn convention on it’s head!

I asked Elizabeth why this particular story. She said, ‘Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.

‘Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.

‘They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.

‘So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.’

Book DescriptionAWWC16

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.

To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Extract

He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.

“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”

Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.

“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”

“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.

“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.

“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”

Tobias stood.

“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”

Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.

“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”

“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.

“Call me Tobias.”

He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.

“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”

Want to read more? Go to

Author Bio

eecarter400h-203x300Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. Elizabeth loves to interact with her readers and you can find her at:

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New Book Review: Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

I’m very pleased to feature the novella Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter as one of my 12 Nocturne AWWCreview for the Australian Women Writers 2016 challenge. Elizabeth enjoys setting her novels during historical periods fraught with war and complexity, for example during the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England and the French Revolution. She writes compelling heroes and heroines who fight the restraints and evils of their times with equal determination. She also writes really scary villains and I trembled in my boots whilst reading Warrior’s Surrender. So it was a delicious surprise to read Nocturne and discover that it was a domestic drama set during the Regency period, but underscored with all Elizabeth’s usual themes and appreciation for the subtleties of human virtues and vices.

Ella Montgomery is forced to take a position as a governess on the death of her father. She is a sweet woman, shy and used to being described as plain. Blackheath Manor, the home of her employer the Earl of Renthorpe, overflows with the terror of hidden secrets. The secret of all this subterfuge is Thomas, the Earl’s brother, who was dreadfully wounded and blinded in the war against Napoleon and is kept hidden as a secret by the family, which has declared him dead and even erected a memorial to him.

Thomas feels his life is all but over and is resigned to being secreted away. His only pleasure comes from the piano he plays in the evening after the family has gone to bed. He meets Ella when she follows the sound of the music downstairs, and they begin a clandestine romance in the dark. But Ella will lose her position if she is caught and the stakes are even higher for Thomas. His harsh and angry brother has a great deal more than face to lose if the world discovers Thomas is still alive. Can Ella overcome her shyness and use her wits to forge a path to freedom for them?

Music sings from the pages of this story. Elizabeth Ellen explores the nature of creativity, what it means to be alive and the complexities of family loyalty in this lovely sweet novella. Despite all the darkness Nocturne carries, both physical and emotional, hope – and love – ensure a rich read and a happy ending. Highly recommended

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Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter (indie-published) is available as an ebook.

EE Carter

Elizabeth Ellen Carter believes that love is a great adventure. Find out more about her and her books at http://eecarter.com. You can also join her on Facebook at Elizabeth’s Library Book Club where she dispenses free reads, new release information and exclusive content.

The Ministry of Marriage

How could one not read a series called The Ministry of Marriage? For me it conjures up an image of a Hogwarts-style benevolent rule that immediately demands a certain rebellion. So it proves. The guardians and parents who make up the Ministry of Marriage aim to ensure the dynastic future of Regency England’s best families whilst also securing marriages based on respect for their children. Naturally the children rebel and insist on falling in love.

Ministry of Marriage

Like all the best series, Christina Brooke‘s Ministry of Marriage can be read in order – or flagrantly out of order, as I have done. I started with The Wickedest Lord Alive about Xavier, the Marquis of Steyn and Lizzy Albright. Then, having developed a taste for Christina’s fine command of the best and worst of human nature, especially as contained within family units, I read his sister Rosamund and Griffin, the Earl of Tregarth’s story in Mad About the Earl. Love is at the heart of both of these sexy Regency Romances, threatened by family intrigue, warring factions and internal doubts.

The heroes of both the above books are deeply scarred by their childhoods, Xavier emotionally and Griffin both physically and emotionally. Fortunately for them, neither Lizzie nor Rosamund is as sweet and gentle as she looks. Both are prepared to fight for what they want and neither will be deterred by either fearsome scowls or insane and dangerous relatives.

I was also delighted to find out that three of the books – The Wickedest Lord Alive, London’s Last True Scoundral, and The Greatest Lover Ever (they are nothing if not confident, the Westruther men) are now available as audiobooks in the US. Hopefully worldwide distribution will follow soon.

I am not the only one who adores Christine’s books. As regards Mad About the Earl, Suzanne Enoch said ‘Clever, lush and lovely’ whilst Romance Junkies called it ‘a true historical gem‘. Romance Junkies. RT Book Reviews described The Wickedest Lord Alive as ‘Smart, funny and a joy to read’. I think I will tackle Heiress in Love next. Anna Campbell said of the Constantine Black, ‘One of the most compelling heroes I’ve read in years’. Given how much I like Anna Campbell’s heroes (watch this space), that lure is irresistible.

There are many more members of the Westruther, Black and de Veres families to be married off, so I hope that Christina will not stop at book 6 but continue to write and delight fans like me. In particular, I wait with bated breath for the Grand Daddy of the Westruthers, family protector and arch manipulator the Duke of Montford, to fall in love. He deserves it – and so do his charges!

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The Ministry of Marriage books are sexy Regency romances.

A Dangerous Madness by Michelle Diener

Welcome to my first post on Love Lines, a blog I dedicate to all the wonderful romance writers who bring their readers so much pleasure and entertainment. Like many of you, I have an enormous store of books, overflowing from book shelves and even busting out of my Kindle, if such a thing is possible. I have decided to review and share them as it is such a pity to keep good news to oneself.

My first review is Michelle Diener’s delightful sweet Regency romance, A Dangerous Sweet Regency RomanceMadness. It’s beautifully written and combines romance with adventure in a story in which Michelle skilfully blends fact and fiction when Miss Phoebe Hillier and James, Duke of Whittaker get caught up in the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of British prime minister Spencer Percival in May 1812.

I love learning about history through my fiction, and Michelle has obviously done a great deal of research around the only successful assassination of a British prime minister. Spencer Percival was a man with many political enemies and investigating each group against a tight deadline provided fascinating insight into England’s domestic politics during the Regency.

However, the history never interferes with but rather compliments Phoebe and James’ growing romance. James has a reputation as a dissolute Duke, one he has cultivated at great pains to allow him to penetrate circles no respectable person would be seen in – or trusted in. Phoebe is 25, in the care of her aunt, and engaged to a man she does not like. However, when Lord Sheldrake jilts and makes a run for the continent, he not only threatens to ruin her personal standing in the ton but also puts her life in danger as his connection to the plot to assassinate the prime minister is revealed. Although he is initially not sure if he can trust her, it is up to James to save her life.

Aside from the history, there were a couple of things I particularly liked about A Dangerous Madness. The dialogue between the two protagonists is witty and the romance underlined by growing admiration and desire. The heroine has courage and the hero … well, I do love a grown up, emotionally mature and chivalrous hero. A little part of me will always be in love with the Duke of Whittaker. Further, the book came in the most beautiful paperback edition which I will treasure. It is also available as an ebook.

Michelle has two other Regency romances, Emperor’s Conspiracy and A Banquet of Lies as well as a host of other books. She writes in two genres, historical romance and science fiction/fantasy, and I look forwarded to reading more of her work.

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A Dangerous Madness is a sweet Regency Romance