*I read everything without pants, not just Shura.
I didn’t even know I liked historical romance before I read The Bronze Horseman. Sure, I had read the Outlander books and loved them, but as DianaG Herself likes to say … those are prettyy genre-bending, and throwing them into Historical Fiction/Romance is not easy or advisable (if you want to keep all your limbs at the next Outlander fan event anyway).
Reading the three-book epic saga of Alexander (Shura) and Tatiana made me realize that historical romance is TOTALLY MY JAM. My lady jam. And I want more of it. But I want it to be just as good a reading experince as The Bronze Horseman series was. I have REQUIREMENTS.
Epic Historic Romance Saga Rules
- I want it to be epic.
- I want it to be romantic.
- I want it to span more than one book.
- I want it to be HOT.
- I want it to rip my heart out and put it back together with hotness.
So, I set out on an epic quest to find the next Shura and Tatia. I scoured book recommendation sites, lists, reviews, blogs and author’s faves to try to find comparable titles. The probelem with historical fiction though is: it’s an investment. Reading a dozen YA books to try to find the next Akiva and Karou is no tough feat … they move easy. But devoting a couple of weeks to a 800 page tome about The Great War just to see if the hero knows what a clitoris is does NOT sound like something I can do between my many re-reads of Captive Prince.
So, I enlisted some help. Some of my favorite TN writers and readers formed a little posse, if you will. A Shura-Seeking Squad. Looking for historical hotness amid pages of drudgery.
These are the girls whose opinions I value, and whose taste is much like mine. I figured as long as none of them recommended Gabriel’s Inferno or Clan of the Cave Bear to me, we were basically on the same page.
This is the book list we chose from. Each one of us picked something that looked interesting enough to us to tackle. Some of them got axed pretty early on.
The Swan Triolgy: None of us read this. Maybe next go-round.
The Wilderness Series: Amy had read this one, and said the first was great, but the rest didn’t capture the magic, so SCRATCH THAT.
The Tea Rose Series: I wanted to read this one because I’ve read all (most?) of Jennifer Donnelly’s other books, and enjoyed them. This one felt the most like The Bronze Horseman in the description as well.
The Roselynde Chronicles: Heidi picked this one to start with because: rich lady and her slave.
The Poldark Series: Amy took this because “it sounds like Pole Dark and the word pole makes me think of…yes, I’m 11.”
The Year of Fire Series: Lindsey took this and gave up early on because someone’s horse of fire felt like an STI.
Westmoreland Series: Susan picked this series for one word: DUKE.
The Kommandant’s Girl: Calling Lindsey … pick another because The Year of Fire was so weird.
The Russian Concubine Series: Again, we forgot this one. Anyone?
To conclude our little test, I had each lady (yes, LADY) send me the reasons they love Shura and why or why not this other excuse for a book held up to his awesomeness. The PURE BUTTERY GOLD I got in response is worth you all reading in it’s original form. Even though the findings themselves, were less than spectacular.
was supposed to read Poldark.
Confession: Instead of reading Poldark, I read Dead Wake, which is non-fiction about the sinking of the Lusitania. And the only person worth boning in that book was the German U-Boat Captain Walther Schwieger, but he’s evil and that’s wrong.
Why I love Shura compared to Captain Schwieger:
1) Shura smokes nonstop. You can’t smoke in a submarine. And I love the smell of nicotine on a hot guy in the morning. I’m an asthmatic, and yet I would lick Shura’s tar covered face.
2) Shura will distract you from war and starvation by going down on you. Who cares if you are eating sawdust if Alexander is eating you. Captain Schwieger can’t go down on you because he’s stuck in a submarine in the middle of St. George’s Channel with nothing but dudes.
3) You know that amazing scene in Last of the Mohicans when Daniel Day Lincoln says “Stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you!” Shura does that like 400 times in TBH. I swooned each time. That happens when your blood rushes away from your head to other places. The only hot thing Captain Schwieger ever says is “That’s a bingo” as his single torpedo hit the bow of the Lusitania. Jerk.
My Conclusion: Don’t read Dead Wake, but maybe watch Poldark on PBS.
Heidi tackled the ever-long Roselynde.
Just like Outlander and The Bronze Horseman, Roselynde is the first in a series of historical romances. Set during the Crusades at the end of the 12th century, Roselynde is the love story of 16 year-old Lady Alinor Devaux, a wealthy heiress, and 46 year-old Simon, a knight/her warden. Unlike Outlander and The Bronze Horseman, I didn’t love it.
One of the things I love most about Shura and Jamie that Simon shares is that they’re fierce warriors on their respective battlefields while loving strong and independent women. None of these books have weak, simpering female characters. However, while Jamie/Claire and Shura/Tatiana take turns rescuing one another in a really equitable and romantic way, Simon is always in the hero role. I can’t picture Claire being rescued from the witch trial without her rescuing Jaime right back at Wentworth. The same with Shura providing Tatiana with food so she didn’t starve only for her to turn around and help him escape from a POW camp. Roselynde is missing that give and take that makes this romantic feminist heart sing.
Undoubtably, what we all love about Outlander and The Bronze Horseman is that their core story is one of deep love and devotion. Oh and they’re sexy. Potato shelf sex, turtle soup sex, even awkward Shura/ Dasha sex, is better than the unresolved sexual tension in Roselynde. Simon just can’t accept that this young girl wants him so he tortures himself, her and the readers for approximately 500 pages with endless back and forth. He loves her, he loves her not, who cares! Is this book over? Yeah, yeah, you’re honorable and waiting for permission from the king. Just do it already.
Most importantly, Shura/Tatiana and Jamie/Claire share life-changing, all-consuming, can survive anything, together forever despite time travel, prison camps and unending sequels kind of love. That’s what keeps me coming back to their books and sequels over and over again. Meanwhile, when I read the description of the next book in The Roselynde Chronicles I discovered that *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Alinor is a widow, because SIMON IS DEAD!! WTF?! Not cool! First I read 500 pages of UST and then he dies in between books? So much for unending love.
If you want to read a book with an interesting historical perspective, really well written battle scenes and a tepid love affair, Roselynde isn’t a bad choice. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads. However, Simon is not and will never be worthy of book boyfriend distinction. Plus, Lady Alinor wears a wimple the whole book and there’s nothing sexy about removing a wimple. Talk about hat hair.
My conclusion: Heidi has saved me a LOT of time. During which I can have sex with someone NOT 30 years my senior.
Lindsey took one for the team here.
Disclaimer: I did not finish The Year of Fire series or the Kommandt’s Girl so if you don’t use this, I don’t blame you.
1. Let me save you some time. Do NOT read the Year of Fire series. The male protagonist refers to his inner nature as the”horse of fire”. NOPE. (Trust me, you will get “inner goddess” rage.) Re-read TBH. Shura will build you a potato shelf AND make you ice cream AND then he’ll eat it off you. WINNING.
2. Shura is hung. Tatiana isn’t sure it’s going to fit. Matilde isn’t either but the “horse of fire” is determined to cure her of her fear of sex. That’s right ladies, “cure her”. Are you wet yet?
3. Shura will play train-tracks, train-tracks with you. The sexy kind. Done.
My conclusion: I need to re-read the train tracks scene ASAP. It’s been awhile.
Susan was thoroughly into Westmoreland. Until she wasn’t.
I don’t know how I can possibly make my love for Alexander funny. There are just a few things in this world that I take seriously: shoes, summer, ‘secco & Shura. Work: laugh riot. Marriage: Comedy Central. Children: high-sterical. But I will do my best. Because this:
Nothing distinguished Alexander from the others, except that he was taller than anyone else and had darker hair and whiter teeth, broader shoulders and a wider stride. Nothing but that he was vivid and they were muted.
Alexander pulled back from her lips. “The only thing I want in my whole life,” he whispered hotly, “is to show you how we get relief, Tania.”
Oh, and I don’t know, how bout this:
“Please forgive me, Tatiana,” said Alexander, “for hurting your perfect heart with my cold and indifferent face. My own heart was always overflowing with you, and it was never indifferent. You didn’t deserve any of what you’ve been given, of what you’ve had to bear. None of it. Not from your sister, not from Leningrad, and certainly not from me. You don’t even know what it took me not to look at you one last time before I closed the tarpaulin on that truck. I knew that if I did, it would all be over.
I can’t. Because I die. Every time.
In the quest for the next Shura, I read Kingdom of Dreams. What IS this kingdom of dreams, you ask? It’s explained here:
“She nodded, her beautiful profile solemn. “And so I invented a kingdom of dreams where I could accomplish great and daring deeds to make it happen.”” Ughahaugh. <That’s the sound of me retching from all the cheese in this book. It’s a true romance novel, but only an average one. The people on goodreads who suggested that it compared in any way to the level of TBH or OL need to stop drinking all that cough syrup. It’s making them hallucinate.
Royce Westmoreland from Kindgom of Dreams is kinda like a carnival caricature of Shura. He’s good, but not quite good enough. Too much, yet not enough. Exaggerated, while also underdeveloped. That said, he is my favourite part of this book. The female protagonist barely registered above the level of an annoying gnat.
1. Alexander is passionate. Alexander is able to express his passionate love IN WORDS and in lovin like 10 times a day.
Royce says this kinda thing: “Quietly and without emphasis he stated, “I want you.” That’s all you got? At least give me some emphasis. Also, he’s a missionary kinda guy, which we all know has a much higher success rate in romance than IRL.
2. Alexander is the def of what a perfect man looks like. Not even his 17 packs a day stain his gleaming white teeth. Tall, dark and huge with caramel eyes. Caramel is like my second favourite flavour. But I would give up chocolate for Shura’s creme brûlée eyes.
Royce is also giant and dark. “He was huge. Enormous. His hair was black and his black cloak was billowing out behind him, blowing eerily in the wind as if it had a life of its own. Firelight danced across his swarthy, hawklike features, casting shadows that made him look positively satanic; it blazed in his strange eyes, heating them until they glowed like molten silver coals in his bearded haggard face.” I’m not going to lie, I also like the sound of that. Except the haggard part. You need to take a break from your pillaging and get some beauty sleep, duke. Also, I want to melt in your eyes, not be terrified by them.
3. Alexander is a manly man. He can chop wood, build multiple potato shelves, drive big machines, and is braver than, oh, everyone.
Royce is also manly. He wins ALL THE BATTLES. But he’s also got like a 1000 guys behind him and his personal giant bodyguard. I don’t see him building anything strictly related to improving his access, either.
My conclusion: SHURAAAAAAAA.
This book was not necessarily a historical romance. It was practically a family saga that focused on one member of the family, Fiona, but spans over a decade of time. But it didn’t follow the pattern of romance, and it wasn’t particularly epic. And narratively, it meandered. Too many points of view, too many directions.
1. One of the things I love about Shura is how fiercely and fast he falls in love with Tatiana especially after having been such a play boy. Call it cliche, but she changes his heart, and that’s sexy as hell. Fiona and Joe are childhood sweethearts whom we meet during the happiest time of their lives. Sure, tragedy changes things, but that lack of fierce devotion and obsesssion makes for pretty tepid feelings about whether or not they deserve to be together forever.
2. Which leads me to this point. SHURA is EVERYTHING. To Tatiana and to ME. He is the hotness. He is the source of Tatia’s entire sexual awareness, he’s the only place we get real swoon. Fiona, on the other hand, gets options. Options that you think are where the book is heading. Options that you think are maybe, probably, definitely better than her original option. And that does NOT make for a sexy reunion. It makes for confusion. If some dude in the second act is hotter, more worldly, sexier and let’s face it … WEALTHIER … than the virgin you shared your not so great first time with, then I’m going to be rooting for the second act to be the last one.
3. Shura makes me FEEEEEELLLL ALL THE THINGS. It’s not just hotness. I’m often INFURIATED with him. But he makes me laugh. Then he makes me swoon. Then he makes me despair for living. Then I want to rub my face on the Lazarevo chapters. It’s up and down (and more UP than down) with him for THREE FREAKING BOOKS. It’s glorious. The Tea Rose felt like slipping into a warm bath with a nice pinot grigio and contentedly going to bed right after. The Bronze Horsemen feels like WAR.
My conclusion: I might read the other Rose Series books, but I will forever wish at least one of them was M/M. Just to spice it up.
So, there it is, guys. Five ladies tackling six different book series looking for love in all the wrong places. Are we going about this wrong? Can ANYONE find the next Shura? Or should we just hang on to our re-reads?