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Always a Stranger by Amara Royce with Excerpt and Giveaway

Today I have a lovely Historic Romance that brings Japan to London. Please read on to see about this new release from author Amara Royce, Always a Stranger.  Please be sure to check out the other tour stops to read excerpts and see what others thought. And don’t forget to enter the tour wide giveaway where you can win one of two Digital Copies of ALWAYS A STRANGER or $20.00 Amazon or B&N Gift Card.

Book Review:

I was intrigued by the premise: a Victorian-era setting against the Great Exhibition of 1851 in which a titled Lord involves himself with a Japanese Fan Dancer and the intrigue that comes with both the uniqueness of the relationship and the secrets held by Hanako.  Royce presents a world that feels very real and is easy to imagine the wonders, as if seeing them for the first time as Londoner’s did.  The Victorian era was beginning to exert influence on social and societal customs and with Albert’s insatiable fascination with new technologies and scientific advancement, a new era of industrial, scientific and exploratory discoveries are being integrated into the public eye.  A scant ten years before Albert’s death and Victoria’s subsequent retirement from public life, the mood and curiosity of the public was insatiable.

Lord Skyler Ridgemont is in service to the crown, seeing to the contractual needs and intricacies of performances, and tying up the loose ends.  While he is intrigued by the unique presence and approach of the Japanese woman, Hanako, he feels a connection that surprises him.  Hanako finds him uniquely different, her vacillation between reticence and proper behavior mixing with a very forward display not acceptable in polite society at that time.

The story has several different sub-plot points that need to be worked through: the interracial relationship, Hanako’s inability to find a solid behavioral pattern that would not bring shame on Skyler, even as she won’t be accepted, and Hanako’s big secret.   Each unfolds slowly, with plenty of back and forth and diversions of setting and place that help the reader to enjoy the scenery.  While there is a romance, it’s very slow to develop and most of the story is consumed with the reveals from Hanako while Skyler is far more open and easy to know.  I will say that the pacing is stronger in the earlier chapters of the book, while it never gains the level of fast moving, must turn the page, the steady unsteadiness of the pacing did allow time to revel in the descriptions and feel – although less emotionally visceral than I would have hoped,.   Romance in this story did take a backseat for me to the luxe descriptions and scene setting.

Always a Stranger by Amara Royce with Excerpt and Giveaway

Title: Always a Stranger
Author: Amara Royce
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 273
Rated: three-half-stars
Heat: One FlameOne FlameOne Flame

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About the Book:

When two worlds collide, anything is possible. . .

An international affair, London's Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako's exotic Japanese fan dance captivates Skyler--and he longs to learn more about her. . .

But Hanako's enigmatic employer keeps his exquisite charge very close. The consummate artist, she shows the handsome nobleman many faces, but never her true heart, which holds a desperate secret. When Skyler learns the real reason Hanako has been brought to London, he will risk his entire world to win her trust--and save her from losing both body and soul. It's a feat that will require the type of courage only love can give. . .

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Excerpt:

Miss Sumaki nodded and curtsied but did not speak. Her silence was laced with tension. The ladies complimented her on her performances, even as Lady Sophia eyed the packages behind her. She responded tersely with “Thank you” and “You are too kind” and “It is an honor.” Unless his hearing deceived him, her accent grew much more obvious in those few words, more staccato. What on earth?

The duke neatly ended the exchange with a reminder to the ladies that they had visits to return during the afternoon. They all performed yet another round of bows and curtsies, and only when the duke and his family were out of view did Miss Sumaki visibly relax, with a loud and meaning-laden exhalation.

“What is it?” he asked, his curiosity piqued. He rushed to pick up the stack before she recovered. If he didn’t look at her, perhaps she would feel free to respond. “What disturbed you just now? You can tell me.”

“Voicing negativity bears no purpose,” she said as she reached to take her purchases from him.

“Please allow me to assist you.”

“I have quite a way to go and should be on my way.”

As if on cue, the skies opened, and large raindrops spat at them, leaving large splotches on the brown paper wrapping of her packages. She muttered under her breath and then grabbed more insistently at her things.

“My carriage is nearby. Given that you circumvented my previous attempt to send you home safely, perhaps the weather could convince you this time.”

As the rain intensified, she took the top few packages, already soaked and dripping, from him and nodded.

“The heavens are very persuasive,” she said.

“Come with me.” He led her swiftly down the street, thankful that Tompkins, ever attentive, was already pulling down the steps. If the additions Skyler brought with him were a surprise, the driver was too well trained to show it. He stowed the packages swiftly and accepted Miss Sumaki’s address matter-of-factly.

“This will not look good, you know,” Hana said, watching the faces of passersby as the vehicle pulled away from the curb. She should have objected, should have gone on her way the moment the duke’s family appeared, before getting caught in that terribly awkward conversation. Considering the traffic, she likely could have walked faster than this, but the rain came down mercilessly. And she needed to get back to the Jade Garden for Yuki’s sake, not that any of these potions could help her with any certainty. “It is kind of you to offer assistance, but I should not have accepted. It would not do for you to be seen with me. For either of our sakes.”

“Nonsense,” he replied gently. “Rescuing a damsel in distress is at the top of any gentleman’s priorities.” A wry twist of his mouth undermined his words, but then he removed his hat and tossed it on the seat beside him. “Who the devil cares anyway?”

“You care. And I most certainly care. In your world, women’s reputations are their only real currency.”

“One ride with the curtains wide open and both of us visibly a respectable distance apart does not constitute a sin against my rank or a moral failing on either of our parts.”

 

Giveaway:

 

About Amara Royce

Amara Royce writes historical romances that combine her passion for 19th-century literature and history with her addiction to happily ever afters.
She earned a PhD in English, specializing in 19th-century British literature, from Lehigh University and a Master's degree in English from Villanova University, and she now teaches English literature and composition at a community college in Pennsylvania.
When she isn't writing, she's either grading papers or reveling in her own happily ever after with her remarkably patient family.

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