What We Read in May

Anne here, and it's that time again, where we share the books we've read and enjoyed in the last month. Brace your credit cards . . . 

We start with Christina: SummerFrenchCafe
My favourite read this month was Sue Moorcroft’s latest novel Summer at the French Café.  This story is an absolute delight and exactly what I needed right now to sweep me away from real life! It’s a wonderful tale of learning to trust, the importance of being open and honest with everyone, and the healing power of love. The reader can’t help but empathise with the hard-working heroine Kat from the start. She’s independent and capable, but with a positive outlook on life, and she never complains even when things go decidedly pear-shaped. A child of divorced parents, she has lots of emotional baggage, but for the most part, she manages to ignore it. Then the hero Noah arrives on the scene and he seems almost too good to be true. He has his own problems to contend with, but instead of charging in like a bull in a china shop, he stops to consider the best way of solving them. I fell head over heels in love with him – how can you not love a man as determined as he is to do the right thing for his very sensitive 8-year old daughter, while at the same time being the perfect boyfriend? Kat has to decide whether she dares to take a chance and believe that he is every bit as great as he seems, and I was rooting for this couple all the way. This is definitely the perfect summer story!  (If the links above don't work for you, try this one.)

UnderOneRoof

I also very much enjoyed Under One Roof, a novella by Ali Hazelwood which she calls “STEMist”. The heroine Mara is an environmental engineer and extremely brilliant at what she does, but she’s fighting against sexism and prejudice in her workplace. She’s just been left a half share in a house by her former mentor, but she hadn’t reckoned with having to share it with the woman’s nephew Liam. At first glance he is everything she hates – a corporate lawyer working for a company that has no regard for the environment whatsoever. They try to co-exist as house owners, but drive each other nuts. But everything is not as it seems, and slowly but surely they begin to find common ground. I absolutely loved the chemistry between these two and watching the romance develop. This is only the first novella in a series of three and I can’t wait for the other two!

Pat Rice tells us about: SEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak.

7daysofUsThe basic story here is that Olivia Birch has been treating some kind of plague in Africa and when she comes home for Christmas, she has to quarantine for a week. So her family quarantines with her in their stately old, crumbling manor in Norfolk. Olivia is the no-nonsense doctor out to save the world. Andrew, her father, was a journalist who once thought he could save the world. Now he’s a food critic. Emma, his wife, gave up her dreams to be a mother and has buried herself in tradition. Phoebe is the younger sister with no purpose other than getting married. Into this suffocating atmosphere drops Jesse, an American son fathered by Andrew while he was in a war zone. He had been given up for adoption and is now searching for his birth parents. Nuclear explosion ensues.

Make no mistake about it, this is a deliberately literary novel, so you won’t get your fun and games happy ending, but the writing is positively compelling. The reader is dragged into their mixed-up lives and really needs to know how all these good, but confused, people fix themselves or each other. We root them on as they grope about in their darkness. I can promise that they find a new kind of light at the end of their week of togetherness, so it’s well worth diving into for your escapism addiction.

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Austen —romances or not?

Anne here. P&P
Yesterday I was on several panels at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and for one of them, the topic we were given to discuss was Unpicking Classic Romances — with particular references to historical classics, rather than those 20th century novels regarded in genre romance as "classics".

ClareToni&meMWF2019I don't intend to write a full report on it, but I thought wenchly readers might be interested in the topic, and could offer their own thoughts on some of the questions and discussion points. Here are the three writers who were on the panel — from left Clare Connelly, Toni Jordan and me. Calla Wahlquist, a journalist from the Guardian (Australia) and also a budding academic, chaired the panel and asked some thought-provoking questions. Sadly by the time we remembered to take a photo of us all, she'd left.

Jane Austen's novels came up for quite a bit of discussion, as did those of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontes. Thomas Hardy got a mention, and we even did a brief  drive-by of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. And someone in the audience raised Gone with the Wind. But for this blog, I'll just stick to Austen.

So, on to Austen.
Clare and I felt strongly that Austen's novels were romances, but Toni argued that while the books were definitely courtship novels, they were not romances. She argued that Austen spent much more time in her books, describing and dwelling on the parts in the story where things fell apart than when love was declared and celebrated. And she supported her case with quotes, one of which was the very last paragraph of Emma, which sums up the wedding of Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse thus:

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