Nicola here, talking slightly tongue-in-cheek about a certain trope in fiction, that of birth order. The concept of the “heir and the spare” is something that has been discussed quite a lot lately and it’s a theme that those of us who read historical romance are very familiar with. The noble family is desperate to have an heir (usually male, since women can’t inherit the majority of British titles) and that person will be expected to carry on the traditions of the family, inherit the title and any entailed fortune that goes with it. They will be in line to take the responsibility for the crumbling stately pile and if it really is crumbling, find an heiress whose inheritance fortunately comes from trade or some other source, to prop it up. It feels like a heavy weight for the heir to carry. The emphasis here is on responsibility and continuity. However, there’s a snag. What if something happens to the heir? Then you will need a spare – two boys at least – to ensure the continuation of the family line. So, to be on the safe side, most families try not to stop at one.
Nicola here, introducing the July Ask A Wench. This month we’re talking about a book that is special to each of us, whether it’s something that was recommended to us, or a book that was given to us a child, or something we came across on our own that sparked a new reading interest. The results are fascinating and varied, funny and poignant, and we hope you will enjoy them and contribute a special book of your own to the discussion! As you might imagine, choosing just one book was a real challenge to such a bunch of avid readers …
Susan here, with "What We're Reading" for February: a variety of romances, traditional and non-traditional; mysteries, contemporary and historical; classics; post-apocalyptic; paranormal; and a dash of nonfiction. Scroll on down, friends — your wish lists and TBR stacks are about to grow exponentially!
Mary Jo here:
New Zealand contemporary romance writer Lucy Parker is a great hit with the Word Wenches. I believe it was Anne Gracie who introduced us to her with Parker's first London Celebrities book, Act Like It. The wit, banter, and intelligence of this romance between two theater actors in London's West End made the story an instant favorite of mine.
The stories work fine as standalones, but they all take place in the same general West End milieu so characters wander through each others' stories. The heroine of book #4, The Austen Playbook, was actor Freddy Carlton. Her sister, Sabrina Carlton, is the heroine of recently released book #5, Headliners, London Celebrities #5, a sparkling enemies-to-lovers story. Sabrina appeared in The Jane Austen Playbook, and she's the very successful and popular anchor of a TV evening show. Nick Davenport is host of a show on a rival network, and he brashly broadcast a Carlton family scandal, earning Sabina's red headed rage.
Then one of their networks buys the other, there isn't room for two evening shows, and Sabrina and Nick are made co-hosts of the live morning show which has terrible ratings. If they fail, they'll both be in the market for new jobs or even new careers.
Sparks and much humor ensue! Highly recommended if you like wit and banter entwined with your romance. The broadcasting world is convincing, too.
My other suggestion is something very different. There is a sizable subgenre of male/male romances, usually abbreviated as m/m and written by women. The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite is the first female/female romance I've ever read. A Regency historical, it features Lucy Muchelney, a brilliant young mathematician and astronomer who had worked closely with her father. After his death, she realizes how trapped she is by a male society that has no use for female scientists and largely refuses to admit they exist.
Lucy's clueless brother is threatening to sell her telescope when Lucy goes to the widowed Lady Moth, a countess who had supported her husband's scientific endeavors. Lucy wants to translate an important French astronomical work into English, and she persuades Catherine St. Day, the countess, to become her patron. Though Lucy has always been aware of her sexual orientation, Catherine has never considered such a thing. But as they live in the same house and work together, they are drawn together in a deeply romantic way.
The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics is not only an unusual and powerful romance, but also exploration of the obstacles and politics facing women of science. And it has a very satisfying ending! Recommended if you'd like to try something different.
Susan here, thinking there are So. Many. Books. in the world right now, including in my house—I’ll never find the time to read them all. And yet I keep acquiring them. They look so good and enticing on the shelves, and stacked in toppling piles here and there . . . they even look great in rows and rows in my Kindle . . . There’s a comfort in being surrounded by books, by that wealth of knowledge and thought and imagination, by the color and texture and scent of the pages and covers, by the promise they hold, and the memories that others keep for us. Regardless of whether or not we’ve read the books that surround us, as many of us know–there can never be too many books.
Yes. What Cicero said.
(The historian in me wants to add that he wasn't talking about books per se, but scrolls or early codices, so his quote might be closer to "A room without scrolls is like a body without a soul," which has a nice little ring to it.)
Some of the zillions of books I’ve read and reshelved could eventually be redirected to other hands and other homes, but mostly I'm not that efficient, and most I will keep. If I haven’t read them yet, and there are plenty of those, I maintain all good intentions to do that. And I’m visual enough that I need to see the Unread where they cluster on shelves or in baskets. A great many have been read or at least browsed and skimmed, so I know what’s there if I need it, particularly so for the research books, which I try to group in ways that I can find them again as needed–Scottish and British history, medieval, costumes, legends, that sort of thing.
As usual, the wenches have an eclectic and exciting selection of reading favorites from this past month. I think we've covered all the genres from wedding fantasies to biographies, with lots of romance in between!
Aunt Dimity's Death, Nancy Atherton
This book is labeled a mystery, but it’s not a traditional one, which is probably why I adore it. There is no suspense other than determining the reason the mysterious Aunt Dimity was left alone and unhappy all her life. It’s more a fairy tale ghost story, since Aunt Dimity haunts the protagonists’ life in more ways than one, always in a cheerful, amiable manner. The heroine is the next best thing to the Poor Little Match Girl. She gets to visit what is, to all intents and purposes, an enchanted castle in a modern metropolis, meets a prince who isn’t really handsome but a lawyer, and is given a list of odd tasks she must accomplish to earn a princely sum. It’s all low key, pleasant, and charming, and we all get to live the fairy tale with her. In this day and age, I’m good with that.