Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Love is in the air: teen romance (guest post by Jennifer Rummel)

With love in the air, it’s a great time to settle down with a romance book. I’m a sucker for a great teen romance novel. Since I’m a HUGE Jane Austen fan, it seems natural that my love of her work would transfer into historical romances, especially of the Regency Era.

Some of my teen historical romance favorites include . . .

The Season: Sarah MacLean
Lady Alexandra is set to make her first societal debut, amidst ball gowns , parties, and suitors.  She wants a husband who doesn’t frown upon intelligent women.  She talks about the latest gossip and fashion with her three best friends. Suddenly, her feelings take a turn when she looks deeper at her brother’s friend. He’s mourning the loss of his father. Alex overhears something that might be a clue to the unexpected death.

Ransom My Heart by Princess Mia
I’m cheating a little with this one as it’s technically an adult book, but it’s a cross-over too because it’s by Meg Cabot and mentioned in Forever Princess. I love how the two books blend together. Mia writes this historical romance set in 1291. Finn is the daughter of a miller, whose pregnant sister needs a dowry and fast.  She agrees to kidnap an Earl returning from the Crusades, but she never expected him to be quite so…handsome.

La Petite Four by Regina Scott
Days before she’s set to make her societal debut, Emily’s father tells her that she’s to be married- in eight days. Emily’s disappointed at missing her season with glittery ball gowns and parties at the side of her three best friends. She wants to gossip over fashion, dances, and potential suitors. She’s certain there’s something lurking behind Lord Robert’s desire to marry her. She, along with her three best friends (la petite four), vow not to stop until they uncover his scandal and cancel the wedding! 

Other Eras:

Fantasy Historical Romances:
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Alanna changes places with her twin brother in order to learn how to become a knight. He’s pretending to be a girl while learning magic. Because of her size, she’s having a rough time, but she’s determined to make it.  The other boys aren’t fond of her. Then she meets the prince. He becomes her friend instantly. As their friendship grows, so does the danger surrounding them. Could there be someone who doesn’t want the prince to live?

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
Princess Aurelia’s life is in danger. There have been at least three attempts on her life, but her father doesn’t want her to know the truth. Instead, he acquires the help of the royal spy to find the culprit and the mastermind behind these attempts. Robert, the son of the spy, went to school with Aurelia and never stopped thinking about her. There’s no way he can keep this secret from her. The two question people and devise plans to flush out the responsible party. However, they missed one crucial detail – and it could cost them both their lives. 

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
Persephone and Penelope are set to make the debut into London society when their governess goes missing. As the two 17 year olds dig into her disappearance, they uncover more than just a kidnapping, but a magical plot that could foil Princess Victoria’s reign.

Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Katsa is graced with the ability to fight. She can kill a man with her bare hands, per instructions of her Uncle. As she grows older, she declines to work for him. She meets Po, one of the only men who can challenge her fighting skills. She finds herself drawn to him. He must leave to uncover answers in a deadly plot. She can’t bear the thought him going without her, so she travels with him. Their path is as dangerous as their enemies. Can they survive the journey and face the truth about the threat of the seven kingdoms?

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (A/YA crossover)
Avry’s a healer, with a price on her head. All healers have been wanted for capture since the plague hit.  Avry lives on the run, moving from city to city. If she stays in one place too long, she inevitably finds a sick child. Unable to help herself, she heals the child.  This time, before she can run, she’s caught.  Avry’s not certain, but the more she learns about the land and the politics, the more scared she becomes for the future. Can she really be the one to save everything?

Jennifer Rummel is the YA Librarian at the Otis Library in Conneticut and she blogs at YA Booknerd.

Take a step back . . . in time: Karen’s personal historical fiction reading challenge

Paris Hilton left us with these infamous words: Math is Hard.  I loved math.  You always knew you had a correct answer before turning in your test.  The subject that is my arch nemesis? History.  I am not a fact retainer, but think in ideas and abstraction.  The essay test is my friend.  But trying to remember who did what with whom and on what specific date – gets me every time.

I remember very distinctly being forced to sit in a chair for hours during the 8th grade as my dad yelled at me for the note he got in the mail letting him know that I was failing history.  Good times.  And in college, I actually wrote the following as answer to a test question: “I can’t remember his name, but I know that he went around preaching door to door with a person whose first name is Andrew.”  That very nice professor gave me partial credit.

The Mr., he can recite TV and movie quotes like it is nobody’s business and I am super jealous of this talent.  It must have come in hand during all those history classes.  I can explain to you why the events of history happened and what we can learn from them, but not who did them and when.  And I can count the number of quotes I can recite from memory on one hand, which is one of the reasons I keep a quote journal.

The point of all this, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction – which I regret.  The other day I had a teenage girl and her mom in my teen area and they were trying to talk to me about historical fiction.  So I have set for myself a challenge: in 2013 I am going to read 5 historical fiction titles for yas.  I am listing the titles I am reading below, but need your help: what titles do you recommend? And for the record, I did read and LOVED Code Name Verity last year.

I am currently reading Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan.  It is different then I expected because it has a strong, independent female lead and isn’t overly swoony.  I am having a hard time keeping all these names and titles apart, but overall I am really enjoying the story.  PS. For more historical fiction, Jenn McGowan wrote a guest blog post for us last year highlighting some titles, be sure to check it out.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
Ann from over at Zest Books highly recommended this title to me and since I respect her infinitely, I am going to be reading it.  It comes out in June 2013 from Viking.  This is the story of Anne Boleyn and the tagline says, “You only think you know her story.”

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
This title is based on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which sounds interesting.  Published in January from Simon & Schuster.

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
I had the chance to hear Joy Preble speak this past weekend at the Montgomery County Book Festival, so I thought I would give this series a try.  The story of Anastasia has always been interesting to me, and I like that it has some paranormal elements in it and isn’t a straight forward historical fiction title.

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
Two princesses, two kingdoms, and ancient prophecy . . .
Does a fantasy romance set in a medieval sounding location actually count as historical fiction?  Probably not.  Maybe.  But, Orson Scott Card gives it a thumbs up and I am going to give it a go. Plus, I do love fantasy.  Coming in May from EgmontUSA

So here is where I need your help, I technically have 5 titles listed here, but it is possible that a couple of them aren’t technically historical fiction.  So tell me in the comments, what 2013 historical fiction title do you recommend that I add to my personal reading challenge?

Book Review: My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. 

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. 

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century is a very light, romantic read for those who want to dip their toes into historical fiction.  Cat gets transported back by a Gypsy into the body of her ancestor, and has to figure out what lessons she needs to learn in order to get back to her rightful place in time.  She’s put up huge walls around her heart due to her parents’ divorce, her father’s impending re-marriage and her social status, and must to learn to deal with a whole new set of rules and surroundings on the fly.  Cat never loses the 21th century feel to her vocabulary or mannerisms (which is explained away on the fact that her ancestor has come from London), and that seems to be a large part of her attraction throughout the book.  I could definitely see readers who like romance and light reads tearing through this book.
I, personally, like my books with a little more substance.  In fact, one of my favorite YA authors is Ellen Hopkins so keep that in mind as you read this next part.  Honestly, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  There are *NO* repercussions for anything that Cat does.  Cat keeps dropping 21st century phrases into conversation, and is never called on it.  She keeps her modern independence and freedom throughout not only the household but of the city, which is unrealistic of 16th century Italy.  The “mean girl” throughout the book doesn’t turn out to be much of a foil, instead giving rather expert advice for the time period.  Cat has her iPod and other things in her backpack and they’re never discovered (and everything electrical never loses its charge, so I want that magic, thank you very much).  And, while I don’t want to spoil the climax, if the author was going for realism there would be serious repercussions for her actions with the suitor, not only for her but her family as well, socially, politically and financially.

As romance and escapism My Sweet Sixteenth Century delights (4 out of 5 stars), as historical fiction there are flaws (3 out of 5).  This will, however, be a popular read and you won’t have to worry about it sitting on your shelves.  3.5 out of 5 stars total and recommended for romance readers.  My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris is published by Entangled Publishing in 2012 (ISBN: 978-1-62061-135-7)

Check out more about upcoming historical fiction from guest blogger Jennifer McGowan here.

Take a step back in time with guest blogger Jennifer McGowan (Historical ya fiction spotlight)

Earlier this week I confessed that Historical Fiction is my Achilles heel (I even managed to turn a post about historical fiction into a post about epidemics – I am that awesome) when it comes to collection development – so I enlisted help! Today I bring you a guest blog post by someone who writes historical ya fiction, Jennifer McGowan.  Her ya historical, Maid of Secrets, comes out in the spring.

Why in the World write YA Historicals?

With the recent boom in Young Adult fiction series such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments and, of course, Harry Potter, the obvious sub-genre for an author interested in writing Young Adult novels would seem to range from contemporary paranormal to futuristic dystopian.  With novels like these, readers can explore larger-than-life magic or mythical beings or evil governments sprawling out of control… and escape into a world that just isn’t quite real. Seems like a terrific formula of success, doesn’t it?
So of course, I didn’t follow it.

Instead, not only did I choose to write YA Historical… but I wrote it about a group of fictional girls in Elizabethan England—a time period not exceptionally well known by most teen readers.  And although I was not entirely sure how my stories of Elizabethan spies would fare, I was thrilled when Simon & Schuster picked up the first two books in the series, starting with MAID OF SECRETS (debuting May 7, 2013).

As for choosing the Elizabethan time period for the setting of my novel, I blame my College History class. Under the instruction of Rev. John LaRocca, S.J. at Xavier University, I fell in love with the danger and royal intrigue of Queen Elizabeth’s court, and was awed by the incredible strength of will that she demonstrated during her extraordinary 44 year reign.  I became somewhat of a scholar on the subject of Elizabethan England, and learned that the men and women surrounding Elizabeth proved as fascinating as she was – her scheming Ladies in Waiting; the diabolical Sir Frances Walsingham, spymaster to the Queen; the shrewd strategist Lord William Cecil; and the endless round of suitors who pursued the unmarried Elizabeth for most of her life.

The Young Adult angle came later. When I decided to write about Elizabethan female spies, it seemed natural that they should be unmarried… which perforce made them younger (aged 15-18). In addition, I elected to set my tale at the very start of the Queen’s reign, when she was only twenty five years old. With that in mind, an author friend suggested that I write the story primarily for teens instead of adults, and MAID OF SECRETS was on its way.

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Simon and Schuster for Young Readers
May 2013 ISBN: 9781442441408
Check it out on Goodreads

But Elizabethan England isn’t the only time period that has gained publisher and reader interest recently—in fact, some recent and upcoming novels help demonstrate exactly how diverse and intriguing the world of YA and Middle Grades Historical Fiction has become:

THE WICKED AND THE JUST, by J. Anderson  Coats, set in 13th Century England, is the story of medieval teens behaving badly in English-occupied Wales.  (debuted April, 2012)

THE KEY AND THE FLAME, by Claire M. Caterer, set in a fantasy version of Medieval England, is an MG tale in which an eleven-year-old American girl and her friends travel to an alternate universe of mystical adventure. (debuts April, 2013)

A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, by Sharon Biggs Waller, set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement in 1909 England, tells the story of an Edwardian teen who, after getting expelled from her French boarding school, pursues her passion for art – and for an attractive police constable – despite the restrictions of her upper-class family. (debuts Winter, 2014)  

GILT, by Katherine Longshore, set in Tudor England, is the tale of a young woman who must learn to walk the fine line between secrets and treason when her best friend marries Henry VIII … and who discovers that in the Tudor court, the price of gossip could literally be her head.  (debuted May, 2012)

THE FALCONER, by Elizabeth May, set in 1844 Scotland, is the fantasy historical tale of a young Edinburgh socialite who endures the murder of her mother by a faery… and becomes a hunter of the fae. (debuts May, 2013)

BORN WICKED, by Jessica Spotswood, set in 1890s New England, is the story of three eccentric sisters who must keep their magic a secret from the repressive Brotherhood. (debuted June, 2012)

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, by Cat Winters, set in WWI-era America, is the tale of a teen girl mourning the loss of her first love in 1918 California, where a flu has turned deadlier than a world war, and spirit communication has become a dark and dangerous obsession, illustrated with early-twentieth-century photographs. (debuts April 2013)

EVERY DAY AFTER, by Laura Golden, set in Depression-era Alabama, is the story of a young girl finding the true meaning of family when her father leaves, her mother is lost in sadness, her best friend betrays her, and the very roof over her head is at risk.  (debuts  June, 2013)

And of course 😉

MAID OF SECRETS, by Jennifer McGowan, set in Elizabethan England, is the story of a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of spies in Queen Elizabeth’s court—to find a murderer, save the crown, and resist the most forbidden temptation of all: falling in love. (debuts May, 2013)

These books I’ve listed above are just a small sample of what YA historical readers have in store, and all of the authors are members of the brand new historical blog http://corsetsandcutlasses.wordpress.com/.  So stayed tuned, keep reading, and let’s make a little history!
Jennifer McGowan writes Young Adult Elizabethan romance fiction full of swash and buckle. Her first novel, MAID OF SECRETS, debuts May 7, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. You can learn more about her at www.jennifermcgowan.com, or follow her online at @Jenn_Mcgowan.
What’s your favorite historical fiction title for yas? And what’s your favorite historical time period to read about?  Tell us in the comments.