The Week: 11th – 17th December

Canberra Australia Summer Sunset Sonya Heaney 10th December 2017 Sun Garden Nature

Summer sunset in Canberra

Saturday Summer Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 16th December 2017 Sky Tuggeranong Nature

Saturday Sunset

Canberra Australia Summer Flowers Pink Flowers Sonya Heaney 12th December 2017 Summer Garden Nature

Summer Flowers

Hot week here in Canberra. Summer is late this year, but had finally arrived! I know people say it every year, but I have never been less ready for Christmas than I am this year.

I have a bunch of Christmas review books I’m just not going to get to in time.

Happy 242nd Birthday, Jane Austen!

Portrait of Jane Austen in watercolour and pencil. By Cassandra Austen.

My review of Dashing All the Way: A Christmas Anthology by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex, Heather Snow.

Dashing All the Way A Christmas Anthology by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth, Heather Snow.

A Great Tweet

Defending Romance Books

Andersen Book Art

Paper Sculpture Fineart Postcard The little match girl n-4 - Hans Christian Andersen's tales

Jane Austen Calendar

Classic Coloring Jane Austen 2018 Calendar Colouring Books

100 Years Ago


Dashing All the Way: A Christmas Anthology by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex, Heather Snow.

Dashing All the Way A Christmas Anthology by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth, Heather Snow.

Best-selling and critically acclaimed historical romance authors Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex and Heather Snow heat up this Christmas with four never-before-released novellas guaranteed to make your holiday season merry and bright.

Dashing All the Way: A Christmas Anthology by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth, Heather Snow.

A Rake for Christmas by Eva Devon
Lady Evangeline Pennyworth is done with being a wallflower and turns to London’s most notorious rake, demanding he teach her how to be desirable. After witnessing the love of his parents devolve into pain and anger, Anthony Basingstoke has vowed never to be swept away by passion, even if he finds himself taken by this wallflower in a way he’s never been before. Only a Christmas miracle will make true love a gift that will last forever.

The “heroine asks for help to become attractive to men” trope is not something I can usually get on board with, but in the case of A Rake for Christmas, it was just a means to get to the real story, and so I survived it!

The heroine of this one is plain and severely overlooked by everyone – including her parents. Getting an invitation to a Christmas house party helps her come out of her shell.

There are a few bumps along the way, but of course she is going to end up with the very likeable hero. (I don’t enjoy love triangles – there’s one here – but I survived.)

A solid little novella for Christmas.

Up on the Rooftops by Elizabeth Essex
Mischievous widow Caledonia Bowmont longs for London’s Christmas cheer, but a string of jewel thefts has brought the festive season to a standstill—and Society accuses the Scottish Wraith, Tobias McTavish. Toby is determined to clear his name and reclaim the life he’s built, so with Cally’s help, he heads up on the rooftops to trap the thief. Will they stop the high-carat crime, or find the hidden gem of lasting love instead?

Elizabeth Essex packs quite a lot of plot into a novella. It was impressive.

The author also takes a risk by (for a novella) keeping her hero and heroine separate for more time than I’d expect.

However, Essex is generally a good bet for a solid historical romance, and it’s no different here. What I especially enjoy about her writing is that she puts a huge effort into using archaic words and picking real locations for plot points to happen. It adds a sense of reality to the story – even while it is outlandish.

Another solid read.

The Very Debonair Lady Claire by Heather Snow
When Claire Barton’s twin is murdered, she takes his place in the War Department to flush out his killer. Her ruse works perfectly—until the man who once broke her heart becomes her new spymaster. The worst mistake of Andrew Sedgewick’s life was walking away from Claire that Christmas six years ago. Now that he’s found her again, he doesn’t intend to let her go—if they both survive this holiday season.

This is a well-written novella with a complex story in a shorter word count.

The “heroine disguised as a man” and the “Regency spies” themes aren’t my favourites, but I enjoyed the good writing and interesting characterisation. The mystery aspects were interesting. I just wish it didn’t have to involve a woman pretending to be her brother!

Most importantly, the characters were interesting, likeable, and more original than most.

A Liar Under the Mistletoe by Celeste Bradley
Fearless Amie Jackham doesn’t attend balls to dance, she’s there for the thrill of robbing the lockboxes of the unscrupulous. With the notorious Vixen still at large, Liar’s Club spy Lord Elliot Hughes is taking the opportunity to clean out a few lockboxes for the good of Crown and Country—and leaving the Vixen’s trademark lacy handkerchief behind. Thief and spy can’t resist each other in this sexy, catch-me-if-you-can Liar’s Club holiday novella.

This little adventure story moves at a fast pace, which works well for the plot. It’s a little outlandish (down to some character name choices), but an entertaining read. It completes a collection of stories involving Regency-era spies, which seem to be everywhere at the moment, but not always at Christmastime!

One thing: the hero’s name is Elliot, and it’s mentioned a few too many times!


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 10th – 16th April

Happy Easter! We are being very Ukrainian. That bowl of pysanky (Ukrainian hand-painted Easter eggs)? All of them were all made by us in the 1980s – I was VERY young then! They take forever to make, but they are so badly faded now. We need to make some more, but these days it’s illegal to import a lot of the important stuff needed to make them to Australia (customs regulations are very strict here). Also, these days all eggs in the shops are murky brown and stamped with ink numbers. You need white eggs to paint.

The blue embroidery is from the Lviv region of Ukraine, where my grandmother and her family comes from. The black embroidery is from central Ukraine.

The candle holders are also from there; my aunt just bought them for us as a present – the floral design is so typical of Ukraine.

Autumn in Canberra is generally gorgeous! This was Good Friday at the Kingston Foreshore.

Autumn sunshine:

King Parrots everywhere around here in autumn.

The world has been so crazy this week, I can’t even be bothered discussing it!

 Rules of the Road for the Regency Language

Behind the Scenes at Harlequin

My review of A Sense of Sin (Dartmouth Brides #2) by Elizabeth Essex

My review of Distracting the Duke (Wayward in Wessex #1) by Elizabeth Keysian

Surely I’m not the only one…

A Sense of Sin (Dartmouth Brides #2) by Elizabeth Essex

A Sense of Sin (Dartmouth Brides #2) by Elizabeth Essex

The Ravishing Miss Burke has everything a young lady could want–beauty, status and suitors lined up just to beg for her hand. Until a blackmailer from her past holds her future for ransom.

Colonel Rupert Delacorte, Viscount Darling will go to any length to ruin the woman responsible for his beloved sister’s death. But the Ravishing Miss Burke is nothing like the icy murderer of his waking dreams–she’s nothing but a bluestocking with a shocking secret she’ll go to almost any length to keep. Even succumbing to his sinful seduction.

A Sense of Sin (Dartmouth Brides #2) by Elizabeth Essex

This is a revamped version of Elizabeth Essex’s second ever book; I have not read the original version, nor any others in the series. A Sense of Sin definitely, absolutely, 100% works as a standalone read; I loved that we weren’t dragged to random meet-ups with past characters to coo over babies!

What appealed to me about the blurb were the themes of deception and revenge. I like a bit of angst, and the hero tricking the heroine and then needing to ask forgiveness when he learnt the truth seemed like my sort of thing.

Also: this book is set in the Georgian era, before the oh-so popular Regency, so that was a nice chance of pace.

I was a bit surprised when the revenge/deception plot wrapped up before the halfway mark. This book definitely did not go in the direction I was expecting, which turned out to make it interesting. There was more going on in the plot than it originally seemed. I like it when books in this genre are a little more complex and a little less heavy on the clichéd scenes and settings.

I was a little concerned about the heroine being interested in botany. Not that I don’t like heroines with hobbies or even careers, but too many authors are using them as shortcuts for characterisation, as a way to mock and ridicule women who were more “standard” for their era. The “I’m not like other women” trope I hate so much.

This was not how it worked in this book. I think it was handled really well, and the heroine managed to be historical and multi-layered. She had genuine depth and background in her interests, and she also managed to behave like a decent person in society.

I am not a fan of woman-versus-woman plotlines – meaning that I have no problem with a villainess in a story, but when it’s one woman being spiteful and nasty to another for no good reason, I have issues. I dislike it especially when the villainess is a young, attractive blonde (romance writers need to stop with this sort of stereotyping!), as is the case here.

We have enough people demonising women and mocking women’s friendships and relationships; we don’t need it in books.

Essex writes beautifully, with a definite historical tone to her work – most of the time. There were quite a few blatant Americanisms, and “suss out” is an expression from around 1970, not the 1790s!

The version I read had a number of typos; I’m not sure if this is fixed in the version for sale.

Overall this was an enjoyable read. I wonder how much has been changed since the publication of the original version.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 11th – 17th April

Tuesday Autumn Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 12th April 2016 Sun Sky Trees Nature DSC09517DSC09515

Unedited shot of Tuesday’s sunset in Canberra.

I have NO idea what happened, but half a version of this post came up on my blog a few days ago, and I only just noticed! Whoops.

Only a few days left before we head overseas for two months. It seems like such a big effort – maybe I’ll stay at home! I am absolutely not organised, and while we’re still having near-summer temperatures here, over there it’s still almost as cold as winter. I don’t have room in my suitcase for winter stuff!

Maybe someone will sneak in the house and get all my things organised for me…

I’m also going to really miss the cat (Rex) the neighbours are looking after, who thinks he lives here and comes visiting for hours every morning, lunchtime, afternoon, night…

Rex Burmese Cat Cute


Seriously, I’m not that depressed about going! We will be back in the Ukraine for the first time since the revolution (which happened straight after we flew out the last time) and the Russian invasion immediately afterwards, so there’ll be some big changes. And then I’m hoping the sun will be out by the time we get to Italy!

Speaking of Russian invasions…

This is what Russian aggression in the Baltic Sea looks like

It’s always such an ordeal just getting to Europe from Australia. Flying to Sydney, then a ten hour flight to Asia, then hours in the airport, then a twelve hour flight to Europe, then hours in the airport, and then a few more hours on another flight to reach our destination. *SO* much fun!

I have been trying to get as much reading done as I can before I go, because I have a mountain of review books, but I’m not going to have them anywhere near finished. Hopefully I’ll get some reading done while I’m away, but you never have as much time as you think when you’re constantly on the go with other people in multiple countries.

On This Week


What goes into creating a cover for historical romance?


My review of Mad For Love by Elizabeth Essex

Mad For Love by Elizabeth Essex

My review of One with You (Crossfire #5) by Sylvia Day

One With You by Sylvia Day

My review of You Can’t Always Get the Marquess You Want (Masters of Seduction #2) by Alexandra Hawkins

You Can't Always Get the Marquess You Want (Masters of Seduction #2) by Alexandra Hawkins

My review of Heir to the Duke (The Duke’s Sons #1) by Jane Ashford

Heir to the Duke (The Duke's Sons #1) by Jane Ashford

Mad For Love by Elizabeth Essex

Mad For Love by Elizabeth Essex

Set a thief…Rory Cathcart’s appreciation of the exquisite makes him the perfect man to expose forgeries and root out fraud in London’s tempestuous art world. But when his latest investigation into forged paintings puts him squarely in Mignon du Blois’ shaky sights, he finds himself deep in trouble, and captured by something more powerful than mere beauty.

To catch a thief…The moment Mignon stops a rakish thief from making off with one of her father’s brilliant forgeries, she knows she’s found the perfect man to help her steal back a priceless statue, and save her family from unspeakable scandal. She has no intention of falling for Rory’s Caledonian charms, nor his seductive Scottish persuasions. From the drawing rooms of the ton to the auction rooms of the art world, the pair embark on a madcap adventure to save them both from ruin. But will the love they uncover be most priceless treasure of all?

Mad For Love by Elizabeth Essex

This, an introductory novella to a new series, is my favourite thing I’ve read by this author so far. I liked the original plot, I liked the slightly earlier (1790s) setting, and I liked that the characters were a teeny bit below the usual social standing of historical romance characters. I also liked that sex scenes weren’t stuffed in where they didn’t fit!

The last time I read a book by Elizabeth Essex I was a bit angered by a weird political message threaded through the plot; I found it totally inappropriate for Regency England and I think I may have been unfairly harsh in my review. That in mind, when this novella came up for review I decided the author deserved another chance.

Art forgery is a fad in the historical romance genre at the moment (not a complaint; one of my favourite authors is tackling it), but apparently this book was written years ago, so this is before its time.

I must say, I do like Essex’s writing style. It flows really well, and keeps you turning the pages.

There was a great amount of research that went into this one, but it never felt like the author was showing off her knowledge at the expense of the story. The art facts didn’t overpower the book.

I definitely think this is a series that will be worth looking out for.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Christmas Reads: The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex

The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex

Reviewed HERE

The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex

Lieutenant Ian Worth needs a wife by Christmas, and he can’t afford to be choosy. He has to find her, woo her, and wed her before he goes back to sea—all within a matter of days.

Anne Lesley is a shy spinster with no prospects, and nothing and no one to recommend her but her own self. She accepts the lieutenant’s hasty offer only for the comfort and security it will bring. But when a midwinter storm snows her and Ian in, they both find they got much more than they bargained for—laughter, light, and a Christmas filled with honest to goodness true love…

The Week: 17th – 23rd March

Putin = Stalin

Well, Vladimir Putin just gets crazier and crazier. Poor Ukraine. It makes me so mad we (Ukrainians in and out of the country) were warning about him for so long, but the West was shocked when he invaded Ukraine – and that’s only the start. We all knew it would happen. Stupid world leaders with their stupid innocent ideas.

I’ve been reading Regency books this week – heaps of them. Some were novellas, but I think I read six this week!

Check out the second trailer for Outlander


My review of Unlacing Lady Thea by Louise Allen

Unlacing Lady Thea by Louise Allen

My review of The Bridge by Carol Ericson

The Bridge by Carol Ericson

My review of Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

My review of After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

In English society, the rules of engagement have stood the test of time. Until a Reckless Bride falls in deeply, scandalously in love…


When Lady Claire Jellicoe agreed to a walk in the moonlight, she never imagined her titled companion might have brutal motives. Nor could she have dreamed up such a brave rescue by the most unexpected saviour of all: an inscrutable nobleman with a daring plan of escape—and a deliciously tempting embrace…


Timothy Evans, the Duke of Fenmore, has palmed more treasures than he can count. Even for a man who grew up thieving in London’s stews, a stolen bride should be beyond the pale. But Fenmore won’t let scandal ruin the spirited beauty’s reputation. And now that she’s stolen his heart, how can he ever let her go…?

After the Scandal is a Reckless Brides novel from Elizabeth Essex

After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

I picked this one up because the last thing I read by Elizabeth Essex was… well, it wasn’t perfect, but it was very emotional and I thought this was an author with the potential to become a new favourite for me.

This one turned into something bizarre, fast.

Firstly, at the 1% mark, we were introduced to the clichéd attractive blond male villain. This ridiculous, insulting, tired stereotype is such a staple of the romance genre, and the historical romance genre in particular. I really can’t stand it.

However, soon after that came the real problems. I thought to myself, “I bet I can pick exactly where in the US this author is from.” There were some strong and inappropriate political messages bleeding through the characters. It was as though the author had forgotten she was writing a book set in a different country rather than rural southern USA.

I put the book aside for the night and then in the morning looked up her biography. I was correct. I picked it and I’m not even American!

The heroine is almost raped. The hero goes on long mental ramblings about how rapes wouldn’t happen if everyone had guns. And then he proceeds to teach her to shoot (literally!) five minutes after he meets her.

“You’ve already done the first thing to make yourself safer, taking hold of the gun.”

In relation to her not knowing how to shoot his pistol:

It was both remarkable and, from his point of view, rather criminal that her father, or one of her surplus brothers had never taught her even the rudiments of shooting. If he did nothing else he would remedy that.

In relation to her not having a concealed weapon at the ball:

Being a lady had only served Lady Claire Jellicoe ill this night.

This is supposed to be ENGLAND. Where people don’t wave guns around and extoll the virtues of concealed carry permits. Where no gently-bred lady of the ton would attend a bloody ball with a pistol to shoot potential rapists!

Too much NRA propaganda. Too much victim-blaming. Too many people saying gotten.

I couldn’t finish.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 9th – 15th December

Queanbeyan Canberra Australia Border 13th December 2012 Sonya Heaney

Summer skies around Canberra

Strange week. Very summery! Temperatures are going to be around 36°C (96.8ºF) in the coming week.

I read books by two of my very top beloved authors this week: Lisa Kleypas and Cindy Gerard. I’ll try and fit the reviews in before Christmas.

My Ukrainian grandmother turned ninety-one on Friday, an event celebrated at the pub with champagne! We’re also having dinner tonight.

I’ve started a history blog, with a focus on Europe in the 19th century (but there will be lots of other stuff!). It’s new and doesn’t have much there yet, but I’d love it of you checked it out!


My post on my Canberra and travel blog about the situation in Ukraine


My review of A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise by RaeAnne Thayne

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise by RaeAnne Thayne

My review of Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

My review of The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex

The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex