Robyn Reviews: The Viscount Who Loved Me

‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ is the second book in Julia Quinn’s ‘Bridgerton’ saga, a series of historical romance novels following each member of the Bridgerton family in their quests for marriage and love. This particular installment focuses on Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest son, and is expected to be the inspiration for the second season of the Netflix show. Quinn continues to prove herself excellent at writing witty, humorous characters, and the chemistry she creates is just as electric as it was for Daphne and Simon in ‘The Duke and I‘.

A year has passed since the events of the first book, and the ton is gearing up for another season. This year, the diamond of the season is none other than Edwina Sheffield, a relative unknown from Somerset making her debut alongside her older sister Kate. Of course, the most eligible bachelor is one Viscount Anthony Bridgerton – but this season, Anthony has decided it’s time for him to settle down and find a wife. Naturally, he’ll settle for nothing less than the season’s diamond – but Kate knows more than enough about Anthony’s reputation and has no intention of allowing such a rake near her sister. The two regularly find themselves matching wits. However, when Kate finds her hatred morphing to grudging respect and then to something far more dangerous, she starts to wonder if her opposition to Anthony and Edwina marrying is to protect her sister – or to protect her own heart.

Kate Sheffield makes an absolutely spectacular heroine. Not particularly dignified, with any beauty she might possess completely overshadowed by her younger sister, she instead gets by with a sharp tongue and sharper wits. She adores her sister, placing Edwina’s happiness far above her own, and is quite content to let marriage pass her by and simply retire alone in the country. She also has a brilliant corgi, Newton – appalling trained but undeniably loveable, he leads to some of the funniest and best moments in the entire book.

Anthony played a very minor role in ‘The Duke and I’, but given centre stage here he shines. Like Kate, Anthony is devoted to his family – although his is considerably larger and more complicated – but he’s also far more troubled than he shows on the outside. Losing his father at eighteen, the most important person in his life, affected him deeply – and while he knows it’s his duty to marry and produce an heir, he cannot fathom falling in love with someone and risking that level of loss again. His verbal sparring with Kate is a delight, but the real tension is around waiting for the two to stop hiding everything and start trusting each other.

Like in ‘The Duke and I’, a good portion of the plot revolves around miscommunication and misunderstanding – a common trope in the romance genre, but one which can become frustrating when over-used. Quinn just about manages to keep the tension exciting rather than a chore, helped by the clear affection and chemistry between Kate and Anthony. She also excels at humorous scenes – Kate and Anthony’s Pall Mall game being a clear highlight. Daphne and Simon only play a very minor role, but Colin and Eloise get more page time – both are fantastic characters, which makes me intrigued to get to their installments of the series.

Overall, ‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ is an excellent historical romance packed with humour and fun. It’s a very light read, but if that’s what you’re looking for it comes highly recommended.

Published by Piatkus
Paperback: December 5th 2000

Robyn Reviews: The Duke and I

‘The Duke and I’ is the first novel in Julia Quinn’s popular ‘Bridgerton’ series, recently adapted into a hit Netflix show. It’s a surprisingly humorous and witty historical romance which – other than one notable scene – makes an enjoyable, quick read.

Daphne Bridgerton knows that the rest of her life depends on her securing an advantageous marriage match. However, while she has formed friendships with most of the eligible men in London, none of them see her as a desirable marriage prospect. Enter one Simon Basset, the newly-titled Duke of Hastings. The Duke has no intention of marrying – despite every mother in town seeking his hand for their daughter – and merely wants to go about his business in peace. The two hatch a cunning plan – they will pretend to form an attachment. A woman who has the attentions of a Duke will seem a highly desirable match indeed, and all the ambitious mothers will assume Simon has found his Duchess and leave him alone. However, the more time Daphne and Simon spend together, the more their ruse starts to feel real…

Daphne makes an excellent protagonist. She’s charming, witty, and unafraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself. She’s naive and immature, and prone to making unwise decisions, but her intentions are usually good. She can be a tad self-centred, but then she’s an aristocrat who’s likely always gotten her own way. Daphne isn’t necessarily the most unique character, and there’s a touch of ‘not like other girls’ about her, but she’s engaging and that’s all she needs to be.

Simon, on the other hand, is less of a paragon of masculinity than is sometimes seen in historical romance, which is refreshing. Yes, he’s a duke, and a devastatingly handsome one at that, but he’s also dealing with a number of issues – mostly centering around his terrible father – and struggles with a speech impediment. Like Daphne, Simon is clever and fond of a good quip, and their chemistry is remarkable. It’s clear right from the start that the two make an excellent match, and their relationship is highly believable.

The plot is relatively standard historical romance fare, but beyond one twist is still enjoyable and suits the characters and setting. Quinn is an excellent writer, especially of dialogue, and there are a few laugh-out-loud moments. Everything is kept mostly light-hearted, and it’s easy to read this in a single sitting. It makes the perfect read at the end of a long day when you want something simple.

The one issue this book has is a scene of female-on-male sexual assault. The male character has made it quite clear that he doesn’t consent to a particular act, yet – while he is intoxicated – the female character knowingly chooses to do it anyway. She acknowledges afterwards that it was wrong, but states she doesn’t regret it, and after a time is forgiven for her actions. This scene made me very uncomfortable, especially how it was later glossed over and – in some ways – made to seem like a positive thing in the long run. Female-on-male sexual assault is given a lot less attention than male-on-female, and works which minimise it will only cause further hurt to victims.

Overall, ‘The Duke and I’ is an enjoyable read packed with light humour – other than one scene which tars the story. It’s a shame that it was included (and an even bigger shame that it was translated in the same form into the TV show with no further commentary). My biggest hope is that a greater public lens will spark positive and progressive discussion around the issue of female-on-male sexual assault, rather than minimise it further. If you’ve watched the show, or are considering watching it, this is a recommended read – with the caveat that one scene may be distressing.

Published by Piatkus
Paperback: 5th January 2000

Book Review: The Gods of Love

This review was written for and first published by Bookmunch.

When I offered to review The Gods of Love I expected from the synopsis that it wouldn’t be the sort of book I normally read. What tempted me was the promise of the gods from Greek mythology coming to life in a contemporary setting. I was curious to see if the author could pull this off without turning them into superheroes as is done in the Marvel universe. Although the story is somewhat frothy in places, she succeeds in presenting the gods as intriguing, beguiling and suitably dispassionate given the havoc they willingly wreak on their own and the so easily manipulated mortal’s realms over millennia.

The story is told from the point of view of a young and feisty divorce lawyer, Frida McKenzie, who is smugly satisfied with her achievements and eager to further her career. Early in the story she is visited in her office by a stranger, a young man named Dan, who tells her he is an Oracle and that he has seen her in visions. Naturally Frida calls security and has him removed. Ignoring Dan’s advice she keeps an appointment with an all powerful tech company, Neostar, and thus starts her unasked-for adventure. Frida is indeed the chosen one and is required to save the world.

A big, bad tech company that can use its control over harvested data to manipulate user’s lives is an excellent cover for a vindictive god. I was less impressed by the sidekicks he used to do his dirty work. Presented as aliens it was never explained where they came from or why they were needed given there are always plenty of callous and greedy mortals readily available for such tasks.

Thus far the story is all very Matrix. Frida must call upon strengths and skills she did not know she could muster. She receives assistance from unlikely places. She must accept that mythical beings exist, that there are few she can trust, and that most are out to fulfil their own agendas by harnessing her prophesied fate.

In essence then, Frida must recover and destroy a lost arrow before the boss of Neostar can acquire it for his own nefarious ends. In order to achieve this she and Dan work together to find out where the arrow is. Frida must then face trials to retrieve the lost talisman that put her in deadly peril. Her challenging journey brought to mind the adventures Harry Potter and his chums went through, the tales of the Greek gods having inspired many such tales.

The writing style is somewhat tongue in cheek which may be why the perils didn’t come across as quite perilous enough, nor the love interest sufficiently convincing to justify its cost. Each short chapter ended with a cliff-hanger which became a tad tedious but did keep me reading. Frida’s humanity is shown to be a weakness which paves the way for a planned sequel. The plot is one of a supernatural action adventure, perhaps never intended to be taken too seriously

Any Cop?: The aspects that drew me to read the book delivered. The harnessing of the Greek myths worked well in the setting and Frida was a convincing protagonist. The story is a mostly entertaining romp with the gods providing such depth as exists. It provided a light but sufficiently engaging read.

 

Jackie Law

 

Not a Million Dollar Blog

This post was written to share my experiences of blogging as part of the blog tour for Natasha Courtenay-Smith’s latest book, ‘The Million Dollar Blog’. I review the book here.

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The photo I attached to my first ever blog post.

When I started blogging I was writing posts for myself. This is probably just as well as few other people read them. As I learned to navigate my way around the blogosphere I came across others who produced similar content – thoughts on their lives, their children, their everyday experiences interacting with the world face to face. Some of these bloggers hoped to make money from their writing. Perhaps they harboured dreams of creating a million dollar blog. I had no such ambitions. That said, I did watch my stats with interest. Each new follower, each like or comment left beneath a post, gave me a warm, fuzzy glow. My words were being well received even if my readership remained small.

I started to post book reviews and realised that this was the niche I felt most comfortable in. With that realisation, my priorities changed. Now the numbers mattered more. If I was to ask publishers to send me books to review then I needed to attain a certain reach. I became more active on social media, mainly Twitter, and developed daily habits that enabled me to promote my work. I contacted a wide range of people within the book industry and noted those who were willing to offer support.

I am now at a stage where I could ask for more books than it would be possible to read. I can be choosey about the titles I accept which offers two main advantages:

  • I only ask for books I expect to enjoy, so reading remains a pleasure;
  • the reviews I write are likely to be positive which is ever so much better for me, author and publisher.

I refuse to accept ebooks, most self published works and certain genres. This is not due to snobbery. I firmly believe that every reader should be reading whatever type of book they enjoy. As my personal experience of reading these books has not been positive I avoid them. There is no pleasure in writing a negative review, even if it may be useful to other readers. I review every book I read and will always be honest in sharing my thoughts.

Much of my time on social media is now spent promoting books, although I retain a personal edge. Feeds that are little more than advertising are not interesting. I only follow those who appear real and are willing to interact.

I will share my views, and those of others, on books I have read. I am grateful to everyone who shares my posts and aim to reciprocate when they review books I have been sent. I value my place in the friendly, welcoming and generous community of book bloggers, but feel I can only offer backing for books I know personally.

As in any group of people, there is a hierarchy among book bloggers. The cool kids will be woo’d, especially by the big publishers. The mystical definition of cool is hard to define, but everyone knows who they are. Several of these people have gone on to find paid work as a result of the exposure provided by their blogs. Their trajectory is a pleasure to follow.

And I too have stepped outside the blogosphere. I have started attending more book events – readings, launches and, this year, my first literary festival. As well as being enjoyable in themselves, they give me additional material to write about, thereby keeping the content on my blog more varied and interesting.

I do need to remember though that just because an author has been lovely to me on Twitter it doesn’t mean they know who I am. That said, when I introduce myself to them at a book event and they recognise my name, I feel that I have arrived.

The Million Dollar Blog is a guide for those who wish to monetise their blog. I have no such aspirations. I write because I love books and have learned, through creating my own fiction – a useful exercise but not one I plan to pursue – how skilled the authors whose words enrich my life are. I want to support them, and those who publish their work. Blogging is how I choose to do this. By not asking for payment, other than a copy of their book, I feel able to retain my impartiality. My readers know that what I write is how I feel.

Of course, I still want my words to be read. There are many people publishing advice on line about how to attract readers; I wonder what their readership is.

New followers, days when my stats spike, these continue to give me those warm fuzzy feels. Perhaps if the slow but steady growth I enjoy stalled I would wonder why but I have no higher expectations. I suspect that book blogging is not the ideal route for those who aspire to create a million dollar blog. How lovely it would be if I were mistaken.

Do check out the other stops on this tour, detailed below.

blog-tour     milliondollarblog

‘The Million Dollar Blog’ will be published by Piatkus on 29th September 2016

 

Book Review: The Million Dollar Blog

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The Million Dollar Blog, by Natasha Courtenay-Smith, is an advice book written mainly for those who wish to run their blog as a business. The emphasis is on how to monetise the venture, be that directly through the blog itself or by using it to draw in clients to an endeavour it supports.

The book starts by encouraging everyone to blog. It then goes on to discuss the best way to prepare for this new adventure. It covers content, branding, the importance of aesthetics, and of finding a niche that allows the creator to be enthusiastic about their subject whilst remaining authentically themselves.

“Every blogger interviewed for this book has talked about the importance of authenticity and of the reader’s uncanny ability to see through a blogger who’s just in it for a fast buck and not committed to offering real entertainment value and information.”

Despite the title, there is acknowledgement that creating and maintaining a financially successful blog takes time, support and hard work.

Interspersed within the narrative are numerous tales of successful bloggers who achieve hundreds of thousands of hits and earn staggering sums, although often from more than just blogging. They are also motivational speakers, run training courses, produce video guides, paid for digital content, and books such as this one. Blogging is a part of what they do but it is not the whole story.

There is some discussion about content and the alleged short attention span of many readers. Quality writing, it seems, is not the route to a successful blog.

“Whether content is good is entirely subjective. There is plenty online that doesn’t impress me yet it has huge readership and vast followings”

The author talks of scannability, listicles, clickbait and of finding a unique voice. She believes that to flourish a blog requires a constant stream of fresh content to maintain engagement. She returns several times to the need for search engine optimisation. A presence on multiple social media platforms that encourage reader interaction is advised, but hits from search engines will apparently bring the people most likely to purchase whatever is being sold.

The time required to research, create and promote content on an active blog is acknowledged.

“If you really want to achieve something and get where you want to be, you have to work hard. If you want to do it as a hobby you can do it in your own time, but if you want to do it as a job you’ve got to put the hours in because you’ve got a lot of competition.”

Throughout the book I was Googling the various blogging aids being suggested. Most required a financial outlay. If blogging is to be an integral part of a business, and the author advises that it should be, then some investment is to be expected. The target audience is not the casual blogger.

She mentions blogs for fashion, travel and luxury goods but only touches briefly on those whose aim is to raise the profile of a cause. Even then their success appeared to be linked to activities outside the blogosphere, the blogs offering an introduction to the wider world of PR.

I would have been interested to know what the author would make of book bloggers. They do, after all, support an industry where financial gains are notoriously scarce. As she has chosen to write a book I presume she has some interest in how her creation should be promoted. I will be watching with interest how a digital strategist goes about encouraging sales.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Piatkus.