Last week, I read a couple of books that were smart and well-written and featured heroines who were a bit out of the ordinary. They also weren't the sort of happy light and fluffy romance that I prefer to read during the sunny days of summer. They were definitely autumn-ish books, and, therefore, the perfect things to write about on this first day of autumn.
The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal features several elements that I really like to see in historical Romance novels: a hero and heroine who are both "older" (he's in his 40s, as best I can tell, and she's in her mid-late 30s); characters who, while not necessarily completely outside polite society, are closer to the edge than the center and, therefore, out of need or desire or some combination of both, pursue careers (she's an author, he's an antiquarian); and children who are not just "plot moppets," but fully-realized characters in their own right (in this case, Sydney, a 12-year-old budding authoress). Marina and Jasper (our heroine and hero) both have rather ginormous secrets in their pasts, and, of course, they believe those secrets stand in the way of them being happy together. But, like I said, this book is smart and doesn't let them get away with that, because Sydney, well on her way to becoming a strong independent woman, sets them straight. It's not an easy road to Happily Ever After, but they do get there eventually.
Jade Lee's Wicked Surrender featured, as its heroine, a theater manager who, early in the book, becomes engaged to the fourth son of an earl. Of course, his family does not approve because society views actresses (which she's not) as nothing more than whores, and they certainly can't have that marrying into the family. So, they've sent a sacrificial family member off to seduce her away. Instead, he falls in love with her. Scher (short for Scherezade, don't you know) insists on continuing her engagement, even though society snubs her and her fiancé isn't exactly a stand-up guy. Brandon, the sacrificial seducer, though, sticks by her side and tries to make things as easy for her as he can. He appreciates her desire for the sort of security and respectability she believes marriage will provide her. His steady support in the face of her clinging to her unworthy fiancé is wonderfully poignant. And, there's an unexpected twist at the end of this one that sets up the sequel, Wicked Seduction (which I also just read, but can't say anything about without spoiling the surprise).
Of course, after that much emotional drama, I feel the need for something light and frothy with all the substance of a meringue.