Monday, July 30, 2012

My Guest Today...favorite author Shirlee Busbee, telling us about her favorite time period in which to set her Historical Romances!

I've often been asked, "What's your favorite time period?" followed by "Why?" To answer those questions I have to go back thirty-five years when I first decided to write a Historical Romance. In the beginning I had no idea in which period I would set my book. (I also didn't have a plot in mind either.) I did know that I didn't want to go too far back in history (although I love the Norman invasion period), and that I wanted to stay pre-Civil War. I also was pretty sure that I wanted my eventual story to take place in England or America, maybe France.

Using those parameters I decided that I'd simply start at 1700 and research forward until I found an era or an incident that caught my attention and that I thought I could weave a story around. Obviously, in my research I covered a lot of ground, passing by the War of Jenkins Ear (between Great Britain and Spain from 1739 to 1748), The Seven Years War, the Revolutionary War, The French and Indian Wars, and the Affair of the Diamond Necklace of Marie Antoinette, to name a few. Why none of those eras or time frames really held my attention I can't tell you, but onward I plunged. Believe me, I read a ton of books and researched my little heart out.

It wasn't until I reached, oh, about the 1790's that I started getting deeply interested in what was going on in the world. I slowed when I reached the French Revolution and as I continued to research, ideas (none clear) began to form in my head. When I started reading about the Louisiana Purchase then I really slowed down. I lingered over that period for awhile, but then I pushed onward, loving the Beau Brummell era, the Regency Era and the War of 1812 and doggedly continued to research for my era until I came up against 1815 or so, and realized I didn't want to go any further.

It dawned on me that somewhere in that vast number of books I'd consumed was the setting for my book. I just had to find it. The Louisiana Purchase kept coming back to me and since my father's family is located in Louisiana, I decided that's where I would center my book and use the Louisiana Purchase as the backbone. Of course, I had to come up with a plot. Gee, how hard can that be? Ha! A segment I'd read somewhere (don't ask me where) that there had been a secret emissary that had carried the offer of the Americans to France stuck in my mind. That, and the fact that this same unknown person also carried the information that a English banking firm would finance the purchase, set the light bulb off in my brain and GYPSY LADY was born. Jason Savage, my hero, would be that secret emissary. As they say, the rest is, well, history.

Okay, I haven't answered the question yet, but I've hit you over the head with lots of clues. My favorite time period is from 1790 give or take a year and 1815. Why?
Well, stop and think about what occurred during that twenty-five years: The French Revolution; the execution of the King and Queen of France; the Rise of Napoleon; the Napoleonic Wars; the Louisiana Purchase; Beau Brummell; Prinny and his Regency; the War of 1812; the Barbary Coast Pirates (don't forget about them). A lot of events that spring immediately to mind. It was a period of time that's chock full of exciting events just begging for a book. Or books. Lots of books. I'm sure there are other time periods that are full of stirring events, but to me those twenty-five years or so are a writer's dream.

And so, some thirty-five years later, I'm still writing in that time period and have only strayed from it a couple of times. For RAPTURE BECOMES HER (July 2011) and DESIRE BECOMES HER (July 2012), I settled in the 1790's and it made a nice change from the Regency.

RAPTURE BECOMES HER introduces the Joslyn Family. The first of the fascinating men of the family that you meet is Barnaby Joslyn, an American, and the unexpected heir to a title long expected to go to his English cousin, Mathew. In England, adjusting to his new responsibilities, Barnaby is assisted by his illegitimate uncle, John Lamb, and in time his, also illegitimate, half-brother, Luc. You'll meet feisty Emily Townsend, fighting to save her family and village from the greedy clutches of her cousin. Desperate for money, she turns to the risky work of smuggling as a means of gaining money. Emily has at her side her indomitable great aunt Cornelia (the lady I want to be when I grow up), and half the village. Against a backdrop of attempted murder, kidnappings, smugglers and secrets, Emily and Barnaby find love—and as always, live happily every after. RAPTURE BECOMES HER was great fun to write and I loved the characters -- I hope they find favor with you, too.

DESIRE BECOMES HER, my latest book, picks up a few months after RAPTURE ends and reveals Luc's story and quest for love. Luc has adjusted well to living in England. A gambler by trade, he has amassed enough money to live as a gentleman (with a bit of help now and then from Barnaby). The lady who captures his heart, Gillian Dashwood, is a notorious widow, suspected to have murdered her husband. Old Silas Ordway, Gillian's uncle, is a great friend of Luc's and when Gillian shows up on Silas's doorstep, Luc is suspicious of her motives. Of course, she thinks he's taking advantage of her uncle. Barnaby, Emily, Cornelia and Lamb play their parts, as does the head of the rival smuggling gang, Will Nolles.

As Luc and Gillian stumble their way into each other's arms, new villains appear, endangering the lives of Luc and Gillian, all before (yep, you guessed it), they learn what is in their hearts. It was a pleasure for me to return to the lives of these characters and to introduce Gillian and her family. I particularly liked dealing with Lamb...he reminds me of Blood Drinker from GYPSY LADY, but perhaps less dark. I enjoyed watching Luc interact with the Ordway family as he pursues Gillian and it was wonderful to see how Barnaby, Emily and Cornelia—and yes, Lamb—are dealing with the changes in the lives. I even enjoyed meeting up with Will Nolles—the bastard! I hope you will enjoy both books -- I sure enjoyed writing them.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Favorite Author: Shirlee Busbee

New York Times Best-selling author, Shirlee Busbee has been writing award winning romance novels since 1977. With over nine million copies of her books in print, she is the recipient of numerous awards for excellence in writing, including the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award and Affaire de Coeur's Silver and Bronze Pen Awards.

Come back tomorrow as she'll be a guest on my blog sharing the secret of how she chose the historical setting for her novels.

Here’s a list of her wonderful romances (many of which have been or will be reviewed on my blog):

Louisiana Series (stand alones loosely related to Louisiana with some characters overlapping):

[Jason Savage, the hero in GYPSY LADY, appears in a few other books, like LADY VIXEN and MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE, but each is a stand-alone. EACH TIME WE LOVE is the story of Catherine’s half brother, Adam St. Clair. DECEIVE NOT MY HEART and THE TIGER LILY feature friends of Jason's.]

Gypsy Lady, 1977
Lady Vixen, 1980
While Passion Sleeps, 1983 (follows GYPSY LADY in time and is related)
Deceive Not My Heart, 1984
The Tiger Lily, 1985
Midnight Masquerade, 1988
Whisper to Me of Love, 1991 (re-released 2012)
Each Time We Love, 1993

Markham Series:

Scandal Becomes Her, 2007
Seduction Becomes Her, 2008
Surrender Becomes Her, 2009
Passion Becomes Her, 2010

Joslyn Family Series:

Rapture Becomes Her, 2011
Desire Becomes Her, 2012

Single Novels:

The Spanish Rose, 1986
Love a Dark Rider, 1994
Lovers Forever, 1996
A Heart for the Taking, 1997
Love Be Mine, 1998
For Love Alone, 2000
At Long Last, 2000
Swear by the Moon, 2001

Oak Valley Ballinger Family Series: (contemporaries)

Return to Oak Valley, 2002
Coming Home, 2003

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Romance Writers of America Conference Time!

I'll be taking a few days off to join with other romance writers at RWA's annual conference (fondly called "Nationals"). It's July 25-29, 2012 in Anaheim, California--right in my backyard!

For those authors among you who are going, you can look for me at the Literacy Event (Table #401) as I'll be signing my new book, RACING WITH THE WIND, and giving away autographed giant post cards of the cover to any who buy the book.
For my reader/followers, RACING WITH THE WIND is now available on Amazon!

(I hope you read it, "like" it and review it!)

When I return it will be August and Exotic Locales Romances month, so get ready to sail away!

Monday, July 23, 2012

New Review: Heather Graham’s DARK STRANGER and RIDES A HERO- Absorbing Stories of Love on the Kansas-Missouri Border During the Civil War

DARK STRANGER is the first in Graham’s Civil War trilogy about the three Slater brothers from Virginia: DARK STRANGER (Cole), RIDES A HERO (Malachi) and APACHE SUMMER (Jamie).

Set in 1862-1865 on the Kansas/Missouri border, DARK STRANGER tells of Kristin McCahy, who is struggling to preserve her family’s ranch as the Civil War rages on. Caught on the border of the North and the South, she and her younger sister have little left as each side takes from their stock. One summer day, one of Quantrill’s raiders tries to rape Kristin in the dust, but she is saved by a stranger who appears out of nowhere with guns blazing. Cole Slater planned to move on after he rescued Kristin until the young virgin made him an offer he couldn’t refuse—she’d give him her virtue if he’d stay to protect them. Cole was a man of honor but he had a painful past and he rode for the South because jayhawkers, later affiliated with the Union, killed his pregnant wife. Hardened by all he experienced, he took Kristin up on her offer.

Graham has written a lot of romances that involve the Civil War; she knows it well, giving you a feeling for families torn apart when one member fought for the North and another one for the South. Often the women were caught in the middle. Such is the case here. But even in the midst of war, love can grow. Though Cole had no intention of caring for Kristin, time changed that. As always, Graham serves up an absorbing tale, one that will capture and hold your interest. I recommend it and all in the trilogy—read them in order as they are related.

In the second, RIDES A HERO, it’s 1865 and the war is over, but jayhawkers and bushwhackers still tear apart the Missouri-Kansas border. And one gang of bushwhackers is out for revenge on Cole Slater. Meanwhile, his brother, Malachi Slater and Shannon McCahy, who we met in book one, are still having their own private war, that is until the day they discover all that scraping hides an attraction neither can deny—sexy Southern gentleman meets beautiful feisty Yankee sympathizer, oh yes!

Just like book one, this novel held my interest and gave me a feeling for the tensions of the North and South, in this case even after the war was officially over. Though Lincoln wanted a healing peace for the nation, it was not to be. Graham writes well and tells a good story. It’s a great follow on to book one and I recommend it!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

New Review: Shirlee Busbee’s MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE – Love in Louisiana in 1814 as the Battle of New Orleans Approaches!

I love Shirlee Busbee’s romances because I know I’m going to diving into a deep story, one with rich details in the descriptions of places, people, food and history, woven together like a tapestry, providing a great background for her captivating love stories. This one is no different. Her seventh novel, it tells an intriguing tale of love in the time of the War of 1812 (“Madison’s War”).

Set in Louisiana, beginning in the spring of 1814, this is the story of Melissa Seymour, whose greatest concern is surviving until her trust funds come in, which will only happen when her younger brother, 19-year-old Zachary turns 21, or she marries. Her uncle, who stands to benefit, urges her to marry and yet Lissa is “unmoved by the most ardent admirer”. To discourage the men who flock about her, she disguises herself as a dowdy shrew. Her gift is horses and she has one stallion, Folly, who is magnificent and wins all his races. His prize money is keeping her and Zachary’s home of Willowglen afloat. Then enters one arrogant, wealthy 32-year-old bachelor, Dominic Slade of New Orleans, who wants to buy Folly and start a stud farm on his new estate close to Willowglen. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, they are caught together in his hotel room and forced to wed.

Busbee sets forth a shotgun marriage that grew into love against a backdrop of English spies in Louisiana seeking out Loyalists who can be counted on for the Battle of New Orleans that is coming. Among the secondary characters is Jason Savage, the hero in GYPSY LADY. While the pace is a bit slower than more modern historical romances, fans of Busbee will not be disappointed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Review: Heather Graham’s REBEL: Intriguing Tale of a Difficult Marriage During the Civil War

This is the third in Graham's 19th century Old Florida's McKenzies series--passionate romances that tell the stories of the men and women who shaped a great state. The first began in 1835 but with this third, the Civil War begins. Graham takes care to give us the history of the times (it's her home state after all!) as she weaves wonderful tales of love in the Eden that was the Florida Territory.

Set in 1860 at the outset of the Civil War (though the prologue is 2 years later), it tells the story of Ian McKenzie, the son of Jarrett and Tara (from the first book, RUNAWAY).

The prologue begins with the Union Army Major they called the Panther, hunting silent and deadly along the southern Florida coast for the Moccasin, the Rebel spy who has taken such a great toll on the Union. Until he captured the Moccasin, Ian McKenzie didn't know (though he suspected) the spy was also his wife, Alaina...the wife he didn't want but was forced to marry for honor when he inadvertently joined her in a pool where she was swimming nude.

Ian McKenzie, though handsome and charming and an "honorable" man, treats Alaina roughly at times, even on his wedding night. Then, too, he shares his most intimate thoughts with Risa, the woman he had intended to marry. In truth, he admits he loves them both, which makes this a most unusual romance. Risa would have been happy to sleep with Ian notwithstanding her supposed friendship with Alaina (who could like Risa after that?). One had to feel sorry for Alaina. To be sure, early on she was a bit of a brat and didn't try to see Ian's point of view as a man loyal to the Union, but then she was raised a Southerner--as was most of Ian's family--and it was Federal troops that had accidentally killed her father. She was not the kind of wife who would forgo her convictions just to follow her husband. Ian never seemed to understand that about her. So Ian and Alaina were ever at odds.

Still, for all that, this is a well-told story and it’s a part of a great series (see list). Graham knows how to write and weaves intriguing, well-researched tales. I recommend you read the series in order.

The series:


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Wendy La Capra, the winner of Joanna Bourne's book THE BLACK HAWK! To claim your prize, Wendy, just contact Jo at (the preferred contact on her website). She's expecting you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Interview with Favorite Author Joanna Bourne

It’s a pleasure to welcome to my blog today a very favorite author of mine, Jo Bourne—the author of the wonderful Spymaster series, several of which have been reviewed on my blog. I love the detail and thoughtfulness Jo brings to her 18th and 19th century spy stories set in England and France. She brings us characters we can't help but love. (I’m so glad they show up in more than one of her novels!) Jo has graciously agreed to give a copy of THE BLACK HAWK (reviewed on my blog this week) to one of those commenting on this post.

As to the interview, I asked Jo some questions that had been in the back of my mind for some time about her and her writing. I think you’ll find her answers fascinating!

Tell us about yourself…where you grew up, where you live now…the things that shaped you as a person?

I'm in the foothills of Western Virginia, where the human to mosquito ratio runs about one of us to a million of them. I'm surprised this area is not more thickly settled with writers since it is a fine place to stay inside and write. I live here with my family and my dog and cat, both of them previously owned shelter specials.

Before coming to the paradise on earth, I spent a number of years working for the Federal Government overseas. This was lovely and exciting. Sometimes a bit too exciting. Frankly, I'm glad to be back and do most of my traveling to and from the grocery store. I lived in about a dozen countries -- I'm too lazy to count it up at the minute -- But I got to see most of the world. And I lived in both England and France. (The photo is Rue des Rosiers in Paris.) This is a real help in setting stories there.

What drew you to writing historical romance novels?

When I was in elementary school, I read a lot of Science Fiction . . . and adventure and boys' actions books and fantasy and historical fiction and folktales and a good bit of stuff that wasn't fiction at all. Roughly, everything under the sun. If I had to say what led me to Romance, I'd blame it on Georgette Heyer. Such delightful, funny books. Why do I write Romance? Well, I want to write an adventure story. Does this sound like a roundabout way to approach it?

I was immensely peeved, when I was a kid that boys seemed to have all the adventures in books. When I write Romance, the women have the adventures. I want the happy ending. And I want to write about important stuff. Does it sound hokey to admit I want to tell readers that bravery and kindness matter and that they are rewarded? I want to say that love and the ordinary, domestic joys of life are terribly important. That's what Romance says. That's what the HEA gives us.

How much time does it take you to write one of your wonderful Spymaster novels?

About a year. I know everybody else on earth seems to write faster. I guess it takes me a couple of tries to get stuff right.

How much of that time is devoted to the research? And, do you love the research?

I love to do research. You can plop me down with some good 1800s letters or a nice Regency era diary and I am just as happy as a hog in clover. If it were not for the pesky need to actually do some writing I'd just research. Hard to say how much of my time is devoted to research. When I first picked the era and the countries I wanted to write about, the initial familiarization took as much as half my time. Now that I'm comfy in the early 1800s, it's more like 5% or 10%.

What resources do you reach for in researching your novels?

I have good, print research materials. I'm generally picking up one book or another to read just for the fun of it. That's on background, you might say. I keep some favorite research books in social history, historical language and spy stuff. For social history -- I keep my old copies of Bryant's Set in a Silver Sea or Asa Brigg's Social History of England and browse through them sometimes. But there are good social history surveys every year.

Greenwood Press puts out a series of accessible reads -- Daily Life in 18th Century England, Daily Life in Victorian England and Daily Life During the French Revolution.

What else have I enjoyed in the social history field recently? The Regency Underworld, Donald Low. Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 1600 to 1770, Emily Cockayne. Our Village, Nancy Mitford.

For Regency language I like Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue and Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and, of course, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). And spies. I have read a lot about Regency era spies. This is kind of specialized research. If you're interested in this, I have a bibliography at:

But it's not all beer and skittles and research books. I love the Internet for visuals. Almost all my clothing research is on line. My visuals of everyday objects are often on line. If I need to actually know a single solid factoid, I go to the web. Say I want to find out if the word "hornswoggle" was in use in 1795 in England. (Answer: probably not.) I'd go to Google Books and run a search.

And I do some hoofing around to see what's left of my era's history. I've been very lucky indeed. I've been able to spend a lot of time in old houses, museums, and at living history and re-enactor sites. There's nothing like the reality of these everyday objects, 'up close and personal', to give you the nitty gritty of the time. For instance, Napoleon's dispatch case looks just like a modern brief case. Who knew?

Do you have character write-ups or other devices to help you get into the head of a character?

I really don't. Now, I do crawl into the head of the character. That's my writing space. But I don't get there by knowing facts about them and I don't get there on Day One. I get acquainted with my people in the way you'd come to know a friend or a coworker, over time. I've thought about them for weeks or months. I've pictured them in all sorts of situations.

The kind of specifics that can be written down in a notebook -- age, color of eyes, whether they like raspberries, what kind of school they went to -- these are definitely useful. I need them the same way I might need a particular date or the color of a uniform in the Sixth Infantry or whether there was stainless steel available in 1802. I do try to keep all those factoids in a file somewhere. If I remember. Mostly I don't remember and then I end up having to chase somebody's eye colors through the final draft and hope I remember I caught all the mentions of it so I haven't made a Dreadful Mistake anywhere.

Who is your favorite character in your novels?

Folks are going to think I'll say Adrian ("Hawker"). In truth, I'm very fond of Adrian. But I my love and respect for Doyle is profound and special. I find him sly and humorous and cynical. Does it make me sound trivial if I say I just truly do like a huge, strong, sizable fellow?

Doyle appears in all four of my books, three times as a secondary character. His 'love story' is told in FORBIDDEN ROSE. I wrote that book third, but it's set in the earliest time period, in 1794, during the French Revolution.

What do you think is your best work thus far?

In terms of the books, I think FORBIDDEN ROSE is the best written, overall. [Regan's Note: this book is reviewed on my blog.] And I'd say the character Lazarus was hard and complicated to write and I think he turned out well. I'm proud of creating him.

What is the most difficult aspect of romance writing for you?

Man, it's all hard. I do most of the work on micro-manipulation of the prose. Hardest? The sex scenes. I would really like to infuse those sensual scenes with meaning and significance. And sensuality.

If I had to pick the love scene I like best, it would be Hawker and Justine's first love scene in BLACK HAWK. They're so young and so tough. So damaged.

That was one of the rare cases that I wrote one way, and then the editor sent me back to do it over again. She said Hawker deserved a better love scene. She was right.

What are you working on now and what are the challenges?

I'm writing Pax's story right now. It's set in 1802, so it will be kind of midway through the timeline of the series.

(I often write in coffee shops, so I drink a lot of coffee…)
As for challenges, what isn't a problem? Hmmm. I'm working right now on giving the hero and heroine more time together. Plot, plot, plot. Plotting is so hard for me. You asked me what my working title was for this one. When I work on a manuscript, I call it by the name of the heroine. In my own mind and in the computer, I'm working on the 'Cami Story'. I don't give the manuscript a fancier working title because I know that is not going to end up as the title of the book.

Do you have a series or a novel planned after the Spymaster series?

Alas. I come up completely empty on that. I am so deeply in the grip of the Pax manuscript that I have no time or thought left to worry about what comes next.

Thanks, Jo, for candidly sharing your thoughts with us. Now for the "listening audience"--any questions or comments for Jo?

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Review: Joanna Bourne’s THE BLACK HAWK – Finally, Hawker! Great Installment in Spymaster Series!

The latest installment in Bourne’s Spymaster series is well worth the wait! And the Romance Writers of America thought so, too, because it won the coveted RITA award for Best Historical Romance in 2012!

For us fans of Bourne's work, finally we have Adrian’s (Hawker) story--Sir Adrian Hawkhurst, who in prior episodes was always a charmer, and always a man who loved women. In past works, we also caught a glimpse of the French girl, Justine DeCabrillac. Both become spies but for different countries. Once they were lovers. She was in the French Secret Service and Adrian, now head of British Intelligence, worked for England. After being separated for over 15 years, Adrian is happy to have her back in his bed, but he didn’t count on her arriving there half dead with a wound caused by one of his own black knives. But that is just where she ends up when an assassin tries to kill her—an attempt to frame him for murder.

Though they first met in the French Revolution when they were still children really, Hawker and Justine grew up to be talented and smart agents with a lot to offer their countries. The story is told through a series of flashbacks as their paths keep crossing from when they were young. While separated by years, their love endures. It’s a well-written, intriguing tale, and includes the kind of historic detail (France and England from 1794-1818), we have come to love in Bourne’s work.

Bourne does a great job of showing us how the characters of Justine and Hawk were forged in the fire of difficult circumstances early in life and then shaped by deep rents in history. We knew Hawker’s woman would have to be unusual, right? Well, she is! The action is complex and there are many players. You have to be awake to hold all that is happening in your head. Lots of twists and turns. Some of our favorites, Doyle and Pax, return for special appearances. Well researched and captivating.

New Review: Joanna Bourne’s THE FORBIDDEN ROSE – Superb Prequel to the Spymaster Series!

For those who haven't yet read THE SPYMASTER'S LADY or MY LORD AND SPYMASTER, you should know this book comes first in time--a kind of "prequel" if you will, though it was written later. It’s the story of how Doyle and Maggie met.

Set in 1794 in France, it's a great tale of English spies and French undercover work transporting royalists out of France during the time of the French Revolution and Robespierre. Marguerite is a wonderful young woman who, though raised as an aristocrat, has adapted to the times and is now doing important work that has her wearing many faces. British agent Doyle is after her father who he believes has provided names of English to be murdered by those in control of France. When he realizes he has taken the man's daughter, he keeps her, hoping she'll lead him to her father. Doyle has never allowed himself to get involved with a woman in the field. Ah, but Marguerite de Fleurignac aka Maggie is no ordinary woman! He gets aroused just looking at her and he admires her intelligence and fierce determination. He wants her for his own.

Bourne gives us another strong heroine and another drool-worthy hero. The Doyle who is in the background in the other books in the Spymaster series is now center stage. The dialog is very witty and at times very humorous. Bourne has mastered the art of suspense and her language is very colorful and fits well the era. Meticulously researched, as always, Bourne delivers up a detailed, well-told tale. I liked this romance as much as MY LORD AND SPYMASTER and even better than THE SPYMASTER'S LADY, but I recommend reading all in the series (THE BLACK HAWK is quite wonderful!). Just read this one first!

Here’s the series and the time period each novel covers:

The Forbidden Rose (France 1794)
My Lord And Spymaster (London 1811)
The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802)
The Black Hawk (Paris, beginning in 1794, flashbacks to 1797 and 1802, and London 1818)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

RACING WITH THE WIND is almost here!

I just couldn't wait to share with you the cover for my first novel RACING WITH THE WIND. You'll have to wait until later this month or early August for the book, but I'm posting the description and Prologue below to entice you!

The “back of the book” description:

Hugh Redgrave, marquess of Ormond, was warned. Prinny had dubbed Lady Mary Campbell “the Swan,” but no ordinary man could clip her wings. She was a bluestocking hellion, an ill-advised match by every account. Luckily, he sought no bride. His work lay on the continent, where he’d become legend by stealing war secrets from Boney. And yet, his memories of Lady Mary riding her stallion were a thorn in his mind. He was the son of a duke and in the service of the Prince Regent…and he would not be whole until he had won her hand.

It was unheard of for a Regency debutante to postpone her first season, yet Lady Mary had done just that. Far more interested in politics than a husband, she had no time for foolishness or frippery. Already she had assisted her statesman uncle in Paris, and she swore to return to the court of Louis XVIII no matter the danger. Like her black stallion, Midnight, she would always run free. Only the truest heart would race beside her.

The Prologue:

When one does not love too much, one does not love enough.
—Blaise Pascal

The outskirts of Paris, 1811

A tall figure stood among the trees, another shadow in the gloomy night. Swirling mist covered the ground around him like a soft gray carpet. A chateau loomed ahead, a dim monument in the light of a pale half moon that revealed only shades of gray.
He waited for a drifting cloud to obscure the moon’s faint glow before daring to steal across the wide expanse of lawn. His boots made no sound as he crossed the stone terrace and became one with the wall of the elegant mansion. There he paused and listened. All was quiet save the rustle of the leaves stirred by the gentle breeze.
Looking up, he peered though the mask that covered his face and fixed his eyes on his goal, a window high above. Barely disturbing the mist, he reached for a thick vine and climbed.

His dark hair was loose at his nape and he was clad all in black, moving like a wraith. The clouds continued to drift in the night sky, uncovering the half moon. A glimmer of silver reflected from his chest where he wore a brace of pistol daggers; the weapons were unique and of a French design, and he had used them before to great effect. A smile came to his lips as he considered the legend that had spread about him—a larger than life figure who successfully stole secrets from places believed safe from intrusion. They called him L’Engoulevent, the Nighthawk. He came only at night, swooping down and disappearing before anyone roused. An occasional glimpse by a servant or a guard had provided only partial descriptions. Some said he flew with a cape. Others said he wasn’t human at all but rather a dark and ghostly apparition. But the Nighthawk was very real. Tonight his target was the home of a French general believed to be the author of Napoleon’s plans to invade Russia.

Perched above the ground, clinging to the vine, he reached for the edge of the leaded window. The latch gave way with a quiet click. He slipped through the opening and dropped into a low crouch on the thick rug. Surveying the bedroom before him, he could see the sleeping form of a young woman in a white poster bed, her dark hair spread upon the pillow. She did not stir as he moved past her and toward his destination.

At the end of the hall he located the study reported to hide the secret documents he sought. Cautiously he entered the spacious room lined with traditional dark wood cabinets and tall book-filled shelves, and stealthily moved to the carved wood desk facing a marble fireplace. Reaching into his shirt he pulled out a small black velvet case. Inside were the delicate tools that had opened the most secure locks in France.
Working with only the pale light from the windows behind him, he opened the locked drawers and captured his prize. Placing the correspondence and map inside his shirt, he surveyed the room. He knew there would be more.

His gaze came to rest on an old painting of a French military officer in dress uniform hanging over the fireplace. The officer’s white breeches reflected the room’s meager light, but he cared not for the painting, only for the secrets it might guard. Silently he crossed the room and lifted the gilded frame. The cast-iron safe set behind it made him smile as if encountering an old friend.

He set the painting on the floor to once again work his magic with the lock. Again he was successful. Ignoring the velvet jewelry cases and money, he reached instead for the letters and papers. Not bothering to decipher the words in the dim light, he added these documents to those in his shirt, closed the safe, and returned the painting to its original position. His mission complete, he crept down the hall to the bedroom where he had first entered the house.
The young woman stirred in her sleep, restless in her dreams. He should have departed without disturbing her, but something made him pause. Perhaps it was her beauty. Her face, with its delicate features and well-shaped lips, was turned slightly to the side. Upon closer inspection, she looked to be about eighteen.
He bent to hover for a moment, breathing in the fragrance of lavender. Her lips were warm as he bestowed his kiss. He knew he was keeping alive the legend, and there was no benefit to a legend when one’s purpose was to remain unknown. Yet, he could not resist. There were few enough pleasures in the life of duty that he’d chosen for himself.

Her pale eyes opened slowly, heavy with sleep. Placing his finger on her lips to quiet any words, he whispered to her in the perfect speech of the French aristocracy, “I leave you my kiss and a wish for a good life, beautiful mademoiselle.”

She gasped as she took in his masked appearance, but then a faint smile came to her lips. “The Nighthawk,” she whispered, and reached for him, entwining her fingers in the hair at his nape.

Without saying a word, he gently pulled her hands from his neck and moved to the window and back into the night. He had accomplished his mission. The Nighthawk might be a thief, but he was not a despoiler of innocents.

More’s the pity.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Review: Ellen O’Connell’s SING MY NAME – A Superb and Tender Post Civil War Love Story from the Old West

It’s 1867 and the Civil War is over. Young Matt Slade, the son of Texas settlers, fought for the South in some of the bloodiest battles—and he survived. Because he’s good at surviving. So when two shady bounty hunters seize him for a crime he didn’t commit, he determines he’ll survive so they won’t take him dead, as in “dead or alive.” While being transported with a group of calvary escorting some women to Fort Grissom, he encounters Sarah Hammond, the young daughter of passionate Massachusetts’s abolitionists, who is on her way to join her fiancé, a Yankee major, a man she does not love. Abhorring the abuse of Matt by the bounty hunters, Sarah intervenes to assure Matt is properly fed and beaten no longer. Shortly after, Comanches attack. Matt and Sarah survive only because of Matt’s resourcefulness. To get to the fort, they must depend on each other—and they grow close. When they finally arrive, and Sarah's fiancé learns that she has fallen in love with “Rebel trash," he takes his revenge on the young lovers. And a fierce revenge it is. It will be 1875 before the story is over…

O’Connell has a way of putting you right in the action, of making you feel the emotion and of understanding what led the hero and heroine to be who they are. The tender budding love between Matt and Sarah is the genuine thing. But they will have many hurdles to cross before they can be together. Along the way, O’Connell will make you laugh and she’ll make you cry. It’s about sacrificial love and standing up to bias that says a fallen woman and a gunslinger aren’t worthy citizens (“What did you do with a man who loved you too much to love you?”). I absolutely love her writing! Simply put, O’Connell tells GREAT stories and she does it very well.

I highly recommend this one and all her Western romances (and all are reviewed on my blog). They all garnered 5 stars from me. So far, there’s EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD (with a part Cheyenne hero), and my personal favorite, DANCING ON COALS (with a full Apache hero). I think you’ll like them all!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Review: Shirl Henke’s LOVE A REBEL, LOVE A ROGUE – Superb Dual Romance Set in the days of the Revolutionary War!

First in Henke’s Blackthorne trilogy (LOVE A REBEL, LOVE A ROGUE, WICKED ANGEL and WANTON ANGEL) this one is set during the years 1780-1782 in the Georgia Colony at the time of the Revolutionary War and tells of two heroes, one a patriot and one a loyalist. As always, Henke serves up a tale rich in history with a winding plot that will hold you captive ‘ till the end.

Quintin Blackthorne despised his father and the secret he was forced as a child to keep but he knew he would need an heir and for that he had to marry. He cared little about who the woman might be as long as she wasn’t beautiful so that other men might want her for he mistrusted all women. Madelyne Deveaux, the daughter of his father’s friend, seemed plain and biddable enough, though when he first saw her she was covered with dirt. When she travels to Blackthorne Hill in Savannah as his betrothed, he is furious at the beauty revealed and her feisty manner. Worse, she is a loyalist and he a secret revolutionary. He is cold and arrogant to her, often embarrassing her in front of others. Still, Madelyne wants to earn his affection.

Quintin’s cousin, Devon Blackthorne, is part Indian, part white and all charm. He lives with his mother’s people, the Muskogee, and is an agent for the Crown, working with the soldiers coordinating the Indian allies. He knows nothing of his cousin’s support for the rebels. Unlike Quintin, Devon feels no pressure to take a wife and has no intention of doing so. But then he rescues the shipwrecked and haughty Lady Barbara Caruthers who has been banished to the Colonies and her brother from London by her mother for her willful and wasteful ways—and because the beautiful blonde was competition. Despite their disparate worlds, Devon and Barbara soon fall in love.

I didn’t realize until I read this story that the Indians fought on the side of the Crown, or that they had reason to prefer the British to the Colonists who would take their land. I love learning history while reading a great romance. My favorite couple was Devon and Barbara. (Madelyne was a bit too accommodating of Quintin’s cold and sometimes cruel manner). But I thought Henke wove the two stories together very well, all the while letting us see the conflicting emotions as the war saw friends and family on opposite sides. It’s a great way to gain a new perspective on the Revolutionary War—and it’s a good story, a very worthy read!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Review: Emma Merritt’s MASQUE of JADE – Love and Spies During the War of 1812 in New Orleans!

Set in 1813 in New Orleans when America was at war with England, MASQUE of JADE tells the story of Laura Talbot-Harrow, who left her family’s estate in England for America nine years earlier when her mother disgraced the family by having an affair with another man, which caused Laura’s fiancé to break their engagement. Since then, Laura has wanted no relationship with any man, but instead finds her joy in running her stepmother’s plantation. That is, until she meets the wealthy gambler Clay Sutherland from Virginia who ruthlessly pursues her. Her father and stepmother want her to marry a nobleman from a Creole French family. Laura doesn’t love him; she loves Clay. But she would not marry Clay as he is not acceptable to her Creole society.

You had to love Clay, the honorable Virginian with a mysterious past…a past that has caught up with him, just like the war that’s coming to New Orleans.

There is a lot of action in this one as Napoleon's supporters engage in stealth to establish New Orleans as a second base of operations; spies and treachery abound. There’s also a sultry voodoo queen who sees Laura as competition for Clay’s affections and will stop at nothing to see Laura dead. Laura’s sister Judith, who was left in England long ago, travels to New Orleans and joins the family, bringing another tension to Laura’s life.

I enjoyed this romp through the War of 1812 from the perspective of the English, Americans and Creole French living in New Orleans. I think you will, too.

The sequel to this story, MASQUE OF SAPPHIRE, is foreshadowed in JADE and tells the story of Laura’s sister, Judith. It was written by Emma Merritt’s sister, Deana James.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Review: Heather Graham’s ONE WORE BLUE – Absorbing Civil War Romance!

This is the first in the Cameron Saga’s Civil War trilogy (and follows the Cameron stories told in Graham's North American Women trilogy). These are stories rich in history, well told and with amazing detail, seamless dialog and a family of wonderful characters you will love.

ONE WORE BLUE begins in 1859 with the Harper's Ferry incident involving abolitionist John Brown. Jesse Cameron is serving as a doctor for the federal troops under Jeb Stuart and his younger brother, Daniel, is serving under Robert Lee. They have grown up with the beautiful and independent Kiernan Miller in Tidewater, Virginia. Kiernan loves Jesse and is good friends with Daniel and their sister Christa Cameron. As they sense the approach of war, Jesse cannot abide a nation divided, but Kiernan is a loyal Rebel, a Virginian, who like Daniel, supports the Confederacy. Jesse will choose to wear the Yankee uniform to support the Union, and though Kiernan loves him and has given herself to him, she will marry another, a loyal Reb she does not love.

Right there, Graham had me. My heart was dying. Jesse was like all the Cameron men before him: tall, dark and handsome and strongly committed to the cause of liberty and truth--and capable of deeply loving his woman while brooking no rebellion. Ah...a REAL man. I wondered what Kiernan was thinking when she refused to marry Jesse. I wanted to slap her several times. But alas, she was a blind Rebel.

You will laugh and you will cry with this one, as you become a part of the lives of young people who were swept into the war that tore apart a nation and tore apart families...a time that shaped America. The ending is exciting, too. Graham has produced a series of keepers!

I highly recommend the entire 6-book Cameron Saga:

The North American Women trilogy:

Sweet Savage Eden
A Pirate's Pleasure
Love Not a Rebel (Revolutionary War)

The Cameron Civil War trilogy:

One Wore Blue
And One Wore Gray
And One Rode West

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Review: Kathleen Woodiwiss’ ASHES IN THE WIND – Captivating Civil War Romance! And One of Her Best!

When Kathleen Woodiwiss did romance well, there was no one better--and such a novel is ASHES IN THE WIND. To my thinking, it's up there with her best (THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, THE WOLF AND THE DOVE and SHANNA).

It is a compelling tale of a young Southern woman from Louisiana who loses everything in the Civil War...the Yankees take her family and her home and finally even her identity. Disguised as a boy for her safety, 17-year old Alaina MacGaren thinks to seek refuge in her uncle's home in New Orleans. But before she can reach him she encounters a group of soldiers who who harass her. She is saved by a young Yankee surgeon, Captain Cole Latimer from Minnesota, a man of honor and great medical talent who is respectful of Southerners. He takes "Al" the boy (Alaina's new identity) under his wing and gives "him" a job at the Yankee Army hospital. Al returns the favor and saves the doctor's life one night when he is drunk and set upon by thieves and tossed into the Mississippi River. In the process of caring for Cole in her uncle's home, much happens, and a great mix-up occurs that casts a shadow on the rest of the story.

It is a magnificent story, well told with great plot twists and accurate history of the era, woven in so that you understand what is going on in the Civil War, particularly in Louisiana. Her characters are richly drawn. You will feel you are living it and you will celebrate Alaina's strength and intelligence. She plays many parts and Woodiwiss does them all so well. You won't regret reading this one--it's a keeper!

Friday, July 6, 2012

New Review: Betina Krahn’s THE PARADISE BARGAIN – Superb Storytelling in This Tale of America’s Post American Revolution Whiskey Rebellion!

Sometimes, but not always, I know I’m reading a 5 star novel very early in the story…in this case in the first few chapters. There’s just something about the way a story draws me in and the characters have me laughing or crying or wondering that tells me, yep, I’m reading a really good one. After reviewing nearly 500 romances, mostly historical, I just know.

Krahn has written a superb romance, yes, but even more, she has developed winning characters, people you would really want to know, and she has served up a clever plot with twists and turns in an interesting time of American history (just after the American Revolution when the government is trying to establish its authority—the Whiskey Rebellion, to be precise). The place is Rapture Valley in Western Pennsylvania and the bargain is for paradise. This unique story will draw you in, I promise. I was captivated from the beginning and could not put it down.

Despite her desire to remain a Peter Pan-like youth forever, Whitney Daniels body has betrayed her—while the men were away fighting the war for independence, she grew into a woman. Oh, she still wears breeches and boots, but men have started to notice her curves and it’s most annoying. While the whiskey-distilling father she loves is gone to Pittsburgh to protest the burdensome federal tax that is crippling the farmers (who make whiskey from their surplus grain), Whitney is left in charge and must fend off the federal troops who come to ferret out the rogue stills. Their leader, one Major Garner Townsend (of the Boston Townsends, he is quick to point out), has drawn this despicable duty due to the jealousy of a superior officer. Garner has no desire to take on the troublemakers. But when he encounters their leader, Whitney Daniels, who both bites and kicks in fending off unwanted advances, he is overwhelmed by his attraction to the slip of a girl with the lush curves. In Rapture Valley, the currency is not cash, but everyone bargains for what they need. Whitney is the best bargainer of all, and as she well knows, every man has his price.

Great storytelling at its finest. You won’t regret getting this one!

Note: As the book cover indicates, this was previously released as LOVE’S BRAZEN FIRE.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

American Patriotic Historical Romances

It's time to celebrate America's independence! The land of the free, the home of the brave. want to get in the mood to celebrate and recall the history that led us to this point? And you want to do it with a hunky hero and a worthy heroine set in past times when America’s future was on the line?

Well, here’s the list you’ll be wanting to pick from—all good ones! And on my blog this month I'll be featuring reviews of many of them. Some are a part of a trilogy or a series…and I do recommend you read all of them as they are all good. All of these have been rated at least 4 stars by me.

The War of Independence/Revolutionary War:

Love Not a Rebel, 3rd in the North American Woman trilogy by Heather Graham
Love a Rebel, Love a Rogue by Shirl Henke
The Paradise Bargain by Betina Krahn (Whiskey Rebellion)
Silver Storm, from the Raveneau series by Cynthia Wright
Caroline, Touch the Sun and Spring Fires, from the Beauvisage series by Cynthia Wright
Love Among the Rabble by Lauren Laviolette

The War of 1812:

Masque of Jade by Emma Merritt
Midnight Masquerade by Shirlee Busbee

The Civil War:

Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Straight for the Heart by Marsha Canham
Midnight Confessions by Candice Proctor
One Wore Blue, And One Word Gray,And One Rode West, Cameron (Civil War) trilogy by Heather Graham
Master of Paradise by Virginia Henley
Sing My Name by Ellen O’Connell
Dark Stranger and Rides a Hero (first two books in the Slater Brothers Civil War trilogy; the third, Apache Summer, comes a bit later) by Heather Graham
Rebel, Surrender, Glory and Triumph (from the Old Florida's McKenzies series beginning with RUNAWAY) by Heather Graham
Tomorrow the Glory by Shannon Drake

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Review: Lauren Laviolette’s LOVE AMONG THE RABBLE – Wonderful Love Story Spanning America’s War of Independence

This was my first by Laviolette and I believe it is her debut novel. It's a great first book and a wonderful love story! I'll definitely be looking for more of hers. If you like a well-written historical romance that will put you into the time of America's Revolutionary War, this is a good one! It spans the years 1773-1780, as Laviolette takes us deep into what happened in South Carolina during that time. I love a romance with rich historical detail and real (as well as fictional) characters, especially when combined with a dashing hero and a strong, independent heroine--and I was not disappointed in this one.

As the story opens, it's 1773 and the Colonies are on the brink of war with England. "Loyalists" and "Rebels" are beginning to square off against each other in South Carolina. Today we think of the war as between England and the young American nation, but it wasn't so clear then. People loyal to the Crown who considered themselves Americans lived next door to those "rebels" who considered themselves patriots. Sometimes this occurred even in the same family.

Liliana ("Lily") Dunmore considered herself a patriot (while her family purportedly was Loyalist) until she met Lieutenant Bennett Davenport, a British Naval officer who happened to be in her home of Charles Town. Though Bennett is wildly attracted to the beautiful and tempestuous Lily Dunmore (who is crazy about him), he expects to inherit a title as a Baronet and knows he cannot marry a commoner, especially a Colonial. The war will tear their budding love asunder and years will pass before they are brought together, but what a sweet ending.

I highly recommend this one and think you will like it, too!

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Review: Cynthia Wright’s CAROLINE – Great Post Revolutionary War Romance and a Wonderful Beginning to the Beauvisage Series

Cynthia Wright launched her career in 1977 with the publication of CAROLINE when she was just twenty-three. First in her Beauvisage series, this one is set in 1783, just after the Revolutionary War.

Alexandre (“Sacha”) Beauvisage is returning from the war (where he has been a spy and a privateer) when he discovers a young woman in the Connecticut woods dressed as a boy. She has fallen off her horse and has no memory of her past, so she takes the name Caroline (“Caro”). It seems quite clear she is an innocent (she giggles). Alec, a womanizer, thinks he’d best take the beautiful young woman to his home in Philadelphia. On the way, he takes her innocence, then tells her to “forget it happened,” assuring her she’ll find a nice young man who will never know (Alec is definitely not an honorable man). In Philadelphia, Caro falls in love with Alec’s family and with him, but he continues to enjoy his mistresses and tries to hold her at a distance while her dangerous past finally becomes known.

Wright pays close attention to historical detail and incorporates real historical figures into her story like George Washington. The descriptions of Colonial Philadelphia will have you feeling like you’ve lived there. She brings to life the period of American history just after the War of Independence with a tale that has many twists and turns. In fact, all of her novels in this and the Raveneau series will take you deep into American history and the politics of the era. I recommend them. On my website, look for the Amazon widget with her bundled eBooks--a great value!

Here is the Beauvisage series:


But if you like reading a series in time order, as I do, here are the books in
both of Wright’s intertwined Raveneau and Beauvisage series, in chronological order:

1780 - SILVER STORM (also reviewed on my blog and it’s on my American Patriotic Romanceslist, too—it’s my favorite of Wright’s novels)
1814 - NATALYA
1818 - SILVER SEA (originally BARBADOS)

and TEMPEST (expected to be released in 2012)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Celebrating America's Independence!

This month will feature reviews of historical romances set in times when America was at war, when the young nation was still setting down roots, expanding and breaking free from old ties.

On July 4th, Independence Day, I'll post my American Patriotic Historical Romances list. You can be sure it will have some great stories you'll want to read!