Wedded for the Baby (Stand-In Brides #2) by Dorothy Clark

Wedded for the Baby (Stand-In Brides #2) by Dorothy Clark

For widower and ex-doctor Trace Warren, a fresh start in Whisper Creek comes with a catch: to save his home and apothecary shop, Trace must remarry. While making Katherine Fleming his wife is simple enough, he refuses to fall in love again. But keeping his distance from the kind, beautiful woman and the infant she brings with her is dangerously difficult… 

Katherine promised to protect the baby left in her care, and a marriage of convenience to Trace is the only way to do that. But all too soon, Trace possesses Katherine’s heart, even as he still carefully guards his own. With hopes of turning their arrangement into a true love match, can Katherine convince Trace to forgive himself for his past mistakes and embrace his new family?

Wedded for the Baby (Stand-In Brides #2) by Dorothy Clark

I nearly skipped this one because the blurb piled up all the tropes I hate. However, I wanted to read a Western historical book in particular, and this was available for review, so I gave it a chance. Also, with Harlequin cancelling this book line, I plan to read as many of them as I can before they’re gone forever.

While this one falls closer to the obviously religious end of the Christian fiction spectrum than many books in the line, I was happy from the outset to see all the tropes I was dreading were turned around.

It was a time the marriage of convenience was believable, and I also liked the setup with the baby (it’s not the heroine’s). Additionally, I’m no fan of the “hero must marry by a certain date” trope, but it worked for me here (more or less).

I will say that the widowed hero is hard to like for much of the book. It’s all about his Pain, and how much worse things are for him, and poor him, and he can’t look at a pregnant woman – or a baby.

This is the nineteenth century; almost all married couples lost a number of children, either before birth or soon afterwards. Women had a HUGE chance of dying in childbirth (e.g. Jane Austen lost multiple relatives that way). The hero was a doctor; he would have known all of this.

The heroine lost her love, too, but she isn’t allowed her pain.

I much preferred the heroine (though she cried too often), and I did like the writing of the baby – he felt realistic. Often babies appear in books like this just to be cute accessories rather than characters; not the case here.

I also liked the little attention to historical detail, just as I did in the author’s previous book.

One problematic thing: this is not the first book, nor the first author, in the Love Inspired Historical (Christian) series I’ve read that has had troubling stereotyping of minority characters (Chinese in the last two books I’ve read). There’s writing someone whose first language isn’t English, and then there’s making characters come across as idiots. They’re not the same thing.

These books target a very particular demographic, and it’s – ahem – more Trump than tolerance. I’d like to see LIH fix this issue, but as the line is now defunct it’s too late.

Good and bad in this one. As with the previous book in the series, I appreciate the author’s attention to detail and the historical feel. However, I wish this grumpy hero had woken up to himself a little earlier on.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Engagement Charade (Smoky Mountain Matches #11) by Karen Kirst

The Engagement Charade (Smoky Mountain Matches #11) by Karen Kirst

A Temporary Betrothal

Pregnant widow Ellie Jameson is hiding a secret: her betrothal is a sham to keep her safe from her interfering in-laws. It’s simple friendship that prompts her reclusive boss to pose as her fiancé. But can Ellie keep her feelings for Alexander Copeland from developing into something more?

When he moved to Gatlinburg after losing his wife and child, Alexander had one rule: stay out of other people’s lives. Easier said than done with the café owner’s eternally optimistic cook interrupting his enforced solitude. He only intended to protect Ellie, not propose to her. But with a little trust, and a helping of forgiveness, this temporary arrangement could be a recipe for lasting happiness…

The Engagement Charade (Smoky Mountain Matches #11) by Karen Kirst

A secret: I basically hate the “fake engagement” trope. It seems to be about the most popular theme in all romance subgenres at the moment; I can’t escape it!

The reason I picked this one up was because I generally enjoy the Love Inspired Historical line, and so I hoped for the best, and I did enjoy a lot of things about this book. (And now Harlequin is discontinuing these books!)

I think The Engagement Charade probably had the best “fake engagement” setup I’ve read. The heroine is in an abusive family situation, pregnant, and terrified of having her child taken away or turned against her. The fake engagement – for once – served an actual, believable purpose.

I also think there was enough action and danger to keep the book interesting, without turning it into a suspense story. I much prefer these Western romances when it’s not all just small town goo.

This is apparently the eleventh book in the series, but while you can see when past heroes and heroines step on the page, the author manages to make sure you won’t be confused. We aren’t spammed with catching up with past characters.

One thing I disliked was the hero’s reaction when he found out about the pregnancy. The heroine was in a much worse situation, with much more to lose. Both characters were widowed. And yet – at first – he made everything about *his* pain.

When he found out she was pregnant – well, in the nineteenth century it would have been believable if she’d not been allowed to keep her job. But he fired her because he didn’t want to see a pregnant woman and be reminded of what *he’d* lost. This is a period in time where the average woman had six surviving children. Pregnancy was everywhere!

The end was dramatic, but I don’t think it was too drawn-out. However, I’d have liked to have had an epilogue that included a newborn baby (even though I’m not a baby person), rather than finishing before that.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 5th – 11th June

Canberra Australia Winter Evening Lake Burley Griffin Sonya Heaney 11th June 2017 National Carillon Reflection Nature SunsetIMG_2045

Sunday afternoon on the lake in Canberra. That’s Defence on the other side of the water, with the American Eagle statue.

Enjoying the winter sunshine on Tuesday morning.

The neighbour’s cat has basically moved in now. So much for her being timid!

The trip from Queanbeyan to Canberra on Friday anfternoon.

I read a couple of good books this week (not reviewed here yet). One was a contemporary story about the daughter of an overly ambitious US Republican family, and the other was set in 1825 London – but not about aristocrats. However, I’m really struggling to take books about American politics seriously now, considering what is going on at the moment.

Terrible week in the aftermath of the London Bridge attacks. I honestly don’t understand how a man can just walk up to some innocent young woman (or older man – you know what I mean) and murder her like that. Donald Trump’s childish, ignorant responses only added to the disgust we outside the US feel for him.

The anniversary of the Battle of Binh Ba

My review of A Tailor-Made Husband (Texas Grooms/Turnabout Book #9 (Love Inspired Historical) by Winnie Griggs

My review of The Second Seduction of a Lady (The Wild Quartet 0.5) by Miranda Neville

Another Behind the Scenes Cover Video

Oh, the subtlety!

 

 

 

A Tailor-Made Husband (Texas Grooms/Turnabout Book #9 (Love Inspired Historical) by Winnie Griggs

A Tailor-Made Husband (Texas Grooms-Turnabout Book #9 (Love Inspired Historical)) by Winnie Griggs

*Despite the cover, there aren’t any horses in this book!*

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil. 

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

A Tailor-Made Husband (Texas Grooms/Turnabout Book #9 (Love Inspired Historical)) by Winnie Griggs

I think I’ve read about half the books in this series, and keep coming back to them because I consider Winnie Griggs to be one of Harlequin’s most reliable authors. Also, this line – when not going overboard with the Christian preaching – produces a lot of easy-to-read Western historical romances that I like to read between longer, darker books.

Set at the VERY end of the nineteenth century, this is a little later than most historicals I read. A Tailor-Made Husband is one of the best books I’ve read by this author. I wasn’t annoyed by the little girl (I’ve been unable to get through some Christian books because the children are nauseating); in fact, I liked the scenes with her the most.

I was much more interested in the family and relationship than I was the mystery, largely because I knew from the outset who was responsible for it. That part of the plot was in danger of some pretty negative stereotyping of women, but I think the author managed to get around it. She definitely does this better than most authors in this Harlequin line.

This is a Christian line, but the first praying didn’t turn up until the 20% mark, and I was so surprised to see it there I was confused for a moment – I’d forgotten it was a Christian book. That works well for me, and I can happily skip over the praying parts without losing anything from the story.

Something I really dislike is characters saying way more when it should be far more – this is something that drives me mad in historical fiction.

And something that is only loosely related to the book: if you’re an author who loves to “fantasy cast” your characters on Pinterest (worth visiting for the dress), I’d recommend not using Anissa Jones as the inspiration for your cute kid, considering her tragic life and very early death!

This is a solid entry both to this series and to this Harlequin line, and it made for nice, easy read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 29th May – 4th June

Driving past Australian Parliament on Saturday afternoon (taken from the back seat of the car). Canberra’s winter has a lot of sunshine!

First day of winter in Canberra.

A colourful last day of autumn on Wednesday.

Above is our neighbour’s ancient, blind, deaf cat this week. For some reason she has just now (at nearly nineteen years of age – in her nineties as a human) decided to move into our house. The problem is, her blindness means she often misses our back door and instead sits there and stares at the brick wall! We had to put a mat out for her because she sits there for hours…

In five days I went from frightening her at every turn, to patting her for the first time, to – on Friday – having her walk into the house, climb on top of me, and settle in for the evening. I felt a bit triumphant to gain the trust of such an unlikely cat.

We began winter with some gorgeous weather, but I’m terrified it’s already June!

So much – not all of it good, some of it hilarious – happened this week.

UPDATE: Yet another terror attack in Britain. 😦 😦

Yesterday Russia deployed 60 000 MORE troops to Crimea. Something else for everyone to ignore. People talk about how bad it was people ignored Hitler, but when Hitler started wars, the world started reacting. Putin has been invading countries for a decade now.

My cousin’s house burnt down – I kid you not. It made the news, and because it’s in the country and he was in Sydney it makes it all so much more difficult to deal with.

The ridiculous thing is that he was renting it out, and the renters basically blew it up by putting embers in a bin near the gas and electricity. However, there aren’t many laws protecting landlords from their tenants’ idiotic behaviour, so this is going to be costly for the innocent party in this mess.

Olivia Newton-John announced she has cancer again. My mother did costume work for one of her tours a few years ago, and apparently she is one of the most genuine, normal, nice celebrities behind the scenes.

covfefe!

Winter Reads

Thought for the end of the week.

My review of When to Engage an Earl (Spinster House #3) by Sally MacKenzie

My review of The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

My review of What We Find (Sullivan’s Crossing #1) by Robyn Carr

Nice Hat!

Nice Hat!

This cover is doing the rounds of Tumblr because of its, well… you can imagine.

As hilarious as the heroine’s choice of wedding headgear is, what I noticed first was the hero wearing a flowerpot on his head!

Surprisingly, this book was first published only in December 2006. With such a vintage-looking (read: out of date) cover, I’d have expected it to be a lot older than that!

Call of the West (Silhouette Special Edition) by Myrna Temte 2006

Massive Harlequin News

Stunning news out of Harlequin in the past day or so. It’s not uncommon for them to close book lines and open others, but they are closing FIVE lines in one go – some of them what I would call significant lines.

Amongst them is the staple of quality contemporary romance: Superromance. The first Harlequin book I ever read was from this line, and with its longer word count and more complex and realistic storylines, it always turned up some interesting books (and some of my favourite authors!).

The one that is causing the most drama in America is the cancellation of the Kimani line, as that is essentially an African American line. I am guessing the argument (if not the reality) will be that these books can be integrated into the general contemporary romance lines, but I doubt that will happen very often… I am actually just finishing one now.

One I’ll also enormously miss is the Love Inspired Historical line, as – despite the random praying – it has shown consistent quality for lighter historical romance. In the past few years I’ve gone out of my way to download ALL books in this group that have turned up for review. It wasn’t usually TOO religious, and so you were left with sweet Western romances that I really did so often like.

The other two? I think it’s incredibly shortsighted to discontinue Nocturne, the only paranormal series the publisher runs. Sure, it’s not the money-maker it was in the days of Twilight vampire stalkers, but surely it will be back in fashion soon. Could they not have reduced the number of releases each month instead of eliminating an ENTIRE genre of books?

And Western (was it not recently renamed “American Romance?”). It was revamped recently, and I was a bit annoyed about that. There have been some good books, but I was angry that they went from accepting general “Western” books to only accepting books from the United States. Suddenly even Canadians were too “foreign”, apparently. I think they ruined the line, but I don’t think this was the way to go…

Here I was, hearing for years that nobody reads their Medical line anymore – where is that in this drastic action? I admit to being too squeamish for some of those books, but there was some high quality there. Perhaps the original Mills and Boon (in the UK) had a say, as it’s one of their older series? I’m only guessing about that.

Harlequin stays on top of the world, it seems. However, this cull seems brutal. I know I – someone who is auto-approved to basically review whatever they put out – am going to lose MANY of the books that drew me to that publisher.

I was going to ask:

What in the world is going to replace these?

However, I then saw Courtney Milan had shared most of the official announcement, and discovered they’re NOT replacing them with anything:

Scary that entire subgenres are just gone forever.

If they discontinue the Historical line (which has been discussed before), then I might just be done.

The Week: 8th – 14th May

This photo is not edited. THAT is how blue the sky was when this photo was taken!

Such a gorgeous week in Canberra! I kept putting on nearly-winter clothes, getting hot, and having to change.

I would like to point out EVERYONE should note that Eurovision is happening right now in KYIV – the correct name for Ukraine’s capital city. Please – for the love of God – stop calling it by the Russian name, “Kiev”! Look at the official image above!

I was actually in Kyiv (not “Kiev”!) last year when Ukraine won. I was the only person in the building still awake, but I was not watching, because the corruption disgusted me. However, I turned on the computer, and there was the news: Ukraine won, despite everything. I danced around, and then woke everyone up!!

I am guessing Kremlin voting mills have been established throughout Europe (and maybe Australia, as we are now contestants). Whatever result it is, I guarantee you the Russians have influenced it.

I am NOT watching Eurovision this year.

Spent half a day early this week trying to rescue our neighbour’s cat. She is over eighteen (very old for a cat!), TOTALLY blind, almost totally deaf, and still insists on going on adventures every day (most of them in our garden). But she became completely disoriented that day, got stuck on top of a metal fence a few metres high, and it took several hours to rescue her (because she sometimes panics when people get close, due to her blindness). She did get a big piece of chicken as a present from me, however!

I had my 2000th post on this blog yesterday. 2000!

Happy Mother’s Day for people who celebrate it today (like we do). We are heading out to lunch in Braddon. Is it really late this year, or am I imagining things?

My review of An Unlikely Mother by Danica Favorite

Watching The Americans

Struggling Genres

Don’t Call Me Honey

The death of Winnipeg the bear.

 This Cover!

An Unlikely Mother by Danica Favorite

An Unlikely Mother by Danica Favorite

Bound by a Child

Hoping to overcome her reputation as Leadville, Colorado’s biggest gossip, wealthy socialite Flora Montgomery offers to help a miner care for an abandoned child. But her growing affection for the sweet boy’s handsome rescuer could be a problem. Especially since her parents insist she must marry for money.

Undercover mine owner George Baxter is digging himself into a dilemma. The once-spoiled Flora has become a delightful, generous woman, and she’ll be devastated by his deception. Yet if he can’t discover who’s sabotaging the mine, George will lose any chance of making a home for Flora and Pierre. Can the little boy who holds both their hearts help them lay claim to a new dream of family?

An Unlikely Mother by Danica Favorite

There is clearly some background to this story (not sure what series it is part of), but this is the first novel by Danica Favorite I’ve read. An Unlikely Mother has a trope that seems to be gaining popularity: the heroine who was selfish or even a bully in the past, now redeemed. If it’s done well I do like it – it’s a nice change from misogynistic, one-dimensional characterisation of women.

I really appreciated that theme in this book. I also liked the slightly more innovative plotline involving a mine, immigrant workers, undercover work, etc. There are very similar themes in many of these books, and this was a little more original.

Some books in Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line (which is a Christian line) work just fine for non-religious people, with the Christian aspects only popping up every now and then, and having little impact on the story.

This is a different kind of book. Instead of the odd prayer peppered throughout, the religion is on every page, in most conversations in some way. I suppose this is really how Christian fiction ought to be, but it doesn’t work as well for people who don’t like the preaching.

I would have been fine with it except for one thing: the redemption of a “fallen woman” character. It is obviously a continuation of something that happened in another book, but it’s referenced multiple times here. The woman who had a child out of wedlock repeatedly talks about ‘God forgiving her for her sin’ in a way that made my stomach churn. While it is a historically accurate mindset, it is appallingly sexist. I’m not so sure about referring to babies as “sins”, either!

I think readers who are genuinely religious will enjoy this more than secular readers (like me). I’d like to try another book by this author at some point, however.

One little thing: a nineteenth-century woman named Shannon? It was mostly a man’s name until the 1970s!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 24th – 30th April

Gorgeous Friday afternoon in Canberra.

Autumn colours this week.

Autumn Flowers Garden Canberra Australia After the Rain Sonya Heaney 26th April 2017 Nature

After the rain. Wednesday afternoon. We have autumn flowers everywhere all of a sudden.

Autumn FINALLY hit us this week. So annoying that Tuesday – Anzac Day – was not a nice day, when we’d been having summer weather until now. We apparently had 38 000 people at the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra, thousands more than other cities with populations six or more times ours. Not a bad effort!

Christopher Heaney Australian Army Vietnam War 1968 1969 IMG_0078My father in Nui Dat (Vietnam) in the 1960s.

We went to lunch with my war veteran father, who’d been planning to march this year (he never does), but then changed his mind. The place we chose was almost completely booked out for a reunion of military intelligence people – so many men and women with their medals! My father impressed them, however. One actually commented he was a “real” veteran because of all the combat he’d seen.

On Saturday evening I went to buy some wine – and got asked for ID again (or “carded”, as I believe Americans say). Now, I’m closer to forty than thirty, and the legal drinking age here is eighteen. I first worked in a bar in the year 2000. Exactly what point in time are people going to stop asking me if I’m older than schoolchildren?! People keep saying: take it as a compliment. But… Especially when it’s a teenager at the cash register! I think: I am literally old enough to be your mother!

The bombed car on the back of a truck after the attack.

This week an American citizen was killed in a Russian car bomb in Ukraine. (RT News – the Kremlin’s English-language propaganda channel – was on the scene within three minutes of the bombing, because that’s NOT suspicious in any way!!). Whereas Donald Trump was all over Twitter about the American killed in the Westminster terror attack, calling him a hero and all of that, there was deafening silence from the US government over what was essentially a political assassination in Ukraine.

I guess the president only values some Americans…

My review of Blindsided (Men of Steele #3) by Gwen Hernandez

Anzac Day – Recommended Reads

Lisa Kleypas Interview

Vintage War Romance

Free read over at Harlequin

The Handmaid’s Tale Premieres

A note on something that happened last week.