Friday, September 25, 2015


you guys have to forgive me

1.) I had an editorial deadline
2.) during the busiest few weeks of my work year
3.) then I went to San Antonio!  and Dallas!

But I have also been reading! mostly on the subway and at lunch breaks


The Martian by Andy Weir:  this book was fast-paced, hilarious and something I wouldn't usually read. But, I saw the film at TIFF and the narrative was so warm and engaging and I read that it was a close adaptation of the novel.  Really engaging and one of the most unique narrative journeys I have had.  Regardless of setting or world, that is really something that every author strives for.

Season of Salt and Honey Hannah Tunnicliffe This is a quiet, ruminative piece laced with recipes and melancholy.  The prose is lyrical and slow moving but very atmospheric.  A touch of Sarah Addison Allen with the careful plotting of De Los Santos, this is a trajectory of grief with just the right amount of hope  (Thanks, Netgalley)

The Mistress of Tall Acre: Laura Frantz creates a compelling world set in post-revolutionary America with a gorgeous love story borne of convenience and riddled with the past.   Frantz is in her niche here, exploring the fortitude of the early country and drawing on her vast historical knowledge.   I invested in this relationship 110% (Thanks, Netgalley)

What to Do with a Duke: Sally Mackenzie  This was a clever, crafty regency with a spirited heroine and a dishy hero both blessed with the gift of banter. There is a fairytale element to it which really captured me and there is a hefty bit of the spirit of Heyer's Venetia (thanks, Netgalley)

White Collar Girl: Renee Rosen   Did you like The Best of Everything? you're welcome
(thanks, Netgalley)

The Replacement Wife: Rowena Wiseman   Did you like The Rosie Project? You're welcome.

i had always wanted to go to the ALAMO! and here i am! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told

Let's get one thing out of the way, I don't care about the plot of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The POstables could be returning a stuffed kitten to a toddler and the biggest mystery could be regarding loss of lunch money and I wouldn't care.

SSD works because it recognizes what it is: a heart-felt and genuine character-driven show.  I am a character-driven person. It's how I choose what books to read, it's how I choose what books to write.  Thus, I will never pitch this cozy Hallmark series to anyone for its fast-plot or intricate mysteries.

SSD is a well-painted world crafted with an ensemble of the most likeable people you will find on television.

Here, two mysteries occupy the characters at the Dead Letter Office.  First, a burned and nearly unrecognizable letter that could be from anyone addressed to anywhere ( it ends up having to do with a now-teenaged daughter of an Iraqi war heroine). The second, the re-appearance of Oliver O'Toole's estranged father and his very-near-after reported death.

The central characters meet each mystery head-on while grappling with their personal feelings.  There are lovely moments between Norman and Rita who, if you remember, finally had a first kiss and finally revealed their feelings for each other in SSD: From Paris with Love.  There are heart-wrenchingly fuzzy and warm scenes between gorgeous Shane and Oliver.  We last left them on a porch swing at her house and lovely old-fashioned Oliver just can't get around to throwing his arms around her and finally telling her she makes his world orbit!

GAH! So wonderful.

copyright : hallmark 

Signed Sealed Delivered  is my happy place. I literally cannot have a bad thought or worry running through my head as I step into its world for a well-deserved hour and a half.  It is expert characterization with solid morality and is underpinned by a strong Christian worldview that is quite blatant by today's standards.

And I am going to marry Oliver O'Toole. He is my perfect man.  I have said it before, I have said it again, he basically waltzed--suspenders, arm-bands and all, into my life with his antique letter openers and old-fashioned chivalry.

be mine, Oliver

My thanks to our friends at Grace Hill Media for providing this Canadian with a screening copy ( because they don't show them here! BUT I WILL ALWAYS BUY THE DVDS) :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Film Review: the Martian

I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new Ridley Scott film The Martian at TIFF today.

Apparently, they made Roy Thomson Hall 3D compatible especially for this film and I am glad they did! The usual acoustics at the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were, as per usual astounding, and the 3D experience was thrilling.

Based on the bestselling ( and originally self-published ) book by Andy Weir, The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is accidentally left behind on Mars during an emergency evacuation.

Fortunately, he is very, very smart and turns the crew's Hab into a fortress of solitude and survival.

Now, I should begin by saying this is not really my type of film. I am not huge into Science Fiction and Space freaks me out so much I haven't watched Gravity yet. But, this was a light and compelling narrative and Damon's amiable presence and near-daily video log entries are peppered with warmth and humour.

I told my friend as the credits rolled that very few actors could pull this off: make 75% of alone screen time bearable with a genius that never borders on cocky, a staid and salt-of-the-earth manner and a good sense of humour. To add, resourcefulness.

For the first several of Mark's sols ( Mars days) he is alone figuring out how to survive: counting out the rations he has, learning how to cultivate land in an infertile ground so he can grow potatoes and secure food while he waits for the next Mars mission four years ahead.

Fortunately, back at NASA control, life on Mars is detected and some neat science-y stuff allows Mark to touch base with their headquarters.  He literally has the smartest people in the world using their gizmos and gadgets and astro-physics and nerdy aplomb to figure out how to either get supplies to him or re-route the craft, the Hermes, with the crew that unintentionally left him behind, to swoosh past Mars and pick him up and bring him home.

This is a film populated with really likeable people. To add, it is a film that never really relies on the BIG EVERYTHING THAT MUST GO WRONG WILL moments. It chooses its tension wisely and I have to confess to experience some genuine white-knuckle moments.  This is all thanks to Damon's performance, though. He is such a likeable figure you cannot help but wish him home safe and sound.

A unique and ultra-compelling narrative driven by a stellar lead performance (and backed by a soundtrack of disco, of all things), The Martian is a survival film that never borders on existential brooding. Instead, it is full of heart and humour, light and the human will to survive.

I loved this popcorn thriller and think you all will, too! The cinematography is amazing!  And while I thoroughly don't Speak Science, I was pretty impressed at how Mark and his astronaut friends on earth and in space figured out how to launch a one-man-rescue amidst the stars.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Gush: The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden

“The work boyfriend. A curious relationship somewhere between pal and crush.”

Imagine a chicklit novel where you legitimately cannot predict what will happen at the end.    Even the most intelligent and edgy ones, at core, follow a pretty concrete pattern.

What set The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden apart for me was having absolutely no clue what the ultimate relationship end for our narrator Kelly was going to be.

A love letter to Toronto, the midpoint in the previous decade and to the crazy over-thinking lengths we go to to evaluate our love lives, McFadden paints a vulnerable and at times bleak portrait of a young woman, good at heart, who would rather crumble her world of her own volition than let anyone else take control.

Kelly and Rob have been together for years. Rob is pretty much the perfect solid boyfriend, if somewhat boring.  The sex is boring, his parents’ rich holiday soirees are boring and their relationship is like a comfy pair of sweatpants: you super want to crawl into them at the end of the day but sometimes you just want to pull on that new pair of skinny jeans, no matter how restrictive.

At work, Kelly is drawn to Garrett: earbuds draped around his neck, a rainbow of eclectic t-shirts, a smile and floppy hair that cause her stomach to flip each time he passes her cubicle.  Garrett and Kelly are good friends—within the sphere of work--- and both have a sizzling chemistry that the reader knows should probably stay bottled at the office or the neighbourhood pub when surrounded by other coworkers.

The timespan of the novel is tight: two weeks give or take around the Christmas Holidays.  But, Kelly’s mental span is quite realistically elastic: a trampoline that bounces back and forth from College and the Bad Boy Christian to the present where she thinks.about.Garrett.all.the.time.

I wanted to not relate to Kelly as much as I did.  She screws up. She throws in the towel in moments she could fight and she seems to think that there is some virtue in making poor decisions or not letting good things happen to her.  Her decisions have consequences and not once is she clutzy in the typical chicklit fashion. She’s messed up while navigating a realm of romantic possibility.  This is what separates McFadden from the pastel-coloured fun of Sophie Kinsella, her narrative voice and warmth what keep her from falling into the trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy work of Catherine McKenzie.   A bit Nick Hornby, a bit Rainbow Rowell,  McFadden has an inimitable voice that is rambly and believable, full of stream of consciousness backstory that remarkably doesn’t make you want to throw things.   The thinking person’s chicklit. And you will relate.  You will relate to Kelly expressing, frustrated: “ I want to want to marry him. I want to want to have kids. I want to want all of it, deep down, there’s a quagmire of doubt about everything. I can’t put my finger on it.”

It’s like Kelly is inviting you to move in her brain for a stint in a sort of Pixar Inside Out  way.

There are some truly beautiful moments in the book.  This lyrical and brave book that is deceptively readable but really super thought-provoking.

“A stillness descended upon the table, like how a snowfall quiets a forest.”

And, one of my favourite sequences from any book of the past year. Because this *gets* me

That feeling you get when you’re in the airport limo driving back down into  the city and you see the skyline—the CN Tower, the condos that litter the lakeshore, the familiar bumps of the Gardiner Expressway—and then, no matter how much fun you had while you were away[ …] that warmth spreads through in the back of the car ---that was what I imagined being married, living with someone for eternity, felt like.

“Winter allowed the city a moment to hold still for the holidays and let people tuck in nice and warm. The streets were quiet, dampened by the snow. Before the snowplows, before anyone shoveled, before pets had to be walked, the sidewalks were crisp, crunchy even.”

“The air might stop at nothing to freeze your lungs mid-breath, but I’d never wanted to live anywhere else.

The CN Tower refused to blink. The stars paused. The air dropped even lower in temperature.”

“Love is tricky. But now that I know I can stand on my own two feet….”

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hamlet: The Ultra-Condensed Version

Mel and I went to Stratford on Saturday for a fun double-header of Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew.

I give you, for your enjoyment, Hamlet: Abridged

Guards: GHOST!

Horatio:  How now, guards! Was that a ghost I saw?


Guards and Horatio: Good Lord this is terrifying

[meanwhile at a wedding party]

Claudius: blah blah blah royal duty blah blah
Gertrude: giggle
Hamlet:  I am going to stand here like a statue and curse all women for being as fickle as my mother who but a month after the death of my father is marrying this lout.
Claudius: come Hamlet! Stop standing all aloof like Darcy at a country dance, join us and we shall all kiss
Hamlet: *rolls eyes*

[First of many existential soliloquies]
[amidst the growing tension of a faraway random geographically-implausible war between England, Poland, Norway and Denmark]

Polonius: now Laertes, before you off for France, let me tell you and your fair virginal sister Ophelia some nuggets of wisdom.
*does so, loquaciously*

Ophelia: I think I am in love with Lord Hamlet
*twists daisy chain*

So you see, Ophelia, I thought we had a future; but it turns out I prefer Horatio and also I am playing mad.

Horatio: Hamlet, you gotta come see this ghost who looks like your dead dad
Hamlet: *existential moanings of woe*

*Hamlet, Horatio and Guards chase ghost*

Ghost: Hamlet, my son, I have not come to weird you out. Rather, to tell you your douchebag uncle Claudius put poison in my ear and killed me to get your mom.  Please avenge my death.

*Hamlet wallows loquaciously in a  murky haze of indecision, fake madness and existential soliloquies of which here are some highlights*:

Polonius: I know what is troubling you, young man. Love for my daughter.
Hamlet: words words words. Buzz buzz buzz

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern : you be a little weird, yo
Hamlet: Hawk and a handsaw!

Ophelia: oh lord Hamlet, I do take your madness harshly; perchance because we have done the deed and according to my later suicidal presentation of flowers, many symbolizing abortive powers, you may have knocked me up
Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery

PLAYERS: we have come to play! And entertain!  Perchance to help you forget the looming English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish conflict that plays off stage left throughout this whole thing.
Hamlet: Can you guys do Murder of Gonzago? Except, I will totally write a few extra lines?
PLAYERS: we see nothing odd about this at all. Totally fine with this.

[more existential Hamlet soliloquies]

PLAYERS: *reenact death of Hamlet’s father what with poison and such*
Claudius: I’ll be damned. They're on to me

[Hamlet: more existential soliloquies and indecision and inaction]

Gertrude: son Hamlet, why do you hate me so?
Hamlet: You’re totally shacking up with my murderous uncle.  *Kills Polonius accidentally*

Claudius: we shall send Hamlet away to England hope he dies
Audience: but isn't England one of the countries in this implausible war?
Shakespeare:  the political and military stuff isn't supposed to make sense here, you guys. If you want all that, go see one of the Henrys. 

Ophelia: woe! My father is dead. I have lost my mind. I might be pregnant. In fact, in this Stratford production I am!

Laertes: Behold! I return from France.  WTF! My dad’s dead and my sister is looney. What did you guys do?

Claudius *cough* Hamlet *cough*

[Ophelia:drowns herself after talking a lot about flowers ]

Gertrude: *proceeds to describe in great detail how Ophelia died leaving everyone to ponder why no one inevitably watching this slow and easy to recount in great detail death, didn’t go and save her*

Laertes: REVENGE!!!!

[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead]

Hamlet: Horatio! LOOK! I am back from England! I was almost killed and drowned and stuff. Let’s take a detour by the graveyard

[gravedigger. Skull. Yorick.]
[Ophelia funeral]

Claudius: I have an idea, Laertes.  Let’s poison Hamlet in a made-up fencing tournament.  You will nick him with your sword. And if that doesn’t kill him we’ll have a goblet of poisoned wine as a backup.
Laertes: sure!

Hamlet: the readiness is all!
Audience: can you please die so we don't have to have another soliloquy?

Hamlet and Laertes *fence fence fence*
 Cladius: drink from this goblet, Hamlet, you look thirsty.
Hamlet: meh!
Gertrude: mmm wine. Gimme *drinks and dies*
Claudius: *dies*
Laertes: *dies*
Hamlet *dies*
Fortinbras: Ummm, okay. I think I showed up at the wrong time! I am part of the plot involving the English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish war.
Horatio: *sniffing* I forgot about that
Fortinbras: No worries. I think everyone did. Hamlet looks like a nice guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. LET US BURY HIM AS A SOLDIER

The end.

this is basically a love story between these two 

Thursday, September 03, 2015


The Life of Rachel:

Day job: insane
After-school job (the writing novels thing): insane with edits

but !   Look! We have pretty covers.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder releases March 2016

A Singular and Whimsical Problem Dec 2015 (it's an e-only novella introducing you to Jem and Merinda and crew)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Things I am Totally Into Right Now

Tommy and Tuppence ( Partners in Crime)
Guys! Guys! I am not a huge Agatha Christie fan across the board, but I love these two. Unlike the 1980s series which was totally 1920s flapper glam,  this reboot is set in the 1950s and it makes it even more wonderful when Tuppence thwarts domesticity for a life of crime-solving.  I love the chemistry between Tommy and Tuppence who are a settled married couple but have such a penchant for thrill-seeking it jolts something back into their obvious chemistry.  I also enjoy how their little boy is always conveniently away and how they sneak into people's things in pursuit of their mysteries and get caught and have lame cover stories and no one cares.  Love.

I saw this touring production in Boston and then twice now in Toronto and Dan DeLuca( as well as having a favourite close-to-my-heart surname) is just astounding as the leader of the strike, Jack Kelly. I went with some people yesterday and told them that Newsies excels at revitalizing the old fashioned type of broadway that is reliant on singing and dancing and not on special effects and rock ballads.   The kids are amazing on stage, there is a fabulous feminist lead and the voices are exceptional. The choreography incorporates every type of dance from acrobatic to ballet to tap.  I am just thrilled at how much verve it has.  See it if it is coming to your city ( don't worry, it is much better than the film. It works better on stage)

I also think if people have kids this is a great way to introduce them to a major point in children's justice and history but also to ignite a discussion on social justice.


I  could talk about the Shaw Festival's production forever and wanted to do a full blown review but realized I don't have the time this week what with edits and my real job.  So, here you are going to get the overview.   Settled in gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival is a favourite summer stop about two hours out of Toronto.  My friend Mel and I went and had a blast.  Here, they have kept the dialogue the same and stayed cherished and true to the original work but transposed it to the 21st Century.  All the way through, I was delightedly thinking:  How Does Pymalion Work Now? But it does.  Save for when Eliza complains about not being able to find a role outside of marriage as Higgin has made her fit for nothing.  

Speaking of Higgins,  Patrick McManus made it his own. I have seen several incarnations of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and a lot of it is the same old, same old ( the delightfully same old because I friggin' love it).  But, McManus updated the character, made him boyish and infused quite a lot of physicality.  The sets were amazing. Eliza was amazing. It just worked very well.    There is an entire re-invention fashion motif,  there is a set-change video from the BBC talking about the new class ( which blends well with Alfie Doolittle's long -drawn-out treatises on Middle Class Morality). It proves that Shaw's humour and relevance are century agnostic.

Emma Approved
After a long week at a work conference, I vegged out Friday night and binge-watched this youtube serial.  I have never seen Lizzie Bennett Diaries but I really enjoyed this. It worked well. The Knightley was adorable and it is cozy marshmallow-hot-chocolate viewing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Gush!!!! : Sebastien de Castell and Kate Griffin

If you are like: I wish I could find the Musketeers as retold by Scott Lynch then I have this series for you.

Confession: it’s hard to make me laugh in books.  You won’t usually find my laughing at the spirited antics of some contemporary romance where the heroine has toilet paper stuck to her shoe.  I’m not into that.   I am, however, a sucker for cerebral sarcasm and a winning, irreverent voice.    

‘Goodnight Lord Tremondi,’ I said. ‘You weren’t an especially good employer. You lied a lot and you never paid us when you promised. But, I guess that’s all right, since we turned out to be pretty useless bodyguards”

I WAS LAUGHING ON THE FIRST PAGE !   Falcio and his Greatcoat friends are outcasts, outliers and completely obsolete but they need to save the day anyways.

“My name is Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Great Coats and this was only the first of a great many bad days to come!”  de Castell tugs you into his web and entangles you there.

Lest you think it is all fun and swashbuckling hijinks, it is not.   Indeed, there is a pensive and sad undertone with a perfectly realized world developed with injustice, pain and sorrow.

“It is an odd sort of bluish colour, and you would call it bright at first, but then as you looked on it further, you’d find yourself adding words like oily and runny-looking and finally sort of disturbing.”

de Castell has a way with words that is equally surprising and winsome, cunning and smart.   His prose literally snaps up from the page and sparks you in the eye like the moment you toss an extra log on a campfire and flits of ember flick a little extra smoke.

There’s a great deal of screaming in this story. Best get used to it now.

I think I was attacked once or twice, but I couldn’t afford the delay so I killed them and moved on.

I just love them.  The first two books  The Traitor's Blade  and Knight''s Shadow are available now.

I received Knight's Shadow for review from the publisher 

And, if you are like: I kinda want Sally Lockhart but I would prefer a more interesting guy sidekick (maybe a gay Italian with a half-scarred face) and more cross-dressing and opium addiction then you will love Kitty Peck. I read The Music Hall Murders and the Child of Ill-Fortune back to back last week. I had trouble putting them down.  [note: these books are super inexpensive on kindle]

You guys all know I love Victoriana and surprising poems and the dark, creaky shadow-drenched streets of London illuminated with surprising prose.   Kate Griffin pulled me in immediately.

“She was dressed in a black embroidered gown that gaped wide at the neck revealing a throat that was strung like a broken violin.”

Really vivid imagery, a perfect Cockney-vernacular which sets brilliantly well in the first person narrative.  Kitty is at times infuriating and vulnerable, strong and sly.   A different kind of lady detective in stories that defy genre.

“Lady Ginger’s words were like something noxious coughed up by a pampered cat. One minute it’s purring and curled up neat on your lap, next it’s hawking out a half-digested rat head.”

“he coated my name with a greasy slick of insolence”

And as much as I love Kitty, I love Lucca!  Smart, cultured Lucca who maintains pride and vanity despite the treacherous accident that marred half of his beautiful face.  I love how a few Italian words and phrases erupt now and then. 

“I’d seen the truth of that picture, but Lucca, now , it was like he could feel it all—every lash, every cut, every chain.”

It’s a very vivid and visceral and gritty world with dark motivations and the basest of human depravity.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Spotlight: the Great Estate

Title: The Great Estate
Author: Sherri Browning
Series: Thornbrook Park, #3
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
ISBN: 9781402286858

Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.

Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford…and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she’s determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love… before they’re lost to each other forever.

It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love…and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.

Sherri Browning writes historical and contemporary romance fiction, sometimes with a paranormal twist. She is the author of critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in western Massachusetts and Greater Detroit Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut. Find her online at


Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, the third in Sherri Browning’s Thornbrook Park series, The Great Estate, comes out this August! To celebrate her new release, Sherri’s agreed to answer some questions for us about herself and her career as an author.  

How do you approach the research in your novels in order to provide the lush and well-drawn settings in which you populate your characters.

I travel. I love visiting old estates that have been kept in their original condition. I recently went through the Frick Museum, former residence of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), with author Julia London in New York City. I like to read fiction written in the same time period I’m writing in to pick up some ideas of setting, like novels by E.M Forster or Edith Wharton. I also use Pinterest and Tumblr to find some pictures of location or period-specific clothes, art, and architecture.

An Excerpt:

Thornbrook Park. A warm wave of pride filled him at the sight as Dale drove them up the winding way. The chimneys appeared first over the crest of the hill, followed by the slate roof, and finally the rose stone facade. How could he have stayed away so long?  
 Sophia wouldn’t be expecting him. He planned to surprise her, perhaps persuade Finch not to even announce his return. He would simply appear at the dinner hour, dressed to the nines, and act as if he had been there the entire time. Darling, I believe the quail is cooked perfectly, but not quite the same as when I shoot it myself… No, it wouldn’t do. She hated it when he left her alone to go off hunting. He’d always known it, but he couldn’t seem to give it up. Old habits. In truth, he couldn’t wait to get his boots on, the good English ones he’d left behind, take up his rifle, and stomp off into the woods. His woods. Alas, there would be no more hunting. At least, not as frequently, and certainly not right away. Not until he was certain that he wouldn’t upset Sophia further. Not until she forgave him.
Perhaps he could suggest other activities that they could do together? His brow shot up. He knew just what activities he had in mind, but they would have to work up to that. Slowly. He meant to court her properly, one step at a time.
“Now, Dale, I don’t want a fuss,” he said. “It’s good to be home but no need for a celebration. I mean to slip in quietly.”

Buy Links:


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Spotlight: Tremaine's True Love by Grace Burrowes

Hi reader friends! I do love a good romance now and then! 

Grace Burrowes gives us insight into Tremaine's True Love as well as an excerpt from the book

What makes a man a gentleman?

For a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.

In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories—Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning—and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each hadsomething that tempted me to write stories for them.

When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.

The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.

Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.

Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.

Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.

In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.

In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters—Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah—I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Excerpt – Tremaine’s True Love

Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.

Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.

“Mr. St. Michael?”

Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.

“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”

“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”

“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?

She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.

“I was not expecting you, sir.”

“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”

She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.

“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.

“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”

Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.

Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.

“Will you marry me, my lady?”

More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.

The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”

“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”

A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.

“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”

“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.

“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”

This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.

She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.

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Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

BOOK GUSH! A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn


Not only is she one of the best authors to follow on social media and blog, she is a prime example of how to connect and engage with one's readership.

Oh! And she writes the sexiest most intelligent books in the stratosphere.

( read my Q and A with Deanna here )

I fell head over heels over her Lady Julia books and then, most recently, with her triad of adorable adventure romances that recalled Out of Africa, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, well, everything good thing (my book gush of City of Jasmine is here )  And now we have a new series to tempt readers of Julia and Brisbane who want something that stretches over books and allows us to settle in to a flint and tinder romance. Beginning with A Curious Beginning (releasing September)

Raybourn writes with a knowing wink and a smile and, here, she is back in Victorian London featuring the darling and bright Veronica Speedwell, a Victorian lady reminiscent of Amelia Peabody who loves to chase butterfly specimens across the exotic corners of several continents and can stay off any untoward advances with her hat pin. She keeps a small mouse named Chester tucked tightly to her as a mascot and she is brave and wonderful with an athletic form, a manner too bold for a spinster, and a life stretched with possibility when her guardian "aunt" passes away.

But there is intrigue! Mystery! Murder! Stolen identities! and even a Royal tinge of excitement and Veronica, alongside the growly and perfect Emerson-like Stoker (there's a lot of Elizabeth Peters in this series) into a whirlwind of corruption, danger and near death.

No one writes quite  like Deanna Raybourn: pairing a whip-smart sense of humour, paragraphs and conversations replete with verisimilitude with sensuality and intelligence.    Obviously, the sparks between our unlikely pair: Stoker the taxidermist with a high falutin' past and Veronica with the unintentional web of intrigue entrapping her corsets, bloomers and fashionable clothes, is palpable.  But Raybourn leads them through several verbal waltzes,  heated breaths and close quarters, without ever quite throwing them in each other's arms.   This is what kept me reading at a harried pace through hilarious scenes with a travelling circus ( seems like Stoker is also an expert knife thrower, amongst other things) to the alleys of London and the docks and filmy murk of the Thames.

The connection between the two is something that will clutch at your heart and catch in your throat, but Raybourn knows how to play her cards and keep you wanting just a little more.  This is chemistry and sexual tension at its finest: a marriage of minds, joining equals who keep the banter flying.

Hilarious and romantic and breathtaking at the same time.

An unconventional symphony that twists and sizzles in flying colours.  I cannot WAIT for the next Veronica Speedwell.

My thanks to the publisher for an e-galley.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Am Writing: Everything about Benny Citrone

As a reader, I love learning about the behind the scenes stuff of novels I love.  Especially when it comes to characters. I want to know what is going on in the mind of an author when they create my latest fictional book obsession. I google a lot. Interviews. Pinterest boards.

I would love to pepper Martha Grimes about Melrose Plant and ask Patrick O’Brian what he was thinking with Maturin (and where Maturin came from ). I would love to ask LM Montgomery about Barney Snaith.

I am currently working on the second Herringford and Watts book A Lesson in Love and Murder wherein I introduce Benfield Citrone.

Benny came about when I was butting my head against the wall with Jasper Forth. Jasper is a long time friend of the girls and, in his mind, a prospective love interest for Merinda whom he just adores.  But he wasn’t adding the spark I needed to the story and he wasn’t bringing out a zesty and challenging side of Merinda I needed him to.  He’s still essential to the story and I won’t let you know how his path ends, but for the purpose of the middle book I needed something other than Jasper.

Benny also came about as a counterbalance to Ray.  My Ray DeLuca ( who is the leading guy in Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is extremely problematic in book II and doesn’t spend as much time on page as in the first, though he remains a pivotal character and plot point.   I know some readers would love Ray but some wouldn’t be attracted to him.  I wanted to give prospective readers options. I don’t always fall for the most obvious character in a novel and I wanted to provide different types that reflected the major differences in Jem and Merinda.  Though best friends, Jem and Merinda would not be attracted to the same kind of man.   I wanted to have some prospect of romance because I love writing it and it makes the mysteries more fun (and gives them an extra slant for investment) and Ray just wasn’t cutting it in this book ( he really doesn’t.  *shakes head* he’s kinda clueless and I keep asking him:  do you REALLY want to do that? And he’s like, “dude. You made me up. I cannot be held responsible for my poor albeit good intentioned life choices)

Benny showed up and he was a mountie.  My dad is an RCMP chaplain and a long time collector of mountie memorabilia and history. It is a major part of my upbringing.  Merinda calls him Benny but his full name is Benfield Citrone.  Benfield is the middle name of Samuel Benfield Steele,  an RCMP officer renowned for taming the Yukon without use of a firearm.  Citrone is ( get this ) the surname of a client I used to work with at my day job and the name just stuck.   

I liked the idea of having a man who possessed the same deductive skill as Merinda but in a slightly different way.  Merinda is schooled in Sherlock Holmes and the guidebook of former Pinkerton M.C. Wheaton.   Benny is a tracker. He is remarkably observant but his skills were honed in the Yukon.  He is vibrant and perceptive and aware and has immediate chemistry with Merinda.

I needed to give Merinda an equal:   I do some neat things with Jasper but at this point in the series she could stomp him into submission.  The second book in my series thematically deals with anarchy and submission and I couldn’t have Merinda sway someone so easily. She has equal footing with Benny and part of their mutual attraction is borne of their butting heads.

Benny is in Toronto infiltrating an anarchist group in hopes of learning more about his missing cousin, Jonathan.  Jonathan may well be dead but Benny won’t rest until he has tracked every last clue to his cousin’s whereabouts: dead or alive.

I am having a lot of fun with him, especially as he takes on his own characteristics.  As a writer, I find I have a beginning outline and vague form and idea of a character but soon enough I’ll be tapping away and they begin to think and talk for themselves.  I have had more time with Jasper, Ray, Merinda and Jem so they have been their independent fully-formed entities for a long creative while,  Benny is fun to get to know.

My sister in law has a question for me any time I go out on a date and that is: Who Would Play Him in a Movie?

Benny is conventionally handsome except that he has had his nose broken in two places by a hockey puck. 

I think of actor Sam Reid ( but with brown eyes instead of blue )

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Which I write Elsewhere

Hi Team!

irrelevant hedgehog

It's been awhile!

It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to review every single book I read ( what with working on my second novel and all ) but I try to do a good job of keeping my Goodreads up to date! Often with little comments or squeals of glee. I encourage you to check out my reading log there.

Rachel's Goodreads 

And while you are there, feel free to add my first Herringford and Watts novella "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" to your shelf.

AND! you can also add the second full-length H and W novel "A Lesson in Love and Murder" to your shelf because my publisher was nice enough to put this on there ( even though I haven't quite written it all yet ;) )

(and seriously: I am working on Lesson in Love and Murder right now and you will all love Benfield Citrone --- my MOUNTIE! yes, I have a mountie.Also, a cameo by Emma Goldman. Also, a cameo by Teddy Roosevelt. Part of it is set in Chicago where my trouser-wearing lady detectives pit against anarchists ---with explosives! La! )

In other places:

On Novel Crossing, I wrote about reporters in CBA fiction ( something dear to my heart as I have one in my own special Ray)

I also interviewed Kate Breslin whose Not By Sight was fantabulous

For Breakpoint, I was able to write about the fab new film Testament of Youth  as well as review Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Q and A: Natasha Pulley

Readers, I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to gulp down The Watchmaker of Filigree Street over the course of Saturday. That's right, I read all day.  This is a keeper book. It is funny and fresh and wonderful. I laughed aloud and often when I wasn't sinking into its gorgeous language.

I was thrilled, too, when Natasha Pulley agreed to do a Q and A here!  Her voice is so special and she is an author that came out of nowhere for me and one that I will follow forever.    I loved her characters immediately!

[[A few snippets of imagery made me trip over how gorgeous they were:

"....the dark corridor to a door the far end under which firelight bled."

"Under the gas lamps mist pawed at the windows of the closed shops"

"The gold caught the ember-light and shone the colour of a human voice."

"Today the silence had a silver hem."

"...water mumbled in the pipes and there were steps and sudden bright thumps..."

"A prickling terseness started about halfway down his spine as if somebody had rested their fingertips gunshaped between the vertebrae there."

"...still dense over the river where it made skeleton ghosts of ships' masts and trapped the stale smell of the water"

"your science can save a man's life, but imagination makes it worth living."

(I could go on forever!   But, I won't) ]]

R: I lost my taste for every other book after reading Watchmaker. Your voice was something I had never encountered before. Do you just sit and write? Or are you a plotter?

I just sit and write. The book didn’t really have a plot at first, but then my editor sort of nudged me and said it might be a good idea if something actually happened.

R:There’s a lot going on in the story---some of it quite dark--- what with nationalism, racism and even terrorism! At times, it seemed to parallel our own world—even though set well over a century ago. How do you think the Victorian age and the “Steampunk” genre best help us confront some of the limitations and darkness of our contemporary time?

Historical fiction is a lot like a telescope. We learn history as a series of facts, unemotionally, and so we tend to think of it in a fairly detached, distant way. Fiction brings everything near again. But if you turn it round the other way and look through it backward, you can make very near things look distant. Very few modern problems are new — they just look new, because they’re closer than we usually see things. Putting them into historical fiction, and making them distant, can sometimes make it clearer what they actually are.

R: My head hurt just thinking of how brilliantly mapped out the entire plot was…not to mention the research from botany to science to watchmaking! The different timelines, the dates, the happenstances, and the events perfectly constructed by Keita Mori. How did you keep track and juggle all of this?

I should probably have kept a big chart, but I’m not that efficient; when I wrote, I tended to have bullet points at the start of new sections to remind me what had to go in and what it had to match up to later, but that’s quite an easy thing to do. A book looks like a linear document when you read it, but writing one, you can skip about from chapter three to chapter twenty without all the intervening stuff to make you forget.

R:I must tell you—I cannot remember highlighting a book so enthusiastically as I did The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It was at times heartbreaking and tense, yes, but also extremely funny. Do you have a personal favourite moment?

Yes. The moment Thaniel forget the music from the Foreign Office Ball, and the moment Mori forgets how to play it, is probably one of the oldest and most redrafted in the whole thing. I think I spent more time trying to get that right than I did on all the parts set in Japan.

R: absolutely adored the relationships between your characters. Sure, the development of Grace and Matsumoto and Mori and Thaniel could set us in mind of Philip Pullman and Doyle ( as two examples). Yet, they were all so unique and so organic. Were there concrete inspirations for your characters? Or, did they just develop naturally on their own?

Definitely there were concrete foundations for everything, only some of which I can remember. I watched a Japanese sci fi movie called Moon Child (it’s about vampires) in which one of the actors looks very like Mori, so I started blurring the two in my mind after that. I was also reading lots of Sherlock Holmes when I started writing it, and it always struck me as strange that although Watson is yanked always between his wife and Holmes at any given time, nobody ever really seems to get properly upset by any of it. I also read everything by Robin Hobb, who has a marvellous character called the Fool who knows the future. He’s a prophet in a far grander sense than Mori is, and he’s much stranger, but a lot of her stories hinge on how what he can do affects his relationships. That said, concrete foundations only go so far and I think the point at which a story really becomes yours is when you start building your own structure rather than looking at other people’s architecture; after point, the characters did develop by themselves.

R:Another note on character: I loved how there was no distinct line between good and bad and each character had moments where the reader questioned or even misunderstood. Here, I think of Grace. While I found it difficult reading about her reactive response to Mori, I empathized with my belief that she was doing what she thought was right. How did you set to achieve this balance?

Nineteenth century novels are full of total candlewasters who wouldn’t react to a slap in the face; I hate The Portrait of a Lady, because the heroine of it goes back to an awful man at the end for a lifetime of rubbish rather than murder him like you want her to. It’s righteous but annoying. With Grace and Mori, I didn’t want either of them to be a coward, and I didn’t want either of them to be a saint. It felt much more human for them to be afraid of each other and to fight and to come away less than shiny.

R:Finally, what has been your favourite part of your journey to publication thus far?

The book cover, definitely the book cover. I owe the Bloomsbury design team a very big round of drinks.

Natasha Pulley studied English Literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Pulley lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. This is her first novel.

Find Natasha Pulley on the web

Follow her on Twitter

Add Watchmaker to Goodreads

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is around the web!

Hi Team!

Just letting you know that you can pre-order the first full-length Herringford and Watts adventure (a novella entitled A Singular and Whimsical Problem will introduce you to the characters in December!) is now available for pre-order

Go to Amazon!

Also, Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is on Goodreads --- so please feel free to go and add it to your TBR account because I think you will want to read it!

Also,  I have been working on the second novel in the series  A Lesson in Love and Murder and you can check out my pinterest page 

My reading world lately has been this:

Friday, July 03, 2015

Book Gush: Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

what I said on Goodreads: An unbelievably well-written and heart-wrenching exposition on the power of faith to see through treason and uncertainty. Ripe with deft metaphor, Breslin puts her skilled pen to the test weaving a tale with all the enigma and romance that reminds you why you LOVE reading. A throwback to the classics such as Phantom of the Opera, the Scarlet Pimpernel and others, Breslin's talent is optimized in her passion-meets-poetry take on the Great War and the British experience. Literary crossover fiction with perfect faith themes, expert characterization and a heart-wrenching climax. The perfect read

You guys I am gonna gush. So be ye warned. I am just letting you know that there will be all-out gushing. Because Kate Breslin is a genius and this book is a world.

I loved this book. I loved the experience of reading this book: the physical reaction that had my hands shaking and my palm over my heart to hear its thudding beat.

I loved this book. This book is smart. This book is brilliant. This book is poetry. This book is parable.

And, best of all, this book is a perfect literary read: a book lover’s dream---pulling on Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, with hints of Thornfield Hall, with a great, lovely nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel.  This book reminds us why we read.  

We read for love. We read to find ourselves in the pages and we are happily surprised when the characters speak for us--- regardless of time or travail or circumstance.

A well-flourished exposition on betrayal, trust and hope, Breslin thematically weaves faith tenets within the tenuous world of the Great War.  The prose that she so well honed in For Such a Time is expert poetry-in-motion in her sophomore novel.

And can I talk about the feminist suffragette slant? I have mentioned before that a favourite literary trope is exploring women who so want to take a stand but really have to stumble into it : realizing that their individual gifts might be as resonant in their quiet ways of changing the world than in grand gestures.  Here, the book opens with a ball throwing back to Lord Grenville’s ball: that pivotal moment in the Scarlet Pimpernel and as Percy falls immediately for the dashing French actress Marguerite, so Jack Benningham disguised as a playboy while working for the Admiralty is immediately smitten with Grace Mabry---to him a nameless goddess ensconced in tempting green, swathed as Pandora ….

The  metaphorical box she opens is enough to distract and lure him away from his mission at the event, culminating in her leaving him with a white feather, an insignia of the cowardice she feels at his being a playboy in London-town and away from the action of the European theatre.

They meet again, although now Jack ----safely ensconced  on a grand estate as Lord Roxwood---is blind and scarred, the result of an accident at sea immediately after the ball but, to Grace and others, just another story in the tabloid rags of a playboy drunk who set his townhouse on fire.

She becomes his driver, when she is not working  on his estate with the Woman's Forage Corps he becomes smitten with her via their preternatural kinship and a menagerie  of colourful personalities are bottled in a cozy countryside: the servants and friends of Lord Roxwell ( including Violet, Jack’s rich fiancĂ©e and Lord Marcus, a regular Andrew Ffoulkes for those who subscribe to all things Pimpernel)

I did find, at times, that Grace was almost too good – and too perfect a mouthpiece to express Breslin’s religious and moral intent.  But, I found myself not caring because I was so much in love with the story.

In love with the sexual tension that was an undercurrent of every zippy, nerve-tingling scene Grace and Jack shared together.  In love with the soft introduction of betrayal and helplessness, of hope and believably flawed characters. In love with the resplendent juxtaposition of conversation with pure descriptive poetry as Grace, like her creator, imbues the English landscape with a painting of words.  In love with my favourite romantic trope: a man scarred who looks to the promise of love for redemption. This is Rochester, this is Sir Percy, this is  Col Brandon --- this is the reason my literary heart beats so strongly.  In love with the tantalizing research eked out in every scene regarding the Woman’s Forage corps --- a precursor to the Women’s Land Army of WWII ( this has shades of Land Girls, for those BBC fans)

Espionage! Treason! And an e-galley that is pretty much entirely highlighted as I tripped carelessly in love with almost every.single.quote  A teacher once referred to poetry as the perfect words in the perfect order.  Not one of Breslin’s descriptors is out of place:

“Most women,” says Jack, “are by far more intelligent---which is probably why men don’t want them voting at the polls.’ His tone sobered as he added, ‘Fear tends to breed hatred and dissention, Miss Mabry.”

“Just like an artist captures an image on canvas, a good writer must paint a picture with words”

“Men don’t like suffragettes because they want to keep us under their thumbs”

“Those smiles of his were so rare, each one she received from him like a gift”

“His gentle voice caressed like the rustling grasses of the field. “

“Grace pressed close and touched her lips to his. Let this be their parting then, she thought, surrendering not to reason but to her heart”

“Passion unfurled between them like the petals of his most prized rose.”

“She sensed in him a longing, tasting the loneliness he would face in the days to come. Surrounded by him, she breathed in the spice of his Bay Rum cologne mingled with a touch of aged leather and the scent that was uniquely Jack Bennigham.”

“Her emerald eyes gleamed, and Jack drank in her presence –from the riot of red curls bound in green ribbon to the beautiful eyes, her perfect nose and her rosebud mouth that now quivered with mischief.”

I just want to talk about this book forever. And I will.  So I need you guys to promise me that you will go read it and then see if you can get through it without dying to throw in the Anthony Andrews version of the Pimpernel (but resist it and keep reading) and then come talk to me. FOREVER!

As for me, I have preordered three print copies: one for me, two spares – or to giveaway to friends who will fall as hard for this fictional world as I did.