Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 103-105

My pace of reading has slowed considerably of late because for the past two weeks or so much of my spare time has gone to first watching the TV series Sleepy Hollow in its entirety from the premiere up to this Monday's episode, then reading Sleepy Hollow fanfic and watching the first few episodes again with Miss Fraser. It's an addiction, but a fun one. I should really do a post on how Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane is a perfect historical romance hero (all the charm, gentility, and ability to work boots and a long coat of the past with none of the bigotry and misogyny!), but for now here's some eye candy:

So. I've been behind on my reading. But I haven't stopped, to wit:

103) The Shelf by Phyllis Rose

Another entry in a memoir genre I tend to find enjoyable--author takes on a quirky project, anything from cooking her way through a cookbook to living out a literal interpretation of some sacred text, and writes about her experiences. Rose takes a library shelf--fiction, with a mix of classics, modern literary fiction, and mysteries--and reads her way through it. Along the way she describes her reactions, researches the authors (even meeting two of the living ones), and digresses interestingly about issues ranging from the continued bias against women's writing to how library collections are weeded. Even though my reading tastes and Rose's don't match much beyond Harry Potter and Jane Austen, I still enjoyed her voice. I definitely recommend this for anyone who likes books about books and reading.

104) Unraveled by Courtney Milan

The final book in Milan's Turner family series--I'd read the other two brothers' stories, but awhile back, so my memory needed some jogging on their backstories. As is always the case, I enjoyed Milan's strong writing, gift for characterization, and ability to make standard romance tropes entirely her own. I tend to buy her books and hoard them on my Kindle against the point I'll be, say, stuck on an airplane or in a waiting room, because I know I'll get an excellent reading experience.

105) Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

This book, while engaging, is structured almost like a series of linked short stories, so it was easy to put down after a chapter or two and take up later, at least until the last third or so when the overall narrative picks up pace. The protagonist, Rose, is the "Phantom Prom Date," a girl killed in a car accident on the way to her prom in 1952 who's been a ghost ever since, a ghost of the road who helps travelers when she can--even if it's only easing them into the world of the dead--and who's looking for revenge against...well, the man who killed her, only it's a bit more complex than that and he's not exactly a man.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Freedom to Love has a cover!

My January 5, 2015 release, Freedom to Love, now has a cover, and I think it's gorgeous:

Granted, my first reaction to seeing a new cover is always, ALWAYS, "But that's not what they look like!" Which is only natural, since I can't download the images in my brain for the art department's benefit, and the celebrities I name on my cover art information forms as the closest approximations are unlikely to give up their lucrative careers in acting, pro football, and the like to take up romance novel cover modeling. (In this case I listed Tom Hiddleston and Rashida Jones.)

That said, this cover captures the mood of the story beautifully. I love the romance of it, the light and shadows, and especially the heroine's dress.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sign up for my newsletter!

At long last I'm doing something I should've done four or five years ago and setting up an author newsletter. I'd love to have you sign much so that I'll be offering prizes to randomly selected people who sign up before my first edition goes out on November 24th, to coincide with A Christmas Reunion's release date.

What prizes, you may ask? Why, books, of course. I have a few print copies of each of my Carina releases, since they print them for any of their authors who want to enter the Rita contest. So I'll be giving away one copy apiece of The Sergeant's Lady, A Marriage of Inconvenience, An Infamous Marriage, and A Dream Defiant. I'm also attending the Surrey International Writers Conference later this month, and I mean to pick up some more prize books at the book fair. I can't promise which books exactly, but some of the authors who'll be there include Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Boyle, Susan Fox, Anne Perry, Sarah Wendell, and Chuck Wendig.

As for the newsletter itself, I promise not to spam you or overload your inbox. I'll send one on release day whenever a new book comes out, plus a quarterly newsletter with information on what I'm working on now plus a few fun things like short stories set in my characters' worlds, a diary of my Waterloo bicentenary European trip next summer, and possibly a recipe or two. And maybe I'll send brief announcements when one of my books is discounted. But that's it. I promise!

You can sign up here or simply use the sign-up box on the right sidebar of the blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Christmas Reunion and Freedom to Love - now available for preorder!

It's been almost a year now since my last new release, but I'm about to have two in very quick succession. Both are now available for preorder at most major ebook retailers!

A Christmas Reunion - November 24, 2014

A Christmas Reunion is a 29,000-word Regency romance novella about a pair of star-crossed lovers reunited after a five-year separation--and just days before Cat, the heroine, is due to marry another man.

My goal with this story was to create something romantic, festive, and just the perfect length to read while flying home for the holidays or waiting for that Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey to cook.

I wrote it during January and February, when the weather was still dark and wintry but after the Christmas carols were supposed to be put away until December rolls back around. My iPhone holds a large collection of Christmas music, running heavily to carols, wassail songs, and choral pieces. I kept myself in the right mood to write the holiday by listening to carols like "The Holly and the Ivy," "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella," and "Gaudete", but only in my car when I was completely alone.

If you'd like to learn more about this story, read an excerpt, and/or preorder your copy, visit A Christmas Reunion's page at my website.

Freedom to Love - January 5, 2015

Freedom to Love releases the same week as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans--which is only fitting, since it opens in the immediate aftermath of that conflict. My hero, Henry Farlow (whom some of you may remember as Elijah Cameron's officer friend from A Dream Defiant) is wounded and knocked unconscious during the battle. When he awakens, he wanders away in a daze, only to be taken in by Therese Bondurant, a free woman of color, and her enslaved half-sister Jeannette. They save his life--and a few days later he's able to return the favor, but in a way that forces the trio to flee into the American wilderness lest they find themselves charged with murder.

This is a full-length, 99,000-word historical romance, and among other things it has pirate treasure, a voyage aboard the steamboat Enterprize (once I saw that name, I had to get my characters aboard her), alligators, a Methodist circuit rider, and a tornado.

For more information, an excerpt, and preorder links, visit my Freedom to Love page.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 100-102

So I made it to 100 books on the year! I'm on pace for something like 140, but I'm going to try to push for 150 by 12/31.

100) The Scorpion's Sting by James Oakes.

This book was taken from a series of lectures the author gave at LSU, and it reads like it--quick, scholarly yet informal, and a good read if you come into it with a reasonably strong background on the American 19th century, in particular the Civil War and all the battles of abolitionism vs. slave state expansionism that made it inevitable.

101) No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

This isn't my usual kind of historical romance. I tend to prefer realistic, history-geek historicals, while this is more of a fantasy romp (though with enough angst that "romp" isn't quite the right word). I'm even wary of cute play-on-words titles and monochromatic covers featuring really big dresses--though I know very well how little control most authors have over titles and cover design, so that's not really fair of me.

But I decided to read it anyway, since it won this year's Rita for Best Historical Romance and because I enjoyed an interview the author gave on the Dear Bitches, Smart Author podcast. And I'm glad I did. It's a big, romantic, angsty story where the hero and heroine's chemistry and attraction are perfectly balanced by the difficult history between them (she went missing, presumed dead, and he fell under heavy suspicion for her murder). As such it was the perfect read for unwinding after a hectic week at work.

102) On Killing by Dave Grossman

Lately I've been listening to some of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts, and he recommended this book. I'm glad I read it, though I took some of the author's conclusions with a grain of salt based on multiple reviewer comments stating that his statistics on infantry soldiers not firing their weapons in WWII are dubious and/or subject to more than one interpretation. (And I'm really, REALLY inclined to disagree with the amount of blame he lays on video games and violent movies and TV for desensitizing civilians to violence. I think in some cases it may be AMONG the factors, but I doubt it's the major one leading to Columbine, VA Tech, etc.) But I found the many quotes from soldiers on their memories of combat illuminating, especially as someone who writes a lot of soldier characters in my fiction.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 97-99

97) Good God, Lousy World & Me by Holly Burkhalter

This was a quick read, sort of a faith memoir of a human rights activist who grew up Christian, but lost her faith over the problem of believing in a powerful, loving God in a world full of suffering an evil. She came back to the church in midlife even though she still doesn't feel she has all the answers, basically because she came to see God's presence in fighting for justice and against suffering. I'm always interested in such books because of my own faith journey (though I struggle more with the problem of the vastness of the universe and the insignificance of this one tiny planet), though this book didn't resonate so strongly with me as, say, Take This Bread.

98) The Napoleonic Revolution by Robert B. Holtman

Short enough to be a quick read, dry enough that you'll spread that quick read across multiple sessions, this is an overview on Napoleon's impact on 19th and 20th century France, Europe, and the wider world. While it's not going to make any of my best-reads lists, it was a useful reminder to me as someone who tends to come at the Napoleonic era with a military historian's bias and an Anglocentric perspective that I'm often only looking at one section of the puzzle.

99) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This book received so many rave reviews I was almost afraid to try it lest my high expectations be disappointed. I shouldn't have worried. This is a beautifully written story of first love, heartbreaking but with just enough hope that I finished it smiling rather than weeping. I was looking at my reading list for the year and thinking I'd read a lot of enjoyable books but very few that had blown me away. This blew me away. Definitely will be on my top ten list for the year.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Marriage of Inconvenience on sale for $1.99 at iBooks through 9/30!

I'm delighted to announce that the first manuscript I ever finished--and the second one Carina Press published--is on sale exclusively at iBooks for just $1.99 from now through the end of the month.

A Marriage of Inconvenience

Lucy Jones is a nobody. As an orphan she was reluctantly taken in by her wealthy relatives, the Arringtons, on the condition that she be silent and obedient, always. When her lifelong infatuation with her cousin Sebastian is rewarded by a proposal of marriage, she's happy and grateful, even though the family finds excuses to keep the engagement a secret.

James Wright-Gordon has always had the benefits of money and a high station in society, but he is no snob. He's very close to his sister, Anna, who quickly falls for the dashing Sebastian when the families are brought together at a wedding party. Meanwhile, James is struck by Lucy's quiet intelligence, and drawn to her despite their different circumstances in life.

Lucy suspects that Sebastian has fallen for Anna, but before she can set him free, a terrible secret is revealed that shakes both families. Will James come to her rescue--or abandon her to poverty?

95,500 words

Set mostly at a house party in Gloucestershire in the early summer of 1809, this is the most pastoral and traditional Regency story I've written to date, though because I'm me the Napoleonic Wars will make their presence felt--Sebastian is a cavalry officer about to join his regiment in Spain, and James is a politically active viscount who has outspoken opinions on everything, including the conduct of the war.

All About Romance gave the book a B+ and said, "A Marriage of Inconvenience is very charming. It reminded me of older, lighter Regencies, a la Georgette Heyer, where the focus is more on the characters getting to know each other intellectually rather than physically."

At Heroes and Heartbreakers, Jessica Tripler said, "A Marriage of Inconvenience is a more traditional historical. It has its share of sexy scenes, but is more of a character and family study. It emphasizes the fragility of Lucy’s status and the dangerous complexity of human nature, giving it an almost gothic feel at times. And how can you go wrong with a hero of less than average height who seems ten feet tall at the end?"

So, if you have just about any iThing--iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac--take advantage of this sale while it lasts!