Hello, and welcome back! I hope all of you here in the States had a great Mother's Day. I had a vacation a couple weeks ago, an entire week off to play in my books here at home rather than at work in the bookstore. And I'm already dreaming of my next vacation. Then again, we're heading into the middle of the month, so there aren't many new romance releases hitting bookstore shelves right now, which makes me very happy I have plenty of May romances here on my desk.
This time out, however, I have one last April romance to share with you: It Happened One Season (Avon, received from publisher), with stories by Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, Jacquie D'Alessandro, and Candice Hern. The premise of all four stories is this: a hero home from war must marry to produce an heir for the family, and a heroine who has no hope of marriage. Laurens kicks off the anthology with 'The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor'. Sebastian has agreed to his brother's demand that he marry to produce an heir for the family estate, but he can't seem to find a suitable bride. Perhaps suitable isn't quite the right word, as there are plenty of eager and suitable young women who'd love to snag him as their potential groom. But Sebastian can't bear to be around any of them very long and can't remember them afterward. Then he meets Tabitha Makepeace one evening when he's hiding in the library instead of dancing at a ball. Tabitha is on a mission: to discover the identity of the person blackmailing her friend. Sebastian offers his assistance, as well as a solution to the problem of them being seen together regularly: a sham engagement. Only he intends the betrothal to become reality. All he has to do is persuade Tabitha he's the right man for her. Balogh's 'Only Love' has Cleo Pritchard meeting up with Jack Gilchrist when he gets back to London after a long period of recuperation in the country. The widowed Cleo knows she has no hope of marriage, but Jack has only just agreed to find himself a wife to secure the family estate after his sister-in-law's latest pregnancy resulted in yet another daughter and no hope of another child. Jack knew Cleo and her late husband, and, once upon a time, they shared a kiss. He likes her, quite a lot, but now that she's free of her domineering husband, surely she wants to enjoy her life. But she would make him the perfect wife, and when he offers his proposal, Cleo wants nothing more than to say yes. But, since his aim is an heir, and, in five years of marriage, she had no children, she proposes a different sort of arrangement: an affair. And if she gets pregnant, then they can marry. Jack has only the remainder of the Season to convince her to marry him, no matter what. 'Hope Springs Eternal' by D'Alessandro features Alec Trentwell on a mission to find a bride, but first he must tell Penelope Markham that he is responsible for her brother's death in battle. He finds her in dire straits, rooming in a dangerous part of the city, unable to find work after the way her last employer sent her packing. Under the pretense of having her do portraits of his family, he moves her into the family home while trying to find a way to tell her about her brother. And falling in love with her. Hern's 'Fate Strikes a Bargain' has Nathaniel Beckwith meeting Philippa Reynolds while both are seeking a hiding place at a ball. He isn't at all happy about the marriage-minded misses he must choose from, and Philippa merely wants a place to sit that won't have her the center of attention or pity. Nat decides after they spend some time in conversation that she will be the perfect bride for him. Philippa isn't sure about the notion, but she agrees to the betrothal and the courtship that is to finish the Season before her mother will allow them to wed. My very favorite of these is, of course, the Balogh story. Her characters are always incredibly believable and complicated. Next is Hern's, for its very sweet romance. I normally enjoy D'Alessandro, but I didn't like this one nearly as much as I've liked her previous work. I gave up reading Laurens a number of years ago, as I got bored with her stories being so similar after a while, but I did like this one, with this hero determined to win his bride. For the entire anthology, I'm borrowing four and a half of Cupid's five arrows.
Until next time, happy reading!