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Why The Edwardian Philippines: Guest Post by Author Jennifer Hallock

I’ve been hearing about author Jennifer Hallock for a while now, mostly from fellow Filipino romance readers. I was intrigued from the first time I found out that she writes historical romance set in the Philippines. I’ve been meaning to read her books for the longest time and finally found time to start Under the Sugar Sun, which is still my current read. I find the Philippine setting so refreshing compared to other historical romance reads! I asked Jennifer why she chose to write about this setting, and she was generous enough to write a guest post about it. Please give Jennifer a warm welcome and find out why her historical romances are set in my home country! As always, I hope this guest post will also encourage more readers to pick up her books. 🙂

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Why The Edwardian Philippines
by Jennifer Hallock

I am often asked why I set my romance novels in the middle of the Philippine-American War. Why not Regencies, which are far more marketable? I do love my dukes—I do. But, as you will see, I’m just too much of a history geek to pass up the complex, conflicting legacy of the Americans in the Philippines.

What’s wrong with Regency? Well, nothing. But do you ever wonder the odds of throwing a rock in a Regency romance and hitting a duke? Just exactly how many dukes were there in 1814? Only 25, actually—and only 576 peers above the degree of baronet. This means that out of a British population of almost 19 million, there was one duke for every 756,000 Brits, and one peer for every 33,000. That’s not many—but that’s their appeal, I suppose. Dukes are the billionaire trope of historical romance: desirable, virile, chiseled, strong, and dominant. But were they these things? Let’s start with: were they even young? Dukes in 1814 averaged over 50 years old—my hasty calculation based on Wikipedia peerage lists. And given the average Regency diet and sedentary lifestyle, the rest of the conceit might not hold up, either. But nevermind, because Regency romance has become a world unto itself—a fantasy of masked balls, flavored ices, and daring carriage races through the park. As escapism, these books have huge appeal.

For those of us who like a little more authenticity, historical romances set in Europe and the United States are growing more diverse. Authors like Beverly Jenkins, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, KJ Charles, Rose Lerner, andAmara Royce, to name just a few, are more inclusive as regards to race, class, sexuality, and nationality. They bring a more representative picture to the romance reader.

English-language books with geographic diversity—set outside North America—are harder to find, though not impossible. Take Laura Kinsale’s sweeping love story, Dream Hunter, set in the Syrian desert — with nary a sheikh trope in sight! Or consider Jeannie Lin, who writes Tang dynasty historicals that make the China of a thousand years ago feel both fresh and familiar at the same time.

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It’s fabulous stuff. You get to travel in your head for (nearly) free! So, of all the places you could travel, why choose the Philippine-American War? How about because it is the most important war that America forgot? It’s barely studied in US high schools today, but that’s a mistake. It was a watershed moment that launched the American Century. Before the Philippines, the US swore off overseas possessions and entanglements. Not interested. But when America seized the Philippines in the Spanish-American War (1898), everything changed. The US began to talk about a special mission to shape the world in its own image—but not before engaging in vigorous internal debates over national debt, trade agreements, nation-building, immigration, and the use of military force. Do these issues sound familiar? They should. The America of today was defined by what happened in the Philippines. George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But it is not good enough to just remember the past. You should experience it yourself. That’s the garden where empathy grows. That’s where you get all the feels.

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And you need the feels. Writing happily-ever-afters is a needed tonic to digest all this history. As author Alisha Rai tweeted, “our basic genre requirement…[is] that there’s no black moment that love cannot overcome.” Thus, I wrote a story about an American schoolteacher, one of a thousand sent to the Philippines to establish the first co-educational, secular public school system in Asia. (When I began Under the Sugar Sun, I was also an American schoolteacher in the Philippines. “Write what you know,” as they say.) My heroine, Georgina Potter, represents the best of what America has to offer, but it may not be good enough for Filipino nationalist Javier Altarejos—a sugar baron who is better educated, better traveled, and a better linguist than the Yankee colonial officials sent to “civilize” him. (Their word, not mine.) As Georgina questions her country’s agenda, so does the reader. And, of course, love conquers all because—hello!—romance!

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With the exception of the prequel novella, Hotel Oriente, all my books are interracial romances. These couples forge a path that is not easy, but totally worth it. This moral of multiculturalism is a little advanced for the time period—a deliberate anachronism—but no more so than any of the little lies in Regency romance. My latest novella, Tempting Hymn, is about finding love in the time of cholera*, colonial inequities, and church politics. It is a story of second chances, redemption, and compassion. Because today, in a world of fake news and a remorseless internet, we need empathy more than ever. And love. We need lots and lots of love.

*With my apologies to Gabriel García Márquez.

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Jennifer Hallock is author of the Sugar Sun historical romance series, set in the American colonial Philippines. At her day job, she teaches a trimester course to high school seniors called America in the Philippines, a part of a larger sequence on the history of American imperialism. She studied Southeast Asian history at university and grad school, and then lived and worked in Manila for four years.

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Holiday Book Haul

I think I may be allergic to the office. I went back to work on Tuesday and then I got a fever and a sore throat that evening. I kept going to the office and just slept as early as I can at night but I lost my voice yesterday evening so today, I gave in and went to the doctor to get a medical certificate so I could take the rest of the day off to rest.

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While I was able to take a nap this afternoon, I wasn’t able to get any reading done. In fact, I should be getting ready for bed now but I wanted to squeeze in a quick post about my book haul during the holiday season. The order is kind of a mess but these were the books I acquired:

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Last Friday's brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

Brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

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Some other books I bought/downloaded for free, but were only posted on Litsy and not Instagram so I can’t embed them here:
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener
The Future Chosen by Mina V. Esguerra
Big Rock by Lauren Blakely
The Art of Deception by Stephanie Burgis
Alex + Ada Volume 3 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

I was also very excited to receive these review copies of my anticipated books:

Not my usual bookstagram, I initially posted this on Litsy then Ilona Andrews herself shared retweeted my tweet about this so I thought might as well share it here: I'm a small time blogger so I rarely get approved for review copies. It was such a surprise when I got approved for an advanced copy of White Hot! It was like receiving a Christmas present. Devoured it, loved it, got a book hangover. I didn't want to leave the world so I went back and reread Burn for Me (again). One of my favorite reads in 2017, full review closer to the release date.💖📖 . . . #WhiteHot #IlonaAndrews #HiddenLegacy #BurnForMe #AvonBooks #romance #urbanfantasy #bookhangover #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #Litsy

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A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? 📖🌹 FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

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When I woke up this morning, I saw the notification that @berkleyromance approved my NetGalley request for Julie James' latest novel. Thank you!!📖🎉 One of my most anticipated titles in 2017 because she writes the best romantic banter.💖 I'm always surprised (in a good way) whenever I'm approved for a review copy because as an international reader/blogger, my default expectation is to be rejected.😂 @fantaghiro23, we were just talking about this book yesterday! . . . #JulieJames #TheThingAboutLove #BerkleyRomance #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #NetGalley #Kindle #bookandlunch #CafeBreton #cafehopping #foodstagram #Manilafoodie #foodieManila

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I feel like this moment of my book blogging experience should be highlighted because I have review copies by my favorite authors: Ilona Andrews, Andrea K. Host, Julie James, Laura Florand and Lucy Parker! 🙂 I’ve already read White Hot and In Arcadia (short review on Litsy) but I’m having a difficult time choosing which one to prioritize among the remaining three. Now I just need Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner and The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein and I’ll be all set. 😀

I was also able to pass on some of the physical books that I have in my Manila bookshelf to friends when we had a get together. I really feel bad that my books have just been sitting neglected on my shelf and they’re aging fast because of heat and humidity. I feel better that they’re now with people who would potentially enjoy reading them. I think I’ve culled like half of my bookshelf back home, I’ve mostly kept signed books and the ones that I plan to reread.

I hope this post wasn’t too confusing with its mix of Instagram and Litsy links. As you can see, I’ve tried to be active on other social media sites but I know it’s also a good idea to consolidate all of those posts here on WordPress. I’m off to rest! What about you, have you received or bought any books recently? 🙂