“What I Did for a Duke” by Julie Anne Long

STORY: For years, he’s been an object of fear, fascination . . . and fantasy. But of all the wicked rumors that shadow the formidable Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, the ton knows one thing for certain: only fools dare cross him. And when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieffe knows the perfect revenge: he’ll seduce Ian’s innocent sister, Genevieve—the only Eversea as yet untouched by scandal. First he’ll capture her heart . . . and then he’ll break it.

But everything about Genevieve is unexpected: the passion simmering beneath her cool control, the sharp wit tempered by gentleness . . . And though Genevieve has heard the whispers about the duke’s dark past, and knows she trifles with him at her peril, one incendiary kiss tempts her deeper into a world of extraordinary sensuality. Until Genevieve is faced with a fateful choice . . . is there anything she won’t do for a duke?

REVIEW: Emotional. With a capital “E”. That is the first and only word that comes to mind as, while and after you’re done with this book. From the first page, where we see Ian climb into Abigail’s room, Ms. Long makes the suspense build ever so slowly.

It starts with the emotions felt by Ian while he literally stalks Abigail, the Duke’s fiancée, for three days culminating with his climb into her bed, flows seamlessly through while we watch Harry carry out his “plan”  while Alex ever so slowly, but surely brings Genevieve to life. And the ending will have you holding your breath, wringing your hands and putting the book down so you would prolong the emotions felt by the characters. It feels so clichéd to tell you that the Author has written three-dimensional characters, but she has, and not just written about them, she’s molded, gave breath and depth to such complex Hero and Heroine that left me breathless! Struck dumb! I honestly didn’t want the book to end. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? I have to get through this page to get to the next, and next, and then you turn around and the book ends and its 5 am!!! And I want more…

The best thing about this story is…well, I’m unable to choose. Could it be the part where he tells her how a kiss should feel? Or a part where she discovers his intent for her? Or the part where she receives the flowers? Or the dialogue? I have to tell you, it is one of the best dialogues written. The humor and wit were so natural that it left me chuckling and laughing out loud. See, I just can’t choose! There’s just too many. What gave me most satisfaction is the way that Ms. Long slowly “peeled” the story as well as the characters, for me. She has taken her time in “painting” not just the setting but the emotions of all her characters. The writing went way beyond steamy and romantic. It was sensual. The sensuality was off the charts and jumps of the pages to leave you panting for more. What a gift that was!  

Out of all five Pennyroyal Green books that she’s written, for now, this is my favorite.

This series is one of the best I’ve read; the characters in all five, well-developed and the stories perfectly paced. We are completely engaged from the beginning of the series and are eagerly awaiting the next one.
I absolutely recommend this book, along with the previous four, to all regency romance fans. They are a brilliant piece of writing.

Now Ms. Long, tell me, whose story will you give us next? Lyon’s or Ian’s? Either will be welcomed by me. Bravo, Ms. Long!

NOTE: I would be remiss not mention the cover of this book. It has been done by a brilliant man who deserves much credit for such an amazing work of art. His name is James Griffin and to read about what it took to produce it stop by here:

http://happily-forever-after.blogspot.com/2011/02/interview-with-romance-cover-artist.html

For more of Cover Art by Mr. James Griffin stop by his blog here: http://paintlayers.blogspot.com/

“The Tudor Secret” by C. W. Gortner

STORY: Summer, 1553: Brendan Prescott, an orphan reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family, is brought to court, where he finds himself sent on an illicit mission to King Edward VI’s brilliant, enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth.

But soon Brendan is compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil—who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder.

REVIEW: I love reading historical fiction, as well as watching it on film, especially the Tudor era. “The Tudor Secret” was my first exposure to C. W. Gortner and I could not be happier with the introduction to this Author.  

For the most part, this is a coming of age story. Brendan is a very young man, more a boy, thrust into the inner circle of King Edward VI’s court which was a place full of intrigue and danger. We find out very early on that Brendan is intelligent and resourceful, and he manages to hold his own. It was such a joy to read, see and feel a twist on a history through Brendan’s eyes. He finds himself a pawn in Dudley’s conspiracies and gets recruited by William Cecil as a spy. The Author pulls in characters like William Cecil and Frances Walsingham to give us a great view of how spying had started. I’ve asked myself if it’s believable that a boy such as Brendan would be able to approach the royals to the extent that he did, and the answer was yes. After all, he was not a stranger to some of the major players, notably Robert Dudley, his brothers  and his entire family. He grew up with those men, and their mother wanted him in court for a specific reason which was THE “mystery” of Brendan’s birth. When all the pieces fall into place, and Brendan confronts Cecil, my heart just brakes as I see him age before my eyes…

“I was beyond reason. An abyss opened beneath my feet, full of horrors I did not want to see……. How could she have left me in ignorance, all these years? How could she have not realized that, in the end, what I did not know might be the one thing used against me?”

 “I thrust out a hand,’No more. Please, I – I cannot bare it.’”

From the first chapter of this book, you can’t help but be drawn to his story. It is one bumpy ride for our Hero and I loved every minute of his journey. I was inside Brendan Prescott’s thoughts; feelings and footsteps as he walked, ran and rode to his destiny. His voice was loud and clear through the book and I got to like the boy and I’m eagerly anticipating watching him grow into his own in the second installment which will be published sometime in 2012.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the secondary characters which are just delightful, fun and witty. I do hope we see more of Peregrine and Fitzpatrick. With them by his side our Hero became more real to us. I’m also looking forward to learning more of “Robin” Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s Favourite, and often thought to have been her lover. And lets not forget Master Shelton who our Hero needs to face in regards to the “Secret”.

C. W. did an awesome job of incorporating historical facts with fiction of the era. Historical figures of that time were so accurately painted with words that I found myself there in the midst of their intrigues.

If you’re looking for a hot romance, you might be a bit disappointed, but that should not detract you from enjoying this book. Please don’t misunderstand. There is a love story within, lust as well, but not as much as some might prefer.

At the end, the Author gave us a well written, captivating, complicated, enjoyable, richly told and very interesting story which I heartily recommend.

“Muhtesem Yuzyil” or “Magnificent Century”

If you liked watching “The Tudors”, “Rome” and you really,  REALLY liked “300” well than, you’ll love this show! I’m glued to the computer screen as I get it through You Tube every Thursday night! Oh, and have I mentioned that I’m Serbian and speak not a word of Turkish? Yet, I am riveted by the story. Let’s be clear here: Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century) is  a Turkish television series based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent. To watch the 1st Episode with English subtitles click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XCwGCIKD0Q

It is a serial about the past of Ottoman Empire. You know the one that had my people under that rule for Centuries? Yet, I’m still riveted by the story. Apparently, the serial has triggered protests from the conservative public (and I thought our Conservative’s were bad) even before the pilot episode has been aired. They thought that the scenes showing Harem dancers, around Suleiman while he was having wine, were indecent and against their religion.  They didn’t want the Ottoman Empire to be seen as such a den of iniquity.  They went so far as to read passages from the Quran egg the building of Show TV station and tear down public ads. I don’t think it’s working, however, as the 7th episode aired just this Wednesday, the 16th of February. Now they’re all over blogs, websites and Facebook groups who are protesting the TV serial! WHATEVER!!! I hear that it is the MOST watched show in Turkey. I hope it stays that way. It’s just a show! Get it together, People! Should you not be glad that your country is getting some attention? And good, I might add. Oh, have I told you also that I’m Christian? Yet, I’m riveted by the story. If you would like to catch it, visit here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBxXN3HyBcg&feature=fvsr. That’s the link for the 1st Episode and from there you can follow through. The series just premiered this January and I’m not sure how long it will last. Every Thursday you’ll be able to watch new Episode. I hope you like it!

Now, I’ll tell you about the show: The role of Suleiman is played by Halit Ergenç (Onur Aksal from “BinBir Gece”), Meryem Uzerli as Aleksandra (Hürrem) his second wife and the love of his life; Nebahat Çehre as his mother, Ayşe Hafsa Sultan; Okan Yalabık as his confidante Pargalı İbrahim Pasha and Nur Aysan in a role of his first wife.

As I said before, I don’t speak the language, so before I went to watch the first Episode, I visited Wikipedia and here is what it says:

Suleiman was infatuated with Aleksandra Lisowska (c. 1510 – April 18, 1558), or Hürrem Sultan, meaning the “laughing one”, a harem girl of Ruthenian origin, then part of Poland. In the West foreign diplomats, taking notice of the palace gossip about her, called her “Russelazie” or “Roxelana”, referring to her Slavic origins. The daughter of an Orthodox Ukrainian priest, she was enslaved and rose through the ranks of the Harem to become Suleiman’s favorite. Breaking with two centuries of Ottoman tradition, a former concubine had thus become the legal wife of the Sultan, much to the astonishment of observers in the palace and the city. Her intrigues as queen in the court and power over the Sultan made her quite renowned. Their son, Selim II, succeeded Suleiman following his death in 1566 after 46 years of rule. He also allowed Hürrem Sultan to remain with him at court for the rest of her life, breaking another tradition—that when imperial heirs came of age, they would be sent along with the imperial concubine who bore them to govern remote provinces of the Empire, never to return unless their progeny succeeded to the throne.

Suleiman I (born on 6 November 1494) was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He ruled from 1520 to his death in 1566 and is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as the Lawgiver and was responsible for complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system. His mother was Valide Sultan Aishe Hafsa Sultan or Hafsa Hatun Sultan, who died in 1534. At the age of seven, he was sent to study science, history, literature, theology, and military tactics in the schools of the Topkapı Palace in Constantinople. He spoke six languages: Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Serbian, Chagatai (a dialect of Turkish language and related to Uighur), Persian and Urdu.

Upon the death of his father, Selim I (1465–1520), Suleiman entered Constantinople and acceded to the throne as the tenth Ottoman Sultan. An early description of Suleiman, a few weeks following his accession, was provided by the Venetian envoy Bartolomeo Contarini: “He is twenty-five years of age, tall, but wiry, and of a delicate complexion. His neck is a little too long, his face thin, and his nose aquiline. He has a shade of a moustache and a small beard; nevertheless he has a pleasant mien, though his skin tends to pallor. He is said to be a wise Lord, fond of study, and all men hope for good from his rule.”

Whilst Sultan Suleiman was known as “the Magnificent” in the West, he was always Kanuni Suleiman or “The Lawgiver” to his own Ottoman subjects. As the historian Lord Kinross notes, “Not only was he a great military campaigner, a man of the sword, as his father and great-grandfather had been before him. He differed from them in the extent to which he was also a man of the pen. He was a great legislator, standing out in the eyes of his people as a high-minded sovereign and a magnanimous exponent of justice”.

The overriding law of the empire was the Shari’ah, or Sacred Law, which as the divine law of Islam was outside of the Sultan’s powers to change. Yet an area of distinct law known as the Kanuns (canonical legislation) was dependent on Suleiman’s will alone, covering areas such as criminal law, land tenure and taxation. He collected all the judgments that had been issued by the nine Ottoman Sultans who preceded him. After eliminating duplications and choosing between contradictory statements, he issued a single legal code, all the while being careful not to violate the basic laws of Islam. It was within this framework that Suleiman, supported by his Grand Mufti Ebussuud, sought to reform the legislation to adapt to a rapidly changing empire. When the Kanun laws attained their final form, the code of laws became known as the kanuni Osmani, or the “Ottoman laws”. Suleiman’s legal code was to last more than three hundred years.

Suleiman gave particular attention to the plight of the rayas, Christian subjects who worked the land of the Sipahis. His Kanune Raya, or “Code of the Rayas”, reformed the law governing levies and taxes to be paid by the rayas, raising their status above serfdom to the extent that Christian serfs would migrate to Turkish territories to benefit from the reforms. The Sultan also played a role in protecting the Jewish subjects of his empire for centuries to come. In late 1553 or 1554, on the suggestion of his favorite doctor and dentist, the Spanish Jew Moses Hamon, the Sultan issued a firman formally denouncing blood libels against the Jews. Furthermore, Suleiman enacted new criminal and police legislation, prescribing a set of fines for specific offences, as well as reducing the instances requiring death or mutilation. In the area of taxation, taxes were levied on various goods and produce, including animals, mines, profits of trade, and import-export duties. In addition to taxes, officials who had fallen into disrepute were likely to have their land and property confiscated by the Sultan.

Suleiman personally led Ottoman armies to conquer the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, and most of Hungary before his conquests was checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed most of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large swathes of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. With his main European rivals subdued, Suleiman had assured the Ottoman Empire a powerful role in the political landscape of Europe.

He also instituted legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law. His canonical law (or the Kanuns) fixed the form of the empire for centuries after his death. Not only was Suleiman a distinguished poet and goldsmith in his own right; he also became a great patron of culture, overseeing the golden age of the Ottoman Empire’s artistic, literary and architectural development.

Education was another important area for the Sultan. Schools attached to mosques and funded by religious foundations provided a largely free education to Muslim boys in advance of the Christian countries of the time. In his capital, Suleiman increased the number of mektebs (primary schools) to fourteen, teaching children to read and write as well as the principles of Islam. Children wishing further education could proceed to one of eight medreses (colleges), whose studies included grammar, metaphysics, philosophy, astronomy, and astrology. Higher medreses provided education of university status, whose graduates became imams or teachers. Educational centers were often one of many buildings surrounding the courtyards of mosques; others included libraries, refectories, fountains, soup kitchens and hospitals for the benefit of the public.

Under Suleiman’s patronage, the Ottoman Empire entered the golden age of its cultural development. Hundreds of imperial artistic societies (called the Ehl-i Hiref, “Community of the Talented”) were administered at the Imperial seat, the Topkapı Palace. After an apprenticeship, artists and craftsmen could advance in rank within their field and were paid commensurate wages in quarterly annual installments. Payroll registers that survive testify to the breadth of Suleiman’s patronage of the arts. Whereas previous rulers had been influenced by Persian culture (Suleiman’s father, Selim I, wrote poetry in Persian), Suleiman’s patronage of the arts had seen the Ottoman Empire assert its own artistic legacy.

Suleiman himself was an accomplished poet, writing in Persian and Turkish under the nom de plume Muhibbi (Lover). Some of Suleiman’s verses have become Turkish proverbs, such as the well-known “Everyone aims at the same meaning, but many are the versions of the story. When his young son Mehmed died in 1543, he composed a moving chronogram to commemorate the year: Peerless among princes, my Sultan Mehmed. In addition to Suleiman’s own work, many great talents enlivened the literary world during Suleiman’s rule, including Fuzuli and Baki. The literary historian E. J. W. Gibb observed that “at no time, even in Turkey, was greater encouragement given to poetry than during the reign of this Sultan”.

Under his pen name, Muhibbi, Suleiman composed this poem for Roxelana:

“Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful…
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf…
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world…
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief…
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.”

Suleiman also became renowned for sponsoring a series of monumental architectural developments within his empire. The Sultan sought to turn Constantinople into the center of Islamic civilization by a series of projects, including bridges, mosques, palaces and various charitable and social establishments.

Pargalı İbrahim Pasha was the boyhood friend of Suleiman. Ibrahim was originally Greek Orthodox and when young was educated at the Palace School under the devshirme system. Suleiman made him the royal falconer, and then promoted him to first officer of the Royal Bedchamber. Ibrahim Pasha rose to Grand Vizier in 1523 and commander-in-chief of all the armies. Suleiman also conferred upon Ibrahim Pasha the honor of beylerbey of Rumelia, granting Ibrahim authority over all Turkish territories in Europe, as well as command of troops residing within them in times of war. According to a 17th century chronicler, Ibrahim had asked Suleiman not to promote him to such high positions, fearing for his safety; to which Suleiman replied that under his reign no matter what the circumstance, Ibrahim would never be put to death.

Yet Ibrahim eventually fell from grace with the Sultan. During his thirteen years as Grand Vizier, his rapid rise to power and vast accumulation of wealth had made Ibrahim many enemies among the Sultan’s court. Reports had reached the Sultan of Ibrahim’s impudence during a campaign against the Persian Safavid Empire: in particular his adoption of the title serasker sultan was seen as a grave affront to Suleiman.

Suleiman’s suspicion of Ibrahim was worsened by a quarrel between the latter and the Minister of Finance Iskender Chelebi. The dispute ended in the disgrace of Chelebi on charges of intrigue, with Ibrahim convincing Suleiman to sentence the Minister to death. Before his death however, Chelebi’s last words were to accuse Ibrahim of conspiracy against the Sultan. These dying words convinced Suleiman of Ibrahim’s disloyalty, and on 15 March 1536 Ibrahim’s lifeless body was discovered in the Topkapi Palace.

Suleiman’s two wives had borne him eight sons, four of whom survived past the 1550s. They were Mustafa, Selim, Bayezid, and Jihangir. Of these, only Mustafa was not Hürrem Sultan’s son, but rather Mahidevran Gülbahar Sultan‘s (“Rose of Spring”), and therefore preceded Hürrem’s children in the order of succession. Hürrem was aware that should Mustafa become Sultan her own children would be strangled. Yet Mustafa was recognized as the most talented of all the brothers and was supported by Pargalı İbrahim Pasha, who was by this time Suleiman’s Grand Vizier. The Austrian ambassador Busbecq would note “Suleiman has among his children a son called Mustafa, marvelously well educated and prudent and of an age to rule, since he is 24 or 25 years old; may God never allow a Barbary of such strength to come near us”, going on to talk of Mustafa’s “remarkable natural gifts”.

Hürrem is usually held at least partly responsible for the intrigues in nominating a successor. Although she was Suleiman’s wife, she exercised no official public role. This did not, however, prevent Hürrem from wielding powerful political influence. Since the Empire lacked any formal means of nominating a successor, succession usually involved the death of competing princes in order to avert civil unrest and rebellions. In attempting to avoid the execution of her sons, Hürrem used her influence to eliminate those who supported Mustafa’s accession to the throne.

Thus in power struggles apparently instigated by Hürrem, Suleiman had Ibrahim murdered and replaced with her sympathetic son-in-law, Rustem Pasha. By 1552, when the campaign against Persia had begun with Rustem appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition, intrigues against Mustafa began. Rustem sent one of Suleiman’s most trusted men to report that since Suleiman was not at the head of the army, the soldiers thought the time had come to put a younger prince on the throne; at the same time he spread rumors that Mustafa had proved receptive to the idea. Angered by what he came to believe were Mustafa’s plans to claim the throne, the following summer upon return from his campaign in Persia, Suleiman summoned him to his tent in the Ereğli valley, stating he would “be able to clear himself of the crimes he was accused of and would have nothing to fear if he came”.

Mustafa was confronted with a choice: either he appeared before his father at the risk of being killed; or, if he refused to attend, he would be accused of betrayal. In the end, Mustafa chose to enter his father’s tent. Suleiman’s Eunuchs attacked Mustafa, with the young prince putting up a brave defense. Suleiman, separated from the struggle only by the linen hangings of the tent, peered through the chamber of his tent and “directed fierce and threatening glances upon the mutes, and by menacing gestures sternly rebuked their hesitation. Thereupon, the mutes in their alarm, redoubling their efforts, hurled Mustafa to the ground and, throwing the bowstring round his neck, strangled him.”

At the time of Suleiman’s death, the Ottoman Empire was one of the world’s foremost powers.

Series Trailer (English Subtitles)

“The Countess” by Lynsay Sands or “Weekend at Bernie’s” Regency Style!

STORY: The fairy tale courtship did not turn into a happily ever after…

Not until her husband dropped dead, that is. He had been horrible enough to Christiana during their short marriage, and she was not going to allow the traditional period of mourning to ruin her sisters’ debuts as well. So Christiana decides to put him on ice and go on as if nothing’s happened…

Until the real earl appears. Richard Fairgrave had every intention of confronting his villainous twin who robbed him of his name and title…only to discover that he’d died. Quietly assuming his identity, Richard must now deal with a maddening desire for his ravishing inherited “wife”—certainly a gold digger and possibly a murderess. And Christiana must deal with an unwanted new “husband”…and they both must figure out what to do before the ice melts!

REVIEW: This blurb is just irritating as well as deceiving. It leads me to believe that Richard has assumed the dead brother’s place without Christiana knowing it, and he believes her a “gold digger”. WRONG! But I am way ahead of myself.

First, I never read any of Lynsay’s Vampire books. I sort of lost interest in those after Ann Rice’s Vampire series, but I have read her two Historical Romances, “The Switch” and “Love is Blind” which I liked a lot. I do like the humor and wit she weaves through her stories. It truly is Laugh-Out-Loud reading.

With this story, Lynsay is introducing us to three sisters who were left a dower from their Grandmother, and this book displays the same charm, humor and wit I’ve come to expect of her. Still, it was a bit disappointing. I can’t put my finger on it but there you have it. It was too simple, too predicting and just too lighthearted. Our Heroine was too meek and she let her husband mentally abuse her for the past year of their marriage. He kept all of her friends and family away from her and slowly subdued her will and her spirit. In my opinion the Author didn’t take this story far enough for me. Maybe that’s why I just didn’t connect with Christiasna. Later on, once she gets her back bone, we’re even more confused about why she just gave up on herself for a year.

On the other hand we have Richard, Earl of Radnor, the REAL one, who was a straight forward chap and knew where he’s going and what he’s about. He was a total opposite of the “pretender”. He was patient, kind, passionate and his concern for Christiana’s well-being and for her reputation was genuine. I liked him very much. We also get to meet his friends and I’m really looking forward to their story.

Now we come to the plot: Who killed the “pretender”? Richard figured out quite quickly that it wasn’t Christiana, and while they all are surprised by the big “reveal”, we are not. Well, I wasn’t, but I won’t tell you. Suffice it to say it was revealed by a whimper and not a bang…

I have to say that the most fun I had reading this book was when Richard discovers the body of his brother and tries to smuggle it out and then in the house. It truly was “Weekend at Bernie’s” Regency Style!

To recommend this book or not? Hmmmm…..Yes, I’ll recommend it, if for nothing else, but for those LOL scenes and I have to say that Suzette’s story has intrigued me. “The Heiress” will be coming out February 22nd, and I will buy it.

To ALL Romance Novel Cover Artists: Happy Valentine’s Day!

To celebrate this day of Love and Romance I’ve decided to share with you all my love of Romance Book Cover Art and Artists. I wonder if any of you take a peek at the inside of a cover to find out who did the cover art for that book. Have you ever wondered what it takes to bring us such beauty, movement and magic? What is the process and how long does it take? Who chooses the models? Where do they get their costumes? How long does it take to finish the project?Jon Paul Ferrara is one of my favorite Dude’s and he says “It all starts with an art director sending me a fact sheet of a general description of the characters of the story and the time period the story takes place in. Some art directors will send along a small sketch with notes on what they specifically are looking for. I would have to say 80 percent of my work is historical which I love the most, for I love history. Once I’ve read through the material I start my research (funny, things have change since the Internet) for years ago I use to live in libraries, though now with the information highway which is the Internet, a good percentage of my research is done there. Though being a historical illustrator for 25 years now I have built up  a collection of books … literally over a thousand books i have in my library … mostly art books and history books with a good section on costumes through the ages. I also collect movies on DVD to study from also, actually the first video I purchased and I attribute to part of me being a romance illustrator was “Somewhere in Time” love the time period and loved the film… I love directors like Franco Zeffirelli Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola etc…. Once all my references are in place for the cover at hand, I begin my search for models I feel that will fit the characters in the story. I work with all the major model agencies in NY… Wilhelmina, Ford, Ikon, CESD, etc.. From there I use two studios in NY to do the shoots… Media Photo and Shirley Greene studios and now in the last 5-7 years I’ve been doing my own photography also… Photography has always been a love of mine, so I had a professional photo studio built in my house where the models come out to me… My studio is in Northern New Jersey. I have to say I love doing my own photography for I have complete control from beginning to end of the creative process. Once the photos are taken, it is usually a combination of several photos I use … you would never know it… I take body parts from one photo and use them in another so I get the perfect motion and feeling that I am looking for … composing is like being a sculptor… I look for lines and angles that run through the bodies to give a feeling of motion and passion that other wise might be static if I use only one photo. One of my female models jokes with me and says, “no one needs a cosmetic surgeon when we have you around Jon Paul “(lol)…When I am putting photos together like this … that is when my years of studying anatomy come into play … for if I didn’t have that knowledge it would never work or look right … from there then I start the painting … in today’s ever changing publishing world you have to work digitally in order to survive…Most publishers will not wait for an oil painting when you can work digitally so much faster, for you don’t have to wait for trying times and changes are easier..I have to say I do mix it up by combining traditional and digital to keep my traditional look so to speak and not computer looking. I am basically a trained oil painter that changed digitally for publishing purposes, though in my Gallery work I am 100 percent traditional.” For the rest of his interview please visit Isn’t It romantic website here:  http://romancebooks.splinder.com/post/22418327 or go to his website here: http://www.jonpaulstudios.com/

I’ve recently read an interview with Romance Cover Artist James Griffin who said this of his favorite covers “I always seem to like the latest one best, but there are  a few covers that I’m proud of. Of the 3500 or so book covers I have created there James Griffin, are some that stand out to me as being satisfying for artistic reasons. One that is always a favorite is the front and step back covers for When the Duke Returns, by Eloisa James.” For the rest of the interview please visit Happily After website here: http://happily-forever-after.blogspot.com/2011/02/interview-with-romance-cover-artist.html. Please check it out. He takes us on a great journey and answers some of the above questions. You can also visit him on his blog here: http://paintlayers.blogspot.com/

Alan Ayers is another artist that I admire as well. Check him out at his website here:    http://www.alanayers.com/Romance/romance.html

To see Elaine Gignilliat’s wonderful work you can visit here: http://www.romancebookcoverart.com/ and for Chris Cocozza don’t forget to stop by and say hello here: http://chriscocozza.com/

And last but certainly not the least we have Max Ginsberg and you can check his art here: http://www.ginsburgillustration.com/index.html

We’re often familiar with Cover Models, but it is rare for me to hear anything about the Cover Artists. I found out that even the Authors are not sure who did their cover Art, but they love the result!  They are men and women that deserve our praise and today I would like to wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day and humbly thank them for their AMAZING work and let them know how much they’re appreciated!

Please visit them when you get a chance and I hope you enjoy their work as much as I have!

BinBir Gece (One Thousand and One Nights)

STORY:  Şehrazat Evliyaoğlu, a talented architect who works in Binyapı, a construction company owned by Onur Aksal and Kerem İnceoğlu. She is the mother of a five-year old boy who suffers from leukemia and needs an urgent and very expensive surgery.

Onur Aksal is a successful businessman and Şehrazat desperately tries to find ways to borrow the money she needs for her son’s very costly surgery, a bone marrow transplant. Only her boss Onur, who is secretly attracted to her, is willing to give her the money on condition that she spends one night with him.

Will she accept the offer and how far will she go to save her son’s life? That and many more questions are asked and answered in this riveting love story.

REVIEW: Here in the USA we had “Dynasty” and “Dallas”, but I think this serial was far better than both of those combined. One of my friends knows how much I love to read Romance Novels, so she sent me a link to this Turkish Serial. At this point, I wish she hadn’t. I literally spent a week glued to the Computer screen. This show is made of 90, one and a half hour episodes that spans 3 seasons. Now you do the math! You know how we sometimes do the most stupid things in our life, but are not sure why? That’s me and this show. I got hooked into it so easily.

I mean, this whole show revolves around these two trying to come to terms with a conscious decision they both made to spend one night together. To some, this might not be a problem. I mean we have entered a 21st Century for Heaven’s sake! It’s a one night stand with a rich dude, hopefully a great lover, and plus you get the money to save your kid! Get over it! Oh, and let’s not forget, the rich dude falls in love with you! Can this be any easier? Apparently not as we get to see how hard it is for both of these characters to come to terms with it. To better understand them we slowly get to know both through their family and friends as well as the way they interact with each other.

Scheherazade is a twenty-six year old widow, successful architect, and a mother of a five-year old boy. In order for us to understand this complex woman and why she does things, we need to know that at 12 years of age she loses her mother, at 19 her father and at 24 her husband whom she married against his family’s wishes. To make things even worse, shortly after her husband dies, she finds out that her son might die as he’s diagnosed with Leukemia. Life has not been kind to this woman, and in order for her to cope with everyday life, she pours all her love and attention to her son.

Scenes between the son and the mother are just heartbreaking. I found myself shedding a lot of tears while watching those and plenty of others as well. Also,

we get to understand the reasons behind decision to keep the existence of her son a secret from her superiors. It was an unwritten rule for many companies to pass on hiring women with children in a misguided notion that such employees would devote less time to their work. It was a very common thing in the work environment and she could not risk it. The first time we meet her, she’s late for work and the reason was because she was with her son. Onur, her boss, was not a pleased man and tried to embarrass her in front of her coworkers, even though she was the one to win the bid of their project in Dubai.

Through all three seasons we watch her make her decisions on a lot of issues, based on her past. She just could not bring herself to trust anyone but herself. After the Black Night, as she’d begun to call the night that she sold herself to Onur, she thought herself a whore.  She used that excuse to push him away on many occasions even though she fell in love with him.

And then we meet Onur. What a piece of work our hero turned out to be. It’s been awhile since we met such a complex human specimen. He’s ALL THAT, and more! In his mid thirties, Onur has lived a charmed life, or we think it at the start of the story. We do get to learn a lot about him through his mother, his best friend Karem and various other professional people he gets in contact with. He also lost his father when he was 12 and the way that his father passed shows us a bit about why he doesn’t trust women. His mother adores him and has always been possessive of him and his time. His friend seems always in a competition with him on both professional and personal front. They both fall for Scheherazade and neither is willing to admit the fact, at the beginning.

However, after Onur spends that night with her, he knows that there’s no going back. He knows that he loves her, that the desire he feels for her is not just a passing fancy and that now he must work very hard to show her that love, so he starts courting her. Down the line we finally find out the reason for his jealousy and trust issues in women. Apparently, he caught his betrothed with another man in his bed, in his house, a week before the wedding. From that point on, women were not to be trusted and not to be loved, just used. Until he met Scheherazade.

Through three seasons of this show, we follow their love as it progresses from one night stand into an epic tale of love, betrayal and heartache. We also meet her In-Laws, his Mother, their best friends and their families, coworkers and we get to see many, many scenes of Istanbul and Turkey that I never thought I’d ever see. What a wonderful background Istanbul made!

Kudos to casting directors for casting the parts of Onur and Scheherazade with Halit Ergenç and Bergüzar Korel who I found out married in the second season. Tardu Flordun and Ceyda Düvenci were wonderful as Kerem and Bennu. There are many secondary characters that were so much the part of the story that we loved to hate some, and others just loved. I have to also give credit to the director Kudret Sabanci who was just amazing.  Here are just a few scenes that I’ll never forget:

The scene in which they enter a hotel room on that night is one of the sexiest I’ve ever seen, and we don’t even see them in bed! She enters behind him and as he takes the drink, she just stands still with her head lowered, her eyes glued to the floor. He puts the drink down, walks up to her hardly looking at her, and slowly, ever so slowly he raises his hands and takes her shawl off to reveal the black dress she’s wearing. Again ever so slowly he reaches to the back of her head and slides the pony tail band and reverently touches her hair. WOW! Besides feeling the sexual tension between them, we could feel the shame and the desire.

The scene in which Onur proposes marriage to her takes place in a very posh, upscale restaurant that he bought out for the evening and had it decorated all in white, with soft lighting and a classical three-piece orchestra playing in the background. He knows that she’s skittish and so the approach he takes is that of honesty as he says this:

“You know better than I the story of Shah Sheharyar where he says ‘Friend, do not trust women’ . It takes Scheherazade Thousand and One Night to tell Shah Sheharyar  her stories and at the end she saves herself as well as all the women. Together we spent one night, but that one night is for me longer than thousand and one. Scheherazade, I know if I spent thousand and one nights on my knees and begged your forgiveness, I would never atone for it in my heart. Every night that I’m alone I think of only one thing: How can I erase that night from your memory. Will You Marry Me? Please, do not hurry with your answer. I am afraid that it would be No. In order to get the answer that my heart wants to hear, I will be patient. For you to say Yes, I will wait thousand and One Night because I love you. I have never said those words with fire that burns within my heart. You have entered my soul, I feel you all around me, and you are the very breath I take. I wondered for a while what gift of my affection I can offer to you. No precious jewels could ever show you how much I love you, how much I suffer for the deep hurt I brought you, and  how sorry I am for hurting you. You deserve the best that this world can offer. Everything. So I gift you with a piece of my childhood.”

With that he takes out of his pocket a small warned out toy of a horse and slowly pushes it toward her. She looks at it for a while and you can see it in her eyes that she’s battling herself as to what she should do and say. She never takes the horse, but tells him that she thinks it’s too soon, she needs time and to his relief she does not say No.

Every scene, and there are many, in which Onur reads the “Thousand and One Night” is a gift to us. I’ll be hearing his voice in my dreams, and seeing him ride his horse, Shah Sheharyar. It is the most impressive and soothing voice I’ve heard in a long time. The music played a major role in this series. It was beautiful and very haunting.

There’s also a scene where he just about had enough with her running away from him, so he arranges to have a business meeting where her presence is important, so after the meeting she can’t start her jeep and he offers her a ride and she acceppts. In the car they have a minor disagreement, and he abruptly stops the car and forces her to get out of it, then proceeds to drag her into the forest and pours his heart out, YET AGAIN!

“You’re right, Scheherazade. Totaly!I will NEVER forget that night! Every time I look at you, I remember the night I fell in love with you! That night brought me one more thing, and that is a lifetime of jealousy! Towards Everyone! That wil NEVER change!If ever we get back together, we WILL fight over it! Not because I don’t trust you, but because I don’t think I deserve you! I’ll be always scared to lose you! That is WHO I am! I am a man who NEVER trusted women before that night. I am a man changed by love from that night! If you can tell me you don’t love that man, then take the car keys and go!”

She does not take the keys and they stand there in the pouring rain in the middle of the forest and kiss!

The scene at the end of the series, where Scheherazade is set to wed another, and is asked the question “Will you….” And she just sits there so quiet, so afraid that once she answers it, it would be too late. You can feel her doubts…and then HE walks in, saying nothing, just solemnly looking straight at her, making her turn and then we all see what she sees. Onur, flanked on both sides and holding hands with their children, little Kaan (her son) and Lilliput (his daughter who finds him after nine years).

The look he gives her, the words really would have been too much. Onur is daring her to say Yes, daring her to deny the love and their family that only he can give her. WOW! Cried crocodile tears!

These are only a handful of scenes that have made a lasting impression on me, but there are too many to go into, least of all THE scene in which she asks him for money and he makes her an offer she really had  no choice but to take. These actors were chosen so well and did an outstanding job in conveying to us the pain they both were in, the love, the desire, the chemistry was undeniable.

BRAVO! Bravo to all. Even though this was a love story of Onur and Scheherazade, we know it took a “village” to bring us this story and we know this was an ensemble show. As far as I know it was aired in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.  I watched it with Serbian Subtitles and I tried to find out if it was available in English, but could not find it.

Basic Information:

Binbir Gece (“Thousand and one nights“) is a Turkish television series starring:  Halit Ergenç, Bergüzar Korel, Tardu Flordun and Ceyda Düvenci; Director: Kudret Sabanci; Screen Writer: Mehmet Bilal, Murat Lutfu, Yildiz Tunc, Ethem Yekta; Episodes: 90; Broadcast Network: Kanal D; Broadcast Period: November 7, 2006 – May 12, 2009; Production Company: TMC Film. It won a 34th Golden Butterfly Awards for Best Actress (Berguzar Korel), Best Actor (Halit Ergenc) and Best Drama (Binbir Gece). To catch Berguzar Korel: Endless Song (Bitmeyen Sarki) or Halit Ergenc: Zerda (Zerda), Aliye (Aliye), Magnificient Century (Muhtesem Yuzyil).

Sample the music, the scenery of Istanbul, and the chemistry of  Onur and Scheherazade:

Istanbul

 

Onur’s speach in the forest and THE KISS

 

Wedding vows

 

THE END

 

Other External Links:

Official Site: http://www.binbirgecetmc.com/;

English Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binbir_Gece;

Imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0905574/

“Unveiled” by Courtney Milan

STORY:  Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family, and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom, and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But when he arrives, he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance.…

Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who’s stolen her fortune and her father’s legacy—the man she’s been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion…

REVIEW: I usually wait a few days to review the book I’ve read. Sometimes I wait weeks. I always need time to process, to absorb the story. Weigh points that I liked against the ones I did not. Well, that was before I read this book. I was done with it two minutes ago, and I just had to sit and tell you how much I loved this story. I’m still in kind of euphoria, sort of high. I’m afraid I’m just going to start gushing and gushing over the Hero, Ash Turner. Ms. Milan has introduced to us a character that will live with us for  some time. I recall only a handful of such Heroes that sort of steal themselves into our hearts, and stay there for decades. Such as Johanna Lindsey’s James Mallory, Diana Gabaldons’ James Frazer, and recently Judith James’ Gabriel St. Croix.

Ash Turner is a flawed man, a man’s man. He’s not a tortured hero, like some reviewers described him. No, he’s more of a man with a lot of regrets. They are the ones that keep him awake at night. He’s also a man who loves his brothers to death and is not ashamed to show it. There is nothing he would not do for them. At fourteen, as the oldest, he had to leave his siblings with their mother while he went to India to make his fortune. That is something he seems to regret, yet at the same time he knows that there was no other alternative. It’s just something he knows he has to live with, except it. It is hard to do that when you come back and find your family, your brothers on the streets. But, he’s Ash, charming Ladies as well as servants is very easy to him. There is nothing fake about him. What he feels, we’re made to feel. When he speaks, we listen, we absorb. We get him!

And then we have Margaret. What a wonderful, poised, sweet, loyal, strong woman she is. We are made to love her slowly and gradually. How refreshing it is to read a book where two mature adults fall in love and the conflict they find each other in, straightens that love, gives it wings. This story will surprise you and take you on an unexpected journey. Don’t hesitate to take it! We are made to fall in love with both of these people in such an easy way. As Ash shows Margaret that she matters, we as readers feel that Ms. Milan is giving us a gift of our own and is telling us that we matter.

This story had everything a romance novel should have. All the characters were very vivid, extremely well-developed. In one scene, almost at the end of the book, we meet this butler, and even though we never meet him again, we SEE him, we KNOW him, and we GET the picture in our head. I’m sorry, I’m ahead of myself, and the only excuse I have is that I want to let you know that you just CAN NOT pass this read.

Often times, we can tell much of the book by reading all those blurbs on the back of it. In this case, we get only a glimpse of the story. Ms. Milan has given us a conundrum by having Ash seek revenge, and by putting Margaret in such a place of choosing loyalty to her family, or loyalty to Ash?! What, how does one choose?! We are kept in suspense until the bitter end, and it is so good once you read that part!

I understand that Mark’s story “Unclaimed” is next, and I am itching for it!