What is your favourite series?

I love Madeline Hunter’s books, but she is swiftly becoming a favourite for the articles she writes for USA Today. While reading through Twitter, I came across another article she has written. This one is about the use of series by romance authors. Her article researches and dissects the use of families and series. You can read the article here.

I’ve copied the article for you to read here:

Romance Unlaced: Series that keep it all in the family

To dynasty or not to dynasty — that is the question.

Like any author who writes series, I debate the length of mine. I have never had the option of writing a dynasty series, however. Other than the Duclairc siblings in the Seducer series, the connections among my main characters have not been familial.

With the publication of His Wicked Reputation next week, that is no longer true. The series — I was calling it a trilogy. Can you tell I am thinking of other options? — revolves around three brothers. In other words, the potential beginning of a dynasty.

I decided to talk to authors who have been writing dynasty series, to learn what such a long-term commitment to characters involves. As it happened one of the all-time-popular dynasties is in the process of expanding and its author offered her views. I am talking about the Cynster family written by Stephanie Laurens. At twenty-four books already, the series added The Tempting of Thomas Carrick yesterday.

Before I got into the nitty gritty of a writing dynasty series, I had to ask Stephanie about this new book. “It is the story of Lucilla Cynster’s fated romance with Thomas Carrick. While Lucilla accepts that they are destined to be life partners, Thomas resists, but can a man continue to resist fate when what is being offered is love?” she said. It is also the first of the Cynster Next Generation Novels, which brings us to the subject of writing about the same family for years.

Since the writers I spoke with are all doing this and enjoying it, needless to say they were enthusiastic about their dynasties. Stephanie in particular has made a big commitment to the Cynsters. The series began in 1998 and the books have been bestsellers since 1999. I asked her what benefits all those connected stories provided the writer and reader.

“Having such a deep immersion in the life of an extended family creates the opportunity to explore in greater depth certain aspects of family life, of inherited character traits and how characters interact with other family members, for instance interactions across the generations that flow through multiple books,” she explains. “Dynastic series enable a longer view through generations of family, facilitating exploration of how familial traits reappear and adapt to changing social environments — for instance, the shift I’m currently negotiating between Regency-era and early Victorian haut ton and wider societal mores.”

This deep familiarity with the characters and their environments was mentioned by the other authors, too. “Getting to show the family and the individual characters evolving over the course of the series is the best part about writing such a series,” says Sandy Raven, who writes The Caversham Chronicles (Lucky’s Lady arrives in March). “Using the characters from the earlier books allows the world created in The Caversham Chronicles to be much richer than it could ever be in a single book.”

That isn’t to say there aren’t challenges. Foremost is a need to be highly organized. “The primary challenge,” Stephanie says, “is in keeping everyone and everything straight — not just the family members, but their household staffs; where their houses are and what they look like; where the stables are in relation to the main house; do they have a rose garden, and if so, where in relation to the house — how does one reach it; what style of interior; where the rooms are in relation to each other; etc. The details need to be consistent.”

Most authors create a central repository of facts and details for reference. Callie Hutton, who writes The Marriage Mart Mayhem series (The Baron’s Betrayal) described hers. “I have a spreadsheet for my series where I list the main characters, their dates of birth and the dates of birth of their children. It wouldn’t do have to have a child from book No. 2 off to University when he was born only six years prior.”

Other authors refer to the repository as the series “bible.” All the dates, names, branches, etc., get included for reference, to keep it all straight. “I don’t have the best memory,” says Lauren Royal, who writes the Chase Family series (The Art of Temptation), “so I have to keep very careful notes, and sometimes I have to reread parts of my own books to make sure the characters’ individual voices stay consistent through the years.”

Some authors figure out they will need that bible from the start. Others learn the hard way. “When I first started out,” says Patricia Rice, who has a series featuring the Malcolm family, “I hadn’t realized how intertwined the stories can become. I had to go back and re-read earlier volumes and create timelines for births, list physical characteristics, places, and names. And then … because I’m an idiot … I’d built up a huge story about a mysterious relative who had to be worked into the family tree in a disastrous way in the sixth book. That required genealogy software!”

Michelle Willingham (Warrior of Ice, coming in July), whose MacEgan Brothers series about hunky Irish medieval warriors is 12 books and novellas strong, kicks herself that she did not create a bible from the beginning. “Sometimes you’ll write about a secondary event, and four books later, you have to go dig up those details. I also need to do a family tree, but it’s gotten so complex, I’m not sure it would fit on a Web page.”

Sherri Browning (An Affair Downstairs), who writes the Edwardian-set Thornbrook Park series, shares another challenge: “The biggest challenge is to catch my readers up on the secondary characters without repeating too much from past books or allowing the secondaries to take over the main action.”

So, just how extensively can these family trees spread? While many authors keep the books centered on one generation, others allow the dynasty to flourish through the ages. Lauren’s series is subdivided into the Chase Family Series from the 1700s, the Regency Chase Family Series that starts 1815, and her upcoming Renaissance Chase Family Series will begin in 1549.

For Anna Markland (Rover Betrayed), the dynasty has branched in several directions. “I have six series of books that follow successive generations of the Montbryce family and its offshoot branches, legitimate and illegitimate. The first five series cover the period from 1066 to 1152 whereas the last series (Viking Roots) goes back to the 10th century to trace the Viking ancestors of my noble Norman family.”

Patricia Rice (Risk of Love and Magic) also has explored the long possibilities of a dynasty. Her books featuring the Malcolm family began with six books set in the 1700s (The Magic Series), then moved to the family’s modern descendants (The California Series), and soon she will be writing about the family members from the 1830s.

As Anna explains, there are ways to connect the books to the family in more than name even if a long period of time is covered by the series. “There are many seemingly insignificant details that can tie the generations together. For example, the Montbryces suffer from a ‘curse.’ This is tongue-in-cheek. They are unusual medieval noblemen in that they are in love with their wives! They also distill a famous apple brandy that is mentioned in every book.”

Lauren provides the same experience. “In the Regency books, readers find evidence of the 17th century Chases hidden in old portraits and family legend (the truth of which astute readers often know better than the later Chases do!). I have had a lot of fun tying my characters together across the centuries, and readers seem to really appreciate the little ‘Easter eggs’ they discover in the books.”

I asked whether any of the authors had received push-back from editors or readers — or their own hearts — if their series went along enough in time for some of the earlier characters to have died. “That was the reason I made the next series hundreds of years in the future and in a different country,” Patricia says, “so I didn’t have to show my people dying. I know as a reader that it breaks my heart to see a favorite character die, so I simply couldn’t do it. Now that I’m starting on a series set 80 years after the first one — I’m tiptoeing around land mines, but I think I can do it.”

Sherri also intends to follow her family down in time. “For the next three books in the series, after August’s The Great Estate, I’m planning to jump ahead in the timeline and focus on the next generation. I hope they will be welcome on the scene, but time will tell.”

Sandy Raven ran into a little push-back regarding the main character when she wrote a prequel novella to her Caversham Chronicles. “After I wrote that novella I had one or two reviews that commented negatively about reading the story ‘knowing he was dead’ and would not be in the later books.”

Anna said she has not had negative reactions. “I’ve stressed the importance of honoring ancestors, and even if a character has died, he is mentioned with reverence and pride in subsequent books.”

For many series, it is not a question that comes up because not enough time passes in the series for anyone to pass away. “I haven’t yet run afoul of this, and am unlikely to — the generation I am just embarking on is very large, and none of the previous generation or the one prior (the grandparents) need to die just yet,” Stephanie says of her Cynster series. “However, what I have noticed is an ‘era’ prejudice, where some readers prefer not to read outside the Regency era. With dynasties, that’s not something the author can control — time marches on, and if readers want true multigenerational dynasties, then changing fashions and social mores are unavoidable.”

It helps if that original generation has a lot of characters available. “In my case, I started the Cynsters with a group of cousins, so four active branches of a single family tree with multiple cousins on each branch,” Stephanie said. “So my ‘family’ was large and extended from the first, not simply one arm with a single set of brothers and sisters. In hindsight, that was a boon and a critical decision.”

Becky Lower’s Cotillion Ball series (Expressly Yours, Samantha arrives in March) started with nine siblings. After they all have stories, she has various options. “I think there are books to be written about the Fitzpatrick family long after the initial nine are done. I’ve had secondary characters in each that could use their own novel. Then, there’s the children, who would be growing up in the Gilded Age. How fun would that be?”

Callie is also keeping her options open. “My series only has siblings from one family. Since they are very ‘fertile,’ there is always the possibility of moving to the next generation. My publisher wants another Highlander book when this series is finished, so there is the possibility of another generation popping up.”

I finally broached the question that concerned me most as an author: How does a writer keep it fresh, not only for the readers but for herself?

Michelle explains her solution: “That’s why I’ve created the Warriors of Ireland spinoff series (Warrior of Ice is book one). It allows me to begin a new series, but it’s rooted in the MacEgan Brothers.”

Anna took a similar path. “After finishing the series about the great-grandchildren of my original hero/heroine, I began to feel ‘antsy’ about carrying on. The decision to turn to the earlier ancestors seemed to solve the problem!” As for the future, “My next project will be completely separate from the Montbryce family, but after that I might go back to the four generations between Viking Roots and the original series (The Montbryce Legacy).”

Stephanie also takes breaks from the series. “I don’t write and publish Cynsters exclusively, but break the novels into groups, and intersperse those groups with other historical romance novels — for instance, the three Cynster novels of 2014/15 will be followed by the 2016 releases of the four-volume Adventurers Quartet. That tends to keep the series fresh, both for me and my readers.”

It is undeniable that these dynasties have enormous appeal to readers of historical romance. We can all name the families made famous by authors like Stephanie. Becky shared what a reader said to her about these series, and it probably expresses the view of many other readers, too: “One of my readers said, I feel as if I’ve walked back into a warm, familiar room, with people I know and love who hold me tight and take me with them on their exciting and romantic adventures.”

USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller Madeline Hunter is the two-time RITA-winning author of 25 historical romances. Her next release, His Wicked Reputation , will be published March 3. You can find her at http://www.MadelineHunter.com. To contact Madeline about content for or in this column, please e-mail her at RomanceUnlaced @ gmail.com (close up the spaces). Due to the volume of mail, e-mails from authors may not be answered personally, but all will be read.

My favourite families to read along with are:

The Cynsters by Stephanie Laurens

The Highland Guard by Monica McCarty (while technically not blood family, these Highland Warriors are kin and clan. You can read my thoughts here.)

The Flynn Family by Jess Michaels
The first two books are out and you can read my reviews here and here.

The Hathaways by Lisa Kleypas

Travis Family by Lisa Kleypas

The Griffin Family by Suzanne Enoch

I think there are great pros to writing multiple books about a family – you get to spend more time with your favourite characters, you find out more about their lives, and you usually get to see the big brother tear out his hair at the antics of his younger siblings. The cons are that personally I dislike reading about my favourite characters aging (and possibly dying), sometimes the books get a little tired, and if you don’t read them in order you miss a lot of plot or spend so much time getting caught up it detracts from the current plot.

What do you think of family series? Which ones do you love?

Deception Of A Highlander

deception of a highlander

Deception of a Highland by Madeline Martin

Overview by Amazon:

Scottish Romance doesn’t get much steamier—or more dangerous—than a spy hunting her quarry, and losing her heart to him instead.

To pay a seemingly impossible debt, Mariel Brandon has become a spy for Aaron, one of England’s deadliest minds. Aaron’s latest mission for the sharp-witted and daring Mariel is to find two people in a heavily fortified castle on the Isle of Skye, a castle headed by the clan MacDonald and the powerful Kieran. Mariel is to seduce Kieran and get him to take her to Skye. If she succeeds, Aaron promises to let Mariel’s young brother go, and to free both of them from their debt. If she fails, her brother will die.

What she doesn’t count on is craving Kieran MacDonald almost immediately upon meeting him. Now Mariel must keep a secret from Kieran—one that could get them both killed—as she tries to form a plan that will save her brother, get her out from under Aaron’s thumb once and for all, and keep her in Kieran’s strong arms forever.

After gorging on Outlander TV show, I was really in the mood for a book with a Highlander hottie. Well, I certainly picked a winner to read. This is the first book by Madeline Martin and after blasting through this story, I have very high expectations of her career.

This book has an amazing plot line with so much depth in the adventure. Mariel (isn’t that such a pretty name?) is not the typical courtier. She is a spy for a ruthless handler named Aaron. But Aaron isn’t working for the crown; he is working for who has the highest pay. He has kidnapped her precious brother Jack and is forcing Mariel to work for him to work off the debt she owes him. Mostly the work involves drugging unsuspecting Lords and wheedling her charms to get the information Aaron requires. He gives her one last mission and then promises her freedom. This time the mission is more dangerous than ever. She must infiltrate a Highland Laird’s home, find two people and then kill the Laird.

Mariel has been extensively trained by Aaron. She possesses crazy ninja skills and is lethal, although she balks at killing. She’d rather rely on her wiles and intelligence. Meeting Laird Kieran MacDonald is life changing for Mariel. She is taken with the broad shouldered warrior. He is interested in her, but not enough to take her up on her request to relocate to the Highlands. She wears him down and the adventure starts. Mariel shows herself to be a fascinating character. The life she has lived is tragic and yet at the same time, she has the most remarkable strength. She wants Kieran even though the guilt of her mission is crippling. She must prove herself to him and the clan. Regardless of her intentions, Mariel is honest in her actions and thoughts. She wants Kieran more than she has ever wanted anything besides Jack’s wellbeing.

Kieran is the perfect Highlander Laird. Strong, forceful and smart are attributes that only begin to describe him. He is naturally cautious around strange English folk and the clawing desire he feels for Mariel only make it worse. He wants to trust her, he wants her underneath him and he wants her in his life. I just love a Highlander who is a fierce warrior and yet so gentle with women. Kieran’s protective instincts make him an excellent lover. He begins to unravel Mariel’s story and his heart breaks at the horror she has lived through. When her guard is down, he can see the troubles in her soul. As hard as he tries, he just can’t stay away from her.

The heat between the two leapt off the pages. I’d use the word ‘cock tease’ but Mariel wasn’t teasing. At first she offered him her body as a method of getting her way, but as they spent time together, it was the truth. The kisses and banter between the two is so hot. When Mariel seeks to make Kieran jealous, I seriously fist pumped when he swooped in and claimed her. What on earth is so hot about a Highlander claiming his woman? I pride myself on being a feminist, but man, there is something so compelling about a man going for what he wants. They are sensual with each other as well as sexual. They talk, they bathe and they care about each other. There is real intimacy between the two – sometimes the walls that are built up crumble and leave them bared. Not to spoil anything, but the sex between the two has a surprising start and because of this it creates a bond that is crucial to the relationship.

The plot moves swiftly. Mariel has
a time frame to find the two missing people and kill the Laird, or as she sees it, come up with a new plan that allows Kieran to live. What pulled me in was the sense of dread I had while reading. I was so happy that Kieran and Mariel were advancing their relationship, but so tense because I knew the deception that weighed on her shoulders every minute of every day. How would she deal with it? How would Kieran discover her true intentions? What would become of all of those involved in the intrigue?

This was a great book. It has that special element that makes for a fantastic read. As the reader, I was sucked in with my emotions fully engaged. The book was so well researched and accurate to the time – the setting, the clothes, the food – it all set the stage for a wonderful romantic story. Mariel is an unexpected heroine and Kieran is the Highlander every reader dreams about. Madeline Martin has managed to capture all the components that make a fantastic story – love, action, adventure and passion.

Meet Madeline Martin!

MadelineAuthorPic-150x150

 

Hi, I’m Madeline Martin. I write Scottish set historical romance novels and am represented by the fabulous Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

I am the mother of two young daughters known collectively as ‘the minions’. OldestMinion is an aspiring author at the tender age of 8 and YoungestMinion has made it her goal in life to add sass to the world. In addition to the minions, I have two cats: LapCat who has a shoe fetish and an penchant for world domination and SketchyCat who likes to stare at walls and eat fuzz.

I am a huge history fan with a deep burning curiosity for how people lived way back in the day and enjoy digging into the hows and whys. And you, dear blog reader, will be subjected to my findings. >insert evil cackle here<

MadelineAvaMudRunIn addition to working full time, writing, mothering and keeping all the pets fed, I also manage to (barely) keep a garden alive, support a Twitter addiction, hang out with incredible friends and engage in workouts that keep my life exciting. My accomplishments include a 50 mile mountain bike ride (with scars to prove it), my third year running doing the local 10k Mud Run to support MS research a year learning Krav Maga.MadelineBiking

I can be found on several social networking sites such as Twitter (@MadelineMMartin) and Facebook ( http://on.fb.me/1ByLMIy )- so come check me out!  :) I can be contacted at madelinemartin@ymail.com

 

Madeline agreed to do a Q & A about her upcoming release!

1.This is your first book. Did you plan out the whole story or did it evolve as you wrote?
This particular story did a lot of evolving for two reasons.
    The first being that I wrote this during the height of learning the craft of writing. I’d written two books before joining the RWA. After I joined and got a critique partner, I realized I, uh, kinda sucked. So, I did online classes and studied and did workshops and conferences and retreats. This book is the byproduct of having done all that work. But the lessons will always continue because there is always so much more to learn.
    The second reason is that Mariel initially started off as a coldblooded assassin. My first contest entry came back with a comment from a judge basically saying “Um…she’s not really an assassin, is she?” After taking a Donna MacMeans workshop on rooting interests, the understanding finally smacked me in the head and I drew Mariel back and softened her up to a character I really adored.
2. Who was your inspiration for the lead characters Mariel and Kieran?
I didn’t necessarily have people who inspired me to write Mariel and Kieran, but more ideas of what I wanted them to be. I wanted my heroine to have endured a hard life and emerge tough from it, like a powerful phoenix flaring up through cold, settled ash. For the hero, I wanted an alpha male with a beta’s heart. Kieran is decisive, sure and protective, but he also has a lot of internal softness he keeps guarded. What can I say, I just think that’s sexy. 🙂 For them both, I wanted two broken souls who came together as a beautiful whole.
3. What research did you need to do to write the story?
To research this book, I curled up in many a Wiki-hole, read many a book and was lucky enough to travel to Scotland for on site research. I went from Edinburgh to Skye with a notebook and a ready pen. I recorded notes about historical homes, castle construction, climate, food, culture, yes, I was THAT person after the tours ended that kept the poor guide there too long with too many questions. Bless their hearts, they were always so kind and helpful. I even got to go to the ruins of Caisteal Camus (Kieran’s castle on Skye) and Edzell Castle (where my second book, Possession of a Highlander, takes place). I spent that entire flight back home writing furiously, filling in all the details I’d missed.
4. Describe the process creating the beautiful cover.
Thank you so much for the compliment on my cover. I absolutely adore it. I’m so fortunate to have Diversion Books as my publisher. They paid attention to the details I’d asked for and incorporated their own interpretation to arrive at this result. I really could not be happier. I’m anticipating the cover for Possession of a Highlander in the next couple of weeks and am so eager to see how they dress up Colin’s story.
5. What books and authors inspired you to write historical romance fiction?
While on maternity leave with OldestMinion, I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and I was hooked on Highlanders. After I burned through everything she’d written, I found my two other favorite authors: Margaret Mallory and Monica McCarty. I adore them all for their own incredibly unique writing and can so easily lose myself in any book they write.
The book is available for pre-order.  You can get it here.

 

Remind Me

remind me

Remind Me by Ann Marie Walker and Amy K Rogers

Overview by Amazon:

As heiress to a media empire Alessandra Sinclair was raised to put family obligations first. But everything changes the night her first love walks back into her life and turns her whole world upside down. Haunted by the memories of a secret romance with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, she can’t seem to get Hudson Chase out of her mind. Once again torn between two worlds, Allie must decide how much she’s willing to risk to have the love she’s always longed for.


Ten years is a long time to wait, but billionaire Hudson Chase didn’t become CEO of one of the country’s fastest growing companies by giving up on what he wants. Now that he’s got Allie in his sights again, he’s determined to make her regret breaking his heart. And this time, he’s going to make damn sure he’s not so easy to forget.

I saw this book on Netgalley and was itching for a contemporary novel so I snatched it up. I must have missed that it was a trilogy because when the end came I was so shocked and really disappointed. I worried at first that this was going to be a copycat of Fifty Shades or Crossfire or Naked since it revolves around a billionaire and he’s young. But there are some similarities but this book is more about the reunion of two long lost loves.

Allie and Hudson had a sweet summer romance on the shores of Lake Michigan. It had shades of the book The Notebook, as Allie is the rich girl and Hudson is the dirt poor local. It doesn’t end well, but the story takes place years later in Chicago where Hudson is taking over the financial world.

He now has the money, power and prestige that he lacked when he wanted to claim Allie as his. He strikes into her well-ordered world and disrupts the plans Allie has in place. Hudson is crafted after the model David Gandy as the authors have dedicated the book to him. I can certainly see why he would be their muse as he is so handsome. Hudson still has the sentimentality of the young, poor man he was. It seems that the simpler things in life are still what appeal to him. Through the story it seems that he covets his wealth, buying things because ‘rich people have them’. I think there is a deep insecurity in Hudson, even after all of his hard work and accomplishments. The humiliation he suffered by not being good enough for Allie, made him stronger and more determined.

Allie has never had to struggle in life. She comes from a very wealthy family and grew up in the elite of society. The only time in her life that was true and her own was the summer she spent with Hudson. Her parents sound like horrible people and cared only for the image they present rather than truth and love. Allie seems like she can barely make a decision for herself as everything in her life is under their control. This includes her creepy fiancé Julian.

Normally I have abhorrence for reading about adultery. I’m just not ok with it, so I wondered how the authors would make me love Hudson and Allie together when there was the matter of a fiancé. Somewhat typically, Julian is a terrible guy. His persona makes you wonder about Allie’s judgement. Why on earth would she want to be with this horrid guy? He almost completely ignores her and he’s rude. By making him so unappealing it makes it justifiable that Allie would resume things with Hudson.

Hudson pursues Allie with strong fervor. Clearly she is not getting it on with her loser fiancé, so Hudson is able to swoop in and reignite the passion they had. Hudson stalks Allie around Chicago with some amusing results. When Julian leaves for business, Allie takes the time to get to know Hudson again and this time on a biblical level.

They spend a lot of time having amazing sex. The scenes are descriptive and full of passion. Hudson is an amazing lover and lucky Allie. I guess if you are modelling your male lead after David Gandy – he’d better be a stud. It’s like you can put a four thousand dollar suit on the guy, but underneath he fucks like a man who works with his hands.

Allie knows that Hudson is what is good for her. They do fun things together. They talk and share meals and enjoy low key moments together. I guess it’s the pressure from her family that has her balking at making a decision regarding her engagement. Even when something feels so right and true, you feel hesitant to throw away everything you have known. The authors really develop that mine of plot and make it so that you somewhat understand her reluctance, although I personally would never have been interested in loser Julian.

Things aren’t simple for Hudson and Allie. Even when she made her decision about what to do, things become complicated. I thought this book was going to be a simple choose one guy –the end. But it is more complex. The plot thickens due to the actions of the secondary characters and their actions have serious ramifications for the leads.

I can’t wait to read the next book and see where the series takes us. I know deep down that Allie and Hudson will have to struggle to get to their happy ending, but I hope the journey is filled with lots of sex and emotional moments.

Spinsters In Love

his wicked reputation

I really love Madeline Hunter’s books. She writes great stories that are full of passion and excitement. She also writes for USA Today. Being a Canadian, I don’t read that paper, but thanks to Twitter and her devoted fans, her articles pop up regularly on my feed. She recently wrote one about the spinster trope. It was a really interesting article to read. She interviews Julia London and Sabrina Jeffries about their use of spinsters and what makes it so special.

Here is the link to the article, but I’ve pasted it in for you to read:

In my forthcoming book His Wicked Reputation (March 3), the heroine is a spinster. She had one romance in her life, but when her brother’s infirmity kept her from leaving England with her young man, he went without her. Five years later she is so firmly on the shelf that no one thinks of her as potential target of seduction, let alone marriage.

It is not the first time I used an older, unmarried woman as a heroine and it won’t be the last.

Pity the poor spinster? Not the ones in romance novels. They get some of the best stories, and at the end they get the heroes. Writers love them. Readers respond to them. Their historical worlds may have scorned or made fun of spinsters, but in historical romances they have their revenge.

Julia London loves writing about spinsters as much as I do. Her Cabot Sisters series is full of them, including the recent The Devil Takes a Bride. Her forthcoming book in that series, The Scoundrel and the Debutante (late April), features another of the sisters, Prudence.

As a result of her sisters’ scandals, the reputation of Prudence is tarnished, and as she approaches her 23rd birthday, she has no prospects. She fears she is going to waste away in the country taking care of the family’s elderly. So when an opportunity for something exciting and daring and completely out of character presents itself, she figures she has nothing to lose and goes for it.

The maturity of spinsters means they have some life under their belt, and perhaps dissatisfactions threatening to boil over. Julia says that is the case with Prudence. “She has hung on for four long years after her older sisters’ scandals, but she is through with waiting. She has become much less rigid about proper behavior, because in her mind, she was always the sister who followed the rules, who kept herself above reproach, who wanted to be married and have a family. Now, she is the only one without a life she wanted and entirely dependent on others. She doesn’t see how her proper behavior has benefited her, and she is determined to follow her desires before she wastes away at some country estate.”

Sabrina Jeffries also enjoys the potential that spinsters bring to the page. In fact, she has a whole series called the Swanlea Spinsters. She will launch her next series on July 21 with a spinster heroine, too. “The Art of Sinning is the first of my Sinful Suitors series. It is about an American artist named Jeremy Keane who zeroes in on a well-known unmarried sister of an earl, Lady Yvette Barlow, to be his model. Although Yvette is an heiress, she doesn’t want a fortune-hunting husband and her non-titled brother is a convicted criminal, which means scandal with a capital S. So she’s not having much luck in the marriage department. Also, Yvette happens to be tall, stocky, and not the average blond beauty, so she wears a giant chip on her shoulder.

I asked Sabrina why she keeps turning to the spinster heroine. “It’s fun to deal with how a woman like that makes her own way,” she said. “Younger, prettier women generally manipulate the system, but spinsters either refuse or can’t, and that makes for great conflicts.”

Jo Beverley also finds spinsters interesting heroines. “I like to explore many facets of period courtship and this is a classic one. It’s also one particularly potent in the early 19th century when the war led to a shortage of eligible young gentlemen for gently born ladies. Jane Austen’s novels are mainly built around that problem,” she explains. “The position of the upper-class spinster was particularly difficult. If she has money, then is marriage worth the costs? She’ll have to surrender her money and her independence and put herself in her husband’s legal power. That is why Lucy in my novel A Shocking Delight decided not to marry — until, of course, she met a man she came to love and trust.”

Readers will be able to enjoy another of Jo’s spinsters in her upcoming April release. “Lady Hermione Merryhew is the daughter of a marquess, but he was the ‘Poor Marquess,’ so she has a minuscule dowry. She’d like to marry, but not if she’ll be penny-pinched. She’s had a lifetime of that, and her older sister’s troubled marriage to a man of moderate means is a warning. Also, she’s not willing to marry just anyone. The distant relative who’s inherited her father’s title wants to marry her. He’s rich and he’s offering to help her sister’s family, but only if the marriage takes place. She doesn’t like him, but it will be hard to refuse, which is why she’s on an urgent journey to try to claim an inheritance from a long-lost relative. She has troubles enough without a man on the run seeking refuge in her inn room, but that’s where her situation becomes Too Dangerous for a Lady.”

Jo explains the conundrum facing spinsters during the early 19th century — the situation that makes their stories so rich for writers today. “When a gently born spinster has little money, her choices are few. She might receive an offer of marriage, but it’s unlikely to be from a wealthy man, so she’ll have a hard life trying to make ends meet for her growing family. She can find employment, but, unless she wants to sink lower on the social scale, only as a governess or companion — a type of upper servant. She might be offered shelter as a poor relation, but likely treated as an unpaid servant.”

Of course, spinsters existed in other periods, too. Michelle Styles has created an unusual one, set during Viking times. Her “spinster” has chosen her unmarried life and has interests and inclinations very different from other women. “Sayrid, the heroine of Taming His Viking Woman, vowed she will marry no man unless he first defeats her in combat,” she says. “At over six feet in height and clumsy, she could never do any dainty work but learned how to fight in order to help her younger brother. She soon discovered that she excelled at it. When a powerful sea king offers her the opportunity to go to Byzantium at the head of his fleet if she defeats him, Sayrid seizes the opportunity and loses. Now she is forced to change her warring ways and occupy her husband’s bed in order to keep her lands safe.”

Michelle draws on the Viking lore regarding shield maidens for her heroine. “There has been this long-held belief amongst male archaeologists that women were never warriors during the Viking era. However, recent DNA tests showed that some of graves with weaponry were occupied by females. This coincides with the various sagas where women were either conventional wives or shield maidens. If shield maidens married, they ceased to be warriors and put on women’s clothes.”

Spinsters in romance novels do find love, of course. But their status as spinsters can undermine their views of themselves because of the way society treats them. As a result they have a very human vulnerability. This can be seen in His Wicked Reputation, when the heroine reacts to the assumptions of the two sisters (also spinsters!) who are cluing her in on Gareth’s infamy.

“He is reputed to be very wicked,” Ophelia said. “Most skilled in his seductions. Wives, widows, women of maturity like yourself—”

“Mostly wives,” Jasmine said. “But our friends say he considers any female over twenty-three fair game, and some suspect he has even deflowered innocent girls.” She lowered her voice, as if confiding a secret. “We are told that he employs certain exotic techniques that leave women enthralled, even addled, and unable to give him up…”

“I am grateful, of course, that you chose to share this with me,” Eva said. “I need to reassure you that Mr. Fitzallen has no such interest in me. I am the last woman to turn such a man’s head, even for a few hours. I think we can all agree that while he may someday be wicked with a lady in Langdon’s End, it will not be me.”

They both looked at her in a peculiar way. Then at each other. Then at her.

“It goes without saying that we are not concerned about you,” Jasmine said.

“It is Rebecca whom we fear will attract his wickedness.”

Of course. They worried for beautiful Rebecca. It was me he almost kissed. He gave that little gift to me.I am the one he might seduce and abandon. She came close to saying it. Shouting it. Except she knew the sisters were correct. She was in no danger. None at all.

On reflection—much reflection—she had concluded she had been mistaken. He had not almost kissed her. For one thing, from the sounds of things Gareth did not almost kiss women. Far from it.

It is society’s dismissal, and even mockery, that give these heroines their depth as well as their conflicts. That along with their struggles to make lives for themselves under their own terms also makes them very appealing characters. “It’s always fun to root for the underdog,” Sabrina says. “We want to see the spinster with no prospects get the prime article. It’s Cinderella all over again.”

Jo adds, “The beauty of romance novels (and Pride and Prejudice is a prime example) is that such spinsters get more choices, find ways to use their good qualities to triumph over their challenges, find friends and allies, and end up happy in the end. And that’s why readers enjoy the stories.”

USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller Madeline Hunter is the two-time RITA-winning author of 25 historical romances. Her next release, His Wicked Reputation , will be published March 3. You can find her at http://www.MadelineHunter.com. To contact Madeline about content for or in this column, please e-mail her at RomanceUnlaced @ gmail.com (close up the spaces). Due to the volume of mail, e-mails from authors may not be answered personally, but all will be read.

Another great article. I love the fact that romance novels are getting more and more airtime in traditional publications. Hunter raises some great points about the use of a spinster in creating a dynamic and engaging story. As Sabrina Jeffries points out – it creates great conflicts. Until you read a great spinster book, you probably think of Miss Bates from Emma as the archtypical spinster.

miss bates

Everytime I read a book with a spinster as the lead, I cringe when the author mentions a mobcap. Could there be anything less attractive? In Lisa Kleypas’ book Dreaming of You, the devilish Derek Craven threw away Sarah’s mobcap as soon as he could. In fact he threw it in the mud so it could never be worn again.

When I googled the word ‘spinster’ an interesting conglomerate of images popped up. Not flattering at all. From the cat lady to an old woman to lonely women, it appears that societal views on spinsters is not kind. It made me realize how much of a challenge it is to make the spinster in a story not only desirable, but exciting and worth of holding a readers attention.

But a spinster from the Regency period is very different than your modern day friend who has just never settled down with the right partner. A spinster from years past was actually a very precarious position. It was a lonely life. They were not like old fashioned Bridget Jones – drinking on the couch, watching old movies and sleeping with the boss. To be a spinster meant living on the grace of others. Living in a home that was not your own, to be at the mercy of your family (hopefully you had one) and never knowing a relationship with a man. It wasn’t as if a spinster could just go out on a date, for many women life was all but decided by the age of 22 to 24. How sad is that? I was just beginning my career at the age of 24 – I felt like my whole life was ahead of me! It is amazing that we live in a world where same sex marriages are common place, transgendered people are treated with diginity (in a perfect world) and common law relationships are about to outnumber marriages – yet there is something unacceptable about a woman who has never chosen marriage or even worse, that marriage hasn’t chosen them.

I think there is a conception out there that unmarried or spinster means something is wrong with the woman. In historical times, it’s easy to call the woman a bluestocking or perhaps she has put caring for family above her needs. Whatever the reason, it is a real challenge to make the spinster into someone the reader of a historical novel can relate to and stay with throughout the length of a novel. Maybe it is easier than a modern day single woman because there usually is a reason a woman is single in historical times, rather than a choice. Since most marriages in historical times are arranged for financial gain, power or alliances, looks and personalities are not important – but icing on the cake if one is lucky.

There are so many themes that authors explore – the repentant rake, the wallflower, the vixen, the diffident duke and so on. They all fascinate and titillate depending on the skill of the author. I enjoy a great spinster story and these are some of my favourites:

Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens

When Devil, the most infamous member of the Cynster family, is caught in a compromising position with plucky governess Honoria Wetherby, he astonishes the entire town by offering his hand in marriage. No one dreamed this scandalous rake would ever take a bride. And as society mamas swooned at the loss of England′s most eligible bachelor, Devil′s infamous Cynster cousins began to place wagers on the wedding date. devil's bride
But Honoria wasn′t about to bend society′s demands and marry a man “just” because they′d been found together virtually unchaperoned. No, she craved adventure, and while solving the murder of a young Cynster cousin fit the bill for a while, she decided that once the crime was solved she′d go off to see the world. But the scalding heat of her unsated desire for Devil soon had Honoria craving a very different sort of excitement. Could her passion for Devil cause her to embrace the enchanting peril of a lifelong adventure of the heart?

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Lady Sophia Sydney would do anything to ensnare the unattainable Sir Ross Cannon. Her goal—to ruin his reputation and cause a scandal that would be the talk of all London. So she insinuates herself into his life by gaining his trust and living in his house.lady sophias lover

Every morning, her lush presence tempts him beyond all reason…the way she bends over the table to serve him the meals she has prepared…the way her hands oh, so gently—yet sensuously—brush against him. Every night, she promises with her eyes—and her body— that the hours before dawn could be spent in unbridled passion instead of restless sleep—if only he’d let her share his bed.

She knows he is falling more in love with her each day. But she never counted on falling in love with him. And she never dreamed he might very respectably ask for her hand in marriage…

To Pleasure A Prince by Sabrina Jeffries

Beautiful Lady Regina Tremaine has turned down so many suitors that she’s called La Belle Dame Sans Merci. The truth: she won’t marry because she carries a dark secret. She sees no good reason, however, why her brother shouldn’t court the lovely Louisa North — even if the girl’s brother, the notorious “Dragon Viscount,” objects. to pleasure a prince
Marcus North, Viscount Draker — bastard son of the Prince of Wales — is rumored to be a monster who holds women captive in his dark castle to have his way with them. He has been exiled from polite society for years. But when Lady Regina makes a plea on her brother’s behalf, Marcus proposes an outrageous deal: her brother can court Louisa so long as Marcus can court Regina. Can the beauty and the beast survive a proper courtship when the devastatingly improper passion between them threatens to cause the scandal of the century?

A Heartless Design by Elizabeth Cole

“Heartless” Cordelia Bering refuses every marriage offer she receives. Yet men still try to win her, drawn by her sharp wit and intoxicating green eyes. But Cordelia knows a marriage could reveal her deepest secret and truly endanger her life. Besides, she hasn’t met a man worth considering, until…
a heartless design
Sebastien Thorne, a spy in the service of Crown. One of the elite agents in the group known as the Zodiac, he comes to London determined to solve a mystery with roots on the Continent. He won’t let anything distract him. But is Cordelia a distraction, or the key to the mystery? As he learns more about the “heartless” woman, he becomes embroiled in secrets, plots, and a design that could change the future…and Cordelia is at the center of it all.

Mastered By Love by Stephanie Laurens

The men of the Bastion Club proved their bravery secretly fighting for their country. Now their leader faces that most dangerous mission of all: finding a bride.

As the mysterious leader of the Bastion Club known as “Dalziel,” Royce Varisey, tenth Duke of Wolverstone, served his country for decades, facing dangers untold. But as the holder of one of England’s most august noble titles, he must now take on that gravest duty of all: marriage.
mastered by love
Yet the young ladies the grand dames would have him consider are predictably boring. Far more tempting is his castle’s willful and determinedly aloof chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton. Beneath her serene façade lies a woman of smoldering sensuality, one who will fill his days with comfort and his nights with sheer pleasure. Determined to claim her, he embarks on a seduction to prove his mastery over every inch of her body . . . and every piece of her heart.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Penelope Featherington fell madly, hopelessly in love with Colin Bridgerton two days before her 16th birthday. Unfortunately, Colin has always seen Penelope as the plump, shy best friend of his younger sister. By the time Penelope is 28 and a seasoned member of the English ton, she’s accepted that her love for Colin is destined to remain unrequited and she shall be a spinster forever. Fate, however, has other plans. When Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers announce that Colin has returned from his nearly nonstop travels, Penelope is blissfully unaware that her life is about to change dramatically. Colin is equally unaware of the turn his life is about to take. He’s not surprised that his beloved mother is determined to marry him off, but he’s rather astonished to find himself inexplicably drawn to Penelope. Her dry wit and intelligent mind are delightful, and Colin soon finds himself joining forces with her to deflect his matchmaking mama’s good intentions. romancing mr bridgerton
Together, the two will thwart their mothers’ iron wills, face the formidable Lady Danbury, confront the gossips of London society, and resolve the lovely dilemma of falling in love. And, oh yes, there is that matter of the true identity of Lady Whistledown. Will the twosome unmask the elusive journalist? Or will their efforts be doomed to failure like so many others’ before?

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

They call him many names, but Angelic isn’t one of them . . .

Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the “Bane and Blight of the Ballisters”—and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He’s determined to continue doing what he does best—sin and sin again—and all that’s going swimmingly, thank you . . . until the day a shop door opens and she walks in.
lord of scoundrels
She’s too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world . . .

Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she’s going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him—and with him, her family and future—means taking on the devil himself, she won’t back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible, and the person who needs the most saving is—herself!

The Scoundrels Lover

the scoundrels lover

The Scoundrels Lover by Jess Michaels

Overview by Amazon:

Annabelle Flynn is the sister of London’s two biggest libertines, and her reaction has been to become the picture of purity. But the sensual nature of her family has not been lost on her and she is troubled by urges she dare not follow. She ignores the demands of her body and instead throws herself into two different activities. One is pursuing a proper marriage in Society and the other is trying to save her broken brother by following him into the shocking Donville Masquerade, part of a hell run by the mysterious Marcus Rivers.

By day, Annabelle pursues ladylike endeavors and seeks a staid husband to combat the wild reputations of her brothers. By night, she inserts herself into Marcus’s business… and eventually she finds herself seduced into his bed.
But can a not-quite-proper lady and an entirely unsuitable cad find anything in common outside of the bedroom? And will Annabelle be willing to trade passion for cold, calculated ‘perfection’?

Wow this book is spicy!! There is a plethora of love scenes that are decadent and alluring. Jess Michaels has created a book that balances a great plot, wonderful and complicated characters and fiery passion. It’s a lot harder to create than one would imagine and when executed well, it’s a delight for the reader.

We meet Annabelle Flynn in the first book in the series. She is part of the infamous Flynn family. Her father and brothers are notorious scoundrels and rakes. She is an exceptionally smart woman who longs for the one thing her family can’t give her – respectability. Her brother inherited the title of Duke the previous year and the ton has fawned all over him as he is a man and now a lofty lord, but that doesn’t mean the same thing for the two younger Flynn siblings.

Annabelle is in the midst of her first season. She wants to marry a Lord so that she is above suspicion and leaves behind the Flynn reputation. The author makes you really understand why she would bother with impressing the ton. She straddles two worlds. The first is the life she has always known – the fun and carefree life of a Flynn. The second is now the world of the Upper Ten Thousand. Since her brother has inherited the title and the lands, he is out in society regularly and Annabelle wants to be accepted for who she is and what she creates, rather than being forced upon the ton because they fear angering a duke.

Her brother Crispin has fared the worst in the year that changed the Flynn’s lives. Crispin is riding off the rails. He drinks to excess, gambles money like it’s growing on trees and disappears for days at a time. He ends up at a vice club run by family friend Marcus Rivers. Tall, dark and deadly handsome, he’s not just the club owner. He cares for the Flynn family, although he cares for Annabelle in a way that her family may not appreciate.

Crispin frequents Marcus’ club and when he sends for the family’s help, it’s Annabelle who arrives at his club. She is shocked by the actions of the randy men and women. Yet, she is so intrigued and aroused by what she sees. Marcus has wanted Annabelle for years. He has even watched her from a distance, so the fact that she is in his club and enraptured by what she sees makes Marcus hopeful.

The two have their tussles and Marcus allows her to return so she can spy on her brother and keep an eye on him. While she will be watching Crispin (and the bawdy acts around her), Marcus is observing her. After a passionate kiss, things between the two change.

Annabelle is desperately trying to fit into the ton. She wants to adore her season, but it feels like a chore. Everyone is so uptight and stiff. Yet, when she is at Marcus’ club, things are so opposite and free. How can the same people live such opposite lives?

With the question of sin on her mind, she visits Marcus to ask him a very important question. Things change and then the heat level hits the roof. She wants to know how Marcus can be around all this debauchery every night and not be affected by it. She is titillated and aroused by what she sees and as a young woman doesn’t know how to process all the lust she is feeling. Thankfully it’s Marcus to the rescue. They make a pact that she can sate her lust with Marcus, but he won’t take her virginity that she is saving for a husband.

Its heaven and hell for Marcus. He has her in his arms and bed, yet he doesn’t really have her. They explore each other with their bodies, hands and mouths. This book is so highly sensual. They were so hot together I wanted to yell at Annabelle to not waste a moment with the stuffy Earl that is courting her. It was such a thrilling story and I adored the relationship between the two. Marcus was head over heels in love with Annabelle –her body, her mind, her business acumen. He was a fierce lover and was so well matched by Annabelle’s passionate responses.

It’s such a titillating concept – a young miss and a well-seasoned rake slaking their lust in elicit trysts together. The strength of Jess Michaels is that this book is not just one sex scene after another strung together with a thimble of plot. It was a well-conceived plot that revolves around the sexual awakening of a fiery temptress and the man that has longed for her for years.

I love the setting of the gambling den. It’s an environment that I have really enjoyed in Lisa Kleypas’ Gamblers Series and her book Devil in Winter. There is something so exciting about the thrill of discovery and the hedonistic landscape all around the prim, young miss. Of course we have casinos now, but there is nothing today like the clubs that were frequented in this time. Maybe that is a good thing, but it’s a really fun environment to have a love story set in.

Jess Michaels is a great author. I really like her work and I’m so glad I got to read the next book in the Flynn Series. This book is highly entertaining and very sexy. Marcus is a wonderful character that has depth and complexity, which is explored naturally. Annabelle is such a fun woman who learns some very valuable lessons – in the bedroom and about life.

The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress

the captains bluestocking mistress

The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress (Dukes of War Series) by Erica Ridley

Overview by Amazon:

Captain Xavier Grey’s body is back amongst the beau monde, but his mind cannot break free from the horrors of war. His friends try to help him find peace. He knows he doesn’t deserve it. Just like he doesn’t deserve the attentions of the sultry bluestocking intent on seducing him into bed…

Spinster Jane Downing wants off the shelf and into the arms of a hot-blooded man. Specifically, the dark and dangerous Captain Grey. She may not be destined to be his wife, but nothing will stop her from being his mistress. She could quote classical Greek by the age of four. How hard can it be to learn the language of love?

This was a sweet story of a woman who wants more out of life. Jane feels invisible to everyone. She says the most outrageous things in order to gain attention, but no one notices her. She loves her books and is content to be a twenty-four year old spinster, but for one thing. She longs to know passion. So much so that she is willing to take enormous risks to get a taste of it. She travels to the private, secluded retreat of Xavier Grey to ask him a most daring question.
Xavier is everything Jane wants. Handsome, brave and dashing he is the man she has chosen. She shows up at his cottage, in a snowstorm, lugging her valise and demon cat. Then she asks him a question that most men have never been asked before. She asks him to take her as his mistress and show her lovemaking. To say that Xavier was shocked would be an understatement.

I enjoy this trope of historical romance. The thrill of the illicit tryst and the attempt to fight passion. Jane was a wonderful character. She is so smart and does nothing to hide it. She is pleasantly plump and I loved that she wasn’t a flawless character. She was so realistic that it was kind of surprising that she would be so daring.

Xavier finds Jane attractive, but is battling demons after three years of war. To add despoiler of innocents to his long list of crimes might just be the tipping point for him. Being snowbound with Jane pushes his limits to the breaking point. He can’t fathom how he will survive the long snowbound days and nights with her. I felt bad for Xavier at times. He was trying so hard to be honest and upfront, but Jane becomes quite the vixen and teases him to a point that no man wouldn’t break.

A fun story that centers around two characters who both have deep, dark needs and wants. Together they were special. Erica Ridley has created another great story that has you pulling for the characters to find happiness.

New Release Tuesday

a stolen season

Archaeologist Sarah Baxter just broke one of the biggest rules of time travel: leaving a piece of 21st­century equipment in 19th century Regency England. Unfortunately, when she goes back to retrieve it, she makes an even bigger mess of things—resulting in the death of an English Earl. Now his brother is not only out for revenge, but he also has Sarah’s device. Which means an entirely different approach is needed.

It doesn’t occur to the new Earl of Earnston that his charming acquaintance is responsible for his brother’s death. He is merely swept away by a passion that threatens his very reputation. Yet he gets the distinct impression that Miss Baxter is hiding something from him. Now Sarah must find a way to steal back her device, hide the truth about the earl’s brother and—most importantly— not fall in love…

This book is amazing! I really felt a connection to this story and it was such a wonderful book to read. It’s a definite must add to your to-be-read pile! Read my review here. It is on sale for less than a dollar right now on Amazon.com. Seriously a steal.

a sinful deception

Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy leads a charmed existence. As the second son of the Duke of Breconridge, he has none of the responsibilities of his older brother and all of the advantages, leaving handsome Geoffrey free to enjoy his rakish pursuits. And pursue them he does, leaving hearts fluttering all over London. But one night, at a ball brimming with high society’s most sought-after beauties, only one truly intrigues him: the regal, aloof, and mysterious Miss Serena Carew.

Magnificently dressed and wearing jewels befitting a queen, the lady is considered the prize of the season: a noble-born heiress raised in India. But even as Geoffrey’s fascination grows, Serena deflects his curiosity—and with good reason. Serena’s exotic past contains a perilous secret that could destroy her. Yet her plan to live in safe solitude is thwarted by her hungry heart, and soon Geoffrey’s passionate seduction finds her blissfully bedded—and wed. Will her deception destroy her chance at happiness as Geoffrey’s wife? Or will the devotion of her new husband bring out the hidden truth of her undying love?

Check out my review here.

highland guard hannah howell

Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from devastation, she must turn to the one man she could never forget…

He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen’s wife…Lady Annys.

Now the passion he still feels for the lovely strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most wrenching fears–and putting everything they treasure most at stake…

Hot Highlander and lovely widow…what more could you want?! Check out my review here! Here it is on Amazon.com.

what a devilish duke desires

WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS

Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?

Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

Check it out here on Amazon.com</a. Check it out here on Goodreads.

Top Ten Tuesday – Heroines!

So this is my first post for #Top Ten Tuesday a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish

The theme this week is Top Ten Heroines from books. So here is my Top Ten:

1. Alexa from Hero by Samantha Young
I am so in love with Alexa. She is sassy, fun and an honest character. The book is just amazing and that is in large part because of Alexa. Love, love, love this story. hero

2. Sophia from Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas
This is a great book from Lisa Kleypas. Sophia is a strong character and I loved how she seduces the ‘Monk of Bow Street’. Very hot romance.
lady sophias lover

3. Lillian Bowman from It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
I think I respond the most to women who are unconventional and buck tradition. Lillian is an American heiress who captures the fancy of an Earl – except he can’t decide if he wants to strangle her or kiss her senseless. Such a fun book and my favourite from the Wallflower Series.
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4. Jane Bonde from Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen
She is the Regency female version of James Bond and she kicks ass. A fun character and a superb spy!
spy

5. Samantha Jellicoe from the Sam Jellicoe Series by Suzanne Enoch
Samantha is a thief who is trying to go straight. She has a hot British boyfriend and a former fence keeping her life interesting. I really and truly don’t know why this series hasn’t been made into a televised show as it is not only hilarious, but sexy and full of danger. Her love of Godzilla is one of the quirky things that make her so much fun to read.
billionaires prefer blondes

6. Sarah from A Stolen Season by Tamara Gill
I recently read this book and it just came out this week. Sarah is a time traveller who has to go back in time to fix a mistake she made. However she breaks the cardinal rule and changes the past by falling in love with Eric. Such an amazing story and full of danger and longing.
a stolen season

7. Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey MOVIE
I know this technically is different from the book, but Dakota Johnson was so good in the movie. She made Anastasia come to life. The scene when she is in the bathroom and calls Christian was hilarious. I think I like the books more now because of the great job she did in the movie.
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8. Elise from So Worthy My Love by Kathleen Woodiwiss
If you have never read this book – pick it up as it is great! Elise is a fiesty woman who is kidnapped from her home and tucked away with the very sexy Maxim. Hilarious events and long, cold nights lead to some very steamy moments on the page.
so worth my love

9. Claire from Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Claire is another character that I like so much more from the film version. She was great in the books as well, but with Caitronia Balfe portraying her onscreen she just came to life. She’s bold and principled and also stunningly beautiful. Can’t wait for the next season to start.
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10. Caitrina Lamont from Highland Warrior by Monica McCarty
Monica writes amazing female characters. Caitrina is a wonderful character that learns some very hard lessons in life. She also has the braw and beautiful Jamie Campbell to keep her safe and warm. A lucky lady!
highland warrior

Covert Danger

covert danger

Covert Danger by Jo-Ann Carson

Overview by Amazon:

A single woman – A double life

Fashion model by day – spy by night, Sadie Stewart chases a power-hungry man collecting ancient Egyptian amulets. She’s willing to risk everything to stop him, but art dealer Sebastian Wilde, who looks like a modern Viking, keeps getting in her way. He stirs feelings she though existed only in fairy tales. Can she win his heart and stop the heist planned for New York City’s Met Museum?

The author describes this book like a cross between ‘covert danger and Indiana Jones’. That’s a pretty apt description as this book has lots of intrigue and danger.

Sadie is a beautiful vixen. She is a model by day and a CIA operative by night. She is infiltrating a theft ring in order to access the criminal Anubis. I loved hearing about her modelling job and her famous ‘pout’. She’s a beautiful woman, but the mind underneath is as deadly as her legs. She inhabits a world that I can only imagine from my couch.

She meets Sebastian in Venice. She is eluding the police in a boat chase and he gives her a running chance. When they meet up later, the sparks are flying. The sexual chemistry between the two is immediate and very hot. Sebastian is completely taken with Sadie. He’s no slouch himself – a blond giant who wants Sadie to himself for an extended period of time.

But that doesn’t happen. The two share fiery kiss throughout the book, but it was so stressful waiting for these two to get together! Every time I thought this has to be it…nope! The plot was fascinating and moves very quickly, but I was so interested in seeing how these two connected on a horizontal level!!

The plot revolves around the Egyptian business man who wants artifacts to garner more power. The story moves around how Sadie climbs into this sphere and how she operates as a spy. It was exactly the kind of life you imagine a spy would have. Sadie travels by private jets, stays in palaces, has encrypted cell phones and has a CIA handler. It was so cool to see a female version of James Bond.

She is so distracted by Sebastian at a time when she really can’t be. He flies all over Europe, Middle East and America to help Sadie. He truly believes there is something special between the two and he also doesn’t believe that Sadie is a black hat. He wants to give her the benefit of the doubt and to use his connections to make sure she stays safe and in his bed. Having this huge, golden Dutch man following you and watching your back is very attractive. The author writes characters that are exciting and likeable.

This was a fun book to read. When I was reading it I was imagining films like James Bond, The Tourist and The Saint. I am looking forward to more adventures with Sadie and Sebastian as they were great characters and now that they have had their time to get to know one another – the next adventure Sadie goes on will be a riot.

Outlander

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Ok, so I am so late to the Outlander party, but I finally sat down on Friday to watch it. OMG. WHY??? WHY have I waited so long? Considering I absolutely adore historical romance novels – especially those set in the Highlands of Scotland. One of my very favourite series of books is Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard. I’m seriously questioning my judgement as I can’t believe this has been sitting on my PVR since September and I’m watching it in February.

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I read the Outlander books years ago. While I wouldn’t classify them as historical romance fiction – it truly is a love story at heart. The story of Jamie and Claire is so beautiful and special. The Starz network certainly did put the money and time into making this story come to life in the most beautiful way. I have been reading a lot of time travel books lately and I bet if I asked those authors they would have to say that Outlander had some impact on their decision to use the genre.

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First of all, how beautiful is Claire? OUT_Elevated_20131004_NB-0602.jpg I know that Caitriona Balfe is a former model, but my lord, when she stands tall and proud, she is just so beautiful that it takes your breath away. She makes Claire come to life in a way that I couldn’t even dream of. She is passionate and righteous, yet fragile and brave. Claire seems worldly but can’t find her footing in 18th century Scotland. All her street smarts and experience from World War II can’t help her navigate Clan issues and the distrust from both the Scots and the English. You feel her frustrations and anger at the world she has travelled to. Her beautiful face shows her morals and values and I can honestly say I fell in love with Claire in a way that I never did with the books.
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And then we have Jamie…
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I have a serious issue with men from the British Isles. I would probably throw away everything just to hear an Irish, Scottish or British accent every day. Jamie is perfectly portrayed by Sam Heugen. Where has this actor been hiding? Between him and Jamie Dornan, I’m overwhelmed by the hotness coming out of the Highlands and the Emerald Isle. That is something the UK does really well – they have their own celebrity culture and being popular in North America is not required. I’m now heartily suspicious that there are more heartthrobs they are keeping from the rest of the world. Sam is perfectly cast as Jamie. Brawn and buff, young but a man, he has an innate kindness that seeps through his smile and actions. Just like the character of Claire, I loved Jamie more in the flesh than on the page. I’m not interested in Gingers as they just don’t do it for me, but Jamie isn’t the carrot top I imagined him to be in the book. This is when things left to my imagination are not a good idea. outlander jamie shirtless

The setting of the story was so lush and amazing. I read that most of the movie was shot in Scotland. I couldn’t help but think how cold they must have been filming up in the Highlands. It is such beautiful scenery and it has only reinforced my desire to visit Scotland again – preferably for a month! When Claire and her husband Frank visit Castle Leoch and wonder what it looked like when it was inhabited, it was so amazing to see the Castle in its splendour. I couldn’t help but cringe at how dirty things were – the muddy courtyard had me grimacing.outlander castle

The amazing detail given to the costumes was just outstanding. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the dresses were. The dresses that Claire wore were so stunning. I loved the knit gloves and scarves she wore. I think what I found so fascinating about the costumes was the kilts. I know, I know…insert kilt joke here. But what I found so interesting was the way the men wore them. Some wore them draped over their shoulders, some wore them wrapped and Jamie wore his with a longer section in the back that he can pull his plaid over his shoulders. I guess I am so used to seeing kilts on modern men that are borrowed and all look pretty homogenous. I read on EOnline that each actor had his own method for wrapping the kilt.
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Of course, Jamie and Claire don’t spend all their time in clothes. They have a right proper wedding night. I remembered from the book that Jamie was a virgin, but it was something quite different to see it on the screen. They are both such perfect specimens and look so good together. Of course the love scenes come in the 7th episode and I had waited all weekend to see it AND then my kid came in the room and I had to turn it off, lest he see something I didn’t want to talk about. Once I watched it sans kid, it was so special. I have to say, there was more nudity and sex than I think there was in Fifty Shades of Grey. The latter spent a lot of time building up to the event and the kink factor was equal to the sex. In Outlander, it was just candlelight and the newlyweds. The setting of their room was lovely. The lighting and the furs helped to keep it grounded in the time and century.

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Spoiler (in case you haven’t read the books) I’m a little worried about where the series will go from here. We know that Claire returns to her time and stays for twenty years before reuniting with Jamie. I like them so much that I don’t want them to be separated. It’s hard to distinguish her husband Frank from Black Jack Randall and I don’t want her to return to Frank. How will they age Jamie and Claire? I’m sure the brilliant minds that have brought the first eight episodes will figure it out. I just hope I like what they do since the first eight episodes have been excellent.

If you haven’t watched this series yet and you love Scottish historical romance novels than this is required viewing. I’m hooked. The only benefit to having waited is that my wait for the next season won’t be as long!

Here’s the trailer for season 2 which starts in April!