Mr. And Mrs. Smith take on Regency England

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Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen

Overview from Amazon:

No man can outsmart him…

Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman but he leads a thrilling life as one of England’s most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn’t the only one with secrets…

She’s been outsmarting him for years…

now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he’s not who she thinks he is at all…

 

One of the most underrated movies out there is Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Brad and Angie. Super spies. Sexy. Thrilling. And most of all funny. This book reads like a Regency version of the movie. 

Adrian and Sophia care more about saving England than their marriage. It’s a convienent cover so they can serve the Crown as spies. But once the Napoleonic wars are at an end, they are cut loose.  Taking one last job is an easy choice for the two, although they have no idea that they will inadvertently cross paths. Once they are unmasked as spies and liars, they must work together to figure out a rather nasty plot to get rid of them and damage England’s political landscape. Sound familiar?  It was no hardship to imagine Brad and Angelina in these roles. 

What was fascinating was how the author addresses simple things like Sophia’s attire. Unlike Angelina’s character in Mr and Mrs, she wasn’t able to be running around in black leather pants. The author takes the time to mention how fist fighting in a dress was cumbersome, yet the reminder keeps it fresh that this is the 1800s, not modern day. 

The years of service have left this marriage in a sorry state. The couple are virtually strangers. Sophia and Adrian hide their true nature from each other and society. Sophia even wears frumpy clothes to disguise her beauty so she remains relatively unnoticed in society, therefore free from committees and social teas. 

 

The neglect they have given their marriage is compounded by the fact they are experiencing infertility. This is an issue not often addressed by romance novels, unless the heroine has to produce an heir in record time or a King beheads a wife to get a new young thing. Of course there is a happy ever after – it is a romance novel after all. 

 

The cloak and dagger aspect of the book is well done. You really feel like you are with Adrian and Sophia for their adventures. From stinking alleys to combatting enemies, the action moves at a good pace. The two find each other and get to know the real spouse they married. Since there is no Internet in this time, they can’t fabricate families and identities, so they learn to reconcile who they are with the facts they already know. 

 

Overall, this book is well written, intriguing and the supporting characters enhance the story. The author amps up the heat as the bedroom scenes are quite steamy. Who would have thought a romance novel about a married couple would set off such sparks!  The passion they eventually reveal for each other is realistic and keeps in line with how they fall in love with each other as they learn the truth. 

 

This is the first book in a series of spy novels by the author. I read the next couple of books, but this one was the best of the bunch and I really only kept reading to hear more about what was happening with Adrian and Sophia. 

Well worth reading…a definite keeper!

 

The Magic of Monica McCarty

clear-24f1b1f9614bdeeb1c30a4aa48f963d0[1]I love romance novels set in the Highlands of Scotland. Something about those fierce warriors who wield two handed swords and are passionate lovers to boot. I’ve read many, many novels with the hero being a Chief or renegade clan member, but nothing compares to the books of Monica McCarty. Her website is really well done. She provides information on her research that goes into each new story, including photos of the actual castles or islands. She provides photos of her extensive travels and it’s nice to see her perspective on the Isle of Skye, rather than google images.
She has three series she has written: The Highland Guard, The Campbell Trilogy and The MacLeods of Skye Trilogy. All are well written and fascinating to read. What impresses me the most is her unbelivable accuracy in recounting history. Many of these books are set in time of Robert the Bruce, which is the the very early 1300s. I don’t know how many people were literate then and keeping records, but at the end of every book, she details her research and provides links to more. This is more than a quick google search. As I stated earlier, she actually travels to the locations to get ideas and learn more about the landscape. She also must pour over dusty books and have a Celtic dictonary on hand at all times.
The first review will be on the Highland Guard series. She hasn’t finished writing them yet, goody!!
Her premise behind these novels came from a line in a historical record she found. It linked a MacSorley clan member to being Robert the Bruce’s personal guard, and well known for reeking havoc on the English. Her idea was born to create a phantom army to further the cause of Bruce regaining the throne. Or as she puts it – “Seals in Kilts”.
These men are selected to train and work covertly to upset the English hold on Scotland and ultimately put Bruce on the throne. Of course they are romance novels (and steamy at that), but the history, the adventure and the romance work seamlessly to create a well spun tale that leaves you wondering if it maybe did happen that way. The heroines in the novels are no wall flowers. These are powerful women. Women who make difficult life choices to serve Bruce, be with the man they love and ultimately serve Scotland. It’s refreshing to read a romance novel where you don’t want to smack the heroine for being to stupid to live.

The Highland Guard series takes place over many years. Each story moves along the trials, victories and set backs by the Highland Guard to secure the throne for Bruce. Details such as daily life, the clothing worn and the frailities of life are recounted with intricate accuracy. Once again, you feel safe to lose yourself in the details because you know McCarty did her research. No warrior is whipping out an iphone to check if his little lady stayed put like he told her. Nope, in a McCarty novel, its highly likely she’s shooting an arrow at the enemy at his back.

The series is as follows:
The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger
The Viper
The Saint
The Recruit
The Hunter
The Knight (novella)
The Raider
The Arrow (released in a month)

Life Changing Historical Romance Books

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So if I had a daughter, I would totally encourage her to read historical romance novels. However I don’t. So I’ll encourage you!

The books that whetted my appetite and lured me like a siren at sea formed my opinion of what a good romance novel should be. 

Enjoy my Top Five Classics

1.  Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught

this is the first romance novel I ever read. It’s a classic, hands down. Elizabeth Cameron is running out of options in order to save her beloved Havenhurst property. She is on the marriage mart to make an advantageous match to save her brother and servants from debtors jail. Whisked away to a risqué weekend party she meets Ian Thornton. It’s instant attraction and bad decisions and a malicious friend. The weekend ends with Elizabeth’s banishment for being wanton. Fast forward a couple of years and things have changed for Ian and Elizabeth. Ian has prospered, becoming very wealthy, which is the opposite for Elizabeth. She is destitute. Her ridiculous uncle has the brillant plan to contact all her former suitors from her come out and see if one will finally take her off his hands. Through a mix up, she ends up with Ian. Things don’t go well, but then they do. They go very well. Only when tragedy is about to happen, Ian steps up and swoops in on his proverbial white horse to save her. Of course this isn’t their happily ever after yet. They almost lose one another yet again. 

This story is so full of second chances it is heartbreaking. The love Ian and Elizabeth have for one another is truly inspiring. The sex scenes are classy and yet descriptive. The secondary characters enhance the plot and add depth and substance to the story. It’s a remarkable journey they take and it is so full of passion and hope. 

M2.  Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss

This story has it all!  Fiery spoiled brat, handsome strong hero, death sentence, time at sea, servitude, pirates, murder, passion. 

Its hard to write a description for this book because it is an epic tale. A marriage of convienence that was never to be. A willful, spoiled woman who got way more than she bargained for. At times I hated the main character Shanna as she could be such a stubborn brat, but the deep abiding love Ruark had for her made her redeemable. This story encompasses so many romance genres – England, pirates, a Caribbean island, the new world, it feels like so many stories in one. The plots moves quickly and along with a murder mystery to solve it keeps the action racing. 

The passion between Shanna and Ruark is beautiful. They are a perfect match for one another. It feels like sparks are jumping off the page whether they are fighting or making up. The author writes with such passion that it makes you want to be on Los Camellos and as if Ruark was stealing into your bed at night. So well written, it embodies a realistic tone of the times and yet lets you be whisked away in a beautiful love story. 

3.  It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

This is the second book in a quartet by Kleypas and by far the best. It takes place in the early 1800s in a time when being an Earl meant power and glory. Marcus, Earl of Westcliff and Lillian Bowman, an American heiress hate each other intensely. Of course the flip side to hatred is passion and love. The book is a thoroughly enjoyable read of their anomosity and attraction to one another. Their story is full of spine tingling romance and exasperation. I actually cheered when they finally gave in to their base pleasures. Kleypas writes sex scenes so well. Detailed and thorough, but not sleazy. There is a lot of emotion and reverence between the characters. It was fun watching them fight their attraction to one another and to submit to love. I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail about the large estate Marcus owns and the awareness that the good old days of tennant/lord business was ending. The historical details are fascinating in this book. But mostly it’s the love story between the two that makes it an incomparable read. 

4.  Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught 

another book by McNaught makes this list. There is some controversy surrounding this books as some reviewers have protracted that there is a rape scene between the two leads. I abhor violence against women and always watch carefully to see how an author treats rape in books, holding my feminist views up to whether or not I’ll continue to read. However with this book, read many years before the Internet and online reviews by the masses, I never equated it to rape.

The story is a complex love match between a manipulative man and the young woman he longs to have. Whitney is head strong and challenging. Clayton longs for her and is willing to bide his time and let her play her games in order to be the last man standing. I found this to be a tender love story, yet tempestuous and heart wrenching. With McNaught, there is a formula. Once the happy couple reconciles themselves to being together, something will rip them apart. Of course there will be a happy ending, but the journey to get there is fraught with nail biting and thigh clenching moments. They are a passionate couple. Once again, the sex scenes are well written and descriptive, yet not raunchy. Whenever I read this story I feel winded from the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster the author takes you on. 

5.  Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Another book by Kleypas. She writes so well in her older novels. This book is about a beautiful woman Sophia who seeks revenge on the man she perceives ruined her life. Being a romance novel, of course he didn’t, but that’s the premise behind their amazing love story. Sir Ross Cannon is the magistrate of the Bow Street Runners and an honourable man. Sophia wheedles her way into his life in order to ruin him for sending her younger brother to the gallows years before. Love and attraction blossom and grown into a hot crescendo between the two before the truth comes out.  Lots of plot twists and turns lead them on an incredible journey of redemption. This book is hot. Let me repeat that HOT. The sex scenes scorch the pages and its thrilling that the ‘Monk of Bow Street’ is undoing his fly any chance he can get. The mystery angle adds depth to the story and makes the characters three dimensional. Sophia and Ross fight injustice and learn to find a way to cross not only social classes, but the law and deception. This story makes you yearn and long for a romance like this to happen to you. Did I mention it was really, really HOT?

 

Smutty History

I fell in love with historical romance novels one night when I found my mothers copy of Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught. For a thirteen year old girl, it was illicit, heady and emotional. I read as fast as I could under the covers with a flashlight. Even as a young teen I knew it was something I shouldn’t be reading, but I was powerless to put the book down. The depth of the characters, the history, the emotions, the love and of course the sex. I raided abandoned books shelves in the basement, the cottage, wherever my mom had stashed her books in order to get my fix. 

Fast forward three years later to my first job. In a library. It seems like fate that I was drawn to a place that had well worn, well loved books that could satisfy my voracious appetite for the ton and corsets. 

While young women my age were discovering the virtues of Jane Austen, I was still under the covers reading smutty hero and heroine tales. It seems astounding to me that I never took to dear Jane. But as I once read, she never wrote scenes with two men alone because she herself had never been alone with men, I had no interest in wasting precious reading time to someone who couldn’t describe the clawing, lurid desire a man and women feel for each other. 

It wasn’t just the romance and descriptive bedroom scenes that had me hooked. It was the history. I adored hearing about the inner workings and daily life of the Upper Classes in England, Scotland or wherever my fantasy of the evening was occurring. Pirates, yes please. Scottish highlanders, awesome. Dukes and Earls, bring it on. No detail was too small. It feed a deep interest in me. What was it really like to live at that time in history?  

I was not naive enough to realize that most of my heros likely had a STD and that the perfect world I imagined was hell for poor people with no social net to help them. But the romance and the vivid story telling took me away. 

By the time I left for university, it was almost a foregone conclusion what my major would be. Of course I studied history. Itching to know more about the events that had been glossed upon in my favourite stories. Culloden, Napoleon, Viking invasions. My professors would have been horrified to learn what was behind my passion for historical events. As would most people I know. 

I have to confess, besides my husband, no one knows about my favourite pastime. There is an inherent shame that comes with loving romance novels. That somehow they are unworthy of time or attention. That something is weird about reading them. When I got my first Kindle it was liberating to be able to read on a subway or doctor waiting room without having to hide the bodice ripper front cover. The publication of Fifty Shades of Grey opened the door to erotica, however I view women who are hooked on that particular genre as passerbys – one only has to view Monica McCarty’s blog to see the extensive research and travel she has done to make her books accurate and realistic. It’s the real deal. 

Ive started this blog to share my favourite stories with others. Romance novels have given so much to me in my life. They have been a great place to escape when I needed it, a place to learn from and many hours of enjoyment. 

History in the buff

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