The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

First love is always the sweetest.

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her ageing parents and the children of her siblings. Now, eager to make her own life, she takes a position as governess on the neighbouring estate. It shouldn’t matter that her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the infamous rake who once broke her youthful heart. Surely he’s forgotten her, for he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years. At least, that is, until he arrives unexpectedly.

Max is incensed to meet his sister’s new governess. But why does Abby appear just as displeased to see him when it was she who’d rejected him all those years ago? Why is he so drawn to the independent spinster she has become? And why is there a sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes that suggests they might have a second chance at love?

The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

The Duke I Once Knew is fifty percent lovely reunion romance – and fifty percent misogynistic stereotyping nightmare. It seems fitting that what will probably be my last review of 2018 is for a book that features the themes I hope to not read about in 2019 – or ever again:

 

To make matters worse, he was tramping through the woods with a prissy female who squealed at the sight of caterpillars and played dumb…

Women. Aren’t. Like. That.

 

Firstly: what I liked.

This book combines two of my absolute favourite things: a reunion romance, and the Regency era. It also features another theme I love to pieces: the slightly older heroine who’s waking up to the fact life is passing her by (sort of like Jane Austen’s Persuasion).

Olivia Drake has a wonderful writing style that keeps you turning the pages, and it’s an easy style that works well with the light themes of the book.

On the other hand…

Firstly, in 2019 I want to see no more books where the hero thinks, ‘she was not like other women’. Insulting all other women to praise the heroine is sexist, not good.

Additionally, people negatively stereotyping blonde women? Sexist. People negatively stereotyping attractive women? Sexist. Putting the two together? Something I wish authors gave up years ago, but too many readers still eat it up.

It’s especially infuriating when an “other woman” character jealous enough to try and cause another woman physical harm is created to illustrate how virtuous (read: a virgin), intelligent – and non-“blonde” – the heroine is.

 

It didn’t help that Elise kept up a continuous brainless chatter in his ears, so that he couldn’t enjoy a moment’s peace. Or that she kept trying in that gratingly sultry tone to convince him to stop and rest when it was obvious she was angling for a kiss. Refusing to think about why the prospect held such little appeal, he forged onward.

‘Oh! Forgive me. Your Grace, there must have been a rock in the path. I daresay you saved my life!’

As she flapped her lashes in coquettish distress, Max suspected he’d been hoodwinked.

 

Because I was enjoying the writing, I was willing to overlook the first little misogynistic jibes here and there. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter that much, even though it’s my #1 pet hate in books.

However, as the story went on it became worse and worse, to the point it was the main theme.

By the end I couldn’t take it anymore. I was pretty furious.

Your mileage may vary, but I sure hope more women – writers and readers – will develop a zero-tolerance policy for this sort of thing in the coming year.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 4th – 10 July

Winter Evening Lake Burley Griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 9th July 2016

^^^^ Terrible, terrible picture on my old camera from the car yesterday evening. We were driving over the lake in Canberra. My proper camera broke immediately after we got off the plane in Canberra, after two months away – perfect timing! However, I REALLY need to buy a new one.

Rex Burmese Cat Cute

I learnt something sad yesterday. Rex, the cat who has been living at our neighbours’ house, but who adopted US around Christmas, is going to a new home on Thursday. It’s going to be weird to not wake up with him asleep on top of me, and to not spend my days trying to type with a cat on my lap! He’s such a dope.

Obama has announced he will be sending 1000 troops to Poland in a NATO agreement, which is a start in recognising Russian aggression – even if it is years too late to help Ukraine!

Scary law Vladimir Putin passed the other day, which will come into effect on the 20th of July. People in Russia are no longer allowed to practice their religion outside churches. You cannot even mention religion at home! There are only four mosques for about two million Muslims around Moscow at the moment (Russian authorities have refused to let them build more), and so people have been practicing their religion in public spaces. Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and even Mormonism are effectively being banned, with only the Russian Orthodox Church supported.

Religious extremists in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine

Winter Morning Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 5th July 2016

Winter morning in Canberra.

Winter Flower Sonya Heaney Canberra Australia 4th July 2016 Garden Nature - Copy

But we have some pretty flowers out!

 Release Day for Anne Gracie

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

My review of Stand-In Rancher Daddy by Renee Ryan

Stand-In Rancher Daddy by Renee Ryan

My review of A SEAL’s Proposal (Sexy SEAL #1) by Tawny Weber

A SEAL's Proposal (Sexy SEAL #1) by Tawny Weber

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

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

My review of His Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5) by Olivia Drake

His Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5) by Olivia Drake

My review of 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

His Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5) by Olivia Drake

His Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5) by Olivia Drake

MARRIAGE TO A NOBLEMAN? NOT IN HER WILDEST DREAMS. . .

The daughter of a disgraced woman and a common actor, Madelyn Swann has been shunned by the nobility. No proper lady would traipse about on a Covent Garden stage, let alone sell herself at auction to the highest bidder. So why in heaven’s name would Nathan Atwood, Viscount Rowley, make a generous offer for her hand?

Turns out Maddy is exactly the type of woman Nathan wants as his wife. Finally, he can embarrass his snobbish and cruel father, the Earl of Gilmore—and scandalise London society—with his beautiful, unsuitable bride. Then he’ll depart England forever and leave his wife behind. Having secret plans of her own, Maddy is happy to play the role … only to find that enjoying her husband’s seduction requires no acting whatsoever. But as she falls madly in love with Nathan, can she persuade him to stay with her for always?

His Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5) by Olivia Drake

This is a highly readable book, and once I sat down to it, I found it hard to stop. However, the plotline (in true fairy tale style) is totally implausible, and there’re some rough edges to the writing (the repetition!).

If you like wallpaper historical romances – and there’s nothing wrong with that – I’m sure you’ll find this one great fun. The granddaughter of a duke, who has been living as a common actress, is basically employed by the heir-to-an-earl hero to marry him so he can disgrace his family. The “virginity auction” at the start will set the tone for the rest of the book.

I’ll admit I skimmed some of the “Eliza Doolittle” moments because I don’t like cringing when I read.

However, this VICTORIAN (yay!) era book is billed as a fairy tale, so I can’t fault it for delivering on that promise.

My issues arrive with the writing and the editing.

Firstly: it’s a TheatRE!

But what drove me batty was the repetition. Such as being reminded *every time* the villain arrived on the page that he had “flaxen hair” (and evil blond man versus heroic dark-haired man is one of my most hated tropes). Or how the hero’s sister was always introduced with the description “russet brown curls”. And then there were the endless mentions of everyone’s “gloved hands”.

This should have been fixed in editing. Those books where you only learn a character’s hair colour at the 60% mark drive me insane, but on the other hand, descriptions twice a page are equally as frustrating.

A bigger problem was the over-explaining. No need to retrace your steps and re-explain a situation from scratch every time it is brought up. Trust your readers to remember from one chapter to the next!

All that said, I did have fun with this book. I read it while travelling in Italy, and it was exactly the book to fit my mood.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 26th May – 1st June

Ukrainians Crimeans and Russian protest against Russia in Canberra Australia 25th May 2014

Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and Russians all protesting against Russia in Canberra last weekend.

I’m going through a phase. Nothing much is exciting me, and I keep DNFing things. I did read a good crime/mystery/romance by Janice Kay Johnson that will be released in July, but then she’s always good.

It might just be me. There’s been a lot going on! I really want to sit myself down and read all the way through series by some favourite authors (like Cindy Gerard and Patricia Briggs). I should just do it instead of putting it off!

RIP USSR Vladimir Putin Russian Agrression Ukraine

So, Europe, where are those sanctions? Russia isn’t even pretending they haven’t invaded Ukraine now. They’re bussing in legions of Chechen mercenaries, and major Russian military types are openly in charge of the invasion.

Even the Berkut – the Ukrainian military police who attacked demonstrators a few months ago – have joined forces with the Ukrainian people to fight the Russians.

When world leaders see evidence the Russians are not only killing Ukrainians, but mutilating their bodies, and when footage comes out of them shooting at a children’s hospital, do they not stop and think something should be done?!

I’m disgusted with Russia, but I’m also disgusted with Europe in general. You won’t be so unfeeling or blasé when Putin starts pushing further west, and by then it will be too late to stop the bastard.

My review of Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

My review of Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

My review of The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

My review of Back to Buckhorn by Lori Foster

Back to Buckhorn by Lori Foster

My review of Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

 Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

She’s not waiting for her prince. He’s not looking for a bride. But sometimes the most unlikely love stories end in ‘happily ever after’…

 

SHE WAS STOLEN AWAY

Ellie Stratham gave up her childhood dreams of a fairy tale romance long ago. To repay her late father’s debts, she’s forced to serve her spoiled cousin, Lady Beatrice. But Ellie has devised a secret plan to escape her life as a drudge. A plan that is thrown into jeopardy when she’s abducted by a mysterious stranger.

 

BUT CAN HE STEAL HER HEART?

A notorious seducer of women—and a scoundrel to boot—Damien Burke has earned his nickname as the Demon Prince. But his plot to kidnap Lady Beatrice to make her brother return a priceless heirloom backfires—and he ends up with their penniless cousin Ellie as his hostage. By the time Damien realizes his mistake, he and his fiery-willed captive are trapped in a remote castle during a wild winter storm. And he soon finds that the true hostage may be his own heart.

Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

Yes, I know. The title is silly and the cover makes the setting look like the 1980s, not the 1810s!

This book confused me a bit, as it felt like the first and second halves were written by different people. That’s not to say it didn’t have a lot of good points, just that I found the first half ten times more engrossing than the second.

Generally, historical romances based on fairy tales aren’t my thing, as they’re practically screaming out for the use of anachronisms (and magic). Apparently Abducted by a Prince is the third in a trilogy of books based on Cinderella stories, but I thought the author did an excellent job of making it work as a standalone.

Of course, being Cinderella-ish, there are some downright nasty characters in our heroine’s family. However, it didn’t particularly bother me, and I liked that while Ellie was downtrodden, she had a plan to get out. The Cinderella trope works much better in historical settings, because a woman like Ellie literally had no option but to stay with the family who treated her like a servant.

The first part of the book really brought Regency London to life (I’m taking a guess at the time period, as we weren’t given a date – a pet annoyance of mine). In a way, I was reminded of the excellent beginning to Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride. I was completely on board with the book, even though there were some magical shoes introduced.

I was also really pleased with how non-American the author’s language was. No complaints from my end about messing up British English!

Then Damien abducted Ellie and took her to Scotland. From here I thought the story lost some of its heart. Isolated in a castle on an island, with only two much older servants as company, the strong feel of the era got lost.

On her first night there, the heroine made an attempt to escape, followed closely by her being caught by Damien. Out on an island in the Scottish elements, in winter, pinned against a rock in the dark, Ellie – who should have been terrified – decided she was aroused by her captor. I didn’t think that was necessary. It’s a romance; we know they’ll get there in the end!

Sure, Ellie was considered ‘ruined’ by the mere fact she was abducted, but the speed at which the two leads forgot about all propriety – and fell in love – wasn’t easy to believe. From the outset they were addressing each other by their first names, and Damien was in and out of Ellie’s bedroom for all kinds of reasons – this would never have happened.

Within a week, Ellie was throwing away her virginity and announcing she wouldn’t worry about getting pregnant. And she did this even though she no longer had a home to go to, or any money.

So… I don’t know. I was struggling with how blasé Ellie was about her literally horrific future prospects, and couldn’t buy the two of them being in love so fast, considering everything between them.

I don’t know how I’d rate this book. I’d have loved it if the second half was more like the first. I do know I’d be willing to try another book by this author.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.