Guest contributor Connie Brockway is a best-selling romance author, eight-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award, and two-time recipient for My Dearest Enemy and The Bridal Season.
My original plan for this post was to write a follow-up to last month's Scottish-set romance recommendations. But that will have to wait for another day. Because, once again, my family’s snow/sleet/cold/gloom tolerance has maxed out after a particularly nasty Marchuary, and we are dying for some sun and surf. I have a sneaking suspicion there are droves of others out there in the same boat (or sleigh).
My suggestion? Flee the hinterlands for southern climes! And if you can’t make it to the real thing, plant yourself in an armchair, switch out your reading lamp’s florescent bulb for a full spectrum one, pour yourself a tall frosty drink, pop a paper umbrella into it, and set sail between the pages of a book. It’s time for a beach party!
And what’s a beach without a pirate? I’ve got a couple of yummy sea wolves for your consideration.
First up is Marsha Canham’s Across a Moonlit Sea, a classic rip-roaring, Elizabethan swashbuckler, pitting French nobleman and privateer Simon Dante against cartographer Isabeau Spence. Both protagonists are overcoming past betrayals, and the sexual tension is hotter than a mutineer’s broadside. But the real pleasure here is Canham’s first-class historical detail. You can practically feel every swell in the ocean (naughtier ones amongst you, feel free to imagine me wiggling my eyebrows suggestively). This isn’t costume drama, it’s high seas drama at its best.
I love a good girl-poses-as-boy story. Add in a pirate captain and a slow simmering attraction, and I’m hooked. (Resign yourself to the marine allusions.) Darlene Marshall does both in her wonderful Sea Change. In 1817, David Fletcher plucks a doctor from a British merchant ship to tend his wounded brother, unaware his young sawbones is female. For years, Charley Alcott has worked alongside her physician father, but when he dies, she masquerades as an apprentice physician in order to secure passage to her godfather’s Caribbean home. Uneasy friendship grows into even more uneasy attraction and finally, with the revelation of Charley’s gender, into a passionate love affair. But that’s just icing on the cake in this funny, yet poignant tale of a woman struggling to find her way in a man’s world (and on his ship).
If pirates aren’t your cuppa, how about a world-weary photojournalist who just happens to one of the most romantic, sexy men I’ve read this year? The always excellent Christie Ridgeway outdoes herself in Love Shack. With her trademark humor ratcheted down just a hair, this lovely story is the quintessential romance having heart, humor, pathos, and red-hot love scenes. In this story of heartbreak and healing, what Gage Lowell envisions as sweet, summer fling with old friend (and unacknowledged soulmate) Skye Alexander quickly escalates into something neither are prepared to admit, yet cannot deny. Wowza. Simply terrific!
And finally, to my mind you, simply can’t call it a vacation unless you read a gothic romance--and if it’s on a lush tropical paradise during the nineteenth century where a young orphan girl faces hidden danger, all the better. If this is your idea of gothic heaven, prepare to sigh over Jill Tattersall’s fabulous Damnation Reef. Marina Derwint is shipwrecked and rescued, only to find herself under the unwilling protection of the enigmatic and brooding master (aren’t all the best masters enigmatic?) of Tamarind, an estate in Antilla. Murder, sunken treasure, and suicide are just a few of the obstacles the star crossed lovers must overcome. An old-fashioned gothic with a tropical flavor. I can practically taste the rum. --Connie Brockway