Anna Campbell

March 2021

Recent Reads – Part 8

Ah, romance! Don’t you love it? Actually if you’re here on this page, there’s a good chance that you do! Today, I’m going to talk about three romantic novels, all by beloved authors, that I’ve recently very much enjoyed and that I hope you’ll add to your TBR pile.

First up is Madeline Hunter‘s latest, the first in a new series, A Duke’s Heiress. I’ve been a fan of Madeline’s since she burst onto the scene in 2000 with her marvelous medieval stories. I think I’ve read every book she’s ever written which gives you some idea of how much I like her writing.

Heiress for Hire is a real charmer, with her trademark smart women (she writes REALLY smart women) and sexy, sardonic heroes. Minerva Hepplewhite, a mysterious lady with a shady past, and Chase Radnor, an aristocratic private detective, strike sparks off one another from their first meeting. But where on earth will they find the trust that might turn this fiery attraction into something more lasting?

Throw in a murder and an unexpected inheritance and Madeline’s characteristic concern for women’s rights in a world that struggled to recognize such a thing and you’ve got a corker of a story. This one came out in April last year and I can’t wait to read the next installment in the series!

My second romance recommendation is by another one of my favorite authors, the legendary Susan Elizabeth Phillips. If you’ve never read a book by SEP, what are you waiting for? She’s one of the best out there – her books are funny and emotional and sexy and surprising, and as an extra bonus, generally include more than one romance in each wonderful story.

This one is a standalone, not part of her beloved Chicago Stars, series, although when I checked her website just now to get the link, I was delighted to see that there’s a new CS book coming out in June this year. Dance Away with Me returns to one of SEP’s favorite themes, a woman seeking a new, fulfilling life after one of fate’s left turns has stolen away all her dreams and happiness.

Young widow, Tess Hartsong, seeks refuge in a cabin in the middle of nowhere where nobody will ask anything of her after her husband’s death. But it’s not as easy as you might imagine to become a hermit, especially when you’re as smart and charming and capable as Tess is. She finds herself butting heads with the super-conservative residents of the nearby small town and even worse, she becomes involved in the turmoil and scandal affecting famous artist Ian North, who is just as keen on solitude and non-involvement as Tess is and just as incapable of achieving it.

This is one of those “hate at first sight” romances that are such fun. Watching the curmudgeonly Ian and the feisty Tess match wits kept me laughing, even as the emotional heart of the story made my heart ache. A book that I read in one sitting and definitely one of the best romances I read in 2020.

My last selection is by one of my all-time favorite authors (seems to be a theme with this post), Nicola Cornick, who has written a whole stack of historical romances but who has moved into time slip novels in recent years. These are richly imagined stories that link events in the past and events in the present and generally involve solving some cosmic mystery. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll know that I chose Nicola’s The Phantom Tree as one of my best reads of 2017.

The Forgotten Sister returns to the Tudor/contemporary setting that worked so brilliantly in The Phantom Tree and to another mystery that lingers from the 16th century. This time, the story centers on Amy Robsart, the neglected wife of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth I’s favorite and putative lover. In 1560, Amy was discovered dead at the bottom of the staircase in the isolated manorhouse. Leicester had exiled her there out of sight, out of mind, while he cut a dash at court. At that stage, he had ill-concealed hopes of wedding the queen and the obvious conclusion about Amy’s lonely demise was murder, although nothing has ever been proven.

This enduring mystery reaches forward to entangle itself in the lives of media celebrity Lizzie Kingdom and her circle, when it seems at last that Amy’s sad ghost might find retribution and justice. But will the story’s dramatic events destroy innocent lives and break hearts or will there be a chance at a happy ending once all the dust settles?

I read this one in one sitting, too. The historical details are brilliantly incorporated in the story and the contemporary thread with its TV personalities and rapacious paparazzi and popular scandals is huge fun – not to mention there’s a lovely romance as well to make you smile. Highly recommended!