24 June 2010

Reading Romance: Marrying the Royal Marine, by Carla Kelly

Whew! Just finished a whirlwind read of Carla Kelly's lastest romance set during the Napoleonic Wars. Stayed up until 3AM to finish it and then reread snippets the next day.

Marrying the Royal Marine is definitely my favorite of Kelly's last three character-linked Harlequin books. It is set on board a Navy ship and in war-torn Portugal during the Peninsular conflict and it has all the grit and guts I've grown to expect from Kelly. She doesn't gloss over either the dangers or the horrors of war and I found myself shocked by one scene, in particular, which is quite graphic (albeit factual, unfortunately). So be prepared for some unpleasantness...

...which only serves to make the romance that much sweeter. Our hero is Lt. Colonel Hugh Junot, of the Royal Marines, a man of "mature" years who is stalwart, unflappable, and completely swoon-worthy. His lady love-to-be is Polly Brandon, the plain, earnest and practical natural child of an English nobleman.

Polly is en route to Portugal to be helpful, though she doesn't quite know how. She believes herself to be the ugly duckling when compared to her two sisters and she is burdened with spectacles. As well as a nasty bout of seasickness, which is what initially brings her and the colonel together.

At thirty-seven, the colonel believes himself unsuitable for nineteen-year-old Polly. She, however, is oblivious to the age difference. Although I know some readers have problems with romances like this, I don't. They're historically accurate and, to my mind, Polly probably wouldn't have survived their adventures had the colonel been younger and callower.

The plot revolves around the capture of Polly and the colonel by French troops and their subsequent attempt to reach French lines. Relying on each other and through a series of challenges, they fall in love. And their journey is tough, dangerous, and none too pretty. I realize that's not much of a plot description, but the story is in the emotional impact of their experiences, rather than in the events per se. You just have to read it.

The colonel has become one of my all-time favorite romance heros. And Marrying the Royal Marine is destined for my keeper shelf.

23 June 2010

New Cover!

Hooray! I just got the new cover for my SF romance, The Antaren Affair. Although I know that more explicit covers sell books, I'm pleased that mine isn't. At least by the standards of erotic romance. Tasteful covers (well, okay, "tasteful" is a relative term) will keep family relations civil. And not give my sister any more reason than she already has to give me a hard time.

I'm already taking more than enough grief from my family for what I do. Everyone thinks that "the smut queen of Southeast" as a nickname is just funny as all get-out. I can't make a long-distance phone call without someone in another room asking "Who's on the phone?" Then I hear a snort of laughter before someone else yells "it's the smut queen." I suppose I should be grateful, as it's actually an improvement over my childhood nickname, which involved a reference to barnyard animals.

And don't even get me started about calling what I write "porn." My sister takes every opportunity to use this word in sentences, as in "So, when is writing porn going to start paying for the cat food?"

It's not porn!

Porn has no romance. Porn has no characterization or plot. Porn doesn't attempt to create sympathetic characters that you care about.

It's not porn. Got it?

And I'm happy to think that my book covers don't suggest otherwise.

17 June 2010

The Season . . . and ebooks

Today there’s an excerpt of Not Quite a Lady posted at The Season. It's a great website for reviews--especially of historical romances--as well as for general discussion, comments, and top-pick lists (I adore book lists). Plus, the web design is lovely. I'm really pleased to have NQAL featured and want to thank the folks at The Season for the opportunity.

Since the site receives a lot of traffic, there are a number of comments. It’s great to get real-time feedback from readers, though I noticed that many are dismayed by the cost of ebooks. At $5.20 for an electronic file, which is what my book costs from the publisher website, I can see that it might seem a bit high, since you’re getting a file, rather than something more tangible.

On the other hand, mass-market paperbacks are increasingly running about $7.99 plus tax. More and more romances are also being issued first as trade paperbacks (the larger size books), which cost about $14.99. Recently I even saw a Jim Butcher book for $9.99 that was of a size half-way between a mass-market PB and a trade book.

My point is that $5.20, in light of the increasing cost of tree books, is not too bad a deal, unless you are seriously dissuaded by the ebook medium. Further, there’s the fact that in buying tree books, you and I are supporting an energy-intensive industry that consumes a lot of fuel in production, transport, and distribution.

Even though I haven’t yet made the switch to an ebook reader, I expect I will within the next 12 months. I’m currently traveling in Norway and it would have been a lot easier to load up an ebook reader rather than use precious backpack space for books. Plus there’s always the fear that I’ll run out of books to read while on the plane, since I just can’t stomach paying the equivalent of $20 for an English-language paperback.

Anyway, I do get reader concerns about the cost of ebooks. And as an author, it would be nice to see my work actually in print. But I’m also convinced that ebooks will take an ever increasing share of the market, and I foresee download sites at places such as airports and cafes in the near future. That means my book will have a much longer “shelf life” (file life? server life?) than any paperback.

05 June 2010

Medieval Inspiration

I've been working madly on my short novel set in medieval England and I happened to, uh, visit the fan site for actor Richard Armitage--a slip of the mouse, I swear! Armitage starred in one of my favorite period dramas, North and South (no, not the John Jakes one), based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Anyway, the fan site also featured Armitage in his role of Guy of Gisbourne from Robin Hood and I happened to find a wallpaper by IslaJane that looks exactly as I imagined Stephen de Langlois, the hero of my medieval WIP, The Captured Bride. Anyway, thought I'd share a bit of, er, inspiration.

02 June 2010

Release date for The Antaren Affair

Yay! Just heard from my editor that the release date for The Antaren Affair will be July 7th. Very exciting! I still don't have a cover to post, but I'll slap it up on the blog as soon as it comes in. For now, I can offer a blurb. Excerpt coming soon.

Colonel Rákōsy Avar is an officer in the Imperial Forces sent to the planet Antares to negotiate an alliance. He’s learned the hard way to trust no one and has only one passion: duty. But when an Antaren kebara is sent to serve him in any way that he desires, she proves too great a temptation for the battle-scarred warrior. Although he suspects a trap, he still wants her in his bed. On her back.
Meraya is a woman trained to provide sexual pleasure. A woman whose duty is to serve. She has never known freedom. Or desire. But discovers both in the arms of the barbarian colonel. But Meraya is a pawn in a deadly game of interstellar politics that could cost her everything…including her heart.

When Avar discovers he wants more than what’s between Meraya’s lovely thighs, he must play for the highest stakes ever, gambling with the life of a woman he can’t resist. A woman whose betrayal would destroy him.

01 June 2010

Reading Romance: Beauty and the Scarred Hero, by Emily May

Despite the name, Beauty is a great read for those who love traditional Regencies in the style of Georgette Heyer. It features Harriet, a hapless young girl running away from an arranged marriage--a character frequently seen in Heyer's romps. Harriet has the good fortune to meet up with Isabella, the heroine.

Isabella is a bit older than the usual twenty-something misses found in romance novels and she has decided to remain a spinster. That is, until she meets Major
Reynolds, the battle-scarred and supposedly frightening betrothed of poor Harriet.

No need for highwaymen, smugglers, or evil cousins to move the plot of this Regency along. Instead, May focuses wholly on the principals, and it's a delight. Wonderful dialogue, lots of romantic tension, and sympathetic, likable characters make this a just-about-perfect Regency.

If you liked In For a Penny, by Rose Lerner, which I've also recommended, then I suggest you try Emily May. She also writes romantic fantasy as Emily Gee. If that's to your taste, check out her wonderful The Laurentine Spy. [Unfortunately, May's earlier Regency is hard to find and her Mills & Boon two-in-one doesn't seem to be available in the US.]