Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Review: For Love and Honor

For Love and Honor
By Cathy Maxwell, Lynne Hinton, and Candis Terry
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: May 29, 2012

For Love and Honor is an anthology from Avon’s digital imprint that is billed as “Three military heroes . . . fighting to protect their countries, their homes, and the women they love.”

“The Bookish Miss Nelson” by Cathy Maxwell is the first story. Captain William Duroy is assigned the task of leading a small escort party to take Pippa Nelson, the daughter of the British envoy to Spain, to Lisbon where she will board a ship to carry her to safety in England. William does his best to avoid the assignment, but when his best efforts fail, he is determined to complete his task as speedily as possible so that he can rejoin Wellington’s troops before the battle begins. Pippa isn’t any happier with the situation than is the captain. Forced to leave her beloved books behind, certain that her father will expect to find her where he left her, and resentful of the restrictions imposed by her gender, she is angry and determined not to like her handsome escort. Pippa escapes when the party stops overnight at an inn. Stealing clothes from the innkeeper’s son in order to disguise herself as a boy and riding her mare Tatiana, she sets off on her own to return to the Wellington’s camp. William goes after her and finds her with little difficulty, but before he can insist they resume their trip to Lisbon, they are forced to hide from a French unit taking ammunition to the French forces that will soon be attacking Wellington and his troops. When it becomes clear that William plans to destroy the ammunition, Pippa refuses to be left behind. It takes the intelligence and daring of them both to achieve their goal, and they rescue one another and fall in love during their adventure.

“Letters from Pie Town” by Lynne Hinton consists of a series of letters from various citizens of Pie Town that will be included in a “Hometown Hero Goodie Box” that the town is sending to Raymond Twinhorse, a soldier recovering in a military hospital in Germany from wounds he received in Afghanistan. His priest, his father, his girlfriend, and others express their love for him, their pride in him, and their desire to see him return home safely. The letters also reveal details about Raymond’s history and the character of the letter writers.

The concluding story is “Home Sweet Home” by Candis Terry. Aiden Marshall has returned to Sweet, Texas, after a term of service that included a tour in Afghanistan. He and two of his best buddies enlisted in the aftermath of 9/11, but only Aiden is returning. Burdened with survivor’s guilt and grief over the loss of his friends and the forced abandonment of Renegade, a canine D'Artagnan adopted by Sweet’s three musketeers, Aiden feels that he is undeserving of the hero’s welcome the town gives him or of the life he had dreamed of with Paige Walker whom he has always loved. But Paige loves Aiden too much to give up on him. She’s always been a girl who worked a plan, and she has a plan now that, with the help of the good people of Sweet, will help heal Aiden’s wounded heart and truly bring her hero home to her.

I like anthologies, but I almost always find them uneven. This one proved no exception.

Cathy Maxwell is an author whose books I have often enjoyed, and I found William and Pippa likeable, engaging characters. Even when Pippa’s choices seemed foolhardy, I enjoyed the story, and I was delighted with the heroic roles both played. But the last part of the story moves very quickly with much telling, little showing, and little development of character or plot.  I did appreciate Maxwell’s emphasis on the role of those who wait with anxious hearts for those at war, but I wished “The Bookish Miss Nelson” were a novel so that the post-marriage section could have been as strong as the earlier part of the story.

“Letters from Pie Town” was the first thing I’ve read by Lynne Hinton, and it is too slight for me to reach any conclusion about her work. A novella, by definition, is a work of fiction, shorter than a novel and longer than a short story, with a compact and pointed plot. Hinton’s story seemed more an introduction to characters whose stories are incomplete that short fiction satisfying within itself. The hero never appears; readers learn all they know about him from bits revealed in the letters.

Candis Terry’s “Home Sweet Home” is an appealing story with the small-town characters, sizzling chemistry between hero and heroine, and makes-me-smile moments that I expected from a story with her name on it. I like Sweet, Texas, and look forward to Terry’s new trilogy that will be set there.

I received a free ARC of this book from Avon via Edelweiss, but it will be generally available to readers today at a bargain price that makes it well worth checking out. It also includes excerpts from a novel by each of the authors.

Do you like anthologies? What’s your favorite novella?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

“To all the fallen, may they be forever young in heaven. To all the wounded, may they have strength and heal. To all the bereaved, may they feel joy again. And please God . . . may there be one day an end to war.”

Nicholas’s toast in An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Little Night Music

I began my current WIP with the idea that it would be completely unconnected to my Home trilogy, but then my hero wanted to serenade my heroine. Drew’s a very bad singer, but if he has to sing to Briallen to convince her he can be romantic, he’s willing to do so. My problem was that I needed a song from which I could borrow lines. I’m no lawyer, but I’m fairly certain quoting from a published song would violate copyright laws. So I decided to have Drew sing a Max Marshall song. For those who don’t know, Max is the hero of The Long Way Home, my first, still unpublished book, and he’s a successful singer/songwriter. I wrote lyrics for several Max songs when I was working on that book. Now I’m bringing Max, or at least his songs, into my new book.

I was so pleased with the way the serenade scene worked that I used another of Max’s songs in a later scene for the secondary romance. The heroine’s sister realizes she’s fallen in love with a most unlikely man when she hears him singing his daughter to sleep. Sentimentalist that I am, I got a little teary-eyed writing that scene.

Drew sings a stanza and chorus from Max’s “Georgia Belle,” changing the state to suit his purpose.

Drew took a quick swallow from the long neck in his hand and surveyed the scene. Check on the moonlight. Check on the flowers. He hesitated. Make that half a check on the flowers. He wasn’t sure how romantic Bri would find the orange daisies and hot pink carnations, but they were the best he could do at midnight on a Saturday.  Hell, he’d forgotten he needed something to toss at—at the French doors, no windows either. Were windows more romantic than doors? How could a mere man know the answer to that question? He stumbled over a chair as he stepped onto the patio. No need for a rock now, he thought, as light poured through the drapes.  Here goes.

I have found all I was seeking;
I see the answers in your eyes.
You’re the key that I’ve been missing;
you’re my hope now realized.

“Are you drunk?” 

Not exactly the response he was hoping for. “I’m being romantic,” he said.

“Idiot, you’re going to wake up Rica and the kids.” Bri stepped outside the door and took a step toward him.

He grinned at the sight of her. With her hair sticking up in every direction and her long legs bare beneath the tee shirt she wore, she wasn’t any closer to a princess than he was to a courtier. She still took his breath away. He thrust the flowers at her, took a breath, and continued his song.
I’m a rhymer without reason
whose words can never tell
how life was changed one summer season
by my lovely Bama belle.

“Max Marshall would sue you if he heard you mutilating his song.”  

He ignored her.

You are a fever in my blood.
You are the music in my soul.
You are everything that’s good,
and your love has made me whole.

“Drew, hush! I’m serious. You can’t get drunk and come caterwauling around here.”

He lowered his voice on the final lines.
All my words can never tell
how I love you, Bama belle.

She stepped closer, placing her fingers against his lips. “No more,” she whispered, laughter just beneath the surface.

“My silence for a kiss, my lady.” He spoke against her fingers.

“One kiss, idiot,” she said and stepped into his arms.

Thad sings for his young daughter a portion of “Remember,” a song Max wrote for his daughter.

Rica sent a quick prayer that Thad had been able to calm Erin. She paused at the door, her heart catching as she heard Thad singing to his child.

It was just yesterday I held you tight
And drove the scary monsters from your night,
And I was a hero in your sight.
I remember
. . .

“I love you, baby,” he whispered.

Rica felt the tears on her face. This tough guy with his marshmallow heart was still a hero. In Erin’s eyes—and in hers. Now to convince him of that.

So how do you think the lyrics of Max Marshall fit in these scenes? Are you bothered when fictional worlds are integrated in some way? I’m still in the first draft stage, so these scenes may never be stitched into later drafts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Review: A Gentleman Undone

A Gentleman Undone
By Cecilia Grant
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: May 29, 2012

Will Blackshear, a survivor of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, is a man with a purpose. Feeling morally responsible for the death of a man under his command, he commits himself to providing for the man’s widow and child. He uses the greater part of what he received from selling his commission, but to make full provision and keep another promise, he needs another three thousand pounds. He decides gambling will be the best way to get the money. He is pleased with the two hundred pounds he wins one evening, but then he loses a hundred and eighty pounds to the mistress of another player. Will is convinced she cheated.

Lydia Slaughter has a goal too. Guilt drove her to enter a brothel “with a plan to extinguish herself from the inside out,” but having survived for two years, the last six months as the mistress of Edward Roanoke, she has determined that two thousand pounds will provide her with the means to live independently. Since her protector has the habit of falling into a drunken sleep over his cards, she has begun playing out his hand. Impressive computational skills and a phenomenal memory allow her to emerge the victor and skim enough off Roanoke’s winnings to steadily increase her nest egg.

Will is first caught by Lydia’s looks, although he concedes that she is “handsome” rather than beautiful, but soon he is captivated by her skill with cards. Lydia’s opinion of men generally is not high, but Will keeps behaving in ways that challenge her conclusions. Circumstances eventually cause the two to collaborate as they target less reputable gambling dens to meet their goals. There is sexual tension aplenty between the two, but it is the duel of wits and words between these two intelligent, vulnerable characters that make this book a standout. Watching them discover and fall in love with the wounded creature that each is behind the carefully preserved fa├žade is a deeply satisfying reading experience

Courtesan heroines have become common in historical romance in recent years, but Grant’s courtesan heroine is uncommon. She chooses to join the women in a notorious brothel as self-punishment. She enjoys the luxuries that are hers as the mistress of a wealthy man, and she enjoys sex with that man. Her desire for independence is motivated by her practical assessment of what her life as a kept woman will be once Roanoke loses interest in her not by regrets over her fallen condition. Even when she is caught up in “if only” thoughts, she recognizes the futility of them. Will is a tortured soul so entrenched in his guilt that he cannot see himself as the truly honorable man he is. Both characters prove themselves capable of sacrifice, and their HEA is achieved with full recognition that it does not come without costs.

Grant’s first book, A Lady Awakened (December 27, 2011), earned praise from some authors I greatly respect and received a lot of online buzz. The combination persuaded me to give her a try even though, despite good intentions, I read few debut authors. Like many other readers, I  was won over by that book. I loved Grant’s fresh take on an established trope and her way with language. I fell in love with these same qualities in A Gentleman Undone. It is a darker book than the first one, but voice, style, and a pushing-the-boundaries approach to the conventions of romance fiction are the same. So is the author’s gift for crafting words and sentences that left me giddy with delight over their precision and perfection. Lydia thinks of Will’s voice as “a kind of promissory note for the touch of his weather-beaten soldier’s hands.” Will admiring his niece see her thusly: “Her downy infant brows pushed together in response, giving her the air of a scientist confronting some puzzling outcome.”  Wonderful!

Will is the younger brother of the heroine of A Lady Awakened, and the Mirkwoods and their infant daughter are minor characters in the new book. The connection does not prevent A Gentleman Undone from working as a standalone read. I don’t know if Grant plans more books in the series. I am interested in Nick, another Blackshear sibling, and would love to read his story. But regardless of what Cecilia Grant writes next, she can count on me as a reader. She’s joined my autobuy list.

What’s your favorite romance novel with a courtesan heroine? How do you feel about HEAs that are not unshadowed?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Reading 2012

Summer starts for me tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that the experts say summer is still more than a month away. My summer has always begun the day after the last day of school. Today is the last day of school for most of the grands (all but the two who live in a different county). The thermometer says summer too with temperatures in the mid 80s and climbing according to the forecasters. So, come Saturday, it's summer.

Summer means days in the swimming pool and on the lake, baseball games, cookouts and picnics, tomatoes from the garden, lemonade, and ice cream cones. It means camp. When I was a child camp was limited to scout camp and church camp, but while the grands’ camp schedule includes those familiar weeks, they will also be attending soccer camp, football camp, art camp, science camp, and music camp. I may have forgotten one or two.  And summer means reading. Lazy days at the beach, cool mornings on the porch of a mountain cabin, and afternoons when putting a toe outside a blessedly air-conditioned home seems suicidal—all offer long, lovely hours to read.

The summer before I started to school I read a hundred books. I’d like to read that many this summer. I only about ninety on my list for summer 2012, and, thanks to ARCs received, I’ve already read more than a dozen of those. But I’m sure I’ll discover books not on my list, and I expect there will be reissues of old favorites that I’ll want to reread. And I anticipate a few ARCs for fall releases. I’m looking forward to lots of long, hot summer days—and nights—filled with good books. I’ll let you know after Labor Day if I met my goal.

My Summer Reading List


May 22
Marriage of Mercy, Carla Kelly
Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick, Deb Marlowe
Lucky in Love, Lucky Harbor #4, Jill Shalvis

May 29
Along Came   a Duke, Rhymes with Love #1, Elizabeth Boyle
Charmed by His Love, Spellbound Falls #2, Janet Chapman
A Gentleman Undone* (Blackshears Family #2), Cecilia Grant
“A Little More Scandal” (HR), Christies 1.5, Carrie Lofty
Summer Days, Fool’s Gold #7, Susan Mallery
Home for the Summer, Chesapeake Diaries #5, Mariah Stewart


June 4
Slow Summer Kisses, Shannon Stacey

June 5
Unraveling the Past, The Truth About the Sullivans #1, Beth Andrews
Spring Fever, Mary Kay Andrews
Bring Him Home, Special Forces #3, Karina Bliss
A Life Rebuilt, Deep in the Heart*, MacAllisters #8, Jean Brashear
Quilt or Innocence (Mys), Southern Quilting #1, Elizabeth Craig
Navy Rules, Whidbey Island #1, Geri Krotow
The Casanova Code, Rake Patrol #1, Donna MacMeans
Unexpected Family, Sequel to His Wife for One Night, Molly O’Keefe
Little Night, Luanne Rice
Bride of the High Country, Runaway Brides #3, Kaki Warner
Sorority Sisters, Claudia Welch, aka Claudia Dain
Sea Change, Karen White

June 12
Porch Lights, Dorothea Benton Frank
The Red House, Mark Haddon

June 19
A Bad Day for Mercy, Stella Hardesty #4, Sophie Littlefield
Little Matchmakers, Jennifer Greene

June 26
How to Be a Proper Lady*, Falcon Club #2, Katharine Ashe
First Do No Evil, Blood Secrets #1, Carey Baldwin
Willow Springs, Destiny #5, Toni Blake
A Duchess to Remember, Ministry of Marriage #3, Christina Brooke
Scandal Wears Satin*, Dressmakers #2, Loretta Chase
The Way Back Home, Barbara Freethy
Thief of Shadows, Maiden Lane #4, Elizabeth Hoyt
Starlight, Christies #2, Carrie Lofty
Summer Nights*, Fool’s Gold #8, Susan Mallery
Can’t Buy Me Love*, Crooked Creek #1, Molly O’Keefe
At Last, Lucky Harbor #5, Jill Shalvis
Ocean Beach, Beach #2, Wendy Wax
Midnight Promises*, Sweet Magnolias #8, Sherryl Woods


July 3
Carolina Home, Dare Island #1, Virginia Kantra
Moonshell Beach, Shelter Bay #4, JoAnn Ross
Ravishing the Heiress*, Fitzhugh Trilogy #2, Sherry Thomas
"It Begins with a Kiss,"  Eileen Dreyer (ebook short)

July 10
Size 12 and Ready to Rock*, Heather Wells Mysteries #4, Meg Cabot
The Great Escape, America’s Lady #6, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Don’t You Wish, Roxanne St. Claire
The Next Best Thing, Jennifer Weiner

July 17
Some Like It Hawk, Meg Langslow #14, Donna Andrews

July 19
Burnt Mountain Anne Rivers Siddons

July 24
A Not so Respectable Gentleman? , Diane Gaston

July 31
That Thing Called Love*, Susan Andersen
The Bride Wore Pearls*, Fraternitas Aureae Crucis #3, Liz Carlyle
How to Romance a Rake, Ugly Ducklings #2, Manda Collins
Almost a Scandal, Reckless Brides Trilogy #1, Elizabeth Essex
The Language of Sisters, Amy Hatvany
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady, Donovan #3, Jennifer Haymore,
Deception, Kris Kennedy
All Summer Long*, Fool’s Gold #9, Susan Mallery
Touch of a Scoundrel, Touch of Seduction #3, Mia Marlowe
Can’t Hurry Love, Crooked Creek #2, Molly O’Keefe
One Mountain Away*, Goddesses Anonymous #1, Emilie Richards
Forever and a Day, Lucky Harbor #6, Jill Shalvis
The Cowboy and the Princess*, Jubilee #2, Lori Wilde
Catching Fireflies*, Sweet Magnolias #9, Sherryl Woods


August 7
On Her Side, The Truth about the Sullivans #2, Beth Andrews
Peril in Paperback, Bibliophile Mystery #6, Kate Carlisle
Wilder, Chosen Ones #5, Christina Dodd
Making Her Way Home, Janice Kay Johnson
Dream Lake, Friday Harbor #3, Lisa Kleypas
Wedded in Sin, Bridal Favors #2, Jade Lee
Within Reach, Sarah Mayberry
Blackstone’s Bride, Kate Moore
The Soldier’s Wife, Cheryl Reavis
Wild Texas Rose, Jodi Thomas

August 14
My Loving Vigil Keeping, Carla Kelly
The Inn at Rose Harbor, Debbie Macomber

August 21
The Prodigal Cowboy, Kathleen Eagle
The Lovesick Cure, Pamela Morsi
Hidden Paradise, Janet Mullany
The Doctor’s Do-Over, Karen Templeton

August 28
Courting Carolina, Spellbound Falls #3, Janet Chapman
Blame It on Texas, Hotter in Texas #2, Christie Craig
A Lady by Midnight*, Spindle Cove #3, Tessa Dare
The Ugly Duchess*, Happily Ever After #4, Eloisa James
The Way to a Duke’s Heart*, The Truth about the Duke #3, Caroline Linden
Nightingale Way*, Eternity Springs #5, Emily March
When Lightning Strikes, Whiskey Creek #1, Brenda Novak
Return to Willow Lake, Lakeshore Chronicles #10, Susan Wiggs

What’s on your summer reading list?

*Books I’ve already read or expect to have finished befor May 22.