Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
February 14th, 2013

Top Late Victorian/Edwardian Romance Novels for Valentine’s Day

It’s a bit of a cliche to recommend romance novels for Valentine’s Day, but here are a few I highly recommend for a superb blend of history, passion, and adventure!

To Dream Again
A deeply-moving and angsty historical set in the 1880s featuring a bitter widow and the idealistic toymaker who hopes to win her with his dreams and his love. – Read more

The Shadow and the Star
The end of this book gets pretty wacky, IMO, but it’s set on the cusp of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, and features a very unique narrative style and some really great characters. – Read more

The Perfect Mistress
Only Betina Krahn can make William Gladstone’s prostitute-walks, a hero determined to ruin Gladstone over them, and a reluctant courtesan’s desire to be respectable utterly hilarious. – Read more

The Bachelor List
This is the book that made me fall in love with the Edwardian era. Warning–Constance and Max are pretty spiky characters, so none of the froth of Downton Abbey here! – Read more

On the Wings of Love
A very sweet and inspiring historical set around the early aviation pioneers in 1910s America. It veers a little more to the women’s historical fiction side, but I always appreciate a good heroine-centric story. – Read more

Not Quite Husband
Sherry Thomas writes difficult books–difficult in that the characters don’t have an easy path to a HEA and sometimes their stories seem a bit…abrupt. I’ve read three of her books so far, and this was the only one that didn’t leave me feeling vaguely dissatisfied by the ending! 😉 A plus is its Central Asian setting. – Read more

Gather the Bones
This has a bit of “woo-woo” in it, so if you like your historicals straight, this might not be for you. Nevertheless, I found this post-WWI romance gripping and haunting, with lovely writing that cuts straight to the point. – Read more

Beast
An opulently written twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. Plus, it’s set in 1900s France! – Read more

A Lady Never Lies
Sexy and funny, with just the right dollop of history to make this a great read. And I have a thing for red-headed scientist heroes. – Read more

ETA: Can’t forget my own novella, Lady Myddelton’s Lover! 😉

December 18th, 2012

Top Reads of 2012

In no particular order…

Fiction

A Lady Never Lies by Juliana Gray
The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee
A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry
Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James
The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock
Green Grow the Rushes by Harriet Smart
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
Harmony by Sienna Mynx

Non-Fiction

Ettie: The Life and World of Lady Desborough by Richard Davenport-Hines
The Countryside At War 1914 1918 by Caroline Dakers
The Blue Beast: Power & Passion in the Great War by Jonathan Walker
The Edwardian Country House by Clive Aslet
The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield
Plate to pixel : digital food photography & styling by Hélène Dujardin
The First Lady of Fleet Street by Eliat Negev and Yehuda Koren

October 8th, 2012

For the Love of Gothic Romances!

The India Fan by Victoria Holt

March 2013 reissue from Sourcebooks Casablanca!

When tasked with supplying the name of my favorite genre, I will always answer “gothic romance.” Though commonly characterized as a bundle of cliches (spooky castles, innocent maidens, malevolent servants, and a mysterious, overbearing hero), I can never get enough of them! Once I grew out of the Wakefield twins and the Baby-Sitters Club, my curiosity over what lay in the “adult” section of my local library led me to their pristine collection of Victoria Holt titles. Here, I discovered, were stories of young women on the brink of adulthood who faced dangers, not only of the physical kind, but of the internal kind.

One of the hallmarks of Holt’s gothics is the tart, zingy dialogue, which the heroine uses to keep the domineering, rakish hero at bay, and in each book the hero must earn the heroine’s respect and love. Another Holt trademark were the exotic settings–from Victorian Australia, to steamy Ceylon, to feudal Normandy in the 1860s, and to the terrors of the French Revolution–which set her apart from her imitators who usually mined the wild Cornish and Yorkshire settings made famous by Du Maurier and the Brontës (though, Holt did use those two areas as well).

Though Jean Plaidy is the other best-known pseudonym of Eleanor Hibbert, one cannot overlook the books written under “Philippa Carr”. Her Daughters of England Series, published between 1972 and 1993, followed the female line of a family from the dissolution of the English monastaries until the outbreak of WWII. Not all ended happily-ever-after (some made my teeth gnash! ), but the Carr series managed to blend the best sensibilities of Holt and Plaidy to create an engrossing set of historical suspense novels.

After exhausting my library’s supply of Holt/Carr titles, I began to hunt for any book that looked “gothic” (and learned to look for a particular font on the spine and particular cover artists like). My search turned up some thoroughly depressing British sagas, and some pale imitations of Holt, but I hit the jackpot when I discovered Madeleine Brent (aka the late Peter O’Donnell). Like Holt, Brent wrote gothics with strong heroines and exotic settings, but his books brought a dash of adventure to the gothic romance. In Merlin’s Keep, the orphaned heroine is rescued in the Himalayas and brought to England by a taciturn Englishman, and in The Long Masquerade, the heroine escapes her abusive husband with a family friend, and disguises herself as a coolie fisherman wandering the Caribbean. Other searches through the library turned up Mary Stewart, Nancy Buckingham, Jill Tattersall, Jennie Melville/Gwendoline Butler, Virginia Coffman, Carola Salisbury, Tom Huff’s gothics, Anne-Marie Sheridan, Lucinda Baker, Alexandra Manners, Rona Randall, Mary Linn Roby, Barbara Michaels, and Phyllis A. Whitney.

During the genre’s heyday of the 60s and 70s, many authors clearly wrote gothics to cash in on their success, but as with all things, the cream rose to the top, and those who wrote for money were easily discerned (they were the ones who relied upon the cliches). When I began writing, I naturally began to write spooky gothic romances, but then I heard they were long dead, the audience for them was too small, they were too anti-feminist, etc…and I turned to the other genre I discovered in my library: historical romance. Yet, the gothic romance remained my comfort read; I could crack open my copy of The Landower Legacy and find it as fresh and suspenseful as when I’d first discovered the book. As I begin the process of restructuring my WIP (you will find out why in tomorrow’s post), I feel I’ve come full circle, and can’t wait to bring a bit of gothic into my historicals.