Friday, August 30th, 2013
The re-read marathon continues!
This week, I re-read two more of the Sarah Caudwell mysteries: The Shortest Way to Hades and The Sirens Sang of Murder. For those of you watching the new PBS series, Silk, these tongue in cheek books about British barristers make a fun companion read. They’re a little bit Rumpole of the Bailey with a touch of the absurd entirely their own.
Then, in my quest to revisit the Heyers I generally don’t re-read, I dug out The Reluctant Widow— it’s still way down on my list of Heyers (something about the heroine just doesn’t click for me), but it is a fine example of the way a talented author can make even a truly absurd plot premise work. For some reason, it makes me want to re-read The Talisman Ring. That one may be up next….
What have you been reading this week?
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Stand Alone #2 has a title! It’s going to be called A Summer Engagement.
In summer of 1849, a member of the fledgling Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood is hired to paint the portrait of a wealthy antiquarian’s young wife in the garden of their home in Herne Hill….
In summer of 2009, a young American woman returns to England to clean out her great-aunt’s house in Herne Hill.
When she finds a Pre-Raphaelite painting hidden behind a wardrobe, my modern heroine slowly begins to uncover the drama that took place in that same house one hundred and sixty years before.
Here’s the official blurb:
A page-turning new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, about a woman who inherits a house in England… and the mysterious past that comes with it
2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…
1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.
From modern-day England to the early days of the Preraphaelite movement, A SUMMER ENGAGEMENT takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one woman’s search for the truth about her past—and herself.
Extra bonus fun? Just this past week, an article appeared in The Guardian about a lost Pre-Raphaelite painting discovered behind an old wardrobe in a house in a suburb in London. Given that my book– about a lost PreRaph painting discovered behind an old wardrobe in a house in a suburb in London– is already entirely finished and in copyedits, the coincidence is more than a little bit eerie….
Life imitates art?
Although this is a stand alone (like The Ashford Affair), I snuck in a little something for my Pink readers. That sexy antiques dealer mentioned in the blurb above is none other than one Nicholas Dorrington. Yes, one of those Dorringtons.
A SUMMER ENGAGEMENT is slated to appear in stores on May 27th, 2014. More about the book coming up soon!
Monday, August 26th, 2013
The topic of today’s post is “Better Together”. There are books I tend to read in pairs, simply because something in one makes me think of the other. Sometimes it’s theme, other times it’s location, and still other times it’s just personal association.
Here are some of my reading pairings:
— L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle and Colleen McCullough’s The Ladies of Missalonghi, both splendidly satirical novels about poor relations who come into their own once they (mistakenly) hear they only have a year to live.
— Kate Ross’s The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mystery) and Susanna Kearsley’s Season of Storms, one Regency, the other modern, but both about an unsolved murder, both set in Venice and at a villa on the shores of Lake Como.
— Elizabeth Peters’s Borrower of the Night and Helena Dela’s The Count, both told by witty first person narrators, both set in medieval castles in Germany/Austria and revolving around ancient family curses and their resulting ghosts.
— Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series and Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. This one is harder to explain, since the one is modern and Vicky Bliss-esque and the other is Regency and quite Heyer in tone. I think it’s because both feature spunky, YA female protagonists, dealing with magic and magic-borne enemies in an otherwise unmagical world. The Wrede books also read well with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which, like the Wrede books, takes place in an alternate Regency England in which magic is recognized and used.
— Judith Merkle Riley’s The Master of All Desires and Diane Haeger’s Courtesan, both set at the court of Henri II, but with very, very different portrayals of the primary actors. (For people who like a dose of humor with their history, I can’t recommend Merkle Riley’s books highly enough.)
— Susanna Kearsley’s Mariana and Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold. Both are “house” books. In one case the heroine inherits a house, in the other she buys it, but both make you want to find a house in a small village in the English countryside, preferably one with a gently magical mystery about it.
What are your reading pairings?
Friday, August 23rd, 2013
This has been an exceptionally good reading week, with one new book and two rediscovered favorites.
— Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades.
I am ashamed to admit that I had never read this particular Heyer before. Its sequel, Devil’s Cub, is one of my all time favorites, but back in my grad school days in London, when I was buying up Heyers by the dozen to read during my lunch break at the British Library, I’d taken a quick look, seen that it was a “girl masquerades as boy” plot, and passed it over for April Lady and Sprig Muslin. We all have our kryptonite plots, the ones we absolutely won’t touch, and for me it’s the breeches role. (With certain exceptions.) In any event, another example of why categorical prejudices are always a bad idea: having belatedly read it, I enjoyed it tremendously, although it did rather fascinate me to see how much more like her early swashbucklers it reads than her later romances.
— Georgette Heyer, Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle.
Speaking of her later romances…. Sylvester showcases Heyer’s brilliance at embodying the absurd. Three words: Sir Nugent Fotheringby. This one is right up there with Sprig Muslin for me in terms of laugh out loud at inconvenient moments. Even better? A heroine who has (secretly) written a wildly successful Gothic novel….
— Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered.
This was a delightful rediscovery for me. I adored the Sarah Caudwell mysteries when I was in grad school– all featuring ambiguously gendered academic Hilary Tamar and his barrister buddies at Lincoln’s Inn. The narrative is first person and delightfully tongue in cheek. There’s a certain tinge of Rumpole of the Bailey to them.
Now I don’t know whether to read the second Caudwell mystery or go for another Heyer….
What have you been reading this week?
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
Much has been afoot in the realm of Pink XI: both an official blurb and a cover!
Here’s the official blurb:
In the latest Pink Carnation novel from national bestselling author Lauren Willig, rumors spreading among the ton turn deadly as a young couple unites to solve a mystery….
In October of 1806, the Little Season is in full swing, and Sally Fitzhugh has had enough of the endless parties and balls. With a rampant vampire craze sparked by the novel The Convent of Orsino, it seems no one can speak of anything else. But when Sally hears a rumor that the reclusive Duke of Belliston is an actual vampire, she cannot resist the challenge of proving such nonsense false. At a ball in Belliston Square, she ventures across the gardens and encounters the mysterious Duke.
Lucien, Duke of Belliston, is well versed in the trouble gossip can bring. He’s returned home to dispel the rumors of scandal surrounding his parents’ death that hint at everything from treason to dark sorcery. While he searches for the truth, he welcomes his fearsome reputation—until a woman is found dead in Belliston Square. Her blood drained from her throat.
Lucien and Sally join forces to stop the so-called vampire from killing again. Someone managed to get away with killing the last Duke of Belliston. But they won’t kill this duke—not if Sally has anything to say about it.
And here’s the cover!
That really catches the essence of Sally, doesn’t it? I also love the background scene, which was designed to represent the midnight garden where Sally first meets Lucien. (You can find a bit of that scene in the back of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria.)
The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is currently slated to appear in stores in August of 2014. But first I have to finish writing it…. So it’s back to the writing cave for me!
I’ll be sharing an update about the next stand alone novel for next week’s Teaser Tuesday. Stay tuned….
Monday, August 19th, 2013
There’s a running joke in Romance Land that if you add up all the dukes running around (and it is, of course, a truth universally acknowledged that a single duke must be in want of a duchess), you’ll come to a number greater than the actual population of the British Isles at the time. Add in all those marquesses and earls (also in want of wives) and you have an entirely ahistorical aristocratic population explosion.
So what about all the normal people? Where are those non-ducal heroes and non-aristocratic heroines?
Part of the fun of writing The Passion of the Purple Plumeria was that Colonel Reid is a plain old army colonel (in the East India Company’s service, which was considered rather déclassé) of uninteresting ancestry, while Miss Gwen, although otherwise extraordinary in oh so many ways, is nothing more than a minor landowner’s daughter (and a landowner of mercantile extraction, at that).
It’s hard to find them through the swarm of amorous dukes, but if you like historical romances featuring non-aristocrats, you’ll probably like…
— Of course, there’s always Pride and Prejudice. Lady Catherine de Burgh may be lurking in the background, but Mr. Darcy is a gentleman and Elizabeth Bennet a gentleman’s daughter. This is romance by the gentry, for the gentry. The same goes for Emma Woodhouse and her Mr. Knightley in Emma. No dukes here!
— Georgette Heyer’s Arabella, which falls very much in the P&P mode: Mr. Beaumaris is fabulously wealthy, but not titled, and Arabella is an impecunious gentleman’s daughter.
— Carla Kelly’s Marrying The Captain, in which the hero is a naval officer and the heroine is the illegitimate daughter of a viscount.
— Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You, where the heroine is a novelist and the hero, who has come up from the gutter, owns a gaming club.
— Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel mysteries. Kestrel moves in Beau Brummel’s circle, but his birth is (deliberately) dubious. In the first book, he confides that his father was a gentleman– who married an actress. Kestrel’s position both within and without society is part of what makes these books so compelling.
— My own The Orchid Affair: the hero is a lawyer (and French!) and the heroine is a career governess of non-aristocratic extraction.
Sad as it is to say, short of continuing to list books by Heyer, Kelly and Kleypas, I’m tapped out. I can think of many novels with an aristocratic hero and non-aristocratic heroine (and a few vice versa), but I’m having a great deal of trouble coming up with books where neither of the main characters has a peerage in their past.
Who are your favorite non-aristocratic heroes and heroines?
Friday, August 16th, 2013
This week saw three re-reads and one upcoming book that I’ve been particularly excited about:
— Barbara Michaels, Patriot’s Dream.
A young woman living with her aunt and uncle in Colonial Williamsburg has a series of dreams that take her back in time to the same house during the Revolutionary War. Although the insight into Revolutionary history is fascinating, this has always been my least favorite Barbara Michaels– and this read didn’t change that opinion. I think the problem is that the modern character is really only a conduit for the historical story; she has no real plot line of her own.
— Barbara Michaels, The Crying Child.
On the other end of the spectrum, for years and years this was my favorite Barbara Michaels– and, as with the above, a re-read only confirmed that opinion. A snarky first person narrator, a big old house on an island off the coast of Maine, a family mystery, and a ghost story that still makes me look over my shoulder when I made the mistake of reading this alone, late at night…. Who can ask for more?
— Georgette Heyer, Devil’s Cub.
Always so good. When a rake accidentally kidnaps the wrong sister (yes, folks, this was the inspiration for the botched elopement in The Deception of the Emerald Ring) farcical hijinks– and, of course, true love– ensue. I know she’s better known for her Regencies, but no one captures the feel of the eighteenth century like Heyer….
And now, the real treat:
— Julia Spencer-Fleming, Through the Evil Days.
You know how much I love Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, right? I was beyond thrilled to be the recipient of an ARC of this next one. All I can say is, if you’re a fan of the series, make sure to mark your calendar for November 5th, when this comes out. And if haven’t encountered these before, start reading with In the Bleak Midwinter.
What have you been reading this week?