I’m rubbish at reading while on holiday. Where other people relax at the beach with a book, I reject all reading materials as I am either in the water swimming or racing around looking at every museum, shop, historical building that is close by. To add to this, my latest trip was a combination of work and play (I marked student assignments, along with PhD related conference paper writing and archive visiting), which even further lessened my reading time.
However, I did manage to read 5 novels while I was away (I won’t count the numerous picture books I read to my cousin’s kids). So for this blog only I will write about the place I read each book in as well as the book.
Alexander the Great statue in Thessaloniki
Before I discuss these other books I need to point out that I am both impressed and horrified that I have reverted in my reading habits. 4 years ago, I bought myself a SONY ereader and during an 8 week holiday I did not enter a single book shop and I did not buy a single book. All my reads were downloaded from my local library and Project Gutenberg. My luggage was liberated. Hallelujiah to more space for more shoes. But my latest trip has shocked me. Not only did I not use my tablet for reading but I found myself carting print books across the globe. Thoughthey are much more cumbersome, I love them soooo much more than ebooks. I can write in the margins (I don’t but I could if I chose to), I can dog ear pages (I do), I can litter my book with post it notes, bookmarks made of receipts, ticket stubs, serviettes and beer coasters. Each item becoming in itself a souvenir of the moment that I was reading. I am enjoying my reversion. I want a badge that says “Tried ebooks, didn’t work, print is my swag”. I also want to point out that I always forget to take photos when I am on holiday. I guess I am too busy being on holiday to document it.
I have already blogged about Tonya Alexandra’s Nymph and the island of Poros (Poseidon’s sanctuary and Theseus birthplace making it a perfect backdrop for reading a novel about Greek gods). I’m still in love with Book 1 of The Love Oracles and feel like I am proselytizing to anyone that makes even a passing mention to Greece or Greek gods or hot men or reading or just asking me how I am. As for the rest of the books:
Lynne Graham’s Ravelli’s Defiant Bride and Santorini
I was in Greece for the IASPR conference and a week before the conference I had completed my paper and all my preparation. I had 4 spare days so my son and I hopped on a 7 hour ferry across the Aegean to, what in my opinion is, the most magnificent island in the world – Santorini. I say this with confidence as I have been to islands in Australia, the Caribbean and throughout Greece and none come close to the stunning beauty of Santorini – and its glamour. So glamorous that I had to read a Harlequin Presents mega-billionaire romance to match it.
Most people who know me also know that I am so totally obsessed with Lynne Graham that I cannot CANNOT follow her on any social media. She is an author that I deliberately distance myself from as I don’t want to know too much about the minutiae of her life. However she does give a hint to her personal life in her dedication which reads “For Michael and thirty-five happy years”. This gave me “awww” squishy love feelings – a book that starts with its own dedicated HEA. I love the cover to this book. Both the stunning Australian cover and the UK cover (love me a bride cover). The book is set in Ireland and Italy so my photos are in no way reflective of the book setting. Just a sign of what I was looking at as I read.
Ravelli’s Defiant Bride is a classic OTT, convoluted, melodramatic plot a la the genius that is Ms Graham. The heroine, Belle Brophy’s mother was a mistress to the hero, Christo Ravelli’s sleep-around father. Belle’s mother has 5 children to the Christo’s father and when both of them die the heroine is determined to keep her brothers and sisters together. Having never met each other they are both on the defensive and behave ridiculously thus setting up obstacles they need to overcome. In actual fact Christo has only just found out about his father’s 5 illegitimate children and is ashamed of his father’s behaviour so tries to hide his father’s indiscretions by adopting out the kids. Of course, this becomes unacceptable to the Belle and the only thing that the two protagonists can think of is to marry to keep their shared siblings together (though as the reader you know that they also have the hots for each other). I loved this story, Christo slowly comes around to understanding the damage that his father’s relationship wreaked upon his younger siblings, and Belle realises that Christo is nothing like his father, a man she deeply disliked. Ultimately, just like all of Graham’s stories, this book is about belonging to a family, not that you are born into but one, that is created through love.
Julie Anne Long’s Between the Devil and Ian Eversea and South-East England (Isle of Wight and Berkshire)
Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight
I’m going to take some artistic license here as the Pennyroyal Green series is actually set in Sussex and not the Isle of Wight or Berkshire. However, I did get to Sussex a day after I finished with Julie Anne Long’s book. Firstly, let me say, that I love the Isle of Wight. Not only is it home to my fabulous cousins and aunt and uncle (albeit through marriage but I have laid my claim) but it is also so picturesque that it fills your eyes (this may sound stupid but I can’t think of a better way to translate the Greek saying “γεμίζει το μάτι”). While on the island, I also hit the motherlode of Mills & Boon from the 70s and 80 in op-shops and second-hand bookshops in Ryde. Win!
I loved reading this book. It’s depiction of South East England’s rolling, green hills and the flowers and the buildings and homes felt true to the places I was experiencing in my own travelling. The sense of place was certainly captured in this book. And ooooooh! I really like Ian Eversea. He is a rakish tamale. His attractiveness leaps off the pages. And Tansy, the heroine American heiress, just sparkles. But both of them have deeper, tragic pasts. Ian suffers from insomnia due to his battle-scars – both physical and psychological. Tansy has been orphaned of both her parents and is at the mercy of her kindly father’s cousin who is charged with finding her a suitable husband – and Ian Eversea is not suitable at all.
Bodiam Castle in Sussex
I love how the surface beauty of these two characters has all the secondary characters loving and admiring them yet it is only these two outwardly beautiful yet inwardly devastated and damaged characters that can see each others’ faults and the pain that they are both harbouring. Suffice to say, it is through understanding the difficulties and vulnerability that both Ian and Tansy hide from all their friends and admirers that ultimately bring them together.
Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This and Kent and London
I stayed in Kent with more fab cousins, both in Whitstable and in Bromley and aside from regularly visiting London, I also visited Canterbury, Greenwich and Hampton Court (with lovely tweep Sheila Bounford). If there is anywhere to read a Regency romance, it is while you are being a tourist in Regency London. I particularly loved London this time around. The recent Congestion Charge has made a huge difference to the traffic on London roads and this was particularly evident on the magnificent Regent Street which is now much more pleasant and quiet to walk around. The bustle of shoppers is there but the bikes, taxis and buses are much less obtrusive than the nightmarish traffic that used to clog its roads. The sense I get when I am in shops that have been around for centuries, established long before English occupation of Australia, is similar to that which I feel in Greece. It is of countries where the importance of documented history is not only evident in their written legacy but in their built legacy.
Hampton Court Palace with Sheila Bounford
Quinn’s book is set in London and Berkshire. I had been in Berkshire the week before as I was visiting the Mills & Boon archive in Reading. Reading is far from my favourite place in England – it is very urban and not all that touristy. I have been to the pretty parts of Berkshire on previous visits but I didn’t get a good sense of place from Quinn’s description of the Duke’s country estate (unlike the aforementioned Sussex). However, Quinn is great at describing London and I got a great sense of the city in her writing.
Regent Street, London
*sigh* I really liked most of this book. The second of Quinn’s Smythe-Smith books based on the musically challenged family from the Bridgerton series. I like that both of the protagonists are on the run from problems arising from their own actions against others. Daniel had accidently shot his best friend Hugh in the leg 3 years earlier and was on the run from Hugh’s father who swore to kill him. Anne Wynter has her own enemies so when Anne and Daniel start their flirtations both of them imperil those who are around them. I loved their witty discussions and the way they connected to each other. These two are characters who are so obviously right for each other.
**Spoiler alerts** (Skip to the next review)
But Anne does have a “fault” and that is that she is not a virgin. She was seduced when she was younger and here is where I found fault in the story. I would have loved for this book to not have been consumated. This woman had a trust issue and did not want to lose her job as a governess to Daniel’s younger cousins. I understand the motivations and the promises they made to each other before marrying but I really felt that this story would have been infinitely more romantic if Daniel was to prove to Anne that he was unlike her seducer and could wait until after marrying her. And sure, she did not give in to her desire for him until after her job as a governess was no longer tenable so it was not as though it felt improbable. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book (and who am I to suggest plot changes to a successful author).
Julie James’s It Happened One Wedding and Emirates flight London to Sydney
Emirates Flight to Sydney
Julie James is such a fab writer of contemporary romance and her latest book is awesome. I read this book on the plane on my way back to Australia. This may seem like a “no big deal” kinda comment but when you understand that I have not managed to read any book on a plane ever ever ever as I cannot ever focus on planes as I am terrified of flying. So being able to read, to get taken away by a story, and to be so engrossed in a story that I finished the book in 3 hours is quite amazing (Do keep in mind that 3 hours out of 24 flying hours still allowed for 21 hours of nervous twitching). I don’t know if this is an indication that I am slowly coping with flying, that the 4 (or was it 6 – I lost count) shots of whiskey relaxed me or that Julie James writes especially engrossing fiction. Let’s give the kudos to JJ.
I find that few authors can pull off the “dislike each other to fuck buddies to being in love” trope well. Julie James has managed to write a wonderful book with this trope. Heroine Sidney Sinclair awkwardly finds herself as maid of honour alongside best man Vaughn Roberts, a man she forthrightly turned down when he tried to crack on to her a few hours before they met officially when their respective siblings introduced them at the announcement of their impending nuptials. The story develops as the two need to get along while they are part of the wedding arrangements. They actually spark off each other and the dialogue is sparkling. They stop disliking each other, the action gets incredibly hot but at all times both Sidney and Vaughn acknowledge that they want different things out of life than the other is offering. But this changes as they grow to like each other more and more. Vaughn is an FBI agent and even though it is the undercover case that gives him thought as to his direction in life, I loved that this book did not turn into some romantic intrigue and that Sidney at no point gets involved, deliberately or by accident, in his casework.
Gratuitous photograph of pretty gardens at Hampton Court Palace
I also love the detail that James puts into her characters sense of fashion and I was so pleased to read shoe details in this book, from the Ralph Lauren shower shoes to the hero taking his shoes off on his way to bedding Sidney (excuse the cheeky hyperlink). I loved loved loved this book and I may have to reread it sober without the constant terror of plunging out of the sky into a fiery, crashing death playing in the back of my mind.
I am now home and back to reading my uni work. I have some books that are waiting in my TBR but it may take some time before I get to them. In the meantime, I will relish the books I got to read and my fabulous trip.
Diagon Alley, Harry Potter set
P.S. I also visited the Harry Potter set. This ranks only a side mention as it is vaguely readerly. Though I have not read the books nor have I watched the movies but I went out of 1. Pop cultural curiosity and 2. Deep love for my son who has both read the books and seen the movies and wanted to go. He was great to travel with. Funny, considerate and happy to leave most decisions to me.