Posted by Rachel Grant
I’m very excited to introduce our Kiss and Thrill readers to Darcy Burke, who is one of my critique and plotting partners and an Instant Messenger buddy. Because we spend so much time chatting on IM together, Darcy and I thought it would be fun to do the interview via IM. This way I could blindside her with my deeply insightful questions. Plus I’d have my full range of emoticons to use, and anyone who has ever IMed with me knows I’d conduct entire conversations using only emoticons if I could.
RG: Starting off with the important question: what type of wine are you drinking?
DB: Viognier, from Jones of Washington. It’s a winery in Quincy, WA. We visit every year when we go see Dave Matthews at the Gorge Labor Day weekend. It was 65 degrees yesterday, so a nice white seemed apropos. (Yes, this bottle was opened yesterday – gasp!)
Your Secrets and Scandals series started off as straight historical romance, but as the series grew, the secrets and scandals became less about gossip within the ton and more about thievery and murder. Was this a conscious decision?
DB: Not really conscious, no, but I suppose the Fight Club elements in books 2 and 3 (His Wicked Heart and To Seduce a Scoundrel) set up a segue into the underworld.
RG: They did! It was a natural progression. In which book did the shift toward historical romantic suspense occur?
DB: Once I realized Jagger, who was the villain in To Seduce a Scoundrel, needed his own HEA, I thought about how to set that up. Secrets and Scandals was only supposed to be three books and end with TSAS. Then Jagger happened, lol. And Lockwood. I was also incredibly interested in Lockwood’s story. It seemed a natural thing that they were in fact half-brothers.
In coming up with their story, which would be the second half of Secrets & Scandals, I wanted an overarching suspense plot that would link the books together. And it had to be suspense because of who Jagger was. If he was going to want redemption (and he sort of had to if I was going to make him a hero), I had to write an arc in which he dug himself out of the gutter. That started with the novella, To Love a Thief, which features Jagger as a major secondary character.
RG: Agreed (see this was a quiz, and your answer about your own book is correct) it was totally in To Love a Thief.
DB: rofl – glad I know my books!
RG: LOL – I learn stuff about my books all the time from reviews. Sometimes I learn that I write smut, but other times I see reviewers catching nuances even I hadn’t noticed.
RG: Bonus Question: what have you learned about one of your books from a review?
DB: that my name is really Dana Burke.
DB: I don’t know that I’ve learned anything per se, but sometimes people have really pulled out the things I was trying to convey, which is always great.
RG: Have you ever had a book of M/M erotica named after you?
DB: why yes, I have! VAMPIRE M/M erotica.
Okay, Secrets and Scandals is now complete, but now that you’ve had a taste of writing historical romantic suspense, do you plan to include a suspense plot in future historicals?
DB: Most definitely. My next series, Regency Treasure Hunters is pretty much exactly that: a series of treasure hunts. It won’t have the, ahem, murder and mayhem that some of Secrets & Scandals had, but gosh, you never know!
RTH is in the vein of Romancing the Stone or Indiana Jones, lots of action and adventure.
RG: It sounds awesome! But I’m counting on you for some bloodshed.
DB: lol, I will keep your bloodthirstiness in mind!
DB: since YOU are one of my favorite plotting partners and will undoubtedly be helping me plot this series, I suspect you’ll find a way to suggest bloodshed. If memory serves, you are constantly suggesting I blow something up.
RG: There is a decided dearth of explosions in historical romance.
DB: Yes, it’s a shame.
RG: Have you ever been flown to a foreign country and appeared on a reality TV show so you could meet a long-lost relative?
DB: Why yes, what a bizarrely accurate question, lol.
My brother and I were flown to Denmark in June 2012 to appear on This is Your Life Paprika Steen. Paprika is my first cousin and I just love, love, love her. Her mother and my father were siblings. They’ve both passed on, which is why we lost touch years ago, but thanks to Facebook, we reconnected and got to meet.
RG: Is there a link? Can we view the episode?
DB: Unfortunately it’s not online. I’d love to find a way to post the part where we meet (I have a copy, of course) because it’s pretty incredible, but I don’t think I have permission.
RG: Does your cousin have a website?
DB: No, but this is her imdb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0824785/. You can see how alike we look (not—she’s gorgeous).
The first novella—Where the Heart Is—in your new contemporary series was released last fall. Can you tell us a little bit about the Ribbon Ridge series?
DB: Ribbon Ridge does not involve murder or mayhem, lol. It’s a family saga (about sextuplets and the seventh “oops” kid) sort of series, but each book is stand alone. There’s an overarching plot and some subplots carry over between books, but each love story has an HEA.
RG: In the novella, the hero is a friend of the Archer sextuplets. Which sextuplet is the hero or heroine of the first full-length book?
DB: The novella hero is actually their “almost-brother” in that he went to live with the Archers after the death of his mother. His father had died years earlier. He had a really sad backstory, lol. The first full-length book in the series features the youngest sextuplet (as in she was born last), Sara. She’s an event planner with sensory processing disorder, so she’s a little quirky.
RG: I can’t wait to read it! (When do I get to read it?!)
RG: Is there anything else you want to add?
DB: I can’t think of anything else, but then I’ve had almost two glasses of wine.
Darcy is giving away an ebook copy of the Scoundrel Ever After to one lucky commenter! To enter the drawing, tell us what sort of romantic suspense elements you think historical romances could use more of (e.g. explosions).
Posted by Krista Hall
Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful (and well-researched) historical romance. In her atmospheric debut novel A DANGEROUS INVITATION, she takes us out of the ballroom and drops us straight into the labyrinthine alleys and gritty flash houses of London’s East End. Rather than manners and courtship, the first book in the Rookery Rogues series is a story of survival and the transformational power of love. Read on to find out you can become eligible to win A DANGEROUS INVITATION ebook…
Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of finery to survive in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries as a fence for stolen goods . The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.
One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.
With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them…
KH: Why did you choose to set Kate and Daniel’s story in 1832 during the short reign of King William IV rather than the more commonly used Regency time period between 1811-1820?
ERICA: I studied Victorian literature in college, and then I began to educate myself in the regency period when I started to write historical romances. The 1830’s represents the perfect merging of my two interests—it’s this strange period of social reform yet people are still trying to cling to what they used to have. The trade of corpses in the regency period is a big deal in the underworld, for a resurrection man could make far more selling bodies than he could in the honest work that might be available to an unskilled, uneducated laborer (read, not many jobs at all). The London Burkers (called that because their method of murder for dissection profit resembled that of legendary serial killers Burke and Hare in Edinburg, Scotland in 1828) were arrested in 1831. Two were executed, while another turned State’s Evidence and was released. I knew that I wanted to link my resurrection man villain to this case so I had to set it in January 1832 shortly after the executions. Mid-year 1832, the Anatomy Acts were repealed, and now surgeons had access to more bodies for dissection, so they didn’t have to use grave robbers to advance in their fields of study.
I found the idea of people being stolen from their graves to be sold as medical experiments to be utterly creepy and morbid, and admittedly, being a girl who grew up reading Edgar Allen Poe, I loved it. Resurrection men were considered to be one of the lowest types of thieves, reviled by everyone else in the London underworld. What better villains to use in the first book of my Rookery Rogues series, which centers on denizens of the London slum areas (called rookeries)?
KH: Your descriptions of daily life in the rookeries of London are vivid and create the dark, gritty atmosphere of A DANGEROUS INVITATION. You clearly spent a great deal of time researching the history, culture and geography of the East End—Bethnal Green, Jacob’s Island, and the St. Katharine Docks. What unexpected discoveries did you uncover that enriched or influenced the development of the characters and the suspense storyline?ERICA: The new system of policing fascinated me—far more like the Scotland Yard we know and love than the original regency policing system. Prior to 1829, London did not have a centralized police force. You had a bunch of little districts and constables and a Night Watch that really bordered on useless. But 1829 and Robert Peel’s act brought forth a new structure, a more vigilant way of policing. This of course meant that some of the attitudes toward crime in the rookeries changed. The Bow Street Runners (think London’s first detectives) allowed flash houses (meeting places of thieves, often functioning as brothels as well) to exist because it was easy to get at informants when they were all congregated in the same police. The Met Police didn’t really believe in that—they focused on preventing crime instead of solving it. I use this distinction in my next novella, Secrets in Scarlet, which features the Met Police officer I introduced in A Dangerous Invitation.
I also used the “Catholic Question,” which comes about throughout the 1800’s but really hit a breakthrough in 1829 when the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed, which removed a lot of the restrictions that were still on Catholics in the UK. This and the Sacramental Test Act were huge in getting rights for Catholics. Prior to this act, Catholics could not hold office. The relations between the English and the Irish were already strained at best. I use this in A Dangerous Invitation as my hero Daniel O’Reilly is Irish, but he has been raised since childhood in Sussex. He feels like a man of two nations. Daniel has been the victim of racial prejudice, for in 1832 the Irish were considered not much better than dogs in the street by a lot of England’s population. This plays into his interactions with Kate and his feelings toward himself. He has to learn that he is indeed worthy of love.
KH: Peelers, dimber morts, crank…uh, translation please 🙂 Was it difficult to learn the street slang of the period?
ERICA: A Peeler refers to the Metropolitan Police Officers, called Peelers or Bobbies because of Robert Peel, who was the main person behind the bill establishing the new force. A dimber mort refers to a pretty wench, and crank is a cant term for gin (important because of Daniel’s struggle with remaining sober).
I actually really enjoy the slang. I’ve never had an aptitude for foreign languages, but thieving cant to me feels like a secret language based in English so I can understand it. It was important to me that my thieves sound like they grew up in the East End and not posh aristocrats. These are people deprived of formal education, growing up in neighborhoods where they pretty much had to steal to eat. They’re going to have their own set of words for things, jargon that’s been doctored so that the Police can’t fathom what they’re saying.
In writing A Wayward Man, my short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation, it’s been interesting to write the dialogue for Kate because this is before she ends up in the rookeries. She doesn’t know those slang terms and she hasn’t changed to coarser language. I paid a lot of attention to dialects, trying to properly mimic what people would sound like in different parts. I’ve no idea if I got it all right, but it “feels” more authentic to me, at least.
KH: What is your favorite slang expression?
ERICA: There are so many good ones, and some really, really vulgar ones. There’s about 57 different terms for prostitutes, most of which end up being quite depressing.
Some of my favorite ones that I find can be used in historical romance are “collar day” for being executed at Newgate prison, “dive” meaning to pick a pocket, and Drury Lane ague meaning venereal disease (given that prostitutes often frequented Drury Lane).
KH: What’s next in The Rookery Rogues series?
ERICA: Two things. One, I’ve got the short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation coming out in February, and it is titled A Wayward Man. This starts before Daniel leaves London, three years prior to the beginning of ADI. It’s about 10,000 words and I will be offering it up for free.
After that, I’ve got Secrets in Scarlet, which is a novella. I hope to have it out sometime around late March.
Here’s the blurb: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Thaddeus Knight comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve. Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?
What are the elements you look for in historical romantic suspense? Do you have a favorite time period? House parties vs Ballrooms vs Gaming Hells? Do you like your stories filled with members of the ton? Can a housemaid become a duchess? Tell us what you like to read! Erica is giving away an e-copy of A DANGEROUS INVITATION to one lucky commenter!
Kiss and Thrill welcomes back one of our favorite authors: Brenda Novak! We’re all gushy fan-girls of her work here. To be perfectly honest, there was quite the squabble over who’d have this chance to interview her. (Luckily those 1990’s Tae Bo videos paid off and I arm wrestled the lot of ’em!)
When Kiss and Thrill started 2 years ago this week (see our anniversary post on Thanksgiving Day!) Brenda was our very second guest. We were honored then, and are honored now that she takes time out of her busy life as writer, mother and organizer-extraordinaire for her annual May charity: Brenda Novak’s Auction for Diabetes Research.
Given her frequent guest appearances and her down-to-earth personality, it’s easy to think you ‘know’ a famous best-selling author. So imagine our surprise when we heard Brenda’s new release was not a romantic suspense and not her Whiskey Creek contemporary series but a historical romantic mystery! Thanks to my arm wrestling skills, I got to find out why:
A shocking betrayal…
Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.
But he wasn’t the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.
A forbidden love…
Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the devil—and the scaffold. He agrees, but she is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.
Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart… (Excerpt from Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak.)
First of all, Brenda, WELCOME BACK! Secondly…wow! You’re right in the middle of your successful contemporary Whiskey Creek series. Why did you suddenly decide to write a historical mystery?
This is a book that I started WAY back when I began writing, before I even knew I would write contemporary romance. My first book, published by HarperCollins, was a historical called OF NOBLE BIRTH. It came out in November of 1999. I expected to follow up with the historical I have since self-published–HONOR BOUND–and this one–THROUGH THE SMOKE–which I sold to Montlake. But that didn’t work out. My editor at the time indicated that we would go to contract when she returned from vacation, but because Harper was merging with Avon and didn’t need as many romance editors as they would ultimately have, she returned to a pink slip. That meant that I was cut from the list (at this point my first book wasn’t even out yet).
Fortunately, I had already sold my first contemporary to Harlequin only five months previous to this, so all wasn’t lost. I simply segued into writing for Superromance (one of Harlequin’s category lines) instead. Harlequin has kept me so busy through the years that I haven’t had the chance to go back to the historicals, but when I got the rights to OF NOBLE BIRTH reverted, I decided to self-publish it (since that craze was just getting started), and to follow up with the historical I had that was almost finished (HONOR BOUND), as well as this one (THROUGH THE SMOKE), which was only in proposal form. So I actually planned on writing historicals in the beginning, detoured into other genres and am now returning.
So you began with historicals, are famous for romantic suspense, and now the contemporary Whiskey Creek series. Which genre is hardest for you to write?
They each have their challenges, but…the historicals might be the hardest because they are historical romantic suspense, so you have to create a credible puzzle while writing a great romance. So you’re doing double duty while throwing on the added stipulation that you have to remain true to a certain historical era. That means you have to do more research than you would with the typical contemporary novel. They are a lot of work, but I really enjoy a great period piece–hence my desire to try and create one.
(I can hear Manda Collins, our historical romantic suspense author cheering!) Does your fan base follow you to different genres as far as you can tell?
I think there is some crossover. I’ve had a lot of reviews for THROUGH THE SMOKE from readers who comment that they don’t typically read the genre but tried it because I had written it. As far as numbers go, however, it’s hard to compare because my two publishers are so different. Since Harlequin has a big print presence, and Montlake has virtually none (but has a huge digital presence), we can’t compare by sales. Even in the digital arena, we don’t know how much to attribute to certain publicity and promotion efforts and how much to attribute to my existing fan base.
What can we look forward to in 2014-2015 from you?
I’ll have two more Whiskey Creek novels out–COME HOME TO ME (March 25, 2014) and THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS (November 2014).
I will also have another historical–A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN–that will be out October 2014.
Who are some of your favorite historical authors (doesn’t have to be contemporary.)
My favorite historical authors are Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Margaret Mitchell, Kathleen Winsor, Colleen McCullough, Philippa Gregory and Brenda Rickman iVantrease.
Let’s switch gears and talk about your Diabetes charity. Sum up how much you’ve raised, in how many years and what your goal is for 2014.
I can’t believe it, but so far we have raised over $2 million. When I first set out to raise funds for diabetes research, I used to daydream of someday breaking $1 million. I’m so grateful that, through the generosity of my donors and shoppers, I’ve been able to double that amount.
Next year will be our big 10 year anniversary, and we are hoping to do it up bigger and better than ever before. As usual, it will start May 1st, and you can get to it at http://www.brendanovak.com It would be smart to register now, for those who aren’t already registered so that we can send out various alerts as the time draws closer. Also, we are already starting to gather some great items.
Is it my imagination or were the 2013 donated items bigger and more elaborate than in years past? (I used to think the majority of items were writer-related and this year it wasn’t so at all! Huge celebrity giveaways.) Is this a word-of-mouth phenomenon or are you expanding your promoting?
This is a grassroots effort. I haven’t paid for expensive advertising. What advertising I do is donated (thanks to the generosity of Publisher’s Weekly, RT Book Review Magazine, Woman’s World, Writer’s Digest and many, many online places). I think it’s the power of social networking that has helped us grow each year, and the efforts of all the authors, businesses, artists and advocates who contribute.
Are you accepting donated items already for May, 2014? How can our readers get in touch with someone in your organization if they would like to do that?
You bet! We are taking things all year. It requires a great deal of time to build such a big event with a skeleton crew. We have four people on “staff,” but three of us are volunteers. We have only one part-time employee (for the sake of continuity from year to year) because I want to keep the overhead as low as possible.
You can donate through (www.brendanovak.com), or the charity’s website (www.brendanovakforthecure.org) or email Anna directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I go on your Auction site, your son is all grown up and looking healthy and happy! How have your family and your son adapted to his diabetes over the years? Do you see improvements in medical treatments since he was first diagnosed?
I’m not sure I would say we have “adapted.” Like everyone else who has a family member with this terrible disease, we have had no choice but to get along as best we can. I am grateful for all the tools we have that help us to do that–the insulin, the needles, the insulin pump, the testing strips and meters. Improvements are being made–in that these tools are getting better and better at what they are supposed to do. My son will be getting a pump that comes with a continuous glucose monitor, for instance, and that should help control his sugars (because we will get many more readings per day instead of the six we get now by pricking his fingers).
There is also hope in the cure-based research that has been going on. The DRI, which gets the money I raise, is trying to perfect their new Biohub (it should go into human trials soon). This might turn out to be the answer we have all been working/praying for.
What advice do you have for people newly diagnosed and in a state of fear and confusion?
It’s natural to go through a period of mourning. I think I tried to bounce back too soon and couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with me (when that wasn’t so easy). The regimen takes a great deal of getting used to, there’s a huge amount of worry (that never goes away) and there’s also a lot of frustration involved (because no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to control human blood sugar all the time with the tools currently available).
I would say to hang in there, seek out a support group so that you can share information and ask questions and make sure you have a good doctor. (Of course I would also say to get involved in the auction and help me fight back. There is great strength in numbers.)
Thank you so much for being with us today, Brenda and I wish you and our readers a Happy Thanksgiving!
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are you thankful for? One commenter will win a copy of “Through the Smoke.”
The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday on our Thanksgiving/2nd Anniversary post!
P.S. Brenda just notified me that her novel WHEN SNOW FALLS just went on sale for $1.99 from now until Sunday! Click on the title to buy this and click on the cover of THROUGH THE SMOKE to buy her historical mystery.
“Your Grace,” Lady Isabella Wharton coaxed, from the other side of the Ormonde library, “really, you must put the knife down. Whatever will your grandmamma think?”
But the Duke of Ormonde, accustomed to ignoring his family’s dictates, didn’t lower the knife at his wife’s throat.
As Amazon would say: If you like PBS’s Downton Abbey and Sherlock Holmes you’ll love the Wicked Widow Series by Manda Collins.
In the first of the trilogy, Why Dukes Say I Do, Manda artfully mixes murder, blackmail, sabotage and a who-done-it mystery with genteel life on a country estate.
The hero, Trevor is a newly titled Duke who wants nothing to do with the responsibility the title holds, especially since it means leaving his land and tenants for the chaos of London. The heroine, Isabella is blackmailed by her godmother (the hero’s grandmother) into forcing Trevor to do exactly that.Neither can afford to lose, which makes for a lovely clash of wills. As Isabella experiences the drama of ‘laid back life’ on Trevor’s country estate it struck me that this was deliciously similar to my favorite show Downton Abbey.
So I asked Manda about it:
Would you describe your heroine’s personality traits more like a Mary, Edith or Sybil?
Hmm. I’d say she’s a Mary from probably the second or third season. Once she’s softened up a bit and acknowledged that human frailty exists and is okay. Not the First Season “hellish beyotch” Mary.
If you had to cast your Dowager Duchess of Ormonde for a Hollywood movie, who would you choose?
I think Judi Dench could pull it off quite well. Or maybe Gemma Jones (the mother in Sense & Sensibility). But definitely the Dowager Duchess of Ormonde shares some traits with the DD of Grantham!
Robert Crawley is a laid-back Earl, who rarely capitalizes on his title. I would even call him a reluctant Earl, more interested in country-life at Downton Abbey and keeping his tenants happy than dealing with the politics and social mayhem of London society. As an audience, we generally gravitate towards mayhem for entertainment, yet both you and Julian Fellowes make this trait seem heroic and keep us enthralled. How did you do this and why do you think we are fascinated by the slower pace of life on a country estate?
I think there is something enthralling and noble about a high-ranking person choosing to devote themselves to actually tending to their responsibilities. We’ve seen time and time again the hellraising Rake or politically active peer spending all their time in London carousing or trying to get some legislation to pass the Lords. Not to say that politics don’t have their place. But that gentleman who really cares about his tenants satisfies–at least for me–a need to see someone doing the right thing.
As to how I did this? I have no idea! I’m totally an organic writer. I might tinker with the prose or make changes my editor suggests, but I don’t consciously think–oh, he needs to look more sympathetic here…I wish it were that easy!
In both the TV series and your novel there is a ‘confidant’ relationship between the main characters and their servants. In your research do you believe this was so in the Regency period/early 20th Century? (Like we have with our hairdressers/bartenders today?)
I do. As much as we’d like to think that all people in the upper echelons of society saw their servants as furniture, I just can’t believe all of them were so callous to the people around them that they didn’t share some part of themselves with their closest servants like maids and valets and the like. Do I think that it was all jolly and Mary Poppins and happiness all the time between them? Of course not! But I do think, in some cases there were confidant relationships between them. And the servant would then use that reputation for discretion if they needed to get another position. It was as great a commodity as a letter of reference!
The murder, sabotage and blackmail is right out of a Sherlock Holmes plot and not usually seen in historical romances. What made you blend genres (tricky at best) and are you finding a captive audience?
Well, thank you for the compliment, but I certainly do not see myself as the second coming of Conan Doyle (though wouldn’t that be awesome?) Like most writers I write what I like to read. And what I like to read most are Regency Historicals and Mysteries. So what I’m trying to do is blend together some combination of the two.
Sometimes I think it works better than others. I do know that my mystery plots aren’t always as complex or difficult to figure out as a true mystery–I think that’s because I sacrifice a bit of the mystery to the romance. After all, it’s not much of a romance if your hero and heroine never talk about anything but the mystery they’re trying to solve. And also there MUST be some sexy times! I insist upon it! So you get what I like to think of as Nancy Drew meets Jane Austen–or maybe Georgette Heyer if you want to be more precise.
As far as captive audiences, I don’t know! The number of positive reviews outnumber the negatives. But of course it’s the negatives I remember. And let me tell you, there is at least one person who DOES NOT like to have mystery mixed in with her romance! But that just means my books aren’t for her. Which is absolutely okay! There are enough books out there for everyone to find something they enjoy!
Can you give us a hint about the next novel in the series?
The next novel in the Wicked Widows Series is called WHY EARLS FALL IN LOVE and it is the story of Isabella’s friend Georgie, who also suffered a not so great marriage. The hero is the Earl of Coniston. He’s mentioned briefly in WDSID but is never onstage. The action of this one takes place in Bath and let us just say that our blackmailer is back in full force! Lots of adventures all over the spa-town! It will be released the last week of January 2014.
OOOO! Scanty cover…Looking forward to another great read, Manda!
One lucky commenter will win a digital or paperback copy of Why Dukes Say I Do. Question: Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character and why? Check back on Thursday to see if we picked your name. (Paperback only available to mail in the continental states.)
Yeah, I’m talking the sex scenes, readers! Add to that sizzling sexual tension, razor-sharp chemistry and gripping suspense. Manda Collins pulls out all the stops in HOW TO ENTICE AN EARL, the third novel in her ‘Ugly Ducklings’ series.
See for yourself…
At the Harbaugh Ball
With his extra height, Winterson craned his neck over the crowd pressing forward. His soft curse sent a frisson of dread down Christian’s spine. “What is it?” he asked.
“You’re not going to like it,” Winterson said with a scowl. “I’m pretty sure I don’t like it either.”
“Is it Cecily?” Deveril asked, his blond brows drawing together.
“No,” Winterson said, as the crowd performed a maneuver much like Christian thought the Red Sea must have done, and parted right down the middle to reveal the figure standing boldly in the entrance to the Harbaugh ballroom. “It’s not Cecily.”
No, it certainly wasn’t. The air in the room seemed to evaporate and Christian felt the need to run a finger under his suddenly too tight neck cloth. Standing at the head of the room, wearing a blue gown that was far more revealing than any debutante had the right to wear, her hair arranged in a fashion that seemed to invoke the bedchamber, was Lady Madeline Essex, flanked by her cousins.
“What the hell is she thinking?” he muttered, stepping forward, unsure if he was going to read her a thunderous scold or kiss her senseless.
Excerpt from HOW TO ENTICE AND EARL by Manda Collins
What a treat for me to interview my friend (and Kiss & Thrill colleague) Manda about her latest historical romantic suspense!
So, Manda? We’ve read all 3 novels, now you tell us: Cecily, Juliet or Maddie…Which story was your favorite and why?
Oh wow! That’s a tough one. I tend to prefer whichever one I’m working on at the moment. And each of them hold a special place in my heart. How to Dance with a Duke because it was first. How to Romance a Rake because the subject-matter was so close to my heart. And How to Entice an Earl because I just loved Maddie and Christian together.
If you had an epilogue for secondary characters how would villainous Amelia Snow end up?
Well…I’m working on a novella for her even as we speak (type?) so I can’t tell you exactly what happens. But let me suffice it to say that Miss Amelia Snowe finds redemption with a gentleman from her past…
Was there really a Citizen’s Liberation Society (CLS) group? And an attempted assassination on the prime minister?
Nope! I totally made it up. Though there were, as after any war is lost, a contingent of people who had been loyal to Bonapart and just could not accept that he lost the war (twice!)
So I just extrapolated from there and created my own faction. (I learned this trick from a friend who writes contemporary romantic suspense and who makes up her own military or paramilitary groups so as to avoid ticking off folks who are experts on the real ones.)
There was an actual assassination of a Prime Minister—Spencer Percival—in 1812, but his assassin was just one man with a grievance against the government acting alone.
What is your favorite English word from that period?
Great question! And there are so many to choose from. Some of my favorites are from sporting cant—like “breadbasket” for stomach, or “brainbox” for head.
Of course ladies aren’t supposed to use cant, so I try to reserve those for the gentlemen. But I suppose my very favorites are the ones used to describe young women, like “hoyden” and “chit” and my all time favorite: “gel.” Not sure why, but “gel” makes me giggle every time.
🙂 Aside from your blistering sex scenes (I’m not kidding, readers)…Bromances! You do this so well! How do you get that authentic, witty repartee and camaraderie to come out so smoothly?
Thank you so much! I do actually have a passel of male cousins who are continually nipping at each other in that affectionate one-upsmanship that just seems to come to men naturally.
I have to admit, I find the whole thing fascinating since if women were to speak to one another that way I can only imagine the drama that would ensue.
Plus, I watch a lot of television with bromance elements: Friends, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother. I don’t do it word for word, or situation by situation, but I take some of that witty banter and sort of transplant it to the Regency. Like most writing it starts with what if…
Digressing to the topic: None of Your Business
Right now it’s crème brulee. But like everything else it’s subject to change…
Mmm, yummy! Favorite holiday?
Well, as a native of Mobile, the TRUE originator of Mardi Gras in the United States (that’s right, New Orleans, I said it) I have to put in a plug for my hometown tradition. One of my earliest memories is picnicking down at FortConde on Fat Tuesday between parades. And there’s just something magical about a whole city gathering to watch brightly colored floats parade through the streets.
Er…I think we may get a lot of comments from New Orleans today…What novel are you presently reading?
I just finished Miranda Neville’s wonderful new release The Importance of Being Wicked. That lady writes wonderful stories. And I love how she incorporates her knowledge of the period and the art world of the era into this new series. She makes me so jealous!
Well. Since I’m secretly jealous of you, ‘what comes around, goes around.’ 🙂 You recently signed another 3-book trilogy. Tell us a bit about this series.
Loosely (and I mean loose-ly) based on I Know What You Did Last Summer, this new trilogy centers on three widowed friends who were all present at the death of one of their husbands.
I’m working on the edits for the first, Why Dukes Say I Do right now. It’s the story of the beautiful Lady Isabella Wharton, who is sent by her godmother, the dowager Duchess of Ormonde, to the country to convince Trevor Carey, the new Duke of Ormonde, to stop playing the role of gentleman farmer and get to London to accept his role as head of the family.
Isabella cannot imagine why anyone would wish to live in the deadly dull country. And Trevor cannot imagine why anyone would wish to live in the filthy, over-crowded city. Hilarity (mixed with some suspense and some sexy times) ensues.
Sounds terrific! Now for the question that will undoubtedly get you on a famous Comedy Channel show:
HOW did you end up with a cat named Stephen Colbert? And does the real Stephen Colbert know? (‘Cuz you know how he likes to brag about stuff like this on his show…)
Well, I am a big fan of Mr. Colbert, and when a tuxedo cat who was fond of expressing his opinions started hanging around my house, Stephen Colbert was the first name that popped into my head.
I mean, they’re so much alike. Stephen “the cat” Colbert wears a tuxedo, Stephen “the person” Colbert wears a suit. Stephen “the cat” Colbert has strongly held opinions on the subject of bears. Stephen “the person” Colbert has strongly held opinions on the subject of bears.
I could go on and on…I did briefly think about alerting Stephen “the person” Colbert about the existence of Stephen “the cat” Colbert, but I figure he’s probably got a ton of other followers in the nation who contact him about this kind of thing all the time. He has important work to do!
Mm hmm. So readers: which one of us is going to Tweet the real Stephen Colbert? 🙂 Just kidding. No I’m not.
New Year’s Resolution? (And it’s the 29th, so how’s that going?)
Well, I had some vague hope that I’d completely re-invent my life and finally get everything into shipshape order. But so far, no luck.
New Years Resolutions are a double-edged sword for me too, since my birthday is only a week or so after the first of the year so I end up getting overwhelmed by age milestones and year milestones at the same time. Not good.
So instead, I just decided to do the best I can with getting my daily word count done and so far that seems to be working.
Thank you so much for your grace and humor Manda! Best of luck on sales. www.MandaCollins.com
READERS: Were you an ugly duckling?
One commenter receives a free copy of Manda’s HOW TO ENTICE AN EARL. Check back on Thursday!
RT Book Reviews: “A charming love story with a liberal dose of suspense.”
The winner of The Fifth Assassin, autographed by Brad Meltzer is Rosemary Barone! Click on Contact Us above and let us know where to send it!
Posted by Sharon Wray
In 1971, Time Magazine Arts Editor Martha Duffy made an observation about the increasing sales of romantic fiction. “What sells is the author’s name on the jacket and that illustration showing a girl and a castle.”
The key part about the above paragraph is the date. 1971
As I read that quote, a flood of memories rushed through me, transporting me back to middle school. It’s there, in between braces, scoliosis checks, and Latin declensions, that I discovered Mary Stewart, Eleanor Hibbert (aka Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr), Anya Seton, and Phyllis Whitney. Like my daughter who devours YA paranormal romances and dystopian stories, I was once addicted to romantic suspense and gothic romances.
It’s possible my honestly-acquired addiction to suspense and gothics came from reading Daphne Du Maurier and the Bronte sisters at too young an age, but by the time I was fourteen I had gone through all of the books these women had written up until then and I was desperate.
Unfortunately, in the late seventies and early eighties most of the romance novels were too adult for my tastes. I had no interest in the man actually doing anything with the heroine. I was happy if the hero stayed in the creepy castle, acting broody and threatening.
As my daughter says, “The heroine can think about the boy, see the boy infrequently, and yearn for the boy. She can even talk about the boy with her girlfriends while trying on shoes. But the boy must STAY in the castle in the woods.”
And at that age, not only was I desperate for something to read, I had the same need to keep the boy in the woods.
So bodice-rippers were out.
One day, after another not-so-great math test, I hid in the library. The librarian, who knew me by name, came over. After a few minutes of moaning about stupid math and nothing to read, she took my test and wrote down four names on the back.
Jane Aiken Hodge
I went on to read every book these women wrote and fell in love with romantic suspense all over again. One of these prolific romantic suspense authors is Jane Aiken Hodge.
The daughter of the poet Conrad Aiken and sister to the children’s novelist Joan Aiken, Jane Aiken was born in the U.S., raised in the U.K, read English at Oxford and received a master’s degree from Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She went on to marry twice, but it was her second husband, the poet and journalist Alan Hodge, who encouraged her to write novels.
In 1948, as a young mother, she read film scripts for Warner Brothers and started writing romances. But it wasn’t until her two children were in school that she began seeking publication. After years of rejections, she published her first novel Camilla in 1961 in Ladie’s Home Journal in installments. That serialized story late eventually became the novel Marry in Haste. In 1963, she published her first book Maulever Hall. Maulever Hall is a testament to her admiration of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.
Known for her historical and contemporary romantic suspense stories, contemporary thrillers, and non-fiction work, Jane Aiken Hodge wrote over 40 books between 1961 and 2003. Her novels bore her trademarked pacing and unique mixture of suspense, mystery, and gothic elements. Throughout her career, she wrote books set in what she called the borderland–that line between mystery and romance novel. In her last novels, her mysteries became thrillers. This invisible line–this borderland–made her “gothic romantic suspense” voice unique. Even though she died in 2008 at the age of 92, her contemporaries, historicals, and non-fiction works are still available.
In an age of weak, retiring beauties, her heroines took charge of the their situation and tried to change it. Although our standards for kick-butt women have changed, almost impossibly so, fans considered Jane Aiken Hodge a “feminist writer” for her time.
Her settings were also different. Instead of castles in Cornwall, she wrote about Savannah, GA during the Revolutionary War (Judas Flowering, Savannah Purchase), Russia during the Napoleonic Era (The Adventurers), and modern-day Portugal (The Winding Stair).
Jane Aiken Hodge is also known for her three highly-acclaimed non-fiction books about Jane Austen (Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen), Georgette Heyer (The Private World of Georgette Heyer), and the plight of the Regency Woman (Passion and Principle: Loves and Lives of Regency Women). All three are still in print and if you have any interest in Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, or the Regency, I highly recommend them.
But as teenagers grow, so do their tastes. And by the time I was in high school, my love affair with sweet gothics ended. Why is this, you ask? Because when I was sixteen my Aunt Eileen gave me a book for my birthday. Shanna. By Kathleen Woodiwiss. From that moment, the boy came out of the woods and I never looked back.
Now I’d love to know–do you (or did you) read gothic romances? What were your favorites?
Posted by Carey Baldwin
Thank you so much to our very own MANDA COLLINS! We are so proud and excited for your new release:
If you haven’t ordered it yet, what are you waiting for? Here’s the link!
Next Tuesday we are thrilled to host Tara Janzen, New York Times bestselling author and creator of the acclaimed Steele Street series of romantic suspense novels about a hotshot crew of former juvenile delinquents and car thieves in Denver, Colorado who grow up to become one of the U.S.A.’s most elite black ops forces. Tara is giving away an e-copy or print copy of the Steele Street thriller of your choice to one lucky commenter
Now it’s time to announce the WINNER! Remember you must contact us within 10 days at Contact@KissandThrill.com to claim your prize. Please send your email address where you wish to have your e-book gift notice delivered, and let me know if you prefer your e-book for Kindle or Nook.
The winner of an e-book HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE (to be delivered as soon as it is released)…and…a $10 Amazon Gift card is: Tina B
Posted by Carey Baldwin
Today I am honored to spotlight our very own Manda Collins!
I have a fun interview with Manda in store for you, plus a chance to win her book and an amazon gift card.
But first, I want to tell you about her debut novel, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE (St. Martin’s press) which releases Jan. 31, 2012 and has already garnered critical acclaim.
From the first line, the banter and wit and just plain good writing entertained me. Manda jumps right into the story and introduces her delectable ugly duckling, Cecily Hurston and her dashing duke, Lucas Dalton with a darling first meet. Seriously, who can resist a darling first meet? Okay, perhaps you’ve had your fill of D words by now, but bear with me for just one more:
HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE showcase’s Manda Collins’ particular talent for creating engaging dialogue, and I don’t just mean the flirty banter between the hero and heroine. The girl talk is fabulous! The fun conversations among the ugly duckling cousins call to mind the work of Eloisa James and Tessa Dare.
Now add in spicy chemistry between Lucas and Cecily and that should be enough to satisfy any reader. But Collins elevates her story beyond the standard fare when she sweetens the plot with a mystery involving the disappearance of Lucas’ brother and an ancient curse.
HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is a fantastic, fresh, and sexy read you won’t want to miss. Yay for romance spiced with mystery!…And ladies, remember to smile, bat and tilt the next time you find yourself at a ball with a stolen dance card.
Carey: “Is that you, Tux Guy?”
Tux Guy: “Mais oui. I wish to speak.”
Carey: “Well, get on with it then. Say your peace so we can move on to my glorious interview with Manda Collins.”
Tux Guy: “You know you want it.”
Carey smiles, bats her lashes, and tilts her head. “Kind of full of yourself.”
Tux Guy: “I’m talking to our readers, not you.”
“Oh.” Carey blushes prettily.
Tux Guy: “And I was referring to Manda’s book. You know you want it. Preorder it here.”
Carey: If you were stranded on a desert island with one other author, yes the real author, not his or her book, who would it be and why?
Manda: Wow, that’s a tough one. I mean it would have to be someone who doesn’t get on my nerves. And someone who shares my sense of humor—because I figure surviving being stranded on a desert island takes some serious humor skillz. And it couldn’t be one of my friends because then that might hurt another friends’ feelings. And it would need to be someone with great survival skillz because I have, like, none. Is MacGuyver an author? No? I guess going just on skill set alone, I’d choose Bob Mayer since he was a special forces guy and would exponentially increase the chances of me getting off that desert island alive. (I know that’s pretty selfish, but hey, you did ask!)
Carey: Ha. You are a genius! If I’m stranded on a desert island, I’m bringing Bob Mayer too! What is your favorite book?
Manda: Wow, just one? It kind of varies from year to year, month to month, day to day. Right now it’s Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. But if you’d asked me last month it would have been Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner. Hmmm, I am liking Lisa books lately, I suppose.
Carey: What is your favorite song?
Manda: “Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello
Carey drops another $1.29 at iTunes before asking: Do you have a special way you order your food? For example, do you always hold the sprouts on your salad or ask for a side of cherries with your diet coke?
Manda: I always order things—especially salads and burgers—without onions or green peppers. I hate, hate, hate the texture of raw onions. (shudders)
Carey grins. For some reason, Manda’s hatred of raw vegetables seems slightly kinky: How did you come to write your first manuscript?
Manda: I wrote my first manuscript as a direct result of the Avon Fanlit competition (where, incidentally, I met you, dear interviewer!) A group of us formed an email loop where we posted our daily, weekly, monthly goals and it was during that period that I finished my first book. Which, sadly, did not sell.
Carey: I remember thinking back then (in the Fanlit competition) that you were loaded with talent. And see, I was right!
Manda, Do you have a personal hero?
Manda: For me this would be my grandmother, who has gone through a number of losses over her lifetime, but who still manages to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. I know if she hadn’t been there for me I wouldn’t be here today.
Carey: I have a feeling she is amazingly proud of you.
Manda, like you, I live in a house with three cats and more books than strictly necessary. Have you got a fun cat story to share? Can we see the cats?
Manda: Of course you can see them! (Flips open wallet filled with cat pix.) As you said I have three.
Next is Tiny, a gray tabby, who is the oddball, and who outgrew his name many pounds ago. He doesn’t like to be held. He doesn’t cuddle (except with Spike who is his adopted dad). And he is afraid of everyone who is not already a member of the household.
Finally, there’s Stephen, a tuxedo cat, who is named after Stephen Colbert, who also looks good in a tux. He is the youngest, and the most laid back—I think because he was a street cat before I adopted him and as such he knows a good gig when he sees it. The main story among all of them of late is their deep and abiding hatred of my sister’s little Shi-Tzu mix, Charlie.
It’s cats and dogs. Living together. Mass-hysteria. If the cats ever figure out how to join forces Charlie’s in real trouble. But lucky for him, so far they are all too concerned with their own interests to cooperate with one another.
Carey stops searching for her DVD of ARISTOCATS, and regroups: I adore a bluestocking heroine. Can you explain for our contemporary readers, what the implications of being a bluestocking were for young ladies in the regency period?
Manda: A bluestocking was a pejorative term for a female intellectual. Basically during the regency period it was considered unfeminine for a young lady to get too much of an education. And bluestockings were often stereotyped as being dowdy, humorless and just plain unappealing.
Carey says: Please tell us about your upcoming release, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE.
Manda: Well, it’s the story of Miss Cecily Hurston, a noted scholar and a notorious bluestocking, and Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, a celebrated war hero, and their quest to discover just what happened between her father and his brother on an expedition to Egypt. They’ll work together to solve the mystery and in the process they’ll fall in love.
Carey: What inspired you to write an “Ugly Duckling” series? And what other books do you have planned for the series?
Manda: Well, when I was coming up with the concept of this trilogy, I kept remembering the story of the Gunning sisters, who were quite real, and were among the most celebrated beauties of the ton. They were the daughters of poor Irish farmers, but based on their beauty alone they took the beau monde by storm and ended up marrying into the aristocracy. But I kept wondering what it would be like to be the daughter of someone famous only for her beauty and her social cachet. So I came up with the Fabulous Featherstones, who are the mothers of my heroines, Cecily, Juliet and Madeline, who are dubbed the Ugly Ducklings by a cruel gossip sheet and it sticks. After Cecily’s book, will come Juliet’s story, which is followed by Madeline’s.
Carey: When you are not busy herding cats, dogs, sisters, and books, what causes do you champion?
Manda: Well, I’ve got a few. Libraries, and information literacy. The American Cancer Society. The Amputee Coalition of America. And The National Marfan Foundation (http://www.marfan.org/marfan/) For those of you who don’t know, Marfan Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder, and it’s thought that Abraham Lincoln suffered from it. Some of the key characteristics are elongated limbs, long skinny fingers and excessive height. If you know someone with these traits who hasn’t been checked out by a physician, I would urge you to urge them to do so. Not because I love doctor visits;) But because a symptom of Marfan’s you can’t see is a propensity to suffer from an aortic dissection. (Though he didn’t have Marfan’s this is what killed John Ritter). It can happen out of nowhere in seemingly healthy people. There are lots of ways that it can be prevented—one of which is valve replacement, which I’ve gone through twice now. Life expectancy used to be in the 40s for Marfan’s patients, but just in the last fifteen to twenty years that has risen to the 70s where everyone else is! /PSA
Carey: Thank you Manda for describing Marfan’s Syndrome, a disease that has a set of physical characteristics that can be easily spotted if only one is aware of them. And thanks for sharing some of your own inspirational story and courage with us.
Then, as she is wont to do, Carey goes bonkers and suggests a free association test. Please say the first word that comes to your mind- no cheating! Turn off that editor!
Wallflower– Jakob Dylan
ER…Should I touch this free association test with a ten foot…pole? Yes, I am up to the challenge: Manda secretly wishes to go white water rafting with Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers. However (she fantasizes) as she and Jakob are admiring the turquoise blue of the sky, a cock crows, drawing their attention to the shoreline where Tom Sellek is grooming his mustache. Tom and Dylan exchange an icy glare. Who will win fiery Manda’s heart? The choice, a hard ones, is all hers.
COMMENTERS -as a special treat for stopping by today, we will be giving away one e-copy of: HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE to be delivered as soon as it is released, as well as one $10 Amazon gift card. There will be one winner. That winner will receive both the gift card and HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE. Don’t forget to check Thursday’s blog to find out if you are our lucky winner!
The floor is open for questions or comments for Manda, so fire away!