A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred Book #1) by Joanna Shupe

A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred Book #1) by Joanna Shupe

Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match—leaving her free to marry the artist she loves. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course…

Julius is intrigued by Nora’s ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora’s horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancé, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own—one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.

A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred Book #1) by Joanna Shupe

I love books set in the Gilded Age. Specifically, I love books set in the Gilded Age when they are written by Joanna Shupe.

This is a big, dramatic story set in a big, opulent period in history, in New York – the centre of all the wealth and craziness of the end of the nineteenth century.

The hero is one of my favourite types: the self-made man. I love them when they occasionally pop up in historical romances set in England (e.g. Secrets of a Summer Night and Marrying Winterborne), and America-set books are the perfect place for this type of character.

Julius has risen up from nothing to live a crazy life of wealth, while Nora is from English aristocracy – new and old worlds. I liked that Shupe managed to make Nora a bit wild and too independent for her time *without* making her anachronistic – a feat historical romance authors struggle with.

The late nineteenth century is such an exciting time in history. It has all the olde worlde feel we want in the genre, but technology has seriously advanced since the Regency, and there’s an energy about everything as the world moves towards the twentieth century. Shupe captures this so well.

I appreciated two things in particular in this book:

#1 The way the romance developed.

This was a fake engagement, with neither character actually wanting to marry the other. However, they evolved and were willing to own up to the changes in their opinions.

#2 The women.

The hero has a mistress, whom he dumps for the heroine. However, the two women are never nasty or vicious to each other. This has been a SLOW evolution in fiction – authors (and readers) love their misogynistic stereotyping. I was so happy to see that Shupe chose a different route.

If I have a little niggle, it’s that some might find the climax of the story just a teeny bit over the top – but then, you may not…

Oh, and I really wish we didn’t have Victorian English characters saying “snuck”. Shupe is wonderful with her characters speaking different versions of English, but sometimes she slips with the Americanisms…

As soon as I knew this book was coming out I knew I would love it – and I did.

Now I can’t wait for the next book in the series.


Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

Someon to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh UK Australian Cover

A very practical marriage makes Alexander Westcott question his heart in the latest Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone to Hold.

When Alexander Westcott becomes the new Earl of Riverdale, he inherits a title he never wanted and a failing country estate he can’t afford. But he fully intends to do everything in his power to undo years of neglect and give the people who depend on him a better life . . .

A recluse for more than twenty years, Wren Heyden wants one thing out of life: marriage. With her vast fortune, she sets her sights on buying a husband. But when she makes the desperate-and oh-so-dashing-earl a startlingly unexpected proposal, Alex will only agree to a proper courtship, hoping for at least friendship and respect to develop between them. He is totally unprepared for the desire that overwhelms him when Wren finally lifts the veils that hide the secrets of her past . . .

Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

This has been such a surprising series. Despite being such a prolific author, these are the first books I’ve read by Mary Balogh, and they have been so good.

The series focuses on an aristocratic family who are hit with a big drama in book one: one of the marriages is bigamous, which makes half the characters illegitimate – losing their titles.

The characters are all very distinct and surprising – and not always immediately likeable. Not all of them fit into a Regency reader’s idea of how they should be, which is what makes these books so interesting.

Someone to Wed is a very emotional book, as the heroine – with a big flaw to her features that caused her to be badly abused as a child – has no experience with the world. She was locked away and denied any sort of society, and later chose to live as a recluse. Now she wants marriage, which means “buying” a titled husband who needs her wealth, as she knows know other way anyone will want her.

And yet somehow she doesn’t come across as pathetic – after all, *she* is the one who gathers her courage and makes a proposal of marriage, despite having no hope of it ever working for her.

Both hero and heroine come a long way over the course of the book. To say the hero finds everything about the situation distasteful and uncomfortable at first is an understatement.

I love that Balogh is confident enough with her characterisations that she takes her time with everyone. She takes us from indifference at the beginning to love at the end. People who have been around for a few books are developing and changing.

I remember being a little confused by all the characters when I started this series, and perhaps new readers might not fully understand everyone if they pick it up here, but that’s a minor issue. If you can’t keep *everyone* straight, it’s no real problem for your enjoyment of the book.

Balogh writes the sort of historical romance I prefer, and the kind that is disappearing as publishers make more and more demands for anachronistic fluff over substance.

I am really looking forward to the next instalment, which features an older heroine than you will usually find in Regency romance.

The End of Heroes and Heartbreakers

mast_logo Heroes and Heartbreakers

It was announced a few days ago (on Tumblr, for Heaven’s sake) that the Heroes and Heartbreakers site will be closing forever at the end of the year. A blog mainly for romance books, but also television shows and women’s fiction, it was also a place for readers to gather and discuss.

The blog will be replaced with an e-newsletter, which just isn’t the same.

I’ve quoted the site many times on this blog, and I suppose none of those links will be working soon.

I’ve also said many times how disappointing it is online book communities are disappearing – and now there goes another one. 😦 😦

Important News

I found it on Saturday, and now will share.

The hideous American cover for Lisa Kleypas’ Hello Stranger now has a UK/Australian rival:

Hello Stranger Lisa Kleypas

(Yes, it’s tiny. I will update when I find a bigger version.)

It has a very “Victorian London” feel to it – I lived and worked on London streets like that.

It might not be the most spectacular cover ever made, but at least it looks like the 19th century, rather than the 1980s Prom Queen version:

Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

The Week: 6th – 12th November

Canberra Spring Sunset After the Rain Sonya Heaney 6th November 2017 Sky Clouds Nature Tree

Monday sunset after some desperately-needed rain in Canberra.

Flags across the country have been lowered to honour one of Australia's former governors-general, Sir Ninian Stephen, who died on October 29. Parliament House Canberra 8th November 2017

The flag of Australia’s Parliament House, Canberra at half-mast for the funeral of our former Governor-General Ninian Stephen on Wednesday. I took it from the car (the sun reflecting off the metal is a bit distracting!). Flags at all of Canberra’s national monuments were lowered for the occasion.

Spring Roses Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Sunny Afternoon Blue Sky Pink Flowers Pink Roses 9th October 2017 Garden Natre

The spring roses are out in Canberra.

There are many things I could say this week. However, I will just comment on gymnastics (a sport I won medals in, my brother was on the Olympic squad of, and I later coached). It seems that most US Olympic gymnastics stars for years have been victims of a paedophile/sex abuser. People are saying this is even worse than the stories coming out of Hollywood. It seems so.

Hearing that the champions from the last few Olympics were sexually abused hours before we watched them win medals is… it upset me so much. I hope they get some justice for it.

My review of Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

My review of Mail-Order Christmas Baby (Montana Courtships #1) by Sherri Shackelford

Mail-Order Christmas Baby (Montana Courtships #1) by Sherri Shackelford

‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’

Amazon kindle Ebooks

New Release for Mary Balogh

Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

Melbourne Cup Day

Promises by Cathryn Hein

Remembrance Day

AWM_060483_Australian_21st_Brigade_troops_Ramu_Valley_1943 Soldiers from the Australian 21st Brigade move down from the Finisterre Range into the Ramu Valley 9th November 1943

Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

A country-music star returns home to win back the woman he loves in this charming holiday novella from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey

Ava Wright isn’t happy to see her high school sweetheart rolling into their hometown a few weeks before Christmas. He’s only come back to bury his estranged father, but there’s no way she’ll be able to avoid him. No one can: he’s become a country-music superstar since going solo and leaving Ava behind.

Jace Morrow grew up believing “money can’t buy happiness” was something people said to make themselves feel better. But now he knows it’s the truth: no matter how many number-one hits he has, he’ll never recapture the magic of singing with Ava. Missing her—loving her—and living with making the wrong choice in life were what made him who he is.

When Jace is roped into being part of the town’s annual Christmas party, he only cares about earning Ava’s forgiveness. And though Ava’s heart has never healed, she loved Jace too much and for too long to shut him out when he’s hurting. As they fall in love all over again, they’re both faced with choices for their future…and this time Jace intends to make the right one.

Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

This was such a “real” book. By that I mean the characters felt like they really did exist, and they were so everyday (even with the hero being famous), and acted so normal. I loved that about it. Shannon Stacey has built a solid and well-deserved reputation for writing contemporary romances about everyday people, and she is excellent at it.

I also loved that this was a reunion story – not just my favourite trope, but also one that works really well in shorter books.

I loved the angst in this one. As a talented young musician, the hero was faced with a choice: stay with his long-term, childhood sweetheart girlfriend who had been building dreams of a music career with him, or dump her and get a big recording contract on his own.

He chose to dump her, and went on to become a star. The heroine went home heartbroken, losing not just him, but also all of her dreams. And then she had to hear the song that made her ex famous every time she turned on the radio: it was about her.

There’s some serious grovelling to be done here, and there is a very strong reason why she doesn’t want to get back together with him when he finally returns home years later.

I loved the setup for the story, and I also liked how it was resolved in a shorter word count (30 000 words).

This was a great little reunion romance by an author I rely on to deliver a good read.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’: pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series

Article from The Guardian:

‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’: pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series

Amazon kindle Ebooks

This is nothing new, but it does need to be said again and again – and again. I sort of recommend reading the comments at the bottom of the article, as awful and smug as they are. It seems most people honestly think authors should write for free, and that theft is a good and justifiable thing…

I don’t know why:

#1 People think stealing from (underpaid) authors isn’t stealing. Royalties aren’t huge, folks.

#2 How they have the nerve to actually *contact* authors and openly confess to stealing.

#3 Why – when books in many countries are so cheap compared to other forms of entertainment (and provide *more hours* of entertainment) people won’t fork out for books and only books…