Bound For Sin by Tess LeSue

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Bound for Sin
Frontiers of the Heart Series
Tess LeSue
Published 4th September 2018
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From the author of Bound for Eden comes a new historical Western romance that tests life and love on the Oregon Trail.

WANTED: A resourceful frontiersman, for the purpose of matrimony…

 

When Georgiana Bee Blunt advertises for a husband, she’s not looking for a handsome man, or a smart man, or a charming man. What she wants is a brute. A no-nonsense, capable backwoodsman who won’t trouble her with talk of love; she just wants someone to get her and her fatherless children safely to California. Matt Slater seems to fit the bill perfectly. The man looks like he could wrestle a bear and not even break a sweat. The only problem is he doesn’t want a wife. Well, not the only problem…

 

Truth be told, Georgiana has more problems than she knows what to do with. Left holding a gold claim by her not-so-dearly departed husband, Georgina finds her eldest son held ransom by the sinister Hec Boehm and his henchmen, and herself facing a journey of more than two thousand miles to rescue him. With four children in tow. And no nanny.

 

All Matt Slater wants is to be left alone. He’s spent most his life on his lonesome in the wilderness, and he’s comfortable that way. But then a widow with big blue eyes and the tenacity of a buffalo turns his entire life upside down, and before he knows it, he’s playing caretaker to a pack of kids…and trying not to succumb to their mother’s charms.

 

We begin this glorious tale in Independence, Missouri, much like in the first book Bound for Eden, however this time we have a different Slater brother and a very different heroine. Georgiana Bee Blunt is not only a strong and resilient woman but the mother of five spirited children, one of whom is being held for ransom by thugs in the gold hills of California. So, with the long and dangerous Oregon Trail before her, she not only needs a wagon train but a man to aid and protect her young family on their journey. Surely such a man would be easy to find on the edge of the wild west. Unfortunately for Georgiana, word has spread that her deceased husband has left her a piece of Californian gold land, and every would-be gold-digger answers her call. Enter Matt Slater, a gruff, grouchy bear of a man, and one of the best wagon train captains Independence has known – and he perfectly fits the necessary requirements for Georgiana’s advertisement. Except he doesn’t want to get married, and he hardly understands how to interact with people at the best of times, so how can he be expected to act the fiancé?

The premise was hilarious and set the characters up for an awkward meet cute, but most of the awkward scenes were eased by the easy nature and devilish actions of the Bee Blunt children. However, the premise also sets in motion a slow burn romance, which is my absolute favourite as you get to understand and watch the characters evolve and develop the relationship throughout the novel. Matt would have to be one of the most beautiful men I have ever read. His character gruff due to his solitary nature, but kind and considerate attention to the needs of others. Matt’s character has been crafted with care and precision by Tess, creating a modern hero to perfectly fit within his historical setting.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tess at the launch party for Bound for Sin, and she believed that Georgiana would be her least popular character. Personally, I had to disagree, as she experienced the most change and challenges throughout the novel, so her character and strength was always being tested, and every time she adapted and came out stronger. Even at one moment, where I cried for her and the horrible circumstances she experienced, she absorbed the pain and shock only to transform it into a new strength to carry her forward. Throughout all her changes, Matt was at her side, not shielding her from struggle but supporting her every step and aiding her when she was too weak to ask for it. That is why I love Matt Slater.

Of course, there is delicious sexual tension that Tess agonisingly teases throughout the novel, but it is absolutely worth every page. Tess’s writing is rich and delectable, tantalising every sense until you are blushing at each kiss, crying with every hurt and savouring every page. Her historical research is astounding. I completely appreciate her dedication to authenticity and grounding the characters in the mid-1800s, as it had additional layers to the complexity of characters and the romance. Definitely one of the best historical romances I have ever read.

Tess chose to set her romantic adventures in the wild west, as it was a place where fiction held power and often dictated the mode of life and crime. So be prepared for vast landscapes, epic adventures and fiery romances. Book three in the series, Bound for Temptation, is due to be released on 31st December 2018.

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The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb | Book Review

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‘I need a wife’

It’s a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women.

Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.

But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits?

The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.

Crabb’s call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that’s long overdue.

+++ Image and blurb from Penguin Books Australia +++

 

5 Bring-on-the-Rain Stars

I picked up this book with the assistance of the Adelaide Writers’ Week – to whom I am always grateful for boosting the diversity of my reading – but I had seen Annabel before on TV and when she interviewed Stephen Fry at the Dunstan Playhouse. Needless to say, the title alone sparked my interest, as many organisations and Government offices in Adelaide have restructured their management opportunities for women advancing up the professional ladder. Obviously, these changes have been accompanied by backlash, confusion and a whole lot of head scratching silence – as these ‘women only’ roles are considered to circumvent meritocracy and only give the workplace a healthy gender statistic. So naturally, with these changes taking place around me and the book questioning the assumed social roles of women and men, I had to read it.

Annabel Crabb manages to deliver a humorous and insightful perspective of the pressures faced by women and men in the professional spheres. Yes, this book delivers the hard truths that women who wish to pursue professions are often deterred, judged and criticised when wanting a family and a career – as the societal assumption that women are defined by their family and men by their job is still a giant spectre hovering over us. Therefore, women who wish to continue with their career need the support offered by a wife. Crabb by no means expects the partner to leave work to and perform the lion’s share of housework and childcare, but the work and childcare are shared and there is open communication between the couple to support each other in their career pursuits.

Another great point Crabb touches upon is the derision and confusion men face when they want to take parental leave or reduce their hours to spend more time with their families. To the extent that one man was asked not to involve himself in his young daughter’s Year 1 classroom activities, as is was a space for mothers and children. These social assumptions not only affect relationships and career growth but hinder the potential economic growth that can be achieved when women and men are happier in their work-family-life balance.

 

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Annabel Crabb – ABC political journo and presenter of the excellent TV show, Kitchen Cabinet.

Crabb offers facts, personal experiences, interviews and statistics with a flair and passion that makes the information understandable and motivational. She concludes her book perfectly, that this drought is not only affecting women’s careers but men’s family life and therefore rain is good for all parties. So I recommend this book to everyone who is curious how out-dated assumptions of the roles of women and men in the home and workplace still affect careers and family life. Whilst some knowledge of the Australian political figures would be handy, it is not necessary as Annabel guides you effortlessly through the maelstrom that is Australian political history.

 

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

‘Newt’s Emerald’ is a guilty pleasure wrapped up in the guise of a regency romantic adventure with sorcery and deception – but it had me at ‘Garth Nix’. I have been a long-time fan of Nix ever since I discovered the world of Sabriel, and I have read all of his books I could get my hands on.  I was not disappointed in this short and sweet tale of Truthful Newtington and her chase after the powerful Newtington Emerald.

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Great Cover illustration by Kali Ciesemier

The heroine, Truthful, is surrounded by her three cousins and cantankerous father when the family heirloom is stolen amid the damages of a magically conjured storm. The father falls into his sick bed, the cousins into absurd plans hatched whilst they were ‘in their cups’ and it is left up to Truthful to investigate the matter from her Great-Aunt’s house in London. A minor hitch in her desire to enter society, but her eccentric, fez-wearing, power glamouress of a Great-Aunt is ready to help her search for the famed Emerald, albeit in a way that will not compromise Truthful’s reputation. So she becomes her pious, shy and effeminate distant French cousin, Henri (the disguise held together with a magic mustache – which made with chuckle every time), and undertakes her search through London for the Emerald.

The primary object of the novella must be to entertain, because it is a fun, light read that has more of a focus on the magic adventure and leaves the romance to blossom in the background. The love interest was the irascible, direct, secretive Major Harnett (aka Charles), which at first met Truthful in her male disguise and aided her in the search for the gem. He was all chummy to her in a male disguise but was distant and abrasive with her ‘revealed’ true identity. He does act like a douche to her and she responds with anger and defiance, and such strong emotions were silently coupled with concern for each other (even though they would deny it). I was a little surprised how quickly they came together, and how his earlier behaviour was easily explained away – he needed to apologise at least.

It is a well-written novella that would be enjoyed by anyone with a penchant for regency era, adventure, magic, mystery, and romance – not to forget the pirate fighting.

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Cover concepts

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I hosted a book club during 2013 and many of the books we chose were sensational, so I have decided to share my past reviews.

‘The Storyteller’ was my first Jodi Picoult experience… and I can say assuredly that I LOVED EVERY PAGE! I have had bad experience before with a big name author in the field of themed fiction, and I did have a small trace of dread when starting this book that the experience would be the same. I am not sure if it was the writing style, the use of characters or even the thick mystery that surrounded the plot, but this book captured my attention and made me wanting to keep turning the pages.

ImageThe story itself was broken into separate sections, the first being a relatively obscure story relating to a girl called Ania, her father the baker and a upiór (Polish vampire) . This was an interesting place to begin and it made more sense the further I read into the novel, especially linking it back to Minka’s experiences. Yet it was Sage’s narrative that introduced the reader to the novel, which I thought was an interesting choice of character to carry the story. I was conflicted whether I trusted her as a narrator, due to her shadowy past, being a self-confessed introvert, and her affair with Adam (the funeral director). She did help bring the story into the modern day and make it more accessible for the modern reader, but I was instantly questioning her morals as a narrator (which is a major question throughout the entire novel). However, in the same breath, it is Sage’s detachment from family and religion that make her the best narrator for the piece. As I have stated, Sage has a dubious past that involved the death of her mother, which she blames herself and gave her the facial scarring, and most of her existence is living in fear of family and guilt. She hides away by working night hours in a bakery (which is a passion of hers) and the only has limited social interaction, until she meets the kind old German man, Josef Weber. However, her new friend in Josef admits to her that he was a Nazi and he wishes Sage (a non-practicing Jew) to help him die.

Picoult definitely did not go for a tame topic of moral questioning, and the novel quickly is swept up into the fascination of the Nazi prosecution and moral question behind the relevancy of such “justice”. This is where Leo makes a tidy entrance (and did anyone else know immediately that he was going to be a possible love interest for Sage… I certainly thought so).  Leo, the US federal Nazi hunter, was an open, honest character; making his narration was easy to follow and often contained the humourous observations and interactions. Although I did not agree with his moral view point, which was strictly black and white, but that made him such an easy character to read as his opinion was brutally clear. Sage and Leo sections were also interlaced by Josef’s tales of youth and the Polish Vampire story, which kept the viewpoints changing and raising doubts in my mind of whether mercy is a possibility.

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Being a greatly interested in WWII, Josef story was fascinating yet confronting, which I am sure was the intention of Josef and Picoult (shock to create reaction). However it was Minka’s (Sage’s Polish Grandmother) epic recollection of her youth in Poland, then adolescence in the ghettos, and finally her experiences in Auschwitz, that really captured my attention. I think I connected with Minka a lot more than any other character, as strange as it sounds, but I think Picoult was trying to force us into that environment to challenge our impartial moral views and sympathy for the enemy, which Minka has in spades (also shown in her Polish Vampire tale). Regardless of length, Minka’s section was amazing and it linked the rest of the novel in so well, even posing more questions in the mind of the reader. I did think it rather coincidental that Minka would know the man, Josef claimed to be (but reading into Josef’s story and heart beyond Minka and Sage it was clear why he ended up where he did).

The novel raced to a conclusion after the revelation of Minka’s history, but the question of moral justice and sympathies towards an enemy was left open. As Sage took the situation out of Leo/ the Government’s hands and decided his fate, which also opened another can of worms on the euthanasia debate (which did relate to the Nazi mentality). I also guessed the reasonable terrible plot twist for Sage after the deed was done, early on in Minka’s narration and when I revisited Josef’s narration. Otherwise, it was an amazing read and so beautifully interwoven that I did not feel cheated in any part of the story; just utterly content and suffered ‘book hangover’ for a few days after.