Welcome to the New Wench

Anne here, and today I'm delighted to introduce you to our newest wench — Christina Courtenay. RNAteaChristina&Susanna copy

Christina is an award-winning, bestselling author of sweeping historical romances, regencies, time slip/time travel novels, and young adult novels, among others. She has won several awards, twice winning the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014), and won the Big Red Reads Historical Fiction Award with The Scarlet Kimono.

She also chaired the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) in the UK from 2013-2015. (Read an interview here.) Naturally she is friends with wench Nicola, but she's also very good friends with our departing wench, Susanna. Here's a photo of the two of them together at an RNA event some years ago.

2book-cover-trade-windsI first came across Christina's books five years ago, when Nicola mentioned one of her books, saying that it was set partly in Asia, something that always interests me. I bought Trade Winds, read it, and immediately glommed the rest of her backlist. I loved her big sweeping stories where Scottish and Swedish people found love and adventure in Japan and other parts of Asia.

Christina: Thank you Anne, so glad you enjoyed them, and I’m hugely honoured to have been asked to join the Word Wenches! I have been a fan ever since Susanna first told me to seek out this blog many years ago (thank you, Susanna, great advice!) so to actually be a part of it is just amazing.

Anne: Christina, you had something of an adventurous youth yourself; born in England, raised in Sweden and then, when you were sixteen, your family moved to Japan. What was that like?

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Emma—a Heroine to Love or Hate?

Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 9.10.48 PMAndrea here, musing today about books, movies, and Jane Austen . . . and when the three collide. I just saw the new iteration of Emma on the silver screen, and have some thoughts and reactions to share.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

Emma-anyataylorjoy-outside-dress-700x348To begin with, Emma (the novel) is not my favorite Austen. (Though I do find the opening sentence nearly as witty and clever as “It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .) That distinction lies with P&P (though Persuasion is a very close second . . . pip, pip, for the Ps!) But it isn’t my least favorite either —I have to say that rating lies with Northanger Abbey, which JA wrote as a parody of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, considered the first gothic novel.

 

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What We’re Reading: February Edition!

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:

HeadlinersNew 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. 

The Lady's Guide to Celestial MechanicsMy 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.

 

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Celebrating The Library!

National Libraries DayNicola here! On Saturday I went to Shoreham-by-Sea to give a talk in celebration of National Libraries Day. It was a wonderful occasion to be surrounded by fellow library fans, have afternoon tea and cake and talk about books, writing and history. Public libraries are so hugely important. The library has always played a big part in my life and in the development of my love of reading and writing. I can remember as a teenager taking the bus a few miles down the road to our closest local library at Oakwood in Leeds where I scoured the shelves to feed my appetite for historical fiction. Our school library was in a grand old building that looked as though it came straight out of a historical novel itself.

Libraries in the UK are under threat as never before from cuts to local government spending. Some have closed down, others have cut back their opening hours and some have had to make cuts in their stock and the facilities they provide. None of this feels like a good thing. These days, libraries provide so much to the communities they serve. It’s not just about the books – though if it was that would still be good enough! Libraries have so many different purposes, contributing to culture and the community. To lose them would be a tragedy.

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