Tag Archives: historical fiction

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of November 3, 2013

3 Nov

Upcoming Books and New Releases

I think Tessa Bailey is one of contemporary romance’s hottest new writers, so I’m tapping my pretty foot waiting for the next book in her awesome Line of Duty series to come out. Thankfully Asking for Trouble will be published on November 25th (during my Thanksgiving Break, yay!!!) and features the couple I have been waiting to see. Since Brent and Hayden’s two best friends are head over heels in love they can’t help seeing a lot of each other, even though each rubs the other the wrong way. Hayden’s got a host of trouble coming from her Park Avenue family who are looking to have her get married to a rich and influential man and the rough and tumble cop who pushes her buttons is also um…pushing her buttons. After a taste of each other, Brent is determined to not let go, but Hayden wonders how on earth this hot affair could have a happy ending?

Grace Burrowes announced the final installment of the MacGregor Trilogy, The MacGregor’s Lady, will come out February 4, 2014. I love it that she dabbles with American heiresses thrown together with the aristocracy, in this case, a brooding Scottish earl mourning his secret wife who has died. When he’s forced to show a beautiful Bostonian the sights it’s the last thing he wants but he’s shocked to find she’s even less interested. Hannah Cooper simply wants her visit to end (minus a new ring on her left hand) so she can get home to prevent her stepfather from putting forth his own agenda with her family. When both are stranded on the moors, family difficulties and past loves dissolve in the heat of the passion between them.

May I point out that not only is the next book in Kristen Callihan’s awesome Darkest London series, Shadowdance, due out on December 17th, but that the paperback version of it is currently marked down to $4.80 on Amazon? Mary Chase has had a difficult life but her work for the Society of the Suppression of Supernaturals gives her a great deal of purpose, particularly chasing down a murderer loose on London’s streets. But when she’s forced to work with her most antagonistic rival, Jack Talent, she can tell that the last thing he wants is her as a partner. Yet as they spend time together both their pasts are revealed, drawing them together, that is if Jack can face the demons of his past and embrace a future with the woman who might just be perfect for him.

The latest book in Toni Aleo, Assassins series (an ice hockey team, not a romantic suspense series!) will be out on December 9th, so sports romance fans should pre-order Blue LinesThis addition features Aleo’s signature playboy hero who has the hottest one-night stand of his life only to have that same woman end up on his doorstep with a positive pregnancy test two months later. At only $2.99 for the Kindle edition, it’s a bargain!

Contests and Giveaways

I love it when Harlequin bundles its books into one package and this wintery duo has me wanting to curl up in front of my fireplace to read it. A Little Bit of Holiday Magic by Melissa McClone (which has it’s own giveaway which I featured last week) has been teamed with Sophie Pembroke’s Stranded with the Tycoon. The first features a widow with a young son and the firefighter who can’t seem to keep away from them despite his current moratorium on dating while the second gives us the always terrific trope of a powerful business tycoon who manages to get snowbound with the tempting woman who won’t give him the time of day. Enter by November 4th (TODAY!) for your chance to win.

Also under the “do it today!” column is the giveaway for Sara Lindsey’s A Rogue for All Seasons, the third book in her Weston series about seven siblings all named after Shakespearean characters. This book features Henry, loved by the ladies and admired by men, who picks a prim wallflower to have a sham courtship in order to get him out of a tight spot. He’s inflamed by the woman hidden beneath the surface but having been burned before, Diana Merriwether is going to take a lot of convincing. Deadline November 4th to enter on Goodreads.

Fans of contemporary romance involving aristocrats may want to take a look at Megan Mulry’s Unruly Royals series, particularly since she’s giving away the second book in the series, If the Shoe Fits, on a Goodreads giveaway ending November 7th. The rakish brother of a Duke, no stranger to scandal, finds himself at the wrong end of his reputation for womanizing and fast cars. Devon has done such a good job hiding his intelligence that when he becomes fascinated by an American businesswoman at a wedding, he’s shocked to be shot down. Following her back to the US, Devon discovers that he is going to have to show all those qualities he’s attempted to hide since Sarah Jones cares nothing for glitz and glamor.

Cristin Harber’s romantic suspense Titan series is undergoing giveaways for the first three books of the series, with an identical deadline of November 8th for all of them. Featuring alpha males tied to the private black ops Titan group, this series gets rave reviews on Goodreads! Take a look at the first book, Winter’s Heat, the second in the series, Garrison’s Creed, or the third book, Westin’s Chase, for descriptions and to enter before November 8th.

People who love BDSM and vampires can’t ever get enough of Joey W. Hill’s Vampire Queen series, so she must be doing something great with that world and those characters! For readers who want to see if Hill’s steamy writing also makes their pulse beat a little faster, Goodreads is having a giveaway of Vampire Instinct, the seventh book in the series, ending on November 8th. This book focuses on a devoted vampire servant asked to do the one thing she can’t for her mistress and the Native American vampire to whom she turns for help.

Laura Griffin’s romantic suspense series, Tracers, features a crack FBI team and the bad guys they put behind bars. In her seventh book, Exposed, forensic photographer Maddie Callahan is in danger as she may have unknowingly captured a witnesses kidnapping on film. Agent Brian Beckman has spent time investigating the serial killer who would do anything to stay free, and with Maddie as his potential next victim, Brian realizes he would do anything to save this beautiful woman from such a fate. Enter before November 10th to win a copy!

Fans cannot get enough of Lisa Renee Jones’ Inside Out Trilogy, and if you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about, considering entering the giveaway to win the first book of the trilogy, If I Were You. When Sara McMillan discovers journals containing one woman’s erotic life rendered in detail, she’s avidly turning every page, until the last one when she begins to suspect foul play regarding the woman’s disappearance. Deciding to do some investigating herself, Sara insinuates herself into this woman’s former life – in her job, with her friends…and with two sexy men who were both involved with the diarist. Enter by November 10th for your chance to win.

Fun Stuff

I’ve been thinking a lot about historical fiction recently (I’m taking an online MOOC through the University of Virigina about it via Coursera) and when I saw this video, I had to share it! One of the most challenging things about writing historical fiction is making a far distant location come alive, as if the reader were actually walking from a tavern to a church in a given period. While I’m glad there is no smell-a-vision for some books (!) the fact remains that it’s still hard to picture, but not so much now. In answer to a competition to combine historical artifacts with modern technologyPudding Lane Productions has used a old map of 17th century London to reconstruct the city and its appearance around the time of the Great Fire of 1666, and the results are spectacular. Studying the topography, buildings which still exist from the time period and the writing of archeological historians, this group of programmers has really made the city (albeit one without people or animals) come alive. Take a look at the fly-through video to get a glimpse of true 17th century London.

keep-calm-and-talk-dirty-58Entangled Publishing, whose Brazen line I universally love, is making November even more fun by making it Dirty Talker Appreciation Month! From November 4th to the 30th, all you have to do is tweet your favorite quotes using hashtag #DirtyTalker, post those knee-weakening lines on Entangled Brazen’s Facebook page, or make some kickass quote graphics (using a site like QuotesCover or Chisel) on Pinterest using “Brazen’s Dirty Talker” in the description line. Entangled will be choosing their favorites every Monday and giving away prizes throughout the month. FYI, I used Keep-Calm-O-Matic to create the this Keep Calm custom image!

It’s November and that means writers all over the world are attempting NaNoWriMo, the National November Writing Month where people dedicate themselves to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. For those of you not sure if you’ve got a book living inside you, consider purchasing No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. The ebook is a mere $1.99 and a fun, motiving guide to cranking out a first draft.

For giggles you might want to take a look at Book Riot’s collection of the most adorable literary pet costumes this Halloween season. While I certainly wouldn’t think of dressing my cat like Edward Cullen or Hester Prynne, the dog dressed as Christian Grey wins my best-dressed (or would it be undressed?) award!

Great Deals

Susan King’s first book of her Maiden trilogy, The Stone Maiden, is currently on sale for $.99 on Amazon. Set in the Scottish Highlands in the 12th century, a young woman asks the king to send a warrior who can help defend her home and people from the encroachment of an evil neighbor. Since the local legend dictates that her clan’s name must be carried on in order for the land to maintain its divine protection, she stipulates that her liege should send a knight who will be willing to take her name and marry her. What she gets is a strong knight from Brittany with no intention of marrying her or taking her name although he is content to handfast her and protect her people. But the heart has its own ideas, and both of them begin to succumb to stronger feelings which only complicate their situation.

Jessica Scott is putting out a heart-warming novella this holiday season, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a tie in with the first book in her Coming Home series. Set immediately after her first book, Because of You, I’ll Be Home for Christmas stars Army Sergeant Vic Carponti who loves his wife and his country, and probably in that order. As he gets ready to deploy to Iraq, he wants nothing more than to shelter her from his daily reality in the sandbox and his darkest fears, but Nicole is made of tougher stuff than Vic imagines, and they might both be about to see her tested. This novella is only $.99 and will be published on November 5th.

Happy reading this week!

Dancer of the Nile Brings Romantic Suspense (Ancient Egyptian Style) to Veronica Scott’s Gods of Egypt Series

22 Oct

Dancer of the Nile (Gods of Egypt #3) by Veronica Scott (Jean D. Walker, October 5, 2013)

I was so taken with the world of ancient Egypt in Veronica Scott’s Warrior of the Nile, that I immediately went out and bought it’s predecessor Priestess of the Nile, which I also enjoyed. Naturally, being a completionist and feeling confidence in Veronica Scott‘s writing, I pre-ordered Dancer of the Nile (which came out on October 5th) and am now able to tell you that it definitely lives up to the overall excellent quality of the series.

Kamin is an Egyptian general, cousin to Pharaoh, undercover in Hyksos territory and captured as a spy (which he is). Amid the cruel Hyksos army, he notices a bedraggled but brave woman riding in the leader’s chariot, a woman quickly identified as a captured dancer. She’s clearly Egyptian but what can one woman do to help his situation? He wishes he could help her, but starved and bound while being walked through the desert doesn’t put him in a powerful position.

Nima actually does have some tricks up her sleeve. She’s a dancer who, up to yesterday, had dreams of leaving her sketchy dance troupe and forging a real life for herself, until the inn fire drove her into the arms of her Hyksos captors. Purportedly she’s being kept because the Hyksos general wants her to “dance” for him personally, but that’s not stopping the leader of the soldiers from periodically terrorizing her and making her wait on the soldiers. She’s angered at how the brave captured Egyptian is being treated and determines to use everything in her power to release him so they can both get away.

Priestess of the Nile (Gods of Egypt #1) by Veronica Scott (Carina Press, 2012)

And so begins Kamin and Nima’s adventure. I felt that while there has been excellent political or paranormal conflict propelling all the books in the series, Dancer of the Nile felt most like a romantic suspense novel as Kamin and Nima have obstacle after obstacle thrown at them as they race to inform Egypt of the Hyksos’ stronghold location. Along the way, these two characters – one noble born, one a peasant but both blessed with a pure and brave heart – are drawn together and fall in love. There is no way to not adore the hero and heroine, and Kamin particularly stole my heart with his indomitable will to let nothing stand in the way of his winning Nima, even under the worst possible circumstances.

As with the other books in the series, although to a slightly lesser degree, gods and goddesses are involved with saving Egypt and rescuing the protagonists from the worst situations. After the third book, I’m definitely feeling like I could begin picking Egyptian deities from a line up!

Can we talk for a minute about what an unbelievable value these books are? Both Priestess of the Nile and Warrior of the Nile were put out by Carina Press (the digital division of Harlequin) and are currently priced at only $1.99 each. Dancer of the Nile, which is not by Carina (kudos for continuing the flavor and quality of the cover art, Veronica), nevertheless is only $2.99, completely reasonable for a book just out (or any other time).

Historical romance writers (who don’t mind the occasional god or goddess interfering) looking to break away from yet another Regency and taste something different would do well to try the Gods of Egypt series. This series does not disappoint!

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle Builds on Viking Interest While Adding a Great New Voice to Historical Fiction

9 Oct

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle (Entangled, June 2013)

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read a Viking-themed romance before this one. Chances are it probably happened in the 80s, hardly the heyday of consensual relationships and whatever I read probably scarred me for a while. That said, I find Norse history fascinating, with their rich mythology and legends and a culture based on a combination of agriculture and carefully executed raids on neighboring lands for goods and slaves.

My great-grandfather was actually from Sweden and while family accounts have him as quite the jackass personality (“mean” and “taciturn” were words bandied about by his wife, my French great-grandmother), he was quite the personality. He immigrated a little after the turn of the twentieth century, actually rode in the U.S. Calvary against Pancho Villa in the American Southwest and then became a chauffeur during the time of World War I in New York City. My great-grandmother came to America from France in 1918 with a couple of her sisters (she was the youngest at a mere 17) trying to escape the devastation of France and got work as a nursery maid for a rich family in Manhattan. Guess who was next door? The handsome, tall, blond Swedish chauffeur, that’s who. They ended up married and with two children, yet she continued to work for the family for some time, traveling all over with them (we called her Tutu after the Hawaiian name for grandmother because her employers spent so much time there).

As Tutu used to say, luckily for her he died (not romantic, I know) because they had a terrible marriage and he was an awful husband. She followed up this disaster of a marriage by marrying the man who would be the love of her life and treated her like a princess, so she got a happy ending, but the legacy of the Swedish great-grandfather lives on in our family who you would easily mistake for Vikings. The men are extremely tall, blond or red-haired with pale blue eyes and the women are beautiful, tall and with the same coloring. I got a little more height than my Mom’s side of the family (not much) but my light eyes and high cheekbones are courtesy of Sweden (so my thanks to that country).

With the mental image of my family members it was rather easy to envision the hero of new author Gina Conkle‘s novel Norse Jewel. Hakan is a Svea chieftain close to his king who wants nothing more than to retire from raiding and work his farm and be with his son. That his king continues to make demands on his time and his grasping ex-wife will not release his son Erik to him as dictated by Norse custom continues to rankle. When he stumbles across the wounded Frankish maid at a slave auction, the last thing he wants is a young, pretty woman stirring up trouble. But it’s clear she’s in danger from the group of Danes trying to buy her, and his instincts have him purchasing her as a thrall, a slave, to work in his home.

The Viking invasion routes during this time period – rather easy to imagine a Frankish maid ending up as a slave in a chieftain’s house, isn’t it?

Helena cannot believe that she’s at the mercy of the tall Norse warrior. She was living her life in her small Frankish village as the daughter of the apothecary and betrothed to a local scholar. The wound on her face is from one of the Danes attempting to cut away the purse around her neck holding the jewel that was to be her dowry, but her intended husband ran to safety when the raiders arrived in the village and she was snatched. Her knowledge of some Norse makes her useful to this man who is clearly a chieftain, but he wants nothing to do with her, beyond mending and cooking.

While Hakan discovers quickly that she cannot cook, he also discovers that Helena is actually an incredibly intelligent woman of many talents, bringing order to his homestead and tremendous wealth to him. As their feeling for one another grows deeper, the barrier of his ex-wife’s betrayal combined with political elements around the king continue to be barriers they cannot cross. Helena has the added mental block that she is truly Hakan’s slave and while she does love him, her self-respect will not allow her to yield to him until he can show her that he truly cares for, preferably by giving her freedom to return home.

Norse mythology and culture are becoming increasingly popular as indicated by movies like Thor and the BBC drama Vikings.

I thought this was a terrific historical romance – at almost exactly 200 pages this had the feel of a category romance in terms of the romance part of the plot, yet Conkle delivers such depth of well-researched information that you feel you are reading a longer book set in the time period, complete with complex religious and cultural conflicts our hero and heroine encounter. Both characters are highly sympathetic (and stubborn) but the feeling between them is very real, and I love that the author has them becoming friends first even though the frisson of attraction is always present.

The actual sex comes pretty late in the book and it was a little bit of a closed-door scene (you only get to see the hot foreplay) which did not make me happy. Yet I was so thrilled they were finally confessing their feelings to each other that I was okay with it, which honestly indicates how great Conkle’s writing is because normally I’d be pretty pissed about being denied by detailed sexy times. This lack of explicitness nevertheless makes this novel highly appropriate for readers who like their romance a little more on the sweet side.

What I cannot figure out is if there will be a series based on some of the characters introduced in this book! *arrgggh* Considering that the political situation continues to be unresolved, and that I want to know what happens to Hakan’s best friend Sven who has seemingly betrayed him, I feel like Entangled would be crazy not to pursue at least a second related book. Yet, no indication exists on Goodreads or Conkle’s website to hint that there will be other books related to this one, so I’m going to have to keep my fingers crossed.

Erik Northman, the millenia-old vampire in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books (and in its companion TV series, True Blood) is a Viking living in modern times, but with an age-old ruthlessness

There is no denying a cultural upswing in interest around Norse culture. Thor and it’s upcoming sequel prove the box office loves Norse gods and mythology and the BBC series Vikings (a Canadian-Irish drama) was picked up by the History Channel proving so popular there is going to be a second season (it’s also on Hulu and I have it in my queue to watch). Yet Norse historical romance is still in such an early stage of development in the world of romance that there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated Goodreads list. You can find the “Best Viking Books” listing Norse Jewel alongside erotica with a Norse theme and historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell. More than a few of these books (particularly the romances) have time-travel or paranormal themes, featuring Vikings living in the present (think of Eric Northman from Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series) rather than plunging readers into the world of the past.

Gina Conkle’s Norse Jewel not only adds a wonderful novel to the world of Viking romance but it also showcases a vibrant new voice to the world of historical fiction with her layered world, well-written characters and plots that demand more than one book to flesh out. My fingers are crossed that more books will be on there way soon since I find this writer a bargain at a mere $2.99.

Happy Reading! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 22nd

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

While I’m still waiting for Laura Kaye’s new book, As Hard As It Gets, to come out in late November, I’m delighted that the cover and blurb of the second book in this new series has been released. As Hard As You Can looks just as yummy not only in terms of the chiseled muscles and hot tattoo on its cover, but also for it’s plotline.

Lovers of small town romance should mark their calendar for Lizbeth Selvig’s new offering, Rescued by a Stranger, which comes out October 1st. I love a romance when one side of the couple blows into town running away from something, only to find the community tugging on his or her heartstrings. That this hero fits the bill and is driving a motorcycle only making it that much sweeter. *vroom*

It’s a rare delight when you an enjoy a historical romance involving American heiresses in London, but luckily for readers who do, Laura Lee Guhrke is planning on an entire series of them, starting with When the Marquess Met His Match, to be published on October 29th. A stone-broke Marquess gets cut off by his father for dissolute behavior, only to have to turn to the premier matchmaker in order to find a bride in a hurry – maybe one of the American heiresses shopping for a title. Only the matchmaker, who herself was one of those same Americans prior to her marriage and subsequent widowhood, won’t take him on as a client. What’s a desperate nobleman to do? Charm the matchmaker into marriage, naturally.

Kristen Ashley just announced that the latest book in her Colorado Mountain series, Jagged, is available for pre-order and the cover is definitely an improvement on past books in this series, reflecting the quality of the prose much more accurately. In this latest offering from Carnal, Colorado, a past love returns needing to convince the woman he left behind that he’s a changed man, but after his walking away and the devastation she’s recently endured, can she trust him again? With a cover blurb from Maya Banks, I think people will be lining up to order this novel long before the November 1st publication date.

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole announced this week that she’s jumping on the serial bandwagon with a three part erotic romance, The Professional, to be released in three parts this December. I’m sooooo not a fan of the serial (I read way too fast and don’t like to be kept waiting), but for a writer as good as Cole, I’m willing to make an exception, particularly since she’s smart enough to keep the publication dates close together, with everything coming out within a month.

Jennifer Ashley (who makes the Great Deals section with her bundled Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries) has her Shifters Unbound series fans waiting with baited breath for the upcoming books in that series, including the next full-length novel, Wild Wolf. Luckily for all of us, it’s recently been targeted by Amazon as one of the discounted paperback pre-orders, now listed at the price of $4.79. Snap it up! It will make the waiting until April 1st almost bearable knowing it was such a great deal.

Fans of J. D. Robb‘s Death series need to note (if they haven’t already) that the thirty-seventh book, Thankless in Death, just came out September 17th. Rabid fans of Eve Dallas and her sexy husband Roarke will find themselves watching their favorite couple dealing with not only his big Irish family but a family who wasn’t so lucky – they ended up murdered – and Eve must unravel the pieces before the killer strikes again.

Contests and Giveaways

I love historical romance when the hero/rake finds a beautiful woman who seems respectable on the surface, but secretly has “underground contacts” that make her far from a shrinking violet – Tracey Devlyn’s third book in her Nexus series, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, fits the bill! Lucky for me, the Goodreads giveaway ending September 27th, is giving away five copies so I have a chance to win it! If not, the book comes out October 1st.

Everyone is more than aware of my love for anything written by Lauren Dane so I’m excited that her next book in the Brown Siblings series, Drawn Together, not only is coming out October 1st, but has a Goodreads giveaway (deadline September 26th). With the complex heroine of the non-monogamous tattoo artist Raven and Jonah Warner (whose dominant brother, Levi, we’ve already fallen for in the novella Sway, found in the Cherished anthology), I know that Dane’s writing will make me fall for these two just as I do every other couple (or triad) that she writes.

The wonderful Paranormal Romance blog is giving away three copies of the recently released Twilight Hunter, the first book in Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series (and it looks freakin’ awesome!). All you have to do is leave a comment on the post by September 26th, naming your favorite bad boy. Not an easy task with so many of them out there to love, but it looks like we might all have another with werewolf hunter Jace McCannon!

Category romance fans are always looking to find a new great author to follow, so if you fall into this category, you may want to try the I Heart Presents blog’s giveaway of The Divorce Party by Jennifer Hayward, last year’s winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest. Simply leave a comment on the blog post about what inspires you by October 3rd to enter.

Fun Stuff

The people behind Klever Case know what they are doing when it comes to customized Kindle covers. Whether you want your new paperwhite to look like a classic hardcover book (Dracula and The Great Gatsby are popular) or your looking for a just a generic book cover, these are your best bet. You can even customize the bookplate inside! While this is a British company, the additional two pounds for shipping for US orders is hardly prohibitive. And they make them for all major ereaders, including the iPad mini. Just be careful you don’t put your ereader on a shelf and then forget it doubles as a book now!

Gracious! It seems 3D printing has taken an understandable turn in the naughty toys department. Whether the gentlemen in your life gets laser scanned for his…um…replica, or whether you help him with the creation the old fashioned way (warning: the Clone-a-Willy kit is very messy), the end result will be an exact replica to keep you company when he isn’t able to. No, there will not be accompanying pictures for this one! ;-D

Media literacy is incredibly important, particularly when sex education is involved. As I mentioned in my post about condom use and romance novels, all too many students are leaving high school early or attending schools where abstinence education is paramount, resulting in a lack of understanding of how our bodies work and preventing diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Compounding the problem is the rampant misconception regarding sex and what a “normal” body looks like, a lack of understanding that many sexuality professors lay at the feet of easily accessed pornography. To counter it, a hilarious video using kitchen foods has been created to help people understand the realities of sexuality versus the porn version. Be warned, you will laugh out loud!

Avid readers might empathize with librarians who just love reading so much, that they choose awesome tattoos which reflect their passion. Whether it’s a tarot card, the symbol for library or just their favorite Dewey Decimal number, the quirky magazine Mental Floss has put together quite a few of them for your viewing pleasure. Not willing to make that kind of a commitment? Publisher’s Weekly reviewed a great book of temporary tattoos which might be more your speed.

I’m a gigantic fan of Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series (HUGE fan) so it was fun to see the video from her recent booksigning where she talks not only about how we are all going to have to wait for the books about the younger changelings (nertz!) but how she feels that she’ll be writing this series into her nineties. From your mouth to God’s ears, Nalini!

Anyone within travel distance of Princeton, New Jersey may want to check their calendar to see if they are free on Thursday, October 24th and Friday the 25th. Princeton University is hosting The Popular Romance Author: A Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre, beginning with a keynote on Thursday night starring literature professor Kay Mussell and romance author Jennifer Crusie. The keynote is free and open to the public, and there is only a small fee for the various panels and presentations of the academic papers presented on Friday, so see if your calendar has an opening for what sounds like an educational couple of days. Kind of appropriate the Princeton mascot is a tiger, eh? Mrrrrrooooowwww.

I’m a huge fan of the free MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) offered through various services, and I have to say that Coursera is my favorite. For enthusiastic readers, there always seems to be a course available to take your understanding to the next level and two are starting up soon that might interest readers of this blog. The University of Michigan has a Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, The Modern World course that looks great – beginning with fairy tales and taking the reader chronologically up through 19th century horror to the modern era (Bradbury, LeGuin, Doctorow). For historical fiction readers and writers, Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction not only has a roster of great reading and analysis, but the second half of the course has award-winning historical fiction authors teaching about their techniques and methods. And it’s FREE. Both courses clearly state on the information pages how many hours per week they take and you can do the exercises or not – remember it’s free. This is no guilt learning at its finest!

Great Deals

Suspense maven Lisa Gardner’s first Family Secrets novel, Maggie’s Man, is on sale at the ebook price of only $2.99. First published in 1997 under her Alicia Scott pen name, this trilogy stars three half-siblings attempting to uncover the truth about their shadowed family. In this first installment, Maggie Ferringer gets a lot more than jury duty when she reports to the courthouse, and is instead taken hostage by Cain Cannon, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend six years ago. He wants revenge and Maggie is coming along for insurance, but soon their relationship turns a corner and it’s uncertain who is the captive.

Everyone knows my love of Jennifer Ashley, whether it’s her stellar historical romance Highland Pleasures series or her heart-pounding paranormal novels from the Shifters Unbound series, but were mystery lovers aware she has a great historical mystery series written under her other pseudonym, Ashley Gardner? The Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series now offers the first four books bundled together for only $.99 for people who would like to sample this different side of a talented author.

Shannon McKenna is a terrific suspense writer and I loved her novel, One Wrong Move, for it’s taking a highly unlikeable uber-alpha hero and revealing his internal marshmallow self when it came to a heroine with a highly scarred past. Now this well-written novel is on sale in ebook form for only $.99. While it’s book nine in McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series, you need zero acquaintance with the other books to enjoy it (although I’ll warn you that you’ll find yourself snapping the others up after this steamy adventure).

Speaking of awesome suspense, Lori Foster is going to debut her book Getting Rowdy in just a couple of weeks, and it would serve you well to nab the previous book in her Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, considering it’s reduced to $1.99 for the Kindle version. These are angsty, hot reads with plenty of danger and heroes who underestimate the sexy heroine only to realize she’s their perfect match. You will NOT be sorry you tried them – I promise!

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. 🙂

Warrior of the Nile by Veronica Scott Brings Ancient Egypt to Life With Vengeful Goddesses and Romance

16 Sep

Warrior of the Nile (#2 The Gods of Egypt – Khenet and Tiya) by Veronica Scott (Carina Press, September 16, 2013)

I have been lamenting the dearth of historical fiction not set in England and/or the Regency period, so I was naturally intrigued by the good reviews of Veronica Scott’s romance novels set in ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. When the second one, Warrior of the Nile became available via NetGalley, I snapped it up to see if I would enjoy a non-traditional historical romance.

Did I! I loved the premise of her The Gods of Egypt series – that Egyptian gods had the ability to become corporeal and interact with humans – and it lent a wonderful paranormal element to an already rich historical setting. In Warrior of the Nile, two people find themselves pawns caught in the machinations of the gods.

Khenet is the adopted brother of Pharaoh who reluctantly asks him for a favor. A region which previously harbored a usurper has suspicious reports of the nomarch (leader) engaging in black magic. The priests and priestesses of the goddess Nepthys have notified Pharaoh that she will be providing a bride for this man, a bride born dedicated to Nepthys’ service who will be sacrificed when the goddess takes over her body, killing the evil magician and shutting out the influence of destructive gods who would threaten Egypt. Part of her instruction includes the demand that only a single man to accompany the doomed bride on the dangerous journey to her husband, and the guard must be a man who means something to Pharaoh.

Priestess of the Nile (#1 The Gods of Egypt – Sobek and Merys) by Veronica Scott (Carina Press, January 23, 2013)

Khenet and his brother have faced enough danger and battles to realize that this is actually a dangerous trap, one Khenet might not return from. As an adopted sibling to the most powerful man in Egypt, Khenet has nevertheless felt caught between two worlds. More a rough soldier than a noble, he has had negative experiences with the court beauties who pursue him, preferring the no-strings-attached relationships with tavern wenches and dancing girls he can leave the next morning. Accompanying a blubbering aristocrat to her death sounds worse than battle, particularly if he might die in the attempt, yet his loyalty to his brother and his desire to help Egypt outweighs any personal discomfort.

Lady Tiya has always known of the dagger hanging over her head. Her family is descended from the goddess Nepthys, with many of its members choosing to go into her service. But she has been cursed with an extra layer of obligation, as the birthmark on her forearm and over her breast is an inherited one indicating that the goddess can take over body with ease. When she is called along with her cousins to the temple to be chosen, it’s an easy decision to volunteer – the other candidates are a little girl and Tiya’s weeping cousin who has just been betrothed. With her father’s remarriage, Tiya is being pressured by her stepmother to marry and Tiya would rather escape the match, even if it means being used by a goddess who might not care about hurting Tiya.

Dancer of the Nile (#3 The Gods of Egypt series – Kamin and Nima) by Veronica Scott (Carina Press, October 2013)

Tiya’s instincts are proven correct and she’s more than a little dismayed to discover the nature of her mission and more concerned that the handsome, brave soldier who is to guard her on the journey is also doomed. They slowly begin to get to know one another, each recognizing the other’s courage and intelligence, and cursing the fate that would bring them into each other’s lives just in time to take them away. Tiya calls upon another goddess for assistance while Khenet wrestles with the nightmares of his lost village, reemphasizing to him that he is the last of his people and burdened with an incomprehensible prophecy. Yet that prophecy might just offer the one loophole that could have Tiya and Khenet saving Egypt while escaping with their lives, although it might bring the wrath of a powerful goddess upon their heads.

I loved both characters and while the text is peppered with references to Egyptian religion and deities it’s nothing the reader doesn’t adjust to within a couple of chapters. While Khenet and Tiya have plenty of sexual tension, there really is only one tender, wonderful sex scene between our couple as they are kept pretty busy evading the machinations of evil sorcerers and deities.

A view of the Nile River which is probably not far from what an ancient Egyptian would have seen.

Scott has an excellent note on historical accuracy on her website, indicating that while she has done a tremendous amount of research (it shows in her wonderful descriptions of the religion and everyday life), she still took some liberties with the history, particularly with the Pharaoh who doesn’t appear on any list of kings. The bibliography of sources she lists is a nice start for anyone interested in learning more (even if, as a librarian, I wish she had included publisher and year information and/or links to an online bookstore).

Did I mention that this book is not just excellent but affordable? A full-length novel from Carina (and therefore only available in ebook form), Warrior of the Nile is only $1.99! While other books in the series appear to be set in the same world, they also are independent of one another, so you can break into the series at any point with impunity. I’ve already ordered the first book in the series, Priestess of the Nile about a singer who catches the eye of the Crocodile God in human form. Dancer of the Nile, the third book, will be published in October 2013, so if you find yourself liking Scott’s writing (and I think you will) you won’t have to wait long for the next installment.

Historical romance readers should definitely give Veronica Scott’s The Gods of Egypt series is a try as it delivers great characters, a rich setting, and strong plots filled with meddlesome gods and goddesses who love interfering with human lives. Happy Reading!

Breaking the Regency Romance Mold: A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol

24 May

A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol (January 31, 2012, Avon)

I adore Regency romances because the time period is so fascinating. The early nineteenth century shaped a country in a state of flux, one that was either experiencing the Napoleonic Wars or recovering from them, and the whole nation was poised on the brink of an industrial revolution which would change the world, to say nothing of Great Britain itself. From a writing standpoint, social strictures were still a little looser, a hold-over from the more licentious period of the late 18th century, which has fortunately given authors more wiggle room for creating interesting scenarios that allow romance to flourish in a compressed period of time for our hero/heroine.

But as much as I love Regencies, I’m really picky about the writers I love. Not like – I like plenty of Regency authors – but really love. You know, love, love. The majority of novels in this sub-genre are kind of, well, “meh” for me. It’s writers like Stephanie Laurens and Sarah MacLean that have me forking over full price for both the ebook AND the print version of their books. Most other authors just don’t get my steam engine running on all cylinders even though I still enjoy the immersion into the time period.

Months ago, I saw a contest on Facebook for Avon Books about proving how enthusiastic an Avon reader you were by filling out this long survey. I purchase Avon books constantly and had enormous fun writing the little responses and talking about my favorites. I didn’t hear anything more and totally forgot about it, until I got a package in the mail about 8 weeks ago that held two Avon books. *doing happy dance*

One of them was A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol, a book I was so interested in reading that I had already purchased it in ebook form. With other reading more pressing, it made its way to my back burner, until the other day when I had the need of a marathon bubble bath. iPads and baths don’t go well together, so I perused my paper to-reads and my Avon freebie leapt into my hand.

I was riveted, to the point of shooing my husband away when he wanted to catch up on the latest Mad Men episode (which is usually a solemn occasion in our house). Never have I read a Regency romance which manages to convey the customs of its time period yet paint such an evocative sense of place (in this case, the Ottoman Empire). There isn’t a ton of reliable information about this time period from a Western perspective, but Randol has some lovely historical information that is so seamlessly interwoven through the plot that you just swallow it and say “yum” afterward. I think this is the mark of great historical fiction.

I worry when my female protagonist is described by other reviewers as “empowered” or “non-traditional” simply because my disbelief can only be suspended so much. In a desperate bid for a new slant on the Regency heroine, we get authors making women into pirates or bohemian artists who have slept with a bunch of lovers yet miraculously never gotten pregnant (but they have no fertility problems after marrying the hero). Really, people?

The Topkapi Palace, which actually plays a key part in the conclusion of the book

In the case of A Secret in Her Kiss, our heroine is unique and strong for her time period, but the reader buys it, hook, line and sinker. Strikingly beautiful Mari Sinclair is the daughter of a damaged archeologist father, who has raised her in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, leaving her to her own devices. A talented artist, Mari has become a naturalist painter with has strong personal ties to the local Pasha, but she has been coerced by the British into using her drawing to spy on local fortifications. The reason for this is not her loyalty to the British Empire – she has none for the country that she feels rejected her and her mother – but rather due to her imperative to keep resources near the Greek rebels trying to throw off the yoke of the Ottomans. Mari, you see, is the daughter of a Greek slave, a beautiful and intelligent woman who her father fell for and freed prior to marriage.

Major Bennett Prestwood, son of an Earl, is fresh off the battlefield where over the years he has both won honors and witnessed atrocities all in the name of the King. While admired for his golden good looks and military prowess, Bennett has a total focus on duty – to King, country and family, in that order. When he hears that his sister has returned to her abusive husband, he buys a ticket for England immediately to save her, but his plans are derailed when he receives urgent orders to head to Turkey to guard a female spy for England. Bennett is stuck with the job because his cousin is the British ambassador, offering him unobtrusive cover for his assignment.

Bennett promised to keep his sister Sophia’s secret when she left her husband last time, so he doesn’t feel alerting the rest of the family to the gravity of her situation is within the boundaries of his oath to her. He resolves to finish this assignment as quickly as possible so he can get home and save his sister further abuse. Always a soldier and an excellent spy himself, he rapidly assesses the political landscape in which Mari is at the center. Fascinated by her despite his feelings of urgency, they both experience attraction and the usual misunderstandings as they grow to understand each other’s character. Bennett helps Mari be a better spy, even though he wars with the desire to protect her from everything, and Mari helps Bennett understand that a blind sense of duty which fulfills oaths while ignoring the larger good might not really support the honor that makes up his core sense of self.

While this book would only fall about midrange on the sensuality scale in terms of content, Randol does an excellent job at letting the reader feel the incredible sexual tension and attraction between the couple. Mari, surrounded by Turks, is more than cognizant of the intimacies between men and women and has even read the Kama Sutra (in the original Hindustani). Rather than be offended by Mari’s innate sensuality and knowledge, Bennett accepts it as part of her exotic upbringing. It simply makes him even more attracted to her while she finally gets to see what a reliable and honorable Englishman looks like, and it’s an compelling sight.

Randol is to be applauded for her outstanding writing. It’s hard to believe that a novel with such three-dimensional characters is a debut author’s effort! Bennett, who secretly writes poetry, is a true heart-breaker of a damaged hero and any reader will be moved reading about Mari’s neglected childhood. I feel that the location of the Ottoman Empire is so well drawn that it is another protagonist, moving the plot along and lending depth of understanding to the hero/heroine’s actions.

A Most Naked Solution by Anna Randol (Avon Impulse, June 26, 2012)

I cannot wait for more from this author, and luckily, I won’t have to be patient for too long. Although not yet in the Amazon database despite a June 26th release date, the enovella, A Most Naked Solution, Bennett’s sister Sophia’s story, is in the works (why can’t I order this anywhere?). I’ve already preordered Randol’s next novel, Sins of a Virgin, even though I have no idea what it is about, simply based off Randol’s writing and the kick-ass cover – seriously, who is she giving a supply of chocolate to at Avon to get these amazing covers????

Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol (Avon Impulse, August 28, 2012)

People looking to get more from Anna Randol can keep up with her on Facebook or on Twitter as well as periodically check her website. I was interested to discover the collaborative blog on which she posts, The Dashing Duchesses, comprised of other historical romance writers and have added this little gem into my Google Reader.

It’s thrilling that in a field of standard Regency romance writers I can find an author who can put a fresh spin on a favorite time period. Anna Randol has shattered the Regency mold with her debut book and the whole genre is a little better for it.

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