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.

Sarah MacLean: How Trump killed off my romantic lead

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel #3) by Sarah MacLean US American Cover

What an article! This piece appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago and I enjoyed it even more because I’ve just read the book in question:

How Trump killed off my romantic lead

That hero? The one I’d lovingly crafted in that mold of masculinity that romance readers have loved for centuries? Sure, I had plans for him to see the promise of gender equality, but at that moment, I wanted him gone. This dude wasn’t just aggressively masculine. He was toxic. Indeed, I suspected he would have voted for Donald Trump. And I wanted nothing to do with him.

Suddenly, there was no promise that he would change. That hero — the one whom so many others in the genre have written for centuries, the one who grows into his awareness that everything is better with equality of partnership — he wasn’t enough. I wanted a hero who had that awareness from the start.

Edge of Truth by Brynn Kelly

Rotting in an African dungeon is the last place journalist Tess Newell expected to find herself. Held hostage by the terrorist group she’s investigating, Tess’s salvation—and temptation—arrives in the form of another prisoner. A French Foreign Legionnaire with a sinful smile and too many secrets to be anything but dangerous. Yet she knows he’s her only hope of surviving.

The Legion is the only family Flynn has. His sanctuary and his purgatory, after years spent in hell. When a mission goes south and Flynn is captured, it’s not the enemy that worries him, but the brazen, alluring reporter whose prying questions threaten to bring down his world—and the walls he’s built around his heart.

Yet after a daring escape, Flynn must risk it all and go on the run with Tess to retrieve the evidence she needs. The chemistry between them threatens to detonate but, with the enemy fast closing in, time is running out to unravel the truth from the lies in this deadly conspiracy…

Edge of Truth by Brynn Kelly

It took me a while to read this book, not because it was bad or boring, but because I liked it so much and was enjoying the characters and all the research so much, I wanted to make the most of it.

Edge of Truth is *everything* I’ve been asking for in romantic suspense for years, all there in one book. I think some of the mixed reaction to it has been because it IS about the suspense, and the setting is everything; no random “terrorist-riddled non-American country” cliché here. The research is fantastic, the author’s obvious local knowledge of Africa makes all the difference, and it’s not all about some hot-guy-romance.

However, the romance IS very strong. Hero and heroine are thrown together right from the outset, and are together more or less without a break for the entire book. Both are captured by a terror group, and both have good reasons for their involvement in the unfolding drama.

Television journalist Tess has been digging into US political connections to the terror group and the war they are trying to provoke. She has world-changing information to get out to the public, but she is trapped, imprisoned.

French Foreign Legion soldier Flynn is hiding some major secrets of his own, but he can’t bring himself to walk away from Tess when he helps her escape her captors.

I’ve been saying I wanted real-world issues in my books, and I always, always appreciate an author who knows her setting inside out. This book created a sense of place more than almost anything I’ve ever read, and that is one of the reasons I’m going to remember it long after more generic suspense books.

Everything about Edge of Truth comes across as relevant to right now, to the corruption and double-sided dealings of many powerful people in world (and especially US) politics.

However, this would all be nothing without the great characters. The Kiwi author manages to create a totally realistic Australian hero and an American heroine. Their relationship is built on desperate situations and a lot of clever conversation. The dialogue is natural and believable.

The story unfolds over only a few days, and yet I bought into the relationship. Perhaps there was a time or two where the focus on the growing attraction between the two might have seemed slightly out of place, but as the book unfolded I realised I was fine with it.

Africa isn’t the most popular setting for Western stories, romances or otherwise, but I strongly encourage readers to bury their fears of the foreign and give this one a go.

I just knew from the first time I read the blurb that this was going to be a book I’d love, and I was correct.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

New Pride and Prejudice

It was only yesterday I was thinking that it was time for a new, less “pop culture” version of Pride and Prejudice to be made – I’ve been on a re-watch spree of the 1980 and 1995 versions. So it was pretty funny to see this news about a new adaptation only a few hours later. However, this upcoming version is is not what I wanted.

That the producers are bragging it will be “less bonnet-y”, and that it will be “dark” seems patronising. No silly historical stuff for you. That’s SO 1995!

Why do we need another hair-down, pigs-and-mud version? I’m assuming “less bonnet-y” means something along the lines of Keira Knightley’s 2005 movie. As for “dark”? The last version was about zombies!

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Pigs Mud Barefoot Anachronistic

Georgian lady barefoot and covered in mud where visitors to the house can see her? No.

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Hair Down Anachronistic Elizabeth Bennet

Georgian lady goes visiting her “betters” with her hair down and dressed like she just rolled out of bed? NO!!

The Week: 31st July – 6th August

Winter morning…

Wednesday Sunset

Well, another crazy week in this crazy world. I can’t even be bothered getting into it! We’ve all gone insane.

However, everyone should watch Opera Versus Trump.

I am off to Spain in exactly one week, and will be gone a month. Am I packed? No. Have I wrapped everything up? No. I planned to be ready ages ago, and of course that never happened! 🙂 It didn’t help I’ve had a bad cold all week (or maybe that’s just a very convenient excuse!).

Because we’ve had some major terrorism threats in Australia in the past couple of weeks they’ve upped all our airport security to a point it’s going to be a nightmare next weekend. Our trip will involve flying Canberra to Sydney, to Thailand, to Dubai, to Spain. The stop in Thailand is just half an hour or so, but they make you get off the plane and go through two security checks – just to get back on the same plane again!

My brother is in Croatia, heading to Italy soon. He has to fly home through Doha, which has just been made a lot more interesting with the Gulf blockade on Qatar!

As I said: the world has gone insane. 🙂

RITA Winners

My review of Wedded for the Baby (Stand-In Brides #2) by Dorothy Clark

On My Radar

Resistance is Futile

 The Twentieth Anniversary of Stuart Diver’s Rescue

Thredbo Landslide. 2nd August 1997. This photograph was taken moments after Stuart Diver was freed from the rubble after spending 65 hours buried in the rubble. Mr Diver lost his first w