I have some especially amazing books to talk about in this post! I have highly been anticipating the sequel to Polaris Rising, and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint! I also enjoyed Jasmine Guillory’s Christmas novel and was pleasantly caught off guard by how much I enjoyed Diana Biller’s debut Gilded Age romance. There are definitely some new favorites in this bunch!
Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik (October 1)
Aurora Blazing is the highly anticipated sequel to Polaris Rising. A sci-fi romance novel, Aurora Blazing opens with the kidnapping of Bianca’s older brother and the heir to her family’s house. Determined to do everything in her power to rescue him, she escapes her family’s compound in order to track down a lead. Only her father wants her back at home and sends Ian, the head of security, after her. Bianca is attracted to Ian, but has been doing her best to antagonize him and put distance between them ever since he turned her down several years ago. If you want to know what happens when Ian finally catches up with Bianca, you’ll have to read Aurora Blazing to find out. Just know that lots of sparks will fly!
It’s finally here!!! Honestly, I didn’t think I could like Aurora Blazing more than Polaris Rising, but this one might just edge it out. Basically, Mihalik did an amazing job creating a sequel that’s very much it’s own book, but just as good as the first one in a different way. I’m obsessed! Bianca is such a strong heroine, but in a much different way than Ada. She’s been battered and almost broken by her first marriage, but she’s fought to come back from it and do everything in her power to keep her family safe and to protect other women from being forced into marriages as horrible as hers was. Meanwhile, Ian is inscrutable and uptight and takes his job very seriously, and Bianca especially loves to push his buttons, which is hilarious to watch, especially since he’s frequently misjudging her. I love watching him admit he was wrong about her and she eventually giving in to her feelings and giving him another chance, and it made for an incredibly satisfying romance to pair with the increasingly high stakes that House von Hasenberg is facing. I seriously cannot wait for book three, but also, I really need to reread books one and two because they’re just so good!!
I received an arc of Aurora Blazing from the publisher via Edelweiss.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory (October 1)
All you really need to know going in is that Royal Holiday is a holiday romance inspired by Meghan Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland. That’s literally all it took to sell me on this book. But if you want more than that, heroine Vivian has plans to go to England for Christmas to spend time with her daughter, who’s filling in as a stylist for one of the royals. While there, she meets and starts to fall for Malcolm, a personal assistant to the Queen.
I thought this was a really enjoyable holiday story! It was so sweet watching Vivian and Malcolm throw caution to the wind and decide to pursue a whirlwind, romantic affair over Christmas and New Year’s. I liked watching them gradually get to know each other and open up to each other, and I especially loved their postcards back and forth to each other after Vivian went home. I can’t say it’s an especially memorable book, but I enjoyed it when I was reading it, and I definitely didn’t feel like I needed to read all of Guillory’s previous books to understand what was going on. If you pick this up, I highly recommend having some scones on hand! They played a prominent part in the first half, and I wanted one so badly.
That said, I do feel obligated to mention that the media narrative around Jasmine Guillory being the first black romance novelist (she’s not) has gotten rather out of hand. The first few times, I assumed Guillory wasn’t actively encouraging the narrative and was maybe new to working with the media, but at this point it’s gotten too egregious for her not to have said anything. She’s alienated a lot of black romance novelists who have been writing a lot longer than her, and I think that’s a major red flag.
I received an arc of Royal Holiday at the RWA Blogger Day.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller (October 8)
The Widow of Rose House is a Gilded Age romance following Alva, who recently returned to New York after the death of her late husband. But her welcome in New York is less than warm after numerous articles detailing her alleged sexual exploits in Paris made her notorious at home. Hoping for a fresh start, Alva is determined to renovate the Hyde Park mansion she just purchased and use it as the basis for an interior design book she’s planning to publish, but a ghost on the property is scaring all of her workers away. Brilliant inventor and ghost enthusiast Samuel is intrigued by and attracted to Alva, and more than happy to offer his services in dealing with the ghost. While Alva does her best to keep her distance, Samuel is insistent that they explore what’s happening between them while working together to uncover the secrets of the house.
I don’t think I’m really doing this book justice with my summary, but I was unexpectedly blown away by this! I always love when I have that experience with a book. It was sent to me unsolicited by St. Martin’s Press as part of their influencer program, and at first I was a little concerned because it looked a lot like a historical fiction title. But after reading a bunch of Goodreads reviews and texting Jenica at Firewhiskey Reader to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I determined it did in fact sound like a romance, and decided to go for it. And I’m so glad I did!
This was an amazing combination of a really prickly heroine who’s recovering from a traumatic past with her abusive husband and a super nice and friendly and open hero. Samuel loves poking at Alva and playing with her, and she’s just not sure how to react because she doesn’t trust herself or love after everything that happened to her. Or men, really, considering the way she was treated after her husband spread horrible rumors about her. But Samuel continuously proves that he’s a kind and trustworthy person, and Alva eventually starts to believe in herself again. There are definitely some serious obstacles for them to overcome, including a haunted house, but it makes for such a satisfying Gilded Age romance in the end.
Jenica asked me if this book was scary, because it does sound like it could have a bit of a horror element, but I really didn’t think it was. And I’m a big scaredy cat, so if I was ok, I promise you will be, too! While there is a ghost that adds some great atmosphere to the story and makes it a perfect fall read, I think it was more of a way to draw out very human fears, and I wouldn’t call it a spooky book.
I received an arc of The Widow of Rose House from the publisher.