Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When Good Heroes Go Bad

Some people were upset that Superman kills
the bad guy in his latest incarnation
"Man of Steel" staring Henry Cavill
Today has been the sort of day that I wonder if I'm really meant to be a romance writer.

Which is funny because I was notified that I was one of six people chosen to pitch to eHarlequin (Contemporary) so I should be feeling on top of the world. Especially coming after making the top 50 in the SYTYCW2013 competition. The quality was exceptionally high this year so even making it to the top 50 out of over 700 entries is pretty special.

"So how can this be?" you ask. It comes because I was reading one of the top ten entries and absolutely loving it. Beautifully written and a wonderful emotive story. And then the hero, after being sort of jealous about the possibility that the heroine had been with other men, casually drops the information that he'd been with other women during the two years of the separation.

Apparently his ego took such a beating when the heroine said she didn't love him, it was necessary to go and have meaningless sex with nameless women. After all men have needs and he also needed to forget this woman he loved passionately.

In the interests of realism, this is now quite acceptable behaviour for a hero. One, going out and sleeping with women while separated but still married to the heroine (who he supposedly loved). Two, using nameless women to relieve his sexual frustration (and try to forget the heroine).

So in Romancelandia we accept that heroes will have sex with someone other than the heroine even when still married to her. We also accept that it is perfectly acceptable for a hero to have meaningless sex with nameless women. I can only hope the nameless women enjoyed the one night stands and didn't develop an emotional attachment to the hero. Probably they did simply enjoy the sex because in this new world, women don't develop feelings for their one night stand unless they are in a romance novel with that trope. Confused? I certainly am. There has to be some kind of feminist logic in there somewhere.

It's not that I object to stories being written with those happenings. I know many, probably most people, don't have my skewed view on what is desirable behaviour for a romance hero.

But now and then I get the feeling that somehow, by stating out loud that I would prefer it if a hero had not behaved in such a way, I am seen as betraying the sisterhood. A sort of "love me love my dog" equation. Surely if I feel so emotional about a characters behaviour (I cried real tears) it means I really care about them and so it becomes a complement to the writer. But it always seems to be taken as a criticism.

So what has all this to do with me doubting my place in the Romancelandia world?  

The least thing I can imagine happening to an unfaithful hero
Every one trying their hand at writing has doubts of course. My doubts mostly consist of whether anything I write will be commercially publishable in the modern world. If the trend in romances is any indication, we are living in a world where sexual fidelity does not have the significance it did in past decades.

When I look at all this, I wonder if this "realism" that is permeating even the last bastion of "Pleasant" reads, the Harlequin, Mills & Boon, will forever close it's doors to someone like myself who cannot bear to have my hero betray his married vows even under the direst of marital breakdowns. Because no-one in the real world would believe a hero can keep his pants zipped for any length of time.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A Short Story to tide you over...

Last week I went and did my CPR update and was chatting on twitter afterwards.  I mentioned that if a gorgeous guy were to fall at my feet I was prepared.  I was due to write a 1k short for the Harlequin boards so this is the result.   It came second incidentally.  Not enough romance.  For those not in Australia, we dial 000 triple zero instead of 911.

Be Careful What You Wish For.

God, he was beautiful.
From the corner of her eye, Suvati scanned the stranger seated along from her in the waiting room.  The white-blond hair over a golden, classically beautiful face, the broad shoulders, narrow hips and legs long enough to… Don’t even think about it.

She dropped her gaze back to the magazine, trying to focus on the latest gossip about some actress or other but her eyes were drawn to him again and again.  He seemed indifferent, the vivid blue eyes staring straight ahead at the blank wall.  Suvati couldn’t help wondering what brought the frown to his face?  What brought him here today? He looked healthy enough, his body well developed and muscular, like an athlete.

What she wouldn’t do to have a man like that at her feet.  What was a man like him doing in this small rural town?  She’d have seen him before.  Unless he was the new CEO of the Moncrieff Mining Consortium due to arrive this week?

His eyes shut briefly giving her the opportunity to take a really good look.  Her first impression of his face hadn’t lied.  He really was beautiful.  The high cheekbones, the long straight nose between heavy lidded eyes, and his mouth.  Full, well shaped lips with the tuck in the corners that suggested humour despite his frown.  To have that mouth under hers...it would be worth dying to be kissed by him just once.

Fingering her grandmother’s jade pendant, Suvati smiled wryly at her thoughts.  Wishing wouldn’t bring a gorgeous stranger to her feet, desperate for her kisses.  But she wished anyway, comforted by the warmth of the stone under her fingers.

A murmur of sound brought her back from thoughts of Grandma Aditi.  A choking gurgle came from the strangers throat.  One hand pressed to his chest as the other flailed in the air, the long fingers splayed before they clenched tightly in a fist.  As she watched, he slid to the ground in a heap, his face white as chalk.
Leaping to her feet, Suvati glanced over at the receptionist who sat gaping.  ‘Call the ambulance.  Dial Triple Zero.’

The dark head ducked down behind the counter, followed by the clatter of the phone as the girl fumbled with the receiver.

Looking down at the man at her feet, Suvati tried to remember what she’d learned at her First Aid classes only a few weeks ago.
Check for Danger.  Okay.
Moving the chair away from his head, she knelt down.  What came next? Check for Response.  ‘Can you hear me?  Open your eyes.’  Taking his limp hand, she leaned over, assessing his condition. ‘Can you hear me?  Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.’  It lay flaccid in hers.  Please don’t die. 

‘Is the ambulance coming?’

The Receptionist nodded. ‘It’s on the way.  They said to start CPR.’

‘Can you help?’

‘No…no way.’ The girl backed away. ‘I’ll wait at the door to show the paramedics in.’

Looking down at the stranger’s pale face Suvati knew she had no choice.  He wasn’t breathing.  Releasing his hand, she gripped his jaw and the back of his head, tilting it back.  She couldn’t see any rise and fall of the chest and no whisper of air from mouth and nose. Open Airway. Done.

Resting the heel of her hand on his chest, trying not to notice how good the muscle felt under her touch, she found the right spot.  Thirty Compressions ‘One and two and three and four…’ She counted carefully as she pushed down with both hands.  Now two breaths.  She sucked in a deep breath.  This was not how she imagined kissing this man.  It certainly wasn’t what she wished for…was it?  An awful suspicion clouded her thoughts for a second.  Stop it.  He could die while you debate the question.

Gripping his nose and chin Suvati lowered her mouth over his, careful to form a seal as she breathed, turning her head to watch the chest rise.  All good.  A second breath and his body convulsed beneath her.  Coughing and spluttering he pushed her away roughly, just as the paramedics burst into the room.
Sidelined, she watched as the two uniformed men dealt with the patient.  They hardly seemed to notice her as they placed the blonde stranger onto a trolley to wheel him away.  He may be conscious but they had no intention of letting him go under his own steam.
She didn’t even know his name.

The hospital corridors were busy at this time of day, visitors hurrying to greet loved ones burdened with flowers and mysterious packages.  Probably food or clothing items.  Nervously Suvati stopped at the door of the room the nurse had indicated.  Would he resent her interest?  She just wanted to see he was okay.  A simple question and then she would leave
He lay in the bed with the sheet at his waist, a hospital gown covering that broad chest, staring out the window.

‘Um…excuse me.’

Those eyes were just as blue as she remembered.  His sandy brows rose slightly, in a question.

‘I’m Suvati.  I was in the waiting room at the Radiologists when you…’

‘Collapsed at your feet?’

His voice was luscious, deep and slow with a faint accent. ‘Yes.’  She thrust her parcel at him.  ‘I brought you some fruit…grapes.  They grow them here.’

His strong sinewy hand reached for the gift.  ‘Thank you. That is most kind.’

Standing awkwardly, she wondered what to say.  He didn’t seem inclined to talk, choosing a grape and popping it into his mouth.  His mouth.  Oh Gosh, she was staring.

Licking his fingers, he returned her look narrowly.  ‘So I fell at your feet and you gave me the kiss of life.  How was it for you?’

How was it?  ‘Probably better for me than you?’

‘Perhaps we should try again some time.  When I’m conscious.’

His warm gaze sent prickles of awareness all over.

‘Perhaps we should.’

The End

Friday, 23 August 2013

I went to a conference, a Romance Writer's Conference.

I suppose you are all expecting me to talk about the fabulous Seminar by Kim Hudson.  A workshop entitled Virgin on the Half Shell was bound to get me to attend though I would have liked the Georgette Heyer workshops at the academic conference.

There were lots of fabulous workshops to help my writing and of course I put my name down to pitch with a couple of the publishers.  Probably the less said about that the better *mumble mumble* total stuff-up.  Whatever.

What I want to talk about is my fan-girl moments.  You may have somehow received the impression I'm a Mills and Boon fan from the dawn of time.  Near enough.  I read my first Mill's and Boon Romance in 1976 when I went to Brisbane to go to boarding school.  Now there is a stressful environment that requires total escapism.

Susan Stephens and Carole Mortimer
Anyway...this being said I've read lots of Mill's and Boon romances, from my three a day addiction while trying to forget my imprisonment *cough* educational institution to my current, never without a book at hand life.  This blog is mostly about the Harlequin Mills and Boon authors I met at the conference.  I met lots of fantastic and lovely authors of all different romance genres
but it would take a book rather than a blog to list them all.

Around the same time I started reading romance, Carole Mortimer started writing them.  She had her first book accepted in 1978 and has been writing ever since.  Needless to say I've been reading them ever since and have a large plastic box full to overflowing as she's written over 200 books.

So when I found she was coming to the RWAus13 conference in Perth with another English Mills and Boon author I've read over the years, Susan Stephens, I was naturally excited. (Understatement)  I only walked past them three times before I got up the courage to ask for a picture.  And being the lovely ladies they are they obliged.

 Of course one of my major motivations for booking for the Perth conference (apart from the very educational workshops) was that Maisey Yates was coming from her home near Seattle in the U.S.A.  Maisey is at the other end of the spectrum from Carole, a new author with Harlequin, Mills and Boon who writes stories I really love. (including a virgin hero)

With her is Jackie Ashenden from New Zealand, another new author who writes for *shhh* Samhain and Entangled with some frabulous heroes.  She just announced a new series with St. Martin's Press.

I stalked them all the way to Rottnest Island, the ARRA signing and pictured here at the costume party on the Friday night of the conference.
Caitlin Crews, Me looking smug and fangirly and Maisey Yates

Special Bonus Author from US was Caitlin Crews

Nicole Flockton

Another lovely author I met on line who writes for Crimson Romance and Escape Publishing is Nicole Flockton.  She writes lovely Mills and Boon style romances with classic alpha males and a series with a medical slant.  This is Nicole at the Awards Night on the Saturday night of the conference.  An Australian living in the U.S. she came home to visit family and attend the conference.

It was also great to meet Paula Roe, a Harlequin Mills and Boon Desire series author who I met last year and also at ARRA13 in Brisbane.  Following the Nautical and Nice theme, she came as an island complete with Palm Tree and Parrot.  Sunbaking on her golden sands is Seal, Rachael John's, who writes great Rural Romance published by Harlequin Australia.

Here we have a Medical Contingent with Fiona McArthur, Emily Forbes (Ruby Winner) and Amy Andrews.  With them is Mills and Boon Medical (and other things) Editor Sheila Hodgson who will hate me forever for this picture but she wasn't fussed on my story pitch anyway so it's all good really.

I also met Sarah Wendell from SmartBitchesTrashyBooks blog site.  Most embarrassing fangirl moment.  Uh...you...*flails*  Yeah me speechless.  Hard to imagine but it happened.  Naturally she was thrilled to meet me.

I've run out of pictures of people I met.  My iPhone battery always died at the inconvenient moment.  Instead here is a selection of books I brought home written by authors I met at the conference.  They include Emmie Dark,  Michelle Douglas, Melanie Milburne (we shook hands), Rachel Bailey and Annie West as well as authors mentioned above.  I'm also pretty sure I saw Leah Ashton in a Nice Biscuit.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

When is an Alpha Hero not an Alpha hero....

When he's a Cowboy who is also an Indian

Are you confused yet?

I read romance for the heroes.  Yup.  Oh I know there has to be a heroine in there somewhere but really she is just a place card for me...

The Honey is BitterI've been reading romance for close on forty years and through most of that time, the Alpha hero has ruled the pages.  I remember the ones from the seventies, who used their power and influence to force the heroine into marriage, who were not above a little forced seduction.  These days, the feminists among us call them jerks and I nod sagely and slide my stash of vintage alpha jerks out of sight.

The modern Alpha is usually distinguishable by his revolving bedroom door, his billionaire status (inflation has effected more than the size of their manhood.) and usually some childhood trauma that is his excuse for being a jerk.  Seriously, they are mostly still jerks but they are too PC to actually rape their heroines.  Now their virility seduces the heroine into bed faster than you can say internal conflict.  (Same result but the feminists are happy because the heroine is ready, willing and able.)
Wife in the Shadows
So why am I burbling on about Alpha's.  It's because I've discovered a new kind of hero.  Shall we call him a Gamma hero.  Has the power of the Alpha but the sensitivity of the Beta.  They are subtle and sexy in the best way.

Sarah M. Anderson's Men of the White Sandy series are just the most amazing heroes.  They are...indescribably gorgeous.  Most of us wouldn't really want to live with an Alpha hero...but these guys are ready and packaged to take home for a Happy Ever After you would die for.  I've just finished Masked Cowboy, following on from Mystic Cowboy and I'm already hanging out for the next one.  It probably helps that I'm a sucker for an American Indian from way back.

I've reviewed both the books and include the reviews here.

Mystic Cowboy  *****

Mystic Cowboy by Sarah M. AndersonSooo. Just dragging myself away from contemplation of the cover. Rebel Runs Fast is some hot cowboy, even if he happens to be an Indian. And he is just as hot, just as gorgeous inside the covers.

Rebel is no alpha male, but he is something else, in the best possible way. He is the kind of hero that makes you want to...well in Australia it's totally impractical to go looking.

Madeline is the closest you could get to an alpha female, a driven doctor with money, used to power but searching for something more than the life she'd been destined for.

They both have something the other needs, but with lives so different, expectations so far apart it could be an impossible task. 

I love the way Rebel 'gets' Madeline and oh so gently draws her into his world. Uptight Madeline reveals a whole different side under the gentle handling of a mystic cowboy.

The painting of the Lakota Reservation, the people, the struggles, the history is all very well done without being heavy handed.

I look forward to seeing more of the Men of the White Sandy.

Masked Cowboy  ****'

Masked Cowboy (Men of the White Sandy, #2)

4 1/2 stars. What can I say about Jacob Plenty Holes? He is just fascinating. What else can you call a man who each Summer evening does a Flashdance style semi-strip with a glass of water in front of every woman in the small town of Faith Ridge, South Dakota. This is the same guy who wears a mask to cover scarring on half his face.

The heroine,veterinarian Dr Mary Beth Hofstetter took me a little longer to warm up to. I prefer to keep my modern sexually liberated women in the real world. Mary Beth has a bit of a mouth to her which contrasted sharply with the lack of chattiness from Jacob. As I got to know her better I liked her more. But it is Jacob that kept me reading.

Like Mystic Cowboy, this book has a fairly strong mystery element dating from three years ago when Jacob received the injury to his face. He also became the sole carer to a small girl. Kip is an albino, so stands out dramaticly on the reservation among the Lakota tribe. She doesn't speak and Jacob is extremely protective.

The action of the story takes place over quite a few months, allowing Jacob and Mary Beth to get to know each other realisticly so that when things develop it's a logical progression to the relationship.

The ending was extremely dramatic and the aftermath really sweet. It got me all emotional.

We get to see Mystic Cowboy, Rebel and Doc Madeline along with Nobody and I'm still looking forward to his book. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Strangers on a Train.

Trains have always held a fascination for me.  And I suspect the rest of the world.

 How many children grow up with Thomas the Tank Engine and move onto the Hogwarts Express?   Does anyone remember The Little Engine That Could and The Railway Children?

How many mysteries and thrillers take place on a train?  How many romances do they meet on a train?
Maybe not so many these days but back in the day trains featured prominently in Mills & Boon romances.

Trains still have that fascination.  Who could forget the climactic scene in Mission:Impossible with the helicopter following the train into the Channel Tunnel.

Just recently I read a lovely story by Ruthie Knox called Big Boy where a couple meet in a train museum.  It will be released in an anthology next February with the other talented authors in the Strangers on a Train series of novellas.

So railway stories are by no means dead.

Westlander at the railway station in Cunnamulla
I first travelled in a train as a small child from Cunnamulla in far south west Queensland to Brisbane.  It took close on 24 hours leaving on Sunday and Thursday morning and arriving in Brisbane the next morning.  The trip home left on Friday evening and Tuesday evening.  I can remember going up to the station, which was the end of the line, to watch the train come in for entertainment.  We didn't have television until 1974.

When I moved to Brisbane the late 70's I travelled on trains quite regularly.  The old wooden carriages with individual compartments inspired my Writer's Challenge story which I am posting below.

Strangers on a Train - A romantic short

Bridget smoothed her hair complacently.  The Jackie Onassis style shoulder length bob suited her thick blonde tresses, the ends flicking up with only a tweak once she took out the rollers.  The train lurched as it started to move and she checked her beauty case, sitting on the ornate metal luggage rack.  Pink, to match her two piece suit. She looked just right for her interview.  As long as she could remember, Bridget wanted to be an Air Hostess.  Today would be her big chance.

These trains still ran in the 70's when I was in Brisbane
A bang jolted her from her happy dream as the door of the compartment opened and a  battered guitar case landed on the floor, closely followed by the owner.

‘Are you insane?  The train was already moving.  You could have been killed.’

The young man straightened up to an impressive height and pulled the door closed.  ‘I’m cool with it, babe.’  For in spite of long, glossy dark locks, he was most assuredly a man.

His lean face with the high cheek bones looked like one of the paintings she’d seen at the National Gallery, the neat moustache and goatee framing a half-smile on a beautifully shaped mouth.  She was being observed by melting brown eyes with long black lashes.

Flustered, she tried to assert herself again.  ‘Do you make a habit of leaping on and off trains?’

‘Not usually.  I just happened to want to catch this one.  I’m on my way to Roma Street.’

 So he would be with her almost the whole trip.  ‘I’m going to Central Station. Do you have an appointment in the City too?’
King George Square back in the day

‘You might say that.  We’re having a sit in at King George Square.  Peace, love and all that.’

‘You’re a protester?’

He looked at her sharply, no doubt recognising the distaste in her tone.  ‘You might call me that.’

‘My brother is serving in Vietnam.  He’s been there for two months.  We're very proud of him, serving his country.’

‘I’m sure you are.  I hope you never have to see him come home injured, or worse.’  His response was mild, the expression in his eyes sincere.  She’d expected a rant against the war.

Bridget watched him seat himself in the corner of the compartment, stretching his long legs at an angle.  His guitar case rested on the overhead rack beside her beauty case.  ‘Do you know someone who was hurt?’

‘A few of my mates.’

‘I’m sorry.  I don’t know anyone who’s been fighting in Vietnam.  Apart from my brother.’

‘Then today is your lucky day.’

She stared at his long hair and beard, the psychedelic t-shirt.  ‘You were a soldier?  Why aren’t you still over there?’

‘They sent me home.’

‘Why?  Did you do something wrong?’

He laughed.  ‘So it’s true what they say.  You are some dumb blonde aren’t you?’

‘I’m not dumb.’  She watched horrified as he tugged the shirt out of his well worn jeans, revealing tanned flesh with a sprinkling of dark hair across his chest.  ‘What are you doing.  You can’t undress here…it’s…it’s a public place.’

‘Cool it, Princess.  I’m just showing you why I’m back home.’

Roma Street Station - Clock tower is at King George Square
Trying not to stare at the ripple of muscled chest, the even pattern of lines and bumps down his stomach, Bridget sat primly in her seat.  ‘I can’t see that showing off your…body is proving anything except that you are some kind of exhibitionist, or lunatic.’

Standing up, he gripped the baggage rack to steady himself.  ‘Whatever you say.’  She watched him twist on the spot, revealing the long length of his spine below the wavy brown hair that came to just below his broad shoulders.

‘Oh…my…’  Her throat closed, swallowing the words as she stared at the crinkled mess of red and white scarring that covered most of his back, vanishing below the waistband of his jeans.

Tears prickled and she blinked to try and force them back.  The stranger slumped back onto the seat, pulling the shirt back over his head and shoulders, smoothing it down over his stomach.  ‘If your brother is as pretty as you, Princess, you don’t want to see him messed up like me.  Not for a pointless war that no-one is going to win.’

Bridget had to stop herself from asking him if he really thought she was pretty.  There were more serious issues at stake.  ‘Of course we’ll win.  America and Australia together will defeat the communists.  Daddy says so.  He was an officer in the last war.’

‘Ah.  So you’re a Daddy’s girl.  I bet you have the kind of job to mark time until Mr. Right comes along to marry you.’

‘Of course not.  I’m going for a job interview today.’

‘Really.  Selling perfume at David Jones I suppose.’

‘No.  I want to be an Air Hostess.’

The silence in the compartment was deafening.  She could hear the rhythm of the wheels on the train as he stared at her.  As if she were some kind of strange beetle.

‘What’s wrong with being an Air Hostess?’

‘It’s exactly the sort of job I was talking about.  Are you planning to marry a pilot and have lots of little pilots in suburbia.’

‘I’m not planning on marrying anyone.  It’s 1971 and I’m a liberated woman.’

His eyes scanned her body.  ‘You don’t look very liberated in that outfit.’

‘I don’t mean that kind of liberated.  I mean…I’m going to be a career woman and travel and be independent.’

‘Wouldn’t you rather come with me and make a real difference to the world, Princess.’

Central Station- the far clock tower is King George Square
The train was pulling into Roma Street and he stood up to get his guitar case.  He looked at her appealingly.  ‘If you come, I promise you won’t regret it.’

Stubbornly she shook her head.  With a shrug he jumped from the train and she watched him walk away.

Emerging onto Ann Street, Bridget hesitated, remembering melting brown eyes, a soft appeal.  Her interview was to the left, King George Square to her right.  After a moment, she turned right.

Waiting for a train to go by in Stanthorpe a couple of weekends ago
Steam trains come to Stanthorpe regularly and are very popular.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Sometimes I want to be a Historical Romance Writer.

So a while ago I wrote this little short for the Writer's Challenge.  Please note that it is probably very derivative of my favourite historical author.  I have all Georgette Heyer's books and they live on my Prozac shelf.


If only she didn't have to walk.  In spite of the horses standing idle, the carriage hadn’t been an option.  Not without alerting Mama.  Her soft kid boots were scuffed and dusty and Letty was almost sure she had a blister on her heel.  The pelisse, so cosy in the early hours, now raised an unbecoming glow in the heat of mid-morning.

Running away from home seemed fraught with difficult choices.  The distance to Little Padbury that appeared an easy stroll from Beaumont now stretched into a vast distance when encumbered by two hatboxes.  It was to be hoped that dear Mama would allow her trunk to be sent on once she was settled in her new position.

To be sure, Mrs Leigh and her adorable sons may be a little challenging for a young lady less than twelve months out of the schoolroom herself.  But after all, two boys barely out of the nursery shouldn’t be harder to handle than the young men a young lady encounters on her first season.  Indeed, very young boys were known to have an aversion to kissing.

Letty frowned at the memory of that kiss.  It had ruined everything.  Pleasurable at the time.  In fact rather more than pleasurable.  But the resulting proposal when the rakish Duke had been caught by that prosy Mrs Pikely, had not been the way Letty wanted to become the Duchess of Beaumont.

With a sigh, she stepped off the dusty road and settled down on a tree stump, a hatbox on each side of her.  Hopefully a farmer on his way to Little Padbury might take her up in his wagon.

Untying her bonnet, she used the large poke to fan herself.  The sound of horses coming at speed almost made her drop it, but they were coming from the opposite direction to Beaumont.  As the equipage came around the corner, she recognised it as a high perch phaeton and four.  Driven by a Corinthian of the first stare, as betokened by the numerous shoulder capes on his coat and the reckless tilt of his hat on the dark, curling locks.

At first she thought he might sweep past her, but at the last minute he checked his horses and her heart sank.  His hawk-like visage was intimidating and those grey eyes colder than a winters day.  A well set up man of close to thirty with powerful shoulders and strong thighs in the tight fitting breeches.  She felt her heart beat a little faster.  But it was the long fingered elegant hands that drew her eyes as he held the high fettled livestock with ease.  Hands that could be both strong and gentle.
“Going somewhere, My Lady?”

“Indeed yes.  But do not be concerned.  I can make my own way.”

“I doubt there will be any others on this road.  It’s not market day you know.  You’d far better come with me.”

“But I’m going to catch the Mail at Little Padbury.  I intend to be a governess.”

“You’ve missed it for today.  It comes through very early in the morning.  Come child, I’ll not hurt you.”

Reluctantly, Letty stood up, limping a little as she approaching the phaeton.  She was tired and hot and thirsty and she only had a few guinea’s in her reticule. 

Seated, not without difficulty, she waited until they were bowling along at a rapid pace.  “I suppose you’ve come home to see if your bride is enceinte with the expected heir.”

His glance raked her.  “And is she?”

“No.  So I suppose we must go through the whole farce again.”

“Was my lovemaking so distasteful to you?”

“Oh no.  Well, perhaps it was a little painful at first.  But afterwards…”  She could feel the warmth rising.  Her face must be blotchy but he continued to look at her in the way that made her all prickly so perhaps he didn’t notice.

“Then why did you treat me like a pariah the next day?  All that prim and proper ‘My Lord’ and not letting me kiss you.”

“Mama came in while you were out with the bailiff.  She reminded me that I must do my duty as you have need of an heir.  She also said I must try not to notice you dined with Mrs Massey the eve of our wedding.”

She sniffed unbecomingly and continued in a mournful tone.  “I fear I am rather the noticing kind.  But perhaps I would not be a very good governess.  I have no talent for managing young men it seems.  If you forgive me for running away and take me home, I shall try to be a conformable wife to you Gervaise.”

“If you are going to throw every youthful indiscretion at me, Letty, I shan’t think you conformable at all.  I don’t suppose your Mama thought to tell you Mrs Massey has been Moncreiff’s familiar for the last five years.  I dined with both of them and several others beside.”

“But I distinctly remember she was your very special friend when we first met.”

“Your memory is very inconvenient.  I’ll have you know I’ve been a paragon ever since a scrubby little schoolgirl fell out of an apple tree at my feet and stole my heart.”

Letty’s heart pounded in a disgracefully unladylike manner.  “She did?  I mean, I did?”

“Have I ever lied to you Letty?”

“I don’t recall so.  You’ve always been very kind.  All the girls at Mrs Sutter’s Academy agreed you sent the nicest bonbons.”

“Oh Letty,  you’ve been an unconscionable time growing up.  I know you are still very young, but I couldn’t wait any longer.  Especially with those young fribbles always hanging around.  I wanted to be your first kiss.  Your first everything.”

“But you were, you are.  Besides, I’m seventeen and quite, quite grownup.”

He laughed in a way that thrilled her.  “Yes, my sweet.  You are quite, quite grownup.  In the nicest way.”

The phaeton slowed under his skilful handling.  And then he kissed her.

A Touch of History

I'm a Georgette Heyer fan from way back.  You can tell this by the fact that I use the word Odious in my everyday speech.  I also read Roberta Gellis and quite a few 'bodice rippers' in my teens.  I also love Ellis Peters Cadfael mysteries with those sweet little romances in each one.

My Fair Concubine (Tang Dynasty, #3)This is my first Jeannie Lin historical and a great introduction to a very different era and culture. The setting of the Tang Dynasty in 800AD is beautifully rendered in a simple and unobtrusive manner. The heroine Yan Ling is the lowest of the low, a foundling working in a tea-house where Fei Long is seeking his runaway sister. When he realises Pearl's flight is to some extent his fault, having ignored her early pleas for help, Fei Long lets her go with her lover.

A combination of his absorption in his problem and Yan Ling's fiery temper results in the tea-house girl being cut loose and a man in need of a Princess to save his family honour is not too proud to pick up a stray servant to train her to take his sister's place as a treaty bride with a far off kingdom.

Of course in a romance it never works out quite so easily. Yan Ling is so much more than a mere servant and as he gets to know her, Fei Long finds that what she is inside becomes more important to him than what she can do for his family honour.

Yan Ling is intrigued from the start by this rather cool, controlled former soldier. As he teaches her the skills she needs, her feelings start to go astray. She finds herself not as practical as Fei Long insists.

Ms Lin introduces an interesting cast of characters, in particular the servant girl Dao, and the theatrical artist, Bai Shen who takes on training Yan Ling in the art of womanhood. A nice touch of irony from a male actor.

The romance between Yan Ling and Fei Long fairly sizzles even though we don't see any intimacy through most of the book. Yan Ling is the perfect foil for the buttoned up Fei Long, encouraging him to look beyond the rules and regulations and see Honour and Duty as tied up with the Heart rather than appearance and social acceptance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and even though the solution to the problem was fairly clear only halfway through the story, the culmination of the story was very satisfying. Ms Lin has a nice strain of humour that runs through the book and the ending leaves you with a smile from the humour as well as the romance.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

When Emily Got Married

I've just finished reading When Honey Got Married.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, perhaps because I've just been through a family wedding at Easter.  And it was that kind of wedding.  Honey and Emily could be besties because the attention to detail, the craving for perfection, it was all there.  Absolutely beautiful but terrifying in the execution. I include photos of my daughters wedding in lieu of Honey's.

This is my review. ***** 5 Stars because it made me cry.

When Honey Got MarriedThis was an amazing read. Four novella's centred around not the bride but the sister, the best friend, the wedding planner and the potential 'other woman'.

Honey has organised a humdinger of a wedding. As over the top as you could get with hummingbirds and honeysuckle galore. While she's having bridal jitters and flipping from Bridezilla to the Runaway Bride, the women around her are having their own dramas.

Because among the wedding guests and organisers are some seriously hot men. Like Beau, the chef at Belle Fleur, the wedding venue, who is an old acquaintance of Grace the Wedding planner. 

Cousin Rainer, who would do anything for Brent and Honey, including heading off Eve, Brent's work colleague who had a 'moment' with him just before he got engaged. 
Then there is British Alex, Nina's best friend at the Circus who comes with her as her plus one.

Finally there is Griffin, Brent's brother, who was always around when Pippa was Brent's girlfriend back in the day and somehow made her more aware of him than ever Brent could.

Over the four stories, we get to see these romances develop, but we also see how each of these women help or influence Honey in getting through the biggest day of her life.

This is such a feel good read. What more can you ask for but not one but FIVE happy endings. And if you get a little teary and emotional on the way. Well that's even better.

The Bride and her mother getting ready

The whole hair thing with two of the brides sisters
The Brides Best Friend
The magic moment when Emily married Ashley
The MOTB with Anne Hathaway lookalike daughter

The Youngest Bridesmaid

The Brides Brother and 2nd youngest sister

A romantic moment

Pensive Bridesmaids
The Bride and the Matron of Honour

Cutting the Cake
Check the hair out.

Monday, 6 May 2013

I cleaned.  Semi-willingly.  Well under the whipcracking orders of my 12 year old daughter...

This weekend I cleaned some old software off this bookshelf to make way for my current TBR pile.  I was only going to clean off one shelf but No.7 who has Cleaning OCD (not genetic) cleared the whole bookshelf and the desk underneath. It's brown.  Who knew.

Since then I've been stacking books on the shelves.  On the top I've put my medical authors.  The next shelf is Urgent TBR's this includes quite a lot of books I've been given as well as some I've bought.  The third shelf is  my current keeper shelf.  Authors that don't belong in my vintage collection though I notice Kate Walker has some books being released in the eBook Vintage Collection.  Also on that shelf are my 'research' Sweet Romances and a selection of recent books by authors not yet on my keeper shelf but trending.

This is a gif so it you watch the pic will change.  Yeah I just learned how to do gifs so I'm likely to be boring

Friday, 3 May 2013

I'm a Maisey Yates Fangirl

This means that I nag her constantly for new books,  stalk her on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere else I can find her. I rejoice when I hear she's signed a 12 book contract because I will have more to read.  When I remember how very young she is I am confident that I shall never run out of new books before I die like I did with Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters.

Heir to a Desert Legacy

Heir to a Desert LegacyOnce again Maisey Yates puts together a tale full of angst and passion to keep you engaged. As the surrogate mother of her half sisters child, Chloe thought she would do her duty by her sister and then step back into the safe anonymity of her academic world. There she could avoid the danger of passion that made her childhood a nightmare.

Sayid, brother of the sheikh, was brought up to be an emotionless machine, designed to fight for his country at all costs. Unfortunately he couldn’t protect his brother and his wife from dying in a car accident on the way to collect their child from Chloe. When he discovers the existence of the child he will do anything to protect the future king.

Drawn into Sayid’s world because of baby Aden, Chloe finds her commitment to a passionless existence threatened by the close proximity of this dark and damaged man. When they marry, to secure Chloe’s place as Aden’s mother it becomes even harder.

I loved this story and the dance of denial the hero and heroine are involved in. They have both pushed any thought of emotional involvement from their lives but for Chloe, baby Aden has breached the barrier, leaving her vulnerable.

What happens when these two start to open up to each other is amazing. There is one wow moment that made me fall for Sayid so hard. I just loved the book and the stress on the importance of love and hope for the future.

Heir to a Dark Inheritance.

Heir to a Dark InheritanceAlik is a bad bad man. His only redeeming feature is his loyalty to his friend Sayid, from the companion book Heir to a Desert Legacy. He's not anyone's idea of good husband and father material. But he is, reluctantly, a father.
Widowed Jada has been caring for his child since the death of the mother. All she wants is to be Leena's mother. She's already been a wife and being Alik's wife would only be bearable because of baby Leena.
Watching these two make a convenient marriage is like watching gunpowder in a candle shop. It is a disaster waiting to happen. A disaster full of sizzle and sark.
Somehow Maisey makes it work through the darkest depths to a HEA that is believable at the last.
Being a Fangirl also means you do ridiculous things like find naked dolls in thrift shops and immediately realise that they look just like the hero and heroine in the latest release.  Then you take photos and turn them into a gif simply because you can.

Alik makes the moves on Jada

Finally you become so obsessed with the characters that you write fanfiction where your characters meet their characters.

Alik Fanfic

The nurse was giggling again.  Ruslan quivered with anticipation.  He knew what that meant.  Squirming against the pillows, he craned his neck to try and see the door of the pan room.  The other boys in the ward slept on, the drugs doled out at bedtime doing their job.
Ruslan probed under his pillows for the tissue wrapped parcel.  Seven of the little blue sleeping pills,  fourteen of the white ones they gave out for bad pain.  Alik would be pleased.
The noises were reaching a crescendo, the gasps and little squeaks from the nurse followed by a masculine grunt and then silence.  A whisper and a rustle.
The nurse shot back into the ward, smoothing down her skirt.   She always boasted about being engaged to the other staff, but when Alik came around she tucked her engagement ring in the pocket of her coat that hung at the nurse’s station.   She settled at the desk, carefully not looking towards Ruslan’s bed.  He wondered exactly what was so special about Alik that she would break hospital rules to let him in after visiting hours.
Finally Alik sauntered into the room, his dark hair ruffled, his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his fatigues.  He looked older than sixteen, bulky in the heavy jacket and taller than anyone.  Ruslan wriggled to try and straighten in the bed.  One day.  When he’d had his operation.  He would be just like Alik.
‘Hey Ruslan.’
‘Hello Alik.’
‘What do you have for me?’
Carefully, Ruslan held out the tissue.  ‘Seven and fourteen, this time.  I’m getting good at it.  That trick you showed me works every time.’
The older boy counted the pills and slipped them into his pocket.  ‘You did okay kid.’
The hand came out again with a paper bag.  Grinning up at his idol, Ruslan took the bag.  ‘Chocolate?’
‘Da.’  Alik looked across at the nurse.  ‘Three this time.  You’ll need to make them last.’
Reaching across, Ruslan put the bag on the cupboard.  ‘Are you going away again?’
‘ Maybe.’   That cool, blue-grey gaze sparked with some emotion.  ‘Can you keep a secret kid?’
‘Of course.   You know that.’  He winced as a sharp pain stabbed at his spine.  He shouldn’t have twisted when he’d moved.
Straight away Alik bent over, studying his face with those piercing eyes.  ‘Are you sure you should be giving me the painkillers?’
‘It’s alright.  I just moved wrong.  I have my operation soon.  Then I can come and work with you.’
‘That’s not going to happen.’
‘But they promised.’  Ruslan’s heart jumped into his throat.  ‘They said I’d be able to walk after the operation.’
‘Sure you will.  But you won’t be working with me.’
‘Why not?   You said I was smart.  Just as smart as you.’
‘I’m not going to be around after tonight.’
‘Are you in trouble?’
‘No.  Not yet.  But if I hang around…’
‘Where will you go?’
‘That’s a secret.   I don’t want you to have to lie.  They don’t like liars.’
Ruslan blinked hard.  Alik never cried so he wouldn’t cry.  Crying’s for babies.  He was nearly a man, like Alik.
‘Will I see you again?’
‘I’m leaving the country.  It won’t be safe for me to come back.’
‘I don’t know.  I’ll be following the money.  That could take me anywhere.’
‘You could write to me.  I could write back and tell you what’s happening here.’  Alik’s face hardened.  Sometimes it was easy to believe the rumours.   Ruslan didn’t want to believe them, but somehow he just did. 
 ‘Look kid, this was business.  It’s not like we’re friends.  What makes you think I’d be interested in hearing your problems?’
‘Not friends?’
‘You’re eleven years old and stuck in a hospital.  I’ve got better things to do than write letters to some kid I’m never going to see again.’
It was a different pain this time.  Ruslan preferred the other one.  It  didn’t make it hard to breath.
‘I’m sorry.  I didn’t understand.’
Alik shrugged, avoiding his eyes. ‘I’m sorry too, kid.  But it was just business.’
Ruslan watched him leave, not sauntering this time.  Striding past the nurse with a brisk nod of dismissal.