Historical Romance Fans!

When we arrived in England two days ago we were too early to get into our accommodation in York, so – naturally! – time had to be spent visiting the nearest stately home to Leeds airport: Harewood House.

This is not the first stately home I have visited, and not the first I have visited on this trip.

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However, personally, when I read historical fiction I tend to forget just HOW grand the lives of these characters were. Harewood is not the biggest, but it’s the one with royal connections, and the Georgian influences are gorgeous.

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Jane Austen (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Jane Austen (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the remarkable life of Jane Austen, the British novelist, in this true story of her life. Little Jane grew up in a big family that loved learning and she often read from her father’s library. In her teenage years she began to write in bound notebooks and craft her own novels. As an adult, Jane secretly created stories that shone a light on the British upper classes and provided a witty social commentary of the time, creating a new dialogue for female characters in books. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

Jane Austen (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Jane Austen is part of a series aimed at very young readers, introducing children to famous women in history.

The illustrations are simple, and a little childlike, as though young Jane herself might be telling the story.

Austen’s works are far too advanced for readers in the target age group of this book, but it’s an interesting way to introduce girls and boys alike to the fact there were PLENTY of women in history who achievement many different things.

 

Review copy from NetGalley.

New (Old!) Books

Mogo Village New South Wales Australia South Coast

I picked up a few books at the secondhand bookshop in Mogo over the Easter long weekend. Mogo is a Victorian era gold mining town on the New South Wales South Coast, and very popular with day-trippers from the beach.

The bookshop is in an old building, and has a huge range. Here are two purchases I plan to review in the near future:

London as it Might have Been by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde

London as it might have been by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde

My brother actually found this one, but I bought it because he wasn’t sure if he was going to buy it. Now he can borrow it if he wants!

It’s an amazing book, first published in the 1970s. Some of the plans from the nineteenth century look like they’re out of a steampunk movie.

Happily Ever After Celebrating Jane Austen_s Pride and Prejudice by Susannah Fullerton

Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Susannah Fullerton

This one is a lighter read, and has some features about screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s such a pretty book.

 

 

Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style

Fashion Plates 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword).

Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword).

I saw this book in Barcelona just over a month ago, and decided there was no way I was lugging something this big and heavy all the way home! I was glad to find it on The Book Depository, both in paperback and hardcover. Of course, if you buy from there you get the book with free shipping (I shudder to think how much it would be to Australia otherwise!).

Fashion Plates 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword)..

This is one of those books that will appeal to history nerds, historical fiction and romance readers, etc.

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 visit to Dr Johnson’s House

Samuel_Johnson_by_Joshua_ReynoldsPortrait of Samuel Johnson commissioned for Henry Thrale's Streatham Park gallery. BY Joshua Reynolds 1772.

My first full day in London in a while was a big one: a visit to Charles Dickens’ house, visits to two of the places I used to live, a night at the Royal Ballet… But before I got to the theatre I also visited the building I lived in the very first few weeks I was in England all those years ago: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017

Before that, I finally paid a visit to the house of Dr Samuel Johnson, the man credited with creating the first modern dictionary, amongst other things.

Stealing the Wikipedia introduction:

‘Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. He is also the subject of perhaps the most famous biography in English literature, namely The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell.’

It was another famous landmark I’d lived practically next door to, but never visited. Built in about 1700, the house is VERY different to the Victorian-era Dickens house I’d been to earlier on.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017 Cat

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 Sittiing Rooms.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 View

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 Stairs to Basement

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017

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

The Week: 29th August – 4th September

Flowers late winter Canberra Australia Garden Sonya Oksana Heaney 23rd August 2016

Spring in Canberra!

Happy Father’s (I always want to say Fathers’ – apostrophe at the end) Day to whoever has it today. We will be going to a restaurant for lunch with… whoever can make it!

The anniversary or both the beginning and end of World War Two was this week, but all I saw on the internet was people marking the anniversary of Harry Potter going to Hogwarts. I thought that was very, very sad. Do they even teach history in school these days?!

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This week also marked the third anniversary of my father’s mother’s death. Everyone is saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s already three years!’ whereas I’m thinking that since then so much has happened, and I’ve been through the illness and death of my other grandmother (who has been gone a year and a half)… Time goes fast.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

That’s not Verona; it’s earthquake-damaged Norcia, from when we were staying there in June.

We booked some accommodation in Verona this week, for early next year. I’ve never been to Verona before, even though most people seem to go on their first trip to Italy.

There were fights, multiple stabbings, and hundreds of arrests at the Notting Hill Carnival in London over the past weekend, which is shocking. I used to live in Notting Hill, and our street was blocked off by police during the festival time, but this year cars have been trashed etc.

My review of Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

My review of When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

Trigger Warnings in Books

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Coming Up: Mogul by Joanna Shupe

Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe

Poldark Season Two

Poldark Season Two