The White Lily- Juliette Cross


The imaginative Vampire Blood series has just gotten better. This clever Snow White retelling is (so far) my favorite book of the series. Brenna and Friedrich are so hot together, and there are twists you will definitely not see coming.


The Story-

Brennalyn Snow is a school-teacher and has adopted 7 children. She is also a secret supporter of the underground “Black Lily” movement. While trying to gain information about the local vampire duke’s loyalties, she unknowingly stumbles into his weekly selection of women who wish to be bleeders for the duke. Friedrich was intrigued by Brennalyn from the moment he met her, but her secrets make him want to know the woman behind the teacher facade in a way that surprises even him.


My Thoughts-

This story does an excellent job on building on the background from the previous books, but also deepening the world so that we have a greater grasp of the ramifications of the evil we’ve been introduced to. Again, the fairytale component is dealt with a light hand, never on the nose or what you’d expect. Cross is exceptionally good at adding the appropriate level of darkness and danger to her plots. Although you know it has to have a HEA, it is, at times, very difficult to figure out how exactly that will happen.

As someone who has struggled with infertility, I connected with Brennalyn and loved the emphasis on her personhood as a woman and how it is not inherently connected to being a natural mother. And, can we talk a minute about Friedrich? His character brings Cross’s sexy level to a new stratosphere. But, it is totally appropriate to the story and doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in.


The Bottom Line-

If you like paranormal, historical, or fairytale retellings, I wholeheartedly recommend this series. It continues to get better, more dangerous, and more suspenseful, book by book. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, but will be sad when it is over. 5 stars


Twice As Wicked- Elizabeth Bright


“Twice as Wicked” is the debut novel by historical romance writer, Elizabeth Bright. I have to tell you, I am always a bit apprehensive about reading debut novels but this cover drew me in, and I HAD to read it. Imagine my happy surprise when the book turned out to be better than the cover! This is an excellent and satisfying historical with a great plot and complex characters.

The Story-
Alice Bursnell is mourning the death of her twin sister who died in childbirth. The only clue she has to the father of the child who left her poor sister alone in her shame is a picture in a locket. Her goal is now revenge. She knows who she is after, and she will make him pay. Nathaniel is intrigued by Alice, but begins to suspect her motives when he keeps encountering threats on his life in her presence.

My Thoughts-
I loved this story. The way the mystery is developed and solved is masterful, and I feel like Bright still has some surprises for us in her pocket that will be revealed in the rest of the series. The characters are intricate with complete backstories that inform their motivations. I never once felt like the characters were doing something stupid or random just for the sake of furthering the plot, which is refreshing. Alice, in particular, is wonderfully feisty and intelligent. I completely sympathized with her and her journey. The secondary characters, especially the Duke and Eliza, give a depth to the world (and make me hope for their story).
The Bottom Line-
Elizabeth Bright is a talented new author, and fans of historical romance will love this book. She has a great handle on this time period, and her plotting is original and well-done. “Twice as Wicked” is currently on sale for .99, and that is a total bargain. I recommend it at full price. I will read the future books in this series, and I look for great things to come for Ms. Bright. 5 stars!

The Scot Beds His Wife- Kerrigan Byrne


I love Kerrigan Byrne and her style of dark historical romance. This book was just as enjoyable, but it has a slightly different tone from the other books in this series. What starts as almost a typical Scot alpha-hero romance, ends up being much more.

The Story-
After going through a particularly harrowing experience in America (I won’t spoil it for you), Samantha goes to Scotland to start over completely. The manor she has moved into is coveted by the one man she promised to protect it from.

My Thoughts-
I was surprised with the beginning in America and thought the American heroine was a refreshing take. She is delightfully spunky. Gavin is pretty much your typical dark, brooding Scot, but he does have a bit more going on upstairs than many of them do. The dark opening of his childhood set me up perfectly for Byrne’s style, but it took awhile for the book to get back around to the repercussions of that scene. I was initially afraid in the first third to half of the book (after the openings) that it was falling into a more “normal” rhythm of a historical romance. I felt like I had read it before. And then, everything changed and the danger ramped up and it became everything I hoped for from Kerrigan. She ties in some things I didn’t expect and brings it to a different level.

The Bottom Line-
Honestly, if someone were dipping their toe in to Byrne’s writing for the first time because they weren’t sure they wanted to start with her darker or crazier books, (which I absolutely love) I feel like this would be an excellent choice. Don’t get me wrong: her fans will still be happy as clams. I just feel like this book will win her some new fans based on the cover, title, and plot. Oh, and by the way, I am sooooo excited for the next book. We get to meet the hero in this book, and just swoon… Definitely one of my fave historical romances of the year. 5 stars

Becoming Bella- Sarah Hegger


I really enjoyed the first in this series, “Positively Pippa”, so I was looking forward to another fun alliterative tale from Sarah Hegger. “Becoming Bella” did not disappoint as it gave us another hot Evans brother and a heroine to root for. Sexy, home-town romance here! The best of both worlds; you get the heat along with the sweet.

The Story-
Bella is determined to become her own woman and break free of the crush she has had for so long. She has armed herself with a list of things to do for single people at Christmastime, and she is checking it off. Nate, the “former” object of her desire happens to catch Bella in a somewhat compromising position, and suddenly can’t see her as that untouchable little sis-type he has always held at arm’s length.

My Thoughts-
I loved both Nate and Bella as well as the lovely secondary characters that populate Ghost Falls. (The next door slutty neighbor lady is wonderfully entertaining!) Their first kiss and subsequent sexy times are sooo hot. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a kiss in a book… “Wanting, waiting, needing, dreaming, dying a little inside year after year. It all ripped through her in a wave and Bella lost her shit. Lost. Her. Shit.” Yep. That totally got me. I can’t imagine a more perfect description of someone finally getting that kiss they’ve always wanted. I loved their story. Obviously. The only hiccup I had was the “bad guy” who served to provide another conflict and let Nate act all alpha. If he had been a normal romance bad guy, I could have handled it fine and walked away with no issues. But he got super-scary. I am not normally one with a need for safe spaces and trigger warnings, but he got trigger warning scary. And I had a little trouble coming back from that enough for a satisfying, warm HEA. I was still a little shook.

The Bottom Line-
I loved these characters!!! It went a bit dark for me toward the end, but the story and the connection between these two was hot and wonderful. Again, Hegger captures that perfect mix of small-town romance and sizzling sexy times that make me one happy reader. 4 1/2 stars

Immortally Yours- Lynsay Sands


I love paranormal romance, especially vampires, so it was pretty crazy that I hadn’t read Lynsay Sands yet. And yes, I am coming in on the 26th book in the famous Argeneau series, but I quickly found that it wasn’t a problem at all. No need to be caught up to understand what is happening here!

The Story-
Scotty has known Beth for over a hundred years, back when she first became a vampire. Only now is he ready to claim her as his life mate, but with her life in danger, it’s proving a little difficult to do that.

My Thoughts-
Sands can write a freaking action scene! I could picture every fight, every detail perfectly. So many times, I have some trouble imagining what is happening, but Sands makes it play like a movie in my head. Scotty is a hottie (c’mon, I had to), and his devotion to Beth is sigh-worthy. This book went super fast; I couldn’t quit turning pages. The best things about this book are the characters, the action scenes, and the pacing. The small quibbles I have are the bad guy (a bit cliche and meh) and the long monologue descriptions of the characters’ backgrounds. I absolutely LOVED those backstories, but I wish I had been able to see them play out via flashback or something. Maybe prologue? I don’t know, but the stores are sooooo good that I hate that they were relayed simply through monologue. Those issues aside, I enjoyed the world of Argeneau vampires and am convinced that Sands is one of the better paranormal writers out there.

The Bottom Line-
Sands is firmly on my paranormal list now, and I plan on going back into her back catalogue for some more Argeneau vampires. Is it terrible that I wish she would write some historical paranormal, kind of a prequel for this series? 4 stars

Caught by the Scot- Karen Hawkins


Don’t you just love when you read a book from an author that is new to you, and it is so good that the author is immediately added to your “must read all new books” list? Well, that is what this book did for me and Karen Hawkins. Fortunately, my first Hawkins is also the first in her new “Made to Marry” series which is a great retread of a fave trope: some hot Scottish brothers are forced to marry in order to inherit.

The Story-
The first brother in this series, Conner is a young roustabout rogue who is absolutely certain that an old family friend, Theodora, will be tickled pink to marry him, if only he offers. In a funny twist, Theodora has just eloped with a local guy and is not about to swoon at Conner’s feet now that he is finally giving her the time of day.

My Thoughts-
I adore the humor in this book. There are some truly hysterical situations and scenes, but the wit is also there. Also, I am so glad that Hawkins didn’t make Theodora’s fiance some jerky guy. She took a way better, more interesting route in his character development that felt just perfect. Conner and Theodora are super duper hot, which I love. He’s so surprised by their heat, and she’s so true to herself; the inner conflicts shine and make you root for both characters. Hawkins’ writing kept me rapt; I couldn’t quit reading. The plot feels fresh. Even though it has been done before, it hasn’t been done in this way with this humor. And yet, though there is humor, the heart is still here.

The Bottom Line-
If you love historical and haven’t read Karen Hawkins, this is an EXCELLENT choice to start with. If you are a fan of hers, you probably already have this on pre-order. I cannot wait to read more from her. I highly recommend her to fans of Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase,and Julie Garwood. And, to top it off, she writes Scots, which happens to be one of my fave historical sub-groups. 5 stars!

The Rogue’s Conquest- Lily Maxton


This is my first book by Lily Maxton, and I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed it. The Townsends series features siblings in Edinburgh that are up and coming in society, a bit on the fringe, but definitely devoted to one another.

The Story-
Eleanor Townsend studies bugs, beetles specifically. She is brilliant in her recordings and findings, and has been requested to present them to an important society. Unfortunately, they believe her to be male. What to do, but dress up as a man and present the findings incognito?! James MacGregor is a prize-fighter who wants only to climb in society for vengeful reasons. When he discovers Eleanor’s secret, he decides that she is his way in.

My Thoughts-
Eleanor and James are both somewhat underdogs, so I loved seeing them interact and overcome their own personal issues to be together. This is an excellent friends-to-lovers romance with nice twists that I didn’t expect. I always have a soft spot for when a hero sees something special in a girl that no one else sees, and Maxton does that so well here. Another big plus? The “other woman” is not a b****! Yay! We have real female friendship without backbiting. Way to go! The story has great pacing, identifiable characters, and swoon-worthy moments.

The Bottom Line-
I love when I find an author that isn’t with one of the big pubs that is really great. Lily Maxton is the real deal, and this book is thoroughly enjoyable. The different setting of Edinburgh, the development of this great family, and a great twist on a recognizable plot all came together to make me love this book. I will be reading the rest of the series, and I recommend this author to fans of Julia Quinn and Sarah MacLean. 5 stars

Blame it on the Bet- L.E. Rico


This “Bliss” book is set in an adorable Irish pub in Minnesota setting with “whiskey sisters” named after various brands of whiskey. This is Hennessy’s story, and it is like a not-cheesy Hallmark movie. Having previously read and enjoyed Rico’s hot contemporary, “Solo”, I was looking forward to this one, especially since I spent 5 years of my life in North Dakota. It didn’t disappoint; Rico got the vibe of small-town almost-Canada perfectly from hotdishes to the lethal ice on the sidewalks.

The Story-
Hennessy’s father just died and left her and her sisters with a mountain of debt and an Irish pub that he was all set to sell. The buyer, Bryan Truitt, travels to Minnesota to complete the sale. Of course, he is charmed by the small town and its inhabitants.

My Thoughts-
While this may sound like a story you’ve heard or a movie you’ve seen (starring Candace Cameron Bure), Rico’s smart sense of humor and approach make it feel entirely fresh. She populates the town with an array of secondary characters, and some have a lot more going on than you might figure. I was initially a bit confused by all the characters with the androgynous whiskey names, but I soon got everyone straight and appreciated that she took the time to really flesh out who these people are. It makes me even more excited for future books. As I said above, she got the mid-west charm down to a “t” and made me miss my stand-in home for a few years. The romance is well-developed, especially in the motivations and background of the hero. Since this is a “Bliss” book, the sex happens behind closed doors, but I didn’t feel like it detracted from the story. (For the most part…What can I say? I like the door open.)

The Bottom Line-
If you like Hallmark movies, this is so much smarter than those usually are, although it would make an excellent Hallmart Christmas movie. (series!) I can’t wait to read Bailey’s book eventually because I loved her particular brand of sass, but whichever Whiskey Sister is next, I’m game! 4 stars

Guide to Historical Romance- Part 3

Cheers all! So far this week, we have examined the “Standards” and the “Comedians” of historical romance. I’ve saved my favorite category of historical romance for last. Considering that the other genre of romance that I read regularly is paranormal, it should be no surprise that I LOVE dark and edgy historical romance. Danger, fighting, slightly twisted sex scenes, and anti-heroes that make you wonder if they can ever be redeemed; these are the components that make me swoon. If you combine historical romance with paranormal or fantasy, I am in heaven, but that is another blog post altogether. Without further ado, here are my top picks for “Edgy” historical romance.

Elizabeth Hoyt

Hoyt is pretty much the reason I created this category. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love the best about her Maiden Lane series which is set in Georgian London and ping-pongs between nobility and the slums of St. Giles.  This class struggle which allows for a wider variety of couples than you would think possible also keeps the dirt and danger close to the surface at all times. The sex scenes are edgier than you’d expect in historical romance with a little BDSM thrown in here and there for fun. Anti-heroes abound with one of the most irredeemable characters I’ve ever read as hero in “Duke of Sin”. (Unlike some, I loved him) I think I read more Hoyt this year than any other author, so I had some trouble selecting which Maiden Lane book to recommend…

Recommended: Thief of Shadows


Again, I had so much trouble deciding, but eventually I settled on this tale with a virgin hero who acts as a vigilant at night. The heroine a wonderfully confident woman; she’s the kind of woman I am thrilled to read about and kinda wish I was more like. Seriously though, start at the beginning or anywhere you choose. I have not been disappointed by a book in this series yet, and I am anxious to finish it. (Except for the fact, of course, that I would be done with my favorite series I’ve read in historical romance. Sigh.)

Kerrigan Byrne

I don’t think historical romance can get much more dark and twisted than Kerrigan Byrne. Victorian romances that kick off with a bang: asylums, train robberies, undercover prostitutes…you never know WHAT you will find in a Byrne book. During my first read of hers, I literally stopped about 1/3 of the way through and went “WHAT?! How’s that gonna work?” But it did. Because that is what she does: create crazypants, wonderful plots and then make her couple fall in love in the middle of all that insanity.  Once again, I had trouble picking a recommendation, so I cheated and selected two.

Recommended: The Duke AND The Scot Beds His Wife


“The Duke” is the original Kerrigan Byrne that made me wonder how in the world the story would work out. I found it wonderfully captivating and dark. It is a page turner in the truest sense. Her new book that is coming out next month, “The Scot Beds His Wife” isn’t quite as dark as “The Duke”, but it still keeps the drama and intensity that are synonymous with Byrne at this point. I particularly LOVED the hero (he has the hottest Scottish accent…) So, my suggestion is to read “The Duke” now, and “The Scot Beds His Wife” next month. If you like twisty, intriguing romance, you won’t be sorry!

Courtney Milan

For months I had been reading historical romance and saw people recommending Courtney Milan everywhere I looked. Finally, I bit the bullet and sat down to one of her books and was immediately hooked. Next thing I knew, I had flown through a couple more. While Milan’s style isn’t dark and twisty like the authors I mentioned above, I still categorize her as edgy because of her obvious intelligence and the brazen way she tackles social issues in her books. These are what I would call the “thinking woman’s books”, but while they make you think, they also make you swoon and sigh and laugh and cry. I am at my most feminist when I read Courtney Milan.

Recommended: The Duchess War


I feel like this is the best place to start with Courtney Milan. It is the perfect introduction to her style and characters. Set in the Victorian period, it is rife with material for social issue exploration but is also steamy as all get out. Loved it! And once I read the prequel novella for this book, it made me love it even more. Milan weaves her characters and backgrounds together in ways you wouldn’t expect. So good!

Shana Galen

My final “edgy” author pens some of the best spy/adventure/mystery historical romance I’ve read. I considered putting her on the comedian list for her wit, and while she is a funny lady, what really sets her apart is the way she constructs a suspenseful scene. You hear the lock click, you smell the blood dripping, you feel the breath of your pursuer on your neck. Galen is the master of setting a scene and making you feel like you are there. Whether it is the poorest hovel in London or the bloody streets of Revolutionary France , she uses real historical places and events to great effect.

My Recommendation: Earls Just Want to Have Fun


A little bit “Oliver Twist”, a little bit “Pygmalion”, this one was a lot of fun, but also kept me on the edge of my seat. There’s danger, mistaken identity, a wonderful rogue hero, fast-paced action…all my favorite elements of a historical romance. There’s also some wonderful humor here. Now, if you want something a good bit darker and more suspenseful, go for her newest release, Traitor in Her Arms. It is a romance set in the world of The Scarlet Pimpernel, blood and gore and all. I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails. I cannot wait to read more Shana Galen.

Honorable Mentions

For my honorable mentions, I want to throw a little love to the darkest of historical romance: historical paranormal!!! I will be writing a full blog post on this at some point in the near future, but for now, I have to say that I love the intensity and intrigue of two of my fave authors: Bec McMaster and Juliette Cross. McMaster is famous for her steampunk series (which I LOVE), but also has an excellent historical magic series that starts with the book “Shadowbound“. Juliette Cross has crafted a historical fairytale world with vampires in which she retells beloved classics in new and twisted ways. Her newest addition to this series is “The Red Lily” which is a super-dark and sexy spin on Little Red Riding Hood. The third book, “The White Lily” releases next month and I cannot say enough about how she has turned the Snow White tale on its head.


Okay peeps! This concludes my ode to historical romance. While I feel like it is a great place to start, I know there is so much wonderful historical romance out there that I still need to read. If you have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them. And, obviously, I love to review historical romance, so feel free to check out the myriad of in-depth reviews on this blog. Cheers!


Historical Romance Guide- Part 2

Hi there fellow coffee addicts and winos! Continuing on from my previous post exulting “The Standards” of historical romance, today we cover a new category of wonderful books and authors: a category I refer to as “The Comedians”.  While these historical romance authors all possess the ability to make you swoon with their amazing characterizations and intriguing stories, they can also make me laugh my butt off, and that is truly something I NEED in my life. Some of these ladies are quirky and witty with the perfectly placed sarcastic quip, while others put their characters in the funniest situations that make you flip the pages faster to see how everything will play out. Without further ado, here are my favorite hilarious historical romance authors.

Tessa Dare

This list would be incomplete if she wasn’t on it. From the first chapter of the first book I read by this extremely talented woman, I had to put my drink down in order to avoid spilling it because I was literally laughing out loud. Now, we are quite accustomed to responding LOL when we are smirking or smile on social media, but I truly laughed out loud to Ms. Dare. Other reads by this author have proven that the first book I read wasn’t a fluke: she truly is as funny as I originally thought, but I am always looking for that Tessa Dare book I haven’t read yet that will bring a smile to my face.

My Recommendation: “Any Duchess Will Do”


An ingenious take on “Pygmalion” or “My Fair Lady” with a heroine that just doesn’t quit, this book is what won me over to Ms. Dare. Situational humor, witty dialogue, and wonderful characters who are true to themselves are what set this gem apart from many historical romances.

Lenora Bell

A relatively new author, but she has cemented herself as one of my favorites with her first trilogy: The Disgraceful Dukes. I can pinpoint the exact moment Ms. Bell cemented herself in my heart. It was when her heroine, at a dinner party, in a dress too small for her bosom, comes bursting out of her dress to everyone’s dismay. I laughed so loud and told so many people about this book after that scene… Brava, Ms. Bell, brava. And trust me, it is way funnier in the book than I could possibly explain.  The rest of the book made me laugh and swoon, and the subsequent books in the series (which I devoured) solidified my love for Ms. Bell’s writing. Yep; I am a devoted fan and made it my goal to see her whenever possible at RT to tell her how much I loved her. Sue me. We all have favorites, and Lenora Bell is one of my tops. Her stories are all some spin on something you are familiar with. The first is a Bachelor-type retelling of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. The second is “Wizard of Oz”, and the third “Alice in Wonderland” AND she has a Jane Eyre/ Mary Poppins mash-up on the way. Yay!

My Recommendation: How the Duke Was Won


The original Golden Heart winner and retelling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is the one with the bosom-busting scene and a particularly enchanting plot. What more can I say? I love it.

Julia Quinn

Wit is the name of the game with Ms. Quinn. Sarcasm and intelligence are her tools, and she wields them with particular skill. Personally, I think Julia Quinn is the author I would like to go out for a drink with, if only to hear her chitter-chatter all night. Because it would be funny. Like Lucille from “Arrested Development” funny. (If Lucille isn’t your favorite, you are wrong.) At RT, she went off on a tangent on vaccines that had the audience in stitches. Vaccines, people. I like to think I’m smart. For my day job, I teach gifted kids all day and put them in their egotistical places here and there, as needed. (They tend to think a lot of themselves and their own intelligence.) But, I think that Julia Quinn is smarter than me. And that’s ok, because I will keep reading her books and laughing and smirking.

My Recommendation: Just Like Heaven


A terrible violinist, some chocolate cake, and a great marriage of wit, verbal sparring, and extraordinary chemistry make this one an absolute winner. Of course, there are many many examples of amazing stories from Ms. Quinn (heard of the Bridgertons?), but this one has a special flair that I love.

Valerie Bowman

There I was, clicking along, reading a nice historical romance that made me giggle here and there, turning pages with desperate intensity when all of a sudden, I finished a chapter and gasped… I put the book down, laughing out loud. “Oh no, she didn’t!” I exclaimed. “What?!” my kids who were visiting my room over lunch asked. “Just a very well-written plot” I explained, dying to get back to my book while cursing the bell that would make me wait. That, my friends, is Valerie Bowman. Her series, The Playful Brides, perfectly describes her style, and it makes me happy. Each one is a take on a different famous story, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it unless you looked it up. Why? You will be so engrossed in the plot of whatever it is you are reading that you won’t recognize that you’ve seen it somewhere before. Another author who won my additional love  with her personality at RT, Valerie (we are on a first name basis…at least in my head) is totally down-to-earth and approachable. So, if you want irresistible situational comedy and great banter, check her out now!

My Recommendation: Never Trust a Pirate


The book that made me gasp. This twisty, fun plot is impossible to put down.  A little bit “Scarlet Pimpernel”, a little bit “Mr. and Ms. Smith”, this one is so smart and enjoyable, you will feel like you spent some time at a great movie when it is all over.

Kimberly Bell

There’s another Bell on this list that is making waves in the historical romance community! (Maybe there’s something in the name… I do love Kristen Bell also.. hmm) The first book I read from Kimberly Bell put her on my radar as someone who is willing to do almost anything in her historical romance with one of the most sexually liberated heroines I have ever read in a historical. Then, she blew me away with her next book. Situational humor and kick-ass heroines are Kimberly Bell’s calling cards. I absolutely LOVE her women. Can’t even… A definite rising star in the historical romance genre, Kimberly Bell is one to keep her eye on. I, for one, cannot wait until the second book in her current duology comes out.

My Recommendation: The Importance of Being Scandalous


One of the most original and real sister relationships I’ve ever read in a romance novel, let alone a historical. The boy next door is not supposed to marry the scandalized girl he’s been writing letters to for a decade, and now she’s engaged. Looks like she’s gonna have to pull out all the stops to get her fiance to call off the wedding… Y’all. I read this so fast. Snappy dialogue, hilarious situations, super-sexy times; this is one you need to check out.

Honorable Mentions

I have read some other great funny authors this year that I’d like to mention: Lara Temple, Jenni Fletcher, Stacy Reid, Maggie Robinson, and Emily Larkin. What books have made you literally laugh out loud? I would LOVE the recommendations… I can always use a comedy in my life. Stay tuned for Part 3! The Edgy Ladies of Historical Romance