Happy St Patrick’s Day!

I have an Irish surname, so…

For St Patrick’s Day, here are some books I can think of with an Irish main character, or are actually set in Ireland:

The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters book 4) by Anne Gracie

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

IGNORE the AWFUL cover and trashy title! It’s a very good book.

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

Secrets in Scarlet (Rookery Rogues Book 2) Erica Monroe

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Finally: If you want a book with a hero who came from Ireland centuries ago, you could always try this very popular vampire read!

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

A Walk Through Chawton, Jane Austen’s Home

Jane Austen's World

Inquiring readers,

In celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, frequent contributor, Tony Grant, visited Chawton House to view a special exhibit. Read his post about the exhibit on Jane Austen in Vermont in this link. Tony reserved a slew of photos for this blog and added his commentary. I inserted some observations by Constance Hill and Jane’s grand niece to round out this post. Enjoy!

Chawton is a Hampshire village and civil parish. It lies within the area of the South Downs National Park. The 2000 census shows that 380 people live in Chawton.

Google map Google map of Chawton, and Chawton Cottage and Chawton House in relation to each other.

Chawton village is first mentioned in 1086 in the Domesday Book which was administered from Winchester, the first capital of England, under William the Conqueror,after 1066. The fact that the village lies on a…

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Follow-up on Mem Fox

Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration

Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration 'In that moment I loathed America'

ABC: Mem Fox says she will never return to US after being interrogated

‘Do you think you will ever return to the US?’ asked host Tom Ballard.

‘I won’t. Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be safe for me to do so. I don’t think I’d be allowed in,’ Fox said.

‘I’d faint in the immigration queue. I couldn’t even stand in the immigration queue. I would just faint with fear.’

The Washington Post’s take: Beloved children’s author speaks out about her detainment at U.S. airport

Because I was travelling when news came out about world-famous Australian author Mem Fox’s horrific experience with US immigration when she was travelling to a book conference last month, it was a little hard to keep up with it all.

However, I’ve belatedly come across an extended, detailed version of what happened not only to her, but to the other people with her who were pulled aside and interrogated at the airport in Los Angeles.

A must-read for Trump supporters who seem to think his policies are making America ‘great’.

Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh


Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…

Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

Since discovering – VERY belatedly! – how talented a writer Mary Balogh is with the first book in this Westcott family series, I have been waiting anxiously for the second instalment.

I was VERY surprised when I discovered the heroine of the next book was Camille, the half-sister of the heroine of book one. In the first book she discovers that she isn’t, in fact, the legitimate daughter of an earl, and when her illegitimacy is discovered she reacts very badly (understandably), loses her fiancé, and refuses to have anything to do with her newly-discovered sister.

She is not a particularly likeable person and the author makes certain we know it.

However, there is much more to her than that, and I was excited to see how Balogh had her grow and change into a worthy heroine over the course of the book. As one of her relatives observes, while also noticing how she is changing:

‘I do not believe anyone really likes Camille.’

Someone to Hold takes place not in London, but entirely in the spa town of Bath. Camille is trying to understand who she is now she is not Lady Camille, and she takes a job at the orphanage where her half-sister grew up. There, she meets her sister’s best friend, Joel, the art teacher, and he takes an instant dislike to her.

This is no ordinary orphanage; it’s the sort of establishment where aristocrats dump their illegitimate kids and then pay for them to stay hidden.

Of course, things change over the course of the book, and I really appreciated the difficulties the two characters went through to reach a point where they fell in love.

This is a very different type of Regency romance to many. Instead of a heroine rising up to get everything she could ever have wanted, she has to learn to be a commoner, and find out who she is when she isn’t titled and extraordinarily rich.

The aristocrats are on the fringes of the story still, as they publicly recognise Camille, her sister, and their mother. So there’s still a touch of the rich and sparkly people. This series is, after all, all about family.

One thing I really loved was the orphanage setting – this came as a surprise.

The children are written realistically, and there is one little girl whose evolution as a character is as complex as Camille’s. She also starts off as an unlikeable character, and I loved seeing how that changed. Some scenes are a little heartbreaking.

Joel, our hero, also grew up in the orphanage (he discovers his origins over the course of the book), and it was great seeing him interact with the children.

Mary Balogh writes books with “more” in them. It is amazing how some authors can fit a complex story into the same word count where others simply give us people romping from ballroom to ballroom.

What fascinates me the most about this series is how imperfect the characters are. The hero of the last book was small, full of affectations, not at all the way romance heroes ever are – and also a very powerful duke. This heroine? Even her family has their doubts about her at the start, but she is memorable and tries very hard to become someone different. I never thought I’d be so engrossed in such unconventional characters.

I am impatiently waiting for the next book.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

All of Eugenia Snowe’s problems start when Edward Reeve, an arrogant bastard son of an earl, bursts into her registry office. He wants a governess and he wants her. She gives him the governess he demands, but she refuses to give herself.

No question that Eugenia enjoys crossing wits with the brilliant inventor, but she will never tarnish her reputation with an affaire, particularly with a man who doesn’t realise she’s a lady!

She holds her ground…until he kidnaps her.

Ward will stop at nothing to convince Eugenia that they’re meant to be together. He promises her heaven.

She gives him seven minutes.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

I don’t understand the “Desperate Duchesses” name for this series. Nobody is desperate, nor is anybody a duchess!

There is no question that Eloisa James can write beautifully, and that her characterisations (particularly for the child characters) are fantastic. This was my first Eloisa James book, and I will seek out more of her work, but Seven Minutes in Heaven didn’t work that well for me for a number of reasons.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book. On one hand, all I could think after reading the blurb was: Will this fad for governess agency stories EVER end?!

On the other hand, Eloisa James is one of the best-known names in the historical romance genre, and I knew that had to be for a reason. I figured that if anyone was going to manage to interest me in yet another governess agency story, it was probably her.

You never know when starting with a new HR author what end of the spectrum they’ll land on. Light and fluffy? Dark and serious? I found James to be towards the lighter end, but what grounded her work were her more complex characterisations. In fact, the characters I liked the best were the hero’s two much younger half-siblings.

Children in books can be disastrous, or sickly sweet. I thought the various quirks and insights from these two kids made them fascinating, rather than annoying (I know I’m not alone in being wary of “romance novel children”).

Unfortunately, though, there are some standards of behaviour that, when broken in historical romance novels, I can’t overlook. Hero and heroine openly – and frequently! – discuss sex while they are in public places and surrounded by members of the aristocracy. It was a little obscene, and people today wouldn’t have such inappropriate public conversations.

And then when the characters blatantly referenced Fifty Shades of freaking Grey, the magic was broken for me. I don’t want that sort of thing in my books ever, but especially not in historical fiction.

To be honest, by the 30% mark I was a bit bored.

What surprised me a lot was the fact there were so many obvious Americanisms. This is, after all, a prolific author of fiction set in England. For example, it was incredible that neither author nor editor is aware the season after summer is AUTUMN, not “the fall”.

I don’t think this was the best introduction to Eloisa James’ work, and I will try another book. She is clearly a brilliant writer, but this was not the book for me.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 6th – 12th March

Bright Blue Sky Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Autumn 6th March 2017

First day back home. Blue sky, sunshine, summer temperatures – and half a new deck!

We went to Canberra’s Enlighten festival last night. The national buildings (National Library – above, National Science and Technology Centre, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Old Parliament House etc.) are lit up. There are also bars and food stalls and opera performances and a whole lot of things.

I will find some better pictures tomorrow.

This possum has moved in (not our first one, but the smallest so far), right outside my bedroom window. The night-time fights with other animals kept me awake all night a few nights ago!

It has been absolutely gorgeous in Canberra this week. Temperatures up around thirty degrees, bright blue skies, sunshine. It feels more like summer than autumn most of the time.

Chris Miller 11th March 2017 Russia invaded Ukraine

A timely reminder from a very respected journalist in Europe.

A Ukrainian woman is behind bars in the United Arab Emirates at the moment because doctors found out she is pregnant to her fiancé. They are “testing” her to find out how long she has been sexually active, which sounds like an appalling abuse of a woman’s basic rights.

You’re not allowed to have premarital sex in the UAE, and women are imprisoned for reporting rapes. Please be aware that just because Dubai and Abu Dhabi look shiny and tourists love them doesn’t mean it isn’t an Islamic country with some terribly restrictive laws – especially for women.

I have to travel through there are few more times this year, and I really wish I wasn’t. Qantas sends their flights through there a lot now, and codeshares with Emirates, which is one of the worst airlines I have ever experienced.

Also on my list of “things that annoyed me this week”, this article:

Pope may allow married Catholic men as priests

The reason it annoys me? Ukrainian Catholic men – married, soon to be married, planning to be married – have ALWAYS been able to become priests. For centuries. Most of the priests I’ve ever known have been married – with children.

This is allegedly such a groundbreaking idea, but once again people totally ignore the fact this is already, and always has been, a thing.

Nobody knows anything about Ukraine, but you’d think a journalist or two might mention this extremely relevant fact!

And then there’s:

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at US airport for second time

He’s a flipping US citizen! What is wrong with Trump’s version of America??!

My review of Outback Cowboy (Hot Aussie Heroes Book 1) by Margareta Osborn

My review of Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas

My review of A Temporary Family by Sherri Shackelford

Patricia Briggs’ New Book

Excuse me, cover designers…