Despite being afflicted with a historical romance novel addiction, my reading never veered into the m/m romance category. Yes, I read and loved the Lord John Grey series by Diana Gabaldon, but despite Overdrive’s categorization to the contrary, they aren’t really romance novels. I was completely unaware that I could find the same tension, angst, and romance in existing historicals with a gay twist. This was mostly due to reader-blinders, or specifically, publisher-blinders. Most of the historical romance novels available at my public library (my entree into the world of romance) are from major publishers like Avon, St. Martin’s Press and Berkley, which are decidedly heterosexual/normative romance publishers. Had it not been for Jay’s infectiously enthusiastic love of m/m romance (and stellar recommendations), I would not have recently read two excellent historicals.
I’m going to work really hard to contain my exclamation points in this post, but it will not be an easy task. Carolyn Jewel’s Scandal, a 2010 RITA finalist for Best Regency Historical is free right now.
And it’s amazing (which I shall elaborate on in great, great detail).
I am a sucker for romance built on grand reconciliations–the bigger the screw up, the better and hotter the make up. Given that the romance novels I read are almost exclusively historical, these stories tend to be mostly about estranged husbands and wives brought back together by circumstance or a life-altering event. After working through the hate and pain, they realize their love for one another runs deep, to the great joy of make-up story junkies like myself. I thrive on angst-ridden romance. I will take a tortuous reunion over a sweet love story (although I like those too) any night of the week. Maybe it’s my vestigial emo-teen heart, but I want DRAMA and reconciliation stories DELIVER. They have exactly the kind of emotional torment, lust, pain, and deep romance that keeps me reading until 2 a.m.
My favorite reconciliation story is easily Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband. Set against the backdrop of the British Empire’s late 19th century stronghold in India, this book is EPIC in both scope and drama. Three years after their annulment, Leo Marsden travels to a remote region of India (now Pakistan) to deliver an important message to his physician ex-wife Bryony Asquith. Although their marriage was a disaster, this unexpected reunion sends them on a path to forgiveness as they make their way home to England. Thomas is one of the few romance authors I’ve read that isn’t afraid to drag her hero and heroine through the mud. Leo and Bryony have major baggage that isn’t going to fixed by a quick romp in the sack. Their pain is real and their anger is justified, making their reunion that much more intense.
If globe-trotting romance isn’t your thing, try one of Thomas’ earlier works, Private Arrangements. Camden and Gigi (Lord and Lady Tremaine) have the perfect British society marriage. They lead separate lives on separate continents and are perfectly content to carry on that way until Gigi decides she wants an annulment. After a ten year absence, Camden returns to London from New York to demand an heir before allowing Gigi to marry her lover. As unromantic as the premise to this novel sounds, there’s something soul-gnawing about the decade-long hell Camden and Gigi have put themselves through thanks to youthful stupidity and pride. There’s a fun sub-plot with Gigi’s mother to keep things light-hearted, but the main attraction is definitely the Tremaines’ stormy relationship.
Laura Lee Ghurke has a similar story of marital distress and reconciliation in The Marriage Bed, the second book in her Guilty trilogy (which contains one of my all-time favorite romances, Guilty Pleasures). Lord and Lady Hammond’s marriage is well known as an unhappy one, but after a death leaves Lord Hammond without an heir, he returns to his wife of nearly a decade to claim his marital rights, and oh yeah, ask for forgiveness and stuff. John, Lord Hammond, isn’t quite the contrite ex-philanderer his wife Viola wants him to be, and I have to say, I’m TEAM VIOLA on this one. But it’s a fun read with two sexy characters and well worth the make up scenes in the end.
If a shorter forgiveness story is what you crave, try The Misbehaving Marquess, a novella by Leigh LaValle. Right now it’s a part of the Seven Wicked Nights novella ebook set, but you can also purchase it as a stand-alone novella. Jamie Raybourne, the Marquess of Foster, returns home to reconcile with his wife Cat. Their entire 5 year separation is predicated on one great misunderstanding, bruised pride and male ego. It’s a short, fun story of two people apologizing for their mistakes and rekindling their love for one another. It’s the first story I’ve read by LaValle and I’m anxious to read more by this author.
If you’re in the mood for drama, romantic angst and long-suffering heroes and heroines, try a reconciliation story. You won’t be disappointed!
Reader Question: Do you have a favorite reconciliation romance novel?
Title: One Starlit Night (novella)
Author: Carolyn Jewel
Found In: Seven Wicked Nights limited edition novella box-set and Midnight Scandals historical romance anthology
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play
I’ve been tearing through Seven Wicked Nights, as promised, so expect plenty of reviews from that boxed-set in the next few days. I decided to start off with a new-to-me author, Carolyn Jewel, who writes both historical and paranormal romance.
One Starlit Night is ROMANTIC ANGST at its absolute best. First loves Portia Temple and Crispin Hope, Viscount Northwood, are reunited after 10 years when Crispin shows up for a visit. Spurred into action at the news that Portia is about to marry, Crispin is back to…well…he really isn’t sure why he’s back, but upon seeing Portia it’s clear that there is still some BUSINESS between them. The shaky friendship they’ve built via correspondence for the past decade has done nothing to quell his want for this woman, or her want for him. What follows is a deeply emotional and fantastically sexy reunion that will rip your heart out of your chest, dance around on it for a while, then slam in back in for a sudden finish.
Clearly, I am a fan.
Grand reconciliations only work if there’s something pretty damn big to overcome and love is still hanging on, however misguided and painful. Jewel does a masterful job bringing erstwhile lovers back together and letting their love, lust, and heartache simmer just below the surface until you just can’t take it anymore. Thankfully, it’s a novella, so you don’t have to wait too long. What Crispin and Portia have been through together is real, folks (no misunderstandings or petty jealousies) and it makes this abbreviated romance that much more amazing.
Read it. Love it. Read it again.
If you like your romances powerful, full of angst, and with heroes/heroines on the more mature side (for regency romance), One Starlit Night will make you stay up reading long past the point when you swore you’d put it down. It’s a wonderfully moving second-chance romance.