The Week: 20th – 26th November

Canberra Australia Spring Sunset #2 Sonya Heaney Tuggeranong 19th November 2017 Sky Clouds Nature

Canberra Australia Spring Sunset #1 Sonya Heaney Tuggeranong 19th November 2017 Sky Clouds Nature

Spring skies in Canberra

End of Spring Canberra Australian Capital Territory Australia Sonya Heaney Sunny Warm Afternoon Blue Sky Garden Flowers Nature 22nd November 2017

Blue sky and sunshine at the end of spring…

Canberra Braddon Rainbow Roundabout Gayest City in Australia Most Gay-Friendly Andrew Barr Marriage Equality November 2017

What we did in Canberra this week. With far and away the highest “yes” vote for gay marriage of anywhere in Australia, we (it was actually already planned) painted a roundabout in one of the main restaurant streets in the city rainbow colours.

Garema Place Marriage Equality Gay Marriage Canberra Australia Andrew Barr November 2017

This follows on from the commissioned street art in one of our main squares, that was painted the afternoon of the result of the vote.


Our latest idiot cat. Hannibal, an overly friendly Burmese cat (all Burmese cats are super-affectionate) being looked after by our neighbour for several months. If there’s anything higher than him, he MUST go to the top of it (it’s a good thing he has a bell)! He basically lives over here, and gets lonely and terrorises the house at all hours of the night. (They are actually two different photos, not me zooming in. He was standing there for ages!)

#Russian terrorists in #Ukraine. 5th April 2015.

This week, while the world was watching Zimbabwe (I must have watched a day’s worth of live coverage from Harare on Al Jazeera, BBC etc. – though it’s good to see Africa get some attention for once), Russia did one of the weirdest things yet.

The Russians running one proxy republic in the east of Ukraine invaded another proxy Russian-backed “republic” in Ukraine. All the while Russia says they’re not invading anyone. It has been called the most stupid invasion in history – and it may well be.

However, it’s looking more and more like Putin is going for a full-on invasion while his “useful idiot” in the White House distracts the media. Once he joins all his fake republics up, there’s a massive part of Ukraine both gone and filled with Russian troops. The rest of Europe should be very, very worried.

I have family in Donetsk – the most important city the Russians invaded three years ago. That nobody cares – even though it’s in Europe, and allegedly the world cares more about Europe than elsewhere – makes me frustrated, angry, and upset on a daily basis.

This week a tiger was shot after escaping a circus in the centre of Paris. I am shocked and horrified most people in the world (including most of Australia) still allows wild animals in

This week a tiger was shot after escaping a circus in the centre of Paris. I am shocked and horrified most people in the world (including most of Australia) still allows wild animals in circuses. We banned them in Canberra in 1992!

One Month Until Christmas


My review of Twelfth Night with the Earl (The Sutherland Sisters #3) by Anna Bradley

Twelfth Night with the Earl (The Sutherland Sisters #3) by Anna Bradley

My review of When in Rome (Heart of the City #4) by C.J. Duggan

When in Rome (Heart of the City #4) by C.J. Duggan

Coming Up for Joanna Shupe

A Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred Series #2) by Joanna Shupe

Cover Love

Valerie Bowman The Right Kind of Rogue 2

Literary Coin Purses

Wuthering Heights Purse Clutch. Kisslock Bag Quote Whatever Our Souls Are Made Of His And Mine Are The Same Bronte Bridal Wedding Bridesmaid

The Week: 31st October – 6th October


Spring afternoon in Canberra.

It wasn’t actually this week, but the early Sunday morning earthquake in Italy was devastating.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016


(The picture at the top is one we took in June. Note in the second picture the tower on the left is destroyed even though it has not yet fallen.)


I am not much of a Catholic anymore, but the fact the church where Saint Benedict was allegedly born finally succumbed to the earthquakes hitting the Norcia region? That is one of the most historically devastating things to have happened to Italy in modern history. One local said that the moment she saw the closed-order nuns fleeing, (women the public never see), she knew the town was finished.


I’m not exaggerating or being sentimental because of recent events: Norcia is one of my favourite places in the world, not just in Italy. The people, the food, the beauty of every street (before it was devastated) and of the mountains it sits in the centre of.

The whole town – and many others nearby I have spent time in – are either totally destroyed now, or severely damaged and unlikely to ever recover. I’m so shocked I was last in that part of the world only a few months ago, and we were talking about what a massive earthquake risk the area was; we never really expected it to happen.

I have seen people we’ve spoken with many times in news photos and footage, and so know they survived, but I have no idea how they can ever recover from this. These are the same families who have run the towns for centuries. One older woman, whose family owns many hotels and restaurants there – some of them in that very square – was proudly showing us a magazine article about her family’s success only in June. I still have a copy of it.

We are heading back to Italy for the better part of a month in February. I hope this horror has finished by then.


Please, America. Do not put the whole world in danger in a few days’ time. Voting for Trump isn’t just dangerous for Americans; it’s dangerous for all of us, and especially for countries like Ukraine and Syria. We don’t get a say in the election’s outcome, but you do.

The Goodreads Choice Awards


My review of The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6) by Valerie Bowman


Anne Gracie’s Upcoming Book


Melbourne Cup Day


The Twentieth Anniversary of Romeo + Juliet


The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6) by Valerie Bowman


When Christian Bancroft, Viscount Berkeley, flees the stuffy ballrooms of London for his Scottish hunting lodge, the last thing he expects to find ensconced before his fire is an incredibly beautiful woman. But the plight of lovely young Sarah Highgate, who has run away from an unwanted betrothal, inspires an eminently practical exchange. He’ll safeguard her reputation with the ton while she advises him how to best attract a proper bride…

As the undisputed belle of the season, Sarah has enchanted plenty of suitors. Still, she isn’t interested in marriage, especially not to the pompous bore her father has chosen for her. But her hasty escape seems reckless now that she’s estranged from her family and has no one to count on besides Christian. Turning the luckless lord into such a catch has another unplanned consequence for Sarah: Has he run away with her heart?

The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6) by Valerie Bowman

You might like to check out the review at All About Romance:

My review is going to sound terribly negative. So I want to start by saying that – as someone who hates topless man covers – I actually think this cover is creative and interesting and full of emotion, and I like it.

Goodreads tells me this is the fourth Valerie Bowman book I’ve read – all in this same series. There’s a reason I keep coming back to Bowman’s work – she’s one of those authors who has a talent for writing lively scenes that keep you turning the pages.


I did not end up finishing this one.

Now, the author markets her book as “Regency romps”. They’re anachronistic, they’re more Disney than Austen, and they’re also great fun. I know what I’m going into before I begin. Even if this one flew right out the Regency manners window with the heroine eating breakfast with the hero – alone and in her nightclothes – only a few hours after meeting him, I might still have continued.

Even though the “I’m not like other women – I’m better!” theme was started to wear on my feminist sensibilities, I might have continued.

This time, though…

Firstly: I simply could not get over the fact the heroine’s guardian was called “Mrs Goatsocks”. I thought it was a joke. I thought it would turn out this creature with the ridiculous name was a pet dog or something, but no…

Yes, there’re some English surnames that sound funny to foreign ears. However, there is a big history to them – the name evolved that way for a reason. It was almost offensive to use such a stupid, made-up, non-historic name, just because the English are “so cute!”. Just in case, I Googled, and searched, and Googled some more, and all searches for “goatsocks” turned up were pictures of socks with goats on them (who knew that was something people bought?!).


The main issue? Sometimes there’s one thing in a book you just can’t overlook. One comment, or one mistake that’s too big for me to want to go on reading. For example, I’ve been known to DNF books that use any variation of the comment ‘dumb blonde’.

In the case of The Legendary Lord, it’s a combined language and research issue.

In this case? The offending word: biscuit.

An American “biscuit” versus what that word means to the rest of us:


These are biscuits:


As are these:


And these:


This bread-like, crusty, doughy thing Americans call a biscuit? I’ve never seen one in the decades I’ve lived in the British Commonwealth and Britain itself. I only know what they are from reading books set in the US South.

If Bowman had had her characters preparing and eating sushi, it would have been more believable – at least that’s a food you can find in Britain today! “Biscuit” wasn’t just a wrong word; it was a wrong THING. A wrong culture, a wrong country, and when it became a big theme in some sixty pages of scenes, mentioned eighteen times just in a few chapters, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Both author and editors should know better if they’re setting books in Britain.

The heroine cooked them. The hero dipped them in meat sauce and also tore off the “crust”  (“cookies” don’t have crusts!) and fed them to the dog. The hero cooked them. The heroine ate them. And on and on it went for the whole “getting to know you” multiple-chapter section of the book.

Also: why in the world would the daughter of a Regency earl know how to cook??!!

Look: many of my favourite historical romance writers have grammar/terminology errors in their books. I’m willing to overlook a few Americanisms in a book set in England if the story is good. However, this one became such a focus of the story, I just could not ignore it.

As I said: it wasn’t the only issue. There were a lot of severe anachronisms, and the vague misogyny was a little irritating.

This book is getting fantastic reviews. However, a little while ago I saw an English reader mention that some British historical romances are not written for a British audience, that they are full of mistakes and play on stereotypes to sell a quaint version of Britain that has never existed. It was a statement that really resonated with me, because THAT is exactly the problem I have with a number of books in this genre. And this is one of them.

I’m sure if you know very little about the country or the era, you will enjoy the sparkling writing. Unfortunately for me, I cannot overlook the massive behavioural and language mistakes. Instead of enjoying the dialogue, I was obsessing over the hero dipping his dessert in his meat stew.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 21st – 27th March

Easter 2015 Sonya Heaney.

Happy Easter! This is not “our” Easter; Ukrainian Catholic (and Orthodox) Easter is on the first of May. I will be in my grandmother’s village in Ukraine on the day, so I doubt I’ll be getting a post up then!

We just booked another trip to Europe. It sounds like an insane thing to do when we’re leaving on the other trip in a month, but if we wanted our preferred flights and accommodation, we had to do it now.



We will be in Venice for the duration of Carnival 2017 (in February – winter!), and then spend the better part of a week in London on the way home. I used to know every nook and cranny of central London, having lived there for years, but I haven’t visited for a while and have been desperate to go back (must be all those historical romances I’ve read!).

We went to the Tom Roberts exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday (because it’s always a good idea to wait until the last days of a months-long exhibition to visit!). It was very warm and sunny, despite being almost halfway through autumn. Here was Parliament House on the way home:

Parliament House Canberra Australia 26th March 2016 Sonya Oksana Heaney.

Coming Soon: The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward

A series to look out for.

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna ShupeMagnate (The Knickerbocker Club #1) by Joanna Shupe

My review of Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

My review of The Unforgettable Hero: A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

The Unforgettable Hero A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

My review of The Wild One (The de Montforte Brothers #1) by Danelle Harmon

The Wild One (The de Montforte Brothers #1) by Danelle Harmon New Cover

The Unforgettable Hero: A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

The Unforgettable Hero A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

To escape a forced marriage to her loathsome, social-climbing cousin, Cecelia Harcourt banks on selling a romantic novel. But when she’s hit by a coach on the way home from meeting a potential publisher and loses her memory, the accident leads to an encounter with a fascinating man. . . who she’s convinced is the hero of her novel.

Due to his brother’s influence, Lieutenant Adam Hunt finds himself honorably discharged from the army. Adam intends to make his way in the world without the help of a war-hero duke, brother or no. He finds his plans for independence sidetracked by a chance encounter with a lady whose memory has gone. She believes he’s a hero. Can Adam become the man he was meant to be and fill that lofty role?

The Unforgettable Hero: A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

Valerie Bowman writes historical romances on the light and fluffy end of the spectrum, whereas I usually go for darker and more serious books. I thought I’d try this novella anyway, and while I enjoyed some aspects of it, it definitely needs a massive suspension of disbelief.

Your enjoyment of The Unforgettable Hero will be based on two things:

#1 Whether or not realistic depictions of amnesia and illness are important to you.

#2 Your ability to deal with extremely fast-moving novella-style relationships.

This story is definitely fine to be read as a standalone. Other series characters appear, but you don’t need to be familiar with them to understand the story (I am certainly not familiar with them!).

However, the version of amnesia our heroine has is definitely Romance Novel Amnesia. A condition that is nice and neat and easily cured. I cannot buy into a serious head injury that takes a woman’s memory but is also mild enough she can go to a ball the following night!

As for the fast-moving relationship? In the end, I suppose I didn’t really care about that, seeing as the rest of the plot was already dialled up so high nothing was realistic!

One language thing: it’s he almost SPAT it out, not he almost “spit” it out! I’m sick of seeing this mistake turning up in books!

I do think I can take more of this sort of historical romance in smaller, novella-length doses than I can in full novel form. I can’t say I loved The Unforgettable Hero, but there was nothing all that objectionable about it.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 27th April – 3rd May

Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 26th April 2015

Canberra’s sunset a few days ago. We were driving, so it’s not perfect…

Hmm. This week wasn’t bad, but I’m going to say negative things! I’m so mad about a few things, but I also think talking about your boring, everyday, happy stuff isn’t very interesting!

But one thing: we thought my father had cancer. We found out on Wednesday (after surgery) that he doesn’t. 🙂

While everyone is going to be obsessing over if a certain baby will be called Diana, Frances, Gertrude or Brunhilda, can we please take a moment to remember Ruth Rendell, who died yesterday…

Before I get to my long rant, here’s another nice Canberra sunset picture. From last evening, just after I got home, and when I was still fuming about the thing I discuss below this.

Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia  1st May 2015 Sonya Heaney .

Walt and Burley Bar Cafe Canberra Australia Oksana Heaney 2nd May 2015

The otherwise fantastic and friendly gastro pub on the lake in Canberra.

We went out for drinks and tapas yesterday afternoon, only to have a group of sour-faced Anglo-Australians from interstate sit next to us. I know with Ferguson and Baltimore Americans think “racism” means ONLY things against African Americans, but to sit there next to these awful British/(Anglo) Australian people making nonstop racist comments about Ukrainians… My mother was really upset. She has faced this in Australia her whole life, as have I, even from my father’s family – her in-laws.

I’m usually shy, but I marched over and I told them off, and then we left. How could I not?! And screw them. I don’t need racial attacks on my weekend!

I felt pretty embarrassed immediately afterwards, but I cannot regret it. It’s very upsetting hearing racial abuse in your own country! Another example of this is when my mother, and then I, walked out of a Christmas barbeque last year. My father’s sister started going on about how she was too scared to go on the school bus growing up, because there were “wogs” (a racist term for European immigrants) on board… Sometimes I REALLY hate Australians, and Saturday was one of those days.

How these people can blindly follow current fashions, which have stolen Ukrainian traditional designs for this season (just check out designers like Valentino), and then turn around and make derogatory comments about the culture they just appropriated…

I didn’t read that much this week, but I have been rereading the “Making Of” book about the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. I don’t totally, blindly love that version, but I do love the huge amount of research and dedication that went into it.

However, I’m not all that happy with my fiction reading at the moment. I know that when one book does well, publishers immediately say: ‘Give me carbon copies of this book, and that’s all we’ll publish for five years!’.

But you know what? I’m bored. I’m bored with wallpaper historical romances. The term “Navy SEAL” is now a joke. I don’t believe every small town in America (or Australia) is full of unbelievably sexy thirty-year-old men who just HATE “the city”. I’m just… bored.

I hope I can get out of this rut soon, but I think it’s the books that will have to change, not me.

Time for a lot of rereading of favourites! I’m already lining up my old paperbacks.

I’m Bored!


Outlander 1×12

Or the episode where we wonder why everyone has stopped speaking Gaelic!

Outlander 1x12 Jamie Claire Sonya Heaney

Cover Love

The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long Romance Cover

My review of Mastering Meg by Saskia Walker

Mastering Meg by Saskia Walker

My review of The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions #2) by Joanna Shupe

The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions #2) by Joanna Shupe

My review of Sins of a Duke by (Scandalous House of Calydon #3) by Stacy Reid

Sins of a Duke by (Scandalous House of Calydon #3) by Stacy Reid

My review of Letters Home (Letters Home #1) by Rebecca Brooke

Letters Home (Letters Home #1) by Rebecca Brooke

My review of The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman

Certain that no man wants a bluestocking for a wife, Miss Jane Lowndes is careful to wield her books and her spectacles as weapons against matrimony. Convincing her ambitious mama that she’s content to stay a spinster is easier said than done, however. It’s a good thing Jane is not above a bit of manufactured scandal if it will keep her from the altar, and the argumentative, contrary Lord Garrett Upton…


With the war over, Garrett is determined to enjoy his bachelor’s life while he can, even when it means attending a house party in celebration of a friend’s wedding–and suffering Jane’s notorious disdain. But when a masquerade ball leads to a mistaken kiss, he’s surprised to learn that Jane’s bookish exterior hides a truly passionate soul. When two such headstrong people are determined to remain unattached, can love lead to a happy ending?

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman

I read the first book in this series, and now this one. I think it might be better to read them in order, but you could get by with The Unlikely Lady on its own – sort of! I did enjoy this one more than the first.

Valerie Bowman’s historical romances are fun, but are definitely Regency-lite. The characters speak and act as though they’re from the twenty-first century, so if you’re fine with that style, then you’ll enjoy this series more than I do.

Some examples of the modern dialogue and attitudes:


No one could make him more angry more quickly than Jane Lowndes and her know-it-all female-equality attitude. Especially since he didn’t have a bloody problem with female equality.


“Seriously, Jane? Must we have the talk? I was under the impression you already knew a good deal about what goes on between a man and a woman behind closed doors.”


What was it about bluestockings and their complete lack of femininity? Would it kill her to show a bit of skin once in a while?


However, most of the mistakes with British English that usually distract me in historical romances were not here. I was impressed, and I’m going to give this one to the author, not the editors (who don’t seem to be very good with British English most of the time!). One thing: it’s special*i*ty. One more syllable than the across the pond!

I did think the three women, the heroines of the three books, did some incredibly immature and silly things. They’re more Lydia and Kitty Bennet and Maria Lucas than Elizabeth and Jane Bennet and Charlotte Lucas!

There is some really great fun to be had with this book, and the characters are for the most part very likeable. There are some sweet moments, and I do like a heroine with glasses (poor eyesight must have been really annoying in the past). What a pity the women are never allowed to have glasses on the covers.

If you’re more about wallpaper historicals than more serious and historically accurate books, then Valerie Bowman definitely has a lively writing style I’m sure you’ll find fun.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman

The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman


Lady Lucy Upton’s tongue may be too sharp to attract suitors but her heart is good, and when her painfully shy friend Cassandra needs help she devises a brilliant scheme to help her discourage an unwanted suitor, the Duke of Claringdon. Lucy will hide behind the hedgerow and tell Cass just what to say to discourage the Duke of Claringdon…but it turns out that he’s made of sterner stuff than either of them anticipated. And Lucy is shocked to discover that tangling with the tenacious man is the most fun she’s had in ages.


Lord Derek Hunt made a promise to his dying friend to marry the demure Cassandra, and for a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet after the horrors of war, she’ll make the perfect bride. If only the impudent Miss Upton will let him court the girl! Doing battle is the last thing on his mind, but bantering with Lucy behind the bushes is too tempting to resist. And in The Unexpected Duchess, the spoils of this war just may be true love…

The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman

I was unsurprised to see this author quoting Lisa Kleypas as a favourite author, as this first book in the Playful Brides series is definitely inspired by Kleypas’ Wallflower series. So that’s a pretty good indication of whether or not you’ll enjoy this book! Now, I’m not saying one series copies the other, more like an ‘inspired by’ sort of thing.

I don’t really know what to make of this book. I was hoping to really enjoy it, but yet again I’m finding myself set apart from most historical romance readers. I guess my expectations of the genre are different to other people’s, and I clearly don’t go for books others love.

As with the Wallflower series, this one is about a group of young women who are ‘on the shelf’ for various reasons. I liked these women and like their individuality – even if the opening scene was totally and utterly implausible!

The hero of this one, Derek Hunt, is very much like Simon Hunt (my all-time favourite historical romance hero), the hero of the first Wallflower book, Secrets of a Summer Night. He is huge, well-built, black-haired, not aristocratic (to begin with!) and even shares the surname Hunt!

I don’t know why, but for the entire book I kept getting it in my head that the secondary character, Cassandra, was the heroine. I don’t know why, but her large presence in a lot of scenes kept confusing me.

When it comes down to it, The Unexpected Duchess could be classified as a wallpaper romance (one that doesn’t take the history too seriously) – however, I think that if you like that kind of book, this will be a good one for you. ‘Wallpaper’ isn’t always a bad thing.

There were some really odd things about the book nobody else seemed to have had trouble with, so again, I think it was just me reacting to the book in a different way to other readers. One issue was the ‘losing your virginity is just a little pinch and then ecstasy’ scene – it’s a copy and paste scene that you will find in 99% of historical romances. But in this one some of the odd sentences struck me as clunky and awkward. For example:

He pushed his knee between her legs Lucy felt the probing heat of him between her thighs searching for her wet warmth.

I cringed a bit there.

Now, as for the language. Snuck is an American word that… well, if teachers still rapped students over the knuckles in classes, British and Australian children in 2014 would get that punishment for trying to bring that word into a classroom. It has no place in Regency era books (nor does gotten or dove for ‘dived’), and it’s something I’m seeing in more and more US-published Regencies lately. If you were sneaky, you sneaked, you didn’t snuck.

I don’t want to be too negative about this book, because there were parts that were great fun, but once I got it stuck in my head this was inspired by the Kleypas series I love enough I could practically quote back to you in its entirety, I couldn’t get into this book as much. I kept making comparisons, and The Unexpected Duchess was the one that I found lacking.

I’m in the minority in my reaction to the book. I think people would do well to try it for themselves and see.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.