I Dared the Duke (The Wayward Wallflowers #2) by Anna Bennett

I Dared the Duke (The Wayward Wallflowers #2) by Anna Bennett

Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.

Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true?

I Dared the Duke (The Wayward Wallflowers #2) by Anna Bennett

Second in a series I’ve not read the first book in, I Dared the Duke had all the standards of Regency romance: a duke for a hero – who happens to be a rake (naturally), a heroine down on her luck, a bit of intrigue, and some behaviours that were more twenty-first century than early nineteenth.

If you’re a fan of the genre, there’s nothing terribly wrong here, and the book rolls along nicely.

I was confused by the hero’s behaviour. At the end of the first chapter we finally discover the reason he wants people out of his house is because his life is in danger, but up to that point his total rudeness was confusing. I still question that – danger or no danger – someone so highly ranked in the aristocracy would display such appalling manners to a lady of his social class.

After we learn this little snippet of information (the heroine does not), a significant portion of the book is devoted to the “sparring” between the two of them. One moment he is ordering her out of his household; the next he is refusing to bring the issue up.

It really didn’t make any sense for the plot, but drew out the “romantic tension”.

This is not a book I’m going to remember for long, but there’s nothing especially offensive about it.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a lot creepier when it’s not a cartoon

‘Beauty and the Beast_ is a lot creepier when it_s not a cartoon

Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a lot creepier when it’s not a cartoon

This was an interesting take on the new live action movie version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I have vague memories of going to see the animated version at the cinema, but stronger memories of the stage musical version that came afterwards, as I knew people in the original Australian cast (which included a pre-Hollywood Hugh Jackman as Gaston).

It seems it’s practically compulsory for book-lovers to list Beauty and the Beast as their favourite Disney movie, and Belle as their favourite Disney heroine, but I’ve always had some reservations.

The reason I don’t have huge love for Belle is exactly the same reason I get angry at so many Young Adult and New Adult books:

She suffers from the classic “I’m not like other girls; I’m better!” syndrome.

‘With live-action performers, it’s also easier to realize that everyone in Beauty and the Beast is kind of an asshole.

Emma Watson is less engaging as Belle, whose introductory song, “Bonjour” is the ultimate “I’m not like other girls” anthem. The remake expands on Belle’s status as the nerdy princess, giving her a side-gig as a budding engineer. It’s a smart, feminist update for an old-fashioned heroine, but the film undercuts it by pitting her against her peers. She enjoys reading, unlike the illiterate peasants from her village. She’s naturally beautiful, unlike the girls who wear makeup. She strolls past her neighbors while singing about how boring their lives are. It’s hard to tell if she’s an outsider heroine, or just a snob.’

And while she goes on and on about it, what does she go and do?

She styles her hair, puts on a big ball gown, and becomes your standard Disney princess!

Yes, Belle, you ARE just like other girls. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I have no doubt I’ll see this movie at some point, and I’m sure I’ll love many aspects of it. But we need to drop certain ideas from out “feminist” characterisations.

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ controversy.

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ controversy.

I read this book in the early 1990s, and still remember some of it clearly. Now some people are accusing the adaptation of (Canadian!) Margaret Atwood’s dystopian, futuristic novel as a Hollywood attack on the Trump government.

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid_s Tale_ controversy..

Something is not right here…!

Margaret Atwood sets Trump supporters straight on ‘Handmaid_s Tale_ controversy.

The Week: 20th – 26th March

Canberra’s sky this week.

We started the week so well! Temperatures in the 30s, sunny days. And then the rain hit. It’s so odd to have rain in Canberra at all, let alone a number of days in a row.

Friday evening.

The first Formula One race of the year is on in Melbourne this weekend, and it is the first time in about a decade I haven’t gone. We gave up our (crazy-expensive) premium seats after the race last year. The corruption in the sport was a real turn-off. Little did anyone know that new managers would sweep in and fire sleazy, misogynistic, Putin-loving boss Bernie Ecclestone soon afterwards!

However, all those thousands once spent on the F1 can now go to more trips to Europe!

There is something stirring in Belarus. If there’s one country in Europe people care even less about than Ukraine, it’s their neighbour. On Saturday there were protests; there’ve been mass arrests in Minsk – demonstrators and journalists alike (it is estimated about one thousand people were arrested); the riot police were out in force. The country’s opposition leader was arrested shortly before the protests began, and one woman was even put in a mental hospital for daring to protest.

This is Soviet-level stuff.

It looks like the stirrings of the 2013-14 revolution in Ukraine. Frightening, but important.

in other news, this story (below) yesterday was… even after reading it, I still don’t understand:

Naked demonstrators kill sheep under Auschwitz gates

Estonian children in a forced settlement in Siberia in 1952.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of the Kremlin’s mass deportation of 90 000 Baltic people (mostly women and children). They were sent to forced settlements in inhospitable parts of Russia, and most were never able to return.

I was on Westminster Bridge only three or so weeks ago (the photo above is from this month). The terror attack this week was… not unexpected. Sadly, I’m surprised it has been so long since something like this happened in London.

Some people have been saying: ‘Why should we care so much about London? How about (insert world conflict here)?’

Um… as if anybody cares about Yemen etc. any other day of the week! I wish they did!

People are allowed to care about London AND other things!

However, while everyone was distracted by London, Russia did some absolutely awful things in Ukraine this week. They assassinated a Russian Putin critic in the middle of Kyiv in broad daylight. They blew up the Ukrainian army’s biggest and most important munitions factory (the image above), heavily hampering their ability to fight the invasion. They killed more people in their war.

^^^^

This is an amazing – and funny – account mocking Putin, and if you have Twitter, you should follow it. Last year, the Kremlin actually bribed Twitter to ban it for a while – so much for freedom of speech! So they deserve support.

It seems bizarre that this week the US and the UK decided to put bans on electronics on aeroplanes, citing the need to stop terror attacks. The following day, a home-grown terrorist committed the London attack – without a Kindle, a laptop, a camera, OR a plane. Me not being able to take my Kindle when I fly through the Middle East twice more this year sure didn’t stop what happened in Westminster.

Travel is becoming exhausting. The ridiculous liquids ban on international flights was meant to have been lifted years ago. Instead, here we all are, still carrying lip gloss in little ziplock bags for no particular reason, and now we can’t even read a book during our flight!

I had to go through airport security FIVE times just to get home a few weeks ago. I wish there was a way I could do aeroplane-free travel, but it’s a bit of a problem, living on an island!

O-kay… I think the ranting is done for the moment.

Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

My review of The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

RITA Nominees Announced

A Visit to Charles Dickens’ House

Romance without feminism is no longer an option.

Monday Randomness

Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

I’ve been wanting to write something about the Jugiong Writers’ Festival all week, but I have no idea how to say it!

Jugiong Writers Festival 2017 Sonya Heaney Stan Grant Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Margareta Osborn.

Now, some of the images I’m going to use belong to other people, so if you’re not okay with that, tell me, and I’ll remove them.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey

This is Sulari Gentill’s photo, taken just before our panel began on Saturday afternoon.

Firstly, I’ll direct you to this article from The Guardian about the first ever Jugiong festival in 2015:

From little towns, big writers’ festivals grow.

Then, I’ll direct you to the authors on the panel I moderated – in alphabetical order:

Sulari Gentill

Di Morrissey

Margareta Osborn

Three very well-liked, well-known authors. And I’m supposed to link them all together for a fifty-minute panel, when the only two things that link their works are that they are WOMEN from AUSTRALIA??

The good thing is, they all know what they’re talking about, and (I think!) it all worked out well.

I have been to big book conventions before, and I’ve hated every minute of them. At a convention a few years ago I spent too much of every day downstairs, hiding in the bar, because every attempt I made at starting a conversation ended in funny looks and turned shoulders.

I agree with the article above, that these smaller, more rural book events are much friendlier and more inclusive than the big book conferences I’ve attended before.

Sonya Heaney Margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Vivien Thomson’s photo.

Our panel was titled “Connection to People and Place”, which was vaguely advertised as having a rural focus. However, with authors writing everything from modern-day rural fiction, to 1930s Sydney, to 1904 Italy, this was a bit tricky! The good thing is that they all have such a sense of “place” that there was more time for conversation than there was time for the panel to run for.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Sulari Gentill’s photo.

Stan Grant opens 2017 Jugiong Writers Festival @thelandnews #Jugiong #HilltopsRegion Over 250 visitors

Newspaper photo from… I have no idea!

I know I come from Australia’s capital city, but as often as not we’re lumped in with rural, rather than urban Australia (half the ads we have on TV are for tractors etc.), and as we see more kangaroos in Canberra than almost anyone else in the nation, I definitely don’t feel out of place in the country.

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

E.g. – my grandparents’ graves!

My day actually began with running (okay, driving at the speed limit) to the Canberra Centre to pick up two huge boxes of books they needed in Jugiong that afternoon. So my arrival was later than the others involved in the event.

I think the issues we discussed on the stage were relevant to all fiction written by women. I’ve been (more than) mildly obsessed with Regency and Victorian fiction in the past couple of years, but I think that any of those authors could have got up there last weekend and had similar things to say.

Women want to tell stories, and women authors often face the same obstacles no matter what. They write PLACE, and they write characters, and no matter what they do, they get lumped into the same group as “lady authors”, no matter is it’s romance, crime, or… well, or anything.

Free Champagne at the end of the day Sonya Oksana Heaney Jugiong Writers' Festival 18th March 2017

Free sparkling wine at the book launch at the end of the afternoon.

The discussion definitely did NOT go where I thought it would, but it seemed the audience enjoyed themselves, so… I only wish the people watching had more time for questions, but when you have three beloved authors in one panel – it’s not easy!

The other thing about Jugiong that was great was that JUGIONG was great! I have travelled through neighbouring – famous – Gundagai many times in the past few decades, but have never been to Jugiong. It’s a tiny place, but has a gorgeous – and recently renovated – old pub that I have plans to visit again soon.

Also, thank you to Freda and the rest of the team involved in the organisation of the weekend.

On top of that, the drive in and out from Canberra? Just look at it!

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017 Dusk

 

The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

1928

After eight years abroad, Rowland Sinclair has come home
to a house he hates, and a city which seems conservative
… and dull.

He longs to return to the bright lights of Europe.
Until an old friend persuades him to join Sydney Art School.

There, under the tutelage of the renowned Julian Ashton, Rowland learns to paint and finds himself drawn into the avant-garde world of Sydney’s artistic set.

But murder rears its ugly head and Rowland must decide who his friends really are.

This book can be (legally!) downloaded for free here:

The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

When you come across a really well-written piece of historical fiction, you realise how superficially “historical” some of your reads have been.

Author Sulari Gentill captures late 1920s (and the 1930s in her later books) Australia in way that makes you really feel as if you’re there. It’s honestly not an era I’m all that familiar with, even though it is the decade all of my grandparents were born in (but seeing as half of them were born in Ukraine…).

This story is apparently a “gift” from the author to the fans of her Rowland Sinclair series that mixes crime with politics and people in a transitional era for the world. It takes place before the series proper begins, and if I was familiar with these characters beforehand I think this would have been great fun to read. Not that I didn’t really enjoy it, but there’s nothing better than a strong author writing backstories for established, favourite characters.

I really appreciated the dialogue and the interactions between the people involved. To me, at least, I find the 1920s and 30s the period of time between “the past” and the “modern” world, and I think that is captured perfectly here. It’s an old, different era, but the contemporary one is beginning to emerge.

I get the impression from other reviews that this novella is not as heavy on the crime as some of the full length books are, but this wasn’t a problem for me as I went into it with no expectations. Gentill clearly knows how to construct a story so that it builds and builds.

I will have to seek out more instalments in this series, especially as they take place in areas familiar to me. So often I read historical fiction set overseas, and this was an interesting change.