September RRAH reviews & October preview…

The last couple of months have been exciting for me, more on a personal level then the professional and I’m hoping October will be tamer. Never the less, as always, a bookworm like me, finds the time to put its nose in a book. For September I have only three books reviewed for Romance Reader At Heart and all three were excellent reads and I highly recommend them.

I’ll start with an author that’s probably familiar to all, Suzanne Enoch and “A MATTER of SCANDAL” which I found just delightful in its entirety! This was such a fast and fun read that I finished it too quickly and then wanted to start over again, because I didn’t want to leave this fun world the author took me in. If you’ve never read Ms. Enoch, you might as well start with this one, and if you have then you know without a doubt what she’s capable of and how much fun you’ll have reading and for that matter re-reading her books!

My next book was as much fun as the first and when I heard that Shana Galen’s “LORD and LADY SPY” is available for review I jumped on it. I’m probably in a minority of people who loved the movie “MR. and MRS. SMITH” so my expectations were very high for this Regency take on it. Boy, oh boy! I was so happy when my expectations were not just met, but surpassed! Ms. Galen is one of those rare breeds of authors that can put forth stories of ‘angst’ and ‘humor’ separately as well as together. I wish the ‘Muse’ never leaves her side! This pair will have you laugh-out-loud and make you tear up to the point that you’ll ask for more! I honestly can say that I wouldn’t mind following their life, and that says a lot for the talent of this young author!

And now I get to tell you about a novel that completely took me by surprise and that is Janet Woods’ “LADY LIGHTFINGERS”. This story made me warm all over. This was a story of a true Heroine and the road to her hero was very romantic and heartwarming, and exciting, and it will make your heart melt. This story is a journey of discovery, determination, independence and perseverance of a girl who knew herself and accepted herself for what she was, yet knew that she could and would be more than what Society dictated. The romance within the novel is sweet rather than spicy hot, and brought to mind Carla Kelly’s novel I recently read that could be put into this category “BEAU CRUSOE”. By the way, for an awesome review of that book, please visit Kathryn and you’ll know what I mean.

And there you have it, my bookworms! Can you believe that October is knocking on our doors already?! This month is full of great authors that will stop by and play with me and I’m beside myself from excitement. We start with Eileen Dreyer on October 3rd, and she’s bringing all her Drake’s Rakes over!

Shana Galen’s Lady Spy was so gracious to agree and stop by on October 10th, and answer a few questions for us, so I hope you’ll stop by as well and meet this hot-tempered and hot-blooded female!

On October 13th Rose Lerner will be here and she’s bringing Solomon and his ‘Lily’, and I can tell you I’m so much looking forward to their visit!

And then Joanna Bourne will be stopping by on October 17th and talk about Adrian/Hawk and I can only bow and say as Wayne and Garth would I’M NOT WORTHY! I’M NOT WORTHY! (For that matter I may as well say that in regards to all my guests for this month!)

To finish off the month I’ve invited someone I never met in ‘real’ life but it seems I’ve known forever! Dare I call her FRIEND?! Is it possible to know someone well even though you never laid eyes on them?! If it is, and I’ll dare, Ashley March is a friend, confidante and an author to look out for and I invite you to come over October 26th and meet her (who knows maybe we could ask Mr. March to accompany her…I hear he’ll have a book soon, too) and maybe tell us about…their projects coming up and their romance!

Until then, happy reading and happy upcoming Holidays if I miss you in the next couple of months!

Fan2Author Interview: Tiffany Clare

Last year my DH and I took a trip for our tenth wedding anniversary but my poor hero caught a cold with the works: coughing, sneezing, runny nose and even a lo-grade fever. I felt so sorry for the poor man and like a good little wife, I stepped out to buy him some ‘drugs’ and low and behold I spot a BOOK! The first thing that drew me to it was the cover. A woman in a yellow, gorgeous gown was just stunning, and if you’re a romance addict like me, there’s no way you could have passed this one up. Especially knowing your long night of celebration was turning out to be a long night of ‘nurse duty’. Not that I minded. My sick man passed out after that Benadryl kicked in and slept like a baby! And I…I spent the WHOLE night in bed with Tiffany Clare!

When my baby finally woke up, he apologized, feeling bad, so I teased him and told him we had a threesome with Tiffany Clare, to which he replied:”Finally, and I don’t remember a thing! Just great!”

Tiffany’s first book ‘The Surrender of a Lady’ was released EXACTLY a year from today, on September 28th in 2010 and even though the cover attracted me at a glance, the blurb on the back of it sold me completely. Lady Elena’s story was unique and Ms. Clare told it so well. I’m so happy she’s agreed to come over to b2b and play!

b2b: Tiffany, welcome and thank you so much for accommodating me with the date. It’s been now a full year since your début book and in this short time you’ve released two more books, ‘The Seduction of His Wife and ‘The Secret Desires of a Governess’. I can’t even imagine how you’re feeling, so why don’t you tell us, how does it feel to have ‘triplets’ in one year?!

TC: Thank you for having me! Triplets in one year! LOL I like that. It’s been a whirlwind actually. I barely remember the year since it went by so fast. I still haven’t caught my breath, because it’s been one deadline after another for my new series coming up. Maybe five years from now I’ll look back and have a moment of wow. Right now it’s work, writing, kids, family, pets, work, writing . . . you get the picture. It’s a never ending cycle without pause.

b2b: Now that you have three books under your belt, can you tell us what’s coming up for you in 2012?

TC: I have a new trilogy (no release date yet) that is very loosely based on the ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ theme and it’s been fabulous to write. Here is the blurb my agent posted when the series sold to St. Martin’s: 

“Another Victorian era trilogy for St. Martin’s Press done in the vein of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ in which four friends engage in a dangerous game of wagers and seduction in their pursuit of pleasure until one goes too far.”

b2b: Oh my! That sounds so good! Which story was the hardest to write and which couple did you like the best?

TC: It’s hard to say which couple I liked best. None of the heroes were men I could ever say that is the man of my dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them in the broken kind-a-way, but for the most part they were alpha jerks. I’m avoiding the jerks in my new series ;)

Favorite couple is hands down Jinan and Rothburn. They were just so real to me. No pretentions, no fantasy. They were full of so many flaws that I loved them more than everyone.

The hardest book to write was Asbury and Emma’s from ‘The Seduction of His Wife’. It was difficult to find the best balance when the couple had been married for so many years and ruined by Asbury’s abandonment. You have this woman that’s become independent from the man she married and Asbury who really never thought his marriage nothing but convenient for an heir. Then I had crazy Waverly. Every time I had to write a scene with him in it, I cringed and felt the revulsion skittering in my heart and crawling along my flesh. It’s odd when you’re writing, because you really have to get to the heart of a character, and he was nothing short of C.R.A.Z.Y. I felt sick every time I had to put him on the page.

b2b: This year Turkey TV has launched a beautiful and visually stunning series called ‘Magnificent Century’ about the life of Sultan Suleyman and the love of his life, a Harem girl Alexandra (Hurem). Can you tell me more about your research into the Harem life?

TC: I read as many books as I could get my hands on, and then veered far from the truth. Well most truths, women as spoils of war and by men who wanted a little coin were often sold into harems (truth). Harem life was not easy for women in the mid-nineteenth century (before or after that, either). Women were constantly trying to become first wife through fourth wife. They plotted and schemed and killed children and other women inside the harem to raise their status if they had a male heir or potential for such. I didn’t like all the ugliness that I did find out, so I asked a lot of what ifs. I’m sure in real life had a character like Amir existed; he and his harem would have been executed by higher-ranking members in the family.

b2b: Do you let someone read your work during your writing process? Who and why? Or do you wait ‘till it’s finished, then you let someone read it…and who?

TC: I have a critique partner that reads my earliest versions all the way to my last draft. We plot and brainstorm together because that’s just what works for us. I just started out that way and because it worked, I kept at it. We learned the craft together. Her name is Elyssa, and we’ve been doing this for more than five years.

b2b: Do you have a hard time writing the intimate scenes, and how hard are they to write?

TC: I don’t have a hard time writing the intimate scenes per se, they just tend to take me longer than any other bits of the book. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because they are lengthy. But I’ve never had a problem with them.

b2b: Without a doubt, the covers of your books so far have been just stunning! How much input are you allowed during this process?

TC: I’ve had almost no input (aside from the bracelet Jinan wears on the cover of Surrender). St. Martin’s has done such a fabulous job and I couldn’t have been luckier. My editor and the art department get all the credit for the creation of my stunning covers.

b2b: What do you like to read and what’s on your TBR now?

TC: I read everything. Mostly things with a happily ever after, though. I’m reading my friend and another critique partner, Maggie Robinson’s book, ‘Lady Anne’s Lover’ (not scheduled out till 2013). You’re all jealous now, aren’t you? She’s simply fabulous.

b2b: Now, that ends our ‘professional’ portion of this interview. Are you ready to get personal? Or are you going to chicken out on me?

TC:  Me chicken out? Pfft.

b2b: I like a woman who takes chances! Let’s get Personal, then:

So, tell us a bit about yourself, something personal that you’d like us to know…anything that makes you comfortable…or not…like how many times did you fall in love? What’s your favorite meal of the day (food)? Flannels or Silk? Do you like to cook? What’s your favorite spot in the house? Cats or Dogs? Champagne or Beer?  Your favorite time of the year? TV or Movies?

TC:  How many times have I fallen in love? That’s a good question. Lots I suppose. There was the high school love, the husband, my son’s beautifully calm face when he was born, my daughter’s screaming, crying face when she was born… so that makes four?

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast.

Silk of course.

I can cook quite well, but I prefer it when my hubby does it :)  which he often does, because he works from home, and the rule in our house is first one home makes the meal.

:) Yeah, yeah, so that one is in my favor!

No fave spot in the house. It’s a two bedroom apartment, probably less than 1100 square feet! The joys of living in a big city.

Dogs and cats, I have both. Though we’ve had ferrets and rats in the past, too.

Veuve Clicquot please :)

Summer and fall are my favorites.

Movies all the way. I have so little time for TV and I have zero patience for commercials.


b2b: Tiffany thanks for making my Anniversary very special, yet again, so I think we should do this every year. What do you say?

We should :)

b2b: It’s a date then!

And now for the Giveaway:*

Tiffany will give away the

‘Surrender of a Lady’  to one lucky commenter!

(*Sorry US only)

‘To be or not to be’ self published…by Charlotte Hawkins

In general, I have great respect for authors that pen the stories I read, but I’ve developed a soft spot in particular, for authors who are self-published.

One of those is Charlotte Hawkins whose novel ‘THE TEMPEST: A GUY OF GISBORNE STORY’  impressed, intrigued and prompted me to find out more about the author and her work. So, without further ado, here’s someone I think you might like as much as I do, Charlotte Hawkins and her journey, in her own words…

“I’m a hopeless romantic, I love history, and yes, I am a fan of Richard Armitage. But contrary to popular belief, his Guy of Gisborne wasn’t the first one I loved. When I was growing up, I always rooted for the bad guys, and one of my favorites has always been Sir Guy of Gisborne as portrayed by Basil Rathbone. Seriously, compared to him, Errol Flynn was a wimp. Even as a kid, I was attracted to Rathbone’s smooth, dashing Sir Guy. It wasn’t until Richard Armitage that my heart went astray. If loving a bad Guy is wrong, I don’t want to be right. :)

I write novels under two names. One is my real name Sarah Pawleyand one is my pen name Charlote Hawkins.

‘Oh, That I Had Wings’ and ‘Finding Grace’ are my two historical fiction/love stories. They are written under my ‘Sarah Pawley’ name and are available online. Both are linked together as part of a family saga, set from WW1 through the late 1920’s in America. I’m currently working on the third book in the series.
‘The Tempest’ and ‘My Lady Gisborne’ are romance novels, written under my ‘Charlotte Hawkins’ name. Both are available online. They have adult content, which is why I put them under a pen name. They’re very different from my other novels, and I wanted to differentiate the two styles of writing.

For all the would-be writers out there, I’m offering the story of my experience with self-publishing, and why I chose it. Hopefully, this will provide some information for those who are new to the publishing business.

I started out blind when it came to knowing anything about publishing. I was a freshman in high school when I wrote my first full-length novel. All I knew was that I had written a book, and I wanted to publish it. I had NO idea how to go about it, so I went to the library and did some research. It was there that I found a very thick book called The Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market.’ I opened the book, and my mouth fell open in shock. I could not believe the number of agents, publishing companies, etc. that were out there! In my naiveté, I said to myself…

‘Surely, one of these agencies or publishers will want my work.’

In reading the first pages of the guide, I first learned the words ‘Query Letter.’ It would soon become a hated turn of phrase, but I digress…

According to the guide, it was up to me to query agencies and seek representation, as nearly all publishing houses require their writers to have representation. So, I followed the example in the guide and wrote query letters. LOTS of them, to as many agencies as I could find in the book that represented my type of fiction. This was in the mid-nineties, when email was still in its early stages, and printed letters were still the norm. I bought boxes of envelopes, put my queries in them, and…along with sample chapters…I sent them on their way.

I was soon to learn a painful lesson about the publishing industry. Specifically, I became familiar with a very painful word: REJECTION.

Every query I sent came back with what is commonly known as a form letter. Typically, they say something along the lines of:

‘Dear Author,

Thank you for your query. We were pleased that you expressed interest in our agency. However, we feel that your work does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you luck in your writing career.’

These letters piled up quickly. And as they did, my frustration and anger grew. I wondered if it was my writing that was keeping me from getting published. So, I found an editor. As it turned out, my manuscript needed a lot of work, and I was glad to have someone who could teach me to be a better writer. I polished it up, and sent out my queries and sample chapters again.


I spent nearly three years trying to sell my first novel. By the time I had finished High School, I had pretty much given up. I still wrote, of course. I have always loved to create stories. But I had put aside my aspirations of being a professional writer.

It was many years before I got back into the game, and that was a unique story all on its own.

It was late 2006. By then, the internet had become very familiar to me. I had also discovered a website called ‘C19,’ dedicated to all things Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and the like. I quickly became a member and a frequent visitor, and it was there that I learned about something called ‘Fan-Fiction.’ Being a Jane Eyre fanatic, I rediscovered my love of writing as I wrote my own JE stories. My old ambitions soon blossomed, and I began writing my own tales. I also took the chance on trying to find representation, and this time, I was able to query through email. But, as before, I found only rejection.

Needless to say, I was discouraged. But then I learned of an emerging phenomenon in the publishing world: Self-publishing.

Still being a bit of a newbie to publishing, I was lured in by the ads of a company called ‘IUniverse.’ At the time, I did not know the difference between a vanity press and a POD publisher. Unfortunately for me, I went with a vanity press. I soon learned that the goal of a vanity press is not to help an author succeed, but to take advantage of new writers who are hungry to see their work in print. I was one those writers, and I trusted the wrong people. Yes, I got a printed book, and it was thrilling to see my words in printed form. But…

I had no say in the cover design. They chose it for me. They did not provide me with an editor, unless I paid an extra fee. Once my work was in print, there was no changing it. The price of the book, once it was available, was ridiculously high. And they offered me marketing help only if I was willing to pay a high price. I was learning another brutal truth about the publishing business: there are a lot of crooks out there, and they will take your money without remorse.

As you can imagine, I was fed up with publishing altogether. But then, through some stroke of luck, I began hearing about other writers who had gone through a similar experience. One of these writers introduced me to a company called ‘Create Space.’ I was wary, of course. I did my homework. I asked as many questions as I could. I talked to other writers about their experiences with this company. They had only good things to say about it. So, I gave it a try.

‘Create Space’ has been a godsend. It has given me everything I need to succeed as an author. There are, however, some things I have learned, and here they are:

#1. Edit your work, and then edit it again. And don’t rely on your eyes only. Find a professional if need be, and if you can’t afford a pro, find yourself a beta reader. Beta readers, in case you didn’t know, are readers who volunteer their time to look over your work and tell you where they think you need to make corrections. You can find them on writers websites, like Wattpad. And something else about beta readers: If you can, find a ‘Simon Cowell‘ type. Find someone who will tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re the next big thing, because if you are lulled into complacency, it will be heartbreaking to discover that your work is not the masterpiece you thought it was.

In short: Put your work through the ringer. Make it the absolute best it can be before you put it in front of the public eye. In the long run, you will reap the rewards for your effort.

#2. You do not have to pay for a press release. Repeat: You do NOT have to pay for a press release. I learned this wonderful bit of information through a friend, and it saved me a ton of money. Publishing companies, including ‘Create Space,’ will offer this service for a price, usually costing between $250 to $500 dollars. But in my opinion, it is foolish to pay for a PR. They are so simple to create and distribute. For more information, feel free to email me…

#3. Get yourself an author account on Goodreads. Once there, participate in their author giveaways. You will be amazed at how quickly people flock at the chance for a free book. But be prepared for honest reviews in return. In my experience, the readers at Goodreads do not hold back with their opinions. Some will enjoy your work, but some may not. Whatever reviews you get, learn from them. It will make you a better author in the long run.

My hope is that someone benefits from reading this post about my experience. Self-Publishing has not made me rich. Not by a long shot. But it has allowed me to have my work in print, and I am in control of all the business aspects.The readers dictate what works and what does not, and it is the reader that matters to me…

If you have any questions for me, that I haven’t answered so far, feel free to ask  me here or contact me through my website.

To b2b, thanks so much for this opportunity!”

Charlotte, it has been my pleasure to host you! Your journey and determination are awe-inspiring. I wish you many years of success!

And now, how about a giveaway?!

One commenter will win


…so don’t be shy, comment away!

“A Scandalous Proposition” by Wendy Soliman

STORY: When a beautiful woman bursts into Lord Adam Fitzroy’s room at an inn seeking refuge, he assists her. His curiosity is piqued when he later spots her entering the local house of ill repute. The next day he is shocked when his mother introduces the woman as her new paid companion. His mother adores Florentina, so Adam agrees to keep her nightly activities a secret…on one condition: she must spend one wicked night with him.

Florentina Grantley is both scandalized and intrigued at the prospect, but she worries that the dashing war hero will quickly discern her lack of experience. True, she’s no innocent—but she’s a widow, not a whore. Yet she can’t explain the true reason behind her alliance with the brothel’s madam, or the danger she faces if exposed.

As their initial tryst grows into something deeper, the stakes become higher. What will Adam do when he discovers Florentina’s deception?

REVIEW: Major Lord Adam Fitzroy is a soldier, traveling home on leave from his post. He is travel weary, and stops at an Inn. As he is about to partake of a meal that he’s in no mood to eat, a woman bursts in on him and he chooses to hide her under the tablecloth, and once she’s out of danger, he offers to escort her to the place of her destination. Unbeknownst to him, the Lady he helps is his mother’s companion and she’s being pursued by an unsavory character.

Florentina Grantley is not who she represents herself to be, and before long she regrets not telling the handsome hero her true identity. But to do that, she needs to trust him, and that doesn’t come easy to Tina. In order to evade her pursuer, she grants Adam permission to escort her to safety, but not quite home. And that’s when all the misunderstanding starts.

Throw in Phillipa, Adams sister-in-law (his one time love) now married to his ailing brother the Duke, and you have even more entanglements.

I liked both Tina and Adam, I hated Phillipa and the Duke was an arrogant and weak man who let a woman walk all over him.

I’m a bit torn about this book. While I liked it, or liked three-quarters of it at least, I also found myself not liking parts of it. For awhile I thought two different writers were writing it. For example, if I liked the first chapter, by the second I would feel like something’s off, not ringing true to the characters I was introduced to. Some scenes were so heartwarming and so well written, and then some just felt stilted and awkward, while some were just unnecessary.

In the end, the plot kept moving the story along, despite the ‘voice’ straying, and since most of the story ‘felt’ right, I will recommend the read. In the spirit of fairness to Ms. Soliman, I am unfamiliar with her work, and to that end I’ll seek out her other stories to ‘get the feel’ for her prose.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

“In Total Surrender” by Anne Mallory

STORY: The first kiss was dangerous enough…

Andreas Merrick is the king of London’s dark underworld, having amassed unimaginable wealth and power…and a fierce reputation that leaves even the bravest men quaking in their boots. Yet one person is maddeningly unintimidated by his fearsome presence: the persistent Miss Phoebe Pace.

And one kiss always leads to another…

Equal parts honey and steel, Phoebe will stop at nothing to find her missing brother and save her family. Though associating with Andreas means peril and scandal, she never expects to experience a passion so intense that it threatens to consume her. But enigmatic Andreas is no ordinary man to love. He brings dangers from all sides – without and within – while tempting her beyond her wildest dreams…

REVIEW: This is my first time reading Anne Mallory, and I was glad to have stumbled on to her! As this was a part of her ‘Secrets’ series, I thought it best to read them all, and I was glad that I did. That’s not to say that the stories can’t be read or can’t stand alone. I chose to do it only because of my own personal preference. I found out that even though each book tells its own individual story, I always get the ‘feel’ for it by reading its predecessor first. “One Night Is Never Enough” helped me greatly to understand Andreas and his personality and I highly recommend it as well.

Andreas Merrick was one of those heroes that you can’t help but fall in love with, especially when introduced to his painful past. As for the heroine, Phoebe Pace, she will steal your heart with her gullible nature and sunny disposition. As I was reading it, I kept seeing Meg Ryan’s smile and funny banter while Toby Stephens’ throaty voice was Andreas in my mind.

The relationship between the two was developed in stages and that was perfectly fine with me. Their wit, their sparks, and their opposite personalities were very enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining. The chemistry, sexual tension and the anticipation created by the author, was so well written that once those two came together, I couldn’t help but sigh!

Anne Mallory’s style of writing was refreshing and every character she introduced us to was three-dimensional and the plot kept the story moving with measured speed. The author does an outstanding job in drawing you into the story and caring for the characters she created. If you love your hero intriguing, quiet and strong while he falls for a bubbly, bookish and brave heroine, you just can’t miss this story! It is a fun, moving and an overall exciting read.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Fan2Author Interview: Judith James

This summer I had an honor to interview Judith James for the blog and I was in awe of this woman. She’s my personal CALGON! She never fails to take me away with her wonderful writing. In anticipation of her new book ‘The King’s Courtesan’ which came out last month, she graciously agreed to come over and play :)

b2b: Hello Judith and welcome to b2b! I’m so happy and humbled by your visit. I have so many questions to ask you, and none are coming to mind right now. I feel tongue-tied and my brain’s frozen! Okay, here we go…Are you enjoying your summer so far? How exited are you with ‘The King’s Courtesan’ coming out?

JJ:  Actually I love these questions! And thank you so much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.  I’m having a great summer so far, although as my deadline approaches I wouldn’t mind a little rain. It’s hard to work when you want to go out and play. Of course it would also be hard to work if a hurricane hits and the power goes out. I was at a lovely seaside wedding last week and I’ve made it a couple of times to the beach so I’m happy. I’m very excited about The King’s Courtesan coming out, and as I am with all my books, a little anxious too. It feels a bit like your child’s first day at school.

b2b: It’s no news to my readers how much I enjoy ‘Judith’s world of Restoration’, but what I like as much are your AFTERWORD notes. I truly enjoy reading the ‘behind the story’ notes of any book, so tell me more about your research and ‘behind the story’ of ‘TKC’…

JJ: Well as always, while I was researching I found some amazing facts and interesting characters that gave me ideas for future stories. I stumbled across some very interesting highwaymen, and learnt that in the mid 17th century the courts were kinder in many ways then they were in later years. I had assumed people were hung for the most minor of offenses but in fact, while robbery with violence was a capital offense, robbery itself was not until nearly the end of the century. Research is always challenging my preconceptions.

In regards to THE KING’S COURTESAN, some things that surprised me were that icehouses were fairly common in people’s cellars, and many nursery rhymes and fairy tales popular today were popular then as well. Dick Wittington and his cat had already been to London, Nell Gwyn was referred to as Cinder Whore, a Cinderella reference, and Mother Goose tales were well-known and popular. Charles II, my favorite monarch for his wonderful curiosity and sense of humor, actually pardoned a man who tried to steal the crown jewels because he found him amusing, his actions daring, and his story entertaining. Charles had a very sardonic sense of humor and was inclined to forgive a lot if he was entertained.  He wasn’t very forgiving of the Farnley wood plot though, which figures in the story, and many thought he used it as an excuse to rid himself of certain people who were a thorn in his side. That wouldn’t be the first time it happened or the last.

His relationship with commoner and bawdy house born actress Nell Gwynn was a fascinating one, his tolerance for Lady Castlemaine’s outrageous temper and string of lovers legendary, and his ardent pursuit of Francis Stuart, who rejected him for another was the talk of London at the time.  An aristocratic woman like Francis Stuart would never have married a man like Robert, who was a mere baronet before Charles raised him up. A woman like the violet eyed Castlemaine would never genuinely love anyone, and a woman like Nell was content to take would she could and share what she must. Hope Mathews shared something in common with all of them, (and no I don’t mean Charles but that too) but she wanted something more.

b2b: See, that’s what I mean! You never fail to enlighten me! Just if someone out there hasn’t read any of your books, would you tell us a bit about them and what’s coming up for you in 2012?

JJ: Oh I expect there are still a few of those! BROKEN WING was my first book. You might call it a healing and redemption story with a wounded hero, a strong-willed and unconventional heroine, and more than a dash of high seas adventure. It had a small print run and didn’t stay in stores long but it has maintained a fairly steady presence through Amazon and kindle. It won an IPPY, made a few best of lists and got a great PW review which was not bad for a book with exotic locales and a male ex prostitute as hero.

HIGHLAND REBEL was my first foray into the 17th century, a place I’ve grown to love and have yet to leave. Cat Drummond was a pretty kick ass heroine shouldering major responsibilities while battling the limitations imposed on her because of her sex, while Jamie was a pragmatic, easygoing and very cynical almost anti-hero, with a great sense of humor. They were both trying to keep the people they loved out of the brewing Jacobite wars and though they were a bit of an odd couple they were perfect for each other.

LIBERTINE’S KISS, as you know, was a story of childhood friends who reconnect years later. It was inspired by the poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester who I named William and gave a happy ending while freely borrowing his amazing poetry. His biographers all mention an extremely doting and solicitous tutor in his early years, (who slept in his bed to protect him) without making what to me was an obvious connection to some of his later behaviors, something that I did in that book. It was great fun watching Elizabeth grow from a somewhat timid Puritan miss to the confident woman who had both Charles and Will wrapped around her finger.

THE KING’S COURTESAN, tells the story of Captain Robert Nichols, first introduced to readers in LIBERTINE’s KISS as a friend and suitor of Lizzy’s, and Hope Mathews, who, when Robert meets her, is a courtesan to Charles II.  Although it is a stand alone, those who read Libertine’s Kiss may enjoy visiting briefly with Will and Elizabeth again.  Robert, like many who’ve experienced trauma and been too long at war, suffers some symptoms of post traumatic stress. He’s a rigidly contained man with a lot of violence simmering within, while Hope is outwardly sunny, but a wary and determined survivor inside.  It doesn’t help that they come from different  backgrounds and different ends of the social spectrum, and are thrust together in a marriage neither of them wants. In essence it’s a story of loss and redemption, betrayal and love, with a bit of fairy tale, local legend, and current history mixed in.

My next book, HERS AT MIDNIGHT, scheduled for release next year, picks up a few years after The King’s Courtesan leaves off. Make sure to read the epilogue at the end of The King’s Courtesan for a hint as to what is coming next. As soon as I get a cover I will put it up,  along with the first three chapters, but to say much more about it now might ruin the surprise at the end.

b2b: I’m really looking forward to the next one. It sounds so good! It’s really hard for me to choose my favorite book you wrote. I will forever love Gabriel and ‘Broken Wing’, but all the others are close to my heart as well. Which of those were the hardest and the easiest to write and which couple did you like the best?

JJ: Oh my the hardest was definitely Libertine’s Kiss! I was rather ambitious with that story, weaving in the story of Charles’ Restoration, a childhood romance, Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queen, and Rochester’s and other 17th century poetry. There were a lot of threads in that story and weaving them together was very painstaking at times. Broken Wing was the easiest because I didn’t know any better and I had the luxury of time. I hope anyone who’s writing and not yet published takes the time to enjoy that first manuscript. There were no expectations but my own, and no deadlines but my own. That’s a luxury you only have with your first book. As for favorite couples, I think as a writer you love all your characters, but you always feel closest to and most protective of the ones you are just releasing into the world, and the ones you are trying to help find each other now.

b2b: Do you let someone read your work during your writing process? Who and why? Or do you wait ‘till it’s finished, then you let someone read it…and who?

JJ: In the past, for Broken Wing and Highland Rebel, I did have some people I used as Beta readers, but not until I felt I had the story I wanted. I wanted to get my vision if you will, out there first, without being influenced by other’s opinions. Once I had that, I offered the first draft to people I knew to be choosy, open-minded, and eclectic readers. I asked them to tell me if there was anything that jolted them out of the story, seemed to ring false, seemed inconsistent, etc. and it was a tremendous help. They were all readers rather than writers. I wanted to know their experience of reading the story, not suggestions as to how to write it.

I don’t use Beta readers anymore. Not because it wasn’t helpful but because there just isn’t the time for this extra step. When I get finished my first draft my editor is already waiting. She is now the first reader, and of course she gives suggestions too. I know many writers use critique groups but I think there’s a danger that you can lose confidence in your own voice or mute it if you are not in the right one. I highly recommend Beta readers though, if you have enough time. There’s nothing more helpful I think, then getting a feel for how a range of different readers will respond to your story.

b2b: Do you have a hard time writing the intimate scenes?

JJ: Mmmm.  Let me turn on the fan. Well…it depends on my mood. I never write them when I have a headache. I’m laughing but it helps to be in the right mood.  Looser, relaxed, yet very focused too. I sometimes have a glass of wine and close my eyes and….well I like my heroes and find them pretty sexy. Sometimes I find a certain song will get me in the mood. Tom Waits ballads  often take me there. 

Seriously though, my intimate scenes tend to be quite  organic to the story. Robert’s and Hope’s first encounter is a result of lust, loneliness, anger and alcohol,  and is not emotionally intimate though it is emotionally desperate. In the end, it makes them both uncomfortable with themselves and each other. To me, intimate scenes mirror the progression of the relationship, and as a couple’s relationship changes, it changes the nature and tone of those interactions and how they feel about them and relate to each other after. If I’m getting that right, generally they  flow with the rest of the story.

b2b: Tell me about the cover art of your books. I’m again very partial to ‘Broken Wing’ cover. Who came up with it? What about the other ones?

JJ: I have two favorite covers. Broken Wing, which was my first, and Libertines Kiss with it’s gorgeous colors and that necklace. I’ve been very lucky with covers and  have them all up on my wall. Broken Wing was with Medallion, a smaller independent press at the time, and they were justifiably proud of their covers. Obviously someone in the art department had read the manuscript and really tried to make the cover reflect the feel of the book and the actual story. I know they did a photo shoot for it with a model named Ryan. I thanked the art department and the artist, Arturo Delgado in my acknowledgements for that one.

b2b: Let’s talk titles…How hard is it to ‘name’ your ‘baby’?


JJ: Well…it is and it isn’t. Broken Wing came to me after my first chapter. I was listening to a cover of Willie Nelson’s Angel Flying to Close to the Ground. It really captured the feel and theme of the story for me and acted as a kind of guide or beacon in way, keeping me on track. It really resonated with me.  Medallion loved it too so it stayed. Since then I’ve learned not to grow too attached to titles as they are often changed. Now I find a working title that resonates for me as I’m writing, and when the time comes I work with the production team to find one we are all happy.

b2b: We all have favorite books, authors… How about you? Are you willing to fess-up?

JJ : Ok you almost made me spill my coffee laughing there. I have too many to mention and that’s not avoiding your question. If you check me on Goodreads I have rated 165 books and the average rating I give is 4.48. That’s because I only list and rate books that I have read and loved. I have a ton of them by many different authors in many different genres. I don’t get the chance to read much lately though, except for research, so I am way behind and there are probably many more that will be favorites when I get the chance to read them.

b2b: What’s on your TBR right now?

JJ: I have three books there right now. Two are the monster doorstoppers. One is George R.R. Martin’s latest which I waited I think 5 years for, so it can wait a little longer. The other is one I bought as a present for my sister’s birthday and a one sentence tagline hooked me hard so I bought a copy for myself. The book is called The Passage and the hook, by Entertainment Weekly was “The Stand meets The Road”  I won’t be getting to either of them for a couple of months at least though. The third book is one by Bev Pettersen. I read a book of hers for a cover quote a while ago. She writes a kind of Dick Francis with romance blend but from a more female perspective. She tells a great story, and having worked on a racetrack I got hooked pretty quick. I’m leaving her latest for a treat when my final draft is done.

b2b: I’ve yet to read George R. R. Martin, although I did catch the HBO series “Game of Thrones” based on his book “A Song of Ice and Fire” and I’ve fallen in love with the world he created.

Now, that ends up our ‘professional’ portion of this interview. Are you ready to get personal? Or are you going to chicken out on me?

JJ: Oh oh!

b2b: …Let’s get Personal:

So, tell us a bit about yourself, something personal that you’d like us to know…anything that makes you comfortable…or not…like how many times did you fall in love? What’s your favorite meal of the day (food)? Flannels or Silk? Do you like to cook? What’s your favorite spot in the house? Cats or Dogs? Champagne or Beer?  Your favorite time of the year? What are your fears? Your Joys?

JJ: Oh! This is a bit like those questions James Lipton asks on Inside The Actor’s Studio.

Favorite meal… breakfast, favorite food, Eggs Benedict. By the way does anyone know where that name came from?  Love to bake bread, cook roasts and make soup in winter. Summer is for salads and microwaves. Silk in summer or when company is coming, flannels when it’s snowing and you’re all alone.  My favorite spot in the house is the by the window overlooking the harbor, with a nice glass of wine in my silk robe, or cocoa in my flannels. I don’t like beer or champagne (unless it’s at brunch with orange juice). I love dogs but have cats, and my favorite time of year has been the fall ever since I saw a school bus and realized I never had to go back to school again. My greatest joy is my daughter and my family, and just being alive. Good days or bad a look out the window can always remind me it’s a wonderful gift. 

As for love…I have a soft spot for bad boys and wounded heroes and I’ve  fallen in love with all of my men, Gabriel, Jamie, William, Robert, and now, fickle woman, I’m falling for Jack. My first crush was…well never mind. Suffice to say I was thirteen, he was older and the neighborhood bad boy, and he stood up for me and walked me home when some neighborhood boys were calling me four eyes and toad on account of my admittedly horrid glasses. Come to think of it he reminds me a lot of William. My first kiss was on the end of a dock on a summer night, and no it wasn’t with him.

b2b: Judith, you’ve been such a trooper and I’ve had so much fun getting to know you a bit better. Thanks for ‘coming over to play’ and I hope you come back next year!

JJ: Thanks so much for inviting me Melanie, and thanks for everyone who dropped by today. I’m happy to answer any questions and I have one for you.

Where was your first kiss?

I really hope you remember.  I’m going to be giving away a signed copy of The King’s Courtesan and one other book of your choice to one lucky commentator so don’t be shy! 

“Romancing the Countess” by Ashley March

STORY: Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets…

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms….

REVIEW: The above blurb does a wonderful job in teasing the brain and getting my ‘reader juices’ bubbling with a question about how do you get two people with so much baggage to accept the wrong done to them, grieve for the loss and fall in love within 302 pages?!

And the answer is to trust this young, new and upcoming author, Ashley March, who seems to know her characters and trust them to guide her hand in penning their story.

Leah George has always done the right and proper thing. She married a man chosen for her, and she did her best to make her parents and her husband proud of her, so after witnessing her husband’s infidelity, she yet again does what’s proper. She keeps a ‘stiff upper lip’, walls off her true feelings, and pretends a happy marriage. Until the day her husband dies.

After a year of private grief that infidelity of her husband brought to her, the loss of his life brought on a feeling of a relief. She is free. Free to say, do or be who she truly is and that is something she was never allowed to be.

Sebastian, Earl of Wriothesly, had a perfect marriage. He adored his wife and son; he lived a happy and contented life. His perfect world came crashing down with his beloved wife’s death and with the knowledge that she took his best friend for a lover and left him behind to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the carriage accident.

This is Ms. Ashley’s second book and in both she deals with an issue that is not much popular with either the authors or readers of romance genre. The big “I” word. Infidelity.

In the case of her first book “Seducing the Duchess” our hero was unfaithful to his heroine for six years, before he realized that he adored his wife, but was blinded by his pride and revenge to see it for what it is.

In this case, both hero and heroine were forced to deal with the betrayal of their spouses and Ms. March has done her characters proud in both cases. It would have been so easy to ‘paint’ Ian and Angela as uncaring, uncouth and lust crazy adulterers, yet she left that ‘painting’ to be in the ‘eye of the beholder’, in this case the reader. She has taken the issue seriously, making no judgements on a subject that is neither ‘black or white’. Now, that takes guts!

While Leah had a year to accept the betrayal, Sebastian’s acceptance was still fresh and the hurt was deep. What a treat this character driven story was! I was most intrigued by our hero and heroine and the way they went about accepting and dealing with their emotions towards not just their cheating spouses but with their emotions towards each other. After years of knowing each other, their attraction wasn’t instantaneous, yet the sparks between Sebastian and Leah kept igniting. Great care was given in developing and establishing a real relationship, albeit strenuous at times, between these two, so when their passion takes over we’re happy for them.

There are so many moments that touched my heart but the first one that brought tears to my eyes was on page 8, in which Sebastian’s mind is numb as he reads the note of his wife’s accident, and in it he finds out that Ian was with her. There are so many things running through his mind, and then the last thought: “She hadn’t been lonely, after all.” I mean, just two pages earlier, he was so anxious to go see her, be with her, love her, and then-BOOM! She really didn’t need him, after all. WOW! That must have hurt…

I’m very impressed with this new author and her writing is clear, crisp and fresh. She infused her characters with depth and intelligence, yet still gave them flaws so that they felt real to me. Her ability to convey human emotion is very well written and the pace of the story just right. Not too fast and not so slow that you’d be bored by it. The story was engaging from the beginning, and kept my interest ‘till the last page. For that I give credit to the author that created the characters who were well-rounded and believable. After reading “Romancing the Countess” I loved it so much I bought “Seducing the Duchess” and “Romancing Lady Cecily” which I read and highly recommend as well.

So, in the end all I have to say is: Watch out Romance World! Ashley March has arrived!