Best HistRoms 2022
STARRED REVIEW

October 12, 2022

Get swept away

Calling all lords, ladies and gentlefolk: The year’s standout historical romances eagerly await your presence.

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In Gina Conkle’s sharp, brilliant Georgian romance A Scot Is Not Enough, a Scottish Jacobite forever changes the trajectory of an upright English barrister’s life.

Alexander Sloane is undersecretary to the undersecretary of the Duke of Newcastle. Precision runs in his veins, discovering the truth is his raison d’être and he’s on the cusp of getting a promotion he’s been working toward for years. His attempt to decode a ledger used by the Jacobites, a Scottish group intent on deposing the Protestant kings of England and restoring the Catholic House of Stuart to the throne, leads him to Cecelia MacDonald, a known Jacobite sympathizer. Hoping to uncover the Scottish traitors, Alexander begins to tail Cecelia through London.

After her clan was defeated and their homes were ransacked by the English during the Jacobite uprising of 1745, Cecelia came to London with a league of women on a mission to retrieve their clan’s treasures. As the league’s de facto leader, Cecelia’s job is to recover their chief’s ancient ceremonial dagger, the sgian-dubh.

Cecelia’s carmine lips, free-flowing laughter and penchant for sexual innuendo convince Alexander that she is a demirep, a historical term for a women of questionable reputation. But even as she is mired in intrigue, Cecelia helps feed poor Scottish and Irish immigrants. Alexander attempts to covertly surveil her in order to square the two sides of this free-spirited siren, but unfortunately, subterfuge does not come naturally to him: Cecelia finds him stuck in a barrel behind her house. So begins the seduction.

A Scot Is Not Enough throbs with sexual tension from the very first page. Alexander and Cecelia’s unrelenting fascination with each other, their need to uncover what drives the other person, propels their relationship. While both characters want to trust their hearts, their minds are warning them that there is no logical reason to do so. Conkle expertly employs subtle, minute emotional details that track the evolution of their relationship and individual perspectives.

A Scot Is Not Enough is a spellbinding tale of political adversaries who are beguiled with each other in spite of everything pulling them apart. The mystery of the sgian-dubh adds intrigue, but it is Conkle’s prose and character work that make this romance so compelling.

A Scot Is Not Enough is the story of a spellbinding Georgian romance between political adversaries who are completely beguiled with each other.
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The Redemption of Philip Thane

A self-described wastrel gets a chance to change in The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne. In exchange for a hefty sum, the low-on-funds titular character agrees to deliver a speech on his wealthy aunt’s behalf during Plough Day, a local holiday in the small village of Whittlesey. On the journey there, he picks up the beautiful and brainy Margaret Allen. She needs a ride due to a broken carriage; he needs distraction from the boring task ahead. Margaret doesn’t succumb to his wiles, and after giving his speech, Philip can’t wait to leave town . . . but then he wakes up the next morning and discovers that it’s Plough Day all over again. And again. And again. In this Groundhog Day-style story, Philip realizes he’s fated to repeat both the speech and his attempts to woo Margaret, all without success unless he can mend his selfish and arrogant ways—and maybe also fall in love. Berne has penned an extremely clever and entertaining addition to the canon of “rake redemption” romances, and readers are bound to find it smart, tender and surprisingly sweet.

Weather Girl

Matchmaking goes awry in Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Meteorologist Ari Abrams teams up with sports reporter Russell Barringer to bring together their feuding bosses, who are also ex-spouses. But as they work to spark a do-over for the pair, they find themselves also feeling a little amorous—toward each other. The gun-shy Ari, who’s recently broken off an engagement and is unsure how to share her experiences with depression, begins to take a chance on single dad Russell, but can they stay the course and really commit? This is mainly Ari’s story, and it’s told in her engaging first-person voice, with Russell filling the role of the wonderful guy who hopefully isn’t too good to be true. Secondary characters add sparkle and fun, and there are brief but deeply enjoyable glimpses of newsroom life in this delightful romance.

The Rebel and the Rake

An aristocrat and a well-educated lady’s companion try to maintain their distance—and their disguises—in Emily Sullivan’s Victorian romance The Rebel and the Rake. Rafe Davies, the second son of an earl, plays the role of charming dilettante while actually spying for the Crown. His latest mission is to discover the source of anonymous threats made to John Wardale, a very wealthy self-made man, while attending a house party at Wardale’s Castle Blackwood in the Scottish Lowlands. Posing as a callow rogue has never bothered Rafe before, but then he meets Sylvia Sparrow, a quiet bluestocking whom he wishes to impress with more than his good looks and facile conversation. While Sylvia is similarly attracted to Rafe, she knows nothing can come of a relationship. She’s hiding aspects of herself, the most damning of which is that she was once imprisoned on suspicion of being an anarchist. But hearts cannot be denied, and the pair are soon sharing steamy love scenes while their true natures are gradually revealed. Danger and desire intertwine in this tale of deception and injustice, an engrossing read that follows two characters who deserve their happily ever after.

Two historical romances twist tropes to their own clever ends in this month’s romance column.

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