I’m a sucker for a good historical romance; I just can’t help falling in love with a strong hero and a feisty heroine out to break the rules. Perhaps it’s my love of history—all those dates to memorize and maps to color. I’ve always been drawn to imagining what it was like to live in a different time and place.

I think it all began when I was a small child who paid attention to the stories my grandmother would tell about places we visited. You know, the ones that began with, “do you know why this is the Black Swan? Well because that used to be an old hotel and it had a sign with a swan on it, black of course” and I would try my hardest to imagine what it was like for that old dilapidated house to be a stage stop. I’m sure George Washington slept there, or camped with the rebels in the nearby fields.

When I had the opportunity to live in Europe with my military husband I took great fun in dragging him along on castling runs, days you’d spend driving past old ruins, parking the car and climbing up to check them out. Then I’d try to research who lived there and why it was now in ruin. It was romantic and fascinating for me. For him, not so much, since he usually just wanted to stop and get some good food and relax with his mind in the present day. But I learned all about the Hundred Years War and the German kingdoms and city states. I was always trying to find historical romances set in this time period, but usually had to settle for Regencies or medievals set in England or France. Germany always seemed neglected. Although I did love the old Helen MacInnes spy thrillers set in the mid-20th century about daring heroines out to thwart the Germans and then the Russians. It was all so romantic if not slightly, well, veGoing Twice Salary dangerous and deadly.

And reading suspense is a great way to spend a day. Sharon Sala is a master at weaving together high suspense with hot romance and wrapping it all up in strong emotion. Some of her best suspense novels make your heart beat with the anxiety of solving a crime and with the intense emotions of falling in love. Her latest series, Forces of Nature, mixes the terrors of Tornado Alley with the disaster of a maniacal serial killer. I mean, seriously, what can be worse than the ominous threat of a tornado? Well, how about a serial killer called the Stormchaser? In Going Twice (MIRA, February 2014), Sala puts together a pair of FBI agents, Luckett and his ex-wife, and places them in extreme danger as they race to find the killer who adds more deaths to the toll after a natural disaster. Battling nature, murder and the agents’ feelings toward each other, Going Twice is a tour de force read.

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But now I’m ready to curl up with a good historical romance since it’s winter and there’s nothing better than lounging under warm quilts and going back to a different place and time. And sometimes you just want a little romance without too much drama. Here are two historical romances that fit the bill for me. Lorraine Heath is starting a new series, the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, with When The Duke Was Wicked (Avon; February 25, 2014). Lady Grace Mabrey has a terrible dilemma: She’s rich and must soon find a suitable husband. She turns to her old childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon, in hopes he can assist her in finding a “true” love or at least one who will want her for more than just her money. The Duke is not disposed to marry since he just finished cleaning up the mess left by his father. But to his dismay, Lady Grace is not doing a good job in finding a proper spouse, so it’s up to him to show her the better man—him.

Shana Galen has long been a favorite of mine; her historicals always are romantic and include a bit of humor. The Jewels of the Ton refers not only to the Regency Ton—British high society—but also to women who are or appear to be courtesans. The story’s not quite proper and therefore so very intriguing. Remember, I like feisty heroines. And Galen always delivers spirited, out-of-the-ordinary women. In Sapphires Are An Earl's BeSapphires are a Girls Best Friendst Friend (Sourcebooks Casablanca; March 4, 2014) Lily Dawson, dubbed the “Countess of Charm,” is out to fulfill her mission of spying for the Crown even if it means seducing a Duke to test his loyalty. And even if it means overcoming her real feelings for an earl, who just happens to be the Duke’s son. Oh, the tangles of love can be so delicious. And things get more complicated when Andrew (the son) uncovers what Lily is up to and has to decide where his own loyalties lie. Galen is an expert at tying all the threads together. You’ll love the ride this third book of the Jewels series takes you on.

Now I’m off to Southern California for a conference. I’ve studied up on the history of Pasadena and since I’ll be staying in an old restored hotel, I may just uncover a black swan or perhaps something more intriguing—maybe a ghost. In the meantime, don’t forget about our Adventures in Fiction event, which all three of these authors will be attending and you’ll be able to chat them up on their research. Maybe they’ve got a fondness for castling or dates or even ghosts.

Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors Adventures in Fiction in February, an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.