The Week: 10th – 16th November

 The Australian Ballet performs La Bayadère Kingdom of the Shades

What a waste of a week! The heat probably didn’t help with my lack of motivation! This weekend is all about our trip to Sydney to see The Australian Ballet perform La Bayadère.

Stop Russia Stop Vladimir Putin G20 Brisbane 2014

There was a big anti-Putin protest in Brisbane, but unfortunately it’s a protest I had to miss.

A discussion on the Word Wenches blog this week, about places people want to set more romances, constantly turned up one place: Russia. I do find it really upsetting that no matter what Russia does to its neighbouring countries, and no matter how many thousands (millions!) of their neighbours they slaughter, they always seem to get a free pass because they’re “exotic”. Nobody affords that same kind of love to – say – Nazi Germany. I bet authors in 1939 weren’t rushing to write more romances set in Germany! It makes me sick how little people care about Eastern Europeans.

 Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia 13th November 2014 Sonya Heaney

Another week of pretty Canberra skies.

A stupid court summons (don’t worry, I’m not a murderer!) came in the mail, so there goes my Christmas season and my family trip to the Gold Coast. Sooooo annoyed about that! I can’t even begin to explain how mad I am… This is more than likely the last chance I have to travel with my grandmother (who is in her nineties and struggling both with mobility issues and dementia) and because of the stupid court, it isn’t going to happen.

Kittens Queanbeyan Australia 12th November 2014 Sonya Heaney

Something that did occupy quite a bit of my time this week was our shed full of stray cats! Gradually things are being sorted out with them. The kittens are learning to eat (notice the one hiding in the back corner!), and have started venturing out. There’re privately-run charities that are willing to help with everything from vet’s fees to placement for them when they’re old enough to be on their own.

I’ve not had that much to do with pets for years and years, so it’s been nice to learn so much and come across such helpful people in the region.

Misogyny in book reviews.

Outlander 1x06 The Garrison Commander Claire Ending Sonya Heaney Sceenshot

My review of Midnight Rising by Lara Adrian

Midnight Rising by Lara Adrian

My review of Dove by Juliette Miller

Dove by Juliette Miller

Dove by Juliette Miller

Dove by Juliette Miller

Weaving a vivid tapestry of fiction and fact, DOVE takes us to another time and place … and deep into the heart of a forbidden, extraordinary love affair between a Native American seer and a young frontiersman. DOVE is an epic of romance, myth and history that will enchant readers from the very first page.

Dove’s older brother Hawk is chief of her tribe, and this allows her certain privileges: namely, to indulge her free-spirited nature as she hunts and gathers just a little further than home than she should. Dove is several miles upriver when she is startled one typical summer day to discover someone watching her: a very alluring, very forbidden stranger from the settlement across the river.

Dove’s brothers are wary of the frontiersmen, and extremely protective. And so is her closest friend River, whose friendship seems to be sparked with increasingly complicated designs. Nevertheless, Dove is captivated and curious, and she finds the beguiling young settler, Gabriel, is waiting for her. She acts impetuously, swept away by an uncontrollable attraction.

But Dove’s adventurousness is the least of Hawk’s worries. Hawk has no choice but to lead a war party to fight alongside Gabriel’s brothers’ troops, to defend both their territories. And Dove is compelled to follow them, hidden.

The spiralling consequences of Dove’s innocent and ultimately courageous decisions have a profound effect on her family, and her tribe, leading to an unlikely and far-reaching source of resolution.

Entwining the fate of a mythical Native American tribe with the destiny of two star-crossed lovers, Juliette Miller’s captivating novel takes readers on an enthralling and passionate journey.

Dove by Juliette Miller

Having read three of Juliette Miller’s historical romances set in the Scottish Highlands, Dove was definitely a big change for me!

Part historical romance, part historical fiction, set in the 1720s and told in the author’s trademark first person narration, I wouldn’t know how exactly to classify this story. It’s the journey of our lead character, a seventeen year old Indian who holds a place high up with her people, but who is still a young girl, just getting to understand herself and what she wants in the world.

For obvious reasons, not being American I’m no expert on Native American history. Most of what I’ve been taught is about Britain, so while I can’t say how much is right or wrong, plenty of research clearly went into this book.

The cultural aspect of the story is fascinating, and what I appreciated was that the people of different backgrounds brought their beliefs to a situation and lived by them, even if we could easily prove them wrong today.

There’re two love interests in this story, and while both play big roles, as I said, it’s Dove’s story. Cultures clash, but people can change their ideas about how relationships should be. Nobody is perfect, and the connections between different characters are complicated.

One problem an author writing books set in the past has to deal with is: how do you have them speak? In historical fiction set in England, noticeably anachronistic dialogue drives me batty. However, I think in this book the fact the characters wouldn’t often have been speaking English frees them up to speak in a way we might today without it being “wrong”.

I have gradually been introducing myself to more and more historical books set in North America, largely because they often feature more action and adventure and fewer titled characters. All three apply to Dove. The first person perspective isn’t for some readers, I know, but I’m enjoying finding different stories from an otherwise familiar era.

 

Review copy provided by the author.

The Week: 27th January – 2nd February

Canberra Australia City Sunset 25th January 2014 Sonya Heaney

We’re having another heatwave in Canberra! Ugh – 30°C every day in summer would be lovely. 40°C every day – not so much.

I read an excellent book this week, about life in 1950s Britain. I’ll review it soon. I also picked up Outlander again, because the trailers for the television adaptation look fantastic. My copy had a bookmark at page 166 from when I put it down in 2011. I went on a trip to Ukraine and never picked it up again!

outlander-television-miniseries-still-claire-and-jamie

Only one book post and one book review this week, but I’ll make it up next week!

What I want out of 2014 – New Adult

Easy by Tammara Webber

My review of Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

Deep in the lush Highlands, a powerful laird with everything to lose must risk it all for the lass who storms into his keep—and his heart. 

Raised on the debauched margins of society, Amelia Taylor depends upon her quick wit and fiery spirit to survive. When danger closes in on her already precarious home, she flees into the Highlands and finds refuge in the iron-strong circle of Clan Mackenzie. There, her lack of propriety and intriguing beauty draw the attentions of their formidable leader. But to remain safe from pursuit, she must conceal her identity, even if it means deceiving Laird Knox Mackenzie. 

A fiercely guarded and staunchly moral warrior, Knox never expected a ravishing stranger like Amelia to reawaken his desires. Yet as their heated confrontations unlock untold passion, temptation proves impossible to resist. So when Amelia’s tapestry of lies begins to unravel, the secrets from her dark past threaten both his Clan and a future they can only dare to dream of….

Highlander Mine by Juliette Miller

I don’t think the people on the cover look much like the characters! Where’s our brawny Highlander hero’s long hair?!

This is the third book in Juliette Miller’s Highland romance series – my reviews of book one and book two – and it was a solid instalment.

The distinguishing feature of this series is that it’s written in the first person, which requires a big adjustment; romantic fiction for adults is very rarely written this way. I think the style adds a bit of a modern feel to the text – I’m not sure how easy it would be to maintain historical accuracy when we have to decipher what’s going on in the head of the narrator (the heroine).

The third book introduces a different kind of heroine, a woman who is on the run with her nephew and who has to lie and lie and lie in order to keep both of them safe. She’s not a criminal, but she’s not completely blameless either, which makes her something of a challenging match for the extremely aristocratic hero.

One problem I have with the first person perspective is that it can be a challenge in romantic fiction in particular, where we have to learn that the man finds the woman attractive and appealing via her thoughts. It’s hard to do, but I think the author pulled it off fairly well, despite some moments where we had to hear about the heroine’s beauty from her own descriptions:

I could see the way his gaze lingered on the lavish curves of my body, gliding over my full lips, touching the long, feminine coils of my softly fiery hair and caressing the plush bounty of my half-exposed breasts. It was a look I was accustomed to, for better or worse.

If you liked the first two books in this series, then you know what you’re in for. I don’t think this one will disappoint you. If you haven’t read the first two, I don’t see why you couldn’t start the series here.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Highlander Taken by Juliette Miller

Highlander Taken by Juliette Miller

In the midst of a Clan divided, two unlikely allies must confront the passion that binds them…and the treachery that may part them forever.

To secure her family’s alliance with the powerful Clan Mackenzie, Stella Morrison has no choice but to wed the notorious Kade Mackenzie. Unable to ignore the whispers that surround him, she resigns herself to a marriage in name only. Yet, as the fierce warrior strips away Stella’s doubt one seductive touch at a time, burgeoning desire forces her to question all she holds as truth.

Leading a rebellious army should have been Kade’s greatest challenge…until conquering the heart of his reluctant bride becomes an all-consuming need. Now more than ever, he’s determined to find victory both on the battlefield and in the bedchamber. But the quest for triumph unleashes a dark threat, and this time, only love may prove stronger than danger.

Highlander Taken by Juliette Miller

There’re two words that come to mind for this book: Old School.

Big, strong Highlander marries abused woman against her will. She falls in love with him. Bodices are literally ripped. There’s some bondage in the bedroom (so, that part isn’t old school!). Big strong bad guy wants her. More bodices are ripped. Hijinks ensue. The day is saved. Babies.

The one thing that surprised me was the fact the book was told in the first person. This isn’t something I’m used to in historical romance, but once I got used to it I quite liked it.

This is a wildly entertaining book. I had a great time reading it. It is definitely more focused on the romance than the dramas with the clans. The cover is a good indication of what to expect (except the clean-cut, waxed-chested, oiled all-American cover model leaves a lot to be desired as far as Highlanders go!). It’s the kind of book you read for an escape, throwing historical and language accuracy concerns to the wind. It was exactly the kind of thing I needed to read on the side to get me through a fairly dull work of contemporary fiction I’d been struggling with for weeks.

For whatever reason, I don’t read Scottish-set historicals with the same expectations as books set in England. By that, I mean anachronisms and Americanisms don’t jump out at me the same way, and I don’t find myself picking apart the liberties taken with historical accuracy. While I have travelled through Scotland and read plenty of historical fiction set in the Highlands, I’m not completely aware of all of the terminology and social structures of the society. In some ways, I always expect Highland romances to have a slightly unrealistic, fantastical element to them.

Unashamedly running with a number of tropes that make this genre so popular, I enjoyed the story for what it was. Of course we have a fair idea of where the story is going, but the fun is in finding out how everyone gets there.

This book is the second in a series, but I read it first. I think perhaps a few scenes here and there would have had more meaning if I’d read these books in order, but it wasn’t really an issue.

If Scottish historicals that err on the side of adventure are your kind of thing, I think this one is a pretty good bet.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 15th – 21st April

HUGE congratulations to Ukrainian gymnast Ihor Radivilov for his achievements at the European Gymnastics Championships!

 Ihor Radivilov Ukrainian Gymnastics

In London, 2012.

Photo Credit

 The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie

I added Anne Gracie, Susanna Fraser and John Green to my recommended author LINKS.

Highlander Claimed (Clan Mackenzie #1) by Juliette Miller

My review of Highlander Claimed by Juliette Miller is HERE.

 Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly

My review of Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly is HERE.

 The Orchid Field by Amy McLellan

You can still enter the Goodreads giveaway for The Orchid Field by Amy McLellan.

Highlander Claimed by Juliette Miller

Highlander Claimed (Clan Mackenzie #1) by Juliette Miller

Since her adoption by peasants of the Ogilvie Clan, Roses has been marked as an outsider. Her fair hair and golden complexion set her apart, as does a mysterious tattoo she keeps hidden at all costs. So when Laird Ogilvie corners her with an indecent proposal, Roses has no ties to stop her from fleeing. Outcast and alone, her escape across the Highlands is interrupted by Wilkie Mackenzie, the wild and handsome brother of nearby Clan Mackenzie’s leader.

Wilkie is honour bound to marry into the family of a valuable ally. But when Roses sweeps him off his feet—literally—settling for an arranged match is no longer an option. Torn between duty and desire, Wilkie dedicates himself to Roses’ protection, but Laird Ogilvie knows her secret and will stop at nothing to steal Roses back. Now, these star-crossed lovers find themselves in a fight to defend both their hearts…and their lives.

Highlander Claimed (Clan Mackenzie #1) by Juliette Miller

The man on this cover is supposed to have long, black, braided hair, not look like he’s just stepped out of the US Marine Corps!

I hesitate to call this book ‘Historical Romance’ as it’s more a fantasy version of history. However, it most certainly is Romance with a capital R!

Told in the first person, from the heroine’s point of view, Highlander Claimed reads much like an old school book, where both hero and heroine are gorgeous in looks, fall in love at first sight and find themselves in many a dangerous situation, with the heroine being kidnapped more than once. Much like a lot of the vaguely-historical adventure movies of the 1990s (that I loved so much!), it’s a definite fantasy romance you read for an escape.

Because I was given the second book in this series to review, I actually read this one second. The stories do overlap towards the end, but I don’t think it matters which one you read first. I enjoy reading books that see the same situations from different perspectives.

Scottish Highland romances are a pretty popular genre, with some reading almost every book of this type released. I can’t say I fall into that category, and my knowledge of Scotland at this time comes from travelling in the country and drier historical books. Therefore I’m not all that familiar with the popular tropes romance authors use for these stories, but I am aware historical accuracy tends to be ignored rather a lot.

The characters in Highlander Claimed speak in contemporary English and do not act all that much like people did a few hundred years ago. They know all about germs and disinfectant, though those discoveries weren’t made for a century or more after this book is set.

These issues tend not to jump out at me the same way they do in other historical genres (such as Regency books), for whatever reason. It seems fans of Highland romances don’t care about accuracy either, as it’s rare to find reviews that even mention anachronisms.

More than any other romance genre, I’d say this one allows authors to take liberties in order to create a great adventure story. I can’t explain why (and I can’t promise that if I was Scottish it wouldn’t annoy me!), but I guess the best answer is that women love the fantasy of the big, strong, masculine Highlander (as opposed to the oh-so-refined Regency dandies so popular in other books) and they’re willing to overlook things to get the particular story they want.

From what I’ve been able to gather from other reviews, this is smack-bang in the heart of standard Highland romance fare, and if this is your genre, I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this.