My own personal book club (#MFRWAuthor)


This week’s blog topic is what five authors dead or alive I’d like to meet.

The first is easy. I’d love hanging out with Janet Evanovich. I have read all of her Plum novels and belly-laughed at every one. Imagine sitting down with her over a glass or three of wine and finding out if Ranger is based on a real person. She lives only a couple hours away from me, so this can easily be arranged if you’re listening, Janet.

My next choice is Eloisa James. What fun it would be to talk about how her university students react to her as both a Shakespearean scholar and a romance author. I was an adjunct professor briefly myself, and I’m sure we’d have lots of stories to share.

That brings me to number three. Shakespeare himself. Am I stretching the rules to include a playwright? If so, I don’t care. How brilliant he was to have written so much that is just as valid today as it was centuries ago. What a wit, and what a student of human nature.

Since I’m rule-bending, for number four I’d pick Stephen Sondheim. I love his music, largely because of his erudite lyrics filled with astonishing rhymes. “What makes him look reptilian is the brilliantine.” C’mon. Who wouldn’t want to have written that line?

Number five? This one is tougher. Do I go with perennial favorites Louisa May Alcott or Charlotte Bronte? The indefatigable Nora? Nah. I think I’ll go with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have probably read and enjoyed all of her books. Her football player heroes are yummy yet down to earth.

I think I’m seeing a pattern here…

Read about which authors others have chosen here.


A Gentleman Never Tells book review


As I have said before, I never met an Eloisa James book I didn’t like. This one is novella length, and since I just published a novella of my own, I was particularly interested to see how she handled this form.

As one would expect with a shorter story, the plot isn’t too complicated. But because it is James, it has a few quirks. The heroine, although a widow, is still a virgin. And the hero as a young man was somewhat of a bully.

The bullying led to a happy result for the victims. As we have seen all too often, that is rarely the case in real life. But this is a romance after all, not a sociological treatise. Somehow all’s well that ends well, as Shakespearean professor James might say.

Just like croquet, this is a perfect amusement for a summer afternoon.






My American Duchess book review


My American Duchess

By: Eloisa James

Releasing January 26, 2016

Have I mentioned that Eloisa James is my favorite author? I thoroughly enjoyed her latest (as expected) and nearly read it in one sitting.

Bostonian Merry tries, she really does, to act like an English lady. Unfortunately, her breezy American personality keeps getting in the way. She’s tarnished her reputation by breaking two engagements and intends the third time to be the charm. Then she meets the brother of fiancé number three. He is, of course, a Duke and should be the least tolerant of her frequent faux pas. But he can’t help but be charmed by someone who isn’t cowed by his duke-ishness.

The getting married part is pretty easily accomplished. It’s the falling in love part that presents some sticky wickets.

Readers will be as taken by Merry as the Duke is. Trent, aka Jack, is equally appealing. Any man who will cheerfully put up with your relatives is a keeper.

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The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford— an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.

 Link to Follow Tour:


Author Info

A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at


A large hand curled around her waist, neatly spinning her about and bringing her up against him.

Sensations skittered through her at the press of a hard male chest against hers. Miss Fairfax would have been appalled. Yet rather than pull away, Merry froze, looking up at him with her heart pounding in her ears.

“Who groped you?” he demanded.

“Who had made you so angry before you came onto the balcony?” she countered. What—or who—on earth would make a man like this so enraged?

“My fool of a brother. And now I’d like to you to answer my question.”

She had already forgotten what he had asked. His gaze was so intense that she felt confused and flushed. She would never allow a man—a complete stranger—to kiss her, if that’s what he was contemplating.

“What was your question?” she asked, wincing inwardly when her voice came out as breathless as a siren’s.

“Who groped you?” he repeated.

He had that warrior look in his eyes that Merry found absurdly compelling. She came out with the truth before she could think better of it. “Lord Malmsbury…Lord Malmsbury lets his hands stray where they shouldn’t.”

“Stay away from him,” he ordered, scowling.

“I appreciate your concern,” Merry said with dignity as she pulled free and stepped back, “but there’s no call to order me about. I have already decided to avoid his lordship—not that he has shown the slightest inclination to deepen our acquaintance, thanks to my hatpin.”

“Between your weapon and his boils, I doubt he will risk further encounters.” His smile reappeared. “I trust that after we are formally introduced, I may request a dance, if I promise not to grope you.”

It occurred to Merry that she would rather like to be groped by this man. It was a appalling realization. She was betrothed.

He executed a perfect bow.

She dropped a curtsy, and this time did Miss Fairfax’s instruction proud, nearly grazing the ground with her knee.

Merry walked back into the ballroom without looking back; no matter what her governess thought, she possessed self-control. Plenty of it.

She had almost reached the other side of the room before she turned her head and looked back.

He was nowhere in sight.

She took a seat along the wall and gave herself a good talking-to. What on earth was she thinking? Was she truly as fickle as the gossips back home believed? She may have made mistakes choosing her first two fiancés, but she had never been truly capricious.

She had truly believed that she was in love with both Bertie and Dermot. She had never flirted with a man while betrothed to another.

Not that she had precisely flirted with this man.

All right, she had flirted.

Merry groaned silently. Why hadn’t she slapped him when he caught around her waist, or at the least announced her status as a soon-to-be married woman? Instead, she had just looked up at him like a silly widgeon waiting to be kissed.


Four Nights with the Duke review

It cannot be said too often that I am a huge fan of Eloisa James. She is just so darn smart. Her latest novel Four Nights with the Duke is a delight.

As she often does, Ms. James sneaks in English literature references. See if you recognize the one on page three. This time, she also gives a sly shout out to fellow authors Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. The heroine, Mia, is herself a romance novelist, and it was great fun to see the progression of her writing as her own story unfolded.

The dialogue between Mia and Vander, her duke, sparkles. Vander’s perpetually inebriated uncle and Mia’s nephew are wonderfully drawn characters. Even the duke’s horse has a “winning” personality.

Poor Mia has no idea that the figure she considers dumpy and unappealing has quite the opposite effect on men. Vander, on the other hand, is quite confident about his own charms. He foresees no problem in insisting Mia will have to beg him for those precious four nights of the title, but what she wants is a marriage of convenience only.  At least with him. She needs his name, but she hasn’t forgiven him for making fun of her and her literary pretensions years before.

Mia is the eighth of James’ desperate duchesses. I can’t wait for the ninth.


Author envy

It bears repeating that if I could be someone else, that person would be Eloisa James. Let me count the ways I am pea green over her life.

First, she writes the most delightful romance novels. I, on the other hand, start writing them but never finish.

Second, she is a college professor-tenured, mind you-of English literature, specifically Shakespeare.

Third, she is married to an Italian knight (I am not making this up) who is also a professor, and she and her family  frequently visit his mother in Tuscany. Tuscany. Sigh.

Fourth, she spent a year living in Paris and wrote a book about that experience. She’s currently spending a year in London, visiting the Globe Theater and other literary landmarks, and will no doubt write another successful book.

I really hope I don’t develop a head like a dog for these feelings…

From the Wikipedia entry on the Seven Deadly Sins:

Arch in the nave with a gothic fresco from 1511 of a man with a dog-head, which symbolizes envy (Dalbyneder Church (da), Denmark)

Three Weeks with Lady X

If you are annoyed by superlatives, best stop reading now.

If I could wave a magic wand over my own head and become someone else for a day or two, that person would surely be Eloisa James. I just finished Three Weeks with Lady X and enjoyed it so much I wish it had been twice as long. And I wish I had written it.

As an English major, I am tickled when Eloisa (forgive me for the informality) betrays her other life as a college English professor ever so subtly here and there. She leads off with a Jane Austen reference and slips in a phrase from Prufrock later on. But non-English majors needn’t fret. You will “get” the story even if you miss the allusions.

Eloisa must have taken a few psych classes in her academic career too, for she reveals skillfully how even the most blessed in looks or position can feel unworthy of being loved.

The correspondence between the interior dcorating heroine and the factory owner hero is delightful. The wise beyond her years child who becomes the hero’s ward is an absolute charmer. Let’s hope we pick up her story in a subsequent book.

three weeks

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.