This week two excellent Samhain novellas by KA Mitchell and Josh Lanyon were released in ebook. They’ll be together in a print anthology next year.
An Improper Holiday
I haven’t actually read a lot of historical gay romance. I think it can be tricky to pull off an effective HEA, and there tends to be a pall of sadness given the way gay men and women had to live in the past. Not that it’s all a bed of roses now, but it’s clearly much improved in some places. In An Improper Holiday, KA Mitchell managed to draw me in to her world and persuade me that the two heroes who lived there were going to be happy together in 1814 England.
I think readers of historical romance will really enjoy this because KA Mitchell has, to my mind, an excellent historical voice, with a language that sounds of its time. (I’m not necessarily saying it’s completely historically accurate—or not—but that I was persuaded by her writing. It has the right flavor to work for me. When I read historicals, I like to be taken to another time and place. An Improper Holiday did that.)
Ian is returning from the war, minus part of his arm. This is a reunion story, as Ian and Nicky were lovers five years ago. Nicky has gone on to have affairs with other partners, but wants to rekindle their relationship because Ian is The One for him. Ian meanwhile has not been with anyone else since Nicky and fears their relationship was unnatural and wrong. So it’s a lovely courtship, with some very nice touches and really well-done secondary characters, including Ian’s sister.
This has already been reviewed at Dear Author by Sarah Frantz. She gave it a B.
The Dickens With Love
A quirky contemporary romance, with a Dickensian flavor. James, the narrator is a book hunter whose involvement in a scandal a few years ago lost him pretty much everything. He gets by working at a bookstore but does some of his old work too, for a rather disreputable man. As the novella begins, the book he’s going to assess is supposedly by Dickens, and owned by a Professor Crisparkle from England who turns out not to be elderly and eccentric, but rather hot and not-so-eccentric—and very interested in James. But James can’t be upfront about a number of things and inadvisedly mixes business with pleasure—just as the professor begins to mean a lot to him.
This story is quirky as I mentioned, as well as angsty and lovely. It might be one of my favorite Josh Lanyon stories, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why. It has the lonely-protag-determined-to-get-by that I love so well. The narrator has been isolated by certain events, some but definitely not all of the isolation of his own making. But he keeps chugging away, finding it hard to hope for more in a way that I find totally heart-tugging. (In this, it actually reminded me most of Lanyon’s Cards on the Table, though in other ways they are totally different.)
Lanyon does a great job in developing the relationship, weaving in a Dickens-like story and showcasing a rather aggressive ocelot. I was rooting hard for these guys in the end, and I’m hoping there will be a sequel some day.
This has already been reviewed at Reviews by jessewave by Aunt Lynn. She gave it 4.75/5.