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“I am a shark”

Happy Monday. :)Graphic: "Sometimes you have to tell yourself 'I am a shark' and attack the day"

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Defying the stereotypes

“I also got you a cupcake.” :)

"You defy the stereotypes": an illustration by Guy Kopsombut

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“With a skill even Jane Austen might appreciate”

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a big Jane Austen fan. So I was thrilled to hear about these deeply flattering words of praise from the Historical Novel Society.Graphic: "Vacuity, snobbery, thoughtlessness, spitefulness, slavish adherence to convention and superficial appearance: all are neatly skewered with a skill even Jane Austen might appreciate. Definitely recommended to Regency lovers." -Historical Novel Society on You May Kiss the Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Click here to read the full review.

Want to read more of the nice things being said about You May Kiss the Bride? Click here.

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Book love: My Fair Duchess

I recently had the pleasure of reading Megan Frampton’s wonderful historical romance My Fair Duchess. I love Megan’s writing style; her voice is so distinctive, and she imbues her story with clever wit and “you are there” vividness. Her protagonists, Genevieve and Archie, are such interesting and nuanced characters that it’s a joy to follow them along to their well-deserved happy-ever-after.

Cover for My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton

More about Megan here.

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“Are you reading a romance novel?”

Hahaha."Are you reading a romance novel?" A Baby Blues comic strip.

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A sneak peek at my next book!

Yesterday I shared with you the first part of my RT Book Reviews interview. Today I’m equally delighted to share the second part: an excerpt from the second book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Laird Takes a Bride, coming your way this August.

Here’s a snippet from Chapter 2, in which my heroine Fiona Douglass learns that she’s going to have to participate in a Bachelor-like competition.

Father came striding in, his muddy boots leaving a damp, malodorous trail behind him. In one hand he held an opened letter which he tossed at Fiona.

“You’re off to Castle Tadgh, girl,” he said.

“What? Why?” she demanded.

“Clan decree.”

Frowning, Fiona picked up the paper from the floor at her feet and scanned both sides. “This is addressed to me.”

Father shrugged, and Mother said in a high, excited voice, “What on earth is going on?”

“Alasdair Penhallow’s to choose a bride from among the eligible lasses of the Eight Clans, that’s what’s going on. I suppose I’ll have to reinstate her dowry. Although those drains in the turnip fields are clogging in a bad way.”

Penhallow, thought Fiona, her brain spinning frantically. Penhallow again! Then she seized upon one pertinent element. “I’m sure I’m too old for this, Father!”

He only gave her a wolfish smile. “Read the letter.”

She did. And glared at Father. “It says here that if I were twenty-eight, I’d be past the age of eligibility. This is ridiculous! Demeaning! I’d rather die than traipse off to Castle Tadgh to be displayed like a sheep before some reprobate!”

“Keep reading.”

In a disbelieving voice Fiona read out loud: “‘The consequence for failing to abide by sacred clan law is death. Said female to be weighted with stones and flung into the nearest loch known to have a depth greater than twenty feet. Bagpipe accompaniment optional.’”

“How romantic!” put in Cousin Isobel, wreathed in smiles. “Fiona, dear, what a wonderful opportunity for you!”

Fiona glared at her, too, wishing she could hang a millstone around that dame’s plump neck and shove her into the closest body of water.  

“You’re to leave tomorrow,” said Father.

“Tomorrow?” Mother exclaimed. “But I couldn’t possibly be ready to leave by then!”

“Oh, you’re not going,” Father told her, then looked over at Fiona, his eyes twinkling maliciously. “I’m sending Isobel as her chaperone.”

There was a stunned silence.

“No!” said Fiona with revulsion, even as Cousin Isobel gave a little shriek of delight and said:

“My dear Bruce! What an honor! You can be sure I’ll take very, very good care of dear Fiona!”

Fiona shot her a malevolent glance. Yes, just as you did in Edinburgh nine years ago, you old bat, when I came for a nice long visit. Encouraging Logan Munro’s advances to me. Leaving us alone together, when you knew it was wrong. And look what happened. I fell head over heels in love with him, and expected to marry him. Only it didn’t quite turn out that way, did it?

Mother faltered, “But surely I ought to go . . . I simply assumed —”

“My mind’s made up, madam. We’ll have no further discussion on the topic. Besides, they won’t be gone long. Penhallow will take one look at her and I reckon that’ll be that.”

A soft, incomprehensible murmur of distress came from Mother but she didn’t dare to actually say anything, and Fiona responded, with a politeness that imperfectly concealed deep irony, “Why, thank you, Father. Everyone says I take after you, after all.”

If you’d like to read this on the RT Book Reviews website, click here.

Want to learn more about The Laird Takes a Bride? Click here for more info; here to read Chapter 1; and here to preorder.


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My interview with RT Book Reviews

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by RT Book Reviews, in which I dish about You May Kiss the Bridemy writing inspirations, my favorite things to research, and more. Please enjoy. :)

Congratulations on your debut historical! Have you always been a fan of historical romance and the romance genre in general?
Thank you! Oh yes, I’ve loved romance novels for a long time. I can easily trace my path toward becoming a romance novelist back to when I was 14 and I read Georgette Heyer’s Lady of Quality, which my mom had gotten from her book club. I was hooked. I went on to become an English major and read voraciously in all kinds of genres, but historical romance has always held a special place in my heart.
Who are some authors who inspired your writing?
Along with Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen is also a big influence of mine. There’s so much to admire about her work, and as a writer I’m very inspired by how her heroines fight for personal happiness despite the heavy pressure of pragmatism — in an era during which most women had  few opportunities for independent choice. 
In Pride and Prejudice, for example, practically speaking Elizabeth Bennet really should accept Mr. Collins’ proposal for the sake of her family’s security, and as for Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price turning down Henry Crawford — how incredibly daring! So I too try to create strong female characters within the historically accurate context of their time. 
We love a rags-to-riches story, and Livia is in terrible need of a bit of luck. As an orphan sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle — who do not want her — Livia doesn’t have any beautiful gowns or a dowry to win over a husband. How does missing her mother, father and grandfather affect her relationships?
Livia sees herself as someone who’s fundamentally alone, and in a world that’s not particularly welcoming, either. This viewpoint is reinforced when she’s forcibly thrust into the Penhallow family, who initially don’t want her either … So it may seem that her luck has gone from bad to worse! 
It’s that very proximity, though, which permits love to blossom — love that will allow Livia to connect deeply with Gabriel Penhallow, and to finally feel that she’s a part of a family, living in a home where she truly belongs.
My favorite thing about Livia is her sense of humor — especially when she tricks Gabriel early in the novel! Is there anyone in your life who helped inspire Livia’s antics?
Yes! My friend Liz, a quick-witted actress and writer, can easily slip in and out of any persona, and she’s also blessed with a strong sense of self and a wickedly funny sense of humor. I could totally see her tricking Gabriel like that.
Gabriel Penhallow is very wealthy and very handsome, but he’s also nearly as stubborn as Livia! How on earth will these two find common ground?
Their common ground is actually their differences. I know this sounds paradoxical, but just as Mr. Darcy is intrigued by Elizabeth Bennet’s feisty personality (and fine eyes!), Gabriel Penhallow comes to realize that Livia’s strength, intelligence, and defiant spirit are precisely what he needs to shake him out of his aloof and arrogant mindset. Livia, for her part, finds in deep, steady Gabriel her rock … someone who loves and accepts her for exactly who she is.
Livia has good reason to fear horseback riding, but she’s urged to learn regardless. Do you have horseback riding experience?
I did a little bit of riding when I was a kid, but nothing that would ever put me in the category of “equestrienne.” I’ve always liked horses, though, and I certainly enjoy reading about them. In fact, I recently reread National Velvet (which I do every couple of years) and still have the same sense of awe and appreciation. Oh, that piebald! My horse hero!
Gabriel’s grandmother is the strict and commanding family matriarch, but she also has very sad moments. Where did you draw inspiration for her from?
Here again I thought about Jane Austen, and her indelible character Lady Catherine de Burgh in Pride and Prejudice. She’s a grande dame who seemingly has everything — and yet there’s also something a little empty, a little pitiful, about her. My Henrietta Penhallow is like that too; if you look hard enough, past and through her needle-sharp arrogance, you’ll see there’s a big hole in her heart. 
What’s your favorite thing to research when it comes to history?
Oh my goodness, everything. Food, fashion, manners, terminology, medicine, current events of the time, scientific breakthroughs, transportation, fads and trends, jokes and puns — I love it all. But if you were to insist that I pick one thing? The clothing. Gowns, petticoats, corsets, shoes, bonnets … Styles that are so exotic to us now, and to my mind incredibly sensual.
Do you have any advice for writers out there who may be struggling with their own first book?
Well, it’s not original, but it works for me. Keep going. Word by word, one after the other. It’s such a simple strategy and yet so profound. As E.L. Doctorow once famously remarked, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So, yeah: Keep going.


Would you like to read this on the RT Book Reviews website? Click here.

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Shop talk: unconventional historical heroines

Really enjoyed a recent post by fellow Avon author Lenora Bell on Heroes and Heartbreakers, in which she talks about some fascinating historical-romance heroines with unconventional occupations. And she mentions one of my own longtime favorites: Judith Ivory’s The Proposition, a sensitive, beautifully written story about a heroine who’s a brilliant linguist.Cover image: The Proposition by Judith Ivory

By the way, Lenora’s most recent book, Blame It on the Duke, features a heroine who’s also a talented linguist — and it just hit the USA Today bestsellers list!


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“I need new shoes”

Once again, Zits is my life. A "Zits" comic: "Mom . . . I need new shoes"

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

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A girl can dream . . .


Photo: a grand old-fashioned bookcase filled with magnificent books, via Bookstr on Twitter

via Bookstr on Twitter

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