Article published on February 28, 2012.
Highland Storms, by Christina Courtenay (Choc Lit)
Who can you trust? Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate. But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate’s in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her? Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being a housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone. And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants including Marsaili even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever…
The Noble Assassin, by Christie Dickason (HarperCollins)
A thrilling account of one of English history’s most daring women, who risked everything in the dark days leading up to the Civil War. The perfect novel for fans of Suzannah Dunn and Phillipa Gregory.
Court beauty, Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, feels frustrated by life with her weak husband. Poverty stricken, they are confined to their country estate and excluded from court life in London after he disastrously allies himself against Elizabeth I.
Now, some years later, James I is seated on the English throne. His daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, former confidant of Lucy, has married the King of Bohemia. The precarious political situation in Europe is fraught, setting father against daughter. When Elizabeth and her husband are deposed, exiled and forced on the run, James is in no mood to come to Elizabeth’s aid.
Hearing of Elizabeth’s predicament, Lucy sees an opportunity to re-establish the Bedford name and offers herself as a peace envoy between the two parties. Setting out on a daring mission across the channel, Lucy discovers she is being manipulated by unscrupulous men, not least the calculating and darkly handsome Duke of Buckingham.
Can Lucy tread this most dangerous path, or by risking everything, will she pay the ultimate price?
Daughter of Siena, by Marina Foriato (John Murray)
The Palio: Siena’s famously dangerous and hard-fought horse race. A year of planning, ten riders, three circuits of the piazza – and all over in a single moment. But this year, for two of the women watching, far more than the coveted prize is at stake. For Pia of the Tolomei, the most beautiful woman in Siena, the Palio is her last hope of escaping a violent marriage. For Violante de Medici, it marks the start of what her enemies intend to be her last month as governess of the city. Isolated in her palace, surrounded by conspirators, she must find the courage to uncover a plot that threatens her very existence. The trumpets sound. And into the piazza rides an unknown horseman, clad in the colours of the Tower contrada. What he does during the race will not only change the lives of Pia and Violante, but alter the course of the Medici dynasty itself.
Alive with all the colour and rich historical detail that marks Marina Fiorato’s work, Daughter of Siena is a dramatic and compelling story of treachery, courage and the power of love.
Perhaps Tomorrow, by Jean Fullerton (Orion)
Mattie Maguire is a 26-year-old widow with an infant son. Since her husband, Brian, died three years before, she has struggled to keep the family’s East End coal business solvent, as well as taking care of her troubled mother-in-law. But unbeknown to Mattie, life is about to get even tougher. Maguire’s is in the path of the proposed Wapping to Mile End railway extension that Amos Stebbins is trying to raise capital for, and he has his sights set on the deeds of the coal yard. Outwardly, Amos is a respectably married local benefactor. But he has a darker side and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Nathaniel Tate is the son of a poor farmer who used to be employed by Amos as a clerk, until he was wrongfully convicted of embezzling money that Amos stole. Sent to a penal colony in Botany Bay, Sydney, Nathaniel escaped after receiving the news that his wife and children had died. Now he has returned to London, hell bent on killing Amos, whom he holds responsible for his family’s destruction. Tracking Amos down to Maguire’s, a desperate and penniless Nathaniel accepts Mattie’s offer of work. But as Nathaniel begins to help Mattie turn around the fortunes of the business, and the pair grow ever closer, he starts to think less of revenge and more of the possibility of a future with Mattie. That is, until a furious Amos reveals Nathaniel’s true identity to Mattie – and the police.
A Gathering Storm, by Rachel Hore (Simon & Schuster)
Photographer Lucy Cardwell has recently lost her troubled father, Tom. While sifting through his papers, she finds he’d been researching an uncle she never knew he’d had. Intrigued, she visits her father’s childhood home, the once beautiful Carlyon Manor. She meets an old woman named Beatrice who has an extraordinary story to tell …Growing up in the 1930s, Beatrice plays with the children of Carlyon Manor – especially pretty, blonde Angelina Wincanton, Lucy’s grandmother. Then, one summer at the age of fifteen, she falls in love with a young visitor to the town: Rafe Ashton, whom she rescues from a storm-tossed sea. But the dark clouds of war are gathering, and Beatrice, Rafe, and the Wincantons will all be swept up in the cataclysm of events that follow. Beatrice’s story is a powerful tale of courage and betrayal, spanning from Cornwall to London, and Occupied France, in which friendship and love are tested, and the ramifications reach down the generations. And, as Lucy listens to the tales of the past, she learns a secret that will change everything she has ever known…
The Case of the Missing Boyfriend, by Nick Alexander
Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Awards 2012: Romantic Comedy Novel
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