Category Archives: Reading

Cross-cultural Victorian romance alive with heart, hope and strength

After the Wedding: A Worth saga romance by Courtney Milan

The only thing more inconvenient than Camilla’s marriage at gunpoint is falling in love with her unwilling groom…

So begins the story of Camilla Worth and Adrian Hunter. I’ve always enjoyed Courtney After the WeddingMilan’s Victorian romance but I really loved this one. Humorous. Passionate. Angry. Heartfelt. As I read the final words, I was filled to the brim with the happy, bubbly, lighter-than-air feeling I get from a truly beautiful book. 

There is something heartwarmingly-everywoman about the heroine Camilla (Cam) Worth, her unquenchable spirit and hope for the future despite the fact that deep down, she doesn’t believe she deserves love. Camilla is the daughter of a treasonous earl, trying to stay hidden so as not to bring any further shame on her family. The hero, Adrian Hunter, is the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, an artist and a businessman, strong but gentle and always willing to believe the best of everyone. Brought together by circumstances beyond their control, they work together to wrest their futures back from the men who want to deny them control of their own destinies.

Adrian gives Camilla the right to be herself, and she finds the strength and anger to fight back against with the people who would put her – and Adrian – down. He helps her to look back, and she helps him to look forward. The result is a love match started for all the wrong reasons but finding all the right reasons to continue.

Aside from her memorable characters, Courtney Milan also always digs below the surface of Victorian England to uncover bits and pieces of history that still influence us today. In this case, it is china, as in crockery.  Britain was the workplace of the world for several decades of the nineteenth century, fuelled by a rise in domestic demand thanks to a growing middle and upper working class. There’s a delightful sub-plot in After the Wedding about the creation of a fine china design for display and sale at a trade exhibition.

After the Wedding got me thinking about diversity in Victorian England. A little bit of digging on the web got me the information that there were roughly 10,000 black men and women in London at the time, more around the country, as the result of English tentacles stretching into every continent. They were a distinct minority, under threat of slavery before 1833 even although slavery hadn’t been legal in England since the time of William the Conqueror. However, they were probably not as feared or hated as the Irish. As always in England, class played the largest role in social standing. If you would like to do more research about Black Britain, I found this article from History Today, a helpful overview, although, of course, it does not delve into all the ethnic minorities that make up British society.

After the Wedding is book 2 in the Worth Saga but can be read as a stand alone novel. I did, although I have remedy this fault in my bookshelf by downloading book 1, Once Upon a Marquess, to read immediately.

5 hearts all

Blurb

Adrian Hunter, the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, is determined to do whatever his family needs-even posing as a valet to gather information. But his mission spirals out of control when he’s accused of dastardly intentions and is forced to marry a woman he’s barely had time to flirt with.

Camilla Worth has always dreamed of getting married, but a marriage where a pistol substitutes for “I do” is not the relationship she hoped for. Her unwilling groom insists they need to seek an annulment, and she’s not cruel enough to ruin a man’s life just because she yearns for one person to care about her.

As Camilla and Adrian work to prove their marriage wasn’t consensual, they become first allies, then friends. But the closer they grow, the more Camilla’s heart aches. If they consummate the marriage, he’ll be stuck with her forever. The only way to show that she cares is to make sure he can walk away for good…

Courtney MilanAuthor

Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets and smartwatches. As one does. You can find out more about her and her  books here.

 

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Five fabulous Australian romance novels with five winning cover designs as awarded by Romance Writers of Australia.

  • Contemporary romance: Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards
  • Erotic/ Sexy romance: The Veiled Heart by Elsa Holland
  • Historical romance: The King’s Man by Alison Stuart
  • Young Adult/ New Adult romance: The Finn Factor by Rachel Bailey
  • Paranormal romance (including sic-fi and fantasy): The Shattered Court by MJ Scott
  • Romantic Elements: Pretty Famous by Carla Caruso
  • Romantic Suspense: Storm Clouds by Bronwyn Parry
  • Rural Romance: Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn Hein

Romance Writers of Australia

As writers, we pour our hearts into choosing just the right words to tell our stories – but to put a finished book into the reader’s hands, we need to rely on others’ skills.  Chief among these others is the cover designer.  A good cover can entice a reader and add to the pleasure of the story – and the best ones thrill authors!  Each year, to celebrate the blessings of the cover fairies, our published members submit their favourite recent covers for fellow members to choose the ones they like most.

The contest is over for another year, so without further ado, here are our favourite covers for this year, as judged by our members in the following categories:

Contemporary Romance:

  • Title: Operation White Christmas
  • Author: Nicki Edwards
  • Cover Design: Unknown Artist

Operation White Christmas-Nicki Edwards

Erotic/Sexy Romance

  • Title: The Veiled Heart
  • Author: Elsa Holland
  • Cover Design: Hang Le

The Veiled Heart-Elsa Holland

Historical Romance

  • Title: The…

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The history and practice of bibliotherapy

Novelist Ceridwen Dovey has written a fascinating article on bibliotherapy for The New Yorker. She asks Can Reading Make You Happier (of course) and then talks us through the science of why the answer is ‘of course’.

It starts:

Several years ago, I was given as a gift a remote session with a bibliotherapist at the London headquarters of the School of Life, which offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence. I have to admit that at first I didn’t really like the idea of being given a reading “prescription.” I’ve generally preferred to mimic Virginia Woolf’s passionate commitment to serendipity in my personal reading discoveries, delighting not only in the books themselves but in the randomly meaningful nature of how I came upon them (on the bus after a breakup, in a backpackers’ hostel in Damascus, or in the dark library stacks at graduate school, while browsing instead of studying). I’ve long been wary of the peculiar evangelism of certain readers: You must read this, they say, thrusting a book into your hands with a beatific gleam in their eyes, with no allowance for the fact that books mean different things to people—or different things to the same person—at various points in our lives. I loved John Updike’s stories about the Maples in my twenties, for example, and hate them in my thirties, and I’m not even exactly sure why.

Read the full article here

SPEED-READING INEFFICIENT

I call them ‘Well, duh’ studies. The research academics have to undertake to prove what anyone with a grain of knowledge and a sprinkling of common sense knew already. This one is about the benefits of speed-reading.

With the information overload that we now all suffer from, the appeal of speed-reading is understandable. Traditionally, it promises faster reading times and greater recall and understanding of the text. However, according to a recent review of the actual science published in Psychology Science in the Public Interest, speed-reading is not the answer the panacea it is sold as.

Elizabeth Schotter, a psychologist at the University of California-San Diego, and one of the study’s authors, says, ‘The available scientific evidence demonstrates that there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy—as readers spend less time on the material, they necessarily will have a poorer understanding of it.’ (well, duh moment #1).

According to the Association for Psychological Science, it’s not about reading faster, but about learning to figure out what’s important to read (well, duh moment #2). In reviewing the scientific research, they said that it proves that the biggest obstacle isn’t our vision but rather our ability to recognize words and process how they combine to make meaningful sentences

In their article they say, ‘Reading is a complex dance among various visual and mental processes, and research shows that skilled readers already read quickly, averaging 200 to 400 words per minute. Some speed-reading technologies claim to offer an additional boost by eliminating the need to make eye movements by presenting words rapidly in the center of a computer screen or mobile device, with each new word replacing the previous word. The problem, Schotter and her colleagues find, is eye movements account for no more than ten percent of the overall time we spend reading. Eliminating the ability to go back and reread previous words and sentences tends to make overall comprehension worse, not better.’

Ms Schotter says there is no quick fix. She and her team agree that the one thing that can help boost overall reading ability, science shows, is practicing reading for comprehension. Greater exposure to writing in all its different forms provides us with a larger and richer vocabulary, as well as the contextual experience that can help us anticipate upcoming words and make inferences regarding the meaning of words or phrases we don’t immediately recognize.

So, keep reading. It’s good for you. But you already knew that. J

You can read the full report at your own pace – if you have the time.