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: 8th – 14th October

Sunny spring days in Canberra.

This week started out gorgeous, had some weird weather in the middle, and involved a trip to the city to pick up my passport for my next trip!

Plus, there was a gorgeous (and very sweet) royal wedding to watch on Friday night (our time). I’m not into the royals usually, but this one…

How is October already half over? It’s nearly time to start thinking about Christmas!

Most of my posts this week were about sexual assault, and how the topic is handled (or dismissed in some quarters) in romance publishing. I’m utterly disgusted by recent events in the United States, and by how these things have an effect on women the world over.

Romance authors, misogyny, and conservative conversations about men.

Russian Orthodoxy – GONE!

China…

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Easy by Tammara Webber

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breakable by Tammara Webber

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

Clementine Ford: It’s 2017 and people still assume the person in charge is a man

Clementine Ford It's 2017 and people still assume the person in charge is a man

Clementine Ford: It’s 2017 and people still assume the person in charge is a man

Interesting recent article that I’m sharing on here because it was inspired by a publishing company’s new policy. Clementine Ford is an Australian journalist and feminist.

The article was inspired by one publishing house in Ireland that has started tossing all queries and submissions made out to “Dear Sir” without even looking at them. Why? Because the people who run the business are women.

I admit: we’re still conditioned to think like this. I caught myself making a sexist assumption the other day, and was appalled. It takes time to change (hell, most of us still default to calling all animals “he”!), but I think that you could at least do that much research when submitting a manuscript.

The Overwhelming Gender Bias in “New York Times” Book Reviews

 NYT-wordmark The New York Times
This article was doing the rounds of the internet recently.
Recent analyses have found that women are less likely to be published in top tier literary outlets, or to have their work reviewedespecially by men.
While I agree with it, and think it is a problem with most publications, not just this one newspaper, I also have some issues with the tone of the article, and this sentence in particular:
Women are less likely to receive reviews when writing about topics that aren’t deemed “feminine.”
I’ve spent a lot of time on aeroplanes this year, and have been reading a lot of airline magazines. What I notice is that books written by women are NEVER reviewed unless they write about “masculine” topics such as gritty, grimy murders or political issues or something like that.
In fact, I quite often find book review sections in magazines and newspapers a waste of time because they only feature biographies of military men, or murder mysteries etc., which is fine sometimes, but more than a little dry and boring. I find there’s no variety.
And what the hell is wrong with being “feminine”?? When reading for entertainment I prefer books that deal with human beings, not facts and statistics. If women write those themes – and if they’re allegedly feminine things – then good for us.
There IS a huge issue with women being discriminated against in the publishing industry, however – despite women being bigger consumers of books – so more articles like this are definitely needed.

The Latest Romance Genre Insult

You know what? I’m not even bothering to read the original article that sparked a huge backlash from authors, journalists, bloggers etc. I’ve read MANY quotes, and he doesn’t deserve the traffic.

All that needs to be said is that yet another man with a big audience behind him took a big swipe in a major publication at books written for and by women.

I did, however, read a number of responses, including this one (written by a man):

All the Dumb Things You Can Say About Romance Novels, In One Convenient Place.

Here is the response to the original writer claiming that a successful marriage in fiction is to women what being James Bond is to men:

Third, let’s note that ‘courtship and female self-empowerment’ are positioned as fantasy objects roughly as attainable for the modern woman as a life of ‘violence and danger’ is for the modern man. When, in fact, relationships that unfold in emotionally and physically fulfilling ways and self-empowering development on both the personal and professional level should probably be considered baseline expectations for the modern American woman, not dream lives. (And, for that matter, they should be baseline expectations for the modern American man, but that’s another topic for another day.)

Kissing or hitting…?

the-princess-bride-1987-westley-nearly-slaps-buttercup-domestic-abuse

I love you so much I have to hit you in the face!

I’m seeing so many book blogs and history blogs going all crazy over The Princess Bride at the moment. It is the thirtieth anniversary of the movie adaptation’s release, so I suppose that’s why.

However, I’m still troubled that I’m the only one who seems to have huge issues with William Goldman’s 44-year-old book.

You know the part in the movie version where “hero” Westley raises his hand to hit heroine Buttercup in the face, and she flinches away from it? This movie came out when I was FIVE, and even then I knew there was something very wrong about that scene.

The book is worse.

Here is the scene as it is in the book the movie is based on:

 

“I am no one to be trifled with,” replied the man in black. “That is all you ever need know.” And with that he yanked her upright.

“You’ve had your moment.” Again he pulled her after him, and this time she could do nothing but follow…

…“I have loved more deeply than a killer like you can possibly imagine.”

He slapped her.

“That is a penalty for lying, Highness. Where I come from, when a woman lies, she is reprimanded.”

“But I spoke the truth, I did, I–” Buttercup saw his hand rise a second time, so she stopped quickly, fell dead silent.

 

I’m being told all over the place how FUNNY the book is, but the way I read it, it’s not so much funny as pretty horrible. I am also not a fan of making Buttercup so stupid so that her man can spend an entire book patronising her.

However, I would have thought the abuse alone would’ve been enough to at least raise a few eyebrows.

Apparently not so much… It may famously be called a kissing book, but it is also a hitting book!

Smoke and Ashes by Danica Winters

Smoke and Ashes by Danica Winters

With a mysterious arsonist on the loose in Missoula, fire inspector Kevin Jensen saves more than Heather Sampson’s house. The sexy single father rescues her from an abusive marriage—and discovers his own past failures don’t have to rule his life. Especially when sparks between him and Heather ignite irresistible desire.

But who’s the arsonist? Why target Heather? What’s his shocking motive? When Heather faces off with him in a brutal attack, she needs her “white knight” as much as he needs her. Both have looked into their souls and risked their broken hearts for each other. Now Kevin will have to risk his life and his heart.

Smoke and Ashes by Danica Winters

 dr_%20oz2(1)

Who is this Doctor Oz lookalike cover model? I don’t find him attractive, and he is on the cover of what seems like half of Harlequin’s books these days!

I thought this one sounded interesting, but I must admit there was some serious stereotyping and cliché going on in this book, and I struggled as it went on.

The books in this Harlequin line are shorter than some others, which means pulling together a believable romance AND suspense storyline is a challenge. The author did the smart thing by having her characters already know each other quite well, but by starting with our heroine married to another man she had to break them up, fast. And this resulted in a moustache-twirlingly mean husband with some clunky dialogue.

Our heroine is an idiot. Yes, she is an abused wife, but she is also an idiot. She signed a prenup while celebrating with a glass of wine, and never bothered to read it. Now she has nothing (and does not work and has no skills to earn a living); if she’d read that prenup she’d have known before her wedding that her husband was a maniac.

Then we reach the mean best friend who is – of course – pretty, blonde (to our wholesome brunette heroine), wears tight clothes, giggles ALL THE TIME, and sleeps around. And she’s called Brittany for good measure.

This is misogynistic stereotyping.

Our hero is prematurely grey – which seems to be a trend in romance at the moment, for men and for women. Is this because so many authors are older than their characters? It’s odd.

Packed in there someone is the suspense storyline, with another moustache-twirler for a villain. Admittedly, from what I understand the research into the actual fire and arson section of the book was solid, so that bit was good. However, the story also had to pack in the hero’s career in crisis and his troubles with his son – and there just wasn’t time for all that.

I think the introduction of the friend was the killer for me. Write in a fair-haired female character like Brittany, stereotype so nastily, and I’m never going to like your book.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.