Tag Archive | Laura Andersen

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year

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It’s that time of year when we start looking forward to another year of great reads, but also look back on the books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the previous year. Members of RHR’s team of reviewers have chosen some of their favourite books and audiobooks from 2015; maybe they’re books you read and enjoyed, too, or they’re books you meant to read that got forgotten (so now’s the chance to catch up!).

If we’ve missed YOUR favourite books of last year, be sure to let us know yours in the comments!

Caz’s Favourites:

Stella Riley continues her Georgian-set Rockliffe Series with The Player , in which the hero, Adrian Devereux is forced to return from exile in France in order to assume the title and responsibilities of the Earl of Sarre. He left England under a cloud when he was wrongly suspected of the murder of his fiancée, and simply vanished, making his living as an actor – and an incredibly talented one, at that. But his return is fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that his decade of playing a part has left him unsure of who he is any more. Ms Riley has given us yet another swoonworthy hero in Adrian and her writing is a strong and intelligent as ever. The Player is a truly delightful read with a strong storyline, a well-written, tender romance and a cast of well-developed supporting characters.

It Started with a Scandal is the tenth in Julie Anne Long’s popular Pennyroyal Green series, and is a wonderfully romantic story with a bit of a “Jane Eyre-ish” vibe to it, about two people who don’t quite fit in finding that they fit perfectly with each other. Philippe and Elise are from different spheres of life – he French nobility, she a housekeeper – yet they are both fiercely protective towards those they love and desperate to do the right thing by them. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn, full of sexual tension and wonderfully witty banter, and the book is full of warmth and charm.

Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Peril is a popular choice, and deservedly so. It’s the third in her series of Georgian Historical Mysteries featuring the urbane and fiercely intelligent former diplomat, Alec Halsey, and it’s her best yet – which is saying something considering that the previous books are terrific reads. Here, Alec is made to confront some of the less pleasant aspects of his past as he travels to the German principality of Midanich, a place he had hoped never to see again. The plotting is superb – Ms Brant really does have a devious mind 😉 – and the fictional state of Midanich is so brilliantly evoked that I almost had to look it up on a map to see if it was real!  This book – actually, the whole series – is a must for fans of historical mysteries with a strong element of romance.

Alyssa Everett is one of my favourite authors, and her most recent book, The Marriage Act is a terrific, though not always easy, read.  It’s the story of an estranged couple who agree to reunite solely to assure the heroine’s father that they are happy together, and tells how they gradually begin to see that they have both been guilty of mistaken assumptions and of projecting their own hurts and insecurities onto the other. The characterisation and writing are both excellent, and even though there are times that both act in ways that are far from admirable, Ms Everett has written them in such a way as to ensure that even when the reader is thinking “ouch!”, their motivations are understandable.  The chemistry between John and Caroline is terrific and this is a story in which the messiness of the central relationship feels all the more realistic for not being  perfect.

While I’m a big fan of historical fiction, I was unsure about branching out into “alternate” historical fiction a couple of years back when I read Laura Andersen’s Boleyn Trilogy, which is set in a timeline in which Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son who lived to inherit the throne. But I was utterly enthralled by the author’s ability to tell a great story while also incorporating a number of real historical events and figures. In The Virgin’s Daughter, Ms Andersen sets up yet another great “what if?” premise by having Elizabeth I married to Philip of Spain and having had a daughter by him. It’s a terrific read, the plot is enjoyably complex (although not confusing), the story is rich in background detail and intrigue and there’s an enjoyable romance running throughout the main story. I’m looking forward to reading more in this entertaining series.

Claudia’s Favourites


M is for Marquess by Grace Callaway

I discovered a new auto-buy author with this book … I’ve now read each of Grace Callaway’s books and loved them – which is exceptional. Gabriel and Thea from this book were two of the best characters I read this year. Both had their difficulties and it was charming to see how they overcame them together, even though it wasn’t always easy for them. This is my favourite book of 2015.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

This is the first book in a new series by this author, and I loved it. The way these two characters found their way to each other was delightful to read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Love in the Time of Scandal  by Caroline Linden

This is a great book and I really enjoyed how the two central characters worked out their troubles and found a way to each other. Benedict was a delightful hero, he was sweet, warm, charming but could also be wicked (in the nicest way!) and Penelope was the perfect heroine for him. I loved her more for the way she tried to make the best of things.

Lady Wesley’s Favourites:

This was the year that I became an audiobook addict, so for your listening enjoyment I’ve picked some audio titles published in 2015. By the way, I actually have read all of these books and can wholeheartedly recommend the print versions as well.

This year Loretta Chase continued treating her fans to audio versions of some of her classics. The Last Hellion, first published in 1998, pairs Lord Dain’s (Lord of Scoundrels) best friend, Vere Mallory, with crusading female journalist Lydia Grenville. Mallory, who never expected or wanted to be a duke, is probably a bigger reprobate than Dain, and carouses to forget his grief for the loved ones whose untimely deaths elevated him to the Ainsworth dukedom. Grenville, a fearless bluestocking, has no interest in men, and views Ainsworth with utter disdain. The plot is classic battle-of-the-sexes, with dangerous escapades and lots of Chase’s trademark banter. Lord and Lady Dain make cameo appearances, as does Lady Dain’s goofy brother, Bertie Trent, who gets his own HEA. Kate Reading, one of the best in the business, delivers another first-class performance.

Mary Balogh, another leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.

Last year, I recommended Grace Burrowes’ entire Captive Hearts trilogy, as I could not pick a favorite from among them, and this year I find myself in a similar quandary. Lucinda Brant, whose books are set in Georgian England, has published three series, but I think the very best is the Alec Halsey Mystery series. The first two volumes – Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair – came out in audio format in 2015. The third, Deadly Peril, was published in print last month, and the audio version will be issued very soon. Alec Halsey is a career diplomat who was rather chagrined to find himself elevated to a marquessate for services to the crown. He is handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man, and he gets involved with intrigues and mysteries, while trying to revive his relationship with his first love, a lady who is now a widow. With impressive research and first-class writing, Lucinda Brant vividly recreates 18th century England and deftly combines mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres. She has found the perfect narrator in British actor Alex Wyndham, whose beautiful baritone perfectly captures the swoon-worthy Halsey, and who is equally adept at voicing females of all ages. Wyndham does not just narrate Brant’s stories, he virtually inhabits Brant’s characters. Listening to him is a joy beyond joy.

Natalie’s Favourites:

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

This book was the much awaited ending to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. In the final installment the Pink Carnation herself is finally paired with an intriguing turncoat spy and sparks fly. I adored the entire series, and was very happy with this final instalment that brought closure to several characters in Willig’s trademark style.

Death Comes To Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

This is the third instalment in the Kurland St. Mary Mysteries and follows the curmudgeonly Major Robert Kurland and Spinster Lucy Harrington as they investigate yet another murder. I fell in love with the first two books in the series because our two main characters are both such anti-heroes but slowly they started coming around and in Death Comes to Kurland Hall they finally declare their feelings toward one another. This book falls more on the side of historical mystery but if you don’t mind a very chaste love story, pick up the first two books and then finish with this one.

Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

This third book in Isabel Cooper’s Highland Dragons series follows Judith MacAlasdair, the third shape-shifting MacAliasdair, and only female. Judith has been living in the ancestral home for 2 decades and is quickly coming on the moment when she will have to leave to hide her immortality from the townsfolk. But when a stranger turns up at the same time as several brutal murders are discovered, Judith realizes she must stay and protect her neighbors. I had read the first two books in this series a while back and when I started this one I was thrilled to have a female shape-shifter as the heroine of the final book in the series.

Sara’s Favourites:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
This book had a bit of everything; a deeply tortured hero combined with a strong, supportive and caring heroine. A dark secret and the redeeming power of love. The story was gripping and immersive, giving a reader so much more than just the basic plot of two characters falling in love. It’s an incredible story that I was reluctant to finish, have already re-read, and has made me eager for more.

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuinston
A romance that crosses classes and puts a working man into the spotlight as a hero. What makes the book special is that both main characters have dimension, developing and changing from their experiences throughout the story. The secondary characters are just as appealing and do their job of supporting the story and pushing the main characters in the right directions. This was an early release in the year but still remains a favorite.

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
The conclusion to The Prince Catchers series, this story rewards a reader who has followed the breadcrumbs left by the author about her characters and their future. All the threads left hanging from the previous stories are tied up nicely, but the highlight is the romance between two souls kept apart by personal fears and social prejudices. A perfect mix of adventure and emotion in one amazing story.

Wendy’s Favourites:

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant: this Georgian mystery, the third in the Alec Halsey series, was just fascinating; it has so many twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the last paragraph. A fair indicator of an excellent read as far as I am concerned, is whether I can put it down easily – I couldn’t.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart: this historical romance set during the English Civil war was my first by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked her characters, especially the hero, a bad boy (well only through circumstances) reformed by the love of a good woman. I look forward to more of this author’s work.

The Soldier’s Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye is an historical romance by one of my favourites. Set in the aftermath of Waterloo, it features a compelling hero damaged by his experiences; as I’m fond of dark and angsty, this hit the spot.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne: again another first for me, I found this very unusual novel, set in Victorian England strangely compelling. Written in a very unusual style it nevertheless appealed to me with its darker side. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked by Madeleine Hunter: yet another first for me and I loved it. I thought a barrister as a hero a very original and interesting concept; Ms. Hunter is most definitely on my radar now.

 

So these are some of our favourite books of 2015.  I’m sure we could all have picked more that we’ve enjoyed, but these have been the titles that have stuck in our memories and those books we’ve put onto our “keeper” shelves.

We’d love to hear from you about the books you enjoyed last year, so please do join in the discussion in the comments!

happy new year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caz

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY – The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

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Elizabeth Tudor is at a crossroads. After a disastrous winter, the Duke of Northumberland has been executed for treason while his son, Robert Dudley, claims from the Tower that the true traitor has not yet been caught. And though her brother, William, has survived smallpox, scars linger in the king’s body and mind and his patience is at an end.

As English ships and soldiers arm themselves against the threat of invasion, William marches to the drumbeat of his own desires rather than his country’s welfare. Wary of this changed royal brother, Elizabeth assembles her own shadow court to protect England as best she can. But William, able to command armies and navies, cannot command hearts.

Minuette and Dominic have married in secret, and after an ill-timed pregnancy, they take to flight. Faced with betrayal by the two he loved most, William’s need for vengeance pushes England to the brink of civil war and in the end, Elizabeth must choose: her brother, or her country?

Click to read our 5 star reviews of The Boleyn King and The Boleyn Deceit

You can read Laura’s guest blog here

EXCERPT

5 May 1556

Greenwich

Dominic returned last night from Kenilworth and spent hours today closeted with Elizabeth. No doubt they are weighing whatever evidence Robert Dudley has gathered against Rochford. I know what they will do next, because I know them both. Elizabeth is angry with all the Dudleys still, but her affections are strong. She will be glad of a reason to negotiate Robert into release. And Dominic? He is incapable of ignoring wrongdoing.

I do not think they know me as well as I know them. They think I am too wrapped up in William and personalities. That I am overlooked makes it easier for me to maneuver. When one is underestimated, one can strike all the harder. And I will move first.

Lord Rochford will never see me coming, but he will have cause before the end to thank me for interfering.
. . .

Minuette was received by Rochford’s attendants with professional courtesy and soon found herself alone with the Lord Chancellor. “Thank you for seeing me, Your Grace,” she said, accepting the seat he indicated across the wide desk from where he regarded her coolly.

“Can I refuse to meet with a woman so dear to the king’s heart?” Rochford’s tone was all mockery and dislike and his keen dark eyes–so like his sister, Anne’s–pierced through her. Minuette used his contempt to strengthen her resolve.

“I have come to do you a favour,” she said.

“I do not think your position is quite so strong that I need worry yet about favours from you.”

Perversely, the difficult reception calmed Minuette’s nerves and she let her instincts guide her. She was no stranger to political sparring–she had been trained by Anne Boleyn herself. “Do you know what Lord Exeter was doing in the north?”

“Visiting Amy Dudley at Kenilworth.”

“Do you know why?”

“It is no great supposition that my niece would like her favorite released from the Tower. No doubt Lord Exeter is doing her bidding.”

“By visiting Robert’s wife?” Minuette laughed in genuine surprise. “If you believe that, you are a fool.”

The dark eyes narrowed and one hand beat a restless pattern on the desk. “What do you want, Mistress Wyatt?”

“Lord Exeter returned from Kenilworth with a chest of Robert Dudley’s papers and letters. Robert claims to have evidence that you were the mastermind behind the Duke of Norfolk’s disgrace and the Penitent’s Confession.”

“Seeing as his father has been executed in part for that affair, of course Robert Dudley would look to save his own name–and neck.”

“Dominic believes him, and so does Elizabeth. Who do you think William is going to believe?”

“There is no proof.” Was that a flicker of concern in his expression?

Minuette leaned forward, confidingly. “There doesn’t have to be. William is persuadable. They will bring him to believe it. You are going to fall, Lord Rochford.” She let that hang for a few breaths, then added gently, “How far you fall? That might be up to me.”

“You think you have that kind of power?”

“I know I do. If you pre-empt the revelations–if you go to William first and tell him the truth–if you have all the Dudley sons released from the Tower . . .” Minuette drew a deep breath, momentarily dizzy with her own daring. “Then I will persuade the king to mercy on your behalf.”

She counted it success that he didn’t immediately dismiss her. He leaned back in his chair, studying her over his steepled fingers. Minuette had always thought of Rochford as ageless, but now she noted the streaks of silver in his hair and the thinness of the skin beneath his eyes. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you know even less than you think you do. And because a time is coming when I will need all the friends I can get.”

“You think I will be your friend for this?”

“I think you will owe me, and you are a man who pays his debts. There is only one requirement–you must convince William that you had nothing to do with my poisoning.”

His face grew dark. “The monkshood? I was not behind that.”

“You arrested a man who has since been executed for painting my pendant with monkshood. How could you have known the perpetrator if you were not behind the attempt?”

“It was a useful event for my cause, for I could lay it at Northumberland’s feet. That is all. I had nothing else to do with the matter.”

“It is no secret that you would do anything to remove me from the king’s attention.”

Rochford put his elbows on the desk and fixed her in his sight. “Trust me in this, Mistress Wyatt–if I wanted you dead, you would be dead.”

Oh yes, that she could believe. Minuette swallowed. “Eleanor Percy is not prepared to take the entire blame for the monkshood. According to her, you already know who was behind it all. And it was certainly not Northumberland. If you do not confess all to the king, Eleanor will do it for you.”

Rochford stilled, watching her like a falcon about to dive on its prey. “What were you doing speaking to Eleanor Percy?”

“Playing the game,” she retorted. “As I will continue to do, with or without your aid.”

After a long, fraught silence in which Minuette could hear faint footsteps from distant corridors, Rochford nodded once. “You surprise me, Mistress Wyatt. I had thought you incapable of such hardness.”

“I learned from your sister, did I not? Do not underestimate what I will dare for those I love.”

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About the Author

Laura Andersen.Credit Mandy BakerLaura Andersen has one husband, four children, and a college degree in English that she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Books, shoes, and travel are her fiscal downfalls, which she justifies because all three ‘take you places.’ She loves the ocean (but not sand), forests (but not camping), good food (but not cooking), and shopping (there is no downside.) Historical fiction offers her all the pleasure of visiting the past without the inconvenience of no electricity or indoor plumbing. After more than thirty years spent west of the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Massachusetts with her family.

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Looking Back – Our Favourite Reads of 2013

Slide1As we head into a new year of – hopefully! – excellent reading, we thought we’d take a look back at those books we’ve most enjoyed during 2013. The majority of these are titles which were published in 2013, but in some cases, our reviewers have selected books which may have been published before, but which they read for the first time last year.

Choosing a small number of titles to highlight has been a tricky exercise for all of us, as we’ve all been fortunate enough to read some excellent books, so these surely represent the best of the best. If you’ve read them, then hopefully you’ll be in a position to agree with our reviewers’ choices, and if you haven’t, then perhaps you’ll find some food for your TBR pile here.

And perhaps you think we’ve missed out on something awesome – so please do leave us a comment and tell us about YOUR favourite books of 2013.

Caz

caz GRAVATAR

The Black Madonna by Stella Riley. This is a superbly crafted piece of romantic historical fiction in which the central romance is beautifully developed and the historical backdrop is fascinating and very well-researched. The hero of the story is the compelling and gorgeous Luciano del Santi, a young Italian goldsmith who is trying to find the truth behind his father’s death years earlier. His life becomes inextricably bound with the lives of the Maxwell family of Thorne Ash in Oxfordshire in the time around the first English Civil War.

The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen. This is the second book in a trilogy which takes as its premise – “what if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a living son?” The historical research is impeccable as Ms Andersen so skilfully intertwines her characters and events with actual events and historical figures. At the heart of the novels is the quartet of friends – William (King Henry IX), his sister Elizabeth, his loyal friend and advisor Dominic Courtenay and the vivacious Minuette, Lady-in-Waiting to Elizabeth, and the object of affection for both men. This second instalment made for an un-putdownable read as friendships are tested to their limits due to political and personal pressures. I can’t wait for book 3, The Boleyn Reckoning which is due out sometime in 2014.

For the Love of a Soldier by Victoria Morgan. This stunning début novel, set in England in the period following the Crimean War, is beautifully written and features two very engaging and well-characterised protagonists – a battle-scarred war hero, and a down-on-her-luck heroine whose eavesdropping saves his life. Their romance begins unconventionally, but is beautifully developed, with some truly delicious sexual tension along the way. There’s a superb set of secondary characters too, and plenty of humour – despite the horrors of war experienced by the hero, I laughed out loud several times while reading.

The Countess Conspiracy is the third novel in Courtney Milan‘s Brothers Sinister series and although it was only released the week before Christmas, I had to make room for it in my top five, because it’s such a superb book. The romance between two long-standing friends is beautifully done and very angsty, and the book is a kind of love letter from Ms Milan to all those forgotten women who made scientific advances in the nineteenth century but were ignored by virtue of their sex. Plus – Sebastian Malheur is one of the dreamiest heroes it’s ever been my fortune to read about;) My review will appear in early January.

18042822Flowers from the Storm (AUDIOBOOK) by Laura Kinsale & Nicholas Boulton. This wonderful tale of the debauched duke and the young Quaker woman who saves his sanity and his life is a perennial favourite. The language is beautiful and the author’s characterisation of Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, as he gradually rebuilds his life is nothing short of masterful. Also nothing short of masterful is the performance given by British actor, Nicholas Boulton in this new audiobook version of the story as he brings Christian and Maddy vividly to life and adds an entirely new dimension to this wonderful and beloved story. Seven of Ms Kinsale’s books are already available in audio format (all expertly narrated by Mr Boulton), with more to follow in 2014.

Lady Blue

bluebonnets- Bonnie Blue

Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt. Maximus is so guilt ridden over an incident that contributed to his parents’ deaths when he was a child, that he now compensates by being “perfect.” He must marry the perfect woman, and that is certainly not Artemis, who is not duchess material. I loved this book so much, that I wanted to start reading it again the moment I finished it. It is so well written that you are feeling every emotion along with Maximus, and urging him to follow his heart.

Ethan by Grace Burrowes. Ethan has had more heartbreaking and tragic incidents in his life than one man should have to endure. Alice leads him to love and reconciliation with his family, though it’s not an easy task. This is one man who deserved his happy ever after.

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt. Godric and Margaret (“Megs”) have both loved deeply and lost. Circumstances forced them into a marriage of convenience with neither of them expecting or wanting love again. Watching them fall in love with each other, and overcoming their guilt over doing so was pure joy.

It Happened One Midnight by Julie Anne Long. Jonathan is counted as fluff by his father, who manipulates him, trying to force him to marry. There is a steel backbone beneath Jonathan’s charming exterior, and when he meets Thomasina (“Tommy”) the two form a strong and loving bond that will let nothing stand in the way of their being together.

Lady In Red by Maire Claremont. Wrongfully institutionalized by her evil father, Mary is abused for years until she escapes. She finds a champion in Edward, and then finds healing and love. Her evil father gets his well deserved comeuppance. Mary’s strength was an inspiration.

Lizzie English

Meagan

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
I’ve always loved the Tudor Era, it’s one of the most fascinating to me in any historical period. But to write a completely alternate reality of if Anne Boleyn hadn’t miscarried her son, and he became King. That changes everything. I still need to read the second book, but I can’t wait to see how this ends.

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
Normally you see books about Napoleon’s first wife Josephine but never about his second. It was interesting to see the Great-Niece of Marie Antonette be brought into the French Empire and having to deal with all of this pressure with her Great Aunt’s fate ruling over her. There are lot of jumps in the story and obviously Marie-Louise isn’t apart of the main conflict in Napoleon’s story, but it’s interesting from her eyes.

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt
One of my favorite Romance Series. This one was especially wonderful, the back story is set up from the get go and you’re off running. A lot of the secret and mystery is in the beginning of the novel then it goes straight into core of Megs and Godric’s relationship and their eventual bond.

Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks
Genevieve is a broken woman and it takes Bowen to put her back together again. I LOVED this book. It’s just what you would expect right after the first novel, and who you wanted it to be as well. I really liked how Genevieve was written; she wasn’t willing in the beginning and she still wasn’t into it even after she realized she was in love. She was hesitant and it was logical. But now we have to wait until 2015 for the next one?

Maggi

mAGGI

What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris
Another of Harris’ fascinating dark Regency mysteries with the attractive hero, Sebastian St.Cyr, Viscount Devlin. In this novel Sebastian seeks answers to a recent murder and one tied to the American Revolution thirty years ago. We learn more of Sebastian’s past, and about that of his family, and it answers some of the questions from the first novel: What Angels Fear. A 5 star for me, it’s more a mystery than a romance although the intriguing thread of romance is there.

Romancing Lady Stone (A School of Gallantry novella) by Delilah Marvelle
An entertaining novella, not without flaws, but I like Delilah Marvelle’s unusual stories. This one features an older heroine. At forty, Lady Cecilia Evangeline Stone has no intention of marrying again. But then she meets an intriguing man, Konstantin Alexie Levin, who is a world away from the English gentleman she was married to. There’s another romantic subplot in this and those lovers tell their story in later novel. 4 stars

The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister Book2) by Courtney Milan
Expect the unexpected in a Milan story and she’s brilliant at series. Her characters seem so real and her plots are highly original. Is Miss Jane Fairfield really socially clumsy, or does she use it keep suitors at bay? 5 stars.

The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener
I haven’t read Diener before, but I will again. This is a well crafted Regency spy story set during Napoleon’s rein and plotted around a real event. Charlotte Raven is no society debutante – well she didn’t begin that way. She has grown up in the dangerous world of the London slums and knows how to survive in it. I like the originality of the story and the characters, although I wanted more romance at the end. 4.5 Stars

The Kydd Inheritance by Jan Jones
I don’t think this is available in e-book formats. Nell Kydd’s father is dead and her brother Kit is missing. Enter the rather mysterious Captain Hugo Derringer, who is very hard to pin down. Jan Jones says on Amazon that she fell in love with Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and the 1800s at age 12. Those influences are evident in this novel which abounds in historic details clever characterization and a great plot. The Kydd Inheritance is a prequel to Fair Deception, which was shortlisted for the RNA Love Story of the Year 2010. 4.5 Stars

Jill

Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster
Set in 1879, a clever and entertaining combination of historical romance, steampunk, paranormal and alternate history. For readers who also enjoy the Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan and the Blud series by Delilah S. Dawson. 4.5 stars.

Into the Light by Ellen O’Connell. Unlike some of her previous books the setting is not the ‘Wild West’ nor the action and adventure normally associated with westerns. The pace here is slower with a lot of the ‘action’ centred around the newspaper business and the emergence of the automobile.
Ellen O’Connell’s attention to historical detail, her evident research, and her slowly-building love stories set her apart as the leading writer of western or American historical romances today. 4.5 stars.

The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister Book2) by Courtney Milan. Courtney Milan doesn’t write the expected. Her writing is intelligent. She has once again combined a story rich in historical detail with a clever, deep plot, a slowly building romance, and some wonderfully humorous scenes.
Another stunning, layered story from one of the very best writers of historical romance. 5 stars.

The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane & E.M Hull. Written in first person from Diana’s point-of-view this is a wonderful retelling of the 1919 classic The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull.
This is insanely entertaining. Although it does closely follow the original plot, Ms Vane has made certain changes to reflect a more modern retelling with some explicit sexual scenes. A recommended read for lovers of erotic historical romance, romantic historical fiction and sheik romances. 4.5 stars.

The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis. Set in dual timelines, 2013 and the 1930s, this romantic fiction is a must-read for those who enjoy family sagas and family secrets.
With beautiful prose, a mystery with some surprising twists and two romances, The Secrets She Carried is an impressive debut, suitable for readers of contemporary women’s fiction and romantic historical fiction. 4.5 stars.

Susan

Susan Frances 1

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle
Hakan, a brawny but oh-so-gentle Viking purchases Helena, a Frankish slave girl from an abusive slave owner.  Conkle spins their employee/indentured servant relationship into a loving and sensual romance that puts Vikings in the running for the most desirable alpha males. In a world infested with warfare and back-stabbers, Hakan and Helena discover that the only ones they can invest their trust in is each other. Conkle makes their love seem believable and accessible to the audience, and most definitely sensual.

The Reprobate by Dorothy Bell
Royce O’Bannon, a self-proclaimed reprobate is transformed into a chivalrous romantic hero when his heart starts to pine for Cleantha Arnaud, a lovely and lamed damsel whose overly protective father stands in his way.  Bell crafts a well-defined cast of characters whose lives are turned upside and then right-side up with help of one another. Carving out a path separate from his thieving father, Royce discovers he has something more to offer society. With the guidance of Cleantha, this roué does indeed become a dreamy gentleman.

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell
England’s Dark Ages are visited in this tale about Emma, the Maid of Normandy who is sent to London to marry the Saxon king Aethelred.  Bracewell provides a vivid image of this time period in a world fraught with war, treachery, and deceit embellished by scheming courtiers. Truth or fiction, this is a story that could be viewed as a biopic about Queen Emma even with the author’s creative liberties suggesting there were moments of intimacy between King Athelred’s wife Emma and his eldest son Aethelstan. Theirs is a love story that reminds audiences of the legendary Lancelot and Guinevere, though Aethelred’s kingdom was no Camelot. This is a book that gives readers clues about the past and which figures took part in shaping the course of world history and the entangling relationship of England, Normandy and Denmark.

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Shattered by Jennie Marsland
This book was different from what would I normally choose to read, but I really enjoyed it. The story is very well written and I loved the characters. The author did an excellent job of withholding secrets and it kept me turning the pages for more to be revealed. Another thing I liked about the book was that the hero wasn’t drop dead gorgeous and wealthy and neither was the heroine. They were normal people with deep seated issues that needed to be resolved. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series.

The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore
Jennifer Haymore paints a vivid picture of the hypocrisy of London society, with their flagrant affairs and decadent life style through deeply moving emotional characters. I became so enmeshed in this story that I just couldn’t put it down and when I had to, the story kept running through my mind, keeping me anxious to return to this engrossing tale. It was as if I became Sarah. This book is very well written, which has not been the case with some of the books I’ve read lately. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book, and I highly recommend this unforgettable story. This will go on my keeper shelf, because I’ll definitely want to return for another visit with these enchanting characters and unique storyline.

The Ledger by Lloyd Holm
When I read this book, I had no idea what this story was about. I thought it would be a typical historical romance set during World War II, but it turned out to be so much more. It starts out with a young engaged couple, Paul Rosenbaum and Christine Kruger, traveling to Sermaize-les-Bains to visit her grandfather, Andre Ferrand.
Andre Ferrand tells them how the Krugers and the Ferrands became such good friends. Andre Ferrand met Konrad Kruger on December 24, 1914 during what is now known as the Christmas Truce. They exchanged addresses, even though Andre was French and Konrad was German and his sworn enemy.
This book tells the story of the men’s friendship and the romance between their children, Hans Kruger, and Aimee Ferrand. The couple corresponds over a four year period, only seeing each other a few times, but their love is stronger than the tides of war. I won’t tell you more because I don’t want to spoil this for you. I hope you’ll take the time to read this incredible story of two young lovers who overcome all for the sake of love.

Lady Wesley

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I’ll begin with the esteemed Courtney Milan. In The The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister Book2), she pairs an unlikely heroine with a reluctant hero. Oliver Marshall thinks Jane Fairfield is rather ghastly, given her penchant for wearing garish colors, talking too loudly, and oh-so-politely insulting people to their faces. As they become better acquainted, however, Oliver finds that he rather likes her, but Jane is not the type of woman to make a good wife for an aspiring politician. There are several secondary stories that give the reader a vivid look at the role of women in mid-Victorian England. Even for the privileged, life is not always easy, but Milan’s ladies don’t wait to be rescued; they persevere until they find a comfortable mate and place in the world without surrendering their essential being. Despite being called the Brothers Sinister series, these books really are about the heroines and I recommend all of them.

Another young lady who doesn’t wait for her fate is Lady Genevieve Windham in Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait by Grace Burrowes. As the last unmarried daughter in the large Windham family, she is determined to live in Paris and study art despite her parents’ certain disapproval. When she crosses paths with handsome artist Elijah Harrison, her plans change but not her dedication to her art. As this is the last novel of eight in the Windham series, Lady Jenny’s siblings, their spouses, and their children make appearances, along with her delightful parents, still in love after forty years together. If you like family sagas, something at which Burrowes excels, the Windham series is hard to beat.

Grace Burrowes began a new family series last year, set in Victorian Scotland and revolving around the MacGregor clan. In Once Upon a Tartan, she has created a complex, enigmatic hero who is both maddening and fascinating. Although the heroine, Hester Daniels, is wonderful, Tiberius Flynn dominates the book. The spotlight often is stolen, however, by Hester’s nine-year-old niece Fiona. I am aware that some romance readers do not enjoy stories with children, but Grace Burrowes has a marvelous talent for creating juvenile characters who act and speak like real children. She is by turns exasperating, calculating, and stubborn and serves as an important catalyst in bringing Hester and Tiberius together.

Sherry Thomas, who oddly has been hit-or-miss for me, hits it out of the park with The Luckiest Lady in London, where two imperfect people make for a perfect couple. After growing up unloved, Felix Rivendale has adopted the persona of the “Ideal Gentleman.” Underneath, however, he is cynical about love; he must always be in control and will never allow any woman to have power over him. Louisa Cantwell, lacking beauty, pedigree, and fortune, is not the type of woman who Felix would ever notice. With considerable strength of mind, she has adopted her own persona. She hones her social skills, makes herself interesting, sweet, and warm, and is admired by everyone. But she feels like a fraud and distrusts everyone, certain that if they really knew her they would not be interested. Strangely, what draws Felix and Louisa to one another is that each feels like the other can see through their respective facades. The rough patches along their road to an HEA are never trivial, and Thomas does a brilliant job of immersing the reader in both characters’ pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tessa Dare’s final novel in the Spindle Cove series, Any Duchess Will Do. When Griffin Halford’s diabolical mother drags him to Spindle Cove and insists he choose a bride from among the many women living there, he decides to spike her guns by picking Pauline Simms, the barmaid. Griff is a duke, and his mama swears she can turn any woman into a duchess. While I generally find cross-class Regency novels to be unconvincing, Dare comes up with some clever and credible reasons to explain why Pauline is actually a diamond in the rough. The plot is clever; surprising events occur, and while I knew there would be an HEA I wasn’t certain how it would occur until the last page. The pacing is excellent; there was never a moment I wanted to put the book down and do something else. The trademark Tessa Dare humor is present on almost every page, but there are also beautiful, serious passages about the multi-faceted, fully-realized characters.

Sebina C.

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One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (The Rules of Scoundrels #2) by Sarah Maclean. It’s no secret that Sarah Maclean is a popular and talented author. What I loved about this book was that we have a woman who wears glasses, who is a woman of science but who is essentially considered odd. She’s an outsider. When she meets Cross, she discovers someone who sees her for the person she is and who understands the things she says without confusion. I loved that they were both different and intelligent and that they challenged each other in all the right ways. Ultimately, the sexual tension, the lessons Cross gives her and the temptation they are to each other is what made this book one of my favorite Historical Romances this year.

Stowaway Bride (book #2) by Adrianne Wood. I don’t read many historical romances set in the American West, but this one is a great example of one written beautifully. It has a captivating and suspenseful plot, well-crafted characters, a hot romance and most of all a fun adventure story with many funny situations that will make you either laugh or smile. The story also has a wonderfully done and memorable falling-in-love dance between the couple, Emily and Lucien. Emily is a feisty and intelligent heroine, and Lucien is a passionate and risk-taking hero. They were one of the reasons this was a page-turning read for me. (Our review will run late January – ed.)

Sweet Revenge (Nemesis, Unlimited #1) by Zoe Archer. This was a more gritty, action-packed historical romance that had a really hot romance with two tough, no-nonsense characters. The author also focused on some aspects of the Victorian era that I’m not used to reading, and I responded to that. Men of action and empowered women – what more could one want? Oh yes, a really emotional and hot romance to die for.

Jenny Q

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Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan. This entire series is awesome. The perfect blend of historical ambiance, supernatural lore, smart and sexy characters, dangerous liaisons, and of course, true love. It’s a classic good vs. evil story world where elemental witches, werewolves, and ghosts fight to prevent humanity from learning of their existence while trying to save the world from demons. In this fourth book, two tormented characters from the previous novels come together in a twisty-turny plot full of angst and emotion and seriously high stakes, and it’s my favorite book of the series so far.

Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster. This is the second in a series but the first book of hers I read, and it’s fantastic. I’ve purchased books one and three and just haven’t had a chance to get to them yet, but I will! This is along the same lines as Callihan’s series but in a more underworld/common man type of way. Our heroes hide in slums rather than reside in posh town homes among the ton, and not only are they known to the rest of the world but they are persecuted. There’s more steampunkery too. A vividly depicted story world, and Will, the Beast, is hot, hot, HOT. (I dig werewolves.) Pair him with a saucy little spy and the fireworks are explosive. Good characters, good story, good time!

Beautiful Bad Man by Ellen O’Connell. A self-published gem! Fantastic characterization of the kind you don’t normally find in romance. A gritty, realistic, heartbreakingly depicted tale of hardship, suffering, disappointment…and second chances. A true Western and an excellent story, well told. And beautifully written too. Had me hooked from the first page and left me thinking about it long after finishing it. It’s earned a spot on my favorites shelf.

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The Sum of all Kisses by Julia Quinn. We all have had preconceived notions about people. This book makes you think. What if I got to know this person and found out I was wrong about them? Sometimes we get so tied up in our own misery we forget that other people have suffered as much or more than ourselves. This is what happened with Hugh and Sarah. They were forced together because of a wedding they both had to attend and after spending some time together, they realized life was too short to hold grudges. Forgiveness led to true love and many wrongs were righted in the process. Julia tells the heartwarming love story her signature wit and humor. 5+ stars!

The Hunter by Monica McCarty. Why did I like this book so much? First of all there were laugh out loud moments as Ewen fights off his attraction to a woman he thinks is a nun. Secondly, the danger and intrigue made the plot very absorbing, and of course you can’t go wrong with a sexy, alpha highlander! 5 stars.

The Officer and the Bostoner by Rose Gordon. This was one of the very few historical romances I read this past year that was set in America. There are TONS of Regency noblemen and Scottish Highlanders, which I obviously enjoy, but having a different setting was very refreshing. I also enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout.

Conduct Unbecoming a Gentleman by Wareeze Woodson. What made this story stand out for me was Laurel’s grit and determination to do whatever it took to protect her child. While British law was on the side of Lord Andron, Laurel will move heaven and earth to be with her child. Finding love was the last thing she expected. This book highlighted the harsh laws regarding women and inheritance. The author didn’t sugarcoat the way things were back then, even if it was infuriating. I admired the author for staying true to the period in which she was writing.

Kisses, She Wrote by Katherine Ashe. This is the story of how the two main characters come to the slow realization that they more than like each other. They enjoy each other’s company and become friends, and of course, things escalate from there as the sensuality builds at a tantalizing pace. Novellas are becoming very popular and I am slowly warming up to them. One like this will keep me coming back for more!

Maria

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One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (The Rules of Scoundrels #2) by Sarah Maclean. This is a gorgeously written story about an inquisitive bluestocking’s daring “scientific experiment” with a secretive and mysterious scoundrel. This is the second book in MacLean’s very entertaining Rules of Scoundrels series.

Darius by Grace Burrowes: With his beloved sister tainted by scandal, his widowed brother shattered by grief, and his funds cut off, Darius Lindsey sees no option but to sell himself — body and soul. Until the day he encounters lovely, beguiling Lady Vivian Longstreet, whose tenderness and understanding wrap his soul in a grace he knows he’ll never deserve. Handsome, sweet and caring Darius has been dealt a terribly distressing hand in life; this is how he makes his way out. An unusual, beautiful, and very tender love story, this is the first in Ms Burrowes’ sexy Lonely Lords series.

In the Arms of the Heiress by Maggie Robinson. This was a charming and very funny book; it made me smile and laugh out loud. I loved watching Louisa and Charles fall in love with each other, quirks and all. The first in Robinson’s Ladies Unlaced series.

Lord of Wicked Intentions by Lorraine Heath. For some reason, the third time’s the charm, that is, the third in any of Heath’s series and this is the third in the Lost Lords of Pembrook series. Evelyn’s brother auctions her off to the highest bidder: Rafe Easton. The story of how two damaged people find love and comfort in each other, this is a breathlessly romantic love story.

A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn MacNamara A Beautiful debut in the style of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, about two very close sisters’ love stories–both mired in potential scandal. Two wonderful romances, great dialogue, and characters I cared about, I loved this story.

So there you have it! A selection of great books from different time-periods and genres, chosen from the many titles our reviewers have read in the past year. How do our top fives compare to yours? Let us know if you think we’re missing out on any hidden gems!
And as we move into a new year – have you got any reading resolutions for 2014? Are there any time periods or genres you intend to read for the first time? What books are you looking forward to?

For now, it just remains to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

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The Boleyn Deceit (Boleyn Trilogy #2) by Laura Andersen

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Henry IX, known as William, is the son of Anne Boleyn and now the leader of England, his regency period finally at an end. His newfound power, however, comes with the looming specter of war with the other major powers of Europe, with strategic alliances that must be forged on both the battlefield and in the bedroom, and with a court, severed by religion, rife with plots to take over the throne. Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. But as the pressure rises alongside the threat to his life, even they William must begin to question-and to fear….

Publisher and Release Date: Ballantine Books, 5 November 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Tudor England
Genre: Historical Fiction with strong romantic elements
Heat Rating: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

The Boleyn Deceit picks up more or less where The Boleyn King left off and is, I have to say, even better than its predecessor. With William now king in his own right, the stakes are higher and friendships are going to be tested further than ever.

At the end of the previous book, William had prevented all-out war with France and arranged his betrothal to the young daughter of the King of France as a way of appeasing the Catholic faction in England. His friends Dominic and Minuette helped to avert a Catholic rebellion by discovering the whereabouts of a document purporting to prove that William was not his father’s son. The document turned out to be a forgery, but the religious divide in England is as dangerous as ever with powerful families ranged against each other and ready to tip the country into civil war with little more than the slightest provocation.
Close to the end of the book, Dominic and Minuette had at last admitted the depth of their feelings for each other and had been about to seek William’s permission to marry – when William dropped the bombshell that he loved Minuette and wanted to make her his queen. Knowing that William trusts very few of the people around him and that he needed them and their support at this difficult period in the early days of his reign, Dominic and Minuette opted to stay silent, believing that William would soon outgrow his infatuation.

By the time The Boleyn Deceit opens, however, that shows no sign of happening and people are starting to talk about William’s marked preference for his childhood friend. The rumours have even reached the French court, where the king has the suspicion that Will is going to renege on his betrothal to the princess, an action which would also enrage the English Catholics.

Where the first book concentrated on the friendship of Will, Dominic, Elizabeth and Minuette, this one brings the romance to the fore with Minuette and Dominic desperately in love and unable to be together, and Elizabeth and Robert Dudley in a relationship that is just as frustrating, albeit for different reasons.

For Robert Dudley is married. And Elizabeth knows, deep down, that even had he not been, she would never have been allowed to marry him. I liked the picture Ms Andersen paints of Dudley – he’s so often depicted as an evil schemer, out for his own ends – and while there’s no doubt that he certainly did have an eye to the main chance, it’s made clear here that he’s very much in love with Elizabeth (or as much as a man of his ilk can be in love with anyone). Elizabeth is terribly torn – knowing nothing can come of her fondness for Robert she is simultaneously annoyed with herself for falling for him and unable to resist his attentions. She’s very much the Elizabeth we know – intelligent, learned and devoted to her country. Like Will, she has her father’s temper, but unlike him, she is better at dissembling and able to see more clearly where her own desires are concerned.

Although it is clear that William is a very shrewd young man, well able to weigh his own decisions and to hold his own amid all the intrigues of the court, it’s also apparent that he has inherited his father’s talent for self-deception and his inability to see beyond his own desires when it comes to the woman he wants. Ms Andersen draws many parallels between William’s desire for Minuette and his father’s for Anne Boleyn, and the way that his desperation for one woman caused him to completely disregard the best interests of his country. His passion for Minuette is driving William along the same path and he is unwilling to give her up, believing that if he offers his sister’s hand to Spain, the Catholics will be appeased and that everyone will accept Minuette because he wants them to. But his rashness and his inability to hide his feelings very quickly combine to make Minuette the subject of court gossip – and then worse, a target for those who wish to get the message to Will that she is not an acceptable choice for queen.

While William is the titular focus of the book, the real hero of the story is Dominic, now created Duke of Exeter. Courageous, honourable and fiercely loyal to those he loves, he’s by nature reticent and unobtrusive, despite having been raised to one of the highest offices in the land. He’s the one person Will knows will not flatter him and sometimes it falls to Dominic to say the things that nobody else will. But he hates the deception he and Minuette are having to perpetuate, a deception that seems in danger of tearing them apart. For me, their relationship was the heart of the novel, and I felt for Dominic especially, as he struggled to maintain his customary composure.

And the backdrop to all this is the constantly shifting, constantly hazardous world of sixteenth century court politics and intrigue which our characters must navigate. Will’s uncle, the Duke of Rochford is now Lord Chancellor, and although his power has been somewhat lessened, he is still pulling the strings in the shadows. We are introduced to the man who will become known as Queen Elizabeth’s Spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and also to John Dee, the astrologer and astronomer who also served as one of Elizabeth’s personal advisors.

Minuette is still searching for the man who murdered her fellow lady-in-waiting, Alyce de Clare; Dominic is trying to guide and advise the young king, knowing all the while that he and Minuette are living on a knife-edge; the French king contemplates allying himself with the Scots in order to teach Will a lesson and unrest at home is fostered by some of the oldest families in the land.

Ms Andersen’s meticulous research and her skill in weaving together the strands of reality and fiction sent me running to my history books on more than one occasion, because the action and events evolve so naturally and feel so completely plausible that I started to wonder which was which! I was very impressed indeed with the way she managed to preserve the integrity of certain events in her alternate version of history, and with the way in which the historical figures she employs in the story are still recognisable and very much the people we have come to know through the historical records.

Like The Boleyn King, The Boleyn Deceit ends on a nail-biter of a cliffhanger which left me howling and scrambling to the computer to check when the final book in the trilogy will be coming out (sometime in 2014). You don’t have to have read the earlier book in order to enjoy this one, but I would strongly suggest doing so in order to familiarize oneself with all the different courtiers and characters.

Ms Andersen’s writing is intelligent and well-paced, and all the characters – real and imagined – are well and consistently drawn. The Boleyn Deceit is a terrific read and one I have no hesitation in recommending most highly.

A Guest Blog by Laura Andersen, author of “The Boleyn Deceit”

Laura Andersen.Credit Mandy BakerWe’re delighted to welcome author LAURA ANDERSEN to Romantic Historical Reviews, today, where she’s going to tell us a little about what inspired her decision to set her novels in an alternate version of history.

Laura’s first novel The Boleyn King was released earlier this year and received high praise for her skilful blending of history and fiction and the way she created an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable story around such an unusual premise.

The sequel The Boleyn Deceit has just been released, and, according to our review (which will be published tomorrow) is “even better than its predecessor … the stakes are higher and friendships are going to be tested further than ever.”

We’ve also got TWO copies of the book to give away!

Why I Write Alternate History

Historical fiction has always had an interesting relationship with fact. When writing about characters who lived, who did actual events on verifiable dates, whose relationships (at least outwardly) are matters of record, a writer must tread with particular care. History provides a rather strict framework within which interpretation and character development can run riot without being allowed outside the lines. And readers of historical fiction know their stuff—laziness in research and variation from fact (except where noted and well defended) is not tolerated.

Alternate history considerably widens that framework. By changing a key event in the past (the Nazis win WWII, say, or Franklin Roosevelt loses his bid for a third term or, in my case, Anne Boleyn delivers a healthy son rather than miscarrying), a writer of alternate history has greater freedom of movement to change further accepted facts. For instance, if Anne Boleyn had borne a living son and was never executed, then Jane Seymour never married Henry VIII. And if Jane Seymour didn’t become queen, then her brothers, Edward and Thomas, never held positions of power in their own nephew’s government and thus would not have been executed in their turn (at least not for the same reasonsbd

That all sounds very precise and scholarly, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you the less scholarly reason I love writing alternate history: Because it gives me an out from the demanding nature of confining myself to historical facts. Not that I don’t love history—I would hardly write in this genre if I didn’t! But I also love the freedom to play with facts. Jane Grey didn’t become the nine-days’ queen in my world? That doesn’t mean her life is entirely her own. Guildford Dudley didn’t die for marrying the forced-into-usurpation Jane Grey? That doesn’t make him any wiser or safer in my world. One strand of story in THE BOLEYN DECEIT is the Duke of Northumberland’s arrogance and ambition, and how such traits bring him into conflict with the monarch. Different monarch in my world, and thus different details, but Northumberland is the same man and I find it wonderfully intoxicating to play with historical personalities in altered circumstances.

But there may be another reason I was drawn to telling an alternate version of Tudor history, one I had never considered until pondering this blog post. Bear with me, as I tell you a brief story.

I’m adopted. Always knew it, always grateful to have found my way to my family. And, when events led to meeting my birth mother in 2002, glad to have another piece of my history as well.

Probably all children daydream how their lives might have been different. Certainly, an adopted child has a perfect starting point for such imaginings. But for me, it was meeting my birth mother that directed those imaginings into a vivid picture of just how specifically different my life might have been if not for one personal and not at all history-shattering decision on her part. bk

Starting to sound familiar? Perhaps it’s my own history that led me to ponder the effect of Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage in January 1536. Pregnancy, childbirth, how a single child’s life can be changed and, if that single child is the son of a king, can change history itself. I’ve never been drawn to writing alternate history based on the changing outcomes of battles or political struggles on the world stage. No. The story that resonated with me began, like my own story, with a woman’s pregnancy.

So perhaps it’s true that a writer’s life informs every aspect of the stories she chooses to tell, whether she even knows it or not. Or perhaps I’m simply a romantic at heart and want everyone to have a happy ending. Or maybe I like the endless possibilities of What If?

Or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to be at the mercy of facts.

But now that I’ve discovered the pure pleasure of playing with the past, I don’t think I’ll be giving it up anytime soon.

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Our thanks to Laura for stopping by. If you’d like to win a copy of The Boleyn Deceit, just leave a comment (and your email address) in answer to this question:

Who’s your favorite Tudor-era personality?

TWO lucky winners will be chosen at random on Friday 15th November.