The Week: 28th March – 3rd April

Canberra Australia Sunset Sonya Heaney Autumn

One of our (unedited!) sunsets in Canberra this week.

I hope everyone around here remembered about daylight saving! I know it’s easier now with so many devices updating themselves, but it seems every year I hear of a funny mistake!

Apparently we’re not going to have autumn this year. It’s still in the high twenties (Celsius) and the leaves aren’t really changing colour.

I had a dismal reading week this week. So many historical romances I tried to read, but couldn’t cope with; some I could not finish. Maybe that means I’m due for some good books now!

Parliament House Canberra Australia 2nd April 2016 Sonya Heaney Back-Burning..

Smoke over Australian Parliament during fire reduction burns in the city over the weekend.

The entrepreneurs bringing the Great Moscow Circus here – again – have been obscenely spamming the streets with advertising, and paying many people to put huge signs up on their own houses. Whole streets in Canberra and neighbouring Queanbeyan are lined with the things – three signs per house. Sad that people have already forgotten Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and Georgia, and the bombing of civilians in Syria, and the human rights abuses, and the extreme homophobia, and the… you get the picture) and will do anything for a few dollars. Even the house next to my late (Ukrainian) grandmother’s has them.

So some people who will remain unnamed have been adding some things to a few of the signs:

 protest for ukraine anti-putin great moscow circus advertisementsprotest for ukraine anti-putin great moscow circus advertisements.

The collapse of the Wisconsin State Capitol

In one of history’s more successful April Fool jokes, in 1933 it was reported in the Madison Capital-Times that the Wisconsin State Capitol had collapsed. 1st April 1933.

One week until One With You

One With You by Sylvia Day

No more copies of Fifty Shades of Grey!

But now it looks like everyone’s love affair with Fifty Shades of Grey is well and truly over.

My review of Edge of Surrender (At the Edge #1 Part 2) by Laura Griffin

Edge of Surrender (At the Edge #1 Part 2) by Laura Griffin

My review of The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

My review of Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Lady Georgiana Cressington is living a nightmare. Coerced by her father into returning to her childhood home, the young widow becomes a pawn in another of his heartless games. Her return to Summerfield Hall reunites her with the man she once loved before their hearts were shattered by a devastating betrayal.

Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana’s father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana’s son from inheriting Rob’s rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love hey once had.

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

There are a few historical romance authors whose books set in America are fantastic, but whose voice doesn’t work for books set in England.

I LOVED Kathleen Bittner Roth’s Josette, and listed it as one of my favourite reads of last year, but this story, set in Victorian England is very anachronistic, and despite the formal speak the terminology the characters use is American, not English.

Firstly, I love the Victorian era, so any book with that setting starts off with bonus points from me. It’s an era of so much change with technology and social issues, and such rapidly-changing fashions. Portrait of a Forbidden Lady is set in 1859.

Secondly, I liked the angst at the core of the story. I usually prefer darker stories, and there were elements of that here.

However, then we hit the anachronisms.

I find it astonishing that an aristocratic girl of fifteen would have been sneaking off and conducting a sexual relationship with a young man. I find it astonishing that neither girl nor boy was aware of the social conventions of the time, and the consequences (such as pregnancy and social ruin) of doing such a thing.

I also find it unbelievable that so many high-ranking young ladies in Victorian Britain not only stride around in men’s clothes, but that nobody seems to think there’s anything very strange about it. Both the heroine and her best friend do this, and it was yet another social convention that made these characters seem like they were from the twenty-first, not the nineteenth century.

The female characters in general were supposed to be a bit quirky, but a bunch of important ladies getting together to make – and get drunk on – alcohol while dressed like men was unbelievable to me.

As for the dialogue, there were all the usual Americanisms, as well as one that I’ve been noticing has been creeping into books recently: it’s a beetroot, not a “beet”!

As I said above, I highly recommend Josette, and think the author’s American books are amazing, but if you are familiar with Victorian social conventions, or British English, you might struggle with this one.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Best of 2015

2015 was a mixed bag. I read some really great books, and got excited about quite a few things.

However there were also lengthy periods of time where I was either feeling a little blah about my books or I was downright fed up with reading in general, and with the repetition brought on by genre fads.

I saved myself from my reading slumps both by rereading, and also by buying books instead of accepting as many review books as I might have other years.

Every year I post my best reads of the year. Many are 2015 releases, but some are not. Not all of them are the Greatest Read Ever, but every one of these stuck with me in some way, and that’s what counts the most when it comes to a book.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Ross Poldark (Poldark #1) by Winston Graham

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl (2015) (The fourth book in the Travis series) by Lisa Kleypas

Collateral Damage (Bagram Special Ops #5) by Kaylea Cross

Collateral Damage by Kaylea Cross

His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen

His Christmas Countess (Lords of Disgrace #2) by Louise Allen

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy #2) by Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

Demelza (Poldark #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

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

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

Reflected in You (Crossfire #2) by Sylvia Day

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake (2015) by Lisa Kleypas

His Housekeeper’s Christmas wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Week: 14th – 20th September

Queanbeyan New South Wales to Canberra Australian Capital Territory Sonya Heaney 18th September 2015 Road Trip Spring Mountains Nature

Driving from Queanbeyan to Canberra on Friday afternoon

Possum Destruction Queanbeyan Sonya Heaney 18th September 2015

Thank you to the stupid idiot builder who did the inspection of my grandmother’s house before the contracts were exchanged. He unblocked the chimney, so when we arrived on Friday a possum had got into the house and TRASHED it! You can see the one strip I vacuumed (and even then there’s still charcoal on it!).

We cleaned it all up, and then when we arrived on Saturday it was trashed AGAIN! I was standing in the kitchen, turned around, and the thing was sitting there next to me. There was screaming and running because it was so unexpected!

Cat 3 Queanbeyan Australia Sonya Heaney 19th September 2015

Sonya Heaney Cat Queanbeyan 18th September 2015

So… may I keep her?! We’re going to have to take her to the pound soon, because it just isn’t possible to keep her, but I’d love to.

Screen-shot-2012-10-24-at-6_25_22-AMTonyAbbottMisogynist

Because all men who respect women make speeches in front of signs like that!

This was quite the week for Australia. Our Prime Minister, the man infamous for misogyny, homophobia, and international ridicule, and the man who kept meeting with Vladimir Putin despite world pressure not to (and immediately after Russia shot down MH17 and killed dozens of Australians). The man who here in Canberra is known for decimating our community with all his government job cuts. And for his Vladimir Putin-style half-naked photo ops. Well, he FINALLY got dumped by his own party.

A year ago I filed an official complaint against him on behalf of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Australians. I received an official reply, telling me he supports us and not Putinist Russia. The letter came complete with gold coat of arms, but it didn’t exactly change things!

Katherine Kelly Lang from the Bold and Beautiful with her new fashion line of kaftans, at Floriade.

The Bold and the Beautiful star here in Canberra this week, doing promotional stuff at our spring Floriade flower festival. I don’t watch soap operas, but even I know who Brooke is!

Fantasy Casting of Book Characters

Tom Hanks 1

Changes in Romantic Suspense

United States Navy SEALs

What was the cover designer thinking?!

It Had to Be You (Chicago Stars #1) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The 40th anniversary of Fawlty Towers

fawlty_towers

My review of The Amish Mother (Lancaster Courtships #2) by Rebecca Kertz

 The Amish Mother (Lancaster Courtships #2) by Rebecca Kertz

My review of Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Drawn together by a wayward child they both love, an independent beauty long scorned by New Orleans society and a wealthy shipping magnate guard their fragile hearts even as their passion forges an undeniable bond.

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

I nearly didn’t read this one because the author’s name is similar to another author’s (I’m not sure it’s doing this author any favours) and I got them mixed up. I’m so glad I did read it! Even with the weird cover!

I am guilty of behaving like far too many historical romance readers and baulking at the prospect of reading about new time periods and settings. It is no wonder the subgenre is so stagnant! I am so glad I pushed myself to read Josette despite my initial reservations, because this is one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a while.

Set in New Orleans in 1857, I cannot say what is accurate or inaccurate in the story, but there are few historical romances that immerse you in a time and place as well as this one does. And even considering that I’ve recently been complaining about being SICK AND TIRED of books about single fathers and young widows (this book features both), I still enjoyed those aspects of the story. The daughter is a great character.

I read Kathleen Bittner Roth’s debut novel, which was set in Victorian England, and remember thinking she had talent but wasn’t quite comfortable with her subject matter. I see now that like most authors she tried her hand at a British setting (which is practically what you have to do in order to get published), while what she excels at is US history. This was such an engrossing read.

There is so much that can be done with this era of history, and yet it seems there are so few authors willing to do it. I know many stick to books about the titled classes because they don’t want to read about Victorian-era poverty, but step down one rung and life is still comfortable, and also much more fascinating. I’m no expert on New Orleans in any era, but the different lifestyles represented in this one are fascinating.

Another point: you don’t need to read the rest of the series to read this one.

I do think the book might be a little long, but it is a minor complaint.

My other niggles are pretty specific:

An 1859 fashion plate from ''Godey's Magazine''

  • Sex when gravely ill, and sex when in 1850s dress. 1857 was the era of the mega dress, the hoop skirt that even the media of the time ridiculed, and also the era of the corset. You’re not going to just be lifting that thing up and going for it, and nor is a lady going to able to feel much pressing against her belly in all that underwear and all those layers!
  • English public school = private school!
  • It’s a personal thing, but I HATE the term heart jumped into their throat (or variations of it) – it gives me a disgusting visual! And it’s used in this book a lot.

I think it’s important to support books like this one, historical romances that dare to do something a little different.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 7th – 13th July

Russia invades Ukraine Vladimir Putin Adolf Hitler

Dear Russia: if you could stop slaughtering Ukrainians for no reason whatsoever, that would be really nice. Stick to your own country and your disastrous social problems instead of invading your neighbours.

I read quite a lot this week. A really good historical book that will be released soon, and about a hundred other things. Some novellas. Some upcoming fantasy and paranormal stuff that was only so-so.

 My review of The Vampire’s Wolf by Jenna Kernan

The Vampire's Wolf by Jenna Kernan

My review of Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

My review of Lily’s Leap by Téa Cooper

Lily's Leap a novella by Téa Cooper

My review of Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream

Before Midnight Blood Prince Series (Book One) by Jennifer Blackstream

My review of The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

He may be her saviour… or what she needs most

England 1857

After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.

Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell her. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows—until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.

The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

First (silly little) thing: Earl Grey is a proper noun. You spell Grey with the letter E. The spelling can’t be changed to make it more American – and also, as the book is set in England, why would that be done?! (Sorry, but it came towards the end of the book, and so it got stuck in my mind!)

Now for the actual review:

I get excited when I find historical romances set in the Victorian era. It’s a (long and fascinating) time period that is seriously underused compared to the (very short) Regency era in books in this genre.

The Seduction of Sarah Marks started off with an interesting opening scene. Our heroine wakes up with no memory of where she is, how she got there, or who the man beside her in the bed is. It paved the way for a more original storyline than many in the genre.

Now, it is also a completely unbelievable situation. Not just the old-school amnesia romance trope, but that it happened when she got a little bop on the head so insignificant it isn’t really mentioned at the time it happens, or even a few hours later.

It’s also completely unbelievable that not only our heroine is suffering from the condition, but also our hero, too. That’s just too much of a coincidence!

I did appreciate the innovative ideas, I love the setting and I also liked that the main character acted more like a woman of higher rank than most HR heroines (who are annoyingly anachronistic). She did have her Mary Sue moments (rescuing a disabled puppy!), but generally I didn’t mind her character.

However, dynamite wasn’t even invented (1867) until years after this book takes place (1857), so there’s no way the characters would be referring to it!

There was good and not so good in this book. Original ideas that make me think the author is going to get better as she grows as a writer. I’d like to have seen some more attention given to making the dialogue, grammar and terminology British, but overall this was a solid read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.