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Friday, January 30, 2015

Review of You're So Fine by Kieran Kramer plus an Interview & Giveaway!

Last summer, I read author Kieran Kramer's book Sweet Talk Me and fell in love with Ms. Kramer's sweet talking charming hero Harrison and True, his modern day southern heroine. Sweet Talk Me holds a special place on my keeper shelf. I am THRILLED to report that I loved both Beau and Lacey the main characters in Ms. Kramer's You're So Fine but, the character who stole my heart was Henry, Lacey's adopted son. 

Lacey Clark leaves California and her dreams of becoming an actress and travels to the east coast with Henry, her adopted son.  Her ex-boyfriend's agent handed her the keys to a lighthouse located in Indigo, South Carolina. Lacey has six weeks to find a job and day care before the lease expires. Her first night at the lighthouse is interrupted by a knock at the door. Seems that Lacey's ex-boyfriend has leased the lighthouse to actor Beau Wilder, who is filming a movie nearby. The fun begins when Beau recognizes Lacey for a role in the movie Biker Aliens which was so bad it was released only to video and calls her Greta. Lacey and Beau decide to share the lighthouse.

The following excerpt is one of my favorite scenes from the book. It's a perfect example of Ms. Kramer crafts her dialogue to fit the characters and each scene in the novel. I love Henry's role in the conversation and it made me laugh out loud.

Henry stared back, and his jaw stopped working so fast.'I gotta run and get my magnifying glass." 
Beau almost spit out his bacon. 'You do?" 
Henry nodded. "How'd you get in that man's body? Nathan Ritter told me that real men live inside Pluto and Donald Duck at Disneyland. And now I know a dog can live inside a man." He swung his head to look at his mom. "Mom, can we call Nathan and tell him?" 
"Henry,' Lacey put her hands on the edge of the table. "You're not making any sense." 
"Where's your magnifying glass?" Henry asked Beau. "Let's go get it." 
Beau stopped chewing completely. Karma was such a bitch. 
"Are you alright, Mr. Wilder?" Lacey asked him.
 'Fine," he croaked like a dweeb. Here he called her Greta--really rubbing it in; God, he'd been stupid...and drunk--and now, now.......
 'He's Dudley the Dog Detective," Henry said to his momma.'And I am so glad that out of everyone in the world, he's decided to come live with us." 

I loved the three main characters of Beau, Lacey and Henry and enjoyed watching them grow and change during the novel. At first glance Beau appeared to be a smooth talking, spoiled actor who was used to getting what he wanted. Lacey has suffered many personal and professional disappointments and has put up a 'NoTrespassing Sign' when it comes to men. She has decided to focus on being a good Mom to Henry and to get a job to support her family. Henry is adorable and I loved the scenes when he and Beau looked for clues. Beau knows how to talk to Henry, but can he charm Lacey?

Ms. Kramer has the ability to draw the reader into the novel with her witty dialogue and well-defined characters. It's easy to identify with the characters because their day-to-day issues and family relationships are realistic. Mike, the film director, was very direct with Beau. He challenged Beau to step outside of his action adventure movie star personna and relate the character of Evan.  I loved the scenes with Lacey's mother Sheena and her husband Walt because they provided insight into Lacey's upbringing and past choices. Does Lacey push Beau past the point of no return at dinner with her parents?

 Beau and Lacey are attracted to each other and their chemistry sizzles!  I enjoyed how their relationship progressed as the story unfolded. Will they act on their feelings or remain friends?  The last few chapters surprised me as  there were unexpected twists in the storyline. I loved the ending and found it to be very rewarding.

Reviewed by Susan Gorman

Lady Celeste loved You're So Fine  and had a few questions for Kieran.

Both of your contemporaries feature strong female heroines. Are the characters based on anyone? Mother, Aunt, Friend? Both True and Lacey's lives did not turn out the way they planned. I loved that both characters made the best of their situation and "carried on."


My women are always a little bit Scarlett O’Hara, a little bit me, and definitely take inspiration from the rest of the females in my family—all of whom are strong, colorful gals—as well as friends of mine. But True and Lacey are also their own selves. A handful of magic fairy dust goes into the creation of each of my characters!

One of my favorite scenes is when Henry listens to Beau talking at the kitchen table and realizes that Beau is Dudley, his favorite cartoon character! What inspired that scene? I love your sense of humor.

That scene with Henry and Beau is one of my absolute favorites!!! I have no idea how that happened…suddenly, Beau was Dudley. Afterward, I realized that my favorite heroes are those with hidden nuances like this—something funny or even humiliating that they own up to. Note that Beau brings up the fact that Brad Pitt used to dress like a giant chicken to earn money before he was famous.

I find real men sexy! And men who love kids and who are willing to make fun of themselves are my favorite of all….

Three things you loved most about You're So Fine!

1) I love the lighthouse. We have a family friend who owns one. There are actually many privately owned lighthouses in the US.
2) I love my secondary characters, like Dickey, the pathological liar, and Mike, the film director. I grow very attached to all the people in my stories.
3) I love the sexy ease--coupled with respect--that Beau employs to work himself into Lacey’s life. I love Lacey’s prickly defenses and her love of makeup.

I know that you have written historical novels and are now writing contemporary novels. Why the change? Do you like one genre better than the other?

I’m one of those people who has so many interests, it takes someone to strap me down to stick to one thing for long. But I have to say that I feel that writing contemporary novels suits me best. I LOVE the Regency period of England for a lot of reasons and plan to get out more books in that time period, but my Southern sensibility just fits right into the genre I’m writing now. I love the Lowcountry and the South so much, I could write about it the rest of my life.


Do you have a writing schedule? Words per day or pages per day? No, I’m the antithesis of counting, organizing, etc., LOL! I’m a great big-picture person, however, and I see what I have to do--and wing it!!! I’ve noticed that it can be very stressful to live like that , so if you come into my office, you’ll see calendars, plotting boards, etc. But the real Kieran is all about waking up and figuring out the day as it comes.

Any advice to someone who is thinking about writing a book??
Yes. Stop talking about it, and write one double-spaced page a day for 365 days. That’s a book. And stop putting this dream on a pedestal. We tend to idolize our dreams to the point they are no longer in the realm of the practical and real (I read this somewhere and can’t remember where, but it has stuck with me). Our dreams are shimmering up there in the ether, and we’re so “starstruck,” we become too afraid to grab hold of ‘em.
You’re not perfect, and neither will your book be. It’s an extension of who you are now in all your messy, vibrant glory. Once the book’s done, you can polish it then, but right now get OFF the perfection train and just damn well sit down with a laptop or a yellow legal pad and write!
And be nice to yourself along the way. Stop punishing yourself if you get discouraged or quit for a while. This is a journey. Just pick up your pen or keyboard and get going again.

How do you balance your writing career with family time?
It’s hard!!! My family always comes first, even when I’m under deadline. I work to live, not live to work. I’m a professional and turn books in on time, but I’m always aware that life is fleeting and I want to spend as much of it as I can focusing on loving, helping, taking inspiration from, and laughing with my loved ones.


Any hints on your next book? Title, subject, available date???
Yes, ma’am! It’s called TROUBLE WHEN YOU WALKED IN, and it’s already up on Amazon (I think without the cover), but the cover reveal was on Heroes and Heartbreakers just this past week. I love it! It’s a contemporary romance that takes place in the Great Smokey Mountains. I used to live in Hickory, NC, and traveled up to Blowing Rock and Boone quite a bit. All my contemporaries could easily become series. I had Biscuit Creek, SC, in SWEET TALK ME; Indigo Beach, SC, in YOU’RE SO FINE, and now Kettle Knob, NC, in TROUBLE. But I tend to write stand alones. That goes back to question #1 where I said it’s hard to pin me down!!! LOL!!!


Lady Celeste and I are looking forward to When You Walked In!  

US Giveaway!
What are three things you love most about romance novels?
To enter, please answer the question, provide your name and email address.
Kieran has offered a paperback copy of You're So Fine  & a Love Conquers All koozie to one lucky commenter.
Winner will be drawn & notified on February 7, 2015.


USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer currently writes fun contemporary romance for St. Martin’s Press. A former journalist and English teacher, Kieran’s also a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer. She lives where she grew up-in the Lowcountry of South Carolina-with her family. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and at www.kierankramerbooks.com.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In Bed With A Spy by Alyssa Alexander

In Bed With A Spy is historical romantic suspense at it's best. Author Alyssa Alexander has created a memorable heroine in the passionate Lilias Fairchild and a  truly romantic hero in Alastair Whitmore, the Marquess of Angelstone. I was so captivated by these two characters and their story that I read this novel in two evenings. 



Prologue--Waterloo, 1815

Reflex sent Angel's bayonet plunging as a Frenchman reared up in front of him, face contorted by fear.When the man screamed, regret shot through Angel before he forced it away. It was kill or be killed. There was no time for regret.

He surged forward with the ranks of foot soldiers, compelled to look for the woman. The muddied ground sucked at his feet, threatening to pull him beneath thundering hooves and panicked soldiers. Broken corn stalks slashed at his face. The sulfur smell of black powder burned his nose, mixing with the scent of men's fear.

He fought past a charging enemy soldier, spun away from another and saw her again.

Soot streaked her grim face. She grinned at the enemy standing before her---and the smile was terrible. The man paled but, aimed his rifle at her. He was not fast enough to beat her sword.

When that soldier, too, fell under her sabre, she looked up. Over the dead soldier and through the swirling gray smoke, Angel met her eyes. They were chilling, pale blue and held only one thing.

Vengeance.


These paragraphs drew me into the story immediately. I imagined that I was watching the battle, seeing the carnage and breathing in the smoke from the gunfire. Such a powerful prologue which sets the stage for an intense novel filled with passion, intrigue and murder.

Two years later, Alastair Whitmore, the Marquess of Angelstone sees the woman from the battlefield at a ballroom in London. Angel  is introduced to Lilias Fairchild, the widow of Major Jeremy Fairchild ,by his friend and fellow spy Lord Langford. Lilas accepts Angels invitation to take a walk on the terrace. During their conversation both of them admit that they are trying to move forward after the war and there is an instant attraction between the couple. Lilias is unnerved by her feelings and drops her reticule. Angel helps her pick up her belongings. After Lilias leaves, Angel finds a medallion on the terrace floor and is shocked. The disc is a calling card for the Death Addlers, a group of assassins. The same group of assassins that killed his lover Gemma. Why did Lilias have the medallion? Is she an assassin?

I loved the character of Angel in Ms. Alexander's first novel the Smuggler Wore Silk. I wondered if Angel would have a story and what type of woman would be his partner. Lilias a strong,  passionate heroine, perfect for Angel. For six years,  Lilias followed her husband Major Jeremy Fairchild through almost every battle during the war. After Jeremy was killed, she took his sword and took his place on the battlefield. Jeremy died. And Lilias wanted vengeance.

Angel kidnaps Lilias from a ball and confronts her about the medallion. Lilias tells Angel that her husband gave her the medallion as he was dying. Angel accuses Jeremy of being an assassin. Lilias is shocked and angry at Angels accusation. Lilias thinks back and remembers events that didn't make sense. Things she never questioned but accepted. What if your life, your marriage, your husband....wasn't what you thought it was?

The romance between Lilias and Angel evolves as the couple pursues the leader of the Addlers. This couple has chemistry! Their story is tender, sensuous and passionate. And it sizzles! The last few chapters of the book are intense and well-written. Lilias and Angel must learn to trust each other as the join forces to pursue the Addlers. There were several betrayals and lots of intrigue as the hunt for the leader of the assassin  group intensifies. Ms. Alexander crafted a believable evil villain. Even though the reader did not know the identity of the leader of the Addlers, the villains presence was felt throughout the entire novel and played a huge part in this novel of suspense, passion and intrigue. I was captivated by Lilias and Angel's story and stayed up very late to finish the novel. I truly enjoyed the resolution to the story.

I am looking forward to the next Spy In The Ton novel!

Reviewed by Sue Gorman


Interview with Alyssa Alexander

After  reading In Bed With A Spy, Lady Celeste sent Alyssa Alexander a few questions!

Thank you so much for the review! And for allowing me to share a bit more about the book! 

What was your inspiration for In Bed With A Spy?
Part of the inspiration for IN BED WITH A SPY was Angel, as he appeared in my debut release, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK. He almost walked off with a few scenes in that book, so I knew he had to have his own story. He surprised me a bit along the way, but Angel started the ball rolling.
I also knew I needed a strong-willed heroine to match him. I researched women who followed their husbands on the march with Wellington, and I was utterly in awe of their strength, perseverance and ability to handle whatever hardships life threw at them. And so Lilias was born.

What drew you towards the historical suspense genre? 
I’ve always loved suspense. I’ve read straight suspense, romantic suspense, police procedures, psychological thrillers, and mysteries going back to Agatha Christie. But I also love romance, particularly historical. There’s something so fabulous about being swept away to another time and place where your imagination can really soar. It just seemed natural to combine the two. I like the historical romance heavy on the suspense, simply because it appeals to all the things I like best! 

The prologue for this book was awesome...it drew me in immediately. I could imagine the battle, see the characters and smell the smoke....well done..:) Was it tough to write?
Thank you so much! And, believe it or not, no. It was probably the easiest scene to write in that book! I often write out of order, and many of the best and easiest scenes fall out of my head with no relation to where I am in the manuscript. The scene just unfolds with such clarity I can’t wait to write it down. The prologue was written with a mental image of Lilias on horseback that I couldn’t shake. It was almost like a movie reel rolling in my head--the smoke hanging in the air, the cries of the men, Lilias standing in stirrups, her sword held high. And, despite all the self-editing and copy edits, the scene remained almost the same at publication. A few details were added, phrasing changed for clarity, but the basics of the scene itself never changed. Lilias is a warrior to me, and that image carried me through the book. 

Did you have a favorite character or scene?
The prologue. But I also love the scene (spoiler alert!) when Lilias hides the pistol in the potted palm. That was another easy scene to write, and I laughed my way through it. My other favorite is a love scene--not the music scene later on (trying not to give away too many spoilers!), but the scene when Angel discovers Lilias’s scars. There is something very poignant about that moment for me.
As for characters, aside from Angel and Lilias, my favorite would be Maggie, Angel’s niece. Who doesn't love a rascally little girl? 

Have you always enjoyed writing? What inspired you to write a novel?
I would say I have never NOT had a story in my head. Going back to elementary school, as early as first and second grade, I remember making up stories in my head. Riding on the bus, sitting in the car, playing dress-up, even lying in bed before I fell asleep. There were always people running through the hills and valleys of my imagination. Then one day I gave them a voice by putting pen to paper, and that was the end. I don’t think it was ever a question of “if” I would write a novel, but “when”. Of course, getting published was an entirely different thing! 

How do you have time to write with work, a child and a busy home life? Do you set a word count or a page count? How do you balance it all?
Oh, don’t be fooled! My life isn’t always balanced, and I drop as many balls as I successfully juggle. But the balls I drop are the ones that don’t matter--never family or work. I’ve never failed to meet a deadline or an obligation, though I have emailed my post to bloggers twice, lol! Clearly, I was making sure I didn’t drop a ball. And, to be frank, after I was published it was difficult keeping track of life without feeling overwhelmed. I purchased a planner that has a weekly calendar and ‘to do’ list, a daily calendar, and a monthly calendar. (I swear, I’m not getting paid for this, but check out the life planners at www.erincondren.com.) It helps me stay organized with meetings, school conferences, meals and doctor appointments. More than that, simply writing out my ‘to do’ list and crossing it off makes me feel in control. And, as I said, I haven’t missed an obligation yet!

Also, I try not to procrastinate (working on this one all the time!) and I compartmentalize my life. The day is all work and errands and family. Then my 6 year old boy-child goes to bed at 8:00ish, and 5 nights a week I write or handle writing business from 8 or 9 pm until my bedtime. I don’t often set a word or page goal, but simply write until I stop--which means write until I slide sideways out of the chair or my head hits the desk. I have actually woken up with my face on the desk, hands on keyboard, and 20 pages of jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj on my screen.
Oh, I should add I drink a lot of coffee and my house is a disaster zone. Enter at your own peril. 

Any advice for new authors?
Write, write, write. Believe in yourself. Believe you can get better and strive to get better. Trust your instinct, but don’t forget to listen to others. Take time to listen to and develop your own voice. 

Can you give us a hint or two about the next book? Characters, cover, due date? 
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot I can share at this time! But suffice it to say, I have another Spy In The Ton book up my sleeve--this one with a grumpy hero I simply adore! Stay tuned, and I’ll provide you the details as soon as I can!





Despite being a native Michigander, Alyssa Alexander is pretty certain she belongs somewhere sunny. And tropical. Where drinks are served with little paper umbrellas. But until she moves to those white sandy beaches, she survives the cold Michigan winters by penning romance novels that always include a bit of adventure. She lives with her own set of heroes, aka an ever-patient husband who doesn't mind using a laundry basket for a closet, and a small boy who wears a knight in a shining armor costume for such tasks as scrubbing potatoes 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Review of I've Got My Duke To Keep Me Warm -- Kelly Bowen

"I have to assume , Gisele, that what you did--what you do--is to atone for something in your past. Something terrible. What did you do in London, Gisele?"
"I got married." she said savagely, suddenly furious he had forced her into this before she was ready.
A charged silence filled the space between them.
Jamie sat back down with a thump. "You're married?" It came out as an accusation.
"Not anymore."
'You're a widow?" His tone softened slightly.
'No. I'm..."  She trailed off, searching for the right words.
'Divorced?" he was incredulous now.
"No."
"Then what?" He demanded. "What the hell are you?"


 Gisele looked directly into his eyes." Dead," she whispered. "I'm dead." 



I've Got My Duke To Keep Me Warm is the first book in author Kelly Bowen's Lords of Worth series. The book is a fast -paced historical filled with suspense and intrigue. The 400-page novel held my interest and kept me on the edge of my chair as the story unfolded.
 


Ms. Bowen has created many memorable characters in this novel. The characters of Gisele and Jamie are multi-faceted and their stories touched my heart. The secondary characters are well-developed and play important roles in the story. Gisele's friend Sebastian, who was her husbands servant, plays a pivotal role in the story. He is Gisele's confidante, Jamie's valet and is instrumental in the storyline's resolution. Eleanor, the Duchess of Worth is a wonderful character. She adds a lot of humor with her love of poultry  and her conversations with her son. She may appear to be an aging Duchess but in truth she plays an important role in Gisele's life. The author has also created a truely evil villain, Adam Levire, the Marquess of Valence. His menacing presence is felt throughout the entire novel. 

The storyline touches upon both main character's demons, domestic abuse and the after effects of wartime battle, in a credible manner. 

Four years ago, Gisele had faked her death in a boat explosion which was witnessed by hundreds of people to escape her husband's physical abuse. Gisele has learned that her husband is going to re-marry and does not want his new wife to suffer as she did. Gisele and her friend Sebastian hire former soldier, Jamie Montcrief to assist them in their plan to interrupt the Marquess' marriage. The tension increases as the three characters travel towards London. Will someone recognize them at a local tavern? On the road? On the streets of London?

There were several interesting subplots which added to the storyline. Jamie is befriended by both the Duchess of Worth's son and the future Marchioness of Valence's brother. Both of these characters were well written and added depth and credibility to the story.  I enjoyed the level of suspense in the novel. Throughout the story, I kept wondering if Gisele and Jamie would be caught--would they be discovered? Could they pull off such a dangerous plan and expose Valence before he harms anyone else? I enjoyed this engaging, suspenseful novel and found the ending very rewarding.


Congratulations to Kelly Bowen for an excellent debut novel! Am looking forward to A Good Rogue is Hard to Find which is the next book in the the Lords of Worth series!



Reviewed by Susan Gorman *******************************************************************

Susan Gorman's review of I've Got My Duke To Keep Me Warm was published on Freshfiction.com on Sunday, January 4, 2015. Please click here to read the review.