How did 2015 go? Historical Romance.

Christmas Historical Romance Cover Art by Jon Paul Studios - Copy

I began the year hoping for a few things in the historical romance genre.

H.R.H. Duke Carl Theodor in Bavaria (1808-1888)

I wanted fewer dukes.

Yeah, that’s not happening, is it. Dukes are not just everywhere you look and in almost every book, but now they’re also super spies!

Unfortunately, until someone makes princes the new thing, I think dukes are here to stay.

I was happy to see that Lisa Kleypas’ new series – so far – does not include a single duke!

Historical Romance Fashions and Hairstyles Versus the Reality Victorian Era Portrait Book Cover

I wanted more historical accuracy and less anachronistic behaviour on display for the female characters.

The past is the past, and it’s more than a little insulting to imply your heroine is not worthwhile unless she acts like she’s from 2015.

Did I get my wish? Uh… I guess it depends entirely on which author you choose. Some authors do a great job, and some do not.

Second Chance Hero by Winnie Griggs

I thought some more variety with time periods and settings might be nice.

I have been reading quite a lot of Western historical romance this year, and enjoying the change. However, it’s not exactly a new and untapped setting!

I actually don’t mind so much with this point. Some locations and eras are popular for a reason, and I like to read about those.

Ass Donkey

I wanted authors to have their British characters using British English.

Uh, no change here. Authors: ARSE. Please learn the word – and use it! 🙂

2015 wasn’t that bad a year for historical romance, actually. I read some really good books. I did go through a few periods where I was bored out of my mind, but taking a break and reading something different usually fixed that.

I Spy a Duke (Covert Heiresses #1) by Erica Monroe

I Spy a Duke (Covert Heiresses #1) by Erica Monroe

In the first in an adventurous new series, USA Today Bestselling Author Erica Monroe introduces the Covert Heiresses: four women who by day are the talk of the ton, and by night England’s top spies.

She wants revenge…

When bluestocking Vivian Loren becomes the governess for the wealthy Spencer family, she’s searching for clues about the murder of her brother, not a husband. But Vivian didn’t count on James Spencer, the infuriatingly handsome Duke of Abermont.

He needs a wife…

As head of Britain’s elite intelligence agency, James has no time to woo a wife. When he discovers Vivian’s quest for answers has made her a pawn in a treacherous plot, James realizes they can help each other. She’ll become his duchess, and he’ll keep her safe from one of Napoleon’s deadliest spies.

What begins as a marriage of convenience quickly becomes anything but, as they find out love is the most dangerous mission of all.

I Spy a Duke (Covert Heiresses #1) by Erica Monroe

It’s almost impossible for me to review this book. Why? Because it’s a combination of an author whose books I REALLY enjoy and a trope that makes me want to scream with frustration.

There is nothing wrong with Erica Monroe’s writing. In fact, I prefer it to most historical romance writers at the moment, and I appreciate the little details of day-to-day life she works into her books.

I would highly recommend her other series I’ve read.

Secrets in Scarlet (Rookery Rogues Book 2) Erica MonroeBeauty and the Rake (The Rookery Rogues Book 3) by Erica Monroe

Review links.

It’s just I’ve reached my limit with Bond, Duke Bond.

I can’t do James Bond aristocrats, and I especially can’t do Jane Bond aristocrats, which this book also has. This current fad is not for me, and so many historical romance authors have jumped on board. Why don’t these powerful dukes go off and do powerful work in parliament and take care of their powerful estates? Where do they find the time for a whole lot of espionage?

The duke-who-is-a-spy is the historical romance equivalent of the contemporary romance hero who is not only a billionaire (never just a millionaire!), but also a prize-winning athlete, a Special Forces soldier, and gorgeous. It’s overkill. It’s mixing too many idealistic men up and making one.

You can have an alpha historical hero without a title. The historical spy books that have really worked for me are those where the hero isn’t highly-ranked enough to have a title.

In fact, the reason I became a fan of this author was because she wrote historical romantic suspense about people lower down the social ladder.

I will say again: the author writes well. Her characterisation and research are excellent.

My problem with this series is that not only is our duke risking his noble neck doing his spy thing, but his siblings are too – the women included (about the same time Jane Austen was a young lady!). So much for protecting the family bloodlines by not getting the heirs killed…

So, look. This is not for me. I wanted to try it because I really wanted to like the series, but I couldn’t do it. I’ve read one Duke Bond too many, I suppose.

However, if you like this trope, definitely give it a go.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 6th – 12th July

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 1 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

Visiting the cemetery yesterday. The Canberra region has a serious kangaroo plague, and it’s getting worse and worse!

Winter Night Ice Skating Canberra City Australia Civic Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 5th July 2015

Outdoor ice skating in Canberra a few days ago

On Monday the Christmas review books started appearing. Even for review books is this not a little premature??!! All the same, I’ve already started reading them. I guess at least it’s winter here, so all that talk about snow and fires makes a bit of sense.

For some reason I don’t seem to be getting notifications from a lot of sites anymore. For example, no matter how many times I switch my Pinterest notifications back on, I don’t get them! So I’m having a little trouble responding to people all over the internet at the moment…

I seem to be reading a million Western historical books at the moment, and a glance at my review books shows I have another thousand lined up. I have no idea how that happened.

I’ve written multiple times about how racist a significant portion of Anglo Australia is. This week, Australian “legend” Dawn Fraser went to the press with extremely racist comments about the children (not even the actual immigrants) of European and Asian immigrants. This woman lives on the same street as my aunt. The next time I see her…

Apparently “real Australians” are 100% British blood. I wonder what these equal opportunity racists think of Aborigines…

Things that do NOT make your romance heroine better than other women

new-moon-hq-stills-bella-swan-26178243-2560-1703

Clichés of Attraction

Heterosexuality.

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie David Rintoul Elizabeth Bennet Mr Darcy

My review of The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

My review of The Marriage Agreement (Charity House #9) by Renee Ryan

The Marriage Agreement (Charity House #9) by Renee Ryan

My review of Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza Carne, the impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground rabble, is now his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love.

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

This is the second book in the Poldark series, written in the 1940s, but set in the 1780s. Many will know it from the television adaptations, and I assume plenty will be drawn in by the complicated relationship between protagonist Ross Poldark and Demelza, the servant he shocked society by marrying. There’s some real tragedy in this second one.

I love Demelza. She’s a real heroine. She has to be one of my favourite literary characters, and a heroine I can truly identify with. She struggles because she was born into poverty and abuse and somehow has to turn herself into a lady, and a lady who was the second choice of her much higher-ranking husband. She is steady and constant and has more wisdom than most people around her. She makes heaps of mistakes, but she cares for people first and politics second.

Of course having watched the show, I already knew what was going to happen (even though I expected differences in the book – but they never came), but the book still moved me. Naturally, there are characters I’m more interested in reading about than others, but I think the author struck a good balance.

I was so surprised to learn that the first season – only eight episodes! – of the new BBC version covered not just book one, but also book two. I was reluctant to read the books for other reasons, such as not wanting to discover the story I loved so much on the screen was very different in the books. However, I shouldn’t have worried.

I spent half my university degree studying scriptwriting and book-to-screen adaptation. I know better than almost anyone the difficulties of staying true to the source. But this one is an extraordinary feat, because the Poldark series is literally the book on the screen. Maybe it’s the episodic style of author Winston Graham’s writing, and the fact he creates stories not just for his main characters, but also his secondary characters.

Whatever it is, scenes, huge passages of dialogue – and even the weather – are the same as in the book.

I’m not sure if I’ll read on in the series because I know what happens in future books. I might be fine finishing here, with a tentative hope between the two leads despite tragedy. However, I’m becoming a little addicted to this little patch of Cornwall and the people struggling there in the Georgian era.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and his family. But the joyful homecoming he has looked forward to turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

I’m one of those people who saw the show before reading the books, so I didn’t know how happy I was going to be with the source material. It turns out that the first book in the Poldark series is a bit of a slow burn at first, but before you know it you’ve been drawn into this little corner of Cornwall, and you care about the characters too much to put it down.

Ross Poldark, a man of twenty-seven (though the story covers a number of years), returns home to Cornwall, England, after fighting in the American Revolution. The woman he loves is marrying his cousin, and his property is crumbling.

There are too many characters to get into, but no doubt a lot of new fans of the books are in it for Demelza. This is where the show deviates from the books a bit, because when we meet Demelza in the book, she is a child (and a dark-haired one; why do the TV versions always make her a redhead?).

Apart from the eventual (not when she’s a child!) relationship between Ross and Demelza, I just love her character so much. Apparently she was based on the author’s wife, and maybe this is why she’s such a fun, funny, well-drawn character. I honestly don’t understand why Ross spends the whole series pining over the other woman, Elizabeth (another character who is different in the book), when all she has over Demelza – a servant girl who grew up in poverty – is refinement.

Perhaps because this is not a romance, the moments we are given here and there between various couples seem all the more realistic and romantic for it. He also shows ten times better than most the horrors of attempting to move between one social class and another. This is too often romanticised.

Author Winston Graham writes about a woman’s lot in life in Georgian England better than most women writing historical romance. He also seems to have a lot more sympathy for these women, in a situation where they were faced with a baby a year for a few decades, and has much more liberal views on their rights than a lot of women today (this book was written in the 1940s!).

There are twenty-thousand characters in this story, but the ones that matter are all great. Somehow the author manages to give them all story arcs without having them take over the book, and I cared about a lot of them. It is a bit hard to decipher some of the lower class-speak, though. It’s written phonetically, and sometimes I gave up trying to understand it!

One thing that didn’t hold my interest as much was some of the scenes with the mining talk. Business talk is boring to me. I also thought that there were too many characters in a few parts. I didn’t even try and keep track of who was who.

It’s not a perfect book, but I found it completely addictive by the end and immediately started book two.

Give it a go, and definitely watch the new show.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Currently Free: Kit’s Hill by Jean Stubbs

Kit’s Hill by Jean Stubbs is currently free.

Kit’s Hill by Jean Stubbs

The year is 1760.

High on Garth Fells in the county of Lancashire, life is ruled by bitter cold winds.

And Ned Howarth, owner of Kit’s Hill farm, knows he needs to marry to carry on the line of Howarths who have owned the land for centuries.

Captivated by the bright and beautiful Miss Dorcas Wilde, he pens her a humble proposal of marriage.

When she receives the letter Dorcas is torn.

Intelligent and well-educated, she never imagined for herself the life of a farmer’s wife.

But she is too poor to be married to a gentleman, and if she remains a spinster she will be destined to follow in the dull footsteps of her maiden aunt.

After much deliberation she accepts Ned’s proposal and they marry.

Dorcas is determined to overcome the hardships that will face her on the farm.

But once she is married she finds herself cut off from the world she knows.

And the housekeeper, Betty Ackroyd, is reluctant to give up her power over the household.

Surrounded by howling winds and beautiful landscape, Dorcas is largely left to her own devices, and she quickly uses this to better Kit’s Hill and focus on building a home and a family.

Generations of Howarth’s had lived and farmed at Kit’s Hill and Dorcas was determined the tradition should continue.

Can Dorcas reconcile herself to country life?

Will Ned accept her advice?

Or will life on Kit’s Hill become the fighting ground for a battle of wills…?

Poldark Love

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

I’m trying to decide whether or not to read the Poldark books, because I suspect they’re very different to the new television adaptation!

Poldark seems to be starting in the United States this month, and anybody who loves history, historical romance or anything in between should give it a go. Particularly if you love your historical fiction without quite so much graphic torture and rape as a certain other current show set in Britain in the eighteenth century!

Here is a spoiler-free clip from the beginning of the final episode of season one. It’s a gorgeous show, and ever since Death Comes to Pemberley, I’ve been hoping for this actress to get a big break.

Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest

 Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest

A tour of a Regency home, room by room.
 
Behind Jane Austen’s Door takes you on a tour of a Regency house, room by room, to explore the delicate challenges and the beautiful lives of Jane Austen’s women.
Jane Austen did not place her stories in castles or on the battlefields, but in that one building so important to Elizabeth and Elinor: a home of their own.What was life like for Jane Austen’s women in the home? From drawing room diva to mother, wife and savvy housekeeper, Jane Austen’s women lived fascinating lives in their homes. Behind Jane Austen’s Door is a gentle 14,500 words, perfect for a few hours relaxing reading.

Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest

I like this kind of book. They’re usually pretty short reads, but I enjoy reading different authors’ takes on life in Regency and Victorian England. Each person comes up with different primary sources to quote from, so even though the information is similar, you always get a different little snippet here or there.

Author Jennifer Forest decided with this book to quote directly from both Jane Austen’s books and letters written by the woman herself, and then uses those quotes to back up her information. We are taken on a tour through a Regency household and shown day to day life from morning to night.

People who haven’t read all that much about life back then will learn quite a lot from this short book, but if you are familiar with the Regency, a lot of it you’ll probably have read before.

However, I did still find this an interesting book, but then maybe that’s my addiction to “day-to-day life” historical nonfiction talking for me!

Temptation Has Green Eyes by Lynne Connolly

 Temptation Has Green Eyes by Lynne Connolly

The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation, €”and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’€™s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters, €”and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret, even from her future husband!

Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience €”until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia, €”one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer, €”and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected€!

Temptation Has Green Eyes The Emperors of London (Book 2) by Lynne Connolly

Oh wow, I really liked this book!

The first one in the series had great themes, great characters, a great plot… but there was something about it that felt a little… unedited. This is the second book, and I’m sure you can read it on its own (though I do still think book one is worth a read!).

The Georgian era is a totally different thing to the Victorian era. This is also a different decade to the more familiar (to romance readers) later part of the Georgian period. Generations before the Regency. The clothing, the manners, the lifestyle. The wars and other events changing the world.

What I really loved about this book was the way the characters were created. It’s one of the very few historical romances I’ve read where I believed the aristocracy was actually behaving like the aristocracy. Class lines were drawn and our heroine – who came from a less than desirable background – found herself trapped in a bit of a nightmare when she was essentially sold into a marriage, marrying “up”.

I think that the fact the author is English really helped with the understanding of social class, and while some readers might not enjoy the less than egalitarian attitudes the characters (particularly the male characters) take to the society they live in, I was all but swooning about it! Titled men who actually view their servants as servants rather than friends. A hero who honestly can’t see why he’d need to talk with his fiancée before their wedding. A truly Georgian mindset that made the story feel so much more authentic.

But what about the romance, you ask? Well, I really enjoyed how it developed. I believed it when it happened. I also liked the pain and heartache the heroine felt being first overlooked by her fiancé in the past, and then being snubbed at every turn by people who thought they were above her. I liked that when our hero finally woke up he got his act together and became someone better.

The wedding night scene was far and away the most realistic I have ever read.

In the first book I had a bit of trouble with overly long descriptions. While I loved the detail and great research, I thought sometimes the way the era was recreated was a little clunky. Not so here. One thing that stuck in my mind was a description of a carriage ride home – something you’ll find in any and every historical romance. However, the comments of lamps, of glittering jewels… I can’t really explain, but I felt transported to the eighteenth century in an instant.

Temptation Has Green Eyes was basically a five star read for me. The only issue I really had was with the later intimate scenes in the book, which seemed too centred around the same acts, with too much focus on the woman. It seemed anachronistic in the face of everything else in the story.

I can’t wait for this author’s next book.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

The third deliciously sexy novel in the New York Times bestselling Duke’s Men historical romance series, featuring an investigator who sets out to find gypsies—and unexpectedly finds love.

Investigator Tristan Bonnaud has one aim in life—to make sure that his half-brother George can’t ever ruin his life again. So when the pesky Lady Zoe Keane, the daughter of the Earl of Olivier, shows up demanding that the Duke’s Men find a mysterious gypsy woman, he seizes the opportunity to also hunt for a gypsy friend who knows secrets about George. Tristan doesn’t expect to uncover Lady Zoe’s family secrets, as well…or end up falling for the woman who will risk all to discover the truth.

How the Scoundrel Seduces (The Duke’s Men, #3) by Sabrina Jeffries

First of all: do not read this one first. Read the series in order because there’s a lot of backstory involved in this book.

I really like this series. I gave the first two books five stars and added them to my “Best Of” list for last year. Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favourite historical romance authors, so when I say I didn’t enjoy a book as much, it’s more that she has used too many tired tropes than that she wrote a bad book.

That was my problem here. How the Scoundrel Seduces is a solid historical romance, but it’s not memorable the way the first two were. It starts out stronger than it ends, and, quite frankly, the last few chapters read like they needed some reworking. There was too much standing around and over-telling of things and not enough emotion. I also wasn’t a fan of the purple prose both hero and heroine used when speaking to each other. The relationship also progressed very, very fast.

Honestly, however, I think my criticisms have more to do with the fact I hold this author to higher standards than most. There’s nothing terrible about this story, but it isn’t as great as the others in the series. I think most people are going to love it and even though some of the tropes seemed tired, the premise was interesting. Mistaken identity and mysterious backgrounds aren’t unusual themes for the genre, but the author had an interesting take on them.

I think that my enthusiasm waned as I read, because the beginning is very strong and then it gets weaker as it goes.

Hmmm. I guess I’d have finished on a higher note if the final few scenes had been tightened up a little bit more.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.