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Review Six Weeks with a Lord by Eve Pendle

Grace Alnott’s dowry comes with a condition: she must marry a lord. Desperate for money to rescue her little brother from his abusive but aristocratic guardian, she offers half her dowry in return for a marriage of convenience.

Everett, Lord Westbury, needs money for his brother’s debtors just as cattle plague threatens to destroy his estate. Grace’s bargain is a perfect solution, until he is committed and realizes gossip exaggerated her wealth. So he makes his own terms. She must live with him for six weeks, long enough to seduce her into staying and surrendering her half of the dowry. But their deal means he can’t claim any husbandly rights. He has to tempt her into seducing him.

Their marriage is peppered with secrets, attraction, and prejudices that will change everything.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a great book, friends–I finished it in just over a day. I’m a sucker for a relationship of convenience that turns to romance. In 2018 with all the sexist bullshit and #metoo, I’ve also become a huge fan of enthusiastic consent. And of course, I need an independent female protagonist.

Grace is bent but not broken by her father’s will. He wanted her to marry Lord Rayner, but after everything that happened between the Lord and her maid, she wants nothing to do with him. Moreover, as leverage for her father’s attempts to matchmake Grace with Lord Rayner, he has given the Lord custody of Grace’s five year old brother Henry. The only way to get Henry back is to satisfy the condition put on her dowry–the only money she was left by her father–is to marry a Lord. So she decides upon a marriage of convenience in exchange for half her dowry. She gets the means to pursue custody of Henry, and her husband gets cash.

Of the three suitors Grace finds, Lord Everett is the only reasonable candidate, so she marries him. He negotiates a six week period in which he plans to seduce her into giving him her half of her dowry so he can pay his brother’s debts.

I love the evolution of the relationship. Everett falls first, which is a lovely change, and his honoring of the deal that he not claim any rights–that she must make the first move–is very hot. The slow burn between the two of them is well done, and the reader gets easily caught up in it.

The dialogue reflects that evolution as well. Grace starts off more reserved around Everett. Her experiences with Rayner have deeply affected her view of the aristocracy and she doesn’t trust him. She’s counting the days until she can leave at the beginning. But over time, she opens up and begins to let her guard down, and as she does so, the dialogue reflects that shift. On Everett’s side, what start out as calculated approaches turn genuine. It also stays consistent with other historical novels I’ve read, where the dialogue is period-appropriate, but not stilted.

I do not have a degree in Victorian England, but as a reader nothing jumped out at me as an obvious anachronism. From my perspective, Pendle has a strong grasp on her time period.

The secondary characters could be a little more fleshed out and that the resolution of the story was a bit fast for me. But those are very minor complaints.

 

Six Weeks with a Lord is available for pre-order. It will be published on 6/25

 

Meeting a childhood idol

I’ve always been a reader. It’s been part of my identity for so long I don’t even remember learning how to read, apart from knowing I was precocious in that area. I was lucky that the adults in my life–my family and my teachers–never tried to clip my wings when it came to books.

Want to read The Secret Garden and A Little Princess at six but don’t know the vocabulary? Here’s a dictionary.

Want to read trashy teen horror books like The Prom Dress? I’ll buy it for you/allow you to spend your money on it even though it’s meant for much older children. (Read my super snarky review “The best ‘bad’ book I’ve ever read.”)

Oh, you want to read books from the adult section of the bookstore/library? That’s ok with me. Cue my mom signing the slip allowing me to take out adult books–although I wonder in retrospect if she’d have let me if she knew I was going to become a huge V.C. Andrews fan. Flowers in the Attic is about a mom who locks her four children in an attic, tries to kill them with arsenic, and features a scene in which a brother rapes his sister. And that’s just the first book in that series.

My point is that books have always been a huge part of my identity.

I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, as was my fourth grade teacher in retrospect. She read us the first three books in the Narnia series (aka the only good books in the series–everyone dying in the rapture except Susan because she wears lipstick is a bullshit ending). Then she read us The Hobbit. Fellow fantasy readers naturally picked up The Lord of the Rings next. I thought The Hobbit was a sausage fest and I wanted a fantasy book with a female heroine (yeah yeah Eowyn’s “I am no man” is badass, but she’s only there because she’s following a dude and then hangs up her sword–this is not the female heroine I was/am looking for).

I don’t remember if I stumbled across Tamora Pierce or if someone recommended it to me. But I do remember reading Alanna: The First Adventure, and feeling so happy to see a strong feminist main character. Alanna is supposed to go to the convent to learn to be a lady and her brother Thom is supposed to go to the capital and learn to be a knight. This isn’t what either of them want, so Thom forges their letters of introduction and he goes to the convent, where sorcerers receive their initial training and Alanna poses as “Alan” and goes to learn to be a knight.  Over the four books she does just that and becomes a hero of the realm.

Tamora Pierce consistently writes strong female protagonists, and I fell in love. She was also my introduction (along with 80’s Madonna) to the idea that women like sex and can be sexually active on their own terms. Alanna has three relationships over the books, and calls her lovers out on their bullshit. Her other female leads also don’t hesitate to call out sexism. They are tough and they take on a man’s world in their own terms. This was revolutionary to me.

I’ve read pretty much everything she’s ever written, and even as an adult if she puts out a new book, the likelihood is that I’ll read it. Recently I even introduces Athena (age 9) to Alanna.

All of this is a lead in to say that she did a reading at Borderlands Books in San Francisco a week ago. They are an indie bookstore specializing in Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror. Readers of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series will recognize it as she wrote it into a book. They ship nationwide, so I encourage you to patronize them if you like those genres.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen this photo, but

I took Athena to the talk, and she was even brave enough to ask a question. Afterward, we got our books signed (Tamora wrote “girls rule” in Athena’s book and “women rule” in mine). I babbled something about how much Alanna had meant to me and how meaningful it has been to share her books with Athena (Arcadia is only 6–we’re reading Junie B Jones right now, but Alanna and Harry Potter will come eventually). She was just so gracious in the face of my babbling.

For me, my childhood–and even adulthood, to an extent–heroes are authors. I am in awe of people who can create these worlds I live in vicariously, whether it was The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin in elementary school (I’m a Kristy) or Anne Bishop’s Jewel series today (I have a serious literary crush on Karla). It’s a huge reason I am a writer–I want to create my own worlds and my own characters.

Authors like Tamora Pierce inspire me, and make me even more excited to get back to my own work.

Rejection

I had submitted an updated version of Love is a Virus to an anthology. I’ve been trying to get accepted by a specific editor for a long time now, and I had yet to succeed. I was hoping Love is a Virus would be a good fit, but alas it was not.

Rejection always stings, but sometimes it stings a little more when it’s someone you really want to work with as opposed to anthology you think might work out. But, having said that, it’s also part of #writerlife and it’s especially part of trying to get into popular anthologies.

The most common response a writer gets is “no.”

It stings, it can ding your confidence, but you can’t get so in your head that you can’t move past–that way lies madness.

My solution for dealing with submissions is to assume a no and hope for a yes. It’s perhaps a bit reflective of my approach to life–I’m a prepare for the worst, hope for the best woman when it comes to most things. But it doesn’t protect from that sting.

So what do I do?

I acknowledge the sting. I pout a little.

Then I get back to work.

Writing a historical book and research

In preparation for writing the full version of Plunder, I did some research. I read a few books and thought I had “enough” to write.

After reading a lot of historical romance by Beverly Jenkins specifically and others more generally and reading an unrelated comment about anachronisms like desks when they didn’t exist, I realized that what I thought I knew and how much I needed to know were two very different things.

I may have overcompensated by buying 15 non-fiction titles on pirates, the history of rum in the Caribbean, racial politics, ships, and so forth.

I am still making a conscious choice to ignore some of the less desirable traits of piracy (the rape, the violence, the fact women pirates were super rare–we only know of two during the “golden age” of piracy in the Caribbean) but I want to get other things right. I want to get the ships right. I don’t want William to win Puerto Seguro via poker when it would have been cribbage (side note, I learned cribbage last weekend). I don’t want them wearing boots when no one wore boots in that era unless they were riding horses. Things like that.

To some extent, I’m sort of doing a Titanic story–the details are mostly correct (in the movie the details of things like china are painstakingly correct) but the actual love story is implausible.

If you write historical fiction, how much research do you do?

 

Review: What Kind of Day by Mina V Esguerra

I received an ARC of What Kind of Day in exchange for an honest review.

Description:
It’s a bad day for Ben. After years of earnest work, he’s been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator. Name tarnished and bridges burned, he steps into what he thinks is a shuttle ride home, and accidentally joins a tour of his own city.

It was supposed to be a good day for Naya. Her passion is traveling, her hobby is discovering cool things to see and do, and taking people on tours of Metro Manila is her only job right now. An extra person at the last minute isn’t ideal, especially if the person is a former colleague and the subject of the day’s hottest political trash fire. But work is work, and she decides to let him stay in the tour.

She’s hoping she won’t regret it. He’s hoping his day turns around. What kind of day could it be? Maybe the best kind

I enjoyed What Kind of Day.

Set in Manila, I enjoyed Naya’s tour of the city and seeing the sights with her. In Singapore I knew several Filipinos, but the most I heard about Manila is that there is epic traffic and that it takes forever to get anywhere. This gave me a very different view of the city–the arts, the food, and a love of the city through the eyes of a local. Ben’s career in politics is a bit more blurry for me as I’m unfamiliar with politics in the Philippines, but even without that familiarity it’s not difficult to follow a scandal.

While I enjoyed watching the slow burn between Naya and Ben over the course of the day on the tour, it seemed out of character for them to drop into bed at the end of it. I didn’t object to it, but it felt rushed and a bit out of place as they hadn’t so much as kissed or heavily flirted or anything that would signal a jump like that.

That is the first half of the book. Over the second half there are multiple time jumps, which allow us to see the evolution of Naya and Ben, specifically that at first there isn’t one. They don’t so much as talk for three months. Then Ben’s need for Naya’s help brings them together again. I really enjoyed watching their dynamic evolve over the book, and Esguerra had me rooting for them.

I thought that the side story of Ben’s loss of his job and the way he deals with it is handled deftly, while Naya’s evolution and decisions are a little less so. I’m still unclear as to how she ended up with the job she has at the end of the story.

Overall, I’d recommend the book if you’re looking for a sweet, short read with an HFN ending.

What Kind of Day is on sale May 31. You can pre-order below

About the author:
 

Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance, young adult, and new adult novellas. Visit her website minavesguerra.com for more about her books, talks, and events.


When not writing romance, she is president of communications firm Bronze Age Media, a development communication consultant, and a publisher. She created the workshop series “Author at Once” for writers and publishers, and #romanceclass for aspiring romance writers. Her young adult/fantasy trilogy Interim Goddess of Love is a college love story featuring gods from Philippine mythology. Her contemporary romance novellas won the Filipino Readers’ Choice awards for Chick Lit in 2012 (Fairy Tale Fail) and 2013 (That Kind of Guy).


She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a master’s degree in Development Communication.

The Tattoo Thief

While it’s not a romance, I have to take the time to recommend my friend Alison’s book The Tattoo Thief.

A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?

I read an early draft of the first few chapters and I was hooked–and it’s not even a genre I read all that often! (Well I do read JD Robb’s In Death series, but not much outside that.) Alison is going to be a top writer in the genre, and I’m not just saying that because she’s a friend–she understands pacing, characterizations, you name it. If you like thrillers and murder mysteries, you must buy her book.

Get The Tattoo Thief on Amazon today!

Review: Rogue Hearts

I recieved a copy of Rogue Hearts in exchange for an honest review.

Rogue Hearts is the fourth book in the Rogue series.

From high office to the heartland, six brand-new romances about #resistance for readers who haven’t given up hope for a Happily Ever After…

In Her Service by Suleikha Snyder

U.S. Vice President Letitia Hughes has one thing that’s hers and only hers: her relationship with much younger Secret Service agent Shahzad Khan. When push comes to shove, what will take precedence: political ambitions or protecting their hearts?

In Her Service was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. I wish Letitia Hughes was the VP already. It’s 2020-2024 in this story, and Hughes and the president (also a woman!) are cleaning up the mess of the administration that came before them. But in private, Letitia has Shahzad, a man devoted not just to protecting her body, but to loving her. I adore a  forbidden romance, especially when there’s a power dynamic as well, and it’s great to see the woman as the more powerful one in a m/f story.

In Her Service also has plenty of hot sex as well as heart.

Run by Emma Barry

Public defender Maddie Clark doesn’t want to be a candidate for the state senate—but she’s running. Her high school nemesis turned campaign advisor Adam Kadlick shouldn’t be back home managing campaigns—but he is. They definitely should avoid falling for each other—but they won’t.

Another favorite story. Maddie and Adam have this great slow burn of a relationship. The evolution of Maddie as a candidate is done in a deft, believable way. When it comes out that Adam was planning to return to LA, it breaks the burgeoning relationship, and Adam has to work to repair it. Meanwhile, Adam is struggling with the decision of whether or not to go back to LA or to stay in Montana. The story has depth and it’s easy to root for Maddie and Adam.

The Rogue Files by Stacey Agdern

Reporter John DiCenza wants to go back. To New Jersey, to his life, the hockey team he covers, and the fanbase he’s proud to know and support. Back to before he had the Rogue Files, documents rumored to be the final nail in President Crosby’s term.

Journalist Sophie Katz wants to move forward. Toward her new TV show, and a life where the stories she tells will make a difference. She needs the Rogue Files and the story behind them to get there.

But when life comes at them, John and Sophie realize that the true story behind the files is standing up for the truth right where you are.

John and Sophie have history, but neither wants it to get in the way of the story. John has the information but is tired of looking over his shoulder, and Sophie wants to expose the corruption in the files. The story is good, although a bit disjointed at times.

Coming Up Rosa by Kelly Maher

When her mother’s health crisis forces Rosa Donnelly back to her hometown, she crosses paths with her former crush, and town goldenboy, Ian Stroman. Ian’s shine is even brighter thanks to his advocacy work to fight inhumane government policies. However, their past hurt sand a current business threat may spike their chance at happiness.

Another favorite is Coming up Rosa. Rosa is uncomfortable in the small town she comes from, but she has to go home to support her mom. She has a lot of insecurity about how her family has taken handouts from the Stromans in the past, and Ian’s mother picking up the tab for her mother’s medication at the start of the story only reinforces that. Ian has begun to speak out about injustice in a company newsletter, just as he knows his grandfather would have. But his relatives believe his political beliefs will hurt their bottom line.

Rosa had a crush on Ian as a young woman, but he’d brushed her off. But now, he wants to win her over. The development and hiccups in their relationship are well done, and I enjoyed it immensely. I especially love the way Maher includes snippets of the company newsletter that is causing all the controversy in Ian’s life.

The Sheriff & Mr. Devine by Amy Jo Cousins

There’s a new sheriff in Clear Lake and he has Eli Devine, the town librarian, on edge. Between arguing with the town council about inclusive library programming and keeping his three grandmas from getting into trouble, Eli has enough on his plate already. He doesn’t need the imposing Sheriff Baxter to be so very . . . distracting. Luckily for Eli, John Baxter is full of all kinds of good ideas, both for the town and for one stubborn librarian in particular.

The Sheriff & Mr Devine is a sweet romance. Eli has an instant crush on the new sheriff, until he suggests that one of his aunts might be developing dementia. Meanwhile, John has plans to win over Eli.

I really liked this story, but it feels incomplete. There’s a lot of set-up, but it feels like there isn’t really a payoff. We never see the issue of the aunt’s dementia resolved, for example. Cousins sets up what looks like a great m/m romance, but it just stops. Cousins says that she plans a longer story about them, and I would be very interested to read it.

Good Men by Tamsen Parker

Laid-back Benji Park is the keyboard player for the world’s hottest boy band, License to Game. While LtG is no stranger to charity gigs, Benji’s never been what you’d call a social justice warrior. But when smart, sexy, and ruthless immigration lawyer Jordan Kennedy comes along and asks Benji for a favor, he just may change his tune.

Good Men has an excellent extended sex scene. I love the emphasis on consent, and the way Benji is willing to stop if Jordan is uncomfortable. The set-up is well done–we know where the band came from, and why Benji cares about immigration. Jordan convinces Benji, who in turn convinces the band, to play at a benefit concert. But I would’ve enjoyed a longer story with these characters.

 

I highly recommend Rogue Hearts, and I’m now interested in reading the other books in the series. Buy it on Amazon today.