Posts tagged with: historicals

From Daring Damsels to Hockey Hotties– Joanne Rock


The force of the arrow roared through him as it struck the shield still clutched in his hand.  Bemused, he stared as the flaming arrowhead  ignited the shield with lightning speed.  The heat of the burning wood finally penetrated his dulled wits, and Malcolm  withdrew his grip from the rapidly disintegrating armor.  Although not an heirloom, the shield had been crafted by Laird McNair for his son.  Malcolm was disappointed to see it ruined, but it had served its purpose today, protecting him from what would no doubt have been a mortal blow.

From the stout defense of the walnut tree, he peered up to the northern watchtower, from whence the missile had come.  He blinked to clear his vision, knowing his eyes must deceive him.

Yet there she was.

A woman.

Standing defiantly on the crenellated parapet, she did not even bother to duck behind the safety of the wall now that she had discharged her deadly shot.  She lowered her crossbow, her gaze never leaving her intended victim…

The fey creature was no kitchen maid.  She reeked of nobility. Her green-yellow gown shimmered with the precise hue of newly unfurled spring leaves, and even from Malcolm’s considerable distance, he could see the voluminous folds and rich color conveyed wealth.  A golden girdle sparkled around her hips in the sinking sunlight.

And her hair…

The woman’s hair outshone her adornments. It floated in a halo about her head and shoulders, rippling clear down to her waist.  Loose flaxen strands caught by the breeze gave the impression of gentle disarray.  She looked like a pagan sacrifice to the ancient gods of spring.

Rock-The Laird's LadyHave you ever finished a book and then flipped right back to the front to start reading it again?

That’s what happened to me way back in 2005 when I read The Laird’s Lady

Rosalind and Malcolm’s story hooked me hard.  Every now and then, after all these years, I still drift off, thinking about it.  That story had just the right amount of history,  plus wounded, driven main characters, and in particular it had something  I hadn’t seen in a lot of historical romance–a strong, kick-butt heroine.   Now it’s available only in eBook and in paperback at used bookstores, but I’ll tell you that this book won me to medieval historicals, and the author became my go-to girl for medieval romance. 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that author several times at conferences and events around the country, and I can tell you she’s as sweet and generous as she is lovely and talented.   She now has more than 60 books under hejoanne rockr belt, and I’m so pleased to introduce you to her today. 

Sven is pouring drinks, so y’all give your orders to one of the guys–they’re all here–the whole crew has gathered ’round to meet today’s guest, and you’ll soon figure out why. 

Everyone please give a famous lair welcome to  one of my long-time favorite authors, Joanne Rock.

*loud applause and whistles*

Cassondra:  Joanne, thank you so much for joining us in the lair today!  First things first though…what would you like from the bar?

Joanne:  Thank you so much for having me here! I’m feeling right at home and it’s always nice to visit with you. Since you were kind enough to ask, I’d love a margarita.

Cassondra:  *speaks up over sounds of ice being scooped and drinks being shaken behind the bar* I read your bio when I was getting ready for the interview, and saw that you went to the University of Louisville.  That was new to me since I thought of you as being from Florida, then the Northeast.  I tend to think our childhoods are a big part of what makes us the writers we are. Will you tell us a little about where you grew up and your moves about the world?

University of LouisvilleJoanne:  Surely! *smiles and nods at Sven as he sets her margarita and  my glass of Cabernet on the small, rustic table between us*  I grew up south of Albany, New York, on a farm along the Hudson River. I used to like to sit by the river and watch the trains go by on their way to New York City.

Eventually, I would be on the train every summer while I worked in Manhattan as a teenager. It was fun and exciting, but it taught me that I was as much a farm girl as a city girl. Like Goldilocks, I’ve always been in search of the perfect place for myself and neither of those places were quite right. Louisville, Kentucky, on the other hand, was a great fit!

Cassondra:  I love Louisville. It’s my favorite Kentucky city.

Joanne:  The city is charming with lots of arts and culture. Outside the city, it’s wonderfully rural and you feel right at home hanging out with the neighbors in the backyard for weekend picnics.

 Cassondra:  But you’ve moved around a bunch since then, right?

Joanne: *nods and takes a sip of her drink* Since my Louisville days, I’ve relocated a fair amount for my husband’s then-job as a sports editor. We lived in Utah, Ohio, Louisiana and Florida before an extended stay in upstate New York again. These days, I’m trying to be a snowbird even though we have kids in schoSesame Street Story bookol. I think the change of scenery inspires my work and keeps me energized.

 Cassondra:  As prolific as you are, I’m sure it’s extra- important to keep the well filled so the stories can flow.    Do you remember what made you fall in love with books?

 Joanne:  I probably fell in love with books because my parents read to me a lot and they so obviously loved reading as well. I saw my parents read all the time. My dad used to read a Sesame Street story to me called “The Diamond D and the Dreadful Dragon” and we were so silly with it.

Cassondra:  Hmmm…on a lark I went looking for that story, and I think I’m vindicated in believing the childhood of the writer influences what she writes.  The first line reads

 Dozens of years ago.

In a drafty castle.

Duke David of Dundeedle did dwell.**

And…..*dramatic pause*… you grew up to write romance set dozens of years ago in drafty castles. 

Joanne:  *liRock--The Knight's Returnfts her margarita glass and grins*   My dad also liked to arrange my wealth of stuffed animals into storybook vignettes as a surprise for me when I got home from school. One day, he’d made a newspaper hat for my stuffed dog so he looked like Robin Hood.  Another day, one stuffed bear was trying to shoot an apple off another stuffed bear’s head. From my early childhood, stories came to life for me in a fun way.

Cassondra: What a gift that was!…Your parents gave you the gift of story, and you now give that gift to all of us who are readers.   *cheers and more catcalls from the audience* 

You went on to school for  a higher degree in English.  What were your plans for that, and how did you end up in romance?

 Joanne:  I got my Bachelor’s degree in Communication and then wondered why I hadn’t gone to school for what I loved most- English.

I had tried to be very practical about my education, but I ended up realizing there’s such a thing as being too practical and that you will be best served by following your passions.

So on the day that I started my Master’s coursework, I was simultaneously beginning my first romance novel. I literally wrote the opening on campus before my first class. The dream of writing a book and the dream of studying English literature went sort of hand-in-hand for me.

I ended up in romance because I love everything romantic- from the Romantic poets, to Arthurian romance, to chivalry and modern day genre fiction. Romance speaks to me because I adore the big, sweeping emotions associated with the tradition.

Rock--Learning CurvesCassondra:  You’ve written more than 60 books, so your call story—and your first sale—were a lot of words ago, but not so long ago in terms of time.  Do you mind telling the story?

Joanne:  I don’t think a writer ever gets tired of reliving the happy memory of the first sale! I had written several full manuscripts before selling one. I wrote medieval historicals first but realized there simply weren’t as many outlets for historicals, whereas – at the time- 75% of the romance purchased by editors was contemporary. So I tried my hand at contemp in a line that I read anyway- Harlequin Temptation. I was scared to try it at first, but the story really flowed well! I knew I was on to something.

 Cassondra:  Ah, I miss the Temptation line.  Rock-One Man Rush

Joanne:  *nods* Another benefit to writing contemporary romance- and for Temptation in particular- was that editor Brenda Chin was so incredibly accessible to writers at conferences and regional workshops. She was an active contest judge too. So I got my stories in front of her and she gave me feedback and encouragement that were like pure gold to a new author. I sold to her within a year and settled into a very happy publishing schedule.

 Cassondra:  *glances around room as she swirls wine in her glass*  All of Bandita Anna Sugden’s hockey hunks are standing around the edges of the room today. 

Joanne:  I’ve been fanning myself the whole time. 

Cassondra:  They wouldn’t miss your interview for anything, because one of your series is about a family of brothers, including two amazing hockey players, Kyle and Axel.    Why hockey?

Joanne:  *smiles aRock--Her Man Advantaget good-natured catcalls from hockey hunks*   What’s not to love about a hockey player? *more catcalls*  They are incredibly hard-working athletes in a sport as tough as any out there. I follow a lot of sports, including the NHL, and hockey players also strike me as super down-to-earth for professional athletes. So it was a pleasure to write about a couple of hockey guys in my recent Murphy Brothers series.

Cassondra:  Tell us about that series?

Joanne:  There are five brothers (four plus a sort-of foster brother they took in- a Finn who started living with the family when he played on a junior team with one of the brothers) and their family dynamic really spoke to me. My husband has six brothers, so I get to see those relationships in action all the time!

The prequel to Murphy Men is actually a free online read.  You can get it here  Living the Fantasy.Rock--Making a splash

Cassondra:   *waves wine glass at Buddies*  Y’all definitely need to read that.  You’ll love it, I promise.  And you can read the blurbs for the different books, plus some excerpts by clicking on the links below.   Joanne, tell us the reading order?

Joanne:   After Living the Fantasy, the books are in this order..

 Book 1 -Jack and Alicia’s story,   Making a Splash

Book 2- Keith and Josie’s story, is  Riding the Storm

Book 3 – ORock--Riding The Stormne Man Rush is the first of the hockey books, about Kyle and Marissa. 

Book 4–Her Man Advantage, is Axel and Jennifer’s story.  Hockey defenseman Axel is the foster brother from Finland.  

Book 5-Full Surrender, wraps up the Murphy brothers’ stories with Stephanie and  Uniformly Hot! Lieutenant Daniel Murphy.

Cassondra:  I love all these guys, and of course I have a thing for guys in military uniform, but I gotta tell ya, I  totally fell for Axel. *fans self and takes a long sip of wine* 

Ahem….Rock-Full SurrenderNow let’s time travel a bit, from the very modern, very steamy world of Harlequin Blaze. 

As I said earlier,  I first discovered Joanne Rock books because of historicals.  I’m always interested in why writers choose a certain period of history.  In particular the earlier periods when there were fewer creature comforts.   Why medieval for you?

 Joanne:  I like the independence of the feudal estate. It gave rise to a way of life that was unique to each household since the lord of the land functioned like a king in his realm.

Medieval nobles had to be Alphas, and it’s a setting where I can accept an Alpha guy for being that way because people would die if he wasn’t strong enough to hold his lands. There’s something very primal about this responsibility, and the medieval hero is unique because of it.

I also like the epic scale of a historical since the stakes were so high. A wrong choice could mean death. For a Rock--Vanquished by the Vikingwoman, an indiscretion could mean losing her position and her way of life forever.


 Cassondra:  You’ve been doing a lot of the shorter Undone stories for Harlequin.  Will you tell us about those? 

Joanne:  I’m writing a lot of shorter historicals right now because there is a demand for them. Readers appreciate short content to read stories on their lunch hour or after work and feel like they’re getting a complete, satisfying read. Harlequin puts the “Undone” stories out in anthologies overseas and I hope they’ll find more interesting ways to package them here too. I have a Viking story up next for Undone- VANQUISHED BY THE VIKING– and then I’ve got some Victorian set stories planned with a ghost who’s a Highlander. So it’s set in the Victorian era but the hero is still a laird from a time period I love!

Cassondra:  Do you have plans for more full-length medievals? 

Joanne: I’m not sure when I’ll write a new full length historical, but one of these days! Adding the Young Adult books to my schedule really shifted things around for me, but I will always return to some kind of medieval stories. They are a core part of what I love to write. 

Rock JK-Camp BoyfriendCassondra:  Speaking of the Young Adult, let’s talk about the latest writer hat you’ve donned.  You’re presently writing the Camp Boyfriend YA series as JK Rock with your sister-in-law, Karen.  Can you talk a little about that series ?

Joanne: Camp Boyfriend is the first of a three-book series with Camp Payback out in April 2014 and Camp Forget Me Not in August 2014. Readers can learn more about the series- and the FREE novella downloads between books- at

Cassondra:  You hooked me instantly with these stories.  I never went to camp when I was a kid, but I could SO relate to the heroine, Lauren. 

Camp Juniper Point

“Truth or dare, Piper?”

I twisted my friendship bracelet and eyed my  fidgeting bunkmate, relieved it wasn’t my turn in the hot seat. Yet. Would Piper shake up our seven-year first-day-of-camp tradition and surprise the cabin by taking the dare? Either way, I wanted this mega-humiliating game over before it began. I edged closer to our window fan, my mind whirling as fast as its blades, knees jittering.

“It’s hot. Let’s swim.” I twirled prescription goggles in the expectant silence. Anything to avoid a turn that could lead to me revealing my secret camp crush. I loved my Munchies’ Manor cabin mates, but they were bloodhounds in sniffing out drama. And liking a guy we’d been friends with  forever, one who treated me like a little sister, was a camp soap opera I did not want to star in. What if I crashed and burned? I’d never liked a guy before. At least, not one I knew in real life.

Not when it mattered.

 Cassondra:  Camp or no camp, I’ve felt that.  What inspired you to write Young Adult novels?

Joanne:   I love Young Adult books. I’m thrilled that there are so many offerings for teen readers and I think it’s a great sign for publishing in general that YA is thriving. Part of the reason I wanted to try my hand at a YA was because writing a wide variety of material helps to keep my storytelling fresh. Tackling new challenges makes all my work stronger. But the other reason I wanted to work in YA was for the chance to work with my sister-in-law, who was interested in writing. She’s very talented, and as an eighth grade teacher, had a special affinity for YA books. When we brainstormed a potential project to develop together, Camp BoyfrRock--Soldier's Christmasiend emerged in full-fledged Technicolor.

Cassondra:   You’ve moved to warmer climes for the winter season, just in time for your own kids to start school.  As you dig your toes in the sand, what’s up next for Joanne?  

Joanne: I’ve got two Blazes coming out this fall/winter and I look forward to sharing them with readers. One is a Uniformly Hot! Christmas novella in A SOLDIER’S CHRISTMAS with fellow authors Leslie Kelly and Karen Foley. If you want a hot man in uniform for the holidays, please check this one out!!

 Then, in January, the follow up to MY DOUBLE LIFE goes on sale. MY SECRET FANTASIES is another first-person Blaze, an idea that readers really responded to in MY DOUBLE LIFE. And the down-on-her-luck heroine of MY SECRET FANTASIES is so fun that it’s a blast to be directly in point-of-view as she meets sizzling hot Damien Fraser. Here’s the blurb:

 All I wanted was to escape the media frenzy I left behind in L.A. and open a cute little shop on the Sonoma Coast. Simple, right? But Damien Fraser—the hunky property owner—isn’t exactly thrilled about my reality-TV-star status. Still, I’m pretty sure that all he needs is a little creative convincing…and I’ve learned I can be very creative. 

I started writing a naughty novel, and with every sexy scene I write, things between me and Damien get really hot. Now the hero in my book is starting to look more and more like Damien, and I’m well on my way to becoming my brazen sexpot heroine. But when my real life and my fictional life collide, my fantasies just might cost me all of my dreams….

Rock--My Double Life 

Okay Bandits and Buddies,  have any of you ever done what I did with The Laird’s Lady–finished a book and just flipped right back to the beginning to read it again?

Did you fall in love with books by having other people around you read?  Or read to you?

Have you ever read a medieval romance?    Are there any medievals on your keeper shelf?

Have you ever read a Joanne Rock book?


Do you ever read Young Adult books just for the great stories?  If so, what’s your favorite Young Adult series?

Joanne has brought some great giveaways.  Two random commenters will win a copy of MY DOUBLE LIFE or CAMP BOYFRIEND (your choice)!

Y’all can find Joanne all over the place: Website /Goodreads /Twitter /Facebook /Amazon/ J.K. Rock

**(Snippet of "The Diamond D and the Dreadful Dragon" taken from The Sesame Street Story Book,
Random House, 1971.)


Next Big Blog

What is the title of your book?

The Patrician. First in the Roman series.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been a fan of period history especially the Roman time period. I think it started with lazy Sundays watching all the “classic” movies with my Dad…Ben Hur, The Robe. Also a fascination with the intricacies of an Empire. All powerful. All consuming. Corruption undermining lofty goals. Plus I like guys in tunics 😀

 What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction specifically historical ROMANCE

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

Gilles Marini would make a GREAT Jared. Sigh, love me some Gilles. As to Bryna? A combination of Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence. As for Cuini the cat? Cricket 😀

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Love conquers empires

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

This week I went live with THE PATRICIAN via Kindle/Nook/Kobo/Smashwords and soon Createspace. I love sharing my stories with readers!

 How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

THE PATRICIAN is the evolved version of my first manuscript. VERY first one? Probably 18 months. During that time though, I was learning and reading and networking all to make the story even better.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The decision to begin writing came during one of those moments when you reexamine your life and what you want to do with it. My mother had passed away and the loss of her light hit me hard. I am proud to be a nurse but I wanted to make a larger impact. I love the energy that comes from crafting a story.

What else about your book might interest the reader?

Number one would be the non-traditional time period. I love Regency, westerns but crave the vibrancy of other eras. Vikings, Colonial, Civil War, Ancient….all of them have stories to tell.

As part of the Next Big Blog, I’m to tag four other authors. This opportunity came a bit on the shorter notice side so other bloggsters were committed. But I’d love for you to check out these Bandits websites and their books! ,, and

Do you have a Kindle? A Nook? What draws you to a new book?



Getting to the Bottom of Things!

by Anna Campbell

I went looking for a line of nice male rear ends to illustrate this post – and do you know what? I couldn’t find one! Plenty of girls but no guys! Clearly we need to man (or woman!) the barricades of sexual equality, girls!

Anyway, I thought the elephants illustrated my point well enough although nowhere near as prettily!

Actually this isn’t anything about nicely shaped rear ends! It’s about taking your story to its most basic elements so when people ask you about it, you can answer them without stuttering or spending an hour recounting the whole plot. I’ve tried that – the glazed eyes have to be seen to be believed!

By the way, stop press, thanks to Avon, I’ve got another ARC to give away today! Yes, comment on this post and you can win an advance reader copy of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER! Get commenting, people!

Double stop press! I couldn’t find a line but I did find a very nice single example of getting to the bottom of things! For your viewing pleasure, ladies!

Just recently a friend of mine emailed me in a panic because she needed an article for a newsletter and for various reasons that were nobody’s fault, the person she’d lined up couldn’t do it. Could I help? I was having the day from the proverbial but because she’s a friend, I put something quick together about MY RECKLESS SURRENDER.

And I realized that sometimes it helps not to over-think stuff!

One of the wonderful things about promoting CAPTIVE OF SIN, my last book, was that just before it came out, I worked out that it was a classic marriage of convenience story in Regency noir guise. Nice little soundbite to deliver when people asked – and intriguing enough to get readers interested in the story which is just what you want.

MY RECKLESS SURRENDER is about a dangerous seduction in Regency London which is an OK description as far as it goes but I want something to draw a reader in. I stewed and stewed about what I could say about this book – we all know the popular themes in romance. Secret baby. Cinderella (actually there’s elements of that in this story). Marriage of convenience. Revenge plot. Fish out of water. Friends into lovers. There’s a stack of them – and I think we’ve covered most of them in Bandita blogs at some stage.

Anyway, writing this piece for my friend while juggling various tradesmen (none of whom looked like the guy in the photo, sadly!), I sat down to do a quick description of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER and I automatically described it as a ‘ticking bomb romance’.

Diana Carrick makes a deal with the devil which will give her everything she’s ever wanted. To make her dreams come true, she agrees to commit what she believes is a victimless crime and seduce the notorious rake Tarquin Vale, the Earl of Ashcroft.

But of course, there’s no such thing as a victimless crime…

Tarquin and Diana find themselves caught in a liaison that is nothing like either expected and which plumbs dangerously profound emotional depths. With every moment, Diana is trapped more inescapably between her deception and her growing love for this man who is nothing like the careless, heartless rake she expected. Her secrets threaten to destroy both of them, but she’s gone too far now to retreat.

I love ticking bomb plots! You know, the ones where the readers know more than either the hero or heroine and are just waiting on tenterhooks for that moment of revelation where everything blows sky high. Then of course, the characters need to gird their loins (nothing like that moment when the characters gird their loins!) and deal with the fall-out which takes all their courage and strength and love. Great high-stakes romance!

I’ve seen my first review for MY RECKLESS SURRENDER and it’s a beauty. Romantic Times Book Reviews chose the book as a June Top Pick and called the story ‘enthralling’, ‘complex’ and ‘passionate’ and finished the review by saying “Quite a book!”

Clearly they like ticking bomb romance plots too!

So thinking back over one of the books you’ve read recently, how would you describe the story at its most basic level? For example, Annie West‘s wonderful FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD (which recently hit the USA Today list – huzzah!) is an amnesia/secret baby story with a dash of Cinderella thrown in. CLAIMING THE COURTESAN is Beauty and the Beast. Christine‘s debut SCANDAL’S DAUGHTER is friends into lovers. So how would you describe your recent reading?

Don’t forget there’s an ARC of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER, now christened a ticking bomb romance, up for grabs! Good luck!

Debut author Lisa Cooke in the lair

sponsored by Donna MacMeans

I’ve known Lisa for several years and knew that if her everyday humor and charm were captured in a book – she’d have a hit on her hands. I didn’t have long to wait. Lisa’s debut book, TEXAS HOLD HIM, hit the bookshelves this month. Romantic Times Bookreviews says “It’s a luscious, fast-paced adventure with appealing characters and great scenery.” Luscious. I like that. Please join me in welcoming Lisa Cooke to the lair.

Thanks for inviting me to Romance Bandits today! I’m so excited to be here and to talk about my new release, TEXAS HOLD HIM. I love historical romances, and my favorites are definitely the ones that add humor to the mix. When I write a book, I always think about what types of personalities will give the best potential for a passionate romance and a giggle or two (or three or four).

The hero in TEXAS HOLD HIM is a Texan (of course) named Dyer Straights and a Southern belle who needs a sizable amount of money to pay a blackmailer so she can save her sick father from prison. Dyer is the best gambler on the Mississippi and Lottie agrees to give him a night in his bed in exchange for poker lessons. The ensuing scenes were a blast to write. Lottie had never handled cards in her life and her questioning of the logic of the game exasperates the hero to no end. Of course, there’s much more to the book than poker games, but the banter between my hero and heroine entertained me enormously as I tapped away at my keyboard.

My next book is a story about an 1890’s Appalachian midwife who suddenly finds herself with three fiancés. A MIDWIFE CRISIS will be released in February of 2010 with Leisure historicals. And yes, it’s got a few giggles in it as well, or did you already figure that out by the title?

Luckily, I found an editor who loves humor as much as I do. When Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester Publishing called me this summer, I almost fainted. I remember looking at the caller ID and seeing “Dorchester” and thinking, they must have the wrong number. When she told me she wanted TEXAS HOLD HIM, I could have swallowed my tongue. I’ll never forget her telling me that I had impressed her and Alicia Condon (senior editor). Then she added, “Well, actually, you’ve impressed quite a few people here.” What a cool thing to hear on a hot summer day. She said she laughed out loud at the poker lesson scenes. When I heard that, I knew I’d found my editor
match from Heaven.

So, how about you? Do you enjoy a good chuckle when you read, or do you prefer serious stories? Is it something that changes according to your mood or do you pretty much stick to one type of book?

Leave a comment and you might win a copy of TEXAS HOLD HIM for yourself. Anyone up for a few lessons from a sexy riverboat gambler?
Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Hey – if any of you are headed for the Romantic Times Convention in Orlando, Florida this week, be sure to stop by and visit Lisa, Christie, and I. To read more about TEXAS HOLD HIM, visit Lisa’s website at

Ruthless Rhymes

by Christine Wells

I’m often asked why I chose to write historical romances and why I set them in England.

English history has fascinated me ever since I can remember. I suspect it’s something to do with the glamour of royalty, the political power struggle between kings and subjects and the fun of discovering the origin of so many traditions and expressions that endure throughout the English-speaking world today.

It was my father who first introduced me to this wonderfully rich world of history. When I was very young, he would tell me enthralling tales about English kings and queens, great battles and epic struggles for the crown. He had a way of making history come alive that I can only strive to emulate in my novels.

I’ll never forget the way he disillusioned me about some of the innocent-seeming nursery rhymes I grew up with!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But there’s quite a bloody history to that little verse. It referred to the reign of Queen Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter, during which she put many Protestants to torture and death. Silver bells were thumbscrews, cockle shells were instruments attached to the genitals. (Ouch!) Pretty maids referred to the Maiden, a forerunner of the guillotine, used for more efficient beheading. It seems the plain old executioner’s axe didn’t do the job in one go a lot of the time. Yikes!

Baa Baa Black Sheep was a protest about wool taxes. Pop Goes the Weasel is thought to be about many a poor man’s habit of pawning his Sunday coat to pay for his pleasures, then redeeming it in time for church on Sunday. “Weasel and stoat” was Cockney rhyming slang for coat, and to “pop” was to pawn.

Old Mother Hubbard is actually about Cardinal Wolsey’s failure to secure Henry VIII a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. It’s interesting that so many rhymes seem to come from Tudor times.

And for a more obscure reference, did you know that Little Miss Muffet actually existed? Her name was Patience and her stepfather was a famous entomologist who wrote the first catalogue of British insects. One of his spiders escaped while poor Patience was eating her breakfast, and so the nursery rhyme came about.

What was your favourite nursery rhyme as a child? Do you know any nursery rhymes with interesting backgrounds? If you’re a reader of historicals, what attracts you to that era? One lucky reader will win a signed copy of THE DANGEROUS DUKE!

The Television Generation

by Joan Kayse

I am a child of television.

I confess, I do watch or at least listen to a fair amount of it. What can I say? I was raised in the era of programming expansion. My parents had just gotten used to grainy black and white pictures of Milton Berle when Panavision was invented. They never dreamed they’d be able to watch programs in color and to get reception from the moon? Unthinkable.

I still remember how my parents let my brother and I stay up to watch the broadcast of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon. History was being made and I saw it live.

Television brought world events to my living room in Kentucky..nightly broadcasts of the Vietnam War, the protests, the bra burning. The cultural revolution was unfolding on our small screen. I was a kid. I didn’t understand what all that was about but it impacted me.

But I also remember curling up every Sunday night, after my bath, snug in my jammies to watch “Wild Kingdom” and “The Wonderful World of Disney”. I was safe and secure in my living room while Marlin Perkins wrestled giant anacondas to the ground….or rather sent his trusty sidekick Jim in to do it. (Wonder if ‘ole Jim got extra pay??)

Miniseries were big for a time. “Roots”, “The Winds of War”, “North and South” (minus Richard Armitage). Sagas told over the span of five days. Books brought to life, given faces, making an impact, leaving impressions.

Then Cable TV was invented. The first thing I watched when my parents got it was “The Blue Lagoon”. Pretty risqué business in the early eighties to see semi nude Brooke Shields flinging around that lagoon. Now you can access hundreds of stations and lots more skin if you have the money to pay for all that opulence. I could and have watched The Food Network for hours! Yes, I learned the art of cheesecake making from Good Eats.

Even with all the choices out there I still find myself gravitating toward the classics: I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke. Not a lot of meaning or deep psychological implications in these simple but entertaining shows (save for the AG episode with Opie and Winkin, Blinkin and Nod…sniff). Barney Fife was one of a kind. Watch the “Checkpoint Chickie” episode and not laugh. I dare you! Nobody has neighbors like Ethel and Fred and a boss as hilarious as Alan Brady? Thank goodness for TVLand!

What about you? What were some of your favorite shows? Which was the funniest? Golden Girls? Wings? The Cosby Show?


by Joan

I’m not here. No, really, this post is a hologram sent to the Romance Bandits by way of Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland. Even as you read this I’ve just finished a full Irish breakfast and am tooling along the Burren looking for dolmens, castles and the stray black haired Irish lad..and trying not to run off the road. You see today is my birthday. Yup, it’s April 13th and NO I was not born on a Friday. I don’t mind birthdays as a general rule though with being out of the country this year I avoid my brother’s incessant teasing. I like birthday cake and cards and presents.

I like that my birthday falls in the spring. The whole renewal thing has an increased appeal this year. You see it’s not just any birthday, it’s a Landmark birthday. (Which one, you ask? If you guessed 21 you are my new best friend).

Frankly I can ONLY refer to it as a Landmark birthday because to say the actual number out loud makes my eyes roll back into my head. Suffice to say that I decided that I would spend this momentous occasion in the most beautiful place God ever created—Ireland. Visiting the land of my heritage will ease the sting, soften the blow, help with the mind altering “I’m HOW *&$%# old?” (faint).

What? Huh? Oh, sorry. (Whew…no broken hip).

You see here’s a secret. I do not feel like I should be at this landmark yet. 50 is the new 30, right? I took a Real Age test online and it says I’m physiologically 6 years younger. I buy lotions and creams and serums to stay ahead of any outward indications of age progression. I regret with every free radical in my body that I was late coming into the wonders of olive oil. I thank my lucky stars I never smoked and with my fair Irish skin was never a sun worshipper. I exercise and eat better. I’m not particularly vain, but I want to look like I feel. I want to be all that I can be. (I do not, however feel the urge to join the Army.)

And what can I be? Well, a strong, confident, passionate woman who still believes dreams come true. One who believes she will be published, who knows she will find Prince Charming. An independent lady who uses her wisdom, her wit and her Aleve to feed the vibrancy that is her life.

And yeah….I LOVE the idea of being a Cougar! I am woman, hear me roar!!!!!

So Happy Birthday to me!


What special thing did you do to celebrate your last “landmark” birthday? Note: We’ll only go back to age 13 🙂

PS to my brother: If there are a certain number of BLACK CROWS in my yard when I get home….grrrrr.

Turning on a Dime

by Joan Kayse

I had a crappy day at work.I know, I know. Most of you envision the life of a nurse as noble and self sacrificing. Well, I don’t know about noble but I’ve done a fair bit of self-sacrificing for my patients over the years. Always willingly. Well, except for the time a lady insisted she needed me to squeeze between the wall and the chair she was in to scratch her….back and in raising up bonked my head on the thermostat and burst into tears. She spared me a “Are you ok?” and then pointed out the spot she needed scratched .But the reality and my years in the trenches (and I REALLY hope it’s not the “years” part of it) have changed my perspective and my profession quite a bit. Nursing is getting harder. And today was no exception. I thought I’d scream if I listened to one more nurse whine, one more doctor complain, one more pass of the (*&^^ floor waxing machine!

Today was no exception. You know it’s bad when everybody you pass in the hall says “Boy, YOU look tired.” I had loads to do, complaints to listen to, a very ill man to transfer to the ICU and never got dinner.

Then I checked my voicemail. I had a message from the contest coordinator for The Suzannah, an outstanding writing contest sponsored by the NOLA chapter of RWA. My ms. THE PATRICIAN’S FORTUNE had won the competition. Just like that the fatigue, the stress everything just flew out the window! My Roman hero Damon had done it.

It’s validation to have my Romans achieve such recognition. You see when I began writing in 2001….well, the very thought of a “different” time period was unimaginable to well…everyone I met. Your Romans do not have a place in publishing you foolish girl. No one would want to read them. Stay safe, write only to the market.
I listened and I learned and I shook my head politely. But I had three Roman heroes (eek..don’t call Bran a Roman…he doesn’t like it) who were demanding their stories be told. And so I could do nothing else. And now they are shining in wonderful contests like The Suzannah.

It’s true Roman wasn’t built in a day. Just one story at a time.

Can you think of a day when you thought nothing was going right and then something special happened to turn it around? If you had another chance what “different” job would you pick?

Hope Floats or Love by the Lockers

by Joan Kayse

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. There will be flowers and candy and little stuffed animals with goofy expressions distributed to thousands of special someone’s. Some might even send a singing telegram or pay someone to print their exclamations of love in the paper. How much you want to bet that there will be a high percentage of proposals wrapped in the red and white tissue paper of Cupid himself. All in the name of love.

But I’m not going to talk about that.

Well, actually I am but from a different perspective. I’m talking about unrequited love. You know, the type that is one sided, that goes unrecognized, that leaves an ache wrapped in hope deep in your heart. The most hopeful love of all.

It is hopeful, it really is. Occasionally, in an unrealistic way if you were to sit back away from the longing and analyze it. But I think the hope imbued in this type of love is the purest type imaginable.

What got me to thinking about this was a memory of Valentine’s Day from my childhood. Ok, sure in elementary school everybody got a Valentine. But there was always that one special boy that you would save the BEST Valentine out of the box for and take extra care to print his name just right. And when you received his in your red heart decorated paper bag you just KNEW he had taken the same care with yours…even if he gave the exact one to all the other girls.

Then high school came and with it lockers; the perfect spot for a “secret admirer” to slip a Valentine. For six periods your heart would beat just a bit faster, you’d chew on your lower lip as you punched in the combination. Your eyes would search for a pink envelope or the sparkle of glitter. When it wasn’t there you’d assure yourself that there was always next period.

At the end of the day after you had admired your friends cards and stuffed animals you gained comfort with the hope that there would always be next year.

Fast forward to adulthood and the hope takes on a different flavor. You hope to find “the one”, the man who will build a family with you, take out the garbage and kill the spidersJ. You meet some promising fellows; fall for their easy smiles, their wit, and their blue penetrating eyes. You practice being demure and flirt in an entirely sophisticated manner, of course ( and bake tons of cookies. That adage abou the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Not entirely convinced of that).You spend time with him and hope that he will look at you with the same conviction and promise that you are willing him to recognize in you.
Now as a grown up, you go to your mailbox on Valentine’s Day. You hold your breath when the flower delivery guy arrives at work with a dozen red roses. You hold your breath as he squints at the card and paste a smile on your face when he asks for Susan. You ooh and ahh at your friends engagement rings and their little stuffed animals. You clock out at the end of the day and you….hope.

Unrequited love is hard but the hope inherent in the “happily ever after” dulls the pain and helps you keep going, helps you believe that “the one” is still out there….just around the corner….waiting by the locker.

Have you ever suffered from unrequited love? What was it that attracted you to him (her)? What is the goofiest Valentine’s present you ever got?

The Hamster picture doesn’t mean anything really, unless? Unless he’s hoping the flowers will make an impression on his own true love 🙂

Jennifer Donnelly Visits the Lair!

Interview by Kirsten Scott

Friends, I am just tickled to welcome the amazingly talented Jennifer Donnelly to the Lair! Jennifer’s first novel, The Tea Rose, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called “exquisite” by Booklist, “so much fun” by the Washington Post, a “guilty pleasure” by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times. Her second novel, A Northern Light, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Jennifer is currently celebrating the release of The Winter Rose, a sequel to The Tea Rose, and a book we should all be watching for on the NYT bestseller list!

So, onto the interview!!

Jennifer, I inhaled…er, read The Tea Rose and can’t wait to dive into The Winter Rose, which has just been released in hardcover by Hyperion Books. Can you tell us a little about these books?

I’d love to! Both books are big fat sweeping historicals, very much in the style of books I loved as a kid. Books like A Woman of Substance and The Thornbirds. Books that kept me up all night, reading under the covers with a flashlight. I first read A Woman of Substance when I was thirteen. I found it on my Aunt Grace’s bookshelf, along with about a hundred big fat 70’s blockbusters, and I was blown away. Emma was ladylike, elegant, determined, and tough as nails – a total Edwardian badass. She got knocked down, but she got right back up, put on her black dress and pearls, and proceeded to take over the world.

I loved those books too! They did a few things right in the 70s, didn’t they? 🙂 You obviously take the setting of your novels very seriously, to the point that it becomes a key character in the story. What’s your research process, and how in the world do you get all those details right? In particular, I loved all the vernacular you used in The Tea Rose, and the way the different characters truly had different voices. Where on earth did you find that sort of information?

I’m so glad you said that! I really do want things like history and setting to be characters in their own right in my books. My research process is more an art than a science. I read everything I can get my hands on — big historical surveys of the period to start, then I try to get hold of any and all primary sources. Things like memoirs, oral histories, letters, newspaper articles, studies. Also diaries and photo albums. I prowl museums to view clothing from the time period in which I’m working, household items, and in the case of The Winter Rose — obstetrical tools from the late 19th century. (Seeing them made me very happy I live in the 21st!) I also immerse myself as much as possible in the setting. Obviously I can’t go back to 19th century London, but I could go back to the docklands, and I could spend a great deal of time in East London, at markets, at pubs, at caffs — listening to the language of East Enders, absorbing the inflections, the vernacular. Taking in the faces, the gestures, the body language. Just generally being a big sponge — soaking up sounds and sights and smells. The research goes on before I start writing, and during and even after — during the fact checking and copyediting stages. It informs my work, and it inspires it. There’s nothing more exciting than history to me. I totally groove to it.

I think you’ll find a lot of people around here who feel the same way! Now, the Romance Bandits write in lots of different romance sub-genres — historical, contemporary, paranormal, suspense, young adult — but we’re united in our love of romance and a happily ever after. The Tea Rose is a huge historical epic, but at its core it is very much a love story. Are you a romantic at heart? Do you imagine your hero and heroine find their HEA?

Fiona and Joe did in The Tea Rose, and I hope that Sid and India do in The Winter Rose. I myself am very much a romantic at heart. But a nitty-gritty, mean streets kind of romantic. I don’t believe love is all hearts and flowers and gloopy rhymes. I believe the HEA takes work and sacrifice and selflessness. Anyone can send you a nice Valentine’s Day card — but will he be there for you when you get your tenth rejection letter from the publisher? When you’ve been in labour for twenty-odd hours? When the toilet blows up? Will you be there for him in difficult circumstances? That’s love, to me. That’s the HEA.

I grow a bit faint when I look at the sheer size of your books and imagine the research they require. You obviously had to dedicate a lot of time and energy to your writing without having any guarantee it would see the light of day. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication? Did you ever consider quitting along the way?

That’s funny…my publishers faint, too, when they see the sheer size of my books!

I fell in love with East London — the inspiration behind my first novel, The Tea Rose, when I was in my twenties. And I started writing the book a few years later. I worked fulltime, so I wrote mornings from 4:30 to 7:00 am, and then I went to work. I wrote on weekends. Instead of taking vacations. I wrote pages upon pages upon pages. Draft upon draft. I worked hard, but it didn’t matter. The story didn’t work. It didn’t flow. It bogged down in description. It meandered. So I ripped up what I had and started again. And again. A year passed. Two. Five. Eight. I watched my friends got ahead in their chosen fields while I cobbled together a living from part time jobs, temp jobs, freelance jobs. I watched others get agents, get editors, get contracts, get published. Frustration set in. A sense of futility. Depression. Despair. But I kept on writing. I knew that nothing and no one could guarantee I’d ever get published, but I myself would guarantee that I didn’t if I stopped.

Eventually I had what I thought was a finished manuscript, so then all I needed was an agent. In my typical fashion, I got a guide to agents and wrote to every single one who sounded nice. Luckily, a good one wrote back — Simon Lipskar from Writers House. He told me I could write, but said I still had a lot of work to do on things like narrative drive, point of view, and pacing. So I started revising. It took me another year to get the manuscript right. Another year of frustration. Of going back and forth with Simon, page by page. Of tears and doubt and worry. Finally, it was done. Again. It was polished and perfect and I thought we’d sell it immediately. I was so wrong. The manuscript was rejected from every publishing house in New York, and a few outside of it. Simon tried hard to sell it for over a year. And then I got a call. Not The Call, not by a long shot. It was Simon, and he was calling to tell me we he’d tried everything and everywhere and he couldn’t sell it. At least, not yet. We had to take a break. Put it on a shelf.

I was so down, I can’t even describe it. Ten years of my life. All that work. All that sacrifice. Such a labor of love. And no one wanted it. Weeks passed. And then one dreary, cold, gray afteroon, as I was sitting at my desk at Saks Fifth Avenue, writing ad copy, the phone rang. It was Simon. There was excitement in his voice, I could hear it. My heart started thumping. My hands went cold. And sure enough, he said the words I’d been waiting to hear for a decade: “I have an offer for The Tea Rose.” There was an editor a St. Martin’s – a new hire – and she liked it. The offer wasn’t riches, not even close. But it didn’t need to be. To me, it was priceless.

That’s an incredible story, and so inspiring for anyone striving to reach a seemingly impossible goal. Any last piece of advice you’d like to give to our readers who are aspiring writers themselves?

The most important piece of advice I can give to aspiring writers is this: Keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t say the big fat awful NO to yourself. Trust me, the whole world is ready and willing to do that to you. Don’t do it to yourself.

Thanks so much for the fabulous interview! Now, I know you’re all going to run out and find Jennifer’s books and add them to your TBR piles, but you’re going to have to put them next in the queue, because they are a bit…ahem…weighty. 😉 So to get you started, we’re sending one lucky commenter a copy of either The Tea Rose (if you’re new to Jennifer) or The Winter Rose (if you’re already a fan!). So, friends and fellow Banditas, say hello to Jennifer!

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