You guys! Julia is baaaaaack!
There is nothing so wonderful as being in love and nothing so miserable as being in love with the wrong person. The three novellas here are all stories of unrequited love, or at least love that is assumed to be unrequited. Even knowing she’s going to get her heart broken, heroines can’t help but love these men. Even knowing they can’t have the girl, heroes can’t help but yearn. We read romance to see longing turned to satisfaction.
I met Erin Knightley, a friend of a twitter friend, at the RWA conference in Atlanta. We were chatting while I was waiting to say hi to someone at a signing. She was so completely charming to chat with that when her novella Ruined by a Rake was available for free (it’s no longer free but it’s under a dollar!) and I was looking for a short read, so I snapped it up and started reading. I read the novella that day and started the next book in the series the next morning. Eleanor, having grown up alongside Nicholas, finds him endlessly annoying. For his part, Nicolas finds her endlessly fascinating and he spends all his time teasing her and taunting her, which might annoy her but at least ensures that the beauty doesn’t ignore him. Our hero is just home from the Army and he’s matured enough to catch Eleanor’s eye even if she is unwilling to admit it. While it’s true the “Sealed with a Kiss” books are chaste, there is no shortage of sexual awareness and tension. These books reminded me of all the things I loved about historicals when I first started reading the genre. They are light and flirty and fun. The story all takes place during a house party so it’s a quick paced read. The characters dragged me along through their adventures, eager to know what was coming next.
*On the other end of the spectrum is a short, erotic novella by Edie Harris. A friend lent this to me after I’d spent (okay, exceeded) my book budget for the month and I’m so grateful that she did. This story has all the pieces you’d expect of a historical but manages to surprise at every turn. The heroine Claudia is a shy wallflower desperate to marry to escape her heartless relatives but she isn’t timid. In fact she is almost recklessly brave as she pursues the promiscuous nobleman she hopes to wed. Only it isn’t the hero she thinks herself in love with. As sexually experienced as Gaspard is, he has had no romantic relationship so their affair is an awakening for him as well. As hard as he fights, he can’t help but falling for Claudia. There is even a circle of spies, but it isn’t the enemies who pose the greatest risk. It’s also the opposite of Knightley’s book in most every way. Erotic, angsty and emotional, still not without humor. I read this one straight through too and I’m going to end up buying it so I can read again Gaspard’s and Claudia’s slow, desperate slide into love.
Tempting Fate by Amber Lin is a totally different book. Lin gave me an early copy of this book (which is now on sale) after I was expressing my love for ballerina heroines on Twitter. This one is a contemporary about a ballet dancer who is struggling with the wear on her aging body. This part of the book rang so true with me. I’ve known a few aging ballerinas and it’s hard to watch them fight through pain and injury to get one more performance out of their uncooperative body. As hard as they fight, it simply isn’t as good anymore. All of this meant I started out this book with a huge love for the heroine and then? Rose has a thing for her older brother’s best friend. This is probably my favorite trope ever. Rose is a complex character, both hesitant to finally strike out on her own and determined to follow through on her plans, despite her fears and her brother’s smothering. She brings those same qualities to her pursuit of Drew. They’ve had years of silent, hungry stares while Rose battered her body and worked to overcome her past. The book begins when things are at a breaking point for Rose – both physically and emotionally. I love so much that the huge changes in her life are things she chooses for herself as she sets out to make a new life out of the ashes of the old one.
I’m not 100% sure that’s the title, but I figured I’m right. 😉