by Beverley Oakley
Published by Total-E-Bound
A Puritan woman’s loyalties are tested when her husband is imprisoned by the Royalist lover she was forced to surrender through duty.
Drummond Castle, home of staunch Puritan Silas Drummond and his beautiful wife Elizabeth has been besieged by Royalist forces. In a bargain to spare her husband’s life Lady Elizabeth has agreed to spend the night with the commander of the hated King’s Men.
Second in command Charles Trethveyan has other ideas. He’s planned this moment since Elizabeth chose to marry Silas eight years before.
When Elizabeth discovers that her former Cavalier lover has taken the place of his superior, she must decide whether Charles is motivated by love or revenge.
Either way, her response will have devastating consequences.
I picked this one up since I don't spot many books set in the English Civil War and, given my love for the Chaloner series, I thought it might be interesting to see pre-Restoration Cavaliers from the Puritan viewpoint. This book surprised me by being even more fun than I expected, although it was naturally a little constrained by being so short and yet still having to fit in the requisite amount of sex for the genre. The 'playacting' scene when the couple know they are being watched was particularly good with respect to the latter.
Poacher's Fall (Midwinter Manor, #1)
by J.L. Merrow
Published by Dreamspinner Press
One snowy night just before Christmas, 1922, poacher Danny Costessey rounds off a night trapping rabbits by climbing a tree to fetch some mistletoe for his mother—only to fall and break his leg. Taken to the manor house to recover from his injuries, Danny meets the reclusive owner, Philip Luccombe. Village gossip has it Luccombe went mad during the war, but Danny soon realizes he’s simply still mourning his late lover. As friendship grows between them, Danny starts to fall for handsome, shy Philip.
Danny’s lively nature, roguish good looks, and ready laughter enchant Philip, and he finds himself being drawn out of his shell whether he will it or not. But when Danny tries to move beyond friendship, Philip panics—and his rejection threatens not only their happiness, but Danny’s health.
A sweet little story about caring, impulsive Danny who is struggling to support his family following his father's death, and Philip who can't come to terms with the fact that both he and his lover made it through the Great War, only for Robert to die in the Spanish flu epidemic. I had to get that bit in since other reviewers seem to think it was just the war that did for Robert. I loved all the little details about life in bith the manor house and Danny's family's cottage and the way the relationship develops gradually between the two until Danny's impulsive nature gets the better of him and they nearly make a complete mess of everything. The poetry and the references to Dickens just added to the atmosphere. One to reread at Christmas, I think.
Keeper's Pledge (Midwinter Manor, #2)
by J.L. Merrow
Published by Dreamspinner Press
Landowner Philip Luccombe has been enjoying a passionate relationship with young poacher turned gamekeeper Danny Costessey for four years now. Danny’s love has brought him out of the shell he retreated into when his first lover died after the Great War. But this Christmas, visitors to the manor threaten their happiness. Philip’s young cousin Matthew is artistic, vivacious, and flirtatious: just the sort to remind him of his long-dead first love—and to emphasise the social gulf between Philip and Danny.
But the worst danger comes from much nearer home. An old flame of Danny’s is discovered in incriminating circumstances, forcing the lovers to keep their distance for fear of being tarred with the same brush. Meanwhile, Danny’s younger brother, Toby, has grown to resent the connection between his brother and the lord of the manor. Danny wants to do the right thing—but that could divide the lovers forever.
The sequel to Poacher's Fall and Danny is now gamekeeper (due to events outside the relationship in the previous book), his younger brother is working on the estate, and one of his sisters is in service elsewhere, so the family are generally better off. Danny has his own cottage, making it easier for Philip to visit, but all that is thrown into confusion when Philip's visitors arrive and Danny's brother is found to have been causing trouble. All in all another nice little look at life in this world, and I did like Lucy in particular out of Philip's visitors (I'd love to see a story in which she finds herself a companion and goes off having wild adventures in her car). The misunderstandings between the main pair work in this context, where the setting doesn't allow them many opportunities to talk to each other. Another to reread at Christmas.
Nice 'n' Easy (Nightstar, #3)
by Lynne Connolly
Published by Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.
Heart-stoppingly sexy Donovan Harvey, bassist for Murder City Ravens, is also a writer. At his first fantasy convention, he wants to launch his new book, not find the love of his life. He gets both.
Allie, unabashed fan and book editor, can’t believe she’s locking lips with the bassist for the hottest band ever, but sometime during their first searingly hot encounter she discovers Donovan the man, not the rock musician, and she’s even more smitten.
Third in the series, and not my favourite of the bunch, although I did like the fact that both characters had the integrity not to exploit their existing positions to further their careers. Donovan wants to sell his illustrated novel (and I did love that he'd written that rather than some great tome of a multi-volume series or even a graphic novel) under a pen-name that isn't associated with his existing fame. Allie wants to get to know Donovan the person (rather than just the subject of her recent fantasies) without neglecting her main job of wrangling a most annoying author at the convention while also dealing with the boss from hell. I was slightly less keen that Donovan's mother when she shows up is as bad as he'd described if not worse. Then again, I loved the glimpses we got of the characters who are yet to get their own books. A nice enough edition to the set, but I'm still really looking to Hunter's book and now also to Riku's.
Alike As Two Bees
by Elin Gregory
Published by Etopia Press
Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey...
In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.
After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hillarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.
A sweetly understated story in a less commonly-used historical setting. Lots of lovely details about the lives of the men working on the interior decoration for a new house, and their observations about the house's future inhabitants and their friends. I loved the details of the different places we were taken to within a small geographical area, and just wish there'd been space for more description. An excellent range of characters too, and I'd also love to see more of their adventures.
Train journeys next, I promise.