The Week: 4th – 10th December

Rainbow Number Plates Canberra Australia Gay Pride Gay Marriage Same Sex Marriage 2017

We have rainbow number plates in Canberra.

The big news in Australia this week: we finally, decisively legalised same sex marriage. It’s permanent this time, unlike when the High Court took it off Canberra four years ago. Our local government is giving free marriage licences to anybody who got married in Canberra that time and then had their marriages declared invalid.

It was inevitable it would happen – the world is changing – and those who wasted over a hundred million of our dollars on a survey, and stalled and stalled and stalled, should be ashamed.

Varenyky Ukrainian Dumplings Potato Dumplings Ukrainian Food Sonya Heaney Canberra Australia 9th December 2017

Ukrainian food for the weekend.

It’s nearly Christmas, and I haven’t ever been this disorganised. Everything is late this year!

100 Years Ago

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Coming Up for Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

Recommended Christmas Read

A Baby for Christmas (Sweet Home Montana Book 2) by Joan Kilby

My review of His Frontier Christmas Family (Frontier Bachelors #7) by Regina Scott

His Frontier Christmas Family (Frontier Bachelors #7) by Regina Scott

My review of Twelve Days in December (Hearthfire Romance #3.5) by Michele Paige Holmes

Twelve Days in December (Hearthfire Romance #3.5) by Michele Paige Holmes

This Cover!

A Time to Give (About the Baby #1) by Kathryn Shay 2005 Harlequin Cover

 

Recommended Christmas Read

I’m revisiting some of the books I’ve read and reviewed over the past few months. Christmas books start coming out a long time before Christmas, but now it’s a more festive time of the year, I’m recommending some of my favourites of 2017 again.

A Baby for Christmas (Sweet Home Montana Book 2) by Joan Kilby

A Baby for Christmas (Sweet Home Montana Book 2) by Joan Kilby

Reviewed here.

When Mia Tempesta goes into labour during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, she stumbles into Will Jackson’s cherry packing shed. As a war widow, she’s lost everything–her husband, her home, and her job. But when Will, a caring stranger, delivers her beautiful baby boy into her arms, she has hope for a brighter future.

After being betrayed and dumped by his long-time girlfriend, Will’s dreading the holidays, but when he helps deliver Mia’s son on Christmas morning, he gains a renewed purpose in life. The beautiful Mia and her child tug on his protective heart strings and he finds himself longing to help. They fight their growing attraction–Will’s on the rebound and Mia is still grieving. Will their reckless passion end in heartbreak?

Can two damaged hearts find healing and happiness? One Christmas baby might just be the miracle they need to love again.

The Week: 9th – 15th October

Spring Flowers Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 10th October 2017 Pink Garden Nature 1

Spring Flowers Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 10th October 2017 Pink Garden Nature 2

Spring in Canberra this week.

It seems this was the week the Christmas ads started on television. Maybe not for the US  or Canada, with Halloween and Thanksgiving and all of that, but they did here!

This week marked a month since I returned from Spain. However, on Monday we booked a trip for next year: to Ireland and England, so I’m planning again!

We’ll take advantage of Qatar Airways’ new flights out of Canberra and fly into Dublin (where I lived and worked for a little while), and then travel up to Belfast and spend a few weeks in Northern Ireland. My surname is 100% Northern Irish. Even though I’ve only ever seen Northern Ireland in dreary late-November, I remember it as gorgeous.

After that we’ll fly to Leeds (in England) and then spend a few weeks in the Peak District and Yorkshire before flying home from Manchester. My dream Pride and Prejudice adventure…

The plans were changing for weeks. I still “have” to do a more extensive trip around Wales, and spend more time in Scotland. I also want to visit Cornwall, Devon etc. – I’ve seen quite a lot of the south over the years, but not that part. For a small place, there’s too much to see!

Interview: Rachel Brimble

My review of Pursued for the Viscount’s Vengeance by Sarah Mallory

My review of Ethan’s Daughter: Templeton Cove Stories (Templeton Cove #7) by Rachel Brimble

My review of A Baby for Christmas (Sweet Home Montana Book 2) by Joan Kilby

A Baby for Christmas (Sweet Home Montana Book 2) by Joan Kilby

Britain’s Libraries Week

Romance Books Category Romance

Anzac Day – Recommended Reads

Vietnam War Memorial Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 30th May 2015

Me on Anzac Parade, the huge, memorial-lined road that leads up to the museum.

Today is Anzac Day, Australia and new Zealand’s biggest day for our war veterans. The national ceremony at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra is televised, and before that there’s a dawn service (which I have never been to, despite coming from a family of veterans, but I always hear the neighbours getting up at about 4am!).

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We usually drop by the War Memorial a little later in the day and spend some time at the Vietnam War section.

I was trying to think of romance and suspense reads that involve Australian military or veterans, and came up with a few authors.

Hélène Young writes suspense books with some romance, and featuring Australian military characters.

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Barbara Hannay’s The Secret Years is set half in the Second World War and half in the present, and I really enjoyed it. The woman in the WW2 part is posted to the consulate in Canberra.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Sarah Mayberry has a really good book about a female veteran.

More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry

Joan Kilby’s Protecting her Son involves an Australian Special Forces veteran, and has a scene at the end set at the War Memorial above!

Protecting Her Son

Fiona Greene’s Home For Christmas – well, the cover and title tell you what you need to know!

Home For Christmas by Fiona Greene

Karly Lane writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, with some themes involving veterans.

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And, for Kiwi veteran heroes, there is Karina Bliss’ New Zealand Special Forces series, beginning with Here Comes the Groom.

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How did 2015 go? Contemporary Romance.

Sarah Mayberry Julie James Contemporary Romance Book Covers

How did my wishes for contemporary romance for 2015 match up with how contemporary romance in 2015 actually turned out?

My number one wish for contemporary romance for 2015 was for authors to stop being so bloody misogynistic.

Did they do this? Some are great, and I’ve been really happy with some series that celebrate the female characters at least as much as the male characters:

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan KilbyWoo Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 2) by Karina BlissWait for Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3)  by Sarah Mayberry

But the subgenre as a whole? Nope, not really.

I read some books that were truly horrifying and made me disgusted with women writers for hating their own gender so much. Such as this one.

Something reading romance teaches you is exactly how many women are misogynists, and how many fantasise about bad things happening to other women. We’re not at war with each other, and if your male characters don’t act like this, the women sure don’t have to.

This needs to change.

Category Romance. No more home renovation. No more ageing parents going into homes. No more bakers. No more etc. etc. etc.

I was sick of the same themes and occupations over and over and wanted more variety.

Did I get it? Well, publishers themselves have been starting to put out calls for more variety. No more home renovation and no more ageing parents (why people in their twenties would be putting their parents into nursing homes is beyond me!). Publishers are tired of reading about bakers – and so am I.

PLEASE no more traumatised navy SEAL cowboys returning to small town Texas. PLEASE. I beg you!

Change doesn’t come fast though, but I have hope that this is something that IS changing. I’ve read some more modern and relevant contemporary romance this year. It’s just a matter of dumping the traditional Harlequin tropes and recognising the real world is a whole lot more interesting than that.

I wanted contemporary romance to tackle real world issues.

It’s utterly bizarre how contemporary romance tends to ignore reality. So much is going on in the world and there are so many places and issues that books could deal with. A lot of readers steer clear of contemporary romance because they find it too mundane.

It doesn’t have to be.

I think this might be changing gradually too.

I was sick of all the sex and wanted this amazing little thing called a PLOT to return.

This is a generalisation, and it depends on the author and the book. However, I know I’m not the only one who has said this recently. The sex-obsession has actually sent me in the direction of Christian fiction. I don’t want to be preached at or converted, but I also appreciate the time taken to develop a relationship before everyone jumps into bed.

Yes, I read some good contemporary romances in 2015, but I also didn’t read all that much of this subgenre this year. Hopefully I’ll do better next year, and hopefully I’ll discover that the issues I have are being changed!

Wait for Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3) by Sarah Mayberry

Wait for Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3) by Sarah Mayberry

Sometimes it pays to wait for the things you want, even if it’s the hardest thing you ever do.

Beth Walker hasn’t just been burned by her philandering country music star ex, she’s been barbequed to a crisp. Coming home to Australia and into the arms of her best friends is exactly the balm she needs. Cocktails and laughter at an Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball seem like the perfect distraction. Until she bumps into the last person she wants seeing her heartsick and pathetic — Jonah Masters, rising country music star and witness to the failure of her marriage. If only she’d met Jonah first. Now she’s broken and won’t ask him to wait until she heals.

Jonah can’t believe he and Beth are finally standing under the same stars. The connection they shared on the road years ago has haunted him but he wouldn’t pursue a married woman. Now she’s free, and Jonah can’t refuse the one night Beth impulsively offers. Can he convince the woman he’s always loved that he’ll wait — however long it takes — for her trust?

Wait for Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3) by Sarah Mayberry

Book One Review

Book Two Review

Firstly: I cannot tell you how happy I am to see a prologue. Mainstream publishers are always screaming: DON’T DO THAT!! but no matter what they say, sometimes I really like one, and it’s important to the story.

This is the third and final novella in a series set in regional Australia. The books are about a group of three friends (women, and I’ve said already that I love series where female friendships are strong, and it’s not about a gang of interchangeable studs), who attend one of those crazy B&S balls rural Australia is infamous for.

Each of these women’s relationships blossoms over the course of the night, but this final one takes the focus away from the ball itself, and gives us time with hero and heroine. The two of them do a pretty good job of escaping the insanity of the night, whereas the other couples are caught right up in it. This makes sense, considering our leading man is a celebrity, and our heroine is trying to evade pretty much everyone after being internationally humiliated.

There are a few contemporary romance writers from this part of the world who write excellent MODERN books, and Sarah Mayberry is one of them. These are modern people acting modern, with modern wants, plans and needs. They speak and act like people their age should, and they have none of the conservative hang-ups category romance publishers STILL encourage in many of their books.

One thing I always notice about Sarah Mayberry’s books is that she writes really nice men. Much more attractive than those sexist bastards some favour these days!

But, really. We have ARSES in Australia, not ASSES! Different word, different meaning, and different pronunciation, and it’s nonnegotiable which of the two words we say!

I think this conclusion to the series did a good thing, as it would have been too much for all three books to follow the evening at the ball too closely. I think this one is just connected enough to the other two to make sense, but it takes us in a new direction.

However, I hope hero and heroine never get a hangover again. With Australia about to ban pretty much any effectual painkillers, they won’t have a cure next time!

Review copy provided by the authors.

The Week: 19th – 25th October

Spring Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 21st October 2015 Sky Clouds Pink Grey Orange Nature

Wednesday sunset in Canberra. *

Well, it’s 4.29 here!

4:29pm Wednesday (which we had about a day too early here, considering time zones!) was the time and day Marty McFly was supposed to arrive in 2015, according to the Back to the Future film franchise. The future is officially in the past now!

Wednesday Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 21st October 2015 Magpie Bird Sky Clouds Pink Orange Purple Blue Spring Nature - Copy

I accidentally tamed some baby magpies this week. I figured as I’d already started the job, I might as well continue.

Now they come every evening, standing there and waiting for their snack. A few years ago we had one that used to peck on our back door when it was hungry!

Magpies in Australia are vicious monsters in spring. They swoop everything that moves, putting many people in the hospital every year.

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However, they have the most beautiful song of all our birds, and if you tame them early enough they will still be wild, but will be fine around you. One of them started eating out of my hand after three days.

11th February russian shelling in Ukraine - 2015

What has been going on in the past fortnight?! Whenever I open a news site – especially a right-leaning site – everyone is in love with Vladimir Putin. Kremlin propaganda has literally turned the whole lot of you. I’ve had a few teary days in the past week, seeing how many people I know now think Putinist Russia is great. I’ve unfriended a whole lot of people online. I’ve cried again. I’ve ranted. I’ve raved. I don’t understand human beings.

Do you support Hitler? Stalin? Kim Jong-un? No? Then why are you supporting a man as evil as the rest of them? Why are you supporting the man who made my own family members refugees?!

I deleted my (pretty damn popular) Tumblr account. I will no longer be on Facebook. Humans horrify me at the moment.

This week I found out that the most amazing Sleeping Beauty ever is available to watch on YouTube. This is an almost painfully long ballet, but I am SO happy to have found it. It features so many gorgeous dancers I have worked with over the years. It’s from 1993, but I think ballet was better and more artistic then than it is now.

The main two dancers are the nicest people in the world

And if you go to the soloist at 1:37:35, you will see the dancer who took me under her wing when I was a silly little thing. A gorgeous woman and dancer. The very skinny, very young man who comes on after her is from here in Canberra.

In Odesa this week, Ukrainians turned a statue of Lenin into a statue of Darth Vader:

22nd October 20153

Despite Putin putting up more and more and MORE Lenin and Stalin statues (and statues of HIM), Ukraine has a law that all those things have to be gone by this month. Tens of millions of people (the majority of them Ukrainian) died in the name of those monsters.

This Cover

Pirate Fabio

Contacting Me

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Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC 1995

Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

My review of Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan Kilby

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan Kilby

My review of His Housekeeper’s Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

My review of Woo Me by Karina Bliss

Woo Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 2) by Karina Bliss

Woo Me by Karina Bliss

Woo Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 2) by Karina Bliss

Can true love overcome a bad hide day and a series of unfortunate events?

Disillusioned in love, Jen Tremaine is done with men. So when her best friends dare her to wear a cow costume to their reunion at an Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball, she’s all over it. Who would have thought dressing as a heifer would make her irresistible to a bunch of lasso-twirling, drunken cowboys?

Maybe you should have thought this through, says the sexy security guard who keeps finding her at the centre of trouble. Even though Jen’s always dismissed soul mates as a load of bull, the sizzle between them is making her wonder: What if you met The One while wandering lonely as a cow? Would you find the courage to become a believer?

When ex-Special Forces soldier Logan Turner is roped into helping out with security at the B&S ball, he isn’t expecting to find love – but after months in all-male company he sure is hoping for lust. He certainly isn’t expecting to fall for a feisty, funny, trouble-making Cowderella. Only problem is, she’s leaving Australia tomorrow. Convincing Jen they can still have a future together may wind up being the toughest mission of his life.

Woo Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 2) by Karina Bliss

Book One Review

I start to sound like a broken record when I’m reviewing contemporary romances by a certain group of authors. Karina Bliss is in that group, as are the other two authors in this series.

The reason I like this sort of book is because everyone is So Normal. Not normal as in boring, but normal as in I believe they exist. They don’t talk or act like Romance Novel Characters. I love it.

One thing I want to mention near the top is that the hero is a former Special Forces soldier who had something bad happen. However, he DID NOT carry on and mope about it nonstop like every other Special Forces soldier in the romance genre. He didn’t use his past as an excuse to refuse to commit.

This is the second in a trilogy set in Australia and written by Australian authors Joan Kilby and Sarah Mayberry, and Kiwi Karina Bliss. I have no idea how it was written without a lot of drama and confusion, because the stories are all happening at the same time, they’re closely connected, and some scenes overlap, but from different characters’ points of view. It must have been a challenge to make it all fit!

This is a novella, which means the timeframe is short, and which means it’s hard to make a reader believe in the relationship. Even more in this second book, because hero and heroine have never met before.

HOWEVER I was convinced, which was pretty impressive. I can only think of a couple of books where an author convinced me of a relationship this fast.

I liked how this one was plotted. A lot has to happen fast, and while it was all a little crazy, that’s what these silly B&S balls are like, so I was happy to go with it. I also LOVE a book where the hero knows what he wants, and goes for it.

As with the last book, things have been Americanised. The worst offender has to be the “fanny pack”, as outside US English “fanny” is slang for a woman’s… erm… the same way “dick” is slang for a man’s… erm… The metric system has ceased to exist, and proper nouns have been changed into US spelling (such as CENTRE becoming CENTER in the first sentence).

I know I should give in and accept I’ve lost this battle, because the publishing industry expects American English no matter where a book is set. However, I’m not flying the white flag just yet!

This is a fun series, and I think the length of the stories is just right. I’ve read plenty of collaborations, particularly those being put out by Mills and Boon and Harlequin, but in those there’s always a weak entry or two. Not the case here.

Review copy provided by the authors.

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan Kilby

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan Kilby

She’ll do anything to get him to see her as a woman…

Feisty, fearless Ellie McFarlane has tried forever to get cattle station manager, Rick Drummond, to notice she’s not another cowhand. So when her gal pals talk her into glamming up for an Outback Bachelor and Spinster ball she’s eager to prove she’s all woman, all the time, and leave her boneheaded cowboy eating dust.

Sexy wrangler Rick is crazy about Ellie just as she is but her father – his boss – told him long ago that his daughter was off limits. Even though she’s all grown up now, Rick still feels it’s his job is to protect her, not seduce her. Plus, he’s finally got an opportunity to buy back his family farm, which means moving far away.

Ellie’s transformation from Cinder-Ellie to belle of the ball has Rick’s jaw dropping – and all the other cowboys falling at her feet. Ellie tries to revel in her new-found sex-pot status but without Rick it’s a hollow victory. Has Rick left it too late to claim the only woman he’ll ever truly love…

Win Me (The Outback Bachelor Ball Book 1) by Joan Kilby

It was a given that I would really like this trilogy, considering three of the best contemporary romance authors around collaborated on it.

It’s sort of a dream come true for a lot of readers to have Joan Kilby, Karina Bliss and Sarah Mayberry do a series, as their stories FEEL contemporary, their characters are so realistic, and they’re not trying to package younger adults into the neat little rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes corner of the genre the way too much category romance does.

It must be a nightmare trying to figure out a collaboration, especially with the characters in this one so closely linked, and the stories happening at the same time!

These are shorter stories, and this one involves two people who have known each other since adolescence. It’s a friends to lovers story, but with two people who have wanted each other for a long time. Our heroine, feeling rejected, has spent the past six years working in the United States, but now she’s home for good.

The great things about these stories, and apparently particularly about authors writing stories set in Australia, are numerous. One is that they have rounded lives, which involves close friendships with people of their own gender – and how wonderful to have a series that is based on female friendships rather than a gang of interchangeable studs!

Another is that the characters speak like people of their age, even when that means they’re a bit cruder. This is believable dialogue.

In this case, yes the heroine is returning to her roots, but not because she failed in the big city, or because she has a desperate need to open a quilting shop (see: pretty much all contemporary romance at the moment). She has ambitions that take her home, instead of her needing to go there because she failed elsewhere.

Also nice to read about familiar places and to see references to places like Gundagai, which is just down the road from me.

I have my usual complaint about the language, which is a direct result of the romance industry being so US-centric. It is a terrible balance authors are always trying to strike, making the thoughts and dialogue realistic without alienating American readers. Even so here, with Australian and Kiwi authors writing a series set in Australia, things have been changed!

It’s an arse, and it’s a mobile phone. Petrol goes in cars. We have the metric system, and I’m the same age as the hero and I have NO idea what distance a yard is. No way would either character give distances in yards or miles!

However, I really have nothing negative to say about the story, the characters, the anything. Novellas are hard to pull off, because they require a shorter timeframe, which means much less time to convince us of the relationship. I think I was convinced here.

Now to move onto the other two in the series.

 

Review copy provided by the authors.

Protecting Her Son by Joan Kilby

While part of a series set in the fictional town of Summerside in Victoria, Australia, this book stands on its own with no problems whatsoever. I’ve read this series out of order, and never struggled to understand what was going on.

Protecting Her Son brings a suspenseful twist to the series, and I really, really liked it.

Paula Drummond is a disgraced policewomen, having fallen pregnant to the criminal she eventually had arrested and put in prison. Trying to start over in small-town Summerside, she gets partnered with former SAS soldier Riley Henning, who is struggling with PTSD, and who is suspicious of Paula and her past.

The book picks up around the time the father of Paula’s son is released from prison. And the man wants his son.

I suspect writing children well is hard, but Joan Kilby did an excellent job with Jamie. I liked him, and he seemed age-appropriate. I liked Riley, and I liked the slow-burning connection with Paula. Kilby is one of the Super writers whose books I always enjoy, and she has an easy, entertaining writing style.

My heart warms a little more with each Australian-set Super I read. Seeing the Americanisms slooooowly being pushed out by correct language for the situations and settings it a great thing, but there’s still a lot of work to do. At present we’re getting about 2% Australian English and 98% American English!

But that really is a huge improvement.

Honestly, some of the Americanisation that happens at the editing stage is beyond ridiculous. Why, for example, was the Australian War Memorial changed to the National War Museum? Nobody would have trouble understanding the concept if the correct name was used (being a Canberran who sees the building every week, that one completely baffled me!).

And I’m sure American readers are capable of understanding “Where’s Wally” is the original name for what they call “Where’s Waldo”. It truly did not need changing!

However, we were finally treated to the correct spelling of “Mum” and “moustache”. The children attended “primary school” instead of the American “elementary school”.

Now, with any luck, the next Australian Super I read will have banished flashlight and windshield and purse, and then we’ll really be getting somewhere!

If you’re in America none of this will be an issue to you. And Protecting Her Son was an excellent book that I would recommend to women’s fiction, contemporary romance and suspense readers.

Blurb:

Paula Drummond is finally back on a police force. And with so much at stake—she’s a single mom atoning for an almost career-ending mistake—she’s not risking anything but stellar performance. That means, regardless of whatever attraction is brewing between her and her partner, Officer Riley Henning, she will not get involved. Still, working side by side with a man as hot as Riley and not giving in to temptation isn’t easy. Especially when he goes above and beyond to help keep her son safe. With all that evidence piling up, it seems as though her partner on the job is destined to become her partner in bed…and maybe even in life.