Travel Reads

Here’s one of the review books I’ve downloaded to work on while travelling in Spain.

The Note by Zoe Folbigg is due out on the 1st of October.

The Note by Zoe Folbigg

The note changed everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

Music-Less Historical Romances

Having recently gone on a bit of a period drama-rewatching spree, something has occurred to me: there’s almost never any music in historical romance books.

In fact, the new fad is for female characters in historical romances to reject ALL things that might be considered even slightly feminine. (ALL the cool kids hate sewing – and can’t sew. ALL the cool kids hate dancing – and can’t dance.). Of course they’re crap musicians – ALL the cool kids are!

What I consider to be the most emotionally powerful scene in the 1995 adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one that begins with Elizabeth Bennet playing and singing for the Bingleys and Darcys. Then Mr Darcy’s sister takes over, while the clueless Miss Bingley makes a cruel comment and upsets everyone.

The whole scene, while telling you a bunch of other things about the characters and the plot, is about the music. Imagine what a dull – and quiet – evening it would have been without any women with some musical ability!

Watch it below:

In both Pride and Prejudice the book, and every television and film adaptation, Elizabeth and Miss Darcy bond over music, and the snobs use music as a chance to show off.

Then there’s Anne Elliot from another Jane Austen book: Persuasion. There’s that scene where she sheds a quiet tear while playing the piano so the others can dance. There’s no crying in the 1995 movie version, but the scene below at 37:20 shows you exactly how crucial music was for an evening in the Regency era:

Also, in Poldark, Demelza’s triumph over the society ladies comes when she sings at the Christmas party. (As an aside, TV Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson, did such a good job with her singing in the show that she’s releasing an album!).

Sure, there are some book heroines who enjoy their music. Faith Merridew and Helen Ravenel come to mind. However, we are very much in an era of publishing (and life in general, actually) where authors think that it’s somehow antifeminist for women to anything remotely artistic or creative.

Music isn’t just an art form; it’s to people of two-hundred years ago what television and the internet and evenings out are to us today. It was an essential part of a person’s social life, as it was one of the only ways to break the silence over long, pre-electricity evenings, and to entertain in an era before today’s technology existed.

I do think some authors avoid heroines who play and sing because they – ridiculously – think it’s demeaning to their gender.

However, I also think it simply never occurs to some authors that this was a major aspect of a Georgian/Regency/Victorian person’s day-to-day experience. It’s a little odd.

 

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

Please ignore both the clunky title and the trashy blurb! I liked this book a lot!

Ex-soldier Frederick Challenger may own a share of London’s most secret gentlemen’s club, but he has long since stopped sampling its delights…until a beautiful woman auctions her innocence. 

Georgiana Knight’s plan had been to lure in a villain, but instead she’s trapped the devil himself. And now, to protect her reputation, she must marry him! But if Frederick has hopes of taming this temptress, he’ll have to think again… 

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

I really liked this book, and read it very quickly. It develops the friendship and then love between hero and heroine slowly, and shows real character growth. It’s also full of great historical expressions – and funny.

However, I practically groaned when A Convenient Bride for the Soldier came up for review and I read the blurb. The “virginity auction” is likely THE most ridiculous of all historical romance tropes. On the other hand, I trust the Harlequin Historical line to almost always to deliver a great read, and the author’s name was familiar to me, so I dived in.

The heroine of this one is naïve in some ways, and far more worldly than she is given credit for in others. Young – nineteen – she is frustrated with her innocence (not her virginity; her ignorance of so many things in the world). And it is not helped by everyone treating her like a child and a bother to be handed off to someone else.

I loved that she was age-appropriate, and also liked her because no matter how much everyone, especially the hero at first, tried to “tame” her out of her personality, she was determined to cling to it.

The hero was interesting because he was sometimes hard to like. His life has shaped him into a very rigid, rule-following man (despite the club he runs), and he historically-accurately expects the wife he never wanted to fall into line.

However he has a strong moral code and sometimes finds himself slipping. Even though he is older than the heroine it is he who has to grow the most.

It was also great that the author resisted the temptation to tie up either characters’ family situation in too many bows.

There was so much fun in amongst all of this. It wasn’t slapstick, but it was funny. I laughed at a few points in this (the bird!), usually at the dry, offhand comments.

I also loved the language, and by that I mean that the author peppered her book with archaic terms without making it impossible to understand. Even though I knew otherwise, I went back to check because the prose (apart from a couple of teeny slip-ups) read as if it was written by a Brit.

Despite the promises of the blurb, this is not a book filled with sex; as I said, the relationship takes LOTS of time to develop. However, hero and heroine are on the page together almost the entire book, so it’s not like there’s a lack of romance. In fact, I don’t always love it when the two are in most scenes together, and yet I enjoyed both of them so much I really liked it here.

This was one of the review books I’m going to buy my own copy of, so I guess that’s a strong endorsement.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.