Archive for 'reading'

The joy of socks

This image recently crossed my Twitter feed and I was instantly charmed. I’m not sure exactly what makes these socks specifically engineered for reading, but somehow I just love the idea of it. :)Photo: Reading Socks by Indigo

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Lucky me!

I scored an advance reader’s copy of Sophie Jordan’s Beautiful Lawman. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?!?Photo: Beautiful Lawman by Sophie Jordan (Avon Books)

Coming your way December 26, and available for preorder.

More about Sophie here.

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On happy endings, sexy heroes, and revolutionary writing

Really enjoyed this recent post on Shondaland.com featuring the inimitable Julia Quinn. Here are some of my favorite bits.

SL: What do you think takes a romance novel from good to great?

JQ: There’s a joke romance writers like to make when we’re talking about our books. We’ll be talking about the plot, and then we’ll say in a confidential tone, “Okay, spoiler alert. They get together in the end.” This pretty much always gets a laugh, because if there is one thing we all know about romance novels, and indeed, if there is one thing that defines a romance novel, it’s the happy ending. 

This isn’t to say, however, that romance novels are formulaic. Far from it. You open with two protagonists who meet (or re-meet) and you finish with a happy ending. How you get from point A to point B is wide open. But no matter how varied the plots may be, they all end in fundamentally the same place. Which is why I think that if you want to take a romance novel from good to great, it’s all about the characters.

If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, if she doesn’t have a hollow spot in the pit of her stomach when things look bleak, or she doesn’t feel a thrill as they tumble into love, the book will fall flat. A romance novel is all about the emotional journey, and a reader’s emotions must be engaged. I’m known for writing humorous books, and I’m often asked for advice on how to be funny. (Short answer: I have no idea. It’s just the way I’m wired.) I always caution writers not to forsake the emotion in the pursuit of humor. A funny book will make you laugh, but a funny book that grabs your heart at the same time will stay with you forever. 

Photo: Julia Quinn

SL: What do you most hope people take away from your work?

JQ: I’ve said many times that I’m not going to change the world with my writing, but I can change someone’s afternoon. There is a time and a place for the Great American Novel, and there is a time and a place for clever, well-written entertainment. I love writing the latter, and I love reading it, too.

But lately I’ve been thinking that there is more to it than that. I often hear from readers who tell me that my books have shown them that they deserve better in their lives, that they deserve a partner who treats them well. And maybe that’s why my heroes aren’t typical bad boys. (Seriously, every time I try to write a bad boy hero he turns around and does something decent and nice.) I don’t want a guy who treats women like dirt, and I don’t want to write about guys who do that, either. Then it occurred to me — in some ways, portraying a healthy relationship in literature is the most revolutionary thing you can do.

SL: Going off of that, what makes a male character sexy in a romance novel?

JQ: There are really two parts to what makes a male character sexy. The first is focused just on him. There is the physical — he doesn’t need to be classically handsome, but he needs to be attractive to the heroine. He also needs, in my opinion, a stellar sense of humor and the ability to — at least some of the time — not take himself too seriously. But I also think that a vital component of his sexiness comes in how he sees the heroine. A guy simply cannot be sexy if he doesn’t respect women. If you want to be a hero in one of my books, you have to believe in the heroine and respect and cherish her strengths and abilities. It doesn’t mean he can’t get all protective and macho from time to time — I mean, who doesn’t love that? But ultimately, he’s got to think she’s the bomb, and not just because he likes the way she looks on his arm. And of course, it doesn’t hurt if he gets down on one knee and declares that she’s the missing piece to his soul.

To read the full interview, click here.

More about Julia Quinn here.

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“Birds have wings . . .”

Yes!

Photo: "Birds have wings, humans have books"

via Patricia Beal on Twitter

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Interview and giveaway!

I’m delighted to be featured on the blog of the wonderful Lenora Bell, with an interview and a giveaway celebrating the release of my latest book!

What was the favorite part of your research for the book?

My hero, Alasdair Penhallow, lives in an ancient castle — renovated to state-of-the-art elegance and comfort circa 1811, but still, it’s a castle. Très romantique! I spent quite a few happy hours on the web studying Scottish castles and estates.

Authors often have all kinds of influences and allusions in their stories. What about in The Laird Takes a Bride?The cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Yes, they’re definitely in there! Here are a few examples.

  • My heroine Fiona’s first (and lost) love was based on the charming, fascinatingly slippery Morris Townsend in Washington Square.
  • A strong-willed secondary character, one of the “contestants” for Alasdair’s favor, was modeled after Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a movie I saw ages ago and which — obviously — made a deep impression on me!
  • The work of Stephen King inspired a scene in which Fiona is frightened by memories of being told bloodcurdling tales about a ghastly creature called the Sack Man.
  • In Chapter 12 you’ll find a tiny tip of the hat to Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, and in Chapter 16, a bit informed by Little Women — specifically, the scene in which Amy and Laurie confess their love, a passage I found thrilling as a kid. (And still do.) Look for Fiona saying, “It fits,” and Alasdair’s reply.

What’s the funniest/strangest thing a reader or a relative has said to you about your books or your writing career?

Romance writers everywhere know the look — a little sheepish, a little roguish — and the question that inevitably follows: “So, uh, did you do your own research for the, uh, racy parts?” I love the response Beverly Jenkins shared during a speech she gave at last year’s Romance Writers of America conference. When people ask this question, she told us, she’ll reply, with exquisite and tantalizing brevity: “Yes.” And we all cracked up laughing.

What’s up next for you? What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, which releases next spring. It features Captain Hugo Penhallow, who appears toward the end of my first book, You May Kiss the Bride. He marries a childhood friend, Katherine Brooke, a brilliant and complicated heiress — and their marriage is quite complicated also!

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Would you like to enter the giveaway for a signed print copy of The Laird Takes a Bride? Stop by Lenora’s blog or her Facebook page and say hi!

For more info about The Laird Takes a Bride, click here.

 

 

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My current read . . .

I was lucky enough to score an advance reader’s copy of Joanna Shupe’s A Daring Arrangement, which releases next month. If you’re a Gilded Era fan, like me, you’ll love this beautifully written book!Image: cover of A Daring Arrangment by Joanna Shupe (Avon Books)

More about Joanna here.

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Read a Romance Month top recs!

One of my favorite RARM features is the author recommendations — discovering new authors from other authors. And my top recs?

  • Sophie Jordan. An author of dazzling imagination and talent. (And a huge inspiration to me.)
  • Anna J. Stewart. Can’t say enough nice things about Anna’s writing. As a fellow author I’m in awe, and as a reader I’m just swept away on a tide of enjoyment.
  • Lenora Bell. Her books are so smart and witty and fun! Am a superfan.

Graphic: Read a Romance Month logoWant to read my full post? Click here.

 

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More RARM!

That is, a little more from my Read a Romance Month contribution. Please enjoy. :)

 

  1. Tell us about a moment when you felt or were aware of The Power of Romance.

I read my first Georgette Heyer novel when I was fourteen, and even though I understood very little of the period terminology, and in fact barely knew where Bath, England, was, I did manage to decode the erotic disjuncture between what the protagonists are saying, and how they’re actually feeling about each other — how underneath their witty and civilized conversations, and despite the elaborately codified manners of their time, a powerful, primal attraction is drawing them inexorably together. Talk about the sizzling power of romance! It caught me as a teenager — hook, line, and sinker — and, to my joy, has never let me go.

Image: cover of Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

 

  1. Tell us about an object that has powerful memories for you.

When I was dating the man who was later to become my husband, as February 14th approached — our first Valentine’s Day together — he asked me what I would like to have as a gift. Flowers, chocolates, jewelry . . . all floated through my mind as obvious possibilities.

But then I thought about what I really wanted. I said, “A bread machine.”

Did he say it was a silly idea, or boring, or an overly prosaic one? No, he went out and got me my very own Breadman. Which to me — then and now — is a powerfully romantic gesture. (By the way, we’re still happily married. And I still use my Breadman, too.)

Photo: bread machine

 

  1. Tell us about a word that has power for you. 

That word is “yes.” To me it signifies hope, forward movement, possibility. So my ongoing goal is to say yes to change. To trying new things. To continue to learn and grow. And finally — yes to writing books which I hope others will enjoy and find meaningful.

 

  1.  Tell us about a powerful book you read this year (or one that’s so powerful you’ve never forgotten it).

The Book of Joy, which features the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu in conversation, is a powerfully inspiring treatise on finding balance and peace in a turbulent world. And I must also mention Sarah MacLean’s just-published Day of the Duchess: a beautifully written, powerful testament to the capacity to both change and wholeheartedly love.

Cover: The Book of Joy

  1. Tell us about a person who’s had a powerful influence on your life.

Jane Austen has long been an influence and an inspiration to me as a reader, a student of history, and as a writer of historical romance. Set in an era during which women all too often had little real power, her books make a radical claim for a woman’s right to independent thought, for the importance of happiness, for the overriding value of love over cool pragmatism. These are compelling — and fun! — issues I like to explore in my own novels set during this time, and I’ve got Austen to thank for boldly leading the way over two hundred years ago.

Image: A speculative “spontaneous composite portrait” of Jane Austen by Lance Bertelsen, Iris Howard Regents Professor in English, University of Texas at Austin.

A speculative “spontaneous composite portrait” of Jane Austen by Lance Bertelsen, Iris Howard Regents Professor in English, University of Texas at Austin

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Want to read my full post, and learn more about all the nifty giveaways? Click here.

 

 

 

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Read a Romance Month!

Very proud to be a featured author for this wonderful event.Graphic: Read a Romance Month logo

Here’s my post on the Power of Romance:

The prospect of writing about the power of romance is so wonderfully open-ended that — while delighted to be given the opportunity — I actually began to feel rather daunted. So I decided to ask for help. I went to my Facebook community.

Could you tell me why you read romance? I asked the folks on my page. What is it that pulls you to this genre? What is your experience reading it?

The answers, promptly and generously contributed, made me smile, nod, and get a little teary-eyed. Because everything they said is something I feel, too.

“When reading a romance you become entwined in the characters and the story; it can become an emotional roller coaster. However, the HEA at the end makes it worth it. Real life can be a struggle and having an escape to a place where you know it’s all going to be ok, no matter what, is a wonderful escape.”

“It’s good for my mind and spirit.”

“I like seeing how authors can take characters on many different journeys, and even though you know it will all end happily, the best romances leave you questioning how that could possibly happen. . . . I love reading about different times and places from different characters’ perspectives. What better way to feel like you’re there than to follow characters on very real emotional journeys like that? . . . Romance provides me with stories that I feel could be real. . . . Real people could have lived that story.”

“Reading romance is like watching a romantic movie, except you get to picture what the hero and heroine look like in your mind.”

“I want to go someplace I’ve never been, walk through the castle, stand on the side of the dance floor at a ball, feel the spray of the sea on the deck of a pirate ship, sit in a meadow of heather wrapped in a tartan. Take me far away to forget about the troubles of today whether it’s trouble in the world or anniversaries of loved ones no longer there.”

“I love romance because there’s a hopeful aspect to it. When there’s two characters you love, who fall in love, you know that, despite everything that gets thrown their way, they’ll make it through . . . together.”

This is the power of romance.

Nurturing the mind and spirit. Cherishing hope. Leaving our troubles behind for a little while. Magically conquering time and geography. Falling in love with characters we’ve come to know, and rooting for them every step of the way.

Moreover, that I could turn for help from this amazing, lively community, where we talk about books in general and romance novels in particular, share a laugh, sigh over a gorgeous photo, find inspiration, and, day by day, get to know each other — well, that’s the power of romance, too.

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To read more of my contribution, and to enter the giveaways, please click here.

 

 

 

 

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“It’s my aromatherapy”

Something every book lover understands. :)Pickles comic strip: "It's my aromatherapy"

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