Friday, December 19, 2014

New Review: Meagan McKinney’s MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS – Scottish Heroine, Alpha Male Hero and a Superb Love Story!

Another great page-turner from McKinney, this was her second book, first published in 1988. It was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Gold Medallion award (now called the RITA).

Set in 18th century Scotland, New Orleans and Georgia, it tells the story of Kayleigh Kerr, who was raised in Mhor Castle near Inverness until the day tragedy struck and her life of affluent nobility was taken away. Escaping to America and the slums of New Orleans, she dresses in rags. To survive, she becomes a cutpurse named “Kestral.” Her only dream is of returning to Scotland and having revenge on her evil cousin Straught who took her life from her. But when she tries to steal from the darkly handsome St. Bride Ferringer, who has just arrived on a ship from France, she finds a man to be reckoned with. St. Bride is really the Duke of Lansdowne in disguise, secretly plotting his own revenge, not coincidentally against the same cousin who has followed Kayleigh to America.

I love a heroine who is beaten down by life but never gives in and holds her head high as she sticks to her principles and her virtue, even if the whole world assumes she’s a whore. And who doesn’t love a hero who recognizes a diamond in the rough…or rather, a diamond sullied by misfortune? The wild and beautiful Kayleigh becomes St. Bride’s obsession and his constant distraction. Love the names and the emotions McKinney gives her characters.

This is suspenseful storytelling at its best; and I recommend it. (The cover does nothing for this wonderful tale...)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw’s MOUNTAIN MISTRESS – Captivating Western Historical from the American Frontier—a Keeper!

This was Nadine Crenshaw’s first book and it won the Golden Heart Award in 1987. It was her first novel yet it compete wells with anything out there in romance today. Her writing is superb. Her story captivates—it’s a real page-turner, a keeper. And may I add, the hero is one of my favorites.

It is an all consuming, passionate story of the relationship between a Scottish mountain man the Indians call “Waiting Cougar,” who takes an unwilling “winter squaw”—one he bought with beaver pelts from the Blackfeet Indians who captured her in a raid. Innocent, young Victorine Wellesley, with pale blonde hair and blue eyes, was raised in Philadelphia in the parlor rooms of elegant homes only to be forced to leave when her father died and her foolish brother took her west. Almost raped by the Blackfeet Indians who killed her brother and his wife, she is “rescued” by Cougar and forced to travel with him high into the Bitterroot Mountains—and to warm his bed of furs for the winter. He calls her “wife,” but she knows better. She is not a real wife, she’s only a “mountain mistress.”

Victorine, who Cougar names “Flame,” feels her identity slipping away as she begins to dress like a squaw, her beautiful fair skin turns brown from the sun, and she falls victim to the passion he seems to draw from her at his will. You will be inspired by this heroine as her courage rises to every challenge (and there are many in the wild mountains).

As she has with all her subsequent romances, Crenshaw draws you into her story and into Victorine’s mind from the beginning. You can literally feel the anger and frustration rise in you as your sympathy for Victorine (“Flame”) grows with each day of the long journey into the mountains. She wants her freedom but she cannot resist the man who has led her into this life. Since she knows nothing of surviving in a wilderness, she is well and truly trapped.

Crenshaw accurately presents the essence of the era (the 19th century American frontier), even the nuances in speech. She has the place names, history and Indian culture (Blackfeet and Salish) just right. In fact, she has it ALL just right. It is such a good story!! I highly recommend it.

Nadine Crenshaw wrote more books after this one and I recommend them all:


Monday, December 15, 2014

New Review: Ellen O’Connell’s WITHOUT WORDS – Fall in Love with a Bounty Hunter!

Set in 1871, beginning in Missouri, this is the story of Hassie Petty who just put her husband in his grave when bounty hunter Bret Sterling shows up to kill her stepson, a thief and a murderer wanted by the Army. Realizing Hassie has no food and is likely starving, Bret takes her with him when he leaves.

Both Bret and Hassie have been hurt in the past. Bret paid for his choice to fight for the North in the Civil War. His Southern family will take the bounty money he sends home but deprives him of his place as the eldest and heir. Due to an injury to her neck, Hassie cannot speak above a whisper, and when she does, no one understands her. No one save for Bret who seems to know what she is saying “without words.”

O’Connell knows how to serve up a magnetic hunk of a hero. Bret is a tough bounty hunter of noble character with a good heart. He even saves a half starved dog from a man who would take its life. A man who can shoot like he can but still has a soft spot for a girl who can’t speak and her dog (not to mention a horse passed its prime) is a man we can love. And Hassie, who is beautiful and has suffered the lustful advances of men, tries hard to please her savior. Along the way, a marriage of convenience turns into love. It’s a wonderful story of second chances, of love that wipes away bad memories.

O’Connell brings the West to life in this fast paced story as Bret and Hassie travel from Missouri to Wyoming in his search for wanted criminals, Hassie his partner in bringing them in. Rich in detail, great characters, exciting action, it’s a story that will warm your heart. The end scenes take place at Christmas so it’s a great holiday read.

Superb storytelling, highly recommended.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Review: Meredith Duran’s FOOL ME TWICE – Unusual Victorian Romance with a Deranged Duke

If, like me, you discovered Meredith Duran with her first novel, DUKE OF SHADOWS, and loved it and gobbled up her next ones, just know this one, book 2 in the Rules for the Reckless series (and perhaps the entire series) is quite different. Not so much historical, and not even a good glimpse of London.

Set in 1885, much of the story takes place in the home of Alastair de Grey, Duke of Marwick where the heroine, Olivia Mather takes the position as housekeeper to surreptitiously search through the duke’s papers for information on her family. (You don’t find out until near the end why.)

Alastair is bitter (some say deranged) because his wife betrayed him with four other men before dying of an opium overdose. He has forgone his role as a leader in Parliament to sulk in his bedchamber and focus on his revenge. While he seems bent on self-destruction and revenge, his new housekeeper seems intent on saving him from himself.

Duran’s writing is superb as always and her dialog witty. She is simply a great writer. The heroine has a lot of spunk and I liked her, though her mission was often vague. The hero, however, was just odd. I suppose an unfaithful wife could send a man into a tailspin but total self-destruction and planned murder of four peers? That seemed a bit over the top. Of course, he backs off of that, but still…

I found the beginning hard to get into and the setting in one house a bit confining. (Olivia doesn’t even get out of the house until after the first 150 pages.) When the duke finally comes out of his cave and Olivia is gone from his house, things get interesting. The action is exciting, the sexual tension intense and the story unfolds.

I recommend it but it’s not for everyone.

Rules for the Reckless series (the novels):


Friday, December 12, 2014

The winner of Regan's book...

Thanks to all who commented on my Top 20 Historical Romances list yesterday...I loved hearing your favorite titles and some are now on my "to read" list.

And now to the winner. Congratulations, Elizabeth! You have won your choice of my own books. I'll be in touch with you to get your choice.

Later this month there will be a chance to win one of my Christmas stories when I post my Favorite Heroes & Heroines List so do come back!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Top 20 Historical Romances

I am frequently asked what are my favorite historical romances. That’s a long list, as you know from my “best lists.” There are currently 100 5-Star romances on my "Favorite Keepers" shelf on Goodreads. But since you asked, I'm giving you my current top 20. Some are from new authors; some from authors who lived decades ago. The list changes each year.

These stories are the ones that have stayed with me, the ones I want to re-read, the ones I can’t forget. They are all keepers and rated 5 stars. Their heroes and heroines grace my Favorite Heroes and Heroines list I’ll post later this month. It’s no coincidence that they are written by some of my favorite authors.

I'd love to know your all time favorite historical romance. One lucky commenter will have the choice of my own eBooks, so make sure I have your email.

1.     Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas
2.     The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
3.     Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson
4.     The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson
5.     The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis)
6.     The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley
7.     Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
8.     Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart
9.     Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
10.  Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
11.  The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen
12.  The Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham
13.  Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
14.  Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens
15.  The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
16.  Dancing On Coals by Ellen O’Connell
17.  Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes
18.  Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin (aka Kimberly Cates)
19.  Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw
20.  Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Review: Joanna Bourne’s ROGUE SPY – Brilliant Sexy Spy Adventure!

Another great spy romance from RITA winning Joanna Bourne. This story opens in 1802 as Camille Leyland (“Cami” – also known as Vérité), a French spy who for the last 10 years has pretended to be British and the niece of two eccentric female code breakers (“the Fluffy Aunts”) receives a letter that tells her she’s been discovered. At the same time, Thomas Paxton, an “infamous French spy” (also known as Devoir), who as a lad named “Pax” served the British agents in London before he turned traitor, returns to London to confess.

Neither Cami nor Pax initially recognizes the other, even though they were friends as children in Paris where they were trained to be part of the Caché, a network of French spies during the Revolution. There, Pax led the other children and was close to Cami.

Cami is determined to escape both Pax and the man she calls Mr. Smith who is blackmailing her—he wants a certain code in exchange for an insipid young woman he claims is the real Camille, whose place Cami took 10 years ago, a woman Cami thought the French had killed. Pax knows the man, called “the Merchant,” a fanatical supporter of the Revolution, and Pax plans to kill him.

This is a great spy story and a sensual love story—possibly Bourne’s best yet. There are many threads, many disguises (neither Cami nor Pax is French) and some suspenseful action leading to a brilliant ending. The descriptions are vivid, the dialog splendid and the characters richly drawn.

All the old Meeks Street British Service regulars are back: Doyle, Hawker and Galba (head of Service). The Baldoni family, introduced in this book, is a treasure. A nice touch, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was the inclusion of the Baldoni family’s sayings. One of my favorites was, “Malevolence is sold at a bargain. One pays full price for stupidity.”

You will love this one, I promise.

The series so far—all recommended:

THE SPYMASTER’S LADY (France and England 1802)
THE BLACK HAWK (Paris, beginning in 1794 (seen in flashbacks) and London 1818)
ROGUE SPY (England, 1802)

I recommend reading THE FORBIDDEN ROSE first, as it’s something of a prequel to the others. BLACK HAWK jumps around quite a bit (1818 to 1794 to 1797 to 1818 to 1802 to 1818) and Hawker’s story is told after ROGUE SPY, so you might want to read the series in this order:

THE SPYMASTER’S LADY (France and England 1802)
ROGUE SPY (England, 1802)
THE BLACK HAWK (Paris, beginning in 1794—seen in flashbacks—and London 1818)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Review: Jennifer Roberson’s LADY OF THE GLEN – Superb Storytelling and a Keeper—a Highland Love that endures the Massacre of Glencoe!

I absolutely loved this story—a keeper, now ensconced on my “to read again” shelf. It has everything I love in a Scottish historical romance: an epic love story, a noble hero, a strong heroine, real history, attention to detail and enough suspense and drama to draw me in. Even the music of the Highlands is included. I could hear the pipes and their mournful sound as Roberson described them.

The story begins in 1682 when Catriona (“Cat”) Campbell first encounters Alasdair (“Dair”) Og MacDonald. She is an awkward, uncomely girl raised like one of her brothers by her druken father, but Dair pays her a compliment when no one else does, telling her that she has “bonnie eyes…all bluey-green and bright. The sort of eyes a Highlander likes to come home to.” How could Cat ever forget him after that? Not even though he is one of the dreaded MacDonalds, the enemies of clan Campbell, could she fail to harbor a tenderness for him.

Much happens in this intricately woven tale that spans a decade. It’s the time when King James was exiled to France and William and Mary ruled England. Some of the characters were real, historic figures. The Scots battle each other as much as the English. Grey John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane seeks to be the power behind the throne and he thinks it is William who will sit in that throne. He exerts his influence to unite the clans, pretending to support King Jamie, while planning on serving the Highland clans up on a silver platter to William. The clans don’t trust him but the lairds have little choice, seeing the English Ft. William erected as a symbol of their dominance.

Famous battles like Killiecrankie are vividly described as Dair fights with the MacDonalds of Glencoe and the Stewarts of Appin. Both the MacDonalds and the Campbell’s kill each other’s young men caught reeving cattle, and Dair saves Cat from harm, and she saves his life. All this while another woman shares Dair’s bed. Then Cat’s father agrees to wed her to the Earl of Breadalbane’s son, Duncan Campbell in exchange for money to pay his many debts.

Battle of Killiecrankie

Perhaps the most intense moment is the Massacre of Glencoe when the Campbells, joined with the treachery of the English, including the king, murder nearly the entire clan of MacDonalds without provocation. The massacre of Glencoe is still remembered to this day it was such great perfidy on the part of the Campbells and England. A very sad chapter in Scotland’s history. As Roberson says of Glencoe, “’Tis a glen of sorrows, an empty place of blood and broken stone, of charred timber and burial cairns.”

Glencoe, glen of beauty, glen of sorrows
I did not want to put this one down. The author truly captured the heart of the Highlands and the characters she vividly portrayed brought to life one of the most incredible periods of Scotland’s history.

If you love Scotland and real Highlander romance—the deep ones, the keepers—you will love this book! Highly recommended. It’s going on my Top 20 list.

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Review: Virginia Henley’s THE HAWK AND THE DOVE - A Privateer to Love, a Sea Hawk, and a fiercely independent Irish lass...oh yes!

I love Henley's storytelling, her attention to historic detail and her ability to weave a captivating tale. This one is no different. The story is set in 1586, when Queen Elizabeth ruled England and her sea hawks ruled the seas, robbing the Spanish fleet to fill her coffers. Captain Shane Hawkhurst was Queen Bess' favorite. She named him “the sea god.” He was, in fact, not the son of Lord Hawkhurst, but the son of an Irishman named O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. But his English father claimed him as heir, and when Shane’s father died, Shane became Lord Hawkhurst.

Shane had promised his father he would marry, and to stave off Queen Bess' jealousy and because he did not really want a wife, he had his solicitor find a country lass who had some land in Ireland he wanted and married her by proxy. Little did he know his new wife was the red-haired Irish vixen, Sara Bishop, referred to by her jealous half siblings as "Sabre Wilde" after her dead father and his sword. Shane planned to have his brother Matthew take Sara to one of his estates and dump her there, never wishing to meet her. Ah, but Sara—as Sabre—has a different plan. She intends to go to Court and seduce her husband and become his mistress, making him her love slave and having her revenge.
Classic cover

You have to love this heroine. She is fiercely independent, courageous, feisty and smart. Just the woman to tame a wild man like Shane Hawkhurst. And Shane is a man worthy of taming. Both have Irish blood running through their veins--at a time when Queen Elizabeth feared the rebellious Irish. So the sparks fly continuously. It’s one of the things Henley does so well—excellent characters and a plot with great twists and turns!

Henley’s love scenes are unique and fit the people and the story, so very well done, very sexy and not contrived. It is so worth it to dive into one of her complex, winsome tales.

In addition to wonderful characters, a great plot and interesting history, she has included some great one-liners. One of my favorites was: " be Irish is to know the world will break your heart before you are thirty." So true.

Get this one; you won't regret it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s ONCE IN A BLUE MOON - Heart Rending Story of a Truly Great Love!

If you've read KEEPER OF THE DREAM, you're already a fan of Penelope Williamson. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, which was her next book is equally wonderful—and it’s one of my Top 20. It's the story of unrequited love that refuses to die no matter the tests it must endure. And nobody does unrequited love like Williamson.

The story was inspired by the love of Williamson’s grandparents who were kept apart for 6 years, but then came together to love for another 65 years. Here’s what she had to say about them (get out the Kleenex):

“It was in 1902 that Elizabeth and Peter first met and fell in love. But Elizabeth’s father forbade the match for six long years, until Peter could prove himself good enough for his daughter. Together at last, they had nine children and sixty-five wonderful years as husband and wife. They died in their nineties, within two years of each other, as much in love as they had always been. A love that wouldn’t give up…”

The story of ONCE IN A BLUE MOON begins in 1815 when Jessalyn Letty is 16—a wild flame haired girl raised by her grandmother on the Cornish highlands above the sea, a young woman of character with a brave heart that never varies throughout the story. I loved her for that.

While Jessalyn is still a tall gawky teenager, she meets McCady Trelawny, then in his early 20s, and youngest brother of the infamous Trelawny noblemen, known for living lives of debauchery and dying young and in debt. McCady was wounded while becoming a war hero defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He returns home to Cornwall with a vision for a steam locomotive that can carry passengers, but he’s too poor to invest much in the idea. His cousin, Clarence, who could be his illegitimate half brother, joins McCady in the venture, but stands in McCady's shadow, determined to one day gain great wealth that will bring him the status he craves and the woman he wants—Jessalyn.

But once Jessalyn meets McCady, her heart is lost forever to the handsome dark haired rogue. And McCady wants Jessalyn but he is too poor to have her and too honorable to take what he knows she would give. Jessalyn’s love will be tested by years of separation and so much more.

This is a compelling, well-told tale with many twists and turns, all woven in with great characters and details set against the beauty of Cornwall. You will feel like you're living it. You will laugh at Jessalyn’s 16 year old antics, and you will cry as you endure her years of loving and losing McCady.

You simply must read this one. Trust me, you won't be disappointed! It’s a 5 star novel from the queen of unrequited love.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Christmastime on my blog!...starting with The Twelfth Night Wager! and The Holly & The Thistle!

Looking for a story that will put you in the mood for Christmas? And perhaps the traditions from a simpler time? Then I have two for you from Regency England!


It was a dull day at White’s, the day Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace agreed to the wager: seduce bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. This holiday season, Christopher planned to give himself a gift.

Here's what the reviewers say:

"...a sweet sexy sugar cookie of a title." --Library Journal

"A handsome rake, a virtuous widow, and a scandalous holiday wager. I loved the chase!” --National bestselling author and RITA Award–winner Kaki Warner

"Loved the sizzling attraction between these two and the little Christmas magic that bought the two together. The Twelfth Night Wager had everything I could ask for. Wonderful romance, likeable characters, and a sweet storyline!" --Lilly Pond Reads

"A delightful novella that is best served with a warm drink and a smile on your face." --Amazon reviewer

"This delightful Regency romance really packs a punch! I really loved this story! By the way, in this story you'll meet some of the characters in Ms. Walker's Agents of the Crown trilogy...and I highly recommend it." --Amazon reviewer

“…a beautiful story filled with a little mystery, a little fun and A LOT of romance." --The Reading Cafe

Here's a short snippet:


Eustace slowed the horses and guided the phaeton to the side of the path. Holding the reins in one hand, he turned to face to her. His eyes seemed to glow in the dim light.
“I never would have thought the serene Lady Leisterfield would be so stimulated by a ride in the park. You are flushed and your eyes bright. I do think you enjoyed our dash through the Row.”
“Yes, I quite liked it,” Grace said, breathless. “Though you must admit, the ride was more like a race.”
He looked at her lips and then her neck. “I can see your pulse jumping. Perhaps you like to race as much as I do.”
Grace wondered if he was still speaking of horses or something else. Her heart sped as he leaned toward her and brushed his lips across hers. After only a moment, she pulled back.
“Too soon?” he asked.
“That question implies such is inevitable, my lord. I can assure you it is not.”

And then, to find out what happens to Lady Emily Picton (a secondary character) and how she falls in love with a Highlander, there's The Holly & The Thistle.

"...a wonderful addition to any romance lover's collection and in this reviewer's humble opinion, goes best with some chocolates and a nice glass of wine." --Breath of Life Reviews

From a 5 Star review on Amazon:

"One of Regan Walker's strengths as a writer of historical romance is characterization, and in this charming holiday story she excels in this regard. Lady Emily Picton, an attractive but set-in-her-ways widow was once married to a brute of a man and has vowed never to place herself again under any man's "ownership", a man who would, in her very amusing description, "put her in a sack like a rabbit" and carry her home. But she didn't wager on the strength of character of a wonderful shipbuilder Scot, William Stephen, whose path she crosses at Berry's Wine Shop. The gentleman is smitten and vows to make her his wife and take her back to Scotland. A war of wills ensues in this enjoyable romantic tale that I highly recommend for anyone who wants to get into the holiday spirit."

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Stay tuned to my blog as I share my favorite heroes and heroines and my Top 20 list!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Review: Pamela Clare’s RIDE THE FIRE – Exciting Story of Love on the American Frontier!

This is the third in the Blakewell/Kenleigh family trilogy, set in the 1760s, a time when the frontier was a wild place with Indians seeking to kill or torture white men who were taking over the Indians’ land. Nicholas Kenleigh (oldest son of Cassie and Alec from book 1), served George Washington against the French, but was never the same after being captured and tortured by the Wyandot tribe.

Uncomfortable with the trappings of civilization, Nicholas lives his life as a lone trapper. One day he stumbles into a farm on the edge of the Ohio frontier, wounded and needing help.

Elspeth (“Bethie”) Stewart, a widow and pregnant with her first child, tends Nicholas’ wounds but she is wary of him, particularly since she was abused by her stepfather and stepbrother and fears men. While Nicholas is sleeping, she hides his weapons and ties him to her bed.

Alone on the frontier, Bethie must rely upon Nicholas to help her, even to deliver her child. The longer Nicholas stays, the more enamored he becomes with her. And then the Wyandot show up…

A great story from American’s frontier days with a brave heroine who overcomes her difficult background to triumph and a worthy hero who stands by her side. Clare vividly portrays the issues the settlers faced as they tried to survive. She has done much historical research into the times and it’s reflected in the story. This is a well written story with some exciting scenes as Nicholas and Bethie fight to defeat a band of warrior Indians—more than once. A solid finale to a great trilogy.

Blakewell/Kenleigh family trilogy:

Sweet Release, set in 1730, Cassie Blakewell and Alec Kenleigh
Carnal Gift, set in 1754, Jamie Blakewell
Ride the Fire, set in 1763, Nicholas Kenleigh

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Review: Pamela Clare’s CARNAL GIFT: Wonderful Irish Love Story

This is the second in Clare’s Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy and it’s a good one.

Set in Ireland (and some in England) in 1751 (prologue), 1754 and 1756 (epilogue), it tells the story of Jamie Blakewell (brother to Cassie in SWEET RELEASE), an Englishman with a tobacco plantation in the Colony of Virginia, who has returned to England to try and persuade Parliament to provide money for ships to defeat the French and their Indian allies in the war that has just begun.

To help Jamie with the House of Lords, he seeks the aid of a friend from Oxford days, Sheffield, Lord Byerly, whose lands lay in Ireland. On a hunt in Ireland, they come across some Irish Catholics illegally observing their faith while conducting a child’s funeral. Among them is 18-year-old Brighid whose beauty catches Jamie’s eye. While debauched Sheff would kill the priest and throw the rest in prison, Jamie argues for their lives. Without his knowing it, while Sheff appears to release them, he actually plans to kill the priest and take Brighid as a gift for Jamie. But Jamie is of noble heart and when Brighid is brought to him against her will, he only pretends to have his way with her.

Clare weaves a complex tale that puts us in the heart of the Irish-English conflict in Ireland and the persecution the Catholics faced. She creates some wonderful characters who will live long in our hearts. She also gives us a picture of what brought people to America and the blending of the classes in the New World.

It’s a wonderful love story and I highly recommend it.

Blakewell/Kenleigh family trilogy:

Sweet Release, set in 1730, Cassie Blakewell and Alec Kenleigh
Carnal Gift, set in 1754, Jamie Blakewell
Ride the Fire, set in 1763, Nicholas Kenleigh

New Review: Pamela Clare’s SWEET RELEASE – 1st in a great trilogy set in America before the Revolutionary War

This is the first in Clare's Blakewell/Kenleigh family trilogy--stories set in the 1730s to 1760s in the American Colonies in a time when farms dominated the landscape. Eventually they were replaced in the South by growing plantations. It's also a period when colonists came to see themselves as Americans, distinct from the English.

This first story tells of Alec Kenleigh, head of an English shipbuilding empire, who was beaten and thrown aboard a ship transporting criminals to the colonies as indentured servants. Alex wakes up in the Virginia Colony with no idea who is behind this. He has a derelict brother and an angry ex-mistress but he can’t see either of them doing something as horrible as this.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, he is told his name is Cole Braden, a convict convicted of ravishing women, and his 14-year contract has been purchased by Cassie Blakewell, a young woman left in charge of her family’s plantation by her father who is in England. When Alec heals, she realizes the half dead convict is a very handsome man, one who claims to be a wealthy Englishman.

Alec is desperate to get home to London and his shipping enterprise, but he is attracted to Cassie to whom he has vowed to serve until his name is cleared.
Clare has created a wonderful story of life in the colonies with some exciting scenes and some worthy characters. The love scenes are very sensual as Cassie and Alec find they are unable to resist each other. Cassie is a strong woman determined to make it on her own; Alex is an intelligent hero who believes he can rise above this to return to the life he once had. Both will be wrong.

Included in the action is a suspenseful murder trial when Alec’s life is on the line. I recommend this one and the others in the trilogy, which I'll review in days to come.

Blakewell/Kenleigh family trilogy:

[Note: the author has changed the second book to add material in her new eBook edition. I read the paperbacks.]

Sweet Release, set in 1730, Cassie Blakewell and Alec Kenleigh
Carnal Gift, set in 1754, Jamie Blakewell
Ride the Fire, set in 1763, Nicholas Kenleigh

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gifted Cover Artist, Author and Photographer Lynn Sanders!

I am so pleased to have with me today Lynn Sanders, the gifted cover artist who, with her partner Cherif Fortin, has produced commercial art and photography for clients around the world.

Lynn is an award-winning photographer who began her career as a photo retouch artist and hand-colorist of black and white prints.

In an effort to create the feeling she admired in the work of the old world masters, Lynn pioneered an innovative mixed media technique drawing from an ancient oil-glazing process once used to augment religious iconography. Her efforts resulted in a unique procedure whereby she applied layer upon layer of oil and lacquer to a photograph, creating a work highly luminous and suggestive of the style seen in masterpieces of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood during the late 1800's.

Lynn has three adult children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and lives in northern Illinois.

Not surprisingly, Lynn's art has graced the covers of many romance novels--including one of my own,  my new medieval romance, The Red Wolf’s Prize. And you might note that Cherif is the Red Wolf!

The Interview: 
       When did you first begin working with Cherif? How did it happen?
My family and I attended the Schaumburg Medieval Times dinner show back in 1993. Cherif was champion knight that evening for our section. The show was great, all the knights were wonderful. I thought I would be polite and go up to our knight (Cherif) and thank him for the wonderful show.

Being a professional photographer for many years I have worked with many models and good-looking people, but I was taken aback at just how beautiful he was. Green eyes, beautiful mouth. Good teeth, a mane of hair that framed a perfectly symmetrical face. (Sounds like I was checking out a racehorse, I know). 

I asked if he needed modeling comp pictures. He was receptive and very easy to talk to. We hit it off right away. I gave him my card and left with my group. I really didn’t expect to hear from him, but two weeks later he called the studio and made an appointment. We did a shoot of about 50 images. 

I couldn’t take a bad picture of him. He won every photographic competition I entered him in. As time went on, and other people and agencies wanted him to do work for them, he realized being the classic male model was not the direction he wanted to go.
Lynn & Cherif shortly after they met

An image that was taken a few weeks later confirmed my thought that we could get his face on the covers of romance novels. He was easy to direct. 

We were trying for more dramatic poses.  I placed him by a window and he had a sword his hand down on one knee wounded. We had dribbled some fake blood from one lip and he was in place for the dying scene. His head was down and I said “Cherif give me pain in your eyes.” He and I laughed because that is one of the cheesy lines a lot of directors use. I watched him tighten in the shoulders his hand formed in a fist. He slowly lifted his head and looked right into the camera. His jaw clenched, his eyes glistened and a vein popped up in his forehead. 

I said to myself, Oh my God. Click.

Passion's Blood

That image led to our writing Passion’s Blood, a book that grew out of the images, rather than the other way around.

Regan: The cover is gorgeous, Lynn. 

So that my followers can see the other images, I've also included your video trailer below, which is also amazing.

Both of you are photographers, illustrators and writers…that’s amazing to me. How do your skills complement each other?

Based on one of Cherif’s doodles, I knew he was artistic. I was running a photographic background business at the time in addition to the studio. I created huge backdrops for the photographic community. I needed help with that business or I was going to close it down. I told him that I would offer him a partnership if he was up to hard work and travel to the conventions. He took to it like a duck to water. I was the background lady and he was to join the company. He can paint the prettiest roses you ever did see.

The photography was just natural for him. I taught him some of the old posing techniques that have been somewhat lost in today’s candid society. When we do the final paintings he’s more precise than I am. I have a little more abstract side. We work off each other’s eye. It makes for a good combination.

The writing just evolved. He is a very strong writer. We used to write on the airplane when we were traveling to the photographic conventions.  I would write a page the he would pick up story and do a page. I loved romance and mush and he like blood and gore. He would invariably kill off my hero in his pages and I had to think of a way to bring him back.

What are your favorite projects—what gives you the greatest satisfaction?

I like this one with a mask…
I have loved doing the covers for other authors. We did several for Virginia Henley, including A Year and a Day and A Woman of Passion
A Year and a Day
A Woman of Passion

Working with Heather Graham on There be Dragons was especially fun.

I know that when you and I were working together, Lynn, you were very patient with my many requests for changes. What’s the hardest thing about “getting it right”?

Probably getting in sync with the author’s vision. The period, expression, whether it’s to be a series or not. There are many ways to tackle a problem. It sometime clicks right away and other times it takes some re-tries. Stock photography is an image that is pretty much what you see is what you get. That is the least expensive way to go for an author. Then we go into light custom up to major changes.  A commissioned image is most expensive
because everything is custom. Costumes must be rented, the models employed, locations to be traveled to, etc.

How has your work changed over time? How do you see it changing in future?

I think we have gotten better. Practice makes perfect you know. If you want to get good just keep at it.
Digital photography and the computer has changed everything. It has speeded up things. We sometimes don’t even hand paint the images now. It’s kind of a shame not to have the oil for the wall. Some things are less expensive since you don’t have to print hard copy. eBooks are a whole new world.

At the end of the day you can pour your heart out and write the greatest novel, or create the most beautiful piece of art, but if you don’t promote and market it to the world at large it’s no more or less than a piece of insignificant dust, lazily floating on a warm late afternoon ray of light, blissfully unaware that it is escaping from a dying sun.

What are you working on now?

A novel titled Fall From Grace. It’s illustrated of course. Cherif plays Sir James Drake Glenmore, 12th Duke of Berwickshire, an artist who gets caught up in a murder and fathers, unknown to him, a pair of twin boys that were raised in the states. Chase is a rock star and Mitchell his manager. There’s a shooting, and a desperate race to save a life.  I am presently shopping the novel, which begins in England then moves to the US.
Images from Fall From Grace

I also have a collection of illustrated children’s books that will be coming soon.

The holidays are upon us…what do you look forward to the most?

Getting together with family. On Thanksgiving I’ll be with my daughter and two sons. Sometime over the weekend, I’ll visit with Cherif and his family. He has two girls and a boy (who, though small in the photo below, has grown up to look like his handsome father).

Lynn & Cherif,  Cherif's wife Dawn and two of his children, Kai and Lara, taken a few years ago

I do hope you and Cherif and your families have a wonderful holiday season, Lynn. Thanks so much for being my guest and sharing your work with us!

For those of you who want to keep up with Lynn, you can see her on Facebook.