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review 2019-11-13 20:12
History and Historical Romance
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

I tend to get all breathless and twitterpated when I discover a new historical romance writer I enjoy, sending out profligate hold requests at the library. That was the case with Julie Anne Long, whose Lady Derring Takes a Lover was so beautifully choleric on the ingrained sexism of the time, and features a found family plot and exquisitely rendered female relationships. I maybe don't need to say this, but I will anyway: as much I enjoy a historical, the baked in acceptance of social norms which are, to put mildly, antique, and to put more specifically, fucked beyond the telling of it, makes me often quite itchy while I read.

 

This is figleafed in ur average historical romance: industrialists are all, to a man, fair minded and generous, having acquired their fortunes without being the rapacious monsters they all, to a man, were. The aristocrats -- the dukes and earls and the like -- may have daddy issues, struggling under the injurious regard of their Old Testament fathers, but these paternal and paternalistic dinosaurs are emblematic of a outdated mode of lording over great swaths of land and hundreds, maybe thousands of people. These new sons are embodiments of a New Aristocracy, one that views its marriages as meritocracies, the perfect embodiment of noblesse oblige. 

 

I was just reading one recently where the industrialist romantic lead mentioned offhand his ownership of cotton mills, and my mind leapt right to tour of Lowell, MA I took some years ago. Lowell is a locus of both early American industrialization, and the inevitable labor movements that follow once people grow weary of being ground down by engines, spitted by the spearpoint of progress. Young women, girls really, worked 12 hour days six days a week until they coughed themselves into an early grave due to the cotton fibers they inhaled, the factory air muzzy with a fog of particulates. (It is also the hometown of Jack Kerouac.) That's the problem with historicals: they are inescapably based on history, which features a boot on a throat in one permutation or another for as far back as one can manage.  

 

So, the endgame of this little diatribe was some dissatisfaction with It Started With a Scandal. On every objective metric, this is a fine novel, with excellent characterization, smooth pacing, and well drawn sexual tension. Long is a smart, interesting writer, and I will continue to read the shit out of her back catalog. However, I was never quite able to get over the fact that our romantic lead was a prince of Burgundy or Bourbon or somesuch, a French aristocrat who fled France during the Revolution. He's very put out by the fact that his ancestral lands are not in his family's possession anymore, and spends much time glowering and throwing vases in fits of pique. The leading lady, his housekeeper, vouchsafes to feel bad for him quite prodigiously. She is herself just weeks from penury -- she and her child -- so she knows what it is to lose things. 

 

To which I say: bah. The French aristocracy deserved to have their heads separated from their necks. They were indolent, greedy, dissolute shits whose venality resulted in the abject poverty and misery of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people. So boo fucking hoo about getting run out of the country where our hero was born into incredible wealth and privilege. (I may have my back up after seeing some billionaire -- there are only 600 or so in America, a listable group of people -- literally crying on television because someone might tax him commensurate with his wealth. Meanwhile millions of Americans go bankrupt or just fucking die due to a medical insurance system designed to maximize profits at a brutal human cost. Fuck, and I can't stress this enough, every single billionaire.) 

 

I am aware of, and engage in quite happily, the sort of historical blindness required to enjoy a historical romance. I am not going to nitpick inconsistencies unless they are egregious and/or not in service of the final resolution. But sometimes I'm in my own place in history, where I cannot unsee the parallels to current, ongoing, often fatal injustices in the world. I am not going to waste time feeling bad for people who have had everything and then some given to them by accident or birth who, just occasionally, feel thwarted in their every impulse. Our heroine's soft-heartedness looks soft-headed. 

 

I've said this before, but I'm going to repeat it: every romance has the echoes of a less satisfactory conclusion embedded within it. Without the invisible authorial hand, our housekeeper's life would end in brutal poverty, discarded by a "polite" society predicated on systematic exploitation. Mostly I'm satisfied with these romantic revisions -- that is the point of a historical romance novel, n'est-ce pas? I can and do acknowledge this freakout is largely on me -- I do not want to enbussen Long, who seems a very fine writer, because of a personal convergence of things. But sometimes I just can't. The romantic conclusion ends up seeming such a petty, priapic thing, the tumescence of love blotting out all impediments to our lovers, even the important, necessary, and structural ones. 

 

Probably I should just back way from historical romance for the time being, library holds notwithstanding, until some improbable time when our brutal history is less brutal. I'll be busy holding my breath. 

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review 2015-10-06 13:07
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

Yet another story in the long-running Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long. (Although apparently the one after this is the long-awaited finale to the series.)  It's not bad, but the character of the hero didn't really work for me. He's supposed to be a bad-tempered, uncontrollable, vase-throwing bastard who frightens and drives away all the servants of the house where he's staying, but this never materializes in his interactions with the heroine or the other servants in the house. In fact, he's a fairly standard-issue upper-class male of the time period throughout most of the story, with a tendency to dish out put-downs with sarcasm. The heroine is great and her son is very well characterized as a small boy.

 

The picture on the book's cover, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the book. The heroine is always dressed as a housekeeper, in old and extremely modest dresses, and never in a ball gown, she is very fair-skinned with a tendency to blush, and the story takes place in a country manor house, not a palace with a vast hall as pictured on the cover. Maybe the picture is supposed to represent the story's villain ...

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review 2015-09-27 00:00
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long 4.5
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text 2015-07-22 16:50
Single Mothers in Historical Romance
To Beguile a Beast - Elizabeth Hoyt
Simple Jess - Pamela Morsi
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long
Rogue in Texas - Lorraine Heath
Second Chance Hero (Texas Grooms (Love Inspired Historical)) - Winnie Griggs
My Beautiful Enemy - Sherry Thomas
The Tarnished Lady - Sandra Hill
Where the Horses Run - Kaki Warner
Douglas: Lord of Heartache (The Lonely Lords) - Grace Burrowes
The Bride Ship (Frontier Bachelors) - Regina Scott

Kids are out of school and mothers long for it to start again. 

 

If ir was a century ago, we would just put them to work. 

 

Here is a list of wonderful Historical Romances with Single Mothers.

 

My lists are never in any particular order.

 

1. To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

 

CAN A WOUNDED BEAST . . . 

Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken. 

TRUST A BEAUTY WITH A PAST . . . 

Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away. 

TO TAME HIS MOST SECRET DESIRES? 

Beneath Helen's beautiful façade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find-a happy ever after.

 

2. Simple Jess by  Pamela Morsi

 

Jesse Best is a simple man with simple ambitions, his own dog, his own gun and a woman. In this very special return to Marrying Stone, Jesse gets his chance at all three. 
Althea Winsloe is a widow with a son. All she wants is to give her boy a better childhood than her own. But a young woman sitting on a prime piece of farmland is bound to draw attention from her envious neighbors and swains on every side. Interfering relatives and the confession of an illicit kiss force her to make her choice of a new husband by Christmas Day.

 

3. It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

 

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword, and a stone-cold conviction: he'll restore his family's fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

 

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. She is shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, and her survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

 

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe's barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

 

4. Rogue in Texas by Lorraine Heath

 

He was the wrong man for the job in every way but one . . .

 

Grayson Rhodes, the illegitimate son of a duke, heads to America to prove his worth and earn his fortune. But post-Civil War Texas seems more like hell than a land of opportunity, especially when he finds himself working the cotton fields of no-nonsense Abbie Westland. Abbie, with her fiery determination, is wildly different from the fragile beauties Grayson knew at home . . . but there is a tender yearning he can see just below her tough exterior.

 

Abbie works her fingers to the bone day-in and day-out, and she needs the help of a few good farmhands. Though skeptical of the polished Englishman when he arrives, she soon discovers a man with a resolve to succeed that matches her own. As the long, hot days turn to heated, passionate nights, they dare to dream of a future together.

 

5. Second Chance Hero by Winnie Griggs

 

To help his dying sister, Nate Cooper once broke the law—and he's regretted it ever since. Now the ex-con turned saddler hopes for a new beginning in Turnabout, Texas. So when Nate saves a young widow's daughter from imminent harm, he's shocked to be called a hero. 

 

Single mom Verity Leggett leads a safe life, avoiding danger and excitement at all costs. But her daughter's rescuer Mr. Cooper seems like a perfectly responsible—and handsome—man she can rely on. But when his secrets come to light, will Verity be able to get over his past and see Nate for the caring man he's become? 

 

6. My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas

 

Hidden beneath Catherine Blade’s uncommon beauty is a daring that matches any man’s. Although this has taken her far in the world, she still doesn’t have the one thing she craves: the freedom to live life as she chooses. Finally given the chance to earn her independence, who should be standing in her way but the only man she’s ever loved, the only person to ever betray her.

Despite the scars Catherine left him, Captain Leighton Atwood has never been able to forget the mysterious girl who once so thoroughly captivated him. When she unexpectedly reappears in his life, he refuses to get close to her. But he cannot deny the yearning she reignites in his heart.

Their reunion, however, plunges them into a web of espionage, treachery, and deadly foes. With everything at stake, Leighton and Catherine are forced to work together to find a way out. If they are ever to find safety and happiness, they must first forgive and learn to trust each other again…

 

7.  The Tarnished Lady by Sandra Hill

 

Disgraced!

 

Banished from polite society for bearing a child out of wedlock, Lady Eadyth of Hawks' Lair spends her days hidden under a voluminous veil, tending her bees. But when her son's detested father threatens to reveal the boy's true paternity and seize her beloved lands, Lady Eadyth seeks a husband willing to claim the child as his own.

 

Eirik of Ravenshire is England's most virile bachelor, notorious for loving—and leaving— the most beautiful damsels in the land. Now a mysterious lady is offering him a vow of chaste matrimony in exchange for revenge against his most hated enemy, and Eirik simply cannot refuse. But the lusty knight's plans go awry when he finds himself unable to resist Eadyth's myriad charms . . . and he succumbs to the sweet sting of the tarnished lady's love.

 

8.  Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner

 

Wounded in body and spirit after a shootout, Rayford Jessup leaves his career as a lawman and uses his gift with damaged horses to bring meaning to his solitary life. Hired by a Scotsman in Heartbreak Creek to purchase thoroughbreds, he travels to England, unaware that a traumatized horse and a beautiful Englishwoman will change his life forever.

Josephine Cathcart loves two things: her illegitimate son and her injured stallion. Faced with her father’s looming bankruptcy, she must choose between a loveless marriage to the man who ruined her, or risk her horse and her future on a handsome, taciturn Texan and a high-stakes horse race. But as vengeful forces conspire against them, will Rafe’s love and healing touch be enough to save her horse and protect her and her son?

 

9. Douglas: Lord of Heartache by Grace Burrowes

 

Douglas Allen, Viscount Amery, hates having arrived to his title without knowing how to manage his properties. Guinevere Hollister is a distant family connection raising her daughter in rural obscurity while stewarding the estate. Douglas reluctantly puts himself in Gwen's hands for lessons in land husbandry and discovers beneath her prickly exterior a woman of passion and honor. Yet despite the closeness they find, she will not marry him.

 

When the powerful Duke of Moreland arranges an engagement between Gwen and his heir, Douglas knows the marriage is not what Gwen wants. In Douglas's eyes, Gwen deserves to make her own choices, and he will take on family, the meddling duke, and Gwen's own lonely, stubborn heart to ensure his lady's happiness. 

 

10. The Bride Ship by Regina Scott

 

hat was his brother's widow—his first love—doing on a ship full of prospective brides headed out West? Clay Howard had been tasked with escorting the Boston belle home, but he didn't anticipate Allegra being so strong-willed—or that he'd wind up traveling with her just to keep her from leaving without him! 

 

Allegra Banks Howard isn't going to let Clay interfere with her plans for a new life with her daughter on the frontier. True, Allegra needs his wilderness savvy, but if Clay thinks he can rekindle what they once shared, he had better think again. Because risking her heart for a second chance at being his bride isn't something she'll undertake lightly…. 

 

 

Vote for your favorite on my Goodreads list!  Single Mothers in Historical Romance. Let me know who I missed! 

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text 2015-06-26 04:02
It Started with a Scandal By Julie Anne Long $1.99
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword, and a stone-cold conviction: he'll restore his family's fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

 

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. She is shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, and her survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

 

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe's barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

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