Appearances can be deceiving

Between the Devil ans Ian /eversea

When American Tansy, or should I say Ti.., oh, never mind, arrives in England, all sorts of unexpected things happen. She brings out the soft side in a most intimidating Duke, strikes up unlikely friendships with the cook and a local barmaid, and blasts an innocent apple to smithereens. Beneath the angelic facade, she’s a survivor.

Ian is a survivor too, of a bayonet, a run-in with said Duke, and  more meaningless romances than he can count.

Julie Anne Long’ s Between the Devil and Ian Eversea let’s us peek into the minds of this twosome as they find out just how much alike they are. The inner monologues are amusing as well as revealing.

This book is part of the Pennyroyal Green series. It stands alone just fine but certainly makes you want to read more about this entertaining village and its other characters.

Follies Past



When I was asked to review Melanie Kerr’s Follies Past, I agreed readily. The novel is termed a prequel to Pride & Prejudice, and who doesn’t love Pride & Prejudice? I was not to be disappointed.

Melanie’s writing is stylistically on the money. She knows this time period well.

She knows the familiar characters well too. None of the Bennetts make an appearance, but Darcy is present. So are Bingley and Wickham, and very true to how Austen created them.  We see the indomitable Lady Catherine de Bourgh and finally find out what is behind her daughter Anne’s silence.

Two subplots give us more information about Caroline Bingley and Georgiana Darcy. The latter introduces a new and charming character who is Georgiana’s dear friend and who plays a big part in averting the scandal that almost overtakes her.

Fans of Austen will delight in this book as much as I did, and even those not familiar with Pride & Prejudice will find a book that stands on its own mertis.


Sibling rivalry in the Highlands

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lynsay Sands’ An English Bride in Scotland. The heroine, Annabel, saved from taking final vows in order to marry a brawny Scotsman, is as sweet as one would expect an almost nun to be. But she is also funny and enormously appealing. Godly she may be, but that doesn’t stop her from physically or verbally defending herself or those she loves.

Her hero, Ross, was supposed to marry Annabel’s older sister. When said sister, Kate, appears on his doorstep, he is ever so grateful that things worked out the way they did. The same cannot be said for Kate.  She is as obnoxious as Annabel is charming.

The supporting cast are equally well drawn. They are believable though they tend to be at one or the other end of the nice-not nice spectrum.  Not much gray area here, and that’s okay.

Listening and learning from the best


I had the very great pleasure of hearing Eloisa James and Julia Quinn speak this afternoon at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. The ladies seem to be good friends and have collaborated more than once on books but were quite different from each other.

Julia is the more outgoing of the two. In answering questions from the audience, she generally went first in answering and was careful to repeat the question since those asking didn’t have microphones. Eloisa is slower to answer and a bit more thoughtful as befits her other job as a professor of Shakespeare.

Eloisa’s yet-to-be-officially-released book, Three Weeks with Lady X, was available at the festival, so the romance readers of Fort Myers got a present.

Asked why they began writing, Julia said it was because she loves to read. Eloisa was more practical. She had student loans to pay back and wanted to have a second child. That child, a daughter, is now 15 and into black nail polish. Julia’s 13 year old daughter is “angelic” by caomparison, Eloisa said.

Eloisa said both ladies are rather slow writers and claimed not to be as dsiciplined as she could be. She has been known to take a lengthy time off between books and sometimes even while in the middle of writing a book.

The ladies take a different approach to editing their work. Julia edits as she goes along. She has been with the same publisher and editor since her first book in 1994.

Eloisa says her editor is “intrinsic” to her process. She says editing is painful, but she welcomes it. In fact, she switched editors because her first editor wasn’t editing her enough, she felt. Her current editor recently cut 100 pages from her manuscript in progress.

Another question concerned the inclusion of modern issues such as PTSD or alcoholism in historical settings. Julia, married to an infectious disease specialist, calls herself a science geek. Eloisa tends to incorporate conditions that people she knows personally have grappled with.

The ladies agreed that in order to sell a novel to a NY publishing house, an author must have a literary agent. The exception to that is Harlequin.

Eloisa and Julia were scheduled for only 45 minutes, but those in the audience left wanting more.

An exam you can’t study for

Amanda Aksel gave me an advance copy of her novel The Man Test to review. While I do read contemporary fiction, I generally stay within the realm of romance. But a change of genre is sometimes a good thing. Amanda’s book is what I would call chick lit. Think Bridget Jones, but set in urban San Francisco instead of London.

The heroine, Marin, although wronged by her boyfriend, didn’t start out as a very sympathetic character. She is self-absorbed and self-righteous. You’d much rather hang out with her friends or coworkers.

But, like any good protagonist, she embarks on a journey. In arriving at the destination, she grows and changes. For the better.

If relationships between men and women mystify you sometimes, and who among us doesn’t fit in that category, you’ll find food for thought here.