Constance Gillam is our special guest at the Dish today. Constance hails from Atlanta, Georgia where I've had the pleasure of meeting her at several Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight and Magnolias conferences. In addition to writing romances, Constance has also tried her hand at genetic counseling, health underwriting, real estate, medical technologist, bank proof operator and phlebotomist. Wow, I'm worn out just writing that! Constance joins us today to chat about her latest book, Lakota Moon Rising.
Welcome, Constance! I’m happy you could join us today. You
recently released your first historical romance, Lakota Moon Rising. Please share with our readers what they can
expect from this book.
P.J., for inviting me. Lakota Moon Rising
is a historical prequel to my first contemporary mystery, Lakota Dreaming. The reader can expect adventure on the Great
Plains, a peek at two different cultures during the 19th century,
and a universal love story between two strong willed characters.
What inspired you to write a love story between a Lakota
Sioux warrior and a runaway slave?
exploring different cultures. The original premise for the series was to see
how two different people would overcome their diversity to find love. I found
the characters had more in common than they had differences.
always been fascinated by the Native American people and their struggles to
maintain their culture and their land. At the same time, I’ve been tracing my
ancestors. Since a large part of my
heritage is African, tracing my ancestry has involved an up close and personal
study of the institution of slavery in the Americas.
Julia and Sunkawakan
Iyopeya come from different worlds yet find in one another their heart’s
desire. What do you want readers to understand about these two characters?
the differences in their worlds are two people looking for a common connection,
for a life mate who will travel the rough road with them.
Julia is fascinated by the
world she discovers away from the plantation where she had spent her life as a
slave. What’s the most fascinating place you’ve visited or would like to visit?
China in 2007 and was humbled by the history.
When I walked the Great Wall of China, it sent shivers through me to
remember 2,000 years earlier other feet had patrolled this same path.
At your website you write,
“Music constantly flows through my mind as do the next scenes in my current
manuscript.” Did you play music while writing Lakota Moon Rising? If so, what was your soundtrack for this book?
obvious one, Dances with Wolves. The
music was lyrical, symbolizing the flowing of the long grasses and the vastness
of the Plain. I also revisited scenes in the movie. I found the panoramic
cinematography of the Plains inspirational for describing Julia’s awe as she
traveled to Sunkawakan Iyopeya’s camp.
Lakota Moon Rising is the prequel to your contemporary romantic
suspense novel, Lakota Dreaming. What
can we expect from Lakota Dreaming?
Should the two stories be read in any particular order?
Dreaming is a fish out of water story. Zora, a New York City fashion editor, is
plagued by what her psychiatrist calls genetic memories. Zora travels to South
Dakota, where her ancestor lived, to put an end to these visions so she can get
on with her life. She runs afoul of John Iron Hawk, Captain of a small tribal
recommend reading Lakota Dreaming
first, then Lakota Moon Rising.
What do you enjoy reading when you’re not busy writing your
everything except horror. I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, I’m currently reading Wench by Dollen Perkins-Valdez. I recently read The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn.
I’m listening to A Dark Lure by
Loreth Anne White. In my TBR pile is a National Book finalist, The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.
There are many surprises in store for Julia along her
journey. What would readers be surprised to learn about you?
surprises here. I spend hours each day in front of my computer in my sweats.
My American Duchess By Eloisa James Publisher: Avon Release Date: January 26, 2016
Miss Merry Pelford has the unfortunate habit of falling in love. Repeatedly. With the wrong men. Though perhaps it's more accurate to say Merry has a habit of falling in love with love. After breaking two engagements and being sued for breach of promise by the second fiance, Merry's name is on the lips of every gossip in Boston and her matrimonial prospects are slim. Her guardians, her beloved aunt and uncle, have brought her to London - far from wagging tongues - to find a husband. Merry hopes to find a man who wants her for herself, not her fortune, and believes she's found him in the bright and shiny Lord Cedric Allardyce, younger twin of the Duke of Trent.
The Duke of Trent is captivated by the delightful American miss he encounters on a deserted balcony and by the end of their conversation has decided that he has finally met the woman who will become his duchess. And then he discovers she's already engaged. To his brother. Honorable to his core, he steps aside when Merry tells him she's in love with Cedric though the more he's around the couple the less he believes that's the case. And, try as he might, he just can't bring himself to view her as a sister. The desire is too strong, growing by the day and if he isn't mistaken, reciprocated by Merry.
The very night she becomes engaged for the third time, Merry encounters a man to whom she is immediately drawn. It's only later that she discovers he's the Duke of Trent, the man destined to become her brother-in-law. The more time she spends in his company, the more she likes him while her fiance becomes less appealing with each encounter. While one man appreciates her as she is, the other constantly tries to "improve" her by changing her dress, her hair, her speech and by stifling her natural enthusiasm and American ways. Merry can see the light at the end of the tunnel and knows it's a third broken engagement bearing down upon her but then Ms. James throws in a twist...and another...taking the story in a completely unexpected direction. And that's only half-way through the book!
Eloisa James is one of my favorite authors. She has her own keeper shelf in my library yet even within those keepers there are a few books that rise to the top. My American Duchess is one of the risers. It is Eloisa James at her best. After reading the book (the first time) I tried to think of a word to describe my emotions. That word is joy. This story - these characters - filled me with so much joy. Okay, not Cedric. Definitely no joy there though the book's epilogue leads me to believe there may be hope for him down the road. But Trent and Merry? Oh, yes! Let me count the ways. I love the humor (traditional, smitten English duke vs outspoken, effervescent American miss), their intelligence, kindness, passion. Definitely their passion! I want to be their friend. I want to spend a few weeks at their estate, digging in the garden dirt with Merry and playing with George, their adorable puppy. I want to give Trent hugs because with his childhood he deserves all the hugs he can get. I love that both Trent and Merry bring something to their relationship that the other needs and that, together, they are whole. But I also appreciate that it takes them time to realize this. They both have past baggage to unload and choppy waters to navigate and Ms. James steers them through with supreme skill and realism. Their happiness is hard won and all the more satisfying because of it. I have complete confidence that 40 years from now, they will still be deeply in love and slipping away to the estate greenhouse to indulge in a little "afternoon delight."
If you're an Eloisa James fan, you'll want to add My American Duchess to your keeper shelf. If you haven't yet read her books, this standalone is the perfect place to start. It has my highest recommendation. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll pay a visit to Merry and Trent. For the third time.
Have you read any Eloisa James books? What's your favorite? Do you enjoy "fish out of water" stories? Merry - our American heroine - certainly isn't swimming in the same pond with English misses - something deeply appreciated by her hero! Have you read My American Duchess yet? What did you think? One randomly chosen person leaving a comment will receive a print copy of My American Duchess. (U.S. / Canadian addresses only)
With one of her best friends reunited with the love of her
life and the mother of a blue-eyed baby boy (Ex on the Beach) and the other married to the man of her dreams with
a baby on the way (Hot Buttered Yum)
and even her widowed mother flashing the perfect engagement ring and planning a
wedding, thirty-year-old Ginger Atkinson is fighting the green-tinged monster.
She doesn’t want to be jealous of these women she loves, but Ginger thought she
would be happily married with a good start on the four children she always
planned to have by this point in her life. She’s building her dream house, but
even that means less than she thought it would because she has no one with whom
to share it. Even though she loves the ferry business she inherited from her
father and is proud of having grown it into a business that offers dinner
cruises, fishing expeditions, and other activities, Ginger wants more. She also
wants more than a series of failed dates and two years of celibacy.
Carter Ridley is mad at the world. He loved growing up on
Turtle Island, but he has no desire to be there now. Unfortunately, his mother
has guilted him into paying a visit to check on his younger, single sister who
is seven months pregnant. Carter reluctantly agrees, but he is determined that
he will stay only a few days, not the three weeks on which his mother insisted.
All he wants is to be left alone with his anger, his writer’s block, his
cigarettes and beer in the house he built for the wife who betrayed him. He’s
not doing much more than sniping at his sister and drinking too much when a
visit from an old friend starts to change things.
Growing up, Ginger and Carter had been next-door neighbors and good friends,
sharing sunrises and dreams and just generally being there for one another. It
takes some persistence on Ginger’s part, but gradually they renew their
friendship, meeting to watch the sun rise together, to make each other laugh,
and to talk at night when the darkness makes it easier to be vulnerable. When
Ginger’s contractors let her down, Carter doubles the crew he has coming to the
island to renovate his parents’ house so that Ginger’s house will be completed
before her mother’s wedding. He even finds a spot in the house that inspires
his writing and starts working on his book again. Ginger knows when to push him
to talk and when to be silent. When the two of them decide to add benefits to
their friendship, they agree that part of their relationship is temporary. They
will enjoy each other and still be friends when they are no longer lovers. Of
course, it’s not that simple. Time with Ginger has almost healed Carter when a
message from his ex reawakens all his bitterness., and things look bleak for
these friends who could be much more.
Friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes when the
friendship seems like the real deal. It does in this case. Even though Ginger
and Carter lost touch, they have a long history together, and it is clear they
know each other in a way that attests to their intimacy. They genuinely care about one another as
well. Carter encourages Ginger to be herself, and she knows he needs to talk
about what happened with his ex. When
they become lovers, they are sizzling hot together. Their chemistry is
intensified by their knowledge of one another and the trust that already exists
I loved Ginger. She is just eminently likeable with her
quirks, her insecurities, her zest for life, and her big heart. I also loved the
friendship between her and Andie and Roni. It too feels real, from the phone
calls to the girls’ night to their understanding things that are not said. I
liked Carter too. It is clear from the beginning that he is one of the good
guys who is not dealing well with the knock-out punch his ex gave him. I’m
really tired of heroes who are soured on love and life forever because one
woman betrayed them, but Carter is dealing with something much heavier than the
usual infidelity. There is also an interesting gender role twist going on since
Carter is a romantic who expects the HEA. But I think the thing I liked best
was that both Ginger and Carter understand they have to find wholeness within
themselves; it can’t be given by someone else.
This is the third novel in the Turtle Island series. Readers
who read the earlier books will enjoy the updates on Andie and Roni, but the
book also works well as a standalone. I
particularly recommend this one for readers who like their romance with heat
but have read too many books in which character development and plot are
sacrificed to add one more sexy scene. Law gives her readers ample action in
the bedroom (and elsewhere), but she does not do so at the cost of her
characters and their story.
I'm delighted to welcome historical romance writer Madeline Martin to The Romance Dish today. A 2015 debut author, Madeline now has three published books under her belt. Her latest, Enchantment of Highlander was released last week and is another winner. I've enjoyed all three books and am excited to see what she brings us next. When Madeline isn't busy writing, working or mothering, she can often be found, as she puts it, "engaging in workouts that keep my life exciting." She has completed a 50 mile mountain bike ride and annually runs a local 10k mud run to support MS research. You can find Madeline online at the following locations: Twitter (@MadelineMMartin) Facebook http://on.fb.me/1ByLMIy Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12062937.Madeline_Martin Please give Madeline a warm welcome!
Almost every time I ask my readers what they want to know, I
get requests to know more about me and my daily life as an author. Well,
prepare to be entirely underwhelmed by the daily life of this writer. (Warning: contains no glamor)
Before we can get into it, I have to introduce the cast of
Me – I’m heating up the Highlands with my Scottish set
historical romance. I love my minions, Mr. Awesome and all the goofy fun we
have together. I’m president of my local writing chapter, First Coast Romance
Writers, and love to bring authors and readers together with my weekly giveaway
on my FB page, Free Book Friday (https://www.facebook.com/MadelineMartinAuthor)
Mr. Awesome – He helps me mitigate the crazy and has an
incredible ability to keep me from going all Chicken Little when schedules get
tight. I swear the man has the patience of a saint and is my personal hero.
OldestMinion – A sweetheart with an artist’s soul and a
penchant for starting fights with her younger sister. No, I have not given in
to the temptation to let them death match it out. Yet.
YoungestMinion – A hard core Momma’s girl (she’s asked if
she can go back in my stomach so we can be together all the time – I know,
creepy cute, right?) who thinks her sister is a goddess among men and has more
sass than I can sometimes handle.
Now – a typical day:
4:30AM: Wake up and hit start on my beloved Keurig.
Correction: Fill Keurig (because those things are always empty) then hit start.
6:00AM: Present minions with ten and five minute wake-up
warnings before sweetly luring them from bed with breakfast. That failing,
issue warnings until they finally acquiesce and come downstairs.
7:30AM: Drop off minions at school and go to corporate
America job where I pull report with SQL code and make pretty charts in Excel. On
my breaks, I reply to FB posts, e-mails and make a to do list for the evening.
11:30AM: Go to the gym. Sometimes the A/C is broken, but that
just means I sweat out more toxins,
right??? (Note: If I’m behind on my
writing/editing schedule, I’ll do that on my lunch break instead)
4:30PM: Get off work and collect the minions from school
before honorably (ie: refraining from cussing) fight through traffic to get
5:00PM: Make dinner and help the minions with homework while
researching said homework (PS Common Core, I hate you)
6:30PM: Eat dinner together as a family, because I will
always believe in the value of that.
8:00PM: Tuck the minions into bed with back scratches, songs
and kisses. Then while Mr. Awesome reads them a book (cuz he really is that
awesome), I catch up on that to do list I made earlier.
9:00PM: Meet up online with other writers for
10:00PM: Spend quality time with Mr. Awesome and usually
head to bed around 11 or so to do it all again the next day.
Friday nights we do Family Fun Nights, which usually
consists of a variety of any of the following items: dance-a-thons, junk food,
board games, family friendly movies we can all enjoy (Barbie not included – my
brain will automatically reject any Barbie movie)
Confession: I remember(ish) almost everything for home and
work and school and writing and family with a confetti of post it notes
scattered around my world and detailed, color-coded excel spreadsheets.
Included in this is a weekly goal spreadsheet where I track what needs to be
done in all aspects of my life to ensure what’s important stays forefront.
In between all the times listed above is a bunch of
snuggles, kisses, crazy jokes, random silliness and showers (because while I
didn’t list it, I swear I do make time to take a shower every day).
Yes, it is a busy schedule, but it’s one I happily do as
it’s filled with love and all my dreams come true.
Readers, tell us about your typical day. Or tell us about your favorite kind of historical romance.
Do you enjoy highland romances? Madeline writes highlander heroes worth swooning over!
I have a signed, print copy of Madeline's second book, Possession of Highlander for one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on today's post. (U.S. addresses only)
Alec MacLean returns home after a decade to find his recently deceased father has let his inheritance fall to ruin. As the new laird, it’s Alec’s responsibility to rebuild the castle and restore the lands. He must also regain the people’s trust after having abandoned them so long ago, a feat not easily done when he fears he’s plagued with the same darkness as his father.
Celia escaped the North Berwick witch trials at a young age, surviving because of the sacrifice of her beloved caretaker. She’s made a life for herself in the wilds of Scotland where no laird rules, a life where she heals for coin, a life without love so she can never feel the hurt of loss again.
When the new laird comes back to claim his land, his determination to restore order threatens everything Celia has worked so hard to gain, especially with the undeniable attraction sizzling between them. Together, they will face all challenges, from the tangle of their own damaged pasts to the fire-fueled witch hunts sweeping the Isle of Mull. Together, they will find that the best way to overcome darkness and war is through the undeniable light of love.
Having broken her
wrist on a dig, archaeologist Brittany Forrest is returning to Puffin Island,
Maine, and Castaway Cottage, the home she inherited from her grandmother.
Thanks to her friend, fellow archaeologist, and former roommate, Lily Rose, and
Lily’s fiancé, Greek tycoon Nik Zervakis, she is arriving not by ferry but by a
Cessna seaplane. Brittany is delighted with Nik’s generosity that will allow
her to avoid the crowed ferry—until she sees the pilot: “Dark glasses shielded
his eyes, but she felt a jolt of instant recognition followed by a strange flutter in her stomach and an
alarming shake of her knees. It had been ten years, but she would have known him anywhere.”
Zach Flynn was an
abused, unwanted child who belonged nowhere and to no one. He grew into an
angry twelve-year-old already on the path to disaster and self-destruction
until an astute, sensitive camp director introduced him to the wonder of
flying. It enlarged Zach’s world, gave his life purpose, and, perhaps most
importantly, gave him something to love. “On the ground his life was a dead end
with no way out, but in the air he saw more than sunshine and fluffy clouds
beyond the horizon, He saw a world without limits, full of possibilities. He
saw hope.” But even flying cannot heal the damaged soul that is Zach Flynn.
Ten years earlier,
an eighteen-year-old Brittany fell in love with bad-boy Zach. Certain that she
could “tame the wild in him,” she married him. Ten days later he left her,
leaving her with a shattered heart, memories she struggles to suppress, and
eventually a determination to get over him and get on with her life. She did
well with that last item, but the sight of Zach is enough to tell her that she
is not as indifferent to him as she would like to believe. The chemistry is
definitely mutual, but Zach is as convinced as he was ten years ago that he is
bad for Brittany no matter how strong the attraction between them may be. When
they end up involved again, he warns her:
"Nothing is going to change, Brit. I'm not going to change.
If you're a smart woman, you'll walk out of here and not come back."
"That just shows you don't know as much about women as you think you do,
because no smart woman would turn her back on sex this good."
Despite everything, she made him smile.
But Zach is still
terrified of emotional intimacy, and without trust, they can have no future.
Some Kind of Wonderful is the second book in Morgan’s Puffin Island
series. I loved First Time in Forever,
book one in the series, and I think this one is even better. I confess that I’m
partial to the reunited lovers trope. When it is done well, it is my favorite,
and in this book, Morgan offers a near perfect second chance story. First,
Brittany and Zach are both interesting characters on their own. In the decade
since they parted, they have both grown into adults with careers that matter to
them and a romantic history. No one has spent ten years sighing and pining for
what might have been, but they bear scars from their shared past. Second, the
chemistry between them remains powerful, and its very power is part of the
conflict: “There was nothing civilized about the chemistry between them.
Never had been. Being with Zach had been the most dizzying and exciting time of
her life. Until he’d dumped her.” Finally, the ongoing conflict is real; no
contrived Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved in one
conversation here. Zach is still damaged from his childhood, and Brittany
can’t change him. He himself has to see the need and the possibility of change.
I often say that I like my romances rich in context, and
Morgan satisfies on that level as well. Brittany’s memories of her grandmother
and the tight friendship between her and Emily Donovan and Skylar Tempest, her
college roommates, add depth to Brittany’s character and to the story. So too
does Zach’s relationship with Philip Law, the man who taught him to fly, and to
Ryan Cooper. The latter is especially interesting because of Ryan’s double
loyalties to Zach and to Brittany. Puffin Island seems real too with its
physical features delineated and its community portrayed with its strengths and
I put this book on my TBB list as soon as I
read the first book, but even though the U. K. print version was published last
summer, the digital version is only recently available, and it seems that a
solo print version will not be available until 2017. Skylar and Alec’s story, Christmas Ever After (which has me
almost hyperventilating I am so eager to read it) was available in print in the
U. K. last October, but I don’t know when it will be available here. I highly recommend Some Kind of Wonderful. Just remember that in the U. S., it is only
available in a duet pub with a reissue of Susan Mallery’s The Ladies Man (2006).
With a network of villains who will stop at nothing to
maintain their power and a determined couple on their trail, the latest in
Karen Rose’s Cincinnati based romantic suspense novels is just the thing to
curl up with over a long winter weekend.
We first met hero, Army Ranger turned publisher Marcus
O’Bannion, in last year’s Closer Than You
Think, and the events of that book still haunt him months later—especially
the injuries he suffered saving two kidnap victims. And true to form, he begins
this book attempting to save another victim, one who unfortunately is killed
before he can do so. It’s that murder that brings him back into contact with
the beautiful Cincinnati PD detective, Scarlett Bishop, who has haunted him
since she visited him at his bedside after he was shot.
Scarlett knows that she’s attracted to the handsome
newspaperman with a penchant for rescuing people, but despite her hope that his
presence at the murder scene was as innocent as he claims, she’s not quite sure
she’s ready to trust him. Not to mention the fact that he wore a bullet proof
vest to a meeting with a teenage girl, there’s the fact that he recorded the
entire encounter with a mini video camera. Is he just after a great story, or
was his presence there simply an attempt to help a young woman in trouble as he
claimed. She knows what she wants to believe, but her boss and her cop
instincts tell her to be wary.
What unfolds is a high-octane, complicated, romantic,
angry-making thriller that kept me turning the pages long after my bedtime had
passed. Though I expect a strong mystery plot with a Karen Rose novel, over the
past several books these have become “bigger” both in scope and in complexity.
And Alone in the Dark is no
exception. Along with this super-sized plot comes a higher body count, which at
times is even a bit too much for this thriller lover. Even so, Rose makes me
care about even the most disposable of secondary characters, and even when that
little voice in my head is telling me this couldn’t possibly happen in real
life, I’m riveted to the page and telling that little voice to shut up so I can
finish the story.
As I’ve come to appreciate about her work, Rose doesn’t
stint in the romance department, even when there’s so much more page count
needed to unravel the mystery. There was so much exquisite angst between
Scarlett and Marcus—they’d pined for one another for months before they saw
each other again—and that made their admission of their feelings, and the
consummation of them, that much sweeter. I’m a big fan of the “hero and heroine
work together to meet a goal” trope and Karen Rose always delivers on that. And
even when they’re running for their lives or arguing about which approach to
take when confronting the bad guys, there’s never any doubt that these two are
meant for each other.
Any series reader will tell you that as soon as they finish
one book, they’re wondering whose book comes next, and with this one there are
a number of options. It could be Marcus’s brother Stone and the Animal Shelter
Director who was also injured by the previous villain. Or perhaps it will be
Dani, the sister of Scarlett’s partner Deacon, coupled up with Marcus’s
right-hand-man, who has a gruff exterior and a troubled past. All I know is I
want that book in my hand.
Right. Thrilling. Now.
Manda Collins writes smart, sexy historical romance laced with a touch of mystery. Her most recent book, Good Earl Gone Bad, second in herThe Lords of Anarchy series was released in October, 2015 and the next, Good Dukes Wear Black will be released in April, 2016. You can find more information about Manda and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter.
In The Ugly Duchess
(2012), an ugly duckling transforms herself into a swan with still tender scars
underneath her glorious feathers and, in a reverse move, a handsome, popular
swan transforms himself into a scarred ruffian shorn of his feathers. This is
one of the most beautifully crafted romances I have ever read. Theodora
Saxby, the title character, is the antithesis of the prevailing idea of
feminine beauty. She’s not dainty or curvy or even very feminine. She’s tall,
thin, and small-bosomed with strong features. Not her mother’s insistence that
Theo wear pink ruffles and pearls, nor the fortune Theo inherited from her
father makes her more acceptable. She feels ugly and ill-at-ease, and she accepts
society’s valuation that she looks like a man. In the Hans Christian Andersen
tale that inspired this romance, the ugly duckling’s mother insists, “He is my
own child, and he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly.”
Theo has two people in her life who look at her properly, her mother and her
life-long friend, James Ryburn, the son of her dead father’s best friend. Her
mother and James look at Theo with love, and to them, she is beautiful. James
even rejects the masculine diminutive that Theodora has adopted as her name and
calls her Daisy, emphasizing his view of her as lovely and feminine.
James Ryburn is broad-shouldered, handsome, and likeable,
the kind of young man who leaves young girls giggling and sighing in his wake.
He’s not concerned with society’s acceptance or comfortable being a duke’s
heir, but there is no question that he would be courted and celebrated if he
bothered to attend social gatherings. When his father confesses that he has
gambled away all his own funds and a sizeable chunk of Theo’s, James is angry.
When the Duke demands that his son marry Theo to hide the crime, James is mad
with fury. The Duke’s demand and James’s response to it interferes with
the natural progression of the relationship of Theo and James.
The story turns into one of the marriage-in-trouble tales at
which Eloisa James excels. Theodora and her hero are heartbreakingly young when
they part, but as tragic as the separation is, it allows both of them to
experience transformation. Theo retreats to the Ryburn country estate and uses
her considerable intelligence to repair the damage the Duke’s gambling has done
to the family fortunes. Her physical transformation comes only after years have
passed, it comes at the time she chooses, and she uses her own sense of
texture, line, and color to effect it. After she has captured Paris, she
conquers London. That she does so in a cape made of “gorgeous swansdown” is the
poised at the top of the stairs, looking down at all of them with a little
smile that indicated absolute
self-confidence, looked like a goddess who happened to come down to earth by way of Paris. She
radiated that sort of ineffable glamour that simply cannot be learned. . .
As for James, upon his return he is no longer “a pretty
voice and a handsome face.” In fact, his skin is so bronzed that those who look
at him aren’t even sure that he’s an Englishman. His hair has grown since he
shaved his head, but it’s still shorter than any self-respecting gentleman’s should
be. He describes himself as “tattooed and scarred, and bigger than hell.” Even
his voice has changed, thanks to a pirate who cut his throat. He has seen and
done things the young Earl of Islay could not have imagined.
The wonder in this story is not that James and his Daisy
find their HEA but that for James, who has always seen Daisy as beautiful, this
is not really an ugly duckling tale after all.
Once Upon a Tower
(2013), based upon the story of Rapunzel, is the fifth and final of the
fairytale romances. James, a Shakespeare professor in her academic life, has
described it as “a Romeo meets Rapunzel mash-up,” adding that the idea for the
novel came from her pondering “what Romeo and Juliet’s marriage would look like
if their parents hadn't been so grumpy.” The novel’s hero and heroine, Gowan
Stoughton of Craigievar, Duke of Kinross, Chief of Clan MacAulay, and Lady
Edith Gilchrist, are older than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but they are
still very young: he is twenty-two, and she is nineteen when they meet. Like
Romeo, Gowan falls in love at first sight.
Again, James does a marvelous job of weaving elements of the
original tale into her story even as she adds twists to render her re-vision
unique. Edie is beautiful like Rapunzel. In fact Gowan’s comparison of her hair
to the “golden apples of the sun” echoes the description from the Grimm
Brothers’ tale (1812) that calls Rapunzel “the most beautiful child under the
sun.” Rapunzel is musical as well. It is her voice that first enchants
the king’s son. Edie is a cellist rather than a singer, but her playing
enchants Gowan the first time he hears her. Rapunzel and her prince marry, but
they must overcome obstacles before they begin their HEA. Edie and Gowan’s
story follows the same pattern. The prince wanders blind, weeping over the loss
of his wife. Gowan’s blindness is metaphoric, but he too wanders and weeps for
the same cause. And in both stories, the wife’s tears are healing.
The twist comes with the tower. Rapunzel is shut into a
tower that “had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was a little
window.” The tower sounds similar to Edie’s, but Edie chooses to shut herself
into her tower rather than being imprisoned there by an enchantress.
Readers with a Freudian leaning may see the tower as a phallic symbol. I
was more interested in seeing Edie’s making choices and taking action as
evidence of her maturing and recognizing her autonomy, qualities that link Edie
more closely to Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force’s version of the tale,
I think James doesn’t get enough credit for the skill with
which she uses details of clothing, not merely as descriptive detail but to
reveal something significant or to provoke an incident. I love what she does
with The Dress in this book. I can’t say too much about this without moving
into spoiler territory, but readers will understand the importance of The
Dress--the one that makes you look the way you want to look, the one that
affects him exactly the way you want it too. Edie wears such a dress. It is
“China rose. . . . Darker than cinnabar, more saturated than claret . . . well,
close to claret.” It is amazing, and it leads to a Moment. The only other
thing I’m going to say is that nobody can make a kiss on the hand as sexy as
Eloisa James does.
That brings us to My
American Duchess, EJ’s January 26 release. Although it is not a fairytale
novel, with its plot of an American heiress who arrives in London in search of
a husband and ends up a duchess to her great surprise, it certainly has a
fairytale quality. James combines a handful of proven tropes in this one: love
at first sight, twins, love triangle, and marriage in trouble as well as the
obvious American in London. If you know James’s work, you will not be surprised
that she gives each of these a twist that makes it her own.
We have seen runaway-bride romances, but My American Duchess is
runaway-ex-fiancée-romance. Merry Pelford has run away from two broken
engagements and a reputation as a fickle heartbreaker. Her reputation cannot
survive another broken engagement, but it is clear to the reader from the
opening of the novel that this is the direction in which Merry is headed. But
then James gives the storyline a couple of unexpected turns that create moments
of anxiety and elation for the reader.
Merry is something of a paradox. She is both confident and
insecure, both proud of her Americanness and at times apologetic for her Yankee
uncouthness. Regardless, she is delightful and engaging. Trent is the reserved
duke, not arrogant exactly but nonetheless fully aware of who he is and the
ways in which his dukedom defines him. He needs Merry, something he realizes
subconsciously from the time he first sees her. I loved both these characters
and who they become with each other. Of
course, that reaction is pretty much a given since this is an Eloisa James
I have referred to these six books as standalones, and I
hold to that in the sense that each gives its readers a world complete and
satisfying within itself. But three of the fairytale books—A Kiss at Midnight, The Duke
Is Mine, and The Ugly Duckling—have
connected novellas, and the final sentence of My American Duchess can be interpreted as a hint that there will be
a novel or novella connected to Merry and Trent’s world.
Do you prefer standalones or connected novels?
Which of EJ’s fairytale novels most surprised you?
What other fairy tale would you like to see EJ use as
inspiration for a romance novel?
Janga will send one randomly chosen person leaving a comment one book of their choice from the Eloisa James books spotlighted in parts one and two. (U.S. addresses only)
One definition of “enchanting” is “to delight to a high
degree,” and that is certainly an apt description of the five fairytale novels
(A Kiss at Midnight, Beauty Tamed the Beast, The Duke Is Mine, The Ugly Duchess, and Once
Upon a Tower) of Eloisa James and of her upcoming release, My American Duchess. Now don’t get me
wrong. I’m definitely a fan of James’s series. I have a designated keeper shelf
filled with those series, many of them signed by the author. I am gradually
filling my Kindle with digital copies. In fact, I have four copies of my #1 EJ
book, Pleasure for Pleasure—an ARC
(my first) with a slightly plumper Josie on the cover, a print copy in English,
a print copy in French, and a digital copy. And I’m loving the
second-generation Duchesses books, not least because Villiers appears in them
all. Still, there is something special about the standalones that invite the
reader into a world that is wonderfully complete within slightly under four
A Kiss at Midnight
(2010) is my favorite of the fairytale romances because it is true to the
original with just enough twists to keep it fresh and feminist. EJ’s
Cinderella, Kate Daltry, is no patient, submissive Griselda, and she’s no
saintly, suffering Disney Cinderella either. In the first chapter the reader
sees her as an angry, embattled heroine, who has been the protector of servants
and tenants since her father’s death. In fact, it is this concern that gives
her stepmother a means of forcing Kate to do her bidding rather than this
Cinderella meekly submitting to villainous authority. I loved Kate. From the
fierce protector of chapter one to the drowsy princess of the final chapter,
she is fully human and wholly enchanting. The prince of this story prince is no
closer to the traditional fairytale prince than Kate is to the angelic
Cinderella. I’ve always thought the prince in the usual tale was rather boring.
He’s little more than a handsome face, overflowing coffers, and a means to the
HEA for the deserving heroine. EJ’s prince, in contrast, is no cipher. Gabriel
is arrogant, intelligent, responsible, conflicted, and lusty. The last is
important. AKAM is a 21st-century romance novel, after all.
I was just one of many readers who hoped James would follow
her Cinderella tale with her version of Beauty
and the Beast. She did exactly that, and I think When Beauty Tamed the Beast (2011) is probably the fan favorite
among the fairy tale books. Scholars have identified 179 Beauty and the Beast
tales from different countries, but James’s take on the story is unique among
those I’ve read. Traditionally, Beauty’s virtue equals her beauty. James begins
her story with Linnet’s virtue being questioned, and Linnet’s beauty has a
sensual quality that is a marked contrast to the traditional innocent beauty.
Linnet’s aunt says to her, “That dimple, and something in your eyes and about
your mouth. You look like a wanton.”
Linnet’s intelligence is as important as her beauty.
Moreover, it marks her as a misfit in London society. Her aunt cautions her, “I’ve
told you time and time again, all that cleverness does you no good. People
would like a lady to be beautiful, but they expect her to be ladylike, in
short: sweet, compliant, and refined.” One of the ways the reader understands
that Linnet belongs in Piers’s world is that the intelligence, tartness,
assertiveness, and earthiness that had to be hidden in the polite world are the
very qualities that make her a suitable match for the Beast.
I’m quite certain Piers is the first Beast who is a
practicing physician. The Beast most often is imaged as a lion-like creature,
although various versions have portrayed him as looking like a bear, a warthog,
and an elephant. Piers, on the other hand, looks rough and uncivilized, but
Linnet is aware of his physical appeal and power almost immediately.
impression of the rude man was that he was big—huge, in fact. The blond doctor was tall and lean, but this man was even
taller, and much bigger. His shoulders seemed twice
as wide as those of the other men. He was all muscle, with a kind of predatory
force that looked out of place
next to a sickbed. In fact, he looked as if he should be out leading hordes of Vikings . . . berserking, or
whatever it was those men did for a living.
James reveals in her “Historical Note” that the cantankerous
Piers with his crippled leg was inspired not by earlier Beasts, but by TV’s Dr.
Gregory House. House fans will recognize similarities to the acerbic doctor in
the Beast’s difficult relationship with his father, his battle with chronic
pain, his skills as a diagnostician, and his disregard for medical protocol as
well as in his temperament and sharp wit.
James also does some interesting gender role reversal. It is
Linnet, not Piers, who undergoes a physical transformation, and it is she who
asks the question traditionally posed by the Beast: Do you love me? In the most emotionally powerful scene in the
book, it is Piers who finds Linnet and brings water to revive her. The most
traditional part of WBTTB may well be the ending when once again love proves
redemptive and a fruitful marriage provides the HEA.
“The Princess and the Pea” serves as James’s inspiration for
The Duke Is Mine (2011), the third book in her fairytale series. The novel incorporates elements of the original tale
into the romance to the degree that the fairytale narrative is recognizable,
but James departs from traditional material to suit her own purposes. The “pea”
is a cleverly handled but minor point, the duchess who wrote the book,
literally, on what separates “real” duchesses from unsuitable ones is forced to
change her opinion, and “realness” becomes a criterion applied to all the
characters, not just the heroine.
Like the princess in the fairy tale, when Olivia first meets
“the prince,” she is a refugee from the storm. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale
describes the princess as “in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her
hair, and her clothes clung to her body.” But even in this pitiable condition,
Andersen’s princess is confident that she’s the real thing. On the other hand,
Olivia doesn’t feel like a real princess—or even a real duchess. She is
convinced that she is totally unsuited physically and temperamentally to be a
duchess. Olivia is everything Quin’s mother finds most unsuitable for a real
duchess, and it is not she but her sister Georgiana who is being tested by the
reigning matriarch. But Olivia is no passive princess who goes meekly off to
sleep on twenty mattresses. She challenges Quin from their first exchange. I
loved her irrepressibility and vulnerability and determination to be herself. I
loved that she was more earthy than ethereal. I loved her wit and her bawdy
sense of humor. I loved that she matures and sees with clearer vision by the
novel’s end. I loved her intelligence, strength, and honor. I loved her
And Quin! I fell hard for him from the first description.
. . . The
Duke of Sconce was the sort of man repulsed by the very idea of fairy tales. He
neither read nor thought about them (let
alone believed in them); the notion of playing a role in one would have been preposterous, and he would have
rejected outright the notion that
he resembled in any fashion the golden-haired, velvet-clad princes generally
found in such tales.
Brook-Chatfield, Duke of Sconce—known as Quin to his intimates, who numbered exactly two—was more like
the villain in those stories than the hero, and he knew it.
I loved Quin’s intelligence, his passion for mathematics,
and his logic. Most of all, I loved his overwhelming feelings for Olivia.
Some readers took James to task over Rupert, Olivia’s fiancé
who is developmentally delayed, because they felt he was only an object of
ridicule. That was not my reading of the book. Yes, there are some insensitive
comments early on, but the characters—and the reader—discover by the end that Rupert
is the most real of all the characters—not because he ends up a military hero
but because he had all along the sensitivity and compassion that are the very
definition of realness, as the story of the Princess and the Pea illustrates. To be continued...
Come back tomorrow for part two of the Enchanting Standalone Novels of Eloisa James!
~Janga Have you read the three books discussed in today's post? Do you enjoy fairytale romances? Do you agree with Janga's opinions of the books or do your thoughts differ? Let's dish! I have a print copy of A Kiss at Midnight for one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment. (U.S. addresses only)
Who among us doesn't have Avon books on our keeper shelves? In my home library, there are Avon authors with their own keeper shelves! Eloisa James. Sarah MacLean. Elizabeth Boyle. Julia Quinn. Tessa Dare. Loretta Chase. Julie Anne Long. Cathy Maxwell. Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Lisa Kleypas. Toni Blake. These are but a few of the Avon authors who have brought me hundreds - okay, probably thousands - of hours of reading pleasure over the years.
Then there are the newer authors on Avon's team such as Jennifer McQuiston, Eva Leigh, Lenora Bell (who makes her Avon debut April 26th with How The Duke Was Won. I've read it and it's fabulous!) and Jennifer Ryan (love her Montana men!). Time to make room for more keeper shelves. And we must not forget the old school Avon authors such as Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I'm sure we all know someone who was introduced to romance fiction through a Woodiwiss book.
Avon Books has been bringing us the classics of romance reading for the past seventy-five years and shows no signs of slowing down. They recently announced plans for their year-long 75th Anniversary "Diamond" Celebration, including many sparkling events for readers. There will be more "KissCon" reader parties as well as gala signings at the RT Booklovers convention in Las Vegas in April and the Romance Writers of America National Conference in San Diego in July. Can't make it to those events? Not to worry! There will also be many online events, including re-reads and author/reader discussions of the "diamonds" of Avon's published books as well as previously published Avon titles at special prices. As part of their celebration, Avon will also be releasing a special diamond anniversary edition of Woodiwiss's Shanna with a special foreword by Lisa Kleypas.
For more information on Avon’s 75th anniversary, visit www.avonromance.com for a complete list of activities, authors, special editions, and reader engagements.
Who are your favorite Avon authors? Which author was your introduction to romance? Which new Avon books are you looking forward to reading this year? Will you be attending any of the Avon Diamond Anniversary events? One randomly chosen person leaving a comment will receive a print copy of Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas and a signed, print copy of Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
(U.S. addresses only)
Deadline for comments to be included in giveaway: 11:00 p.m. (EST) January 21, 2016.