A few months ago I read and reviewed Always a Princess by Clyve Rose and loved it. Clyve shared on social media that she had written a novella as part of a regency romance anthology called Secrets of the Soho Club. The premise sounded really interesting so I had to get it because 1) I loved Clyve’s first published novel and 2) Regency romance – need I say more?
Ten authors wrote novellas for this anthology that largely take place at the Soho Club. The Soho Club is a secret club in 1800s London where members can truly be themselves without the fear of judgement. If you want to play in a string quartet naked, you can do that. If you are gay, but won’t be accepted by the ton you can do what you like and be yourself at the Soho Club.
I loved this anthology and got so sucked into the stories that often hours would pass without my noticing! The other morning I had planned to do some cleaning before lunch and sat down to read first. When I looked at the time it was already 1pm! I definitely liked some of the stories more than the others, but overall I really enjoyed the anthology. Below I’m giving brief plot descriptions and my thoughts on the stories so as to not give away too much!
“A Headhunter in London” by Theresa Fuller
This story follows Ruth Hardy, a young woman and reporter. She meets a man, Edwin, from a foreign land who has come to London on business. They first meet when Ruth hears shouts and runs towards the fighting. Edwin’s bodyguard was being attacked. Edwin is on a mission and Ruth wants a scoop for a good article for her family paper. Ruth brings Edwin to stay at the Soho Club for his safety and where no questions will be asked.
I thought this story was interesting and full of intrigue. It wasn’t my favorite, but I liked how independent and strong Ruth was.
“Just a Glimpse” by Heidi Wessman Kneale
Charlotte White is a young woman who wishes to improve her artistic skills. Fascinated by the human form, she wants to get a better look at people in their natural form to draw and paint, which cannot happen in polite society. She ventures to the Soho Club to find a willing subject. Who she finds is not exactly willing at first, but her charm and their conversations lead him to want to model for her.
I really liked this story. The characters were so likable and although not super steamy in content it was a lot of that slow burn, which I quite enjoy as well.
“Hazard’s Daughter” by Beverly Oakley
Louisa Stapleton is a companion to her elderly aunt, Lady Hawley. After her parents passed away and she “ruined” herself with an indiscretion some years ago she was taken in by her aunt as a companion but is almost like a servant. She is getting older and no man will marry her with the knowledge of her past. As people begin arriving at her aunt’s estate for her annual ball, Mr. Rivers calls upon them asking for Louisa’s hand. The problem is she absolutely does not want to marry him. The other problem is she has had a crush on one of her aunt’s godsons, Felix Evesham for years, but he never notices her. After running an errand to the Soho Club one evening she is asked by Mrs. Skarsgard, the woman who runs the Soho Club, if she could fill in as a Hazard hostess. She would be costumed and masked so no one would recognize her should she run into anyone she knows. Of course, she is seated with Felix! Masked she can speak freely and the two get to really know each other.
I loved this story. I felt very attached to these characters and wanted redemption for Louisa after the ill treatment from her family!
“Love Wasn’t Built in a Day” by Renee Dahlia
In this story, business partners David Mattson and Humphrey Dexington have unspoken feelings for each other both believing the other has no romantic interest in the other. David is a brilliant engineer designing major projects around England. Humphrey takes care of funding and finding investors. The Soho Club allows them to be themselves in a time where same sex relationships are not celebrated. The club kick starts the revelation of their feelings for each other and more is revealed as they travel to work on their projects.
This story was the only one of the anthology where the main characters were gay. There is another story with minor characters who are gay, but this is the only one with the main characters being two men. I liked this story, but I didn’t find it as interesting as some of the others. I think the characters being good friends and business partners just wasn’t as interesting to me. The sexy and steamy scenes were probably the best parts of the story, because I didn’t find the love story part to be as interesting.
“A Generous Heart” by Pamela Hart
Adeline Edmonds is frustrated because she has a large inheritance but is only given a small allowance until she either marries or turns 40. She doesn’t want the inheritance to spend on herself, but rather to build a school for the poor. She goes to the Soho Club every day and wears a disguise to hand out food and essentials at the back gate. Anthony Merryam, a viscount, meets Adeline at a ball one evening through mutual friends and is immediately enamored. He thinks he sees her one day walking in Soho and is worried for her safety since the neighborhood can be unsavory. There is an attraction between them but they both may have misjudged the other.
I really liked this story and the characters. The misunderstandings were believable and not the result of questionable actions or characters making dumb decisions, which I appreciated!
“Redemption” by Joanne Austen Brown
Timothy seeks help from Mrs. Skarsgard and the Soho Club to help him find someone to listen to him as he tries to heal from emotional wounds suffered during war. Hannah is recently widowed and emotionally healing from an abusive marriage. She has just gained a position at the Soho Club and her first assignment is to meet with Timothy each night, wear a veil so he cannot see her face, and just talk. They help heal each other and find a connection from their past.
I really liked this story. It was definitely the darkest of the novellas in this anthology with a lot of heavy material such as topics of rape and abuse. But the characters were very raw and real and there was something very beautiful about the relationship they formed.
“The Case of the Black Diamond” by Clyve Rose
Claire Ryan is a spy for the Crown Princess and parfumier. On a recent assignment, her asset is found murdered. This makes her cross paths with Alexander Lindsey, a spy for the King, at the Soho Club. Together they must find who stole the Black Diamond and who committed the murder.
I loved this story and the characters. Claire is smart, strong, and badass with hidden blades up her sleeves. Alexander is charming, handsome, and pretends to be a rake to keep up a certain persona in society as a cover for his spying. Sparks fly between the two and they make a great team romantically and in their spying/investigating. I need to read more about these two and luckily Clyve has said she plans to continue to write about them!
“The Making of a Mistress” by Linda Rae Sande
Daisy Albright is an agent for the Home Office and sent on a new mission to expose a man involved in a smuggling ring in Yorkshire. The man? A Marquess. Her undercover role? She is to try to get in as a new mistress. Eager to work and help her country, she accepts the assignment, but as a virgin with little knowledge of the bedroom she knows she needs to learn how to be a mistress. She goes to the first person she can think of to help her, Alexander Bradley, another officer who often goes undercover as a pirate captain. They meet nightly at the Soho Club for her “tutoring” sessions, but of course feelings develop.
I loved this story. The characters were great and I did feel for Alex whenever he was with Daisy and would think about how she would be with the Marquess soon. This story ended before the mission begins and I need to know what happens and if the two end up together!
“Mine on Thursday” by Fiona M. Marsden
Angelina has been engaged to Sebastion Smith-Davenport for five years. They are good friends, but nothing more. He saved her life when they were younger and he must marry to satisfy his family, however he loves someone else. She sees their emotional and physical love for each other at the Soho Club, and wants that for herself. Jasper, another member of the club offers to help her with the physical side with the suggestion that something emotional could develop.
I liked this story, but I didn’t love it. I just didn’t really connect with the characters or find their relationship very captivating or interesting. I think part of it was that I didn’t feel very invested in their story, but that could be just me.
“There’s Something About Miss Mary” by Ebony Oaten
Mary Callingsbrooke is out attending balls and parties in London for the season in the hopes to find a suitor and husband. The problem is whenever she is in close proximity to a handsome man she begins sweat and her body reacts in such a way that she thinks something is horribly wrong with her. Her cousin suggests she go to the Soho Club for help. There she meets Mr. Smith who does not help matters, but instead of being disgusted by her like some of the men at the balls, he believes there is nothing unnatural about her.
I enjoyed this story and really liked Mary and her cousin Charlotte. The love story seemed a little rushed and I wasn’t totally invested in it but I did like Mr. Smith so I didn’t mind and was entertained. I would love to read a story about Charlotte!
Overall, I loved the anthology and if you like regency romance you should definitely check it out! The Soho Club seems so fantastic and I love it. I’d love to see a number of these stories continue as I got attached to the characters!
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