Best of 2016

I get the impression I’m missing out on a lot of good books in my attempts to keep up with my review books! However, I did get to read some fantastic books by some of my favourite authors this year.

Yet again, I read more historical fiction than I intended to. I wonder if this is something that will ever change!

In no particular order, here are my favourite reads of 2016:

Marrying Winterborne (Ravenels #2) by Lisa Kleypas

Marrying Winterborne (2016) by Lisa Kleypas

Taking Fire (One-Eyed Jacks #4) by Cindy Gerard

Taking Fire (One-Eyed Jacks #4) by Cindy Gerard

Baron (The Knickerbocker Club #2) by Joanna Shupe

Baron (The Knickerbocker Club #2) by Joanna Shupe

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

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

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

Sister of Mine: A Novel by Sabra Waldfogel

Sister of Mine A Novel by Sabra Waldfogel

Kiss, Kiss, Bark! by Kim Williams Justesen

(Yes, I enjoyed this Middle Grade book enough to buy a copy after finishing my ARC!)

kiss-kiss-bark-by-kim-williams-justesen

The Wicked Duke (Wicked Trilogy #3) by Madeline Hunter

The Wicked Duke (Wicked Trilogy #3) by Madeline Hunter

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

The Dare and the Doctor (Winner Takes All #3) by Kate Noble

the-dare-and-the-doctor-winner-takes-all-3-by-kate-noble

The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone (Lords of Disgrace #4) by Louise Allen

The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone (Lords of Disgrace #4) by Louise Allen mills and Boon Cover

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes All #2.5) by Kate Noble

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes All #2.5) by Kate Noble

Someone to Love (Westcott #1) by Mary Balogh

someone-to-love-westcott-1-by-mary-balogh-australian-cover

Plus, one that isn’t out until next month, but I have already read and enjoyed:

mogul-the-knickerbocker-club-3-by-joanna-shupe

Fanfare for the common man in historical romance

Fanfare for the common man in historical romance

There’s an excellent article over at Happy Ever After about historical romance heroes without titles.

As much as I like books about dukes and earls, there’s something I LOVE about a hero who didn’t get where he was simply because of an accident of birth. It is one of the reasons I enjoy books set in the Victorian era so much: things were changing, and while grand estates lost money, men who worked for what they had were on the rise.

One of the books mentioned is Anne Gracie’s latest, The Summer Bride.

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

Lisa Kleypas is also mentioned, and all three of my favourite historical heroes she’s written are men without titles.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa KleypasMarrying Winterborne (Ravenels #2) by Lisa Kleypas

There are quite a lot of historicals I’ve loved that might have titled characters on the fringes, but are not about titled heroes.

THIS, for example.

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

Not to mention the fact Jane Austen’s famous heroes were gentlemen, not dukes!

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

The Week: 25th – 31st January

Hail Storm Tuggeranong Cannberra Australia 25th January 2016 Sonya Heaney Nature

Halfway through our crazy ice disaster on Monday – in the middle of a hot summer!

This was a strange week. I’m not online all that much at the moment, due to a couple of health things, including some debilitating pain I’ve been having down one side of my head. I think I’ve been asleep more than awake in the last few days.

This week started with my father’s birthday, during which we had a freak storm. It hit after dinnertime, and we heard it coming long before it hit – like a thousand locomotives coming our way.

We were hit horizontally with chunks of ice (hail), some the size of golf balls. it damaged parts of the house – as you would expect.

Hail Storm Gowrie Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Summer 25th January 2015 Sonya Heaney Nature Rex Burmese Cat

We also had a few hours to experience the life of historical romance characters when the power lines around here were knocked down.

Hail Storm Gowrie Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Summer 25th January 2015 Sonya Heaney Nature

Note to people: keep candles in your house! It looked like we were one the few houses around with them, and they were definitely needed!

Canberra Hail Storm 25th January 26th January 2016 Sonya Heaney Ice 4am Nature

The back deck eight hours after the storm!

One of my crappy photos ended up in The Canberra Times.

The next day was Australia Day – a national holiday. We went to a Cuban/South American bar, which had about six pages of different types of rum on the menu.

Then we were off to meet people from the Ukrainian embassy for lunch a couple of days afterwards.

And then I was too sick to achieve anything for the rest of the week (well, apart from dinner at our “local” restaurant)!

Anybody else HATING the new WordPress admin? It is unusable for me, as you can no longer search your scheduled posts. On two of my blogs I have some posts already scheduled for more than half a year away, and I have to scroll through ALL OF THEM in order to check my posts for the coming week.

I’m sick of computer types ruining things in order to make them fancier. I want lists in an administration section, not pretty colours and pictures!

I’m back on Tumblr

Obituaries for Men

Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds, dies.

The 203rd anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published on the 28th of January 1813. Here is the front page from a first edition copy of the book.

The best cover of 1989? The worst cover of 1989?

Desert Slave by Miranda North

 My review of How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

My review of Charlotte (South Landers #3) by Virginia Taylor

Charlotte (South Landers #3) by Virginia Taylor

My review of #1 The Vampire Huntress Series: Paranormal Vampire Romance: Chased by Ashlee Sinn

#1 The Vampire Huntress Series Paranormal Vampire Romance Chased by Ashlee Sinn

 

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

HOW TO RESCUE A RAKE:

Reject his marriage proposal
Nathaniel Sherringham has returned to Hawcombe Prior a changed man. Gone is the reckless rake who went out on a limb to propose to Diana Makepiece three years ago. Now Nate’s mysterious new wealth has the town’s rumor mill spinning. To stir things up (and get Diana’s attention), Nate boldly announces his plans to marry “any suitable girl” under the age of 25.

Run away
Diana, now 27 and still single, is acutely aware of Nate’s return. When her mother suggests a trip to visit a cousin in Bath, Diana leaps at the chance to escape the heartbreak and regret she can’t help but feel in Nate’s presence…and avoid his irritating charade to find a bride.

But for Nate, Diana has always been the one. He might just have to follow her to Bath and once again lay his heart on the line to win her attention-and her heart.

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

Do yourself a favour and make sure you know a thing or two about Jane Austen’s Persuasion before you read this book. Do it any way: watch a movie version or even read the Wikipedia summary! Just make sure you have the gist of it.

How to Rescue a Rake can also be read as a standalone, and while our heroine and her friends are reading Persuasion, the two lead characters are living out their own version of the same story. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but I really loved this book.

There are a lot of historical romance authors who try to be funny when they write, and it so rarely works for me. I prefer more serious historical romances. However, with Jayne Fresina I make an exception. She is fun rather than slapstick, and because she isn’t obsessed with making her characters “sexy” it means she makes them more human.

Following in Austen’s traditions, we get characters from the landed gentry, rather than everyone being a duke or a duchess (what a relief!), and the manners are better – despite the humour. People actually follow social rules of the time, are concerned about social rules of the time, and do not run around having sex from start to finish of the book.

This all gives us a chance to read a ROMANCE!

However, what I probably like best about this book is the whole second-chance feel to it. These are flawed characters who have known big disappointments in their lives, and the theme is the reason the original book, Persuasion, was so successful. It is a story about gaining maturity and taking leaps, and I know I am going to remember it better than most of the cut-and-dried Regency romances being published now.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 23rd – 29th June

 Ice Skating in Canberra Australia 21st June 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

The outdoor ice rink in Canberra last weekend.

TheBorgiasLucreziaFindsHerLoverMurderedAdjustedSonyaHeaney

I actually watched a lot of television episodes this week, and didn’t read as much. I watched one and a half seasons of The Borgias, which I was avoiding for years because of the pathetic levels of historical accuracy and serious miscasting in the other show it is compared to: The Tudors.

There’s definitely too much sex in The Borgias, but it’s a gorgeous production with a great cast, and I’m really enjoying it. Historical liberties and everything… I could do without all the negativity directed towards France, however. But I’m not letting it ruin a hugely entertaining show.

 EU-SUMMIT-UKRAINE-POROSHENKO

Ukraine signed the trade deal with the European Union on Friday. This is especially significant because the Russian-oriented former president refused to do it, which is was caused the protests and resulted in Russia’s invasion and war.

What a waste, all for something that could have been signed last year, sparing Ukraine all of this death.

My review of Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez

Blind Fury (Men of Steele, Book 1) by Gwen Hernandez

My review of The Promise by Robyn Carr

The Promise by Robyn Carr

My review of Wild Iris Ridge by RaeAnne Thayne

Wild Iris Ridge by RaeAnne Thayne

My review of Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

Never Surrender by Lindsay McKenna

My review of Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

My review of Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

Victorian London, Emma Hale leads two lives. As Le Petite Oiseau, in corset and pink feathers, she’s the reigning queen of the music hall; offstage she’s a prim-faced theatre seamstress. For years these two women have shared one body; now they share something else—forbidden love for a man who could destroy them both.

Marcus Craven, Duke of Penhale, wants Le Petite Oiseau as his mistress, but he’s also sworn to hunt down and revenge himself on the hazel-eyed girl who once shot at him with a dueling pistol. On this winter’s evening when he finds both women in his path, he suddenly faces a dilemma.

What exactly does Marcus want? The fiery, passionate actress or the quiet “mouse” hiding in her shadow?

Perhaps this notorious rake wants them both.

Last Rake Standing by Jayne Fresina

First of all: what in the world were they thinking when they made this cover?! This is a Victorian era historical romance with a theatre at the centre of it. What is that erotic BDSM-style cover they came up with? Horrid!

It’s a good thing I bought this on my Kindle and the picture was too small for me to see it properly!

I really like Jayne Fresina’s writing. Sure, it’s a bit anachronistic, and sure, usually someone who’d never marry a peer ends up marrying a peer, but I just love her humour and find her books really fun and readable.

Last Rake Standing has so many things I like, including:

  • A Victorian era setting, and:
  • A theatre setting.
  • A heroine who is nothing like most historical romance heroines.
  • A lot of funny moments.
  • A really original plot.

Of course, to go with that, there are:

  • Some anachronisms and the use of gotten.
  • And comments like this:

“You could find no other woman to prevail upon?”

He winced. “Not with my reputation.”

He’s a duke. Unlike Romancelandia, where dukes grow on trees, in reality, a duke could have literally done anything and he’d still have millions of women throwing themselves at him.

But these are minor quibbles. This is a shorter book (maybe a novella? I’m not sure of the length), but it left me more satisfied than any other book in this genre I’ve read in ages.

The Week: 9th – 15th June

Euromaidan Kyiv Ukraine Tryzub

My God, I read a lot of books this week. I have no idea why, but I just kept reading and reading. At least it cut down my mountain of review books! It’s pretty scary I’m now reading books with September release dates. Where did the year go?

I think I’m going to be sticking to mostly known-to-me publisher review books for a while. After this week’s little author tantrum, I can’t be bothered taking chances on the self-pubs and the I-made-up-a-publishing-house-to-publish-my-book types at the moment. Established publishers put that gap between author and reader. I don’t need any fangirl attacks for speaking my mind, and that’s precisely what happens when lesser-known authors create “Street Teams” to aggressively promote their books.

 Ukrainian plane shot down by Russians. 49 killed.

Here in Canberra – in Australia – Russian thugs are being hired to harass Ukrainians. Last weekend a busload of hired men arrived at the Ukrainian embassy to stir up trouble, and had to be removed by the police. The embassy receives threatening phone calls every day. Russia’s tentacles are stretching well beyond the east of Ukraine.

The situation in Ukraine might be dropping out of the news while the world talks about helping Iraq (glad to see they continue to leave Ukraine to fight a war without any assistance), but things are not good. Only yesterday a Ukrainian military plane was shot down, killing forty-nine. And a bomb was placed at the Presidential Administration in Kyiv.

As for this week’s reviews?

My review of Before the Kiss by Jayne Fresina

Before the Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #0.5) by Jayne Fresina

My review of Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

My review of The Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter

The Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter

My review of Twelfth Night by Deanna Raybourn

Twelfth Night by Deanna Raybourn

My review of Once Upon a Kiss by Jayne Fresina

Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society, #1) by Jayne Fresina

Once Upon a Kiss by Jayne Fresina

Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society, #1) by Jayne Fresina

These Book Club Belles are ready to put down their novels and find some real-life leading men!

In the sleepy village of Hawcombe Prior, five young ladies of the local book society are reading a salacious romance called Pride and Prejudice. Upon finishing the book, the ladies race to find their own Mr. Darcy, and the handsome, mysterious Darius Wainwright is the perfect mark.

Justina Penny can’t understand why her fellow Belles are starry-eyed in the newcomer’s arrogant presence. But if the town’s only eligible bachelor marries anyone, it should be her sweet, beautiful sister. And it’s up to Justina to make it happen. How could this plan possibly go wrong?

Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society, #1) by Jayne Fresina

This book did so many good things!

Something you should be aware of is that there is a free introductory novella to this series, and I really think it should be read first. There’s a whole crazy backstory for four of the characters and you’ll get much more out of the book by getting to know them that way.

Now, the funny thing is, I was really hesitant about Once Upon a Kiss. In the novella, our heroine is young, immature, a social disaster, and bordering on Too Stupid To Live.

However, something that impressed me so much about her was that she grew hugely from start to finish. In fact, both hero and heroine make extraordinary character developments throughout the book. I started off not all that thrilled with either, and finished loving them both.

This may be due in part to the fact the story is based on Pride and Prejudice. Because of this, it forces the characters to actually get to know each other and fall in love before going at it like rabbits. That thing – the falling in love – it was wonderful. I’m so glad to have read a love story rather than an anachronistic porn fest (don’t get me wrong – it’s not Jane Austen-chaste; it’s just believable for the era!).

Another thing I loved was the shy hero, Darius. He might have been based on Mr Darcy, but he was a different sort of creature. I loved his awkwardness, and felt really sorry for him a few times. I really liked him, and he is definitely one of the more memorable historical romance heroes I’ve read.

Justina, on the other hand, is a different sort of person to Elizabeth Bennet, but I appreciated that the author wasn’t just trying to recreate Austen’s characters.

I also liked that the author included dates on the 1815 calendar (e.g. a Friday the thirteenth when there actually was one). A small touch, but I appreciated it.

I’ve really loved some of this author’s books, while other have characters who are quite “out there”. This one had the out there characters but was also so much fun for me. If you’re not a fan of slightly antic-ridden historical romances, this might not be the one for you, however.

It turns out a series I wasn’t so sure about turned out to be one I’m really enjoying – even with the horrid cover! If the introductory novella doesn’t grab you, keep on reading anyway. The character evolution is impressive, and I bet there’ll be a lot of converts by the end of book one.

Before the Kiss by Jayne Fresina

Before the Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #0.5) by Jayne Fresina

An original novella introducing Jayne Fresina’s charming, delightfully naughty new Regency Romance series. In the sleepy village of Hawcombe Prior, the five young ladies of the Book Club Belles Society are looking for their own leading men. When handsome, mysterious Darius Wainwright strolls into town, the Book Club Belles are instantly smitten with his brooding good looks and prideful demeanor. It’s as if he walked out of the pages of their favourite new novel, a scandalous romance called Pride and Prejudice. But Miss Justina Penny has a secret – she’s met this arrogant, brooding bachelor before. In Bath. The town, not the tub. Although, she was naked…

Before the Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #0.5) by Jayne Fresina

First thing’s first: I know a man who looks just like the guy on this cover. I was feeling a little… uncomfortable about reading certain things!

Before the Kiss is an introductory novella to Jayne Fresina’s Book Club Belles Society series.

There are a lot of people giving this novella one star because it’s an introductory novella to a series. I guess half of the reading population is incapable of reading the blurb. Or appreciating the fact it’s free!

I like Jayne Fresina’s writing. She usually makes me laugh. Occasionally she creates a very immature character, and the heroine of this one is definitely immature. I can see that not all readers will like her antics.

Before the Kiss is more or less borrows its cast from Pride and Prejudice, with our Elizabeth Bennet heroine a little more like Lydia in her behaviour if not her selfishness. We have our Darcy-style hero, his Bingley-style friend, the Jane-style older sister, a Mrs and Mr Bennet and so on.

If you’ve read reviews of this one that say, “It just ended without warning. One star!” remember that this is a lead-in to the first book in the series. Treat it that way – it’s a good indication of what to expect.

Currently Free: Before the Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #0.5) by Jayne Fresina

Before the Kiss, an introductory novella to Jayne Fresina’s upcoming series is currently free.

There are a lot of – I’m sorry – strange people giving it one star for being an introductory novella. Not sure what they were expecting from it, but it’s better than the crazy Amazon rating. I don’t understand customers sometimes!

Before the Kiss (Book Club Belles Society #0.5) by Jayne Fresina