For What It's Worth

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Historical Romance roundup!

As I have said in the past, I’m not a big fan of historical romances. I keep persevering in the hope that I will find the elusive HR that will make me a convert. In my quest I’ve read a few historical romances recently – a few that are outside the norm and had more of chance of sucking me in. So let’s see how I did!

These are just brief reviews – you can click on the link to get a more detailed description of each book from Amazon.

Knight of Passion (All the King's Men)Knights of Passion by Margaret Mallory. I won a copy of this one from Carrie at In The Hammock Blog - free is good! Lady Linnet and Jamie Rayburn have a past. A past that includes betrayal. They went their separate ways but find themselves brought back together in duty to their Queen thus reigniting their passion. Knights was kind of fun and I didn’t mind the historical aspects of it since it was more action oriented than “tea party” oriented. That stuff bores me to tears!
Liked: When Linnet & Jamie are together their chemistry is undeniable. I loved the supporting players - Queen Katherine & Owen. More than Linnet and Jamie at times. I wanted their story!
Nitpick: This is one of those books where no one says what they’re really thinking and there is misunderstanding after misunderstanding. It got kind of old and I wanted to slap both of them at times.
Verdict: Not a traditional HR but more fun and action. I did go in expecting a real knight in shining armor and all that, so I was little disappointed when it was just a mere mortal guy but it was a fun quick read.
Rating: 3 out 4
Buy the book! Knight of Passion (All the King's Men)

Mary Balogh (Author)A Secret Affair (Hardcover)(2010) A Secret Affair by Mary Balough. This is the last book in Balough’s The Huxtable Quintet series and one of the few traditional HR authors that I enjoy. All her characters are smart and the women are sassy. This is very much about the ton and sipping tea – being seen by the right people. I think this is my main problem with historical romance. I HATE being told what to do (surprise!) and to have people have a fit because you show a little ankle or be forced into a marriage with an old wrinkly dude just because you’ve passed your shelf life and must marry so your families reputation isn’t sullied just makes me bristle. I know it happened – I just don’t like reading about it. Anyhoo….This one is about Constantine – a rake who enters a secret affair with Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton. I enjoyed all the previous books in this series and couldn’t wait to get to Constantine’s book.
Liked: I had always thought there was more to Constantine and in A Secret Affair we finally get to learn more about his past. I liked Hannah a lot, as with all of Balough’s heroines, she is in charge of her own life.
Nitpick: Although I liked both MC’s I didn’t really get into their romance. They had weird sort of detached encounters.
Verdict: It was OK – just not what I had hoped for.
Rating: 3 out 4
Buy the book! Mary Balogh (Author)A Secret Affair (Hardcover)(2010)

Whistling in the Dark Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen. This was a little off the beaten path for me. A gay historical romance recommended by John of Dreaming In Books. I featured his REVIEW for the book during the Ultimate Reviewers Challenge and it convinced me to read it myself. Out of all the books I’m mentioning here this was my favorite. The characters were really well written, the relationship between the MC’s Sutton and Jack was developed slowly and realistically. The book also addressed many of the issues of what it was like to be gay in that era and of the lingering effects of war on returning soldiers. This book takes place during the birth of radio (NY 1919) – so everyone is quite taken with this new technology and as with all HR’s the least interesting aspect to me. I just can’t get into it!
Liked: Lots of character development for both the MC’s and the side characters. I adored everyone.
Nitpick: There is a storyline about Jack owing money to a few very dangerous men. This got dragged out way too long IMO, although it did help drive the plot.
Verdict: Very sweet story with enjoyable characters.
Rating 3.5 out of 4
Buy the book! Whistling in the Dark

by Gail Carriger Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) Original edition Soulless by Gail Carringer. I promised to read this book for a friend. She recommended Outlander by Diana Gabaldon to me and I just could not finish it, so she wanted to redeem herself with this one. And she did! This book cracks me up! I was walking around for days saying “the hedgehog incident”. I loved all the bizarre names like Biffy and Ivy Hisselpenny, but my favorite is Alexia herself. Here she is describing her first sexual encounter with the yummy werewolf alpha Lord Maccon:

“ Alexia was scientifically intrigued. Had he gotten even larger down there? What was the maximum possible expansion ratio? She wondered”

Funny stuff. I could quote dozens of lines from this book! I loved the blend of supernatural, historical and steampunk.
Liked: The humor is what kept me reading Soulless. Very original concept. Alexia and Lord Maccon are great characters.
Nitpick: Thank god it was funny – because it was slow moving. It took forever for the Lord Maccon storyline to move forward. And without Alexia’s witty banter I would have been completely lost when it came to the historical references…again I just don’t care about waistcoats and corsets.
Verdict. Funny enough to keep me interested. I hear that the next two books move along at a better pace so I’ll keep going with the series.
Rating 3 out of 4.
Buy the book! Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

So have I been converted? No – not really. I found the two historical romances I liked best were the ones that pushed the envelope with the genre – "Whistling in the Dark" and "Soulless", they were different enough that I was intrigued in spite of the HR backdrop, not because of it. I’ll keep going though and try a few more! If you like historical romances I suggest you follow Carrie at In The Hammock Blog. This is her preferred genre and she writes excellent reviews and is the reason I started dabbling in the genre to begin with. I have found quite a few that I liked due to her recommendations.

So do you like historical romance? Or is there a genre you just can't seem to enjoy?


  1. I used to really love historical romances, but have had a hard time getting into them. Try Wild Heart by Lori Brighton, and the Wallflower series by Lisa Klyepas. They gave me hope that this is still room in my life for HRs.

    The one genre I have a hard time with is Romantic Supsense. It doesn't matter how hard I try, I still have trouble loving these books.

  2. If you are ever in a used book store, check out Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught. It is my absolute favorite historical romance.

  3. I'm definitely not a fan of chick lit ... it's just too fluffy for my liking ... the characters seem superficial to me and the plots silly! I used to love it when I was still at school, though, so maybe I've just grown out of it.

    Otherwise, I'm not really sure ... I'm definitely a comfort zone kinda person and don't often read outside my preferred genres ... I know I find Sci Fi strange ... Historicals tedious ... Literary Fiction extremely boring ... *shrug* ... Paranormal maketh me happy :)

    I haven't got much further in Soulless ... like you, I also found it incredibly slow moving ... Alexia is very very funny, but all the Historical and Steampunk stuff goes right over my head, lol.

  4. I loved soulless and liked that humor, but I think my reading stle has changed over time.

    I can handle chick lit, and HR in small doses . I like the paranomral but that can also always be the same too. But I still love paranormal over the other books. I also have to be in the mood for romantic suspense too. I've been on a kick for dystopian, and angles its seems. Some good and bad.

  5. A fan of historicals but not generally of historical romances I also constantly hope to find a book that will change my mind.
    A Secret Affair looks like it could be 'the one' - I love the cover - and yet reading your reviews it is Souless that I would probably most like to read. Thanks for this wonderful selection.

  6. I am a fan of historical novels but there is a genre that I just don't enjoy ever and that's contemporary fiction or chick-lit. I just don't like reading about other peoples personal problems I have enough of my own.

  7. @Bella - I like chick-lit as an "in between" book. Something light and fluffy if I've read a lot of paranormal or an irritating book. It has to be funny though. I don't like all the serious drama stuff like Danielle said.
    @Julie - Almost all genres are getting on my nerves lately :-) I guess that comes with reading so much. It is really difficult to find something original these days.

  8. I love the idea of historical romance, but I just can't get past some of the cover art. It just seems so sleazy sometimes and it is such a turn off.

  9. Yay!! Thanks for the shout out, Karen!!

    I'm glad to see that you liked the HR :) The only one of these that I have read is Knight of Passion, and you know how much I loved Jamie! I agree that Owen and Catherine were AWESOME!! I have another book about them that I got after finishing this one.

    I have Soulless and I'm glad to hear that it's so good.

    When I need a break from all the 'propriety' you mentioned about regencies, I like a good Scottish Highlands romance!

    I'm glad you tried the genre, it's not for everyone, but I'm glad you found some things you like about it!

  10. The closest I've come to historical romances is Pride and Prejudice.


  11. In general, I read historical romance but only if it's the 1700's or later. I'm just not into the medievals. The genre that I really have trouble with is suspense/thrillers and that includes romantic suspense. I read to relax and these just make me too anxious.

  12. Actually I kind of like Scottish Highlands Romance, too ... hehe ... something about men in kilts and those delicious accents, I don't know ... ;) If there's time-travel thrown in, that's even better, because then it's paranormally enough that I don't feel as though I'm reading outside my fave genres :)

  13. @Bella - as soon as the Scottish accent and kilt come out I'm outta there. It just does nothing for me. It sounds all choppy and I'm always trying to
    I was saying on twitter that a nice sexy Aussie or maybe an Argentinian. Or early Antoinio Banderas.

  14. @Carrie - I seem to do best if there is humor involved. If they are too serius or stuffy I just can't follow it. I have liked quite a few you have recommended though. There is hope for me yet!