Music-Less Historical Romances

Having recently gone on a bit of a period drama-rewatching spree, something has occurred to me: there’s almost never any music in historical romance books.

In fact, the new fad is for female characters in historical romances to reject ALL things that might be considered even slightly feminine. (ALL the cool kids hate sewing – and can’t sew. ALL the cool kids hate dancing – and can’t dance.). Of course they’re crap musicians – ALL the cool kids are!

What I consider to be the most emotionally powerful scene in the 1995 adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one that begins with Elizabeth Bennet playing and singing for the Bingleys and Darcys. Then Mr Darcy’s sister takes over, while the clueless Miss Bingley makes a cruel comment and upsets everyone.

The whole scene, while telling you a bunch of other things about the characters and the plot, is about the music. Imagine what a dull – and quiet – evening it would have been without any women with some musical ability!

Watch it below:

In both Pride and Prejudice the book, and every television and film adaptation, Elizabeth and Miss Darcy bond over music, and the snobs use music as a chance to show off.

Then there’s Anne Elliot from another Jane Austen book: Persuasion. There’s that scene where she sheds a quiet tear while playing the piano so the others can dance. There’s no crying in the 1995 movie version, but the scene below at 37:20 shows you exactly how crucial music was for an evening in the Regency era:

Also, in Poldark, Demelza’s triumph over the society ladies comes when she sings at the Christmas party. (As an aside, TV Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson, did such a good job with her singing in the show that she’s releasing an album!).

Sure, there are some book heroines who enjoy their music. Faith Merridew and Helen Ravenel come to mind. However, we are very much in an era of publishing (and life in general, actually) where authors think that it’s somehow antifeminist for women to anything remotely artistic or creative.

Music isn’t just an art form; it’s to people of two-hundred years ago what television and the internet and evenings out are to us today. It was an essential part of a person’s social life, as it was one of the only ways to break the silence over long, pre-electricity evenings, and to entertain in an era before today’s technology existed.

I do think some authors avoid heroines who play and sing because they – ridiculously – think it’s demeaning to their gender.

However, I also think it simply never occurs to some authors that this was a major aspect of a Georgian/Regency/Victorian person’s day-to-day experience. It’s a little odd.


The Week: 29th August – 4th September

Flowers late winter Canberra Australia Garden Sonya Oksana Heaney 23rd August 2016

Spring in Canberra!

Happy Father’s (I always want to say Fathers’ – apostrophe at the end) Day to whoever has it today. We will be going to a restaurant for lunch with… whoever can make it!

The anniversary or both the beginning and end of World War Two was this week, but all I saw on the internet was people marking the anniversary of Harry Potter going to Hogwarts. I thought that was very, very sad. Do they even teach history in school these days?!


This week also marked the third anniversary of my father’s mother’s death. Everyone is saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s already three years!’ whereas I’m thinking that since then so much has happened, and I’ve been through the illness and death of my other grandmother (who has been gone a year and a half)… Time goes fast.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

That’s not Verona; it’s earthquake-damaged Norcia, from when we were staying there in June.

We booked some accommodation in Verona this week, for early next year. I’ve never been to Verona before, even though most people seem to go on their first trip to Italy.

There were fights, multiple stabbings, and hundreds of arrests at the Notting Hill Carnival in London over the past weekend, which is shocking. I used to live in Notting Hill, and our street was blocked off by police during the festival time, but this year cars have been trashed etc.

My review of Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

My review of When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

Trigger Warnings in Books

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Coming Up: Mogul by Joanna Shupe

Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe

Poldark Season Two

Poldark Season Two

Best of 2015

2015 was a mixed bag. I read some really great books, and got excited about quite a few things.

However there were also lengthy periods of time where I was either feeling a little blah about my books or I was downright fed up with reading in general, and with the repetition brought on by genre fads.

I saved myself from my reading slumps both by rereading, and also by buying books instead of accepting as many review books as I might have other years.

Every year I post my best reads of the year. Many are 2015 releases, but some are not. Not all of them are the Greatest Read Ever, but every one of these stuck with me in some way, and that’s what counts the most when it comes to a book.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Ross Poldark (Poldark #1) by Winston Graham


His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl (2015) (The fourth book in the Travis series) by Lisa Kleypas

Collateral Damage (Bagram Special Ops #5) by Kaylea Cross

Collateral Damage by Kaylea Cross

His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen

His Christmas Countess (Lords of Disgrace #2) by Louise Allen

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy #2) by Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

Demelza (Poldark #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Reflected in You (Crossfire #2) by Sylvia Day

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake (2015) by Lisa Kleypas

His Housekeeper’s Christmas wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Week: 29th June – 5th July

Winter Nature Kangaroos Farm Bush Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 4th July 2015

Kangaroos where the cows are supposed to be in Canberra on Saturday afternoon… And autumn leaves out in the middle of winter!

Weird week. Freezing nights and bright, warm sunny days. Such extremes in temperatures when you live in the mountains!

Also this week, EL James’ version of Midnight Sun has been universally ridiculed for its stalkerish narration (likened by many a reviewer to a serial killer’s perspective), and also – sadly, predictably – hit bestseller lists. I know I’m shocked. 🙂

Anybody remember Siemens? They’re the German company infamous for using concentration camp slave labour in World War Two.

This week they ignored international sanctions against Russia and did major business with Putin.

Once a Nazi, always a Nazi.

Military Heroines

Our Girl Series 1

Cover Love

A Highlander of Her Own by Melissa Mayhue

My review of Lock and Load (SEAL EXtreme Team #2) by Kimberley Troutte

Lock and Load (SEAL EXtreme Team #2) by Kimberley Troutte

My review of Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

My review of The Trouble with Patience (Virtues and Vices of the Old West #1) by Maggie Brendan

The Trouble with Patience (Virtues and Vices of the Old West #1) by Maggie Brendan

My review of Aftershock (After #2) by Sylvia Day

Aftershock (After #2) by Sylvia Day

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza Carne, the impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground rabble, is now his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love.

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

This is the second book in the Poldark series, written in the 1940s, but set in the 1780s. Many will know it from the television adaptations, and I assume plenty will be drawn in by the complicated relationship between protagonist Ross Poldark and Demelza, the servant he shocked society by marrying. There’s some real tragedy in this second one.

I love Demelza. She’s a real heroine. She has to be one of my favourite literary characters, and a heroine I can truly identify with. She struggles because she was born into poverty and abuse and somehow has to turn herself into a lady, and a lady who was the second choice of her much higher-ranking husband. She is steady and constant and has more wisdom than most people around her. She makes heaps of mistakes, but she cares for people first and politics second.

Of course having watched the show, I already knew what was going to happen (even though I expected differences in the book – but they never came), but the book still moved me. Naturally, there are characters I’m more interested in reading about than others, but I think the author struck a good balance.

I was so surprised to learn that the first season – only eight episodes! – of the new BBC version covered not just book one, but also book two. I was reluctant to read the books for other reasons, such as not wanting to discover the story I loved so much on the screen was very different in the books. However, I shouldn’t have worried.

I spent half my university degree studying scriptwriting and book-to-screen adaptation. I know better than almost anyone the difficulties of staying true to the source. But this one is an extraordinary feat, because the Poldark series is literally the book on the screen. Maybe it’s the episodic style of author Winston Graham’s writing, and the fact he creates stories not just for his main characters, but also his secondary characters.

Whatever it is, scenes, huge passages of dialogue – and even the weather – are the same as in the book.

I’m not sure if I’ll read on in the series because I know what happens in future books. I might be fine finishing here, with a tentative hope between the two leads despite tragedy. However, I’m becoming a little addicted to this little patch of Cornwall and the people struggling there in the Georgian era.

The Week


Big, blue skies here, and lots of sun in mid-winter.

A pretty warm, sunny week for winter.

Happy thirty-second birthday to my little (but bigger) brother.

I have been having 2-3 hours’ sleep a night, and because of that I actually fell asleep at the computer while typing the other day! I remember having my eyes closed, but my fingers kept going on the keyboard. The only other times I’ve been this exhausted were after trips overseas (such as my thirty-six hour marathon from New York City to Canberra).

We spent many hours this week (including seven hours both on Tuesday and Friday) cleaning and moving furniture and things at my grandmother’s house. I was sort of drooping by the end, but who knew I could carry enormous items of furniture on my own? I feel like Superman.

I lost my Kindle (again!) on Friday the week before, and it wasn’t found until Tuesday. So I’m a bit behind on my reading, and especially on my review books.

It was also a week of terror, and I’m not just talking about the Islamic extremists. Russian car bombs in the far west of Ukraine, right near the EU border, in a city I have family in, and a city we’re supposed to be returning to in a few months – a city that was considered very safe. Shootings on buses in other major cities. Threats to kill Obama. Russian gangs attacking Ukrainian community centres in other countries – including here. Hate crimes everywhere.

And the world reacts:


What is “Snarky”?

My review of Northern Heat by Helene Young

Northern Heat by Helene Young  by Helene Young

 My review of Wicked White by Michelle A. Valentine

Wicked White by Michelle A. Valentine

My review of Afterburn (After #1) by Sylvia Day

Afterburn (After #1) by Sylvia Day

My review of Ross Poldark by Winston Graham


Ross Poldark by Winston Graham


Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and his family. But the joyful homecoming he has looked forward to turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

I’m one of those people who saw the show before reading the books, so I didn’t know how happy I was going to be with the source material. It turns out that the first book in the Poldark series is a bit of a slow burn at first, but before you know it you’ve been drawn into this little corner of Cornwall, and you care about the characters too much to put it down.

Ross Poldark, a man of twenty-seven (though the story covers a number of years), returns home to Cornwall, England, after fighting in the American Revolution. The woman he loves is marrying his cousin, and his property is crumbling.

There are too many characters to get into, but no doubt a lot of new fans of the books are in it for Demelza. This is where the show deviates from the books a bit, because when we meet Demelza in the book, she is a child (and a dark-haired one; why do the TV versions always make her a redhead?).

Apart from the eventual (not when she’s a child!) relationship between Ross and Demelza, I just love her character so much. Apparently she was based on the author’s wife, and maybe this is why she’s such a fun, funny, well-drawn character. I honestly don’t understand why Ross spends the whole series pining over the other woman, Elizabeth (another character who is different in the book), when all she has over Demelza – a servant girl who grew up in poverty – is refinement.

Perhaps because this is not a romance, the moments we are given here and there between various couples seem all the more realistic and romantic for it. He also shows ten times better than most the horrors of attempting to move between one social class and another. This is too often romanticised.

Author Winston Graham writes about a woman’s lot in life in Georgian England better than most women writing historical romance. He also seems to have a lot more sympathy for these women, in a situation where they were faced with a baby a year for a few decades, and has much more liberal views on their rights than a lot of women today (this book was written in the 1940s!).

There are twenty-thousand characters in this story, but the ones that matter are all great. Somehow the author manages to give them all story arcs without having them take over the book, and I cared about a lot of them. It is a bit hard to decipher some of the lower class-speak, though. It’s written phonetically, and sometimes I gave up trying to understand it!

One thing that didn’t hold my interest as much was some of the scenes with the mining talk. Business talk is boring to me. I also thought that there were too many characters in a few parts. I didn’t even try and keep track of who was who.

It’s not a perfect book, but I found it completely addictive by the end and immediately started book two.

Give it a go, and definitely watch the new show.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.