A stunning romance and historical brilliance combined

Axios: A Spartan TaleAxios: A Spartan Tale by Jaclyn Osborn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning romance and historical brilliance combined

If you decide to step outside your comfort zone and pick up something different it should be this book. It goes beyond words as to what makes it special but special it most definitely is.

I am a bit of a Greek myths and history nerd so I was astonished at the level of research which has gone into anchoring this amazing love story so firmly in factual events.

No Axios and his lover Eryx may not have been historical figures but they were real, as real as the life they lived in Sparta and the battles they fought in the Peloponnesian Wars.

And oh how they loved, with all the passion and fire and devotion of two perfect halves made whole altogether. This may not be a conventional love story but by all the Gods they worshipped, it is as epic as those in Greek legend.

From their first meeting, to the epilogue which brings their story to a close, they were inseparable, friends, warriors, lovers, companions, typifying all that was good about Sparta in her glorious age. But also highlighting the ultimate decline and fall of a once great Nation State as new rules rose and empires changed.

This is the first book I’ve read by Jaclyn and I have to commend her for choosing to tackle such a weighty setting, the attention to detail is flawless, the introduction of the Sacred Band of Thebes cleverly mirroring what was happening in Axios and Eryx’s own military unit. The setting is flawless, the tiny attentions to detail which bring 4thC BC Sparta to life all just add weight to the inevitability of the love story.

Honestly, don’t be put off by the setting, this really is a love story for the ages. Have tissues and a comfort blanket – or a stiff drink – ready when you read the epilogue, it is perfect. This is a book which will stay with me for a very long time and one which I will happily recommend to anyone and everyone.

I borrowed this on KU and loved it so much that I bought it as soon as I’d sent it back. This is a book which, even if I don’t read it again (although I’m sure I will once my bruised and broken heart recovers), I wanted to have my own copy because it just deserves to be at the top of the charts.

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This book made me smile

Enlightened (Enlightenment)Enlightened by Joanna Chambers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He’s not the love of my life, you are, you stupid man,” (words to the effect of that is) – a glorious declaration which highlights the beautiful nature of the relationship between David and Murdo.

This Scottish based historical romance has been an utter delight from start to finish, firmly rooted in the beginnings of the 19th century with King George IV on the throne.

The side plots of the beginnings of workers rights, female emancipation and the change in attitude within a nobility which had been resting on its laurels, are all superbly touched on throughout this series.

And the icing on the historical cake has been the truly beautiful men both depicted in this love story but also those representing them on the covers.

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Gentle romp through Regency life

The Return of the EarlThe Return of the Earl by Sandra Schwab

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s a few things expected when reading a historical romance, especially a Regency one, and for the most part, this one has those.

However, in the first few opening parts of this story the author gets the name wrong of one of Britain’s finest, and most well known, Neo-Classical Georgian architects, Robert Adam when she erroneously gives him an extra S. It’s a minor point for sure but one that should have been spotted in editing and proofing.

Putting that aside though, this is a gentle little romp through country life as a reluctant Earl, still smarting over a perceived slight some 13 years earlier.

Characters were nicely developed though, again, a little bit repetitive in the phrasing when referencing Bryn’s heterochromia and with Bryn calling Con “my Con” all the time. Little bit more variety would have worked well here.

The steam levels are fairly low but the slow burn pays off in the final quarter of the story and the epilogue is lovely and in keeping with the historical setting.

#ARC kindly provided by the publishers via NetGalley in return for an unbiased and honest review.

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Definitely full of pleasure

The Art of Mutual PleasureThe Art of Mutual Pleasure by K.A. Merikan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All ends up brilliantly fulfilled. And that’s just what shy, naive Benjamin gets when he sets off on his journey to enlightenment.

This is a very clever book, in that it looks at the Regency period when quacks peddling all kinds of ludicrous cures prayed on the folks of London and fleeced them of their hard earned coins.

It’s also a highly erotic book, looking at one specific medical theorem which held that men only had so much semen in their bodies and spilling it by masturbating would weaken it.

After witnessing a teenage moment between two schoolboys while a boarder, Benjamin sets off down the road of self-pleasure but he’s bedevilled with guilt and believes himself to be getting weaker each time he spills his seed.

At times its painful to read as his incredibly naivety puts him into dodgy situations and as he struggles with his feelings as he gets ever more debauched while still retaining his child like innocence.

Frederick was a gem and he’s been keeping an eye out on Benjamin since the two men met up a decade or so after that incident at school. Once they got together things got even hotter and more erotic than they had been but they also brought a bundle of true emotions with them.

These two know how to write sex scenes that reach combustible levels and this story is no exception. Enjoy it, but keep a fan handy to cool yourself down because it’s volcanic.

#ARC kindly provided by the authors in return for an unbiased review.

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A triumphant trip through Regency England

A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen, #1)A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Regency period is my favourite historical setting and while this romance skirts much of the ‘traditional’ tropes found within a MF story, it does still include the might and power of the Ton, the rules and strict conventions which kept everyone in their place and touches on the beginnings of both political and industrial revolution which came from the North and inflamed the capital.

Harry is a wonderful character, fully torn between two worlds, noble born but cast aside due to his parents’ actions, brought back into the fold by a grandfather who must have an heir.
But Julius, he is a true Regency hero, both rake and reluctant participant in the trial of society, hurting from a personal loss more deep than most and unwilling to lower his guard.

These books are strangely erotic given that most of the action, outside of oral sex, happens in an aside, off page or in a fade to black. KJ Charles does well to convey the language of early 19th century lovemaking.

The Regency was a time of great change for Britain, and this is also well developed in the setting, with the French Revolution and Bonaparte’s rampage through Europe only a few short years before providing a critical backdrop to everything happening in London at that time.

The Peterloo Massacre was a tragedy, that the unarmed attendees at the speech calling for political representation were so brutally attacked and then made to be the originators of events is a shame that will always stain our history. Charles handles it with sensitivity and with dignity as one of the primary plot points in this story.

Ultimately, it is a tale of love, love at a time when men could literally die from it, from loving the wrong person. I look forward to seeing where else the series goes.

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Racy Regency seduction in this novella

The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh (Society of Gentlemen, #0.5)The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first KJ Charles Regency and , while it’s short, it perfectly captures the essence of the period and the rakish men who inhabited that wonderfully decadent period in British history.

Ash and Francis were a delightful introduction to this world, a young wastrel caught out by an older man who’d suffered at the hands of his bullying older brother. They came together in a tease of passion and I’d love to read more of this pairing.

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