The Week: 11th – 17th September

Spring Blossoms Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 11th September 2017

Monday Afternoon

Home after a month! We arrived in Sydney on Sunday night (with the Brazilian football team!), and had to stay overnight because we got in so late. The five-star hotel was lost on me because I lay there wide awake for a few hours and then gave up. Stupid jetlag.

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Canberra on Monday all I could smell was blossoms. It was such a change after Barcelona.

I think I’m catching up pretty fast with books and reviews and all of that, but I’m having a bit of trouble finding space for my shopping…

It’s not all rainbows and roses, however. I have come home to a country that has gone all Donald Trump. They have just RUINED our beautiful Parliament House (as in *the nation’s* parliament – this is the capital city) with a metres-high fence around it that is so ugly it makes me want to cry (thank you, terrorists).

And we’re in the midst of a national marriage equality debate that has resulted in some appalling acts by some people. The “gay marriage survey” everyone over eighteen is being mailed arrived here first – maybe because we’re in the capital city. I have done mine and posted it, but that doesn’t stop me being subjected to disgusting, homophobic TV ads for a couple more months.

Ugh. Australia used to pride itself on being progressive! Second country in the world to give women the vote. I am SO happy to live in Canberra, a progressive bubble in a backwards nation!

Rereading Now

To the Brink by Cindy Gerard

My review of Shadow Reaper (Shadow #2) by Christine Feehan

Shadow Reaper (Shadow #2) by Christine Feehan

My review of Courting Danger with Mr Dyer by Georgie Lee

Courting Danger with Mr Dyer by Georgie Lee

 My review of A Rake’s Guide to Seduction (Reece Family Trilogy #3) by Caroline Linden

A Rake's Guide to Seduction (Reece Family Trilogy #3) by Caroline Linden

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died in 1976.

Courting Danger with Mr Dyer by Georgie Lee

Courting Danger with Mr Dyer by Georgie Lee

Working undercover for the government, Bartholomew Dyer must expose a nefarious plot to make Napoleon the ruler of England! He needs access to the highest echelons of Society to find those involved, so he’s forced to enlist the help of the woman who jilted him five years ago—Moira, Lady Rexford.

Moira’s widowed yet still as captivating as ever, and Bart’s determined not to succumb to her charms a second time. But, as they race against time, Bart suspects it’s not their lives at greatest risk—it’s their hearts…

Courting Danger with Mr Dyer by Georgie Lee

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this, and considered three things:

#1 Spy romances (in a historical setting) don’t often work for me.

#2 Georgie Lee is a talented author.

#3 The Harlequin Historical line usually delivers good books.

Two out of three won out for me, and so I gave this ridiculously-titled book a go – and I’m glad I did.

There’s also the little fact I love reunion stories, and I think it was important in this one, as the action takes place over only a few days. If these two had been characters who hadn’t met before – rather than characters who used to be engaged – it would have been a little hard to believe.

Historical *romances* that involve spies can be a little hard to pull off, particularly if the characters involved are part of the aristocracy. Dukes and Earls and Countesses etc. running around back alleys is a hard idea to make convincing. It was interesting that the hero was a fifth son, and so considered expendable by many (like his father). It was easier to buy that he’d be doing these things behind the scenes.

I liked the interesting take on the heroine’s social isolation; she was almost a beautiful version of Anne Elliot (from Jane Austen’s Persuasion) – a character I find interesting because she’s “quieter” than most literary heroines. She is always helping everyone, but is also overlooked by everyone except the hero.

I liked that she knew how to behave in society, and is beautiful, and cares about her standing in the ton, but she is not extravagant and confident enough (or at least hasn’t been in the past) to catch people’s notice.

She does have a few “Too Stupid To Live” moments, but at least she owned up to most of them, and gave a decent reason for her behaviour. Also, it’s not as though most aristocratic young ladies would have a clue how to do the spy stuff…

Perhaps the end of the book escalated very fast and turned one of the characters into a caricature, and perhaps some of the “can we talk about our relationship?” moments came at the worst times (when the whole of England was in danger), but overall this book rose above my expectations.

Well-researched – and this is very well-researched – spy themes can work in historical romances. I think this was one of those times.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 12th – 18th June

Canberra Australia Winter Evening Lake Burley Griffin Sonya Heaney 11th June 2017 National Carillon Reflection Nature SunsetIMG_2047

Okay , so this was Sunday afternoon in Canberra *last* week, but I wanted to share.

Canberra Australia Winter Sunny Afternoon Sonya Heaney 14th June 2017 Blue Sky Garden Nature

Gorgeous winter days here. This was Tuesday afternoon.

But then it got a bit foggy a few days later!

We started the week with the Queen’s Birthday holiday, and the week seemed to go fast from there!

At least 200 firefighters and 40 engines on the scene of a huge fire at Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, near Notting Hill, in West London. 14th June 2017.

My God, that fire in London was awful. My last home in the city was very close to the location of the fire – my street (in Notting Hill) is in the picture above. England can’t catch a break at the moment.

My review of The Runaway Bride by Patricia Johns

The Runaway Bride (Harlequin Heartwarming) by Patricia Johns

My review of The Secret Marriage Pact by Georgie Lee

Interesting thoughts over at Vox

The Secret Marriage Pact by Georgie Lee

The Secret Marriage Pact by Georgie Lee

Jane Rathbone is used to being left behind, and no longer believes she deserves happiness. But when childhood friend Jasper Charton returns from the Americas, more dangerously sexy than ever, she has a proposition. She’ll give him the property he needs if he’ll give her a new future—by marrying her! 

Jasper never imagined taking a wife, but wonders if loyal Jane could be his redemption. And when their marriage brings tantalising pleasures, convenient vows blossom into a connection that could heal them both…

The Secret Marriage Pact by Georgie Lee

Another review of this book is HERE.

I was in search of something fresh to read, so I gave The Secret Marriage Pact a go.

Set in 1825, shortly after the Regency, this is halfway between a friends-to-lovers and a reunion story, as the hero was sent to America at fifteen, leaving behind a heartbroken (slightly younger) heroine. They lost contact as the hero fell into his uncle’s gambling industry – which was promptly wiped out by a yellow fever outbreak in Savannah.

Now he is back and hiding the true source of his income from everyone but the heroine, who proposes a business deal with him if he’ll marry her.

My interest was piqued by the Fleet Street setting (Fleet Street was my first address when I lived in London). These characters live very comfortably, but they don’t have titles. This was a great change from the usual dukes and duchesses.

I actually liked the younger hero, as historical romance leads seem to be getting older and older, overlooking the fact younger people achieved plenty in the past, and mid-twenties was a perfectly acceptable age for a man to marry.

Something I could have done without was the mental lusting. I know it’s standard in historical romances (well, ALL romance!) these days, but I wasn’t buying it. Childhood friends part for years, meet again in their twenties, and just pick up where they left off – but now with lots of thoughts about the bedroom? I felt like we’d missed a step. There should have at least been some awkwardness and even anger between them first. They should have been more like strangers to each other at first.

I’d have liked to see two childhood friends fall in love, not just decide they were in lust from day one.

I did really like that this is part of a series, but instead of all the books happening in the space of a couple of years, the first book is set a decade earlier. It’s a nice idea, and a way to catch up with past heroes and heroines without it all being about pregnancies and babies.

A little niggle, but I didn’t like absence of adverbs in the dialogue/thoughts; a dearth of adverbs is a quirk of US English. E.g. characters should not be saying wide when it should be widely, and easy when it should be easily. It killed the “British” feel of it.

I liked so many of the ideas in this book, and the fact it made subtle changes to many of the favourite themes of historical romances.

However, I’d love to have seen this written with less in the way of I’m not worthy!, and I want sex!, and with more development of the connection between hero and heroine.

Can Cinderella stories still work?

There are a million historical romances that could be considered Cinderella-ish. Everywhere you go in the genre you find governesses being swept off their feet by earls, and lowly serving girls who turn out to be secret daughters of dukes.

But how about actual Cinderella stories?

My main problem with Cinderella is that it basically relies on misogyny to get its point across. There are no bad men in Cinderella, only mean, jealous, and downright evil women who are countered by overly sweet and kind “good women”. It’s the women of the tale who try to ruin Cinderella’s life, and it’s women in the story who fight over a man.

01-lily-james-cinderella Richard Madden Prince

For all its criticisms of being outdated and the protagonist being too stereotypically feminine (shock, horror!), I think the recent Disney movie pulled off something a little deeper than that. Cate Blanchett’s stepmother was a more complex character than just being evil for no particular reason. But the movie still has the problems that come with packaging women into “good” and “bad” boxes.

Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

I recently had my hands on a review copy of The Cinderella Governess by Georgie Lee. The Cinderella name is right there in the title, and I was interested to see how the theme would be handled.

The Cinderella Governess (The Governess Tales #1) by Georgie Lee

I love the Harlequin/Mills and Boon historical line; it is probably the strongest line the publisher produces, and it easily outdoes most other publishers producing historical romance – despite the negative stereotypes too many readers attach to Harlequin books.

I thought that if anybody was going to produce a decent historical romance with a Cinderella theme, Harlequin Historical would.

Instead, I was treated to all the misogynistic stereotyping I would expect from Twilight fan fiction.

Harlequin usually gets their covers surprisingly correct. They take character descriptions into consideration. However, this heroine is a redhead, not blonde – and this is an important factor in the book.

Because the author trots out blonde woman after blonde teen after blonde girl – and demonises them. In true Twilight style, all blondes are beautiful, jealous, self-absorbed bitches – for no reason. In fact, one blonde teen is even referred to as a harlot!

Brunettes are downtrodden.

And our redhead heroine is special.

I’ll admit: I didn’t finish the book. I guess I’ve read one too many books like this recently.

I like the IDEA of the Cinderella theme in historical – or any – romance, but perhaps we could start tackling it without making all other women out to be enemies.