The Duke’s Secret Heir by Sarah Mallory

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‘This, madam, changes everything.’

Years ago, in the Egyptian desert, Ellen Tatham fell wildly in love and exchanged vows with Max Colnebrooke. But, when made to believe Max could not be trusted, she fled…

Now, Max is back in England to take up the reins as Duke of Rossenhall. And when he spies Ellen at a ball, the sparks are hard to contain! Little does Max know, though, that Ellen has a secret… And soon, he must learn to embrace an unexpected heir, and an unexpected–and disconcertingly defiant–duchess!

The Duke’s Secret Heir by Sarah Mallory

I picked this one up after I read the review at All About Romance. I’d probably not have otherwise, because I’m becoming exhausted with all the Harlequin/Mills and Boon titles with children on the covers.

The review suggested that this is a good book (it is), but with a hero who is very hard to like (he is).

I love reunion stories, and this is one. Hero and heroine met and married in a hurry when they were both in Egypt. However, world affairs got in their way, and they were separated, each thinking they were betrayed by the other.

When they run into each other again in England four years later, there is a son to consider.

This is all the sort of drama I love to read, and why this is my favourite trope.

The problem here is that the book is all about the hero’s sense of betrayal, and he demonises the heroine, gives her no chance for her own pain, and treats her terribly for most of the book.

He seems incapable of seeing that both of them were wronged in this situation, and he takes no responsibility for the secrets and lies on his part. It is such a contradiction to the man he was in the flashback scenes it made me a bit angry. He waits for her to prove herself – over and over – before he “forgives” her; he does nothing of the sort in return.

Only a few pages before the end of the book he is still blaming HER for the fact HE took off on dangerous missions and got people killed.

Max blaming Ellen for HIS recklessness is distasteful; his resentment has little foundation. X

I can’t help imagining what would happen the next time there was a misunderstanding. Would he be such a bastard again?

(However – yay for a fair-haired, green-eyed hero!)

On the other hand, this is beautifully written, and the English author brings more authenticity to the dialogue than you will find in most Regency romances.

There are also some excellent side characters (including one sad storyline), though the sister-in-law character is just a tad too mean for me! The little boy isn’t annoying, as romance novel children so often are.

I think that your enjoyment of this book will be dependent on your tolerance for heroes acting like jerks.

For me? I thought it was worth a read, even if I’d have been looking for ANY way to divorce, not reunite with, the man!

Coming Up for Louise Allen

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Honestly, the moment I saw this in the review book options I had it downloaded and on my Kindle. I have that much faith in Louise Allen’s writing that I didn’t even read the blurb.

Plus, isn’t the cover great?!

Surrender to the Marquess (Herriard #3) is out in a few days.

UK Cover:

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A battle of wills!

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!

Romance Passes the Bechdel Test

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Good read on Heroes and Heartbreakers the other day: Romance Passes the Bechdel Test.

For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test was basically created to determine whether a form of entertainment respects women. it judges films, television shows, books etc. on whether female characters are more than their relationships with men:

The rules now known as the Bechdel test first appeared in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For

…two women discuss seeing a film and one woman explains that she only goes to a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,

2. who talk to each other,

3. about something besides a man.

Romance – sometimes justifiably (*especially* books in the Young Adult and New Adult genres) – cops some criticism for not passing this simple test, meaning the female characters only exist to fight over guys.

However, this article argues something slightly different.

If I think of my favourite romances? Yes, the fact they are called ROMANCE means men play a big part in them, but plenty of authors also make the female friendships and relationships very important.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Think, for example, Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series (or any of her books, actually – historical or contemporary). The female connections come long before the romantic relationships with men do.

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

Toni Blake’s books are first and foremost about female friendships.

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Think of Robyn Carr’s small town stories. She actually calls come of her books “girlfriend books” because the women’s connections come first.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

How about Anne Gracie’s wonderful stories with sisters and friends? The Autumn Bride doesn’t even introduce the hero until 1/4 of the book is over, but we have plenty of time to meet the series’ four heroines and watch them go to hell and back together.

Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter works very hard on female AND male friendships. It is one of the reasons she is one of my absolute favourites.

I recently unfollowed some men online because they were sharing “jokes” about women. Memes about how there’s no point trying to understand women – because women do, and ‘that’s why they hate each other’.

Ha, ha, ha, ha…. or not.

I see (and hear from some people, too often of “a certain generation”) about how women are all bitches, and women hate each other, and women this, and women that. As though men are better specimens because they were born with different equipment dangling between their legs.

It’s not true. Just because women might sometimes be more emotional about some situations – well, that’s because so often women care more, and look after their families better. Every family emergency and death I’ve been part of recently? It was the women diving in and doing the hard work, caring for sick family members, supporting each other, organising funerals, making the phone calls and writing the cards.

I like any article that celebrates that instead of scorning it, and hope to see more of this on romance and women’s fiction sites.

New Release for Mary Balogh

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Tomorrow is release day for Mary Balogh’s latest book. This is one I am really excited to read. Firstly: the heroine lives in Bath, and the cover is actually accurate!

But more importantly, the heroine appeared in a few scenes of book one in the Westcott series, and she was a little bit of a monster.

Born the daughter of an earl, she was raised to be a snob. However, it turned out that she was illegitimate, and so in the space of a few hours, she lost her title, her lifestyle – and her fiancé.

She was bitter and struggling in the first book, and I cannot wait to see how she is redeemed here. I was actually shocked to discover she was the next heroine in the series.

I become really annoyed with the historical romance crowd when they think a heroine is original and “feminist” when she’s anachronistic and stupid. I want my historical romance to be *historical*! Mary Balogh has come up with a scenario where her heroine is unusual but historically appropriate, and I am much more interested in reading about a snob struggling with her new identity than I am about most Regency books coming out at the moment.

The Week: 30th January – 5th February

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Tuesday sunset in Canberra

I am heading to Venice on Friday, and I have NOT packed! I am off to Spain again a few months later, and have just been in Europe for two months, and I’m becoming a bit blasé about it.

We are ALMOST at the end of our nonstop run of present-giving events for another year. We have two Christmases (old and new calendars), and then almost every family birthday – all in the space of a month and a half. By the end it is nearly impossible to think of anything to give.

We finish with my birthday on Tuesday, but when we get back from Europe in March we start up with Easter (again – we have two)!

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The war in Ukraine FINALLY made it back into the news this week, because Russia picked the Donald Trump distraction as an excellent time to step up their invasion of Ukraine. Now the media is calling it “Europe’s forgotten war” – and here I am thinking: no European should ever have “forgotten” that thousands of people are dying on their own continent while they pay attention to others!

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Donald Trump is on a roll. He is making enemies of pretty much everyone on the planet, and again took a swipe at Australia this week. Not that he needs to work hard: we already hate the man!

My review of Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe

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My review of Wed by Necessity (Smoky Mountain Matches #10) by Karen Kirst

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Coming up for Lisa Kleypas

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New Cover for Madeline Hunter

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Book to watch out for?

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Cover Love

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Wed by Necessity (Smoky Mountain Matches #10) by Karen Kirst

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Her Inconvenient Husband 

When a riding accident strands socialite Caroline Turner overnight with the new stable manager, she gets the one thing she never wanted—a husband! Marrying the infuriatingly stubborn Duncan McKenna wouldn’t have been her first choice, but with her reputation damaged, it’s her only option. Still, there’s something about the brash, rugged Scotsman that fascinates Caroline. 

If Duncan wanted to wed a society girl, he would have stayed in Boston with his family and his fortune. He expects Caroline to balk at her new modest lifestyle, but instead the strong-willed beauty seems determined to prove him wrong, making her all the more irksome…and irresistible. The marriage of convenience isn’t what Caroline and Duncan planned, but could they be a perfect match?

Wed by Necessity (Smoky Mountain Matches #10) by Karen Kirst

I honestly don’t know what to make of this book. It’s beautifully-written, apparently well-researched… However, while at first I struggled with the heroine, by the halfway point I was seeing red with the emotionally abusive, martyr “hero”.

No, that’s being too nice. I’m sorry, but this book actually upset me, beyond the historically inaccurate Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman hair on the cover (usually this Harlequin line has brilliant, gorgeous, historically accurate covers – this one is terrible! No female past girlhood would have been seen dead with her hair down in public.).

I was so upset by the “hero” of this book, I actually could not finish it.

I usually really enjoy Harlequin’s Christian historical line. I don’t believe in the religion the characters practice, but I often find these books to be better than the average wallpaper Regency romance. They deal with real people, and – even though there are more marriages of convenience than nuns at the Vatican – the social rules of the day are more historically accurate than most in this genre.

But then…

“Hero” and heroine are caught together in a compromising situation, and forced to marry. Until this point the heroine has been aloof and even rude, because she has two emotionally abusive and RICH parents who force her to be perfect, and not associate with people “beneath” her.

So the heroine does not become likeable until after her marriage.

However, what she doesn’t know is that the “hero” is a rich Scottish immigrant who “found Jesus”, and now wants to live in poverty for no reason whatsoever. And now he’s married to her, he expects her to live that life, too.

(We’ll just ignore the fact this guy is from Scotland, not Alabama!

He might be spouting ‘Didnae’ like the best of the Highland romance heroes, but at the same time he is talking like one of those evangelical preachers we get on TV here at 5am. It’s inaccurate, to say the least.)

In the past, a man who married into a big, established, RICH Southern US family would join their ranks. He’d be accepted into the family, be part of the family business, and fall into a world of more money than he could have dreamed of.

However, in this story – and apparently because of the hermit-like version of Christianity this “hero” practices – instead, the moment he marries the heroine, he forces her into poverty.

A few hours after their wedding, he orders her to pack up all of her things, her entire life, so he can donate it all to charity. She is only allowed to keep chambermaid-style clothes, and two decent dresses for church.

Also on day one, despite the fact she grew up rich, with servants, and still lives on her parents’ huge property, he expects her to suddenly know how to cook and clean, and then becomes furious with her when she’s off working on something else (like keeping her family’s business alive!) instead of waiting in the kitchen for him when he comes home for lunch.

He then forces her to become a low-class, working class farmer’s housewife, even though she is rich and can afford servants. He has a very public temper tantrum when she hires a part-time helper, even though she has other things to do, and no time to be a farmer as well as a housewife, as well as running her own little business.

He refuses to allow her to continue her charity work – what a Christian hero!

Why? Because he goes on about how he comes from money, but once he discovered Jesus he decided to live like Saint Francis of Assisi or something.

The hypocrisy is strong here.

Someone needs to remind this awful, awful man that HE rode off after HER, and HE was the reason they were caught together and forced to marry (though the author tries to blame that on the heroine, too).

I didn’t finish the book. It upset me. What this “hero” did to his new wife was nothing short of abuse. There was NO reason to force her into a life of poverty, and even if her parents were indifferent to their daughter, there is no way in ever-loving hell they’d want their child to fall so far in social standing and allow this. They would have lost face in the community. They would have been humiliated.

This is not a scenario that would EVER have happened in small-town Southern USA in the 1800s.

This man was ridiculous. He was abusive. And there is a difference between taking pride in doing things for yourself, and living in abject poverty for NO reason other than evangelical Christianity.

If you cannot already tell: by the time I decided to give up on this one I was absolutely furious. I was upset. I was incredulous we were supposed to think the HEROINE was the baddie in this situation.

I’ve read some BRILLIANT Love Inspired Historical books. I’ve read some good ones. I’ve read some disasters.

However, I’m sure I’ve never before read one that glorified spousal abuse in the name of Jesus.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.