Fan2Artist Interview with…Jon Paul Ferrara!

My dearest Bookworms! Today I’m ‘DIS’ close to swooning! And here’s why. No doubt one time or another, you’ve bought a book only because of its cover, and I can guarantee that somewhere on your keeper shelf, one of those is probably painted by my guest today. His talent is unique, awe-inspiring and just amazing. It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome the artist that makes all those heroes and heroines come to life and the man who’s behind many beautiful historical covers and step backs, Jon Paul Ferrara.

Jon Paul, just in case some of our bookworms are not familiar with you, please tell us a bit about yourself. You know, the usual…your humble beginning, your inspiration and why art and not architecture. Or maybe even a musician?

JPF: I’ve been involved with my art as far back as I could remember… I always loved creating… When I was in High School, my senior year, under my picture I put I wanted to be an artist… There was no second guessing of what I wanted to be… I went to college and at the time, most college art courses were dealing with abstract art and not realism. So I decided to find my schooling elsewhere and basically ended up ‘self taught’ to a degree.

Years later I had a one man show in an art gallery in NJ when I was still in my early 20’s… A young man walked into the gallery and took an interest in my work and asked me if I wanted to do book covers. At first I was very reluctant to enter the commercial paperback field… The man asked me, that before I make a judgment, to let him take me over to his friend’s house… We ended up, of all people, at the house of one of the greatest romance illustrators of all time, Pino Daeni. When I walked into his house, I was just in awe of his spectacular art and I realized right then and there, that the best art work in the world wasn’t just in galleries, it was also on paperbacks…. From then on, I was hooked on being a Romance Illustrator…By the way, I do like music and architecture also, though out of the three, being an artist (painter) was number one.

B2b: WOW! Now, that I call SERENDIPITY! I swear to you, I have so many questions, but for some reason I’m all tongue-tied! I’m going to be all over the road and you know what?! I don’t care one whit!

Where do you do all your work? Do you have a studio at home?  Can you describe it to us?

JPF: I had a studio built-in my house years ago and I love it… I do my photography as well as my other work in the studio… The studio is beautiful; I have skylights that are electrically operated to let the sun in at different times of the day… I have cathedral ceilings and huge windows in the studio which were all built to my specifications. Being an artist, I knew exactly how I wanted my studio to be… and I guess I got my wish :)

B2b: I can only imagine it…It sounds so cool! Can you share with us your work day? From the time you get up in the morning ‘till you go to bed…

JPF: I usually start my day around 8:00 AM and I work very long hours… Sometimes when I am really into a piece, I stay up all night and work until the sun comes up :)

Reason being, I don’t want to stop the creative flow so to speak… I love what I do, so it really doesn’t seem like work … The hours really fly by as if I am in a trance. While I work, I usually listen to Classical Rock, and at other times Classical Music.

B2b: And that sounds like pure and unadulterated PASSION!  To ask you if you have a favorite cover or a model to work with is like asking me which one of my cats I would prefer to cuddle with, so I’m going to pass on that, BUT… I would love to know which period, flower and season as a background, you enjoy to paint the most.

JPF: As far as cover models, I enjoy working with them all… The period I am most drawn to without question is the late Victorian Period. Anywhere from 1880’s up to World War I…The period was called “La Belle Époque” referred to as “The Beautiful Era”…

Seasons, I like them all. Love to do snow scenes, though on the flip side of the coin I love summer scenes and the Victorian Ladies strolling with their parasols… Flowers… You will see many red roses in lot of my work.

B2b: By the way, I have decided to share some of those snow scenes with our Bookworms, so I hope you don’t mind that I snagged some pics from your Facebook :)

Can you share with us some upcoming Romance Covers? Tell us more about them…

JPF: Upcoming Novels… I usually work on several covers at a time… Lately I’ve done more single women on covers… The trend always changes… Back ten years ago you would see most covers with just the Hero on the cover. Most of my covers are for NY Time Best Selling Authors…Elizabeth Boyle, Karen Hawkins, Stephanie Laurens, and Sylvia Day just to name a few…

I actually just finished an Elizabeth Boyle Front and Step back Cover… I really enjoyed doing it; for it reminded me of the covers we used to do in the nineties… Much more brushwork and passion, then just photographic in style.

As an artist I lean-to a looser style if they allow me so I could get more creative and expressive and not stay so tight and photographic.

B2b: I tend to agree with you on the style. I did notice that more and more the covers are leaning toward the photographic…

How about we get personal? I have no doubt that you’re a romantic (your work is an awesome proof of that), but would you consider yourself a Renaissance man too?

JPF: I am a romantic at heart, which is why I love doing the Romance Novels :)

When a woman picks up a novel and reads it, she imagines herself as the heroine… well, when I create a cover I have to picture myself as the hero in that scene for the reader to feel the emotions I am trying to get across… Anything I create, I have to feel it or it will lack its believability.

That is just speaking from an artist point of view. Am I a Renaissance man??? (LOL)

I don’t know, I guess you would have to get to know me and determine that for yourself … (LOL)

As an artist I am very passionate and sincere and I always hope that shows in my work.

B2b: Oh do not dare this Serbian woman, Jon! I think without a doubt that you are a Renaissance man…Oh, and the passion and sincerity are certainly shining through everything I’ve seen so far!

Who’s your favorite author, movie? What kind of music does Jon Paul listens to? For that matter, do you play an instrument and what is it? Your favorite season is…? Are you a dog or a cat person? Do you have any pets and what are they? Do you like to read and what genre are you into? Would you take the closest book to you right now and go to page 59 and give us the first three sentences from it?

JPF: Favorite authors? No one in particular… I used to read a lot of art books (artists lives from the past, especially 19th century). These days I read more books on philosophy than anything else.

My favorite movies are “Somewhere in Time” and “Before Sunrise” and I am looking forward to seeing the new Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” when it is released on DVD :)

My musical taste is Classic Rock, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and The Kinks. The list goes on and on…I do listen to classical music once in a while…I enjoy it… Mozart.

No, I really don’t play an instrument… years ago fooled around a little with a bass guitar…

Favorite season… would be summer… I wish I could go off to a secluded island and paint the rest of my life (LOL) like Paul Gauguin did…

At the moment I have no pets… I love animals and had them around me allmy life… I lost my pet cat “Valentino” to an illness not too long ago… He was a pure breed Maine Coon. Gorgeous animal, I also did a painting of him. I seem to prefer cats as pets, though that doesn’t rule out getting a dog…

The book I am reading right now is “A Parisienne in Chicago”. This is a true story and not fiction about a woman from France who came to America in 1893 to see the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. She kept a diary and through it she tells in detail of what American Society was like in the 1890’s in comparison to the European Society. The book definitely has my interest.

Page 59… “Once married, he works incessantly to improve the situation of his growing family.  He takes care of all the business difficulties but never brings the bustle of business into the home where his wife enjoys sweet comfort. His choice of a wife is motivated by love, not money.”

The reason I am reading this book is to get a feel of a firsthand account of what life really was like back then. As I mentioned earlier, I like to get involved in the paintings I do, just like an actor studies a character he is going to portray, I have to study the period I am depicting in a work of art to make it believable…

I have a project now that I am focusing on and it takes place in the 1890’s. I will release more details on my Website and my Facebook Fan Page as I move along with this project.

B2b: Jon Paul, you are one special Dude! Thank you so much for finding the time to stop by and make my day, week, month and a whole YEAR! This is one Blogoversary I’ll never forget!

JPF: Hey, no problem! Let’s have some fun, shall we? I’ll be giving away a signed 17″x 22″ giclee fine art paper print of one of my covers to one lucky commenter who answers a question I posed on Facebook recently… Oh and there’s no right or wrong…Just curious to know…

Here are some famous works of art that I love and have studied… for composition, color, etc…I love them all… I’m curious, even from my student days, why certain rooms would be more crowded in the museums then others…

If you had to pick one of the groups 1, 2 or 3 which one would appeal to you first and peak your curiosity to go into the room?

Candice Hern’s ‘Hook-a-Book’ is… ‘Lord of Scoundrels’!

One of my all-time favorite romance novels is LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by the fabulous Loretta Chase. I have a copy so dog-eared that I recently downloaded a copy to my Kindle, so I could read it over and over without worrying any more about the book falling apart. Whenever someone who’s never read Romance asks for a recommendation before dipping their toes in the genre, I almost always recommend LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. In my opinion, it represents the best of Romance.

What makes it so special?  Wonderful characters, to start. A big, dark, sexy, brooding alpha male hero who seems dangerous but is really full of self-doubt, even self-loathing. And a sharp-minded, witty, no-nonsense heroine who feels genuine to the core, and is a perfect match for him.

The sparks fly between them from the first moment they meet.  The beautifully written sexual tension just crackles on the page. There is a scene with a glove — just a glove! — that is one of the sexiest, most breath-taking scenes you’ll ever read. The dialog is as good as a Hepburn-Tracy movie. In fact, the dialog in the scene where the hero and heroine first meet is so dazzling it ought to be in a textbook on how to write great dialog. And though it is often laugh-out-loud funny, this is not a simple light-hearted story. It’s a powerful emotional ride as well.

In the end, it’s all about love – love offered and love accepted. It tugs at my heart in so many ways, each time I read it.  This book succeeds on every level: character, story and writing.  I’ve never recommended LORD OF SCOUNDRELS to anyone who didn’t end up loving it.

If you haven’t read it – and why haven’t you? – I’d like to recommend it to you as well. I’ll send a print copy or a Kindle copy to one lucky commenter.

Melanie here! Candice Hern, you ROCK! Thank you so much for interrupting your trip and stopping by! I have my ‘Scoundrel’ copy and it’s getting its wear and tear too!

And here’s just a little teaser about who Ms. Hern is…

Candice has been a voracious reader all her life. For many years she had been a devotee of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Susan Ferrier, and other women writers of the Regency period. When she discovered Georgette Heyer and the Regency Romance genre (not so very long ago — it is not clear how she remained ignorant of the Great Georgette for most of her life) she was instantly hooked. After a few years of reading Regency Romances by the bagful, she decided to try her hand at writing one.

Her first book, A Proper Companion, was published in January 1995. She went on to publish five more traditional short Regency romances, and eight longer historical romances set during the Regency. She is now publishing her older Regencies as e-books, and is currently working on a new e-Regency.

I’m not sure if you guys noticed, but I took off on you for just couple of days, and I’m sure you’ll understand. Because of it, I haven’t had a chance to do one of my own ‘hooks’ so I’ll do it now, and share the spot with Candice and the book is…Drum rool please…‘The Bride Sale’ by Candice Hern!

Couple of years ago I was at my local book store, and I picked this book at a very low price, but that was not what attracted me to the book. It was its blurb, and here it is…

“A Bartered Lady

Lord James Harkness is shocked to discover a “bride sale” taking place in his small English village — and surprised by the depth of his feelings for the unfortunate gentlewoman being auctioned off by a disreputable husband. But is it honor and nobility that compel James to outbid the townsfolk for the proud, beautiful lady — or is it something more akin to . . . desire?

A Mysterious Lord

Verity Osborne is not sure whether good fortune or ill brought her to this dark, brooding man and his lonely manor house on the moors. Local talk brands James Harkness as evil — but Verity senses a gentleness underneath. She dearly longs for her liberty, but his sensuous touch causes her to stay. However, James must first trust Verity with his secrets if they are ever to share love’s rapturous freedom. And will the promised passion she sees flaming in his eyes warm Verity’s heart . . . or burn her?”

Now I DARE you to pass a book with a blurb like that!

I was so happy to have not passed it by. From that point on, I was hooked on Candice and went straight to Amazon and stocked up on some of the best reads EVER written. If you haven’t discovered this author, please, please look her up! I promise you, you’ll not be disappointed. Her heroines ROCK! And her heroes are to DIE for!

I’ll be giving only a Kindle copy of ‘THE BRIDE SALE’, and I do apologize for that, but the copy I got is in a very sad shape and to be honest, it’s too precious to me. Speaking of, do you have one of those books that you just cannot part with, no matter what? Tell me…

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Hook-a-Book’ did/would you likely give your friends…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Giveaway!

Eileen Dreyer’s ‘Hook-a-Book’ is… ‘Winter Fire’!

Eileen here. There are so many books I’d love to recommend to any new reader, but I just reread one recently that reminded me why I initially started reading romance in the first place.

The book I’m talking about is Jo Beverly’s WINTER FIRE. Tucked into the Malloren series (another favorite of mine) it brings the Marquess of Ashart to the home of Lord Rothgar, his cousin and arch nemesis. Inconveniently, he is also forced to pretend a relationship with Genova Smith to protect the baby who might or might not be his. There’s a lot to recommend this book such as power, madness, revenge, reconciliation, redemption, secret babies and great costumes. What more could you ask?! I’ll tell you.

You’ll love this strong heroine who actually acts like a strong heroine. I get really tired of a self-proclaimed strong heroine crumbling like an overcooked biscuit the minute the hero raises his voice. Genova doesn’t just stand toe-to-toe with Ashart, she wins. And THAT is what romance is all about for me. Tell me what kind of heroine do you like? I’ll be glad to pick one winner and send them my ‘hook-a-book’, so don’t be shy!

Melanie here! I want to thank Eileen Dreyer for always coming through for her fans. Amidst running around (she went to see Hugh Jackman on Brodway-ENVY was my middle name at that time), she found the time to stop by and ‘hook’ for us! Thanks so much Eileen.

Have you ever read any of Eileen’s books? If you haven’t, then my bookworm, you’re missing on some great writing and wonderful adventures. Here’s a bit about Eileen (from her website).

2010 saw Eileen extend her range into historical romance. BARELY A LADY, the first book in her DRAKE’S RAKES series for Grand Central, garnered a place on multiple ‘best of’ lists. With 2011’s NEVER A GENTLEMAN and ALWAYS A TEMPTRESS, she continues to follow the lives of a group of British aristocrats who are willing to sacrifice everything to keep their country safe. Eileen spent time not only in England and Italy, but India to research the series (it’s a filthy job, but somebody has to do it).

A retired trauma nurse, Eileen lives in her native St. Louis with her husband, children, and large and noisy Irish family, of which she is the reluctant matriarch. She has animals but refuses to subject them to the limelight.

Dreyer won her first publishing award in 1987, being named the best new Contemporary Romance Author by RT Bookclub. Since that time she has also garnered not only five other writing awards from RT, but five RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, which secures her only the fourth place in the Romance Writers of America prestigious Hall of Fame. Since extending her reach to suspense, she has also garnered a coveted Anthony Award nomination.

A frequent speaker at conferences, she maintains membership in Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and, just in case things go wrong, Emergency Nurses Association and International Association of Forensic Nurses.

Eileen is an addicted traveler, having sung in some of the best Irish pubs in the world, and admits she sees research as a handy way to salve her insatiable curiosity. She counts film producers, police detectives and Olympic athletes as some of her sources and friends. She’s also trained in forensic nursing and death investigation, although she doesn’t see herself actively working in the field, unless this writing thing doesn’t pan out.

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Hook-a-Book’ did/would you likely give your friends…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Giveaway!

“A Duke for All Seasons” by Mia Marlowe

STORY: Sebastian Blake, His Grace the Duke of  Winterhaven, has an inviolate rule when it comes to mistresses. He never keeps one longer than a turn of the season. But then he’s never met a woman as tempting as Arabella St. George…

A fiery operatic diva, Arabella is blackmailed into helping the French. When she gives the envelope intended for a French assassin to the Duke of Winterhaven by mistake, she’ll do anything to retrieve it. Even if she has to seduce it away from him…

REVIEW: Since I am always on the lookout for new authors (to me at least) and interesting and entertaining stories, I stumbled on a website of an author by the name of Emily Bryan and she offered free chapters of her novella A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS which was very intriguing, very sophisticated and had an element of surprise that I just loved.

Alas, I never read anything after Chapter 8 and I was left to wonder what happened to the Duke and his Opera mistress and how it all ended.

Fast forward to this year, and I’m surfing the net and I see the title of this book and next to it the name that’s not familiar to me of Mia Marlowe. By reading synopses of the story, I can see that it’s my Duke and his Mistress, but the name was confusing me and a little research was a relief to find out that Mia and Emily are one and the same.

Sebastian, Duke of Winterhaven, is a man who has to have order in his life, even in regards to his mistress’s. In order not to get too attached to them, or rather for them not to get too attached to him, he maintains a ‘schedule’ of them. Every Season he engages a new one. It all works out for the best, for all parties concerned.

Arabella St. George is an Opera performer with a passion for two things, her art and her daughter, who she’s given to her sister to raise as her own. The reason behind it is a man who will stop at nothing to hurt her or her daughter.

After setting his eyes on her and watching her perform, Sebastian is considering her for his next mistress. He is all set to hand her his proposition one evening and surprises her backstage. She on the other hand doesn’t seem to be surprised by his visit mistaking him for a contact she expected to hand over a letter.

A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS is a novella that will grab you from the start and its fast pace will keep you anticipating the next curve. Its romance with a dollop of sensuality will keep you wishing for a fan, and the dialogue will have you chuckle, while the suspense will keep you turning pages and guessing.

Please don’t let the word ‘short’ put you off. For me, no matter the length of the story, as long as I can get all the elements of a good read, such as decent pace, interesting plot and emotional connection to the characters, I am a happy camper.

This novella fills that bill to a perfection. It has romance and passion; adventure and danger; a strong and courage’s heroine paired with an equally strong and sexy hero. For a sweet romance that’s sprinkled with intrigue and sensuality that now I have come to associate with Ms. Marlowe (Emily Bryan) I highly recommend it. 

Before I read this novella, I had a privilege to read SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER, which is a book collaboration of Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe and it floored me at how seamlessly they merged their prose in this story of revenge and passion. Mark your Calendar! This is one book you do NOT want to miss!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you ready to give your thanks for this year? I thought about that in regards to myself and that made me look back at the year that’s almost at the end.  I’m not sure how you feel about this past year, but for me it went waaay to fast!

I’m thankful for a bunch of things, but I have to say that having a ‘cool dude’ for a husband tops my list. He’s too handsome for his own good, spoils me rotten and lets me get away with too much crap! Maybe I should petition for his Sainthood…NOT! That would mean he couldn’t be ‘wicked’ when I want him to.

Let’s not forget my health. I was diagnosed with Lupus a few years back, but it has been dormant, and aside from a cold (that my new DIL gave me as a parting gift before they left for Arizona), I’ve been doing great [knocking on wood]. I also lost a ‘ton’ (not literally, mind you) of weight and in the process met a bunch of great women who gave me support and helped when I was down or up, whichever the case may be. Romance Biggest Winner has been one awesome ride that I hope continues past January 5, 2012 and I owe a lot to its founder, Ashley March.

I’m also thankful for having a job, and in this economy that’s something! I’ve been with this company from its start for four and a half years, and it’s a journey that I honestly hope goes on until I’m ready to retire. And then there are my ‘coconspirators’ that bring a smile to my face every day. I’m lucky [read Blessed] to work with such a fun bunch, which keeps my stress level at a ZERO!

I also am grateful to have a house which my DH and I made into a cozy and happy home! At the time when such things like ‘foreclosure’ is happening to so many, I feel Blessed that I’m married to someone who takes pride in knowing how to handle our finances.  Our two ‘beautiful babies’ Zakk and Phoebe, round-up that happy home, so I’m thankful for them as well.

As a mother to a daughter and a son, my thanks are easily given for having brought them up to be able to take care of themselves and create their own happy homes. I will miss my new DIL and my boy this Holiday Season, but to know that they’re happy where they are, gives me too much pleasure to dwell on anything else.

As for my ‘little girl’…I just wish she would work less so I could see her more. Life is too short, and unless we learn to prioritize, it will pass us by so quickly, we just might get a whip-lash! And then, it’s over…too late for regrets or making up for lost time.

My adoptive country…I’m thankful to be here, living free in this land of opportunity. It was the time of Disco Era when first I saw the skyline of Chicago, and my heart was full! For a teenager, in the 70s, this town was something out of the Movies. Surreal. To both my parents I will forever be thankful for taking a risk and making such a monumental leap of faith in leaving everything behind to start fresh in a country which language they didn’t speak a word of! Now, how cool and courage’s was that?!

The soldiers and their families…We should all be thankful to them for an enormous sacrifice they’re willing to give so we can be free, and that is waaay too cool!

My family and friends who are strewn all over the globe-from Serbia to Australia, Germany and England to here. We don’t see them often enough, but thanks to this age of technology, we’re closer than we would have otherwise be!

YOU! I’m thankful to you for subscribing, for reading, following and supporting me in this endeavor. If you weren’t coming back, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. But you ARE here, reading my interviews, reviews and my occasional rant or a rave, so THANK YOU! I wish and pray that you have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving. Remember to eat plenty, drink in moderation and hug a tree! HA! Gotcha!!! But seriously, don’t be stingy on the hugs! Give them freely and often! I do…

While my DH is putting the Christmas lights outside I’m busy cooking with Christmas music blasting and tonight we’ll have a lot of fun having hot chocolate while decorating the house and putting our Christmas Trees…

Oh, and I’ll be posting some reviews soon, giving some books away and there’s much fun to be had in December, but before then, we still have one more week of ‘hook-a-book’ to go through as well as a VERY special guest on the 30th [keeping my fingers crossed] and we have a KINDLE to give away on that day too! So enjoy your family and friends, and if you have a minute, drop me a line and tell me what you’re thankful for and are you missing someone this Thanksgiving.

Nicola Cornick’s ‘Hook-a-Book’ is…’Mariana’!

Thank you to Melanie for inviting me to be part of the bookworm2bookworm anniversary celebrations!

I love the hook a book idea and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute. But then, like many fellow authors I hit the snag of which book to choose. In the end I realised it had to be MARIANA, by Susanna Kearsley, who has been one of my favourite authors for a long time.

In fact I could have chosen any one of Susanna’s books because I am and have always been a massive fan of hers. MARIANA won the Catherine Cookson Prize back in 1993 and Susanna’s books have gone on to huge and well-deserved acclaim. Her book THE WINTER SEA, also known as SOPHIA’S SECRET, was shortlisted for both the UK Romantic Novelists Association Prize and the RWA RITA award.

MARIANA was the first Susanna Kearsley novel that I read and it hooked me on her writing. Books with paranormal elements have always appealed to me, especially time slip or dual time novels. I never seem to be able to find enough of them.

Then I discovered Susanna’s writing and to my great pleasure found that she wrote wonderful books with paranormal elements; time slip, dual time, reincarnation, ghostly themes…All the elements that completely enthrall me.

MARIANA tells the story of Julia Beckett who as a child sees a beautiful old house, Greywethers, and knows that in some way it belongs to her. She’s drawn to the place time and again and when she buys the house she finds herself transported back to the 17th century as Mariana Farr, a young woman embroiled in all manner of danger and romance.

How Julia explores Mariana’s life and her forbidden love, and how she also finds her own future, is all woven together in a story that brilliantly mixes the past and the present.

Susanna Kearsley’s evocation of history is so rich and vivid, her characters so real and her writing so beautiful that I never want her books to end.

Melanie here! Now that’s one awesome ‘hook’ and I’m so happy that Nicola had the time to stop by today.

And now, here’s a bit about Nicola…Originally from the North of England, Nicola now lives with her husband in the Oxfordshire countryside. Genealogy is one of her passions and she has traced her family tree back to the sixteenth century by way of various poets, pirates and a link to the Earldom of Halifax.

Since the publication of her first Regency romance by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 1998, Nicola has become a USA Today, Borders and UK Bookscan bestselling author as well as being shortlisted three times for the US Romance Writers of America RITA Award and twice for the UK Romantic Novelists Association Romance Prize. Nicola now writes for Harlequin HQN Books in the US and MIRA in the UK.

Nicola developed a passion for history at an early age and nurtured it through reading and watching BBC costume dramas with her grandmother. She went to school in the dower house of the stately home Harewood House in Yorkshire where she studied subjects as varied as Anglo Saxon and ballroom dancing. She went on to study Medieval History, graduated from London University with an honours degree and worked for many years in university administration, her final job being as an Assistant Academic Registrar before she gave it all up to be a full time author. Later she returned to college in Oxford to study for a Masters degree at Ruskin College. Her dissertation on heroes and hero myths was awarded a distinction. She was a speaker at the Oxford Literary Festival on the changing face of literary heroes during the 20th century.

Nicola has a “second life” as a guide and historian working for the National Trust at the beautiful seventeenth century hunting lodge, Ashdown House and she is a speaker on the history of Ashdown and the Craven family. She is also a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a mentor for their New Writers’ Scheme, which critiques manuscripts for aspiring authors. Nicola has run several courses and workshops on creative writing and was Wiltshire Libraries Writer in Residence in 2008. She loves the excitement of historical research and the friendships that the romance writing community has brought her.

When she is not writing Nicola enjoys taking her dog for long walks in the countryside and travelling the globe. She and her husband have driven across Africa, Iceland and Costa Rica and have enjoyed cruises to the Arctic and the Sea of Cortes. Nicola is also a frequent visitor to the US, where she has family. She and her husband support the UK Guide Dogs for the Blind charity and have acted as puppy walkers for guide dogs in training.

Nicola loves to hear from readers, writers and history buffs. Email her or chat with her at the Word Wenches blog, the UK Regency Authors blog, Facebook or on Twitter.

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Hook-a-Book’ did/would you likely give your friends…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Giveaway!

Mia Marlowe’s ‘Hook-a-Book’ is…’Lord of Devil Isle’!

Click to read the back cover blurb!Mia here. My recommendation is Connie Mason’s LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. First let me share my disclaimer. I owe Connie. She graciously gave me a cover quote for my début book and we kept in touch after that. Now we’re collaborating on a new story that’ll come out in January called SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER. I have so much affection and respect for Connie, I have to confess that this is not an unbiased recommendation.

But none of that takes away from the fact that LORD OF DEVIL ISLE is a terrific read. Set in 18th century Bermuda, the story has a signature Connie Mason unique setting and an alpha hero to die for! And talk about adventure. The hero Nicholas Scott dallies with his mistress, kills a tiger shark with only a dirk, and rescues the heroine from a shipwreck without breaking a sweat. All in the first chapter or two. (Oh, and he sends the mistress packing in the next!)

In addition to a wonderful love story between two characters who need the healing touch love provides, there’s a fascinating bit of real Revolutionary War history embedded in the book. Nicholas leads a party of men who were responsible for the infamous “Powder Steal” in order to make sure Bermuda will continue to receive much-needed trade from the colonies. For the back cover blurb, click on the book cover and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

Melanie here. Are you familiar with Mia Marlowe? Last year, around this time I believe, I stumbled on a website of an author by the name of Emily Bryan and she offered free chapters of her novella A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS which I just loved. Alas, I never read anything after Chapter 8 and I always wondered what happened in the end? Fast forward to this year, and low and behold the novella is now on my Kindle! I highly recommend it. It is truly a very sweet romance sprinkled with intrigue and sensuality that I have come to associate with Ms. Marlowe (Emily Bryan).  In reading SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER, which is a book collaboration of both Ms. Mason and Ms. Marlowe, I was awed at how seamlessly they merged this story of revenge and passion. Mark your Calender! This is NOT to be missed!

Now, here’s a bit about Mia Marlowe… 

Mia learned much of what she knows about storytelling from singing. A classically trained soprano, she won the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and has shared a stage with Placido Domingo. As she prepared for operatic roles, she devised back stories for her characters. Since she’s worn a real corset, and had to sing high C’s in one, she empathizes with the trials of her fictional heroines. But in Mia’s stories, they don’t die in a Parisian garret. They get to live and keep the hero!

Like a lot of the best things in her life, she stumbled into writing. She’s had a rather checkered past, you see. After deciding not to lay her family on the altar of her singing career, Mia dabbled in lots of different things. She’s been–hold on!–a teacher, a choir director, a director of children’s ministry, a homeschooling mom, a real estate agent, a banker, and now an author.

Her dear husband and children supported her completely when she decided to try her hand at writing. She overheard one of her daughters tell a friend, “Well, of course, my mom can do it. She’s a Renaissance Woman. She can do anything!”

After that, Mia didn’t dare fail.

Relationships fascinate her. She loves the delicate dance between two souls and the steamy possibilities along the way. Other times and places call to her, so writing historical romance was a natural choice.

Mia would rather have an adventure than a new sofa. She loves history, art, music and travel. Especially travel. Good thing, since she’s lived in 9 different states. She regards her frequent moves as vacations on which she drags along all her stuff. Currently, she and her family call New England home.
 
One more thing she loves is connecting with other readers and writers. You can find her online almost every day on the social media sites and of course here on her blog! Mia’s online buddies are dear to her. She hopes to hear from you and would love for you to join her circle of cyber-friends.

Now an award-winning author, Mia Marlowe writes historical romance for multiple publishing houses. Her début title received advance ovations from romance luminaries. #1 New York Times bestseller Victoria Alexander says Mia’s Touch of a Thief has “adventure and heat and everything I want in a great story!” UK’s BooksMonthly has crowned Mia Marlowe “the queen of saucy historical romance.”

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Hook-a-Book’ did/would you likely give your friends…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Giveaway!

Fan2Author Interview with…Carla Kelly

I am so excited that Ms. Carla Kelly has included b2b in her Blog tour not because I know, but because I don’t know ANYTHING about her.

The first time I heard Carla’s name was from Kathryn’s review of BEAU CRUSOE and as soon as I got done reading that review, I moseyed on to Amazon and bought the book. I couldn’t wait to read it, and when I was done with it, I wanted to read more from her, but alas have you checked out Amazon lately for Carla Kelly’s backlist?!

I wasn’t surprised in the least, nor discouraged, so I downloaded some of her backlist that is being offered to her old and like myself new fans, from two different publishing houses, Harlequin and Cedar Fort, Inc. Without further ado, please help me welcome Carla with my first question…Where have you been all my reading life, Ms. Kelly? Please tell me a bit about yourself and your writing career.

CK: Melanie, remember: “So many books, too little time.” This summer I finally read Richard Bradford’s RED SKY AT MORNING, and asked myself, “Where has this been all my life?”

I’ve been selling my writing, starting with Western short stories, since the late 1970s. I started writing novels in 1984 with the hardback publication of DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE, set in the royal colony of New Mexico in 1680. I segued into Regency Romance, because my agent thought I’d be a good fit there. I have been, to the point of being typecast as only a Regency writer. Thankfully, that is changing now.

I have five grown kids, a husband, two degrees in history and a wealth of working experience: ranger in the National Park Service (personal favorite), adjunct history prof, feature writer and columnist for a North Dakota daily, medical PR writer for a tertiary care hospital in Missouri and a hospice, contract researcher for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten. In history, I’ve edited an 1853-54 fur trade journal; an account of an Indian raid on Fort Union Trading Post; and a history of Fort Buford, where Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. I like to write fiction, but I also enjoy history. I’m contemplating a biography of Matt Warner, friend and compadre of Butch Cassidy.

b2b: WOW! And I thought I was impressed BEFORE!

The book that you’re promoting right now is MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH and I can’t tell you how much fun I had reading it. Tell us more about it, the idea behind it. What came first, the plot, voice or setting?

CK: I can’t really remember which came first. “Marian” was first published in 1989 as Signet “traditional” Regency. When I quit writing for Signet in 2001 or so, I took my copyrights with me. Cedar Fort, Inc., here in Utah, is reissuing some of them as eBooks, and some soft cover.

Plot and character go hand in hand, so that’s how “Marian” started. I always ask myself, “What do I want to do to these interesting people?” And it goes from there. Of course, a good writer always picks a tough time or circumstance, because that’s where the conflict lies. To keep ruin at bay, one of the lovely Wynswich sisters has to marry well, and soon. And so it begins.

I have written a lot of Christmas short stories for Signet, and my editor and I thought a Christmas novel would work. Incidentally, four of those short stories have been reissued, courtesy of Cedar Fort, as an eBook with the alliterative title, “CARLA KELLY’S CHRISTMAS COLLECTION.”

b2b: What made this such an enjoyable read for me was this family. I’ve fallen in love with all of them! They all were so real, so please tell us who inspired them?

CK: The wonderful eccentric Wynswich children are modeled after my own five children. When I wrote “Marian,” my three daughters were at those ages where they were mature at one moment and childish at the next, as are Ariadne and Marian. Percy is modeled after my oldest child, who feels a certain responsibility for his younger sibs; even though there is nothing in his “contract” that says he has to feel that way.  (I wouldn’t know; I’m a middle child.) Alistair is very much my younger son: a bit devil-may-care and exasperating until the chips are down. So yes, I stole shamelessly from my own children for the Wynswiches. If it seems like a loving portrait, that’s why. These are the people dearest to my heart.

b2b: Christmas traditions used to be such a big deal when I was growing up in a small Serbian village. I just loved that time of the year. Can you tell us about Regency Christmas Tradition and what was most interesting or unusual about it that you’ve found while writing this book?

CK: Until Queen Victoria married her German prince, Christmas in England really wasn’t a huge big deal. It took the influx of German traditions in the 1840s to develop what we see as English traditions now.

The Wynswiches have a Yule log, and Christmas pudding (so important in the story), and go caroling. It’s modest, by today’s standards. If anything, I probably glorified it more than would have actually happened in 1814.

I currently have a 3-novella Christmas anthology from Harlequin Historical in which the Scots hero – it’s 1813 – tells his wife that nothing much happened in his Scottish village for Christmas. She’s Mexican and can’t quite believe that, considering Mexico’s rich Christmas traditions.

A Serbian village? Melanie, you could be a novel…

b2b: I probably could…LOL!

You mentioned writing Traditional Regencies. What is the difference between, and specifically, what sets apart the ‘traditional’ regency novels from ‘historical novels set in the regency time period’?

CK: Bluntly, the only difference I can see is that “trads” are shorter and rely on wit and good writing, and “historicals” rely on sexier doings. I prefer the trads, and apparently, many readers do, too.

You heard it here first: Signet is reviving those older Regencies, which will be released this time around as eBooks, starting in January. I’ve returned four of my titles to Signet for this purpose (Cedar Fort has others). The editor says that if the demand is there, Signet will start publishing the more traditional Regency romances again. Hooray to that.

I’m LDS and live in Utah now. In February 2011, Cedar Fort published my LDS-themed novel set in SE Wyoming in 1910, called BORROWED LIGHT. It was such a big success that the sequel, ENDURING LIGHT, will be out in January.

This change of venue seemed to enrage some of my only-Regency readers, who felt betrayed that I had abandoned them. One reader even called it “betrayal.”  Good grief. They don’t seem to understand that there is a world of subjects to draw from besides Regencies, of which I have written, quite a few.

b2b: Now that’s a ‘bit’ extreme! I’m one of those fans that if my fave author wants to write on a paper bag, I’ll read it!

Before I let you go, tell us what’s coming up next and what are you currently working on.

CK: I do have Regency coming up in June with Harlequin.

I’m currently finishing a novel set in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and starting one soon about the Scofield Mine Disaster of 1900, which took place about 45 minutes from where I live.

And I’m also writing what I hope will become a series about a brand inspector in 1725 New Mexico. Readers are welcome to follow me to those stories, or not. Doesn’t matter to me. I put my happy a** in my chair and write merrily on.

b2b: All of those sound very interesting and I’m sure to be in for some great read. To paraphrase you, I’ll put MY happy a** in MY chair and READ even a paper bag from you!

Carla, it has been so much fun doing this with you, and I hope you come back often to chat with us! Now, off I go to stock up my keeper shelf with some more of your books!

CK: Thanks, Melanie. It’s been fun.

Cedar Fort is happy to giveaway

 a copy of this awesome book to one lucky commenter!

“Marian’s Christmas Wish” by Carla Kelly

STORY: Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she’s certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected— a young and handsome English lord.

REVIEW: First and foremost, this is only my second time reading Ms. Kelly. After I was introduced to her through a review of BEAU CRUSOE, I fell in love with Ms. Kelly’s prose.

Upon finishing MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH, I truly felt blessed in ‘discovering’ this author  and she has firmly established herself on my ‘keeper’ shelf and ‘auto buy’ list.

The above blurb does not do this story justice. This story is so, so much more than a Christmas story of a sixteen year old. This is an ensemble of memorable characters and Marian Wynswich is a part of that ensemble.

The story opens with two sisters, Ariadne and Marian, discussing eminent holidays and the visit of their eldest brother Percy as well as the youngest Alistair. The former will be bringing a fellow friend who just might be Ariadne’s potential husband, while the latter is expected shortly on holiday from school.

Slowly, through their conversation, and Marian’s thoughts, we find out that this just might be Wynswich’s last Christmas in their beloved home. Last year’s Christmas was spent in mourning their father’s death. This year’s Christmas finds the family on a brink of ruin, and Lady Wynswich has a plan to find a suitable and rich husband for her eldest daughter.  She pays no mind that Ariadne has affection for the local vicar Sam Beddoe who is not only quiet but poor and therefore unsuitable.

Enter Alistair, who’s been expelled and sent home early from Eton, creating yet another dilemma for our young heroine, who already frets over her sisters ‘unrequited love’ for the Vicar, and now has to protect her youngest brother from the wrath of the eldest. We just can’t help but feel the love this young woman has for her siblings.

Soon after, we get to meet Percy who arrives home later than expected, bringing with him not one but two of his friends.  Sir William, the ‘suitable suitor’ gets assigned a bedchamber in which Marian’s ‘hiding’ Alastair and one very pregnant cat, and soon the household becomes aware of that fact.

Gilbert Collinwood, Earl of Ingraham, Percy’s fellow diplomat, has reasons to avoid a home visit, and is ever so slowly taken in by this eccentric family in general and ‘singular’ Marian in particular. Gil is a man fully grown, with a past that will touch this family profoundly, and his secrets will put Marian in danger, but he will also come to care deeply for this young woman who with her intelligence and forward nature will show him what love truly means.

I found him to be charming and tender; tolerant and understanding; sharp and witty. The age difference (his eight and twenty to her ten and almost seven) did not bother me at all. We are in Regency World, and it was a ‘norm’ for those times. I actually give the author a lot of credit in the way she portrayed the gap in their ages. Gil understood her innocence, but his heart could not help but be given to this girl who was mature and innocent at the same time.

As for the Wynswich family, Ms. Kelly has done an outstanding job in having them all come to life with such vivid and true to life characterization. Every page she wrote, every word I read permeated with warmth and by the end of it, I wanted to be a part of that family. Their love for each other is unmistakable and to be admired.

There are many scenes that I’m fond of but the ‘Christmas’ pudding scene in which Marian’s character shines when she unselfishly wishes for Gil to have the best Christmas ever, is one that will stay with me forever.

If you are in a mood for a very old-fashioned, traditional Christmas story that will have you laugh and cry, and then laugh some more, you just cannot miss this one!

I should point out that “MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH” was first published in 1989, and is reissued this year in print and as an eBook by Cedar Fort, Inc.

*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*

Kieran Kramer’s ‘Hook-a-Book’ is…’First Grave to the Right’

Kieran here. Darynda Jones is one of my very favorite authors. Why? Because she makes me laugh on literally EVERY page. I can’t find one page in this book where I don’t. Plus, the story is compelling and so unusual.

In FIRST GRAVE TO THE RIGHT, Charley’s a kick-ass heroine who sees dead people!!! She’s a part-time private investigator and a full-time grim reaper. And there are some hot, hot scenes in this book I don’t want to give away. I promise you, this book will entertain you. And the great thing is, there are two more in the series. SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT recently came out. THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD is coming in January! I hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did!!!

Here is an Excerpt from Chapter One:

“Better to see dead than be dead. —Charlotte Jean Davidson, Grim Reaper

I’d been having the same dream for the past month–the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me. I was starting to wonder if repetitive exposure to nightly hallucinations resulting in earth-shattering climaxes could have any long-term side effects. Death via extreme pleasure was a serious concern. The prospect led to the following dilemma: Do I seek help or buy drinks all around?

This night was no exception. I was having a killer dream that featured a set of capable hands, a hot mouth and a creative employment of lederhosen when two external forces tried to lure me out of it. I did my darnedest to resist, but they were fairly persistent external forces. First, a frosty chill crept up my ankle, the icy caress jolting me out of my red-hot dream. I shivered and kicked out, unwilling to acknowledge the summons, then tucked my leg into the thick folds of my Bugs Bunny comforter.

Second, a soft but persistent melody played in the periphery of my consciousness like a familiar song I couldn’t quite place. After a moment, I realized it was the cricket-like chime of my new phone.

With a heavy sigh, I pried open my eyes just enough to focus on the numbers glowing atop my nightstand. Four thirty-four a.m. What kind of sadist called another human being at four thirty-four in the morning?

A throat cleared at the foot of my bed. I turned my attention to the dead guy standing there then lowered my lids and asked in a gravelly voice, ‘Can you get that?’

He hesitated. ‘Um, the phone?’

‘Mmm.’

‘Well, I’m kind of–’

‘Never mind.’ I reached for the phone and grimaced as a jolt of pain ripped through me, reminding me I’d been beaten senseless the night before.

Dead guy cleared his throat again.

‘Hello,’ I croaked.”

Melanie here. I have yet to read this book, and after Kieran’s indorsement, I’m putting it on my Wish List.

GIVEAWAY SURPRISE!!!

b2b will be giving away ‘IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A VISCOUNT’

so TWO books will be given out today!

GOOD LUCK!

Here are some interesting facts about ‘Lady K.’ as I affectionately call her:

  • Fueled by naïveté and brash optimism, Kieran went remarkably far at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in her two years there as an analyst, editor, and member of the fast-track management Career Trainee class of 1986, with whom she underwent paramilitary operations training at the legendary Farm. Among her classmates was Valerie Plame of Plamegate fame.
  • She’s a $34,000 winner on The Wheel of Fortune. A decade before that, she won on Family Feud. Yes, she kissed Richard Dawson. He’s a nice man, and he was on Hogan’s Heroes, so she doesn’t regret it.
  • Kieran scooped The New York Times from her computer at home as a freelance journalist for The Charlotte Observer by accidentally inciting a feud between John Rosemond, family psychologist and parenting expert, and the renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, over the topic of potty training; the story was picked up by The New York Times and Dr. Dean Edell of talk radio fame.
  • She spent her entire junior year in college at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, where she dated a man in a kilt, pulled pints of ale as barmaid at the university pub, and listened to bagpipes a LOT from her dorm window.
  • Kieran grew up one of seven kids on Johns Island, a rural sea island near Charleston, SC, and helped build her family’s log home. She also played in the pluff mud, sat on docks daydreaming, rode below the bowsprit on her dad’s sailboat and watched dolphins swim mere feet away, and in general, lived an idyllic Lowcountry life.
  • A certified English teacher, she subbed regularly at the local high school while writing her books, which kept her in touch with teenagers, whom she adores because they’re so misunderstood.
  • She’s been married for twenty-one years to a great guy named Chuck, a Commander in the US Navy Reserves, and they have three kind, musically-inclined kids, all of whom have been brought up on the Beatles as the family’s go-to band.

And now for your viewing pleasure, here is Lady K.’s book trailer…

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Hook-a-Book’ did/would you likely give your friends…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Giveaway!