Bitter Harvest


While everybody knows about the Holocaust, there was another major genocide in Europe in the 20th century that is almost unknown.


The Holodomor, Stalin’s manufactured famine/genocide, is believed to have killed up to ten million people in Ukraine in the 1930s. Still denied by Moscow, this genocide has received little to no attention from the West, and none whatsoever from Hollywood.

A new film is due out now which tackles this topic, focusing on a Ukrainian Cossack couple. Keep an eye out for Bitter Harvest this month.

Glasses and Book Covers

Many gazillions of people in this world do not have perfect eyesight, and many people wear glasses or contact lenses – or both at various times.

This includes romance heroes and heroines.

Now, I could get into the fact contact lenses in books are mentioned once and then totally ignored; like the characters never have to take them out or clean or deal with them, and that nobody ever gets something under the lenses and stands there with tears streaming down their face (me every day!), however it doesn’t make for much of a romance.

But what I’m angry about right now is the covers of these books.

In December I picked up two books in a row where a main character wore glasses full-time. In the first one it was the heroine. It was the hero in the second.

The covers are below.



Where are the bloody glasses?

These aren’t the only books. In fact, I cannot recall a SINGLE romance book cover where the character who is meant to be wearing them has them on.

Harlequin/Mills and Boon certainly has an aversion to them. Such as this Sarah Mayberry cover with a glasses-wearing heroine:

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Because when you have poor vision, the best place to wear your glasses is ON YOUR HAND.

Historical characters are given the same treatment:


I get that smaller publishers have a limited budget for their covers, which means they have to go for whatever stock photography they can get their hands on, but surely they could try harder (a side note: the guy on cover #2 isn’t supposed to have a beard, either!).

There is NO excuse for publishers like Harlequin, other than that they don’t think it’s sexy enough to have a character with an eyesight problem. After all, Harlequin gets their own models and costumes and sets and producers when they make their book covers. I’m sure they could add a couple of pairs of glasses to the wardrobe department.

It’s a small thing, but a significant one. Just as the women on covers are always Amazonian runway models, no matter how petite the author describes them as, or how a hero always has short, dark hair, no matter how long or fair it is supposed to be, I’m getting that people would be much happier if authors just kept the glasses for the sidekick characters.

So much for the diversity authors are trying to go for!

Surrender to the Marquess (Herriard #3) by Louise Allen


Please ignore the silly blurb; it’s a much better book that the publisher wants you to think!

When Lady Sara Herriard’s husband dies in a duel, she turns her back on the vagaries of the ton. From now on, she will live as she pleases. She won’t change for anyone certainly not for the infuriating Lucian Avery, Marquess of Cannock!

Lucian must help his sister recover from a disastrous elopement and reluctantly enlists Lady Sara’s help. She couldn’t be further from the conventional, obedient wife he’s expected to marry, but soon all he craves is for her to surrender and join him in his bed!

Surrender to the Marquess (Herriard #3) by Louise Allen

Gorgeous cover!

I will read anything Louise Allen writes. She is far and away one of my favourite historical romance writers, and she should not be overlooked because she writes for Mills and Boon/Harlequin instead of one of the other publishers.

This might be one of my favourite books by her, even though I’ve not yet read the others connected to it.

This story features the daughter of a marquess, who meets a marquess in disguise in a coastal town in Dorset. It’s not some silly, contrived disguise plot, but because he is trying to protect his younger sister’s reputation after he rescued her on the Continent, close to death.

I loved that he had to give up on the deception early, because a peer can spot a peer amongst the working and middle classes. I also liked how hero and heroine came to be together, from him thinking she was a widow he could have an affair with, to him needing her to help with his sister.

The heroine is twenty-four, but already widowed because she lost her husband in a duel. She has no interest in marrying back into her class, where the men have paternalistic ideas about honour and protecting women – and this is exactly how the hero is.

Things progress believably, and there is a lot for both characters to overcome.

There is also the mystery surrounding the hero’s sister, and a mystery surrounding another man in town.

Not all the book takes place in Dorset, and we do get our time with the aristocratic families – something most people seem to think is necessary for a Regency romance!

I can’t really explain why some authors are so much better than others (I was reading another Regency at the same time, and there was NO comparison). However, everything about this book works.

From the historical accuracy and total understanding of social rules – nobody is addressing someone out of turn or in the wrong way. To the true English feel to it (it helps the author lives in England) – no silly, inaccurate stereotypes you find in too many books like this. To the genuine ROMANCE that develops even though both characters only planned to be lovers at first (made believable by the fact the heroine has already been married once).

To the amount of PLOT from start to finish, which means my mind never drifted…

Every time I read one of Louise Allen’s books set on the English coast, I feel like planning another trip!

This was such a good read.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews


Fate whisked Ruby from a simple life in the Louisiana Bayou. But her new riches bring more treachery than happiness…

Even after a year as a Dumas, Ruby still wonders at the splendour of the family’s New Orleans mansion, and rejoices in the love of the father she had never known. But true happiness in her new home is as elusive as d swamp mist. Ruby must carefully avoid a venomous enemy: her stepmother, Daphne, who cringes and sneers at her backwater upbringing. And Ruby’s every effort to befriend her twin sister, Gisselle — especially since Gisselle’s crippling accident — is answered with bitterness and vicious backstabbing.

So idyllic Greenwood — the exclusive girls’ boarding school that her father has chosen for his daughters’ senior year — seems to promise some peace from the conniving Daphne, and maybe even a fresh start with Gisselle. But Ruby’s kind isn’t welcome at Greenwood, and the legendarily strict headmistress, Mrs. Ironwood, plots with her stepmother to make her life miserable. Meanwhile, Gisselle is on a mission to break every school rule, leaving Ruby to suffer the humiliating punishments. But Ruby doesn’t lose hope — until a terrible tragedy leaves her alone in a world that never really wanted her. Ruby will have to summon every last ounce of her Cajun strength to reclaim her home, her future, and the happiness she once knew….

Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews

So – my revisiting of melodramatic books from my teen years continues with this second book in the Landry series.

These books are big, Southern US sagas with characters who are more stereotypes than real people, almost like they’re in a pantomime for adults. You know exactly who is good and who is evil, and the characters never deviate from those roles. The books are set many decades ago and totally dated, but that’s part of the charm.

I swear, I remembered the twins in this book as fair-haired, but apparently that was just me projecting my teenaged self onto them.

I was all over these as an adolescent, and remember this series particularly appealed to me because our heroine, Ruby, is an identical twin. Twin drama! Swapped identities! Stolen identities! One is an angel and one is the devil incarnate (and boy does she never stop complaining!).

Then we have the EVIL stepmother character who seems to spend her entire life plotting to ruin Ruby’s – for no particular reason.

Of course, despite her angelic qualities, nobody will ever listen to Ruby, and so she is constantly being blamed for her sister’s behaviour – that is, when people aren’t trying to lock her up in various institutions. She is the ultimate Mary Sue, and exactly the reason teen girls went crazy over these stories.

Honestly, the reason I kept reading was because I want to get to the next book, where the characters are finally out of school and living adult lives. I’d forgotten how bloody young they all were in the early books.

Virginia Andrews and – after her death – her ghost writer V.C. Andrews… Well, I hate people applying the word “trashy” to books, but I cannot think of anything more appropriate in this case.

What I am up to.

When I travel I always have the best intentions of maintaining my blogs, but of course that never happens!

I have begged off lunch in Venice today to catch up on some things in my work life, but when you are staying on the Grand Canal it is always easy to be distracted!

It didn’t help that when I ducked out to the supermarket I was discovered by friends and “forced” to stop for pre-lunch drinks!


I finished Mary Balogh’s latest the other day, and loved it to pieces (I honestly don’t ever cry, but this is one of four of thousands of books I’ve read that nearly made me). However, there won’t be a review until I return home in March.

I am now in the process of reading a bunch of Australian books by women writers, as I am to moderate at the Jugiong Writers’ Festival shortly after I return home:

I am also now reading a review copy of Eloisa James’ latest book – my first by this very famous author! It is great so far.


Breakfast view.

However, I am in Venice at Carnevale, the most important time of the year, there are people in spectacular costumes everywhere, and our long-term Italian friends (who we’ve known since living in India many years ago) have driven here from Asti to spend time with us. So I am falling behind.

My Italian-language skills are becoming terrible, because these days so many people speak English.

I am sorry for all the typos I am sure are in this post, but I have no proper computer at the moment!

I am also sorry for not responding to people. It is not on purpose!