What We Find (Sullivan’s Crossing #1) by Robyn Carr

What We Find (Sullivan's Crossing #1) by Robyn Carr

Firstly: look what the Australian publishers did to this cover:

What We Find (Sullivan's Crossing #1) by Robyn Carr Australian Cover

They turned it into a rural Australian fiction cover! This book is set in Colorado (as in, NOT Australia!), and is about a surgeon, not a cowgirl – this is weird!

Under extreme pressure, neurosurgeon Maggie Sullivan knows she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can do that is Sullivan’s Crossing.

Named for Maggie’s great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide trails now belong to Maggie’s eccentric father, Sully. She relishes the opportunity to indulge in his simple way of life.

But Maggie’s world is rocked and she must take responsibility for the Crossing. When a quiet and serious-looking hiker, Cal Jones, offers to lend a hand, Maggie is suspicious of his motives—until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation.

Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon…if only they can learn to find peace and healing—and perhaps love—with each other.

What We Find (Sullivan’s Crossing #1) by Robyn Carr

Something you should know: I didn’t finish this book. I was really enjoying it, was on the lookout specifically for a *Robyn Carr*-style easy read at a time I was tired of my review books. I bought it because I never got around to downloading the review copy when it was a new release, and because I was planning on reading book two in the series next.

And then I hit a comment – and then another comment – I could not overlook.

I was a little confused by the mixed reviews for this book. It seems that everyone expects Carr to write her crazy-successful Virgin River again and again, and every time she tries something new she’s criticised for it.

Yes, she has a unique writing style that means she can info-dump until the cows come home, and a lot of the action happens off the page, and yet somehow it WORKS. Sometimes I want to read a Robyn Carr book specifically, because it’s so comforting, and she GETS real life so well, from every perspective.

I found this to be the case with What We Find, too. I could read about everyday people and their everyday issues forever and not be bored when it’s written by this author.

I was really enjoying this book.

And then she introduced the dodgy ex-husband. The ex-Ukrainian husband.

Are you allowed to have a bad character of any nationality? Of course you are.

But there’s a BIG problem here.

Think about it: when was the last time you saw a Ukrainian character in a book? Never? That’s right. Even when authors have their characters come from a Ukrainian city like Odesa (Odessa), or give them one Ukrainian surname or another, they STILL call them “Russian” – because readers think it’s sexy.

What We Find is the one and only time we are presented with a character from Ukraine in a book, and the author chose to make him a money-hungry guy looking to marry his way into America, a man who then tries to steal all the heroine’s money out from under her when they divorce.

This is racism. This is appalling stereotyping. And this is coming at a time where Ukraine is being invaded, tens of thousands killed, millions displaced and refugees (including people in my own family).

Imagine if it had been a Syrian or Iraqi character written this way, at this time…

In Robyn Carr’s last series she presented us with charming Russians who got happy-ever-afters. I’m not trying for a conspiracy theory, but the contrast between the author’s perceptions of the two warring nationalities is troubling.

Sometimes there’s One Little Thing in a book that turns me off it completely (e.g. comments about “dumb” blondes); this was one of those things.

It is such a minor piece of the book I’m sure anyone else who has read it would think I’ve lost my mind. However, it upset me. Deeply. Of all the nationalities in the world, why’d the author deliberately choose to kick Ukrainians when they’re down?

It’s a pity, because I’d planned to invest in this series for the long run.

I still might pick this one up again in the future, and keep going. I still might try book two. But my initial reaction was to stop cold and put the book aside, and if I get over it and move on with this otherwise wonderful author, it won’t be this week.

Winter Reads

Yes, it’s the first day of winter here. Below are a few winter reads I’d recommend if you’re in the mood (or too hot in the Northern Hemisphere!). However, so many books with a winter theme are Christmas books; I tried my best to find a mere handful of others!!

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

Never Too Late by Robyn Carr

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Now, this one has “Christmas” in the title, but I still consider it a regular winter book. Also – it’s one of only two or three books out of a few thousand I’ve read that literally moved me to tears:

A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River #4) by Robyn Carr

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

Victoria Langley’s world crumbles when her husband leaves, but she knows exactly where to go to mend her broken heart. The rugged shores of Cornwall will be her perfect sanctuary. 

In the quaint, little village of Tregollan, nestled in the sea cliffs, Victoria is drawn to Seafall Cottage, covered in vines and gracefully falling apart. Inside she finds a diary full of secrets, from 1905.

Victoria is determined to unravel the diary’s mystery, but the residents of Tregollan are tight-lipped about Tilly Asprey, the cottage’s last owner. Just as she reaches a dead end, Victoria meets Adam Waters, the lawyer handling the cottage’s sale. He’s handsome, charming, and has a missing piece of the puzzle.

Tilly’s diary tells a devastating love story that mirrors Victoria’s own. Can Victoria learn from Tilly’s mistakes, and give herself a second chance at love? Or is history doomed to repeat itself?

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

I have a fascination with Cornwall, so I was excited to read this one. It’s a solid, interesting read, even though I seriously question the “romance” labelling. (The UK and US differ pretty heavily on what they define a romance as, with the expectation in America that much more time be spent with the love interest.)

This women’s fiction mystery was a well-written, engaging read. It has a bit of everything in it, with marriage issues, a big move to a new town, a mystery surrounding an old diary, new friends (and, yes, eventually some touches of romance).

It was a surprise to see it written in the first person, which is practically a universally hated style outside teen books, but I think the author had the talent to pull it off. It’s a tough way to write without starting every sentence with ‘I’.

There’s a fine line between making a small town quirky and interesting and making it clichéd. It worked here, and I think the appeal of Cornwall for many is the sense of community the area gives off in the media.

I also liked that the major players seemed to be regular people you might to see in real life. Dialogue and behaviour was natural; this is an author who doesn’t feel the need to make her characters perfect in order for them to have a romance.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for a change from my regular reading. It’s an easy read with solid writing throughout.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Catching Up

I’ve fallen A LONG way behind with my review books, and because of that, haven’t had as many reviews in recent months (those bloody trips to Europe! 🙂 🙂 ). I have around thirty books I didn’t manage to review before their release dates, but sometimes you just want to read something you bought for yourself.

So, here are the books I’m reading at the moment. They’re all out now.

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2) by Robyn Carr

The Girl from the Tyne by Melody Sachs

Wounded at the Lake The Wounded SEAL Trilogy by Mitzi Pool Bridges

Don’t Call Me Honey

Interesting piece over at All About Romance a few days ago, discussing a Suzanne Brockmann book I haven’t read for years:

Don’t Call Me Honey

The piece discusses the offensive ways the hero insists on referring to the heroine, even after she has asked him not to, and even in a work situation. The AAR piece is worth a read.

Naturally, not everyone in the comments agrees, but I do take issue with people jumping straight to “If you want feminism, then I won’t open a door for you!” whenever someone wants to talk about gender equality. It’s the fastest way to dismiss real issues as unimportant.

It is not common in any country I’ve lived for people to use terms like honey and babe when referring to women (or men), and it wasn’t until I began reading the romance genre that I was even exposed to it. So it has always seemed a little odd to me.

However, the article is about much more than basic nicknames.

Suzanne Brockmann is a favourite author of mine, and one who usually works very hard to include diversity and feminism in her books, so don’t take this one example as a reason to not read her stuff!

Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews

pearl-in-the-mist-landry-2-by-v-c-andrews

Fate whisked Ruby from a simple life in the Louisiana Bayou. But her new riches bring more treachery than happiness…

Even after a year as a Dumas, Ruby still wonders at the splendour of the family’s New Orleans mansion, and rejoices in the love of the father she had never known. But true happiness in her new home is as elusive as d swamp mist. Ruby must carefully avoid a venomous enemy: her stepmother, Daphne, who cringes and sneers at her backwater upbringing. And Ruby’s every effort to befriend her twin sister, Gisselle — especially since Gisselle’s crippling accident — is answered with bitterness and vicious backstabbing.

So idyllic Greenwood — the exclusive girls’ boarding school that her father has chosen for his daughters’ senior year — seems to promise some peace from the conniving Daphne, and maybe even a fresh start with Gisselle. But Ruby’s kind isn’t welcome at Greenwood, and the legendarily strict headmistress, Mrs. Ironwood, plots with her stepmother to make her life miserable. Meanwhile, Gisselle is on a mission to break every school rule, leaving Ruby to suffer the humiliating punishments. But Ruby doesn’t lose hope — until a terrible tragedy leaves her alone in a world that never really wanted her. Ruby will have to summon every last ounce of her Cajun strength to reclaim her home, her future, and the happiness she once knew….

Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews

So – my revisiting of melodramatic books from my teen years continues with this second book in the Landry series.

These books are big, Southern US sagas with characters who are more stereotypes than real people, almost like they’re in a pantomime for adults. You know exactly who is good and who is evil, and the characters never deviate from those roles. The books are set many decades ago and totally dated, but that’s part of the charm.

I swear, I remembered the twins in this book as fair-haired, but apparently that was just me projecting my teenaged self onto them.

I was all over these as an adolescent, and remember this series particularly appealed to me because our heroine, Ruby, is an identical twin. Twin drama! Swapped identities! Stolen identities! One is an angel and one is the devil incarnate (and boy does she never stop complaining!).

Then we have the EVIL stepmother character who seems to spend her entire life plotting to ruin Ruby’s – for no particular reason.

Of course, despite her angelic qualities, nobody will ever listen to Ruby, and so she is constantly being blamed for her sister’s behaviour – that is, when people aren’t trying to lock her up in various institutions. She is the ultimate Mary Sue, and exactly the reason teen girls went crazy over these stories.

Honestly, the reason I kept reading was because I want to get to the next book, where the characters are finally out of school and living adult lives. I’d forgotten how bloody young they all were in the early books.

Virginia Andrews and – after her death – her ghost writer V.C. Andrews… Well, I hate people applying the word “trashy” to books, but I cannot think of anything more appropriate in this case.

Romance Passes the Bechdel Test

a-summer-in-sonoma-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

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.

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

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.