Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Review--The Songbird's Seduction

The Songbird's SeductionThe Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of classic comedy with romance, especially the trope of the serious guy whose world is overturned by the free-spirited woman who he thinks is All Wrong For Him. But it can't be a movie where the woman's a plot device, a manic pixie dreamgirl with no needs or desires of her own. It has to be a film where a woman is a strong, active character--think Bringing up Baby or Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve or even Born Yesterday. These were great films with strong women and men who (eventually) loved them.

And why don't we get films like this anymore? One reason may be these films were made for adult audiences, women and men, not adolescent boys who like explosions. They had wit, and characters the audience could respond to, and it was a golden age for actresses in Hollywood looking for good films where they were the star, actresses like Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn.

But I digress. The preceding rant was to illustrate why I liked The Songbird's Seduction so much. The hero's name, Archibald Grant, is an immediate tip-off. Cary Grant starred in Bringing Up Baby, among other films, and his real name was Archibald Leach. Archie falls in with chanteuse Lucy Eastlake, who's on her way to France to help her elderly aunts claim an inheritance. Along the way there's mayhem galore as Archie and Lucy get separated from the aunts (who end up with the best traveling companion ever), and the couple has to wend their way to the rubies on their own.

The Edwardian setting was also a nice touch. It allowed Lucy to act with more freedom (she has a career!) while highlighting a time and place and fashions that were glorious, but soon to be overturned by World War I.

Fans of Connie Brockway will love this, fans of screwball comedy will wonder why there's not more like this, and fans looking for a historical with a different setting will all enjoy The Songbird's Seduction.


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Happy Anniversary to Amber Quill Press, LLC!

My publisher, Amber Quill Press, LLC, is celebrating its 12th anniversary! Where has the time gone? They've been selling my books for nearly 10 years, and this year they rolled out a spiffy new website to make ordering books easier than ever.

Amber Quill Press is also celebrating all this month with special promotions and giveaways. Remember, you can purchase my books in all formats there, and they're always priced right. Check them out, especially if you've been wanting to try M/M or F/F romance in some of their other lines like Amber Allure and Amber Heat.

To get all the info on new releases, contests and more, sign up for the newsletter at the website: www.amberquill.com, and join in the celebration!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Music to write by

I've mentioned once or twice that my favorite writing music is epic soundtracks without vocals--Game of Thrones, Hans Zimmer music, Klaus Badelt, that sort of thing. Where once I depended on film or TV soundtracks, I'm finding now that some of the best epic music is being composed for games.

It may set the mood for gamers to score points against their opponents, but for me these pieces trigger a little switch in my brain that says, "Time to write!" It may be a chicken/egg deal: When I hear the music, it sets off a response. Or I may have picked the music deliberately to create that response. Regardless, it helps keep me focused and on task.

I use Pandora's Epic Soundtracks station, or when I want to go offline, I use my personal playlists. So on that note, I'm cranking up my  #4 Writing Music playlist of Game of Thrones (Season 1), Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and Gladiator.

Time to write!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review--Marco and the Devil's Bargain

Marco and the Devil's Bargain (Spanish Brand, #2)Marco and the Devil's Bargain by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something deeply satisfying about reading a novel dealing with the turmoil of making a marriage work. Most romance novels are about the courtship, the journey from Point A to Point B, and the "Happily Ever After". But we all know real life doesn't work that way, and in the hands of a talented author we can get a glimpse into the real work of life, making a marriage grow and become stronger.

Marco Mondragon and Paloma Vega (The Double Cross) are now married in Spanish New Mexico where Marco is the Juez de Campo, a brand inspector who's the closest thing to a judicial officer in the isolated royal colony. He and Paloma are settling in to newlywed life, though Paloma deeply regrets their lack of children, something he shared with his first wife before she and the children died of cholera.

Their happiness is disrupted by news that "la viruela"--smallpox--is coming. Some of the people have been inoculated, most have not, and many fear inoculation because it can bring on the disease. Marco's own brother died of inoculation (not vaccination--that method was not yet in common use). An English physician offers Marco a bargain: if he's escorted deep into Comanche territory to find his kidnapped daughter, he'll inoculate Paloma and others.

It is a devil's bargain, for entering Comanche land is almost certainly a death sentence, yet Marco agrees, the inoculation occurs, and after her recovery Paloma insists on accompanying them on their dangerous journey.

Marco and the Devil's Bargain is a tale of good people making difficult choices. Paloma and Marco share a love that endures through disease and death, struggling to find their place in a harsh, yet beautiful land. The secondary characters make the story real, particularly Toshua, their Indian brother, and Anthony Gill, the Englishman burdened by a secret.

This second book in the Spanish Brand series is sure to please Ms. Kelly's fans. It's a lovingly crafted novel of marriage and growth, and a glimpse into what's left out of traditional US history books, the role played by the Spanish settlers who preceded the Anglo-Americans into Florida, Louisiana Territory and the Southwest. I look forward to more books from Ms. Kelly in this setting.




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Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

“Avast, ye scurvy dog! Strike your colors or I’ll…I’ll… What will I do, Mr. Turnbull?”
“Say, ‘I’ll scupper your ship and use your guts for garters, ye lily-livered—oh. Captain, sir!” Turnbull knuckled his forehead and said, “Um, I have to be off now, Mattie,” before scurrying below.
Mattie looked up then and spotted the governess, her face lighting up. She ran over and Lydia Burke squatted down on the deck to open her arms to Mattie’s embrace.
“Miss Burke! Miss Burke! I am so happy to see you again!”
“I am happy to see you too, Mathilde. I missed you,” she said fiercely, hugging the child to her chest. Mattie drew back her head and looked at her.
“I am not Mathilde anymore, Miss Burke. Now I’m Marauding Mattie, the terror of the West Indies!”
“Are you indeed, miss?”
She stood, still holding Mathilde. While her words were icy, if she were a dragon she’d be breathing flame to protect the child. Rather than make Robert angry, he found it promising she would champion her welfare. Mathilde needed someone to watch her back because while there were few things in the world he was certain of, he knew pirates did not die of old age in bed. At least, not their own beds.
“Mathilde, you know I said you needed a governess.”
“Papa did say that, miss. He said my governess would keelhaul me if I disobeyed her commands.”
“Wha—no, I did not say that!” He glanced around the deck for rescue. “Mr. Fuller! Is the cabin ready for Miss Burke?"

--The Pirate's Secret Baby

How are you celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Amber Quill Press is offering all my pirate themed ebooks at 50%, including The Pirate's Secret Baby. It's time to stock your ereader and channel your inner pirate!

I'm celebrating by re-reading Treasure Island, of course.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pirates! Romance! Pizza!

I'll be at Satchel's Pizza (1800 NE 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL) tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for Author's Night, celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day with copies of The Pirate's Secret Baby and other piratical novels.

Come for the pirates, stay for the pizza!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Review--Alias Hook

Alias HookAlias Hook by Lisa Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I never liked the Peter Pan story. It started when I saw Mary Martin flying on wires on TV, and thought to my 6 yr. old self, "That's a lady, not a boy!" It was downhill from there.

The blatant sexism of the book, the cruelty practiced by little boys who don't grow up with a moral compass, luring children away from those who love them...frankly, no one in that tale interested me (well, maybe the crocodile), except for the one truly adult figure.

Captain Hook.

Sure, he was a total villain, but he was interesting. He was flamboyant, he was a leader, he was devious and cunning, he was a pirate captain! What's not to like?

Lisa Jensen brings James Hook to life in a way that's marvelous for me as a reader, and as a feminist. When a drunk woman washes ashore in Neverland, it's Captain Hook who takes responsibility for her, because adult women are too threatening to Peter's boys.

Stella Parrish isn't a "wendy", a sexless little girl brought to Neverland to be a pretend mommy to the lost boys, to do the scut work and adore Peter. Stella's survived WWII, lost her husband and child, had a career, drinks too much on occasion and doesn't have a sylphlike-figure. She's a woman, not a little girl, and she wants to escape Neverland.

Stella and James' journey of self-discovery and redemption and adulthood is beautifully handled by Jensen, who takes a familiar tale and makes the reader see it, and analyze it, in a whole new way. This is a bedtime story for grown-ups, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


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Saturday, September 13, 2014

"What so proudly we hailed..."



“You underestimate the will of the American people, Doctor.”
He poked his finger in the air for emphasis. “When you push us,
we push back. Hard. John Bull cannot bully America into
surrendering now any more than you could forty years ago. Have
you already forgotten the lesson of Fort McHenry?”
He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper,
much folded and creased.
“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from
home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, Doctor, titled
‘The Defence of Fort McHenry.’ Look here—‘the land of the free
and the home of the brave.’ That’s America, Charley! I won’t ask
you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have
a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune.
Charley listened, her head cocked to the side.
“I know that tune—I heard it in the inn where I waited to board
the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven,’ is it not? I recall the
people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed
miserably.”
“Maybe it’s a song best attempted while drinking for the full
effect. But I’m told it is now popular in Baltimore with lyrics
based on Mr. Key’s poem—‘And the rockets’ red glare…’”
Charley snickered as his voice strained through the notes.
"That tune will never catch on, Captain. Certainly not the way you sing!
Best you stick to sailing your ship.”
--Sea Change 

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. McHenry where an attorney named Francis Scott Key was negotiating the release of American prisoners from the British. He wasn't allowed to leave the British ship in Baltimore Harbor while the battle raged, and he watched through the night, inspired to write a poem about the events he'd witnessed during the bombardment.

The rest, as they say, is history. We sometimes joke about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the difficulty of hitting the high notes, but there's no song in America that evokes the same mixture of patriotism and memory.  It is fitting that we salute our national anthem on its bicentennial, and raise a glass in salute to Mr. Key, the defenders of Ft. McHenry, and the Star Spangled Banner.