Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Guest Today...Candice Proctor (aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham), Author of Absorbing Historical Romances, Tales from Australia and now Mysteries!

For those who comment on this post, one lucky winner will receive the ARC (advanced release copy) of Candice Proctor's new mystery in her Sebastian St. Cyr series, WHAT DARKNESS BRINGS. So, comment for a chance to win!

Welcome, Candy! I have wanted you to be on my blog since I read your first book, NIGHT IN EDEN and I'm delighted you're finally here.

You write amazing historical romance. Your vivid tales from Australia are some of my favorites and I’ve reviewed them on my blog—all 5 star novels in my opinion. How did you pick the heroes and heroines? The particular settings?

I used to live in Adelaide, South Australia, and one year for Mother’s Day my daughters gave me the book The Women of Botany Bay. Although I’d always known England transported woman as well as men, that book was a real eye-opener for me, not only because of its detailing of the horrid conditions under which the women suffered, but because it also made me aware of the emotional impact of transportation on those women, most of whom were mothers and had to leave their young children behind. I kept thinking, how could any woman survive that? The result was Night in Eden, the story of a young mother transported for murder, and the hard man to whom she is assigned.

Because, like most Americans, I knew very little about Australian history, I felt that before I could do a story like that justice, I had to have a better understanding of the history of my adopted country. I probably spent 6-9 months reading Australian history—by the time I finished, I could have taught a course on it! But it was from all that reading that I found the ideas for my other Australian books. I discovered a society in Victorian London dedicated to saving “gently bred” women in economic distress by sending them out to Australia to serve as governesses. Many of the women were predictably miserable, and wrote letters back to the Society begging to be brought home to England.

Their letters are a rich and often hilarious cataloging of the culture shock those women experienced, and inspired what became September Moon. Set in the Flinders Ranges in Victorian times, it’s the story of an uptight Englishwoman horrified by the harsh vulgarities of life in the Outback, and an ostentatiously uncouth Aussie with a sheep station stricken by drought.

The inspiration for my third Australian story, Whispers of Heaven, came from reading about an Irish convict helped to escape by the daughter of the man to whom he was assigned. The real event occurred in Western Australia and the woman stayed behind; I transferred the setting to Tasmania because I’ve always found it such a fascinating place, and of course I gave the romance a happy ending!

I don’t know if you consider Beyond Sunrise one of my Australian stories or not, since it has an Aussie hero but is set in the South Pacific. That story was inspired by my fascination with the intrepid Victorian women who became travel writers.
I also set books in Medieval France, the American West, and Civil War-era New Orleans. My story ideas always came to me as heroines and heroes in a conflict unique to their specific time and place, which eventually came to cause me problems.

How do you write your wonderful stories? Where do you start? And are you a plotter?

I usually kick my story ideas around in my head for several years—sometimes for 10 or more—before I actually write them. When I’m writing a mystery or thriller (I’ve also written contemporary thrillers as C.S. Graham), I like to take three separate ideas or “sparks” that excite me, and weave them together to make a more powerful book. I use the word “excite” very deliberately. I look for sparks that have what I call the “Ooh Factor,” as in “ooh and aah.” The kind of thing that when you hear it, you go, “Ooh;” you’re intrigued and want to know more.

I’m very much a plotter. I shuffle color-coded index cards around on the dining table and write a detailed outline. But once I actually start writing, I let myself follow the magic. I frequently need to stop at various stages and redo my outline.

You have moved from historical romance to writing mysteries…why? Will you ever come back to historical romance? (Your fans, like me, want to know!)

When the historical romance genre began, it was wide open—you could set your books anywhere and do all sorts of things that gradually came to be seen as “forbidden.” Romance writers organizations helped their members get published by teaching them “the Rules,” but I think in the process they also contributed to the narrowing of the genre. I was living in Australia when I first started writing historical romance and I wasn’t a member of RWA, so I didn’t know the Rules. When Night in Eden was published, it created a firestorm amongst romance writers because I inadvertently broke so many of those danged Rules. The book was set in Australia, of all places; the writing was descriptive (something aspiring writers were being told not to do); lots of things besides romance happened in the book, and I killed off not one child but two! Yet the book sold for a large advance, was made a lead title, and was given a huge push. Everyone was asking, how could that have happened?

Frankly, I think it was the exception that proved the rule. I kept writing books set in weird places and times, with strong, realistic historical backgrounds, and I had a wonderful editor, Shauna Summers, who let me do almost anything I wanted to do. But the historical romance genre was heading in a very different direction—toward linked series, and light and funny story lines, or such heavy-handed sexuality that it overshadowed plot and character development. When my house got a new publisher, I started coming under intense pressure to “pick a time and place and stick with it.” Publishers were learning that authors benefited from “branding,” and because they were lazy and unimaginative, that translated into the marketing and sales departments being able to say, “She writes funny Westerns” or “She writes a hot, sexy series about seven Scottish dukes who are all cousins” or whatever.

I decided that if I had to pick a time and place and stick with it, I’d rather write a historical mystery series. Historical accuracy is important to readers of historical mysteries, and they like evocative descriptions. So I developed Sebastian St. Cyr, who is basically a romance hero in a mystery series set in Regency England. It began with What Angels Fear.

Will I ever go back to writing genre romances? Probably not. I refuse to follow the Rules. But I do hope to keep writing historical love stories. My Sebastian series contains within it several powerful love stories, and it’s fascinating to be able to develop a romance and explore characters and their relationships over so many books and such a long period of time. I’ve now followed Sebastian’s life and loves through nine books of heartache and joy. For a writer, that is both challenging and enormously exciting and satisfying.

Why would lovers of the historical romance genre enjoy your mysteries, too?

Many of the most enthusiastic readers of my mysteries are also romance readers. Part of what attracts them is Sebastian himself; he's brilliant, sexy, tough, resourceful, honorable, courageous, and yet wounded, too. And, of course, historical readers love the rich sense of time and place I've always brought to my books.

But I think large part of the series' attraction for romance readers comes from the rich emotion in the books, not simply love and lust, but all the other emotions that both enrich and trouble our lives. Each book in the series contains its own complex, stand-alone mystery. Yet each book is also a chapter in Sebastian's path to redemption, as he must deal with a tragic past and an increasingly complicated present, as he loses and finds love, and slowly begins to heal. I love writing this series. Working with the same set of rich characters over a span of ten years has been an incredible experience for me as a writer. My affection for them is real and deep, and their stories actually excite me more now than when I began.

Did your sister, Penelope Williamson, another of my favorite authors, provide any inspiration or encouragement for you to begin your writing career?

Ha! Penny told me I was crazy to want to be a writer. It’s a killer business, and you really need to have a fire in your belly to survive.

Based on what your sister has hinted at about your family, it seems like you come from a long line of storytellers and great loves…did that influence you? Did it suggest characters to you?

I think all the experiences of our lives, and the people we have known, come out in our writing, one way or another.

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing the 9th book in my Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series, and starting on #10. My publishers are very excited about this series and pressing for more books, closer together, so this is going to keep me busy for a while. But I also have several ideas for other books I’d like to explore. I believe a series writer needs to keep writing other things, too, to stay fresh.

What is on your wish list for 2013? Any New Year’s resolutions?

On my wish list: good health, and more time to relax. My perennial New Year’s resolutions are to eat well, sleep more, and exercise. I always try, but every year I resolve to do better.

Any tips for new authors?

I’ve been criticized for discouraging beginning writers, but I’m going to echo my big sis’s advice here: this is a brutal business, and you really need to have a fire in your belly to do this. If you can walk away from writing, do. If you can’t imagine living and not writing, then go for it!

See more of Candice Proctor/CS Harris at her website HERE, and comment for a chance to win her latest, What Darkness Brings.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Review: Candice Proctor’s NIGHT IN EDEN – Enthralling Story of Love in New South Wales, Australia in the early 19th Century

Incredibly good, that’s what this debut novel by Candice Proctor is…incredibly good.

It tells the story of Bryony Wentworth, who was transported to New South Wales in 1808 as punishment for the accidental death of her cheating husband. And in telling us her story, Proctor has told the story of so many other women prisoners, some of whom for minor crimes were torn from their homes in England and sent on prison ships to become the slaves and involuntary whores for hard men in Australia.

Byrony was torn from her 3-year-old daughter when she is sent there and spared rape only because she was pregnant with her second child, a boy who dies soon after his birth. While still mourning his death, she is forced to become the servant of Captain Hayden St. John, a war hero whose aristocratic wife has died leaving him a baby son who must be nursed. So, Byrony becomes his wet nurse. She also expects to be raped, and though St. John certainly wants her in his bed, even asks her to be his convict mistress, he is a better master than most and will not take her unwilling. So she sticks to her “pride and principles,” all she has left—and though she longs for him, too, she tells him no—at least initially.

Proctor vividly brings to the forefront life in Australia in the early 19th century away from Sydney Town. It’s a new view of the Regency period. She shows how badly those women fared who were brought to the colony there as prisoners. How they were looked down upon by crude “free” men even after serving their time and became free themselves. Proctor has done an amazing job—simply superb writing.

There is great suspense as we encounter the Aborigines, great sadness as the frontier “swallows up” children who wander away, and great passion between a man and a woman who, under other circumstances, might have courted and married in the normal way.

Proctor says, "I like to write about strong women, women who sometimes aren't even aware of their own strength but discover it when tested by life. And I make certain my heroines end up with the kind of men they deserve-- honorable men, men who can be both gentle and strong, who never lose their sense of humor and don't feel threatened by a strong woman." Such are Bryony and Hayden.

I loved this story and highly recommend it. Buy it used if you have to (I did) but do get it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Review: Candice Proctor’s SEPTEMBER MOON – A Masterful Tale from the Queen of Australian Romance

Set in 1864 in Australia, this is a story of love in a foreign land, of discovering the world that opens to your heart when you embrace the things you fear the most. When her employer to whom she served as a companion dies, Englishwoman Amanda Davenport is suddenly stranded in Port Adelaide, Australia with no funds. Desperate and running out of money, she accepts a position as governess to Patrick O’Reilly’s three children in the isolated wilderness of the Flinders Ranges in the Outback (see picture below). Her only thought was to work for a year to secure passage home to England.

What happens when you love the man but hate the land he loves? And when he’s not even free to call you his own? That is the dilemma faced by Amanda. And the land she hates is harsh: “It was the endless, aching vistas of a land empty of all pretense, where everything was raw and vast and awe-inspiringly magnificent. A land as wild and wide open and untamable as a man’s soul.”

Proctor has once again served up a sweeping saga, a compelling tale of conflicting emotions, as the hero and heroine are forced to deal with the ghosts of their past and the failings of others.

Her descriptions of wild Outback Australia are so vivid you will feel like you’re there. She includes exciting scenes of a horse race that will have you on the edge of your seat and a massive dust storm that will make you taste the sand. The secondary characters are wonderful, especially the O’Reilly’s children.

As lovers of historical romance, we are used to reading about a man leaving a woman, but in this story it’s the O’Reilly men who fall in love with Englishwomen only to have them leave because they hate Australia. And when a woman comes along who might be different, whose love might compel her to stay, well…

Let me just say, you will not be disappointed with this one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Review: CS Harris’s (aka Candice Proctor) WHAT ANGELS FEAR – Suspenseful Regency Mystery with a Worthy Hero and an Intriguing Heroine—and Many Twists and Turns!

Having loved Candice Proctor’s historical romances (all keepers!), I thought to read her Regency mystery series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. I was not disappointed. Like her other novels, these are masterfully written with vivid descriptions of Regency London, both the aristocracy and the underbelly of society. The mystery itself is absorbing, even riveting—and very hard to put down. Harris captures the essence of life on the streets of this city in 1811 where a savage killer is on the loose even as Prince George prepares to take the reins of power. You can feel the cold of a harsh winter and the desperate condition of some people’s lives as Sebastian joins the rabble to find a killer.

Sebastian St. Cyr, heir to his father, the Earl of Hendon, is a handsome, street-smart hero. An intelligence officer in the army, he returns home to find himself embroiled in a vicious murder of a beautiful young actress on the altar of an obscure church. One of the Devlin dueling pistols is found beneath the victim’s body, and there is a witness who says she was meeting “St. Cyr.” Sebastian is arrested, and in the process a constable is wounded, possibly unto death, and Sebastian flees to take up a myriad of disguises in his search for the truth and to clear his name. He is aided in his quest by young Tom, a street urchin who adopts Sebastian, a Irish doctor friend, and Kat Boleyn, the Irish actress and former love of Sebastian’s life who turned him away six years ago.

The intrigue will keep you turning pages as Sebastian follows a trail of clues through London’s dark underbelly. Harris’s writing is amazing. The detail in her description reflects deep research (which I so appreciate), but I also love her characters. Sebastian, Kat and Tom are now favorites of mine. Harris makes real Sebastian’s longing for the woman who remains in his heart though Kat refused his offer of marriage, driving him to a military career. But Kat still loves the man she let go out of love.

This is a keeper of a mystery—and a romance. Don’t miss it…and the rest in the St. Cyr series (see list below). Trust me on this--READ THEM IN ORDER.

Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery Series:

What Angels Fear, 2005
When Gods Die, 2006
Why Mermaids Sing, 2007
Where Serpents Sleep, 2008
What Remains of Heaven, 2009
Where Shadows Dance, 2011
When Maidens Mourn, 2012
What Darkness Brings, March 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Review: Candice Proctor’s MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS – Mystery and Love in New Orleans During the Civil War—a great romance!

Another great historical romance from Proctor, this one set in the time of the Civil War in 1862 in New Orleans, occupied by Yankee troops. Rich in intrigue, mystery and deep felt needs of the heart, it will keep you on the edge of your seat right up to the very satisfying epilogue.

It tells the story of Major Zachary Cooper, a Union soldier and the provost marshal of New Orleans, and Emmanuelle de Beauvais, a beautiful widow, mother and healer. On one hot, sultry night in July, she and an old doctor who, together with her husband, founded a hospital, visit the grave of her mother, as they always did on that date. Suddenly, out of the darkness, the old doctor is shot in the heart with a bolt from a small “vampire killing” crossbow--a bolt Emmanuelle knows was intended for her.

From the beginning, as Zach investigates the murder, and those that follow, he is suspicious of Emmanuelle and knows she is hiding something, knows she is lying. Worse, he is attracted to her, his Castilian blood drawn to her, comparing her to the city (“ a dangerous woman, this city—as reckless and seductive as sin”). Emmanuelle tries to keep the hospital open, and though she is as knowledgeable in medicine, she is only one woman and there are many needs, little money and the few doctors are being killed off. The officer in the blue uniform (Zack) is her enemy, but she is drawn to him nevertheless. And all the while, she fears the evil she knows is drawing near.

A worthy romance with intrigue and mystery set against a tumultuous time in American history in a place where various cultures came together, united in their hatred for the Yankees. It’s easy to see that Proctor would, after one more novel (Beyond Sunrise), transition to writing mysteries as the elements are all here—she is good at this! But beyond the mystery is the story of the beginning of a deep and abiding love.

You’ll not regret getting this one!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Candice Proctor (aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham) - Favorite Author of Australian (and other) Historical Romances

You’ve seen her name on my “best” lists many times for she’s a favorite of mine. Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris (mysteries) and C.S. Graham (thrillers), is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and seven historical romances. Her books have been translated into over twenty different languages.
In addition to her works of fiction, she is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution, Women, Equality and the French Revolution (1990).

Candice graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Classics before going on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in history. (Wow!) A former academic, she has taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University in Texas. She also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson's Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. She spent many years as a partner in an international business consulting firm.

The daughter of a career Air Force officer and university professor (along with her sister and another favorite of mine, Penelope Williamson), Proctor loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad. She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana.

"I like to write about strong women," says Candice, "women who sometimes aren't even aware of their own strength but discover it when tested by life. And I make certain my heroines end up with the kind of men they deserve-- honorable men, men who can be both gentle and strong, who never lose their sense of humor and don't feel threatened by a strong woman."

Historical romances (written as Candice Proctor):

Night in Eden, 1997
The Bequest, 1998
September Moon, 1999
The Last Knight, 2000 [available as eBook]
Whispers of Heaven, 2001
Midnight Confessions, 2002 [available as eBook]
Beyond Sunrise, 2003 [available as eBook]

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, Regency Mystery Series (written as C.S. Harris):

What Angels Fear, 2005
When Gods Die, 2006
Why Mermaids Sing, 2007
Where Serpents Sleep, 2008
What Remains of Heaven, 2009
Where Shadows Dance, 2011
When Maidens Mourn, 2012
What Darkness Brings, March 2013

Thrillers (CS Graham):

The Archangel Project
The Solomon Effect
The Babylonian Codex

Join me next Wednesday, January 30th, as Candice will be here to answer my questions and yours, too! One lucky commenter will receive her newest book What Darkness Brings before it's released!

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s WITH ONE LOOK – A Keeper set in old New Orleans, a Love Story with two very Extraordinary People!

This was Horsman's last historical romance novel and it's a good one.

Set in New Orleans in 1818 where voodoo, pirates, and various religions, races and cultures clash, it tells the story of Victor Nolte, a “pirate of pirates,” a successful shipbuilder and the handsome son of a respected priest and Jade Terese Devon, a beautiful, well-educated girl who Victor meets one night at the opera. He was strongly attracted to her—until he discovered she was blind.

From the first time he sees her, Victor knows he will not be having only a brief liaison with beautiful Jade Terese. But he had no idea he would find the seemingly innocent girl in a bordello being sold to the highest bidder.

There’s something for everyone in this captivating love story from old New Orleans: a noble, but flawed hero who can’t seem to get around the fact the woman he loves is blind; a young woman who sees only good when she looks at life despite the terrible things it’s handed her; a cast of wonderful secondary characters, including a seer who seems to aid Victor at critical times; and lots of action, mystery and some mystical elements, as well. All very well done. Of course, since this is by Horsman, you know there’s a dog to love—two actually, “Hamlet,” and “Wolf Dog” (who is really a wolf).

I thought that Horsman’s treatment of how the mind and body react to horrors too horrible to remember nothing was nothing short of brilliant. She weaves a complex tale with many threads that will hold you captive. Sadly, this was her last historical romance but it's definitely one for the keeper shelf. Though CRIMSON RAPTURE may be my favorite of hers, I highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s PASSIONS’ JOY and VIRGIN STAR – Two Tales of Worthy Heroes and Heroines in the Regency Era

These two romances are a duology...they go I'm reviewing them together for you.

PASSION'S JOY - Love on the Underground Railroad: an Unusual English lord and an American Minx.

For those of you who love Horsman’s novels, be sure and read this before VIRGIN STAR if you can, as this comes first. This one is set in 1818 in New Orleans and VIRGIN STAR is set five years later in 1823—together they tell the story of two virile and worthy heroes who consider themselves brothers. Both were raised in Ireland though only Seannesy, the hero of VIRGIN STAR, is Irish.

PASSION’S JOY tells the story of Lord Ramsey (“Ram”) Barrington and the 17-year-old New Orleans minx, Joy Claret Reubens, who is a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad in the early 19th century. Sending slaves north to freedom is a dangerous business as Joy discovers when she dresses like a boy and accompanies the slaves to the boat that will take them to freedom. While keeping watch over some bounty hunters for her accomplices, she is spotted by Ram who is taking a run in the woods. And, forever after her life is changed.

There are many things I love about Horsman’s writing: her detailed, believable plots, her action and adventure, the realism of the historical elements, her sexy strong heroes, her winsome heroines and her secondary characters. (Each of her characters has a backstory and often we learn this from their point of view as Horsman skillfully and often moves between points of view.) All that makes for a richer tale. I admire her ability to do that so seamlessly.

In this one, we have a hero who is a British lord but acts more like a pirate. Often, he plays the cad. (I warn you, there is spanking, rape and the intentional taking of an unborn child’s life.) He will definitely make you angry. Oh, he has a generous heart and does some really good things with Seannesy, but his treatment of our heroine is sometimes less than stellar. If you can handle that, it’s a worthy adventure that will definitely hold your interest.

VIRGIN STAR – Shipboard Romance with a Twist

VIRGIN STAR is another of Horsman’s shipboard historical romances, but this one has an Irish hero and a heroine who doesn’t know who she is. Be sure to read it before PASSION’S JOY, the sequel.

Set in 1823, this is the story of a young Englishwoman who, as a child, was taken from England to Malacca near the South China Sea. (We don’t know why for most of the book.) When the story opens, she is 21 and has been beaten and dumped on the doorstep of Captain Sean Seanessy, a wealthy Irish sea captain living in opulent splendor in England where he’s become an asset to the British government. A man of the world who takes his pleasure wherever he finds it, Seanessy is smitten by the girl with amnesia who wears only a ruby necklace he calls the “virgin star.” He names her Shalyn after the wind fairies of Ireland. She has no memory save for Malacca and the nightmares that haunt her of a beach with human skulls stuck in the sand. Seanessy is intrigued when he discovers the intelligent, well-educated young woman has been trained in Oriental fighting techniques, and of course, his attraction is immediate.

Consumed with an assignment from the British government to destroy a cache of opium held on an island near Malacca by a French duke, Seanessy has no time for the troublesome young woman. He believes the French duke has already made an attempt on the life of his half brother and his wife. It’s a game of cat and mouse that finally leads to Seanessy’s sailing for Malacca unaware that Shalyn has stowed away onboard. As they sail toward the duke’s island, Shalyn’s memories begin to return, both those of England as a child and in Malacca.

Horsman has created a wonderful set of characters in Seanessy’s crew, including a big dog named Oliver who takes a liking to Shalyn. There’s enough historical detail to satisfy the romance reader who likes more than “wallpaper” history and enough chemistry between Seanessy and Shalyn to make for an intriguing romance. (We don’t learn her true identity until late in the book.)

Note: Both the hero and heroine have light hair, the heroine’s described as golden blonde, notwithstanding the redhead on the cover.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s AWAKEN MY FIRE – Absorbing Medieval Romance in France with a Proud Knight Hero and an Inspiring Feisty Heroine

Set in 15th century, in that time of knights and Henry VI’s domination of France, this tells the story of French noblewoman Roshelle de la Never, daughter of the magician Papillion and raised at the Valois court, who at 13 was forced by her guardian, the Duke of Orleans, bending to pressure from her wicked, occult uncle, Rodez Valois, to wed an old duke she did not want.

To save Roshelle, Papillion curses the girl at her wedding, saying any man who tries to bed her will die before he can accomplish the deed. And before the night is done the old duke is dead. Now, years later she is still a maid and has seen two husbands to their graves and several men dead for trying to take her against her will. She has become the champion of her people, giving them hope to fight the English knights who would conquer their lands. The conquering English are led by Vincent de la Eresman, Duke of Suffolk, a handsome proud warrior who has been sent by King Henry to rein in the beautiful and rebellious girl holding her castle.

Roshelle is a worthy heroine. Even as a young girl she was unselfish and noble, loved by her servants. Now she is fighting for her life and her people. Her beauty makes Vincent weak in the knees. He is such a proud warrior it is sweet justice. We love it. But he is also a noble hero and so he treats Roshelle and her people well, winning their hearts notwithstanding his loyalty to the dreaded English king.

There’s lots of history in this one and lots of intrigue, treachery and action. It’s a satisfying story with many twists and turns, an evil, devious villain, and some wonderful secondary characters. You have to stay alert to pick up all the background and all the threads. It’s a book to get lost in on a rainy day. I recommend it!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s MAGIC EMBRACE – Spies, Pirates, Magic and a Heroine you will love!

Set in 1805, this is the story of Juliet Stoddard, a 17-year-old innocent who, as a young orphan, is sent from France to England to live with her cruel and twisted uncle. To pay back her mother who he despised as a loose woman (she wasn't), he kept Juliet isolated and beat her for any little thing. She was not even permitted to befriend her cousin, Clarissa, the uncle's daughter, who was living in the same house. Clarissa hates her father and lives a rebellious life including sleeping around. When Clarissa's father catches her with a young man, Eadric, Clarissa cries rape and the uncle brutally murders him. It turns out Eadric was the brother of the infamous pirate Black Garrett, who now seeks revenge on Clarissa and her father.

Garrett is considered a traitor in England, and a pirate for Napoleon, but Garrett is really a British lord--and a spy. Garrett returns to England to seek his revenge, killing Clarissa's father and kidnapping the young woman he believes is Clarissa--but is really Juliet.

Though Juliet, a sweet saintly girl, protests her innocence and tells Garrett she is not Clarissa (who set her up), Garrett still rapes her. Some might call it forced seduction but Juliet called it rape. (The love scenes, by the way, are very well described.) First, Garrett takes her by force, then by magic as he holds her prisoner on his ship--in his cabin. I include this just so you know we are dealing with a true cad.

Magic and mysticism are bound up with the story and there are dark hints of mysterious happenings. Garrett spent years with Eastern religious men and that forever changed him. He uses the magic to manipulate people when the need arises. Even with the hero being a cad for most of the story, this was a compelling tale, a story I could not put down and if you love pirate stories, I believe you will like this one.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s PASSION FLOWER – An Irish Heroine from Jamaica and a Sexy Virginia Shipbuilder Make for an Exciting Tale!

This Horsman's first historical romance, written in 1983. For a first novel it's amazing, though there is a very dark part that comes in the last section that may put off some. It was very well done but not all romance readers will like it.

Catherine Mary O’Neil (nicknamed “Jasmine”) was a poor young woman living in Jamaica in 1759, the granddaughter of an aging doctor, when she promised Fortune that if Fortune would lead her heart, she would pay “any price”—and Fortune took her up on the offer.

Born in England, wild Johnathon Mahn became a successful American shipbuilder who provided England with many ships. Responding to an English general’s request to help recover a cargo of arms seized by pirates off Jamaica, Jon and his men take six ships south to search for the goods. Once there, Jon stays at the Governor’s mansion, hoping to learn where the Governor, who he believes is a traitor, has hidden the stolen arms. One night he meets young Jasmine who the Governor has sent to Jon’s bed upon threat to kill Jasmine’s grandfather if she does not comply. Little does Jasmine know that she gave Jon her innocence for nothing as her father is already dead.

Charged with treason, brave, resourceful Jasmine is forced to flee Jamaica. She steals aboard a departing ship, and of course, it is one of Jon’s ships sailing north to Virginia. As they voyage north, she falls in love, but the rake makes quite clear he has no interest in “doing the right thing.”

Horsman is a wonderful storyteller and I find her novels hard to put down. This one is no exception, and for a first novel, is exceptional. She paints a vivid picture of life in Jamaica and in the colony of Virginia and creates some wonderful characters. As always, one of them is an animal, in this case a huge dog names Bear Dog. The last part where Jasmine has an experience that separates them is a bit brutal for my tastes, however.

An absorbing tale with a satisfying ending.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s CRIMSON RAPTURE – The Absorbing, Heartrending Story of an American Privateer and an Innocent, Endearing Young Englishwoman

CRIMSON RAPTURE is on my keeper shelf and will be on my Best Pirate/Privateer Romances list when it's updated this year. It may be my favorite of Horsman's historical romances.

Though no date is given, since England is at war with France and President Jefferson’s Embargo Act is referenced, I believe the story is set in 1807-08. It begins on a British naval vessel (a 3-masted sailing ship) on its way to Australia, transporting a famous prisoner—American privateer, Justin Phillips—as well as civilian passengers, including shy, 17-year old Christina Marks, in mourning for her father’s death and going to live with her uncle.

From the first time they meet, Justin and Christina share a love for books and ideas but are terribly different personalities. Were it not for the unusual circumstances in which the shy, unselfish girl speaks through a small window to a prisoner she can’t see, they never would have formed the bond they did. Though Justin, a successful privateer and man of the world, thought the timid young woman who brought him books, food and conversation was probably a plain girl, she was nevertheless “a most sympathetic and sweet young lady.” And when, in the course of his crew’s rescuing him, he first sees her, her beauty leaves him spellbound.

Horsman has brilliantly crafted a heroine who will win your heart from the first page. She is winsome, loving and incredibly unselfish. Christina has led a very sheltered life as the daughter of a vicar and is totally unprepared for a hardened man like Justin. To him, her kindness is a soothing balm. But his rough ways and harsh judgments are often too much for Christina. Despite that, the two fall quickly and desperately in love.

This is a love story of misunderstandings and second, even third chances as Justin struggles to accept the purity of Christina’s love, a love he has sought since childhood.

There is love on the high seas, a monsoon, a shipwreck, a tropical island and life in colonial America—and a wonderful crew of men and even a sweet, loyal St. Bernard dog, “Beau,” whose thoughts we occasionally hear.

A story to read and re-read, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jennifer Horsman: Favorite Author of Wonderfully Complex and Rich Historical Romances!

Jennifer Horsman is an award-winning author of nine historical romance novels, as well as non-fiction books, six successful screenplays, two plays, and as she says, “countless angry letters to the editor of the LA and NY Times,” all “more or less” to her credit.

Born and raised in San Francisco, she moved south to finish college at the University of California at Irvine. Here she fell instantly and madly in love with one of her professors, who she says she “finally convinced” to marry her.

After graduation, while trying to decide what to do with her life, she saw this statement: “Half of all novels sold in our country are romance novels.” So, she rushed out to buy “a pile of them.” While she says she was “flabbergasted that someone thought to put women's sexual fantasies on paper,” she knew she could write one. Her first novel, published in 1983, was PASSION FLOWER, an 18th century novel set in Jamaica and the colony of Virginia (reviewed on my blog this week). That led to more novels.

Like me, Horsman was also a reviewer of books (but unlike me, she got paid by Publisher’s Weekly for doing it!). She recalls that being the last person hired, she kept getting long novels about “stunningly boring family dramas or novels set in British boarding schools where the characters were involved in a lot of spanking and occasionally found unconventional uses for ropes (gasp).” She found it hard to write the reviews with a straight face. The editor kept sending her angry notes, “Jennifer, keep your personality out of the review!” She quit when sheer perseverance led to a promotion and she was offered the position reviewing romance novels.

Despite her success as an author (to which I can attest as I have loved her books!), she stopped being able to write romances when she began having “increasingly vivid fantasies” of killing off her heroines in “really dreadful ways.” It was then she turned to writing screenplays, which she loves. She also wrote a non-fiction book, Please Don't Eat the Animals: All the Reasons You Need to Be a Vegetarian, which “morphed” into another, The Vegetarian Weight Loss Diet. She candidly claims to be “one of those nutty animal rights people.” You can tell she loves animals from her historical romances where she frequently features wonderful animal characters. I can tell she’s a dog person, as am I.

While she is no longer writing historical romance, thankfully she is bringing her backlist to eBooks and until the whole list is available for eReaders, you can obtain the rest used from Amazon. I have them all and love them. Anyone who is a member of my blog has seen my reviews of her books, which also appear on my Best Lists. I highly recommend them all.

This week my blog will feature reviews of many of her novels. Here’s the list:


THE ICE QUEEN (Victorian Christmas novella) (2010)
ILLICIT FLAMES (Romantic Suspense) (2010)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Captivating "Real" Viking Romance!

For those of you who love a good Viking romance, but have trouble finding one, this may be the book for you. Told from the first person, our heroine, Tara, it is not an ordinary formula romance, but a sweeping saga that covers many years in the life of a young woman you will come to love.

More than any other Viking romance I've read (and I've read and reviewed quite a few), this one actually allows you to experience the time period (the 10th century), and how the Vikings lived, including what they wore, what they ate, what they believed, their governing bodies, the ships they sailed in and their marriage and family customs. You also get a feeling for the extent of their raiding and travels in the world at the time, and the use of slaves by the various countries. It was fascinating. The story of an unlikely, but true, love between two people from different cultures will hold your attention and your heart.

Tara is the beautiful flaxen-haired, younger daughter of an earl living in the south of Britain in the 900s. At 15, she falls in love with Ian, the son of a neighboring lord and they become lovers. He tells her he loves her, but that is something she doubts when Tara's father betroths her older sister to Ian with Ian's full consent. Tara is so distraught she runs away to the nearest abbey where she takes the vow and lives for the next 7 years. While she would not have chosen the cloistered life, she finds peace and meaning there.

The story begins when she is 21, and Vikings raid the south of England. The abbey is in their path and all of the nuns are raped and/or killed and the abbey burned. Tara escapes rape only to be taken captive, saved for the Viking leader who was not at the abbey. The leader, Rorik, is the eldest son of a Viking jarl. Once Rorik takes Tara onto his ship, he tells her she will become his wife. He ostensibly gives her time to consider this, but then tricks her into a quick marriage. From a nun to a pagan's wife is a giant leap, but Tara is willing to accept her lot and begins to have feelings for Rorik...that is, until they reach his home, Hordaland, where she learns some hard truths. And that is just the beginning of this extraordinary tale.

The story is well told and moves along at a good clip. It kept me turning pages until late at night. You had to feel for Tara, who is betrayed on so many levels by almost all the men in her life and faces challenges most of us will never know. Of course, at that time women were merely possessions, there for the pleasure of men and their political gain; but still, it was possible to find love in all of that. And Tara does, amazingly. Still, there are some things I would have changed.

The time in Constantinople could have been shortened and Rorik and Tara were separated for too long a time. Then, too, I could have skipped the perversions of the men in that part of the world and the life in the harem. I can imagine the author wanted us to see how horrible a woman's life could be at that time, but it didn't take long before I wanted the "perils of Pauline" to end. So, while I can recognize some negatives, if you're looking for a different romance, one that is well written and gives you a real feeling for the time period, I can recommend it. It's a believable Viking romance with lots of action (including storms at sea, adventures on land and on ship, captives, slave trading, wolf attacks, etc.), as well as heartbreak and heartwarming episodes.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Every now and then I love a good Viking Romance. Not fantasy, not paranormal, just straight up historical romance from the time of the raiding Norse warriors. There’s nothing like a Viking raid and a strapping tall warrior to get your blood boiling, right? Well, of course, it must be well written and we want a strong heroine to make it difficult for him. And, a little history thrown in doesn’t hurt either. Well, if you like ‘em, I have a list of those I’ve rated 5 and 4 stars just for you.

Dream of Me, Believe in Me and Come Back to Me, trilogy by Josie Litton
Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson
Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham
Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
Maidensong by Diana Groe
Northward the Heart by Maureen Kurr
• Raeliksen, Mac Liam and The Temperate Warrior by Renee Vincent
Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn
The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger
The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford
Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
Viking Captive by Emma Merritt
Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw
Viking Passion by Flora Speer
Viking Rose by Ashland Price

Let me know if I’ve missed one you love! I know there are good ones out there and I am always looking for a great Viking romance.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Review: Catherine Coulter’s LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND – Well Told Viking Tale from 10th Century Ireland

This is a part of Coulter’s Viking series and follows SEASON OF THE SUN though it is not related to it. Really, it seems this is the first in the “Viking lord” trilogy (see list below). Set in Ireland and an island off the coast of England in 910, this is the story of Mirana, a Viking woman who is abducted one night by her brother’s enemy, Rorik, Lord of Hawkfell. Rorik seeks vengeance for the death of his wife and children at the hand of Mirana’s brother, Einar. Once on Hawkfell Island, Mirana makes friends among the women and comes to see the island as home, but all is not well, and Einar still has plans for her.

Coulter has taken care to get the period right, including details of dress, food and dwellings. She has also created some wonderful characters, including a huge dog named Kerzog. The writing is well done and the plot has many satisfying twists and turns.

While Rorik’s actions toward Mirana were brutal at times, you have to remember this is a Viking romance, set in the times when women were chattel and many were taken in raids to be slaves. Then, too, Mirana, who Rorik is coming to care for, is the sister of his enemy who slayed his family. That these two could find love is definitely a story of second chances and love triumphing over many obstacles. Mirana’s brother, Einar is a real deviant who likes inflicting pain and cares for no one.

There is humor, action and a complex love story here. A worthy Viking tale.

Viking Series