Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.

  • Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
  • Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
  • Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

Until now I had only ever read one novella from Tessa Dare, but I saw Do You Want to Start a Scandal on the shelf at the library and decided to give it a go even though I had no idea where the book stood in relation to the author’s series.

Dare’s writing gets you hooked from the outset, and I raced through this book, enjoying most things about it. It’s exactly the type of historical romance I’ve come to expect from Avon: lively, steamy, and fairly light-hearted.

When the “aristocrat is a spy” theme turned up I wasn’t thrilled, but it thankfully took a backseat to the rest of the plotand to the romanceand in the end I didn’t have much of an issue with it.

The relationship in this book moves at lighting speed, but I appreciated that the characters got on despite many differences, and that they weren’t too silly about the reality that they’d have to marry. There was almost a category romance feel in the way the hero and heroine were together for almost the entire book, and how there was minimal secondary character interference.

I think the mystery and suspense aspects were toned down enough to not seem ridiculous, and when I reached the last part of the book I couldn’t put it down until I was done.

I had a couple of issues with the Americanisms—and it’s the ground floor, not the first!—but overall this didn’t distract me like it does in some historical romances.

A fun holiday read.

Chasing Cassandra Excerpt

An excerpt of Chasing Cassandra, the sixth book in Lisa Kleypas’ Ravenels series, is available to read on her website. The book is out on the 18th of this month.

Chasing Cassandra (Ravenels #6) (2020) (The sixth book in the Ravenels series) A novel by Lisa Kleypas US Cover 2019

Everything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything – or anyone – is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife – and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love – the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants – or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun . . .

January Roundup

Namadgi National Park Southern Canberra Tuggeranong Bushfire Brindabella Range Mountains Sonya Oksana Heaney Evening of 28th January 2020

Bushfire view from my back deck. Flames crossing the ridge.

I’ve avoided writing weekly summaries for a while now because so much has been happening, and Canberra has been hit by natural disaster after natural disaster (which have been routinely knocking out the internet). We’ve had two freak hailstorms that destroyed large parts of the city, and fire after fire after fire. My brother was trapped in Canberra Airport a few days ago, when a fire burnt into the city from the east.

It’s been frightening to spend the last few nights watching flames coming into our valley – and it brings back memories of the horrific firestorm that hit us in 2003.

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My apartment view in Brisbane.

I was also in Brisbane for a while – how strange to be in a part of Australia where there’s no evidence of fire when your own region is burning!

In Canberra we’ve had record-breaking, relentless heat, smoke, and waterbombers flying over the house all day and all night. Seeing the giant American DC-10 water tanker flying low over your house is surreal and scary.

EDIT. The DC-10 from Alabama flying over my house just before 3pm today:

Water Bombing Aeroplane Surveillance Namadgi Bushfire Smoke Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 29th January 2020

A plane dumping fire retardant flies over my house, back from the fires. It looks like the evening, but that’s the middle of the afternoon.

My local library is now an evacuation centre as a massive fire sweeps in towards Canberra. Today is expected to be catastrophic, and the army is door-knocking in my area to prepare people for what’s to come.

None of us know what’s going to happen over this weekend …

Currawong Bushfire Smoke Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 29th January 2020

The Landowner’s Secret for $1.99!

The Landowner's Secret Sonya Heaney Summer of Love Promotion

Summer of Love Promotion

SUMMER OF LOVE_1080X1080 - The Landowner's Secret Sonya Heaney Summer of Love Promotion

Writing Inspiration: Victorian Queanbeyan

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. John Bull's Store, Queanbeyan Australia, c. 1883. From Queanbeyan–Palerang Libraries Historical Photos.

Happy 207th Birthday, Pride and Prejudice!

Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published on the 28th of January 1813. Here is the front page from a first edition copy of the book.

My review of Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Book Feature: The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes

the perfect wife by katherine scholes

Regency Ostriches

Lord Avery's Legacy by Allison Land

“Women Built This Castle”

It’s a few years old now, but there’s a very worthwhile look at sexism in publishing over at YA Interrobang:

Women Built This Castle: an in-depth look at sexism in YA

The article discusses the way women build up different genres, and how those genres are laughed at and treated as “lesser” than areas men write in. It discusses how the moment a man turns up and has some success in an area of publishing (i.e. John Green in young adult fiction), people consider the books legitimate.

We’re conditioned to believe that women’s interests are fringe interests, and that the things we write aren’t as good as anything produced by men.

The same can be said about Nicholas Sparks in romance/women’s fiction.

There’s also a discussion about it at the Absolute Write Water Cooler that is worth a read.

Writing Inspiration: Victorian Queanbeyan

Queanbeyan, New South Wales lies just over the state border from Canberra (about a fifteen-minute drive from where I live). It serves as inspiration for my town in my book, The Landowner’s Secret (on sale now!), which is set in the 1880s. (I don’t use the same place name, however.)

I’ve spent a lot of time in Queanbeyan over the years because I’ve always had family who lived there, and so I know the place very well. I was christened and made my first communion there, in the Ukrainian church my refugee grandfather helped to build. We also have a bit of a family tradition of Friday or weekend lunch at one of the old pubs in town.

However, being able to track down some images of the town from the Victorian era, of the buildings that the reckless developers pulled down in the 1970s, has been invaluable.

Here is John Bull’s Store, circa 1883:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. John Bull's Store, Queanbeyan Australia, c. 1883. From Queanbeyan–Palerang Libraries Historical Photos.

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Here is the old post office, built between 1879 and 1880:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. Built 1879-80. Post office in Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia. From the Queanbeyan Museum.

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And here is Monaro Street, which is still Queanbeyan’s main street, circa 1880. It’s a faded old photo, but I notice the town’s transformation over the 1880s, as the population grew and the railway arrived (in 1887), and I have tried to incorporate that into the series:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. Monaro Street, looking East, Queanbeyan c. 1880. From Queanbeyan–Palerang Libraries Historical Photos.

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More images can be found on the book’s Pinterest board.

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney blog-sized

The Landowner’s Secret

New South Wales, 1885

When Alice Ryan wakes to find thugs surrounding her cottage, on the hunt for her no-good brother, she escapes into the surrounding bush.

It is wealthy landowner Robert Farrer who finds her the next morning, dishevelled, injured, and utterly unwilling to share what she knows. With criminals on the loose and rumours that reckless bushrangers have returned to the area, Robert is determined to keep Alice out of danger, and insists on taking her into his home-despite the scandal it may cause. Convincing her to stay on with him for her own safety, however, is going to take some work.

What Robert doesn’t expect is his growing attraction to the forthright, unruly woman staying in his home. Before either of them can settle into their odd new situation, their home and wellbeing come under threat and they will need to trust each other to survive. But they are both keeping secrets, secrets that have the potential to ruin their burgeoning love, their livelihood … and their lives.

The Landowner’s Secret for $1.99!

The Landowner's Secret Sonya Heaney Summer of Love Promotion

Just a reminder that my book, The Landowner’s Secret, is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon Kindle for the rest of this month, and from other retailers until the 1st of March!

Read the first two chapters.

New South Wales, 1885

When Alice Ryan wakes to find thugs surrounding her cottage, on the hunt for her no-good brother, she escapes into the surrounding bush.

It is wealthy landowner Robert Farrer who finds her the next morning, dishevelled, injured, and utterly unwilling to share what she knows. With criminals on the loose and rumours that reckless bushrangers have returned to the area, Robert is determined to keep Alice out of danger, and insists on taking her into his home-despite the scandal it may cause. Convincing her to stay on with him for her own safety, however, is going to take some work.

What Robert doesn’t expect is his growing attraction to the forthright, unruly woman staying in his home. Before either of them can settle into their odd new situation, their home and wellbeing come under threat and they will need to trust each other to survive. But they are both keeping secrets, secrets that have the potential to ruin their burgeoning love, their livelihood … and their lives.

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

“Saved!” meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that takes a meaningful look at consent and what it means to give it.

When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.

Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity.

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Over the Christmas break I took a bunch of books with me on holiday, but—instead of the Regency romance I was planning on finishing—I ended up reading this young adult book about a couple of non-Christian teens who go to church camp with ulterior motives.

I actually bought the much-hyped Have a Little Faith in Me because of the author’s first name (I’m shallow like that), but while it’s not a perfect book, I’m very glad I read it.

YA fiction has turned on its head since the Twilight days, when misogyny and slut shaming was so often the norm, and the female and sex-positive themes in a book set in the unlikeliest of places was a wonderful surprise. I was a little worried about how it would play out, but the way the heroine and her Christian cabinmates bonded and stuck up for each other was fantastic.

The story plays out as most readers will expect from the outset, but it’s the journey the heroine and her best friend go on together to reach that happy ending that makes it worth the effort. There were some hilarious bits—“If you don’t have any condoms with you, I have, like, a billion in my cabin.” (This at a Christian camp!)—and there were some nice emotional moments.

I had a couple of issues:

While it’s true many teens these days have serious discussions about consent etc., there were times the characters acted more like adults would want them to act than like real teens. Everyone (except the “baddies”) was a little bit too responsible all of the time.

I also don’t believe that all the kids at the state’s most conservative Christian camp would have such progressive, sex positive views. Thanks to the politics of the last few years, the whole world has been exposed to the misogyny and bigotry behind the evangelical Christian movement, and these kids all acted like extremely progressive left-leaning activists. It would have been nice to have some more conflicts of values to make it a bit more realistic.

Despite those issues I raced through this book and enjoyed it a lot. I’m sure I’ll read it again.

Book Feature: The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes

Note: I am featuring some of the review books I’ve had for a while, but run out of time to do a review for. That’s not to say I’m not going to read them; it’s just that I’ve fallen behind, and think the authors deserve an appearance here!

the perfect wife by katherine scholes

The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes

Kitty Hamilton arrives in Tanganyika with high hopes for her new life. An exciting adventure halfway across the world could be just what she and Theo need to recover from the scandal that almost tore them apart.

She is determined to play the role of the perfect wife, but her dreams soon begin to unravel. Theo is distracted with his important British government post, and while Kitty had imagined doing valuable work of her own, she finds that choosing the right frock to wear to the club is the biggest challenge of her day.

In this wild and foreign land, where very different powers prevail, the head can’t always rule the heart. As old wounds resurface and new passions ignite, Kitty and Theo confront emotions that push them beyond the boundaries of all that they know and believe in.

The Perfect Wife is a breathtaking story about the struggle between duty and desire, jealousy and love, commitment and freedom. And the need to follow the call of your heart, wherever it may lead you…