Coming Up for Mary Balogh

There’s no cover yet, but Someone to Honour, the sixth book in Mary Balogh’s excellent Westcott family series is due out in November, and now has a description:

 

First appearances deceive in the newest charming and heartwarming Regency romance in the Westcott series from beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

Abigail Westcott’s dreams for her future were lost when her father died, and she discovered her parents were not legally married. But now, six years later, she enjoys the independence a life without expectation provides a wealthy single woman. Indeed, she’s grown confident enough to scold the careless servant chopping wood outside without his shirt on in the proximity of ladies.

But the man is not a servant. He is Gilbert Bennington, the lieutenant colonel and superior officer who has escorted her wounded brother, Harry, home from the wars with Napoleon. Gil has come to help his friend and junior officer recover, and he doesn’t take lightly to being condescended to—secretly because of his own humble beginnings.

If at first Gil and Abigail seem to embody what the other most despises, each will soon discover how wrong first impressions can be. For behind the appearances of the once-grand lady and the once-humble man are two people who share an understanding of what true honour means, and how only with it can one find love.

Advertisements

The Week: 4th – 10th February

Our amazing Friday sunset in Canberra.

Coming Soon: Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas

Devil's Daughter (2019) (The fifth book in the Ravenels series) A novel by Lisa Kleypas UK Cover

Out Soon: Lady Notorious by Theresa Romain

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

Dickens_Gurney_head Charles Dickens (1812-1870) between 1868 and 1867

Out this month: Mr Jones

Happy Lunar New Year!

Ke_Lok_Si_Illuminations_01

Inheritance in the English aristocracy.

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Persuasion 1995 – Recently I Learnt…

…That when the 1995 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was released on video in the United States, Columbia Tristar decided it wasn’t sexy enough.

And so they replaced the actors on the poster/cover with this:

Columbia Tristar Persuasion 1995

It’s especially appalling as many consider Persuasion 1995 to be the best Jane Austen adaptation. With a cast of renowned theatre actors, it is nothing like that image implies.

For comparison, here is the real leading couple in the movie. (Seriously, that wasn’t sexy enough? This is Jane Austen, not Fabio!). I’m not sure if it still is, but the entire movie used to be available to watch on YouTube.

Persuasion 1995 Jane Austen

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.

Someone to Trust (Westcott family #5) by Mary Balogh

Someone to Trust (Westcott family #5) by Mary Balogh

During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. . . .

Someone to Trust (Westcott family #5) by Mary Balogh

Someone to Trust takes its time to develop, but by the halfway point I thought it was doing something I haven’t come across often before, and I was hooked. Mary Balogh’s Westcott family books have the most unusual and diverse types of romances I’ve come across in a series, and yet it never feels forced.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a book that can be as easily enjoyed if readers are new to the series, and a glance at a few reviews confirms it. There are too many characters, with too many complex histories and relationships, for this one to be anything other than confusing to newbie – particularly in the Christmas scenes at the start.

However, beyond that, this is a bittersweet sort of story, with a relationship that starts off a little improbable, and develops into something very strong. We have a heroine who has been a background character for four books before this, steady, friendly, a little plain… and a widow who escaped an abusive husband. In her mid-thirties, she is watching life pass her by, and she is willing to settle on a loveless second marriage in order to achieve some of her dreams.

Our hero is the younger brother of the heroine of book three, and is significantly enough younger than the heroine that not a single character ever considered they could or would marry. However, he comes from a family of vain, narcissistic people, and has grown to appreciate a person’s character over anything else.

Something else I really appreciated was that the spinster aunt of the family, one who has been a bit of a caricature so far, was revealed to have hidden pain and lost hopes and dreams of her own. Even in reality – even today – women like her are still mocked for being husbandless and childless, and it’s so easy to forget that these women often had all the same plans for their futures other women did – only, they never achieved them.

And because I thought the characterisation of all involved was so realistic and even moving, this one comment stood out to me as deeply insensitive:

 

She had no children and no sense of humour—strange that those two things seemed to go together in his mind.

 

I’m still not sure why it was even in the book, considering how wonderfully the themes were handled the rest of the time.

Each book in this series seems to be a little more unconventional than the one that came before it, and – for me – each one is a surprise in that it is even more emotional, beneath that Regency veneer. I also think that is why the books in this series divide readers, many of whom probably aren’t looking for these themes in their historical romance romps.

This isn’t as easy a book to love as the other instalments in the series, and yet at some point as I was reading I realised I’d gone from liking it to loving it. Even with the occasional overabundance of characters, in amongst them was a deeply emotional story that I will remember when I’ve forgotten a lot of others.