‘Prince of Ravenscar’ by Catherine Coulter

STORY: In April 1831, her grace Corinne Monroe wants her widowed son, Lord Julian, to marry her best friend’s daughter, Miss Sophie Wilkie. Julian last saw Sophie when she was twelve years old, silent, skinny, and always staring at him. However, his mother is nothing if not persuasive, and Julian reluctantly accompanies her to London to meet the young lady.

And he knows that whatever happens isn’t going to be good.

Lord Devlin Monroe, Julian’s nephew, is very fond of his intriguing reputation in society: he delights, he frightens, he brings on delicious shudders. He’s enjoying an extraordinarily pleasant bachelor life until Miss Roxanne Radcliffe and her niece, Miss Sophie Wilkie, appear in London society, and he finds himself wondering how he could have enjoyed midnight alone.

Julian and Devlin must discover what really happened three years earlier when Julian’s first wife, Lily, was found dead. If they don’t find out the truth, their lives could be ruined. And there is another, even more perfidious, danger that lurks in the shadows, waiting.

REVIEW: I have enjoyed this authors written word for many-a-year, until I read ‘The Valcourt Heiress’. I was disappointed and disillusioned by her writing, never thinking to pick up any of her upcoming novels. And then LibraryThing.com has offered this one and I thought, why not?! I’ll give CC one more chance.

I was honestly afraid to pick it up. I didn’t want this book to be bad as the previous one. I wanted to WILL it to be good. It took me months to finally succumb and read it, that’s how afraid I was!

Let me be clear and reiterate one fact: I was a HUGE fan and I read almost ALL of her historical romances, ‘Sherbrooke Bride’ series being one of my favorites [for my reviews of these please click on the names of the books].

I enjoyed her writing; her prose and plotting; her fast pace and witty dialogue and most of all, the chemistry of her main and secondary players. She knew how to hook me from the first page to the last. Her character had depth and her plots were interesting and very entertaining. So what happened to THAT Catherine Coulter? The one that wrote those wonderfully witty stories that kept me reading way into the wee hours of the morning?! Why isn’t there ANYONE in her inner circle letting her know that the work she’s putting out there is lacking that main ingredient that we expect of her; imagination.

Or is she so jaded by her success that she doesn’t care what her audience, mainly her fans, think of her work. I am as much baffled by this latest inferior piece of work that I can only describe as train wreck, as I am disappointed. As a faithful fan I am deeply hurt by her lack of respect for my intelligence, taking me for granted as she and her ‘team’ are relying on me buying her work for no other reason but her well-earned reputation of a great story-teller that is decades old. It is not enough; not any more. I am older and wiser, and I will NOT be fooled again.

I’ll not bore you with synopsis as you can surmise the book from its blurb above (which is better than this book, trust me), but I will tell you why you should not spend your hard-earned money on it.

It is very hard for us reviewers out there to review a bad novel. We are human and our feelings get hurt by spending time reading work that lacks in prose, plot and characterization. We want to be entertained and wooed; we want to be engaged and touched; we want to escape the reality of our daily lives and that’s why we read romance. Yet when the book lets me down and my feelings of utter lack of respect on the part of the author [not going to even mention her ‘team’] literally makes me want to hurl every curs word I know at all of them, I find it hard to refrain, but I must. So, here is my review: this novel is not worth your time, money and attention. You deserve better. Especially from Catherine Coulter. She owes us an apology for wasting time, money and energy invested in reading this bland ‘salad of words’.

The characters are cardboard cut outs, cartoons if you will; the plot is inane and unnecessary; and the ‘witty dialogue’ a cornucopia of gibberish, a salad of words strewn around to fill the pages required for a hardcover novel.

There is no chemistry between ANY of the characters who I found bland and lackluster and boring at best. They were one-dimensional and unlikable, failing to pull me in, keep me interested. I was left not giving a fig about any of them!

Please, head my words, they are not lightly given: this book is so bad, it is not even funny!

ARC provided by publisher through LibraryThing.com.

‘Wicked at Heart’ by Danelle Harmon

STORY: The Beauty is Lady Gwyneth Evans Simms, a fiery and independent young widow who has won wide renown for her campaigns to aid the unfortunate and the oppressed. Fearlessly determined, she turns her passionate energy upon the prison hulks anchored in England’s harbors… unwittingly throwing herself against a ruthless adversary and into the most perilous fight of her life.

The Beast is Damon Andrew Phillip deWolfe, the rude and arrogant Marquess of Morninghall, a lone wolf of a man with devil’s eyes and a temper blacker than hell. Tall, dark, and very, very dangerous, the last thing he needs or wants is this intrepid virago interfering in his life. But only Gwyneth can exorcise the personal demons that haunt Damon’s black soul… and teach him to love, once again.

REVIEW: As this story opens, our young hero is only fifteen years old and we witness his first sexual encounter with an ‘older’ woman. This, combined with his childhood abuse, will turn him into a man who is in constant state of rage, anger and physical pain.

Damon de Wolfe, the sixth Marquess of Morninghall did everything he could to disengage himself from humanity. He embraced and fed his rage keeping it close for so long, that IT was the only thing that kept him going. He treated everyone around him with disdain and contempt and our heroine needed to be one strong female in order to see through all that pain and stand up to IT and him, to save this man’s broken heart.

Lady Gwyneth Evans Simms is a very likable heroine, but not to our hero. He sees her as an interfering and troublesome woman who he would like nothing more than to physically posses and humiliate. He is in for a rude awakening as this particular woman is not easily manipulated. She is on a mission to help mistreated prisoners who are on his ship. To say that the sparks fly when these two strong-minded people clash, is an understatement!

The above blurb adequately summarizes the story and it’s not necessary for me to elaborate more on it, however I will tell you of my reasons why I liked the story, and disliked the hero (well, through almost half the story).

Ms. Harmon, through her previous four books I’ve read from her, has proven to me that she’s a great story-teller. Through her writing she can engage a range of my emotions and that’s a sign of a good author. This story made me angry, smile and cry. And then, at the very end, it left me confused and I felt let down. Our hero and heroine have their well deserved happy ever after and in the end, that’s what counts, yet the ending might have been just a tad clearer.

Despite it, I really enjoyed this highly emotional story. Its pace was fast and characters interesting, so it kept me engaged all the way through the end. This is not your cookie cutter story and its hero is someone you’ll need to have patience with. His journey from deep darkness was worth taking and I was glad to have watched him come out better for it.

ARC provided by the Author.

Goodnight Sweet Demelza…

For all you young’ens who are not familiar with Demelza, I am here to introduce her and the series, to you.

Angharad Rees “was a Welsh actress, best known for her British television roles during the 1970s, and in particular her leading role as Demelza in the 1970s BBC drama series Poldark.”[Wikipedia],

‘Poldark’ was a BBC television series based on the novels written by Winston Graham which aired in England from 1975 to 1977. In the late ’70s I found myself back in the ‘Old Country’ Yugoslavia, back then, married and very lonely at night as my brand new husband was working third shift. Serbian TV just about that time started running a serial called ‘Poldark’ and I was so happy not have had to read the subtitles, but what made my heart sing was the wonderful love story of Ross and Demelza. The main story centers around Captain Ross Poldark who was played to a tee by an actor whose name I never heard before, Robin Ellis. I honestly think that any other actor would have ‘overact’ this larger than life character. The producers, or which ever power that be chose this young actor to play this role, deserves a medal. Robin Ellis WAS Ross and we all ‘ate him up’ as he stole our hearts.

Ross Poldark arrives home from the American Revolutionary War and finds out that his life will never be the same again. His father has passed on; the farmlands and copper mines they’ve owned, are now being sold; his uncle has claimed the estate and the love of his life and his secret fiancée Elizabeth, played by Jill Townsend, is now engaged to his cousin Francis, played by Clive Francis. As Ross slowly sets out to rebuild his life and accept the union of Francis and Elizabeth, he comes across an urchin ‘boy’ who will steal his heart. Demelza, played by the beloved  Angharad Rees, is a poor, hungry, fifteen year old girl who hasn’t eaten in a long while. Their first meeting takes place at a fair, where she’s caught steeling bread.

Ross feels sorry for and feeds the poor urchin, and after some persuasion from Demelza, he offers her shelter and work at his home. It didn’t take long for Demelza to ‘clean up’ and for Ross to start liking her. However, the love of his life, Elizabeth, was always on his mind and it took Ross awhile to realize that his life has been blessed by Demelza, and he finally admits his love to her.

Even though the main characters drove most of the stories, this was an ensemble series and the secondary characters had their own troubles. Who can forget  Dr. Dwight Enys played by Richard Morant, a young new doctor who comes to serve the small mining community and finds himself falling in love with a married woman, Keren Daniel, who ends up killed by her husband after he discovers her infidelity. For a long time Dwight blames himself for her death, but one encounter with a very rich and very spoiled heiress Caroline Penvenen played by Judy Geeson, starts a relationship that will eventually end up in a marriage.

And then there are his old servants, Jud and Prudie Paynter played by Paul Curran and Mary Wimbush, that brought so much humor to their characters and to the series as well. And what would one of these series be without a villain, and this one had it in George Warleggan who was played to perfection by Ralph Bates. George Warleggan hated Ross with a passion and he wanted to own everything that Ross owned and loved, so he went after Elizabeth and eventually married her (after Frances died).

But what stunned me the most was the setting of this drama. It was set in Cornwall, and with its breathtaking scenery of cliffs, coves and beaches, it was pure magic.

And talking of magic, Angharad Rees’ portrayal of Demelza was magical, too. When Demelza smiles, her whole face lights up and we cannot but bask in it. She was THE ultimate romance heroine and someone that I credit for pointing me to romance novels. I just found out (through Robin Ellis’ Blog) that she passed away at the age of sixty-three. My heart goes out to all her family, friends and millions of fans. She will be always fondly remembered by all of us that adored her portrayal of Demelza. None of us can ever forget that smile that lit up the small screen like millions of stars upon the night sky.

I have never had the pleasure to meet her in person, but a few months ago I read a story that was set in Cornwall and I thought of ‘Poldark’ series so I thought to Google it and see if I can see what happened to some of the cast members, but that night I ended up re watching the WHOLE series. I also found out that Robin Ellis would be coming to my local Barnes & Nobles promoting his new cook book and ‘Making Poldark’ book as well, and I was NOT going to miss this chance to meet ‘Ross’. What a real treat that was! My husband and I had a ball meeting Mr. and Mrs. Ellis and a few of his ardent fans as well. You can also read Robin’s tribute to her here and listen to it here (about 2 hrs. and 40 min. in-move the line to the #).

Tell us if you ever saw POLDARK and your thoughts about it. Who started you on the romance ‘trip’ and how long ago?

‘Heart of Rock’ by Karyn Gerrard Giveaway

STORY: Irishman Brogan Byrne is at the pinnacle of rock music success in 1974. Handsome, charismatic, with a three-octave voice, you’d think he had it all. But Byrne sinks to new depths of depravity with women, liquor, and drugs.

Carly Montgomery is an ambitious record executive offered an opportunity to be manager for the last leg of Byrne’s tour. Though she’s detached and tough as nails, Carly’s cool façade comes under attack. Somehow Byrne manages to slip by her frosty defenses.

Brogan, for his part, is broken inside. A memory weighs on his soul and affects his actions. Is Carly the one woman to help him forget his guilt and heal his heart of rock?

REVIEW: Let me see if I can describe this story in one sentence….Best things come in small packages and this short, hot, sensual and unbelievably sweet love story is perfect summer read.

Have any of you seen Tom Cruise in his latest movie ‘Rock of Ages’? He played your typical 80’s Rock Star and oh. em. gee. did he do an awesome job! Well, our hero was just like that. He inoculates himself with drugs, drink and sex (not necessarily in that order) in order to keep his heart rock solid and from engaging it in any of his relationships, from his brothers, girlfriend, band mates. And then he hits the ‘rock bottom’ and it’s ‘do or die’ decision time….

Carly has been managing rock stars for a few years now, and stepping in to manage this mess of a man could either help or ruin her career, but she has no choice and if anything, she welcomes the challenge. Never would she dream that in doing her job, her heart would be involved to a point that she might get it broken….

As I said earlier, this is not a long read, but boy was it good. Karyn Gerrard can write erotic scenes as well as she can write the sweet and tender ones. If you are looking to be entertained with a love story filled with sensuality and tenderness all at the same time, grab this read when you head out to the beach, pool or even a road trip [as long as someone else is driving!]. You won’t be sorry and you’ll be highly entertained!

Here’s TC to get you in a mood for this story….

Now, relax, click here for some inspiration Karyn had in writing this story….and for your greatest enjoyment of this fun excerpt from ‘Heart of Rock’!

“Where the feck am I again?”

Looking at him, Carly shook her head. “Are you going to become one of those pathetic, burnt out, brain-fried bastards who need index cards wherever you go so you know what city you’re in?”

He interrupted her and in an uninterested tone explained, “Love, I always needed index cards to tell me what city I was in.”

She sighed in exasperation but continued, “We’re still in Philly in a private VIP lounge at the airport waiting on a flight to JFK. In New York. You have a concert in two nights, remember?”

“Far out,” Brogan mumbled in annoyance.

“Guess I’ll have to introduce myself again. Carly Montgomery. I’m your new manager. Byron quit last night. I suppose you don’t remember that, either.”

“No. I really don’t remember. The show went well, I suppose.”

“Yes, the concert went fine. What happened after the show caused the concern. You all but trashed the dressing room at the Spectrum. Your mess is going to cost a pretty penny, Nigel is not impressed.”

“Carly? How original. Copy Carly Simon, did you?”

He watched as her jaw set in annoyance. “I don’t copy anybody. My name is Cara, but my family has called me Carly since I could crawl — and why am I explaining this to you?”

Brogan blinked and had a good look at this infuriating-as-shite woman. She was no more than 5’3”, her hair was long and wavy, dyed some two-tone shade of black with bright red streaks throughout. She wore a skintight black leather skirt and sexy four-inch black pumps. A tight gold tiger-patterned sweater hugged her feminine curves. Under the six layers of makeup he supposed she was attractive enough, no raving beauty but adequate. Her voice, however, sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

“I don’t have to stay here. You can’t keep me. I’ll find my own feckin’ way to New York —”

Carly whistled shrilly through her teeth. The door to the private lounge swung open. A man as big as a Volkswagen with a human head on it stood before Brogan with his legs apart and tree trunk-sized arms crossed defiantly.

Carly’s laugh sounded smug and amused, which pissed him off further. “This is Giovanni. Gio gave you the cold shower, remember?”

He interjected again, this time more sarcastically, “Love, it’s not the first cold shower I ever had.”

“Regardless, he’ll be your shadow going forward. Gio will keep you in line. Make sure you’re a good boy and behave at the venues in future.”

“I need a drink.” Brogan snarled.

Carly inclined her head toward the counter. “There is fresh coffee in the pot, and some donuts in the box. That’s all you’re getting for now.”

Jaysus Christ. He clasped his hands together to keep them from shaking. He did need a drink — badly. Times like this, he wished he smoked. He could use a fag right now. He was sober for the first time in days. Well, he would try to stay somewhat lucid for the show itself. But after the concert was over he would put aside the few restraints. Stalking the stage and whipping the crowd into a wild froth wasn’t enough for him. He always needed more. His irritated gaze roamed over the huge man in front of him. Great. His own gorilla.

“Listen to me, Byrne. I’ve been around enough rockers these last three years to see the signs. Your own band can’t stand you. They went to Nigel. They will be around you only for prerequisite rehearsals and the show itself. The rest of the time? They don’t want to know you. They demanded separate travel and different hotels, though I can’t see that happening. You’re arrogant even to your own family and to your girlfriend,” Carly hesitated. “You don’t remember a thing, do you?”

Brogan Byrne didn’t know why he acted this way and didn’t know how to stop. This monster lived inside him, and it had resided there for a long time. The demon was a voracious beast. Even now it clamored and groaned. The beast wanted to be fed. The only thing quieting the fiend was drugs and sex. He needed some type of hit. He glanced over at Gio. If Tiny wasn’t here he could put the moves on this Carly. Jaysus, where did that come from?”

To win a PDF copy of HEART OF ROCK, answer the following question: What music from The Seventies do you like? Name me a group or song from that era for a chance to win!  WANT BONUS ENTRIES? Like my Facebook page or fan me on Goodreads and tell me you did in your comment for extra chances to win!

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Friend and/or fan her on Goodreads

Buy ‘HEART OF ROCK’ at Silver Publishing,  ALL ROMANCE, Amazon.

A Good reason for Walking…

By now we’ve all, at one time or another, either lost someone close to us or have them survive the disease called cancer. In my case, I lost my mother and mother-in-law, but have a cousin that beat it. Both my mothers were only fifty-seven years old when they lost their fight with breast cancer and lung cancer, and in both cases, if the disease was detected just a bit earlier, they would have been still alive, and that fact hurts too much. In my cousin’s case, she got on it early and with the love of her family, awesome doctors and an aggressive treatment, she is today cancer free! That’s something to celebrate!

My mom adored my little girl, her namesake. She spent a lot of time with her, (potty training her at six months, if you can believe it) teaching her to walk and not crawl on her butt; spending over-nights with her and when I think of Easter’s spent coloring eggs, I can’t help but smile! After sixteen years, I am sure that she misses her Baka very much. We all do.

To honor those that passed and those that survived is what Relay for Life is all about. My girl is willing to walk all night to honor her relatives and yours (if you let her) that had survived Cancer and the one’s that passed. We need to get behind those that are still fighting and infuse not only our prayers, but some of our cash as well.

When it comes to a worthy cause, I have no shame, so I’ll beg if necessary to help whomever needs not just my voice, but my funds as well. To imagine those minimum donations of $5 multiplied by five, ten and fifteen people, applied towards ‘beating the enemy’ such as cancer, it makes my heart sing!

If you’d like to help my girl reach her goal of $150.00 and give NO MORE than five bucks, please sign up here (takes no more than five minutes of your time) and let her know in whose name the donation is, as she will have the Luminaries with all those names light up the night sky.

On my part, I would love to hear from you and if you’re comfortable to share, your personal story of either a survival or a passing. To three of you (regardless of donation), I’ll happily send books of their choice (from the stack that is ever-growing). It’s the least I can do for my faithful followers!

Thank you all so much for always supporting me.

Melanie

To ‘cut’ or not to ‘cut’…by Cecilia Grant

A few weeks back I posted a deleted scene from ‘A Gentleman Undone’ on my website, and Melanie saw it and asked if I’d like to stop by bookworm2bookworm to share another deleted scene and talk a bit about why it didn’t make the cut.

I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, which means I tend to explore a lot of blind alleys, dead ends, and meandering interstate bypasses in my early drafts. Hence, plenty of deleted scenes from which to choose.

The one I’ve chosen here comes from a sequence that would have taken place pretty early in the book, after Lydia manipulated the deck to give Will back the money she’d fleeced him of and before the scene where she showed him her sleight-of-hand tricks.

At the semi-polite gaming club where their paths cross, she’s wrestling with her mixed feelings over having restored his money, and she elects to cope by drinking a whole lot of punch. He asks her to dance, perceives her condition, and contrives to get her into the supper room so he can make her eat something.

Drink hasn’t improved her temper. As the scene starts, she’s just plunked herself down, seized a bun from a nearby plate and bit into it “with feral gusto,” per Will’s observation.

*     *     *

Might you like a dish of soup to go with that bun?” He lifted the tureen’s lid at one side. “It appears to be turtle. There’s also fish, fowl, roast mutton, some sort of aspic, and turnips and peas. I had it all set down at once so you could choose.”

A sudden stagger came in the rhythm of her chewing. Heaven help him, he knew exactly what caused it. Nobody ever took care of her, she had not the least idea of how to respond to solicitous attention, and she did not welcome such attention from him. He’d seen it before, hadn’t he, on Tottenham Court Road and all the way to Somers Town.

She swallowed, and glared at the empty plate before her. “I don’t care very much for turtle soup.”

“Nor do I, in fact.” The tureen’s lid settled noiselessly into place. “May I carve a bit of this goose for you? I had it myself at supper. It’s really not bad.”

“If you like. Peas as well, perhaps.” Finally she put the bun down on her plate and let her hands sink out of sight to her lap. She sat stiffly, watching him make busy with the knife and fork. She might have been some child of savages, brought into civilization and struggling to master odd English table manners. “You’ve done this before.” Her gaze slanted from his hands to his face.

“Carved a goose? I should hope so.”

Intently she shook her head. “Fed someone. Compelled someone to eat.”

It wasn’t the first time this evening he’d felt himself the object of her avid attention. The look she’d turned on him, just before remarking on the scent of his new shaving soap, had been nearly enough to scorch his skin. Until he’d realized drink was behind it. “Indeed I have. Peas, you said?”

She nodded, eyes still fixed upon him as though she were sifting through all his secrets and only wishing they were written in a language she knew how to read.

She could thank God they weren’t. “Peas to accompany your roast fowl, madame.” He tipped the spoon and sent its little grey-green orbs rolling onto her plate. Another few months and there’d be fresh peas for supper, crisp and verdant in place of these pallid specimens.

“You don’t care to speak of it.” She hadn’t once bothered to glance down at the food as he filled her plate.

“Only it’s not very interesting to tell.” He shrugged the shoulder nearest her as he turned away to set the serving-spoon back down in the dish of peas. “Men would turn up drunk and I would see to it they got something on their stomachs. A staggering-drunk soldier isn’t much use, as you may imagine. Nor is one puking his guts out because he hasn’t bothered to put anything down his gullet besides gin, pardon the subject.” Though he’d a thousand times rather have a man puking his guts out from gin than from fear. To the former, he could at least offer food and perhaps a place to lie down. To the latter, he could offer no useful physic under the sun. A few hollow words of encouragement. Exhortations to be brave, as if the poor fellow might have forgot what demeanor was expected of him and only wanted reminding. Ineffectual rot, the whole of it.

A muffled clink told him he’d worked the spoon to the nethermost layer of peas and struck bottom. He let go the handle and threw a quick look to Miss Slaughter, who still watched him, hands in her lap. “Eat your food before it grows cold,” he said, and signaled to the footman for coffee.

She turned her attention to her knife and fork. “I don’t mind. I have things, too, of which I don’t care to speak.”

“That much, I already know.” To have a bit of history with her, to have subjects on which he might tease her, felt like a gift slipped into one of his pockets while he wasn’t looking. She pinned him somehow to the present hour, with their brief trifle of a shared history making a buffer between now and the history that had gone before. “May I hope you’ll make an exception regarding what transpired the last time we sat together at cards?”

One thing to be said for drink; it rendered her readable. She arched her brows in an exaggerated counterfeit of innocence, and spoke to the plate. “You had an admirable run of luck, as I recall.”

“Rubbish. You fed me those cards.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “You cued me to buy instead of twisting, and you saw to it I got back everything I’d lost to you the week before.”

She raised a forkful of goose and put it in her mouth, chewing so thoroughly as to make any reply impossible. He sat back as the coffee was delivered, his hands balanced on the table’s very edge.

“I won’t tell anyone, you know,” he said once the footman had retreated. “I only can’t think for the life of me how it was done, and I should like to find out.”

She eyed him for a moment, considering, and then speared a pea on each tine of her fork with great care. “No one besides you has ever accused me of cheating.”

“That’s because you’re so good at it, I expect.” He reached for her cup. “How do you take your coffee?”

Again she shifted in her chair, the savage-born girl squirming under polite attention. “I’ll manage it. Thank you.”

“Nonsense. I’ve already got started.” He spoke lightly, to cover the disproportionate sense of urgency that thundered through his veins. To minister so to another person, to perform small kindnesses in a clean, quiet room, was his own drink, his own opiate, the thing that shut out memory like a blanket of fog. Ten men with hot blacksmiths’ tongs couldn’t pry his fingers off this saucer now, let alone one woozy and unarmed girl. “Sugar, I should think? Milk?”

“Lots of sugar. No milk.” He hadn’t expected so ready a surrender. But devil take him if he would complain.

He transferred three sugar lumps from the bowl and stirred, assiduously, until every last grain must be dissolved. She grew more and more sober, watching, and when he set the cup before her she stared at it, so glum that he finally had to ask what was the matter.

“I’m in your debt again.” She made no move to take her coffee. “And I don’t want to be.”

“For a cup of coffee? Hardly.”

“For your kindness.” For God’s sake you’d think she’d been sentenced to a stretch in Newgate, her tone was so dour. “You were right. I’m in no state to gamble. I should have lost money if I’d tried. You spared me from that, and now… our accounts don’t balance.” Her eyes rose from the coffee to his face. She was beginning to sag all over, as though her chair sat in some bizarre zone with twice the usual dose of gravity.

“Come.” With two fingertips he nudged her saucer closer. “Drink your coffee. You owe me only one thing, and that’s another dance, because tonight’s was abysmal. Now that I know it was the liquor, I don’t mind saying you were half a step behind on every turn.”

That ought to have lightened things, or at least boosted her back to her livelier angry state. But she sagged a degree or two more. “I wish I hadn’t drunk all that punch,” she said. And with one awful shuddering breath, she began to cry.

“Here, now.” The words came on their own, as he fought to tamp down a flare of panic. “It’s not so bad as that. It’s one night of gaming missed.”

“I can’t miss even one night. And don’t tell me it’s not so bad. You don’t know.” She wiped at her face with the heel of her gloved hand before remembering her napkin, and snatching it up.

“You’re right. I don’t.” God, that horrible helpless feeling again. This, at least, he’d thought he’d left behind him. “But I promise you a good third of what you feel now is just the distorting effect of drink. It will pass. You’ll be sanguine in the morning, if not before.”

“No, I’ll never be sanguine again.” She hid her face in her napkin and sobbed like a child who’d just found her pet canary claws-up on the floor of its cage.

Will looked about the room. The lone footman stood against the wall, staring straight out in front of him with practiced indifference. The mortifying spectacle had no witnesses, but neither was any help ready to hand.

What could he do? Every muscle in his arms and torso twitched with the impulse toward what he could definitely not do, which was gather her into his lap and murmur indistinct words of comfort as she spent her grief on his shoulder. “Do you want me to fetch one of your friends?” He allowed himself to lean six inches nearer. “Some lady to sit with you?”

She shook her head, sobs unabated, face still hidden behind the cloth.

“Would you…”  He cleared his throat. The words had caught on something halfway up. “Would you like me to send Mr. Roanoke to you?”

She shook her head even harder, and angled her body away.

He sat straight up, to give back the six inches of space. “Then, ah…”  He’d thought that last question was the difficult one. But no, it was this. “Would you prefer to be left alone?”

Another shuddering breath, as she paused between sobs to decide. Then she nodded, with extra vigor to make the answer readable even from the back of her head. That was that. She wanted him to go.

He didn’t, though. He let her hear him rise from the chair and walk away, but he only went as far as the wall, where he stood, like a superfluous footman, out of her sight while she wept.

This was ludicrous. It was absurd. She’d be embarrassed when she finally came to herself, and they might have a good laugh over it the next time he saw her. Why then couldn’t he find it in him to be amused, or to feel anything at all besides helpless pity for her distress, and disgust at his own inability to console? If any man ought to have a proper sense of perspective on this scene, he was that man. Lord knows he’d seen stronger claims to pity and consolation, enough such claims to last him his life.

Nevertheless he stood, still and silent, until she finally dried her face and reached for the coffee. The stuff would be lukewarm at best, now. His fingers itched to stir three lumps of sugar into a fresh hot cup and set it before her. But then she’d know he hadn’t gone when she’d asked. So he stayed long enough to see her take the first swallow, and then slipped from the room and went home without playing a single hand of cards more. And when she turned up in his dreams that night it was only to waltz, not at a proper distance but wrapped in his arms, worn out from crying, her cheek on his shoulder and the weight of all her cares entrusted to his keeping, if only for the length of the dance.

*     *     *

This wound up being part of a 10,000-word cut (the drinking, the dancing, and assorted shenanigans went on for awhile), which was as painful as it sounds. But for a number of reasons, it had to go:

  1. Will was too invested, too soon. I’m not opposed to romances where one party feels strongly right from the start, but this one worked better if they came together at first for a shared purpose (winning at cards), and only gradually developed feelings for each other.
  2. It was 10,000 words with no progress on the card-playing front, and I needed to advance the card-playing storyline sooner.
  3. The characterization of Lydia felt wrong. As I wrote further into the story and got to know her better, I realized that she got angry when she drank, but she stayed her focused self. She wasn’t sloppy, and she wouldn’t go on crying jags.
  4. It’s a sitting-and-eating-and-drinking scene, thus not very dynamic. I’ll confess I love s-a-e-a-d scenes, both as a reader and a writer, but, recognizing that I’m in the minority on that, I try not to write too many of them :)

Several things from this scene survived to reappear elsewhere in the book, including nurturing-through-coffee (now in the scene where Lydia wakes up in Will’s bed to find covered cups of coffee and chocolate), the sobering-up of a glum drunk person with roast goose (this time with Will as the beneficiary), and, almost verbatim, the exchange about how she manipulated the cards to return his money.

Of the things I cut here, I was probably sorriest to lose “sobbed like a child who’d just found her pet canary claws-up on the floor of its cage.” I liked that image, and may wind up using it elsewhere someday. You’ll all have to pretend not to have seen it before :)

How do you all feel about deleted scenes? Do you watch them on DVDs? Do you like seeing this “behind the scenes” stuff, or is it like a visit to a sausage factory; something you’d rather not know?

Mel here! I am thrilled that you came over…I feel like one of those girls that just giggles at meeting Justin Bieber!!! Thanks and we would love to have you back in January as your next book, ‘A Woman Entangled’ hits the shelves!

Cecilia Grant can rock my romance world anytime and I hope she does yours with one copy of her ‘Gentleman’ which she’s giving away today!!

‘The English Heiress’ finally makes it by Patricia Rice

Melanie, thank you for inviting me to stop by to tell the story of how my new historical romance, THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, finally made it into production. Your review tells the book’s story so beautifully that I thought I would simply recite the tale of the book that wouldn’t die.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, THE HEIRESS is a sequel to THE MARQUESS, the second in a series of Regency romances I wrote in the late 90’s. We’re talking about an era when I was  working with Word 6.0 and Internet Explorer version 1. Yahoo had just formed. I probably backed up to floppy disks.

So over a dozen years ago, when the imprint that bought THE HEIRESS closed down and sent back the next two books in the series, I was probably dealing with one paper copy (scribbled on because that’s how I edited) and a half dozen floppy disks that I may have copied over to 3.5” disks before I shoved them in a drawer. I had several other contracts at the time and resurrecting books that were already several years old just wasn’t happening.

Fast forward to 2011. Since I had a physical book to scan, I reissued THE MARQUESS as an e-book, and it started selling extremely well in this new format. But I had no physical book for the next two in the series. The ancient disks had deteriorated, and over the years, I’d tinkered with Michael’s book, so there was no one version, even in manuscript format. The pieces I had were written in an earlier Regency style of excess verbiage and circumlocutions that are the very devil to weed out, and I’d apparently given up on several versions over the years.

But everyone wanted Michael’s story. Readers have been demanding to know what happened to Michael since he first appeared in a Signet Regency in the 80s. I owed readers that story. And now e-books were possible, I didn’t need to find publishers interested in an old book, and I’d run out of excuses not to attempt to bring Michael back to life.

Over this past year I’ve been painstakingly digging old chapters off the disks that weren’t corrupted, scanning  chapters from yellowing pages for disks that were no longer usable, and piecing all the bits together with the files I’d copied into all my computers over the last dozen years. And once I had a full, coherent manuscript again, I edited. And edited some more. Then when my brain was about to explode, I sent the whole thing to the editors at Book View Café, who trimmed THE ENGLISH HEIRESS to its new fast-paced self. After all this, I think I could officially hire myself out as an editor.

“Cut” materials in almost any of my books are dictated by me. I’m a “fly into the mist” kind of writer and sometimes when I’m not entirely certain where I’m going, I do a lot of circling. It may be good material, snappy dialogue, whatever, but if it doesn’t keep the story line moving forward, it gets whacked.

And in the case of THE MARQUESS and THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, I was writing in an older Regency style that required a lot of circumlocutions, which required a lot of repetition, and the verbiage simply stacked up. Adding to that haystack was the fact that I was writing on an old DOS computer with limited capacity, so I wrote and edited everything by hand. (The ghosts in my attic kept crashing my machine and I was terrified of losing text.) And I didn’t have the time or equipment to go back and hack unnecessary scenery.

Since THE MARQUESS made it into print and has been reissued frequently, I’ve edited it several times over the years and no longer have any excerpts at hand. Michael’s book, however, is another story. Scattered over corrupted Word 6 disks and in various versions and hard copy in my basement, I have umpteen versions and edited scenes scattered all over, and trying to remember which version contained what would be a major headache. Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  Here’s just one small example of text removed from the book.

Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  I’ll copy the first small excised text I found below. As you can tell, there’s nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

That Blanche’s breath caught when his muscles rippled beneath his coat didn’t mean anything. She admired fine horse-flesh too. Sunny days and the laughter of children made her heart sing with joy. What she felt for Michael was little more.

But it wasn’t the return of a horse or a sunny day she awaited now.

She wanted Michael, the one man in her world she couldn’t have.

I spent so much time putting Michael back together again, I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or patience to bother re-creating the IRISH DUCHESS. But readers have been so wonderfully supportive of THE ENGLISH HEIRESS that I’ve bitten the bullet, made a copy of those old pages, and sent the DUCHESS in for scanning. I may have mountains more of text littering the cutting room floor in the months to come, but I’m finally back in my Regency world and loving it!

~~~~~~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~~~~~~

Melanie here! I just loved The English Heiress, and thought to let you read an excerpt that made me laugh-out-loud. Patricia will be giving away one ebook copy to one lucky commenter that tells us what was protruding from Benington’s back? Are you ready for a clue? Read the excerpt to find out…

While the butler helped Blanche with her bonnet and cloak, Michael generously offered their visitors help with their accouterments. When Michael took Allendale’s hat, an extremely large feather appeared behind the gentleman’s ear. Blanche choked back a cry and covered her laugh as a drooping nosegay of half dead roses peered out of the young lord’s vest pocket after he handed over his cane.

Somehow, Allendale’s coat pockets became lining side out and his cravat fell unfastened. His elaborately ornate pocket watch disappeared from the chain across his vest and came to rest—Blanche blinked in astonishment as she discovered the watch dangling from the belt on the back of Benington’s coat.

Benington fared little better. With his back toward the others so Blanche’s maid could divest him of his great coat, he hadn’t yet noticed Allendale’s newly rearranged attire. Aside from the pocket watch dangling from his back and the knob of a walking stick protruding from his coat neck, he didn’t appear seriously harmed until he turned around.

This time, Blanche couldn’t bite back a gasp of laughter at the lady’s red sash replacing his usually pristine white cravat. How in the world had Michael come across that sash?

She’d thought it safely in her wardrobe with the gown to which it belonged. She didn’t have much time to muffle her giggles before Allendale and Benington came face to face and stared at one another in incredulity. ‘What the devil are you wearing on your neck, Bennie?’ Allendale asked peevishly.Benington snatched at the back of his neck, seeking the object prodding him between his shoulder blades.

Grabbing the knob and pulling, he gave Allendale a stare of disbelief. ‘My neck! What is that dangling from your collar? An ostrich feather? And what do you mean coming into a lady’s presence with your cravat like that? I swear…’

Blanche’s peal of laughter swiveled both men in her direction. She couldn’t help it. Her eyes watered, and she nearly bent double in her attempt to contain her chortles. If Michael had hoped to assuage her grief while telling her suitors they were unwanted, he’d succeeded. The ostrich feather swayed over Allendale’s eye, and the ostentatious pocket watch chose that moment to play its merry chimes. Even Blanche’s maid bit back a grin, and the butler covered his mouth, hiding his mirth.

Allendale and Benington looked at each other again as if questioning the sanity of the house’s inhabitants. ‘Ummm, that nosegay looks a little wilted, Allendale,’ Benington observed a trifle doubtfully. ‘What nosegay? I…’ Glancing down, his lordship pulled the wilted roses from his pocket, then frantically searched for the watch that he could hear but which didn’t rest in its place of honor. ‘My watch! Where’s my watch?’ When the giggling maid pointed at Benington’s back, he swung the other man around and cried out loud.

‘My watch! What the devil…?’ Both men caught on at once, swinging around to glare at Michael. Blanche erupted in another gale of giggles when she realized Michael, naturally, was nowhere in the vicinity. ‘Oh, please. Oh, please…’ She couldn’t get the words out through her laughter. ‘There’s a mirror in the parlor, so you may straighten yourselves out. Please forgive him. He thought I needed a jester today.’

She pointed at the room on her left, covering her mouth again as a soft tenor singing an Irish ballad drifted from the hallways above. Michael hadn’t left then, just conveniently misplaced himself. She was going to kill him, if she didn’t die laughing first.

Fan2Author Interview with…Sheri Cobb South!

K- Hi Sheri!  Thank you so much for coming to visit with us and chat about your books!

K- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career as a writer?!  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?  How old were you?  Was there a particular moment that stands out as significant or was it just always natural to you?

SCS – To tell you the truth, I don’t remember when I first decided I wanted to write! I’d always loved to read—got my first library card at age 3, because I could already write my name—and I wrote my share of angst-ridden pre-teen poetry at 11 or 12. I always knew that “someday” I would write a book. It wasn’t until I was 28 years old and saw the big 3-0 looming on the horizon that I realized I could spend the rest of my life saying “someday,” or I could sit down and write! So I pounded away at a manual typewriter, literally cutting and pasting the manuscript pages until I had a finished draft that had to be completely retyped. My goal was to be published by the time I was 30, which shows how naïve I was about the publishing business! My first novel, a YA novel called Wrong-Way Romance, was published by Bantam as part of its Sweet Dreams series in February 1991, five months before my 32nd birthday. I still occasionally get emails from women in their 30s who read that book when they were teenagers and still remember it.

K-  What is your favorite genre of book to read?

SCS – I’m a “book slut.” I’ll read almost any genre as long as it’s well-written, humorous, and has a hint (or more than a hint!) of romance. The Regency romances of Georgette Heyer are among my favorites; I love their clever dialogue and elegant prose. I also enjoy classic mysteries and the time-travel books of Connie Willis.

K-  What is your favorite genre of book to write?

SCS – I love to write (and read!) romances where the attraction between the hero and heroine is shown through witty repartee rather than physical urges. I enjoy writing Regency romances for this reason, and when the market for traditional Regencies collapsed several years ago, I tried my hand at a Regency mystery series as a way of writing the things I love in a more marketable form—thus the John Pickett mystery series was born. My new release, Babes in Tinseltown, also features humor and a chaste romance in a historical setting, this time Hollywood in the 1930s.

K-  Do you have a particular place that you visit or work that gives you inspiration for your books?

SCS – I recently had a chance to meet science fiction superstar Connie Willis, who told me she does all her writing at Starbucks; when she tried to write at home, she was constantly distracted by other things she “ought” to be doing. I decided to give it a try, and found that it really works! Starbucks offers wi-fi, so I can spot-check details of research that arise, but the internet connection is too slow to effectively read and/or write email, post to Facebook, shop Amazon, play Candy Crush…you get the picture. Since I started working at Starbucks, I’ve written about 120 pages in just over a month, which is fast for me, as I tend to be a slow writer.

K-  Do you have a favorite character or couple that really speaks to you?

SCS – My favorite romance hero is Hugo Darracott of Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax. He’s got such a wicked sense of humor! Everyone underestimates him, but in an emergency he’s quick-thinking and strong. I also love Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey. As far as couples go, one of my favorites has to be Captain Harry Phillips and Princess Sonya Irena of Moldavia, whom he has to smuggle out of Austria in the final days of WWI in the underappreciated novel Flight From Bucharest, by R. T Stevens. Of my own characters, my favorite has to be Ethan Brundy (The Weaver Takes a Wife), followed by John Pickett (In Milady’s Chamber, A Dead Bore).

K-  So, lets talk hobbies… what do you like to do in your time off, when you’re not writing?

SCS – I love old movies, which is why I decided to write a book set in 1930s Hollywood. I also enjoy needlework (knitting, crocheting, and counted cross-stitch). Music is a big part of my life, too. I sing in church choir and play the clarinet in community band.

K-  With summer in full swing, can you tell us a little bit about what your summer plans are?

SCS – I’m looking forward to attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim later this month, as well as the Beau Monde conference for Regency writers held the day before RWA kicks off. On a personal/family level, our recent move from Alabama to Colorado has opened up a new part of the country for us to explore. Last month we spent a week at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Since we live only about 45 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, we’ll make several trips there this summer to do a little hiking.

K-  Can you tell us a little bit about your next release?

SCS – My newest release is Babes in Tinseltown, a humorous historical mystery set in 1936 Hollywood. It tells the story of Frankie Foster, a sheltered Southern girl hoping to make it big in the movies. She’s working as an extra when the producer drops dead on the soundstage. With filming suspended, Frankie knows it’s up to her to find out the truth about the producer’s death if she is to save the picture and her own career. Library Journal called it “a light 1930s Hollywood confection…[with] fresh characters [who]bring the cozy to life.” Babes in Tinseltown is available in both trade paperback and electronic editions.

Also, the second John Pickett mystery, A Dead Bore, is now available in electronic format through Belgrave House/Regency Reads. Idealistic young Bow Street Runner John Pickett and the newly widowed Lady Fieldhurst, whose husband’s murder was the subject of In Milady’s Chamber, are back together again, and the romance quotient is kicked up quite a bit. A Dead Bore was originally published by Five Star, whose heavy-duty library bindings unfortunately make the hardcover edition very expensive, so I hope the electronic format will be a more affordable option for readers.

K-  What can we expect from your books?

SCS – Not everyone is comfortable with the increasingly erotic levels of sexuality in romance. Those are the readers I write for. I hope they feel they can count on me to give them a funny yet romantic read in a vivid historical setting, whether that setting is Regency England or 1930s Hollywood.

K- Thank you so much Sheri for answering some questions for us!  We look forward to learning more about you and your books!! We also had so much fun browsing Sherri’s website, and are bringing you a couple of fun items from it today. If you’d click on the pictures of the Regency Lady and Lord, you’ll be able to dress them up! You can also help the hero and heroine from the Pride and Prejudice get all ‘dolled up’! How fun is that!

To know more about Sherri, please click on her photo, and to purchase some of her books she’s talking about, please click on their cover.  To one lucky commenter a copy of Babes in Tinsletown will come your way!  Thanks Sherri!

Happy International Kissing Day!

What?! You didn’t know this? Well, now that you do, grab your ‘significant other, or in my case my ‘better half’ and give them a kiss they’ll remember!

To get you in a mood, here’s my choice of three best kissing scenes I’ve seen on the screen.

Here at b2b we’ll celebrate today by giving away some  books that need a new home ;D Tell us about the best kiss you had or seen it on the screen!

(*open only for US) 

‘Friday Mornings At Nine’ by Marilyn Brant

STORY: Every woman remembers her firsts: Her first kiss. Her first lover. And her first time contemplating an affair…

Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses questions they’ve never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they’re living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation…

Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she’s made–and the ones she can unmake–as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain–and lose–when you step outside the rules.

REVIEW: Jennifer is married to Michael, mother to twin girls, and works as freelance web designer.

Bridget is married to Graham, mother of three and had just recently started work again.

Tamara, married to Jon, has one son and is stay-at-home mom.

These three middle-aged women meet each Friday at the Indigo Moon Cafe, to share their lives with each other.

Tamara’s husband is a lawyer who’s never home. Keeping company with her neighbor, a very handsome writer seems a thing to do. As their only son is off to college, she’s left all alone. Lonely and bored she makes her home and especially her garden a sanctuary of sorts.

When Jennifer receives an unexpected message from her ex-boyfriend arrives, she has a choice to make. See him with telling her hubby, or not see him and not tell her hubby?!

Bridget gets a job at Dr. Luke’s dental office, and both are happy to discover that they share their love for cooking…

The suspense of this tale is in trying to figure out which one of these women will succumb to infidelity. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming, and hope you won’t either.

Marilyn Brant went out on a limb with this story, calling it romance, and while some will no doubt not see it as such, once you get into the story, vest yourself in these complicated, sometimes frivolous yet very human characters, you’ll see the romance of it. What drew me to this story at first was the subject matter, but what grabbed me and held me captive was the humanity of the story.

You’ll appreciate this author’s serious thought and consideration to this topic which I’m sure wasn’t an easy thing to do when writing romance. She went all out in making sure we, the readers, would have the full story and in the end we were left to accept the decisions of these women without any prejudices and judgments. Now, that I call some crafty writing!

This was one book I wasn’t looking forward to reading and after I was done with it, I had a hard time penning a review of it. This story needed digesting and coming to terms with. Stories of these three women were just hitting too close to home. I identified with all three of them. I saw bits and pieces of myself in them, and like them, had at one time or another come with that same dilemma, so in the end I did…well, this is not about me, is it?

If you like well written contemporary stories, with lots of humor and plenty of reality, this one’s for you. I’d say if it comes to ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ and this one, skip the ‘Shades’. You’ll be glad you did!