sometimes, I enjoy a spot of romance

The Arrangement by Mary Balogh

arrangementI haven’t read many Regency romances, and I’d never read Mary Balogh before, so I don’t have much ground for comparison, but this was a sweet romance with a twist that made the relationship between Vincent and Sophia all the more believable.

Blinded during battle, Vincent Hunt, the Viscount Darleigh is plagued by relatives who want to compensate for his handicap by managing his life, but that is nothing to the potential for disaster when status-seeking acquaintances try to throw their eligible daughters in his path. Tired of being an object of scrutiny and pity, Vincent seeks the safety of his former home and is nearly snared by the power-hungry Marches, but is saved by the quick-thinking Miss Sophia Fry, neglected niece of the Marches.

More than grateful for Sophia’s intervention, Vincent feels it his duty to come to her aid when she is expelled from her home. He offers her a marriage of convenience, but they soon find that there is more between them than can be satisfied by mere companionship…

The relationship between Vincent and Sophia emerges slowly and grows through mutual regard, a nice change from the usual love-at-first-sight theme. I enjoyed the novel and found myself interested in reading the rest of the Survivor’s Club series. It’s a great weekend read when you need something warm and cozy.

Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan

shadowShadowance is the fourth installment in Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, which has just about everything you can want in a fantasy romance set in an alternate, supernatural-infested Victorian London.

Longtime adversaries, Mary Chase and Jack Talent are thrown together when supernaturals start turning up dead. Determined to prove herself, Mary stubbornly agrees to work with Talent, despite his constant haranguing, but there’s more to Talent and his attitude than Mary knows… and there’s more to Mary than Jack imagines.

Just… wow. I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (yes, I skipped ahead to this one, but you don’t really need to read them in order to follow along), this one went way beyond all expectations. If you’re looking for hot hot sex, this is it. Ditto, if you’re looking for strong characters who grow beyond their flaws. Angst, love, revenge, mystery, action… all there. And did I mention the sex? The tension between Mary and Talent is so well crafted, you just know sparks are going to fly. I love a sexy romance that features love between equals and Callihan definitely knows how to make that happen.

I received Shadowdance as a netgalley offer from Forever Romance, but will definitely be purchasing a copy for my collection.

Entwined by Kristen Callihan

entwinedEntwined is part of the same universe as Shadowdance, but serves as a companion story rather than part of the ongoing series. Not quite a prequel, Entwined introduces characters that are related to others in the series, but are not directly involved in the main storyline. It’s a quick read and can be read as a standalone. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but it follows a mixed-up, epistolary love affair between Eamon Evernight and his brother’s betrothed, Lady Luella. Like Shadowdance, there is a good mix of fantasy and romance, and a nice dash of sexytimes.

Thanks to Forever Romance and NetGalley for this one as well.

Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger

I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but it can’t be helped when reviewing a series like The Parasol Protectorate… one book leads to another, so details are bound to be revealed that might spoil some readers. So this is a great, big SPOILER WARNING!

For those readers wishing to avoid spoilers, I will say that this has become my new favorite series, which is saying a lot as I tend to avoid series books in general unless they are complete… I am waiting for the next book with intense anticipation and feel thoroughly vexed at not being able to have more, more, now, now! Alexia is a wonderfully snarky character, and I love the supernatural elements in Carriger’s London–undead they may be, but they are entirely fresh and original.

Hark! There be SPOILERS AHEAD! Retreat now if you must!

Otherwise, proceed…

Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti, half-Italian, on-the-shelf, and soulless, finds she is under no obligation to observe all the niceties of Victorian society, so why should she hesitate to order tea in another’s home when a proper tea is not forthcoming? Never did she imagine that something as simple as a request for tea and treacle tart could lead to her becoming involved in unraveling a mysterious plot that threatens the order of Britain’s supernatural citizens. Or that she would suddenly find herself  in the company of alluring, Scottish, and infinitely infuriating Lord Maccon, Alpha werewolf and BUR agent. Vampires! Werewolves! and Deadly Creatures! abound, but Alexia is ready for them with her trusty, silver-tipped parasol.

After the surge in trendy vampire fiction, I experienced what I have termed vampire fatigue–a curious condition sparked by exposure to too many black, red, and white jacketed, Twilight-esque books, leading to much scoffing and arguing on the merits (or lack thereof) of damsel in distress heroines and their pretty-boy vampire counterparts. Oh yes, it brings out the worst of my snobby book reviewer personalities.

Soulless is not one of those books. I love Victorian-inspired fiction. The Victorians have always been my favorites, and those who know me put up with plenty of Victorianisms on my part. When I first saw a post on Soulless, I knew I wanted to read it–spinsters, vampires, and werewolves in a Steampunky, alternate Victorian London? Yep, my kind of story.

In many ways, Soulless reminded me of what I loved best about Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecilia books–witty banter and a no-nonsense heroine who defies convention. It was a fun romp, and I instantly wanted to grab a copy of Changeless, the second in the series. I’ve avoided series for a while, but I’m looking forward to following this one :).