Posts Tagged ‘romance’

joanne_doorsDoors is a brand-new time travel romance from Joanne Renaud, author of A Question of Time (which I also reviewed), out now from Champagne Books.

So, first, a disclaimer: Joanne’s a good buddy of mine, and I got to be a beta reader for this book, so even though I will try hard to be fair and balanced and objective, I will probably fail. That said, on with the review!

Doors is the story of Jackie Karam, a struggling freelance comic artist in New York City; the brightest spot in her life is her friendship with rich, eccentric party boy Orne St John. Inspired by an old book and the strange real-life disappearance of its author, Orne gets a wild idea: if one had a lost book in one’s past, a book one could remember almost nothing about, perhaps finding that book could open a door into an alternate dimension.

Orne himself has no lost or forgotten books in his past, but it turns out Jackie does: a pulp science fiction novel recommended to her by her favorite high school English teacher just before he died in a car wreck.  (This is Alan Forrest, the romantic lead from A Question of Time.) In the wake of the accident, Jackie forgot everything about the book, even its title, only an image of the gaudy paperback she checked out from her hometown library lingering in her mind.

This thin thread is enough for Orne. Ready for adventure, he hauls Jackie off to Maryland to try to open an interdimensional portal. (more…)

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Last but not least in our character interview extravaganza is an interview with Anna Winters, the heroine of Donna Thorland’s The Dutch Girl, a swashbuckling romantic tale of the American Revolution. It’s an exciting read, with espionage, derring-do, witches, arrogant redcoats, patroons lording it over feudal manors in the Hudson Valley, and cookies.  Ms. Winters is a woman of few words, but let’s welcome her to the blog!


donna_Anna_lgIf you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Go fishing with my husband.


What are you most proud of about your life?

I’m proud of starting a school and providing women with an education.


What was the happiest time of your life?

Being a teacher and running my own school. (more…)

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Today as March Mayhem continues we would like to introduce Marcus Aurelius, Lord Malton. He’s the hero from Lynne Connolly’s brand new historical romance, Dilemma in Yellow Silk— a delightful romp through mid-18th century England with assassins, secret Jacobites, star-crossed lovers and much more.  Welcome to the blog, Lord Malton!


lynne_Marcus_lgIf you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Ride. Anywhere that took my fancy. I’d go back to the family estate and ride somewhere nobody expected anything of me, or even knew my name.

Let’s say you believed in reincarnation, a la Plato. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? What are you most proud of about your life?

Probably a pampered lap dog. Some people think I am one anyway, because of my birth. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but I cannot persuade them of that. I’m proud of my family, of supporting my father in the work he does.

What was the happiest time of your life?

Playing with my father’s steward’s daughter, Viola, when I was a child. Viola never concerned herself with my birth or consequence. I owed her nothing, unlike my siblings. Viola was—is—the most charming, lively person I know. She’s a good friend. I’m just sorry she can never be anything else. (more…)

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Today I’m hosting an excerpt from Lynne Connolly‘s Dilemma in Yellow Silk, one of the books you can win when you enter the March Mayhem giveaway, hosted by author/artist/all around talented lady Joanne Renaud. Click the banner above for the details.


lynne_Dilemma-in-Yellow-SilkConcentrating on her music, Viola nearly jumped out of her skin when a large body plumped down on the stool next to her. She shrieked, spun around, and closed her eyes. “You!”

“Why, weren’t you expecting me?”

His expression of innocence did not fool her for a minute.

“Not here, not like this. Did you run from the last staging post?” she demanded. She should not talk to the Earl of Malton like this. Right now he was less the earl and more Marcus, the boy she’d known so long ago. “Oh, my lord, sir, I’m sorry!”

She should recall her place, but she was finding the task difficult when he was wearing the same mischievous grin he’d used at nine years old.

“I couldn’t resist. Do you know what you were playing?”

The heat rushed to her face. “Yes.” No sense dissimulating. Of course she knew.

“And if you don’t stop ‘my lord’ and ‘sir’ing me, I’ll have you sent home forthwith. When we’re alone, it’s still Marcus.”

What had happened to him? Marcus had slowly moved away from her, gone from a childhood friend to a dignified, proper aristocrat. She understood the move, because he would have responsibilities to take care of, but sometimes she missed him. He’d remained a distant figure ever since, growing more pompous every time she saw him. Now he seemed to have cast all that off.

“I thought—that’s not right.”

Sighing, he shook his head. “And I’ve stopped you playing. A pity—I was enjoying that. Carry on.”

“Is that an order—sir?”

He growled deep in his throat, such a small sound she’d have missed it if he were not sitting so close to her. “Stop it. I’ll be Malton in about an hour.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ve spent the last three days in a closed carriage with my father, and I want to forget the stateliness. He would, given the chance. But with outriders and men riding ahead to warn innkeepers we were on our way, we had little chance.”

“So they commit the great crime of ensuring the best bedrooms are free. The cook is bursting from his waistcoat, trying to cook the best meal he’s capable of making. If only my journeys were so tedious!”

His laugh rang around the room. “Exactly. But we’re welcomed with ‘Good evening, my lord,’ and ‘How can I serve you, my lord?’”

“You poor thing.” She should guard her tongue, but she delighted in reacquainting herself with the man she used to know.

He rewarded her with another laugh. “I know. It’s such a hardship.” Lifting his feet, he spun around on the bench so he faced the keyboard, as she did. “You got a phrase wrong. The tune is based on the traditional one, but it’s varied in the last line of each verse. Slightly different each time. Like this.”

When he demonstrated, Viola understood exactly what he meant. But with the amusement, her heart ached. She had missed him so much. At the delicate age of nine, two years after his breeching, Marcus had begun his training, and since then, he’d become engrossed in his life’s work. Before then, the laughing boy had had no cares, and they’d played together.

Until someone remembered their different stations in life, and she did not think it was Marcus.

“Your turn.” (more…)

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Spring is here, and it’s time for March Mayhem! Fifteen days… five authors… and the chance to win a fabulous swag basket with prizes from Donna Thorland,Lynne Connolly, Kat Parrish, Joanne Renaud, and me!

In addition to a shiny new paperback copy of A Question of Time and Joanne’s brand new science fiction romance Doors, Joanne is also giving away the artwork featured in the banner above, which features (from left to right) Yalira from Kat Parrish’s Bride of the Midnight King, Marcus Aurelius, Lord Malton from Lynne Connolly’s Dilemma in Yellow Silk, Anna Winters (and her kitten Scrappy) from Donna Thorland’s The Dutch Girl, Charlie from my short story Somebody Brave, and Orne St. John from Doors.

More info about these characters here!  You can find out more about March Mayhem prizes here, and you can enter to win from Joanne’s home page from now until 3/30/2016, 12 AM, EST.

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Today, I’d like to introduce to you, my reader(s?), one of my favorite stories, a go-to comfort read when I’m feeling down and need an injection of happiness: Joanne Renaud’s time-travel romance novella, A Question of Time, available from Champagne Books. (Full disclosure: Joanne is a friend of mine, and I had the honor of reading the pre-published version of this story. I just re-read it, and that’s why I’m finally doing an honest-to-goodness review.)

AQOT_coverThe story follows Celia Cavalotti, a science fiction author in 2010 New York City, who is still struggling with the grief occasioned by the sudden death of her favorite English teacher, Alan Forrest, back in 1989. Mr Forrest, even before his death, had a huge impact on Celia’s life: encouraging her in her writing endeavors, giving her books to read, and helping her cope with her parents’ messy divorce. She has even taken his last name for her nom de plume, and publishes under the name C.L. Forrest. One day, fighting writer’s block and sorrow, she decides to take a trip back to her hometown in Maryland. Her car skids on the wet road–and she finds herself standing outside the White Plains library, in 1989. Here she meets Mr Forrest again, and as an adult she can see how handsome he is. However, she soon comes to realize that this is not only 1989, it is the very day before his fatal car crash. How Celia chooses to act, and the outcome of her choices, makes up the rest of the action of the story.

Now, I am not a huge reader of romances in general, or at least modern romances, which seem to me flat, dull and uninteresting, and usually badly written to boot. (I don’t have a problem with romantic themes in the stories I enjoy; Thor is one of my all-time favorite movies, and it has a strong romantic element. After all, romance, love, is an important part of life, and it would be dumb to leave that out of our stories.) However, I think Joanne has achieved something marvelous with A Question of Time, keeping a strong element of romance while making the story about more than merely “will these two crazy kids make it work?” The story’s theme is stated in the tagline, a quotation from Dan Simmons’s Hyperion: love [is] as hardwired into the structure of the universe as gravity and matter. Love, in this story, is stronger than grief, and love undoes the sorrows of the past, even unto the rewriting of history.

It’s also a lot of fun. Celia and Alan are excellent, well-drawn, appealing characters with great romantic and intellectual chemistry; their conversations about science fiction and their favorite books are just as enjoyable as their flirtation. (And if you were at all into SF in the 80’s, the author names they drop will be instantly familiar.) Even the minor characters, like Celia’s parents, or her 1989 classmates, are painted with subtlety and enough detail to make them come alive. (I particularly enjoyed Kevin, the kid with the nautical obsession. Just can’t put my finger on what made him so appealing to me!)

AQOT_joanne-artThe 80’s period detail is always spot-on–you don’t really think about the 1980’s as being the distant past or all that different from today (or at least I don’t), but it was thirty years ago. Joanne has an eye for the little details that make that time come alive again, from Alan’s enormous glasses and feathered hair, the blue eye shadow at the drugstore and the totally hip fashions of Alan’s trendiest students, even to the types of cars in the parking lot. This vivid attention to detail makes the setting come alive; I felt like I was standing outside the White Plains library with Celia, and I could practically smell the baking asphalt.

The story moves along at a good clip, effortlessly pulling one along through an interesting and engaging plot. It is one of those “I’ll just read a few more pages” books, unputdownable until you get to the end. It doesn’t hurt that the characters are so appealing (really, is there anything more important in a story than appealing characters?); they are like real people, and people whose company and conversation I enjoy.

And then there’s the ending. I think my reader(s?) will probably agree that a book can be almost perfect, but if the ending isn’t right, the whole frail illusion collapses into moonbeams and motes of dust. Fear not, however, for A Question of Time‘s ending is perfect. This is a spoiler-free review, so I will only tell you that Celia makes the right and necessary choice for Alan, for herself, and for that Love which underpins the fabric of reality, and because of her courage, she becomes not merely an ordinary woman but a hero. Pretty epic for a romance, huh?

So basically (and you might have already gathered this from the rest of the review) I love everything about this book. The characters are wonderful, the development of their romantic relationship (and their friendship!) is well drawn and believable, and the story, though not action-packed, has enough going on to always be interesting. The writing is good and often funny, and all of these elements would have been enough to form an enjoyable entertainment. But the additional theme of love–not only the sparkly-feelings romantic love of most romance novels, but the deeper, grander, more marvelous Love that truly is hardwired into the structure of the universe–elevates this story above its genre into something beautiful and true and deeply satisfying to the soul.


If A Question of Time sounds pretty good to you, stay tuned! I’ll be hosting a giveaway here in the next couple of days: author Joanne Renaud will be giving one lucky winner a free e-copy of her story (in the format of your choice), and a $10 Amazon gift card.  Can’t wait?  A Question of Time is available at Champagne Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  Kobo, and All Romance Ebooks. Stephanie Draven, award-winning author of DARK SINS & DESERT SANDS, calls it “a clever love letter to the 1980s brimming with fun cultural references that warmed my geek girl heart.

You can also find A Question of Time on Goodreads.

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Hi-ho, everybody!  Just a quick reminder, or announcement, that my short story “The Blue Dress” is available for free on smashwords in the format of your choice.  This story first appeared in Dark Valentine Magazine, a fabulously cool but short-lived e-zine, in 2010.  Here’s a sample:

bluedress-coverBeside the fireplace of a secure little cabin, deep in the mountains, two people huddled together, wrapped in blankets of fur and wool. Outside, the storms of winter howled, blizzard winds gnawing at the rafters, gnashing their icy teeth in fury and frustration, for the tiny house was so well-constructed that not even a single snowflake could find its way inside. A happy chance had led the pair to this shelter just as the first of the autumn storms struck, and though it was certainly a cozy place for a young couple to spend a day or two, it was perhaps a bit confined for an extended honeymoon.

No sounds broke the silence but the low fire’s crackle and the hissing of wind and snow outside. The lovers crept closer together, taking comfort from the warmth of each other’s embrace.

“We’ll need more firewood soon,” said the young man at length. “And the food’s almost gone as well.”

“Oh, Charles,” said the young woman, gazing up into his face, “what should we do? We can’t go outside in this.”

He tightened his arms around her. “We may not have a choice.” The words did nothing to ease the worry from her face, and he said, “Don’t fret, sweetheart. We won’t take any unnecessary risks.”

She snuggled in close against him, her cheek against his breast. “Let’s not talk about such things right now,” she said. “Let’s not think about them until we have to.”

He knew, of course, that failing to think about their many problems would fail to solve them too–but he also knew that his darling was cold and weary and frightened, and if he could alleviate at least one of those sufferings, it was his duty (and his pleasure) as a husband to do so.

“Very well, love,” he said, stroking her dark hair, “we’ll not think about them until we have to.”

Let us leave them now to enjoy their private moment together; such things should not be spied upon, not even by such inquisitive folk as you and I. Perhaps, while they take comfort in each other’s arms and forget for a while the deadly storm that ravens just beyond their cabin walls, you would be interested to learn how two such innocents as these found themselves cold and hungry and alone in the middle of a mountain winter?

It’s kind of a romance, with some spooky elements, bargain basement Hawthorne maybe.  Head over to smashwords to get the rest!

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