Posts tagged with: medieval romance

The de Wolfe Pack Invades!!

lone-wolfe-kw-500WELCOME!!  Come one, come all to the Wolfe’s Lair, home of the legendary de Wolfe family.  Men who’ll make your heart beat a little faster, women with grit and determination despite their circumstances, and heat and action galore!

This is the world of the de Wolfe men and women, created by Kathryn LeVeque, and expanded upon by fifteen different authors who’ve had a blast playing in Kathryn’s rich, imaginative world.

When our frequent Bandit guest Barbara Devlin told me about this intriguing de Wolfe Pack Kindle Worlds project, I was thrilled for her to be going back to writing in the medieval period.Arucard-Kindle

For those of you who are fans or have found Barb through the Bandit Blog, she’s got some FAB new books since the last time she was with us!  Her amazing prequels to her Brethren of the Coast series, starts with ARUCARD, (which is one of the best reads of the year).  These books are all set in medieval times, as the Templar knights flee France and persecution.  I LOVED Arucard’s story and am eagerly awaiting the next in The Brethren’s Origin Novels!!

And now… DRUM ROLL PLEASE….. this is the official cover reveal for the SECOND book in the origins series:

Demetrius-smDEMETRIUS!!

(OMGosh, I loved Arucard, but gotta say y’all are going to totally ADORE this story!!!!!)

And if you’re dying for more Brethren of the Coast, you’ll only have to wait another couple of weeks for LOVE WITH AN IMPROPER STRANGER (November 16)

So, from all that exciting news, and great new stories coming down the pike, I was even more excited when Barb told me about the de Wolfe project.  I love how Barb’s author “voice” suits the medieval, I was delighted to find out about LONE WOLFE.

Here’s the blurb for this exciting tale….

LONE WOLFE by Barbara Devlin (A de Wolfe Pack Kindle Worlds novella)LoveWithanImproperStrangerfinal

It is the tempestuous time of the Wars of the Roses and, as the Lancasters and the Yorks battle for the Crown, Lady Desiderata de Mandeviel is
caught in the games men play in their lust for power and privilege.  Contracted to wed from birth, she welcomes a union with the love of her life, the greatest lancer in England, Titus Saint-Germain.  When her father delivers news of her betrothed’s untimely demise, and demands she marry another, Desi must choose between her heart’s desire and family loyalty.  Will Desi trust her instincts or yield to paternal authority?

Harboring a secret, the truth of his parentage, imparted by his mother on her deathbed, Titus Saint-Germain finds himself trapped between two warring factions with no escape.  A loyal Yorkist, the warrior knight serves with distinction and valor, until his own men, in the heat of battle, betray him.  It is a scene eerily similar to the one that claimed the life of his father, the great Titus de Wolfe, at Towton, with a singular exception.  Help arrives in the form of an unlikely ally—an uncle unaware of his brother’s progeny.  Will Titus resist fate and deny his destiny, or will the Lone Wolfe, at long last, journey home to the Lair

What’s more, Barb is giving away a Kindle Fire and 3 copies of LONE WOLFE – we’ll chose from among our commenters and winners will be posted on Barb Devlin’s Facebook Page.  Grins.

As I said, I think it’s totally cool that all these wonderful authors came together to play in Kathryn’s beloved world.  Here are a few of the other authors who are playing in the de Wolfe world….

BRETONWOLFE BRETON WOLFE by Victoria Vane

She swore to defy him to her dying breath… But passion blurs the line between love and hate…
The bluest blood and the hardest heart… at least when it comes to marriage… The daughter of a duke and granddaughter of a king, Adele of Vannes was bartered at birth in a marriage treaty for the sole purpose of producing a royal heir. When her philandering husband is slain by Norse marauders, she is coerced to wed again in order to protect her home and her people. Adele knows that her beloved Brittany needs a strong hand to survive, but how can she ever reconcile her bitterness and hatred with the desire she feels for her mortal enemy?
She’s the jewel he seeks for his Breton crown…A Barbarian bent on building a dynasty, Valdrik Vargr, ‘the Norse Wolf,’ is renowned for both his bravery in battle and shrewdness in statecraft. Setting his sights on claiming the kingdom of Brittany, he knows that siring sons from royal blood would solidify his hold, but the woman he would claim as his queen refuses to have him. Will he fuel her hatred by taking her to his bed, or will the man who strikes terror in the hearts of men be reduced to wooing his bride?

Victoria will be giving away ……  Her winners will be posted on her website, and here on Romance Bandits!

LanaWilliams_TrustingTheWolfe_200px

TRUSTING THE WOLFE  by Lana Williams

Stabbed and left for dead in one of London’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Marcus de Wolfe is astounded when a woman resembling the angel from the famous family legend saves him. Once recovered, he shoves aside his angel’s captivating image and focuses on his goal of stopping whoever is smuggling cargo on his ships.

Left penniless by her wastrel father, seamstress Tessa Maycroft doesn’t trust men, especially not the handsome earl with the golden eyes she saved. To keep others from facing the fate she barely escaped, she offers seamstress apprenticeships for impoverished girls, giving them a chance for a better life.

But when Marcus appears in her shop and insists there’s a terrible connection between her girls and his ships, she agrees to help him once more. He tempts her to believe there might be more to life than she’s dared to hope.

Marcus soon realizes Tessa is anything but a simple seamstress. His angel shows him he’s not as dead inside as he believed. Can the passion they find in each other’s arms unite these lonely souls or will the plot they uncover threaten not only their new-found love but their lives?

Lana will be giving away 2 ebook copies (Kindle only, obviously) of Trusting The Wolfe, the novella featured and part of the world. 

 

LovesLegacynewcover

LOVES LEGACY by Amanda Mariel

Can love’s legacy bring two war weary souls together?

Drawn by a flicker of light coming from the ruins of Babylon Castle, Rebecca Sumerfield is driven to investigate. The last thing she expects to find is the castle’s owner, a Captain in the British Army. Still devastated from her brother’s death in battle, she despises all things military.

Having survived Waterloo, Captain Camden Le Bec isn’t in the market for romance. He stops at Babylon Castle, the perfect place to gather his thoughts, only for the spirited Rebecca to storm his castle and demand he leave at once. Her fearless defiance and selfless heart awaken a desire Camden has never known. He’s determined to possess her, but Rebecca refuses to risk another broken heart.CatherineKean_AKnightsDesire down sized

Will they find solace in each other’s arms, or has war pushed them both beyond any hope?

 

 

A KNIGHT’S DESIRE by Catherine Kean

Lady Rosetta Montgomery, a descendant of the fierce Norman de Wolfe warriors who subdued England alongside William the Conqueror, is on her way to her wedding when she’s kidnapped by a rider dressed all in black. She discovers her abductor is Lord Ashton Blakeley, her first and only true love, who left her to go on Crusade. Ash is a changed man now, with disfiguring scars and agonizing secrets. As rumors of lost Anglo-Saxon gold and treachery unfold, and Rosetta grows to understand the man Ash has become, will she help him fight for their love, or will the danger surrounding the hidden riches cost them all that they treasure?

Catherine will be giving away a Kindle copy of her Knight’s Series boxed set (the first four novels in her series) plus a Kindle copy of Dance of Desire – her winners will be posted here and on her Facebook page!

Wolfe500WOLFE OF THE WEST by Elizabeth Rose

Billy de Wolfe is a loner and bounty hunter who has no ties to anyone. But when his

ancestor, a medieval knight named Sir William de Wolfe, appears as a ghost to set him straight and remind him of the importance of family – his life takes a twist. He finds himself returning to his family’s ranch, having to face not only his siblings but his best friend from childhood – the woman he’s loved and lost – Lexi Marquardt. Can a ghost help a lost soul realize his mistakes of the past before he loses his family and the woman he loves forever? And can a lone wolf learn that the De Wolfe Pack always runs together?

Elizabeth will be giving away an ebook copy of Sapphire – Book 2 of her Daughters of the Dagger Series! Her winner will be posted here and on her Facebook Page 

So, this is just a small sampling of the fab fifteen who joined Kathryn in her wonderful de Wolfe World.  :>  I hope you’ll check them ALL out!

 

Now…Banditas and Bandita Buddies, all these books are set in different time frames.  Even though they all involve the fabulous de WolfedeWolfe family, some are westerns, some are medieval, some are Regency.

What time period would YOU want to live in?

If you lived in the medieval period, and were a man, would you be a knight or a tradesman, or the king?

If you lived in the Western US, would you be a cowboy, a rancher, or a Lady Outlaw?

If you could try any profession, other than the one you’ve already done, what would you like to try doing?  (Me?  I’d like to be an orchestra conductor.)

Let’s Chat!!

 

Ruth Kaufman and The Wars of the Roses

My guest today is debut historical author Ruth Kaufman.  Ruth won the 2011 Golden Heart in Inspirational Romance with the book we’re discussing today, At His Command (though there’s a twist to this story), and has placed in numerous other contests.  She was the runner-up in the RT Book Reviews American Title II contest.  In addition to writing, Ruth is an editor and an on-camera and voiceover actor.

Welcome, Ruth! You took the unusual step of releasing two different versions of At His Command, one medieval and one medieval-inspirational. What led you to this choice? 

Ruth.KaufmanThank you, Nancy! Glad to be here.

I knew that while there are many readers of inspirationals, there are more historical readers. The inspirational version won RWA’s Golden Heart® award, so since I was indie publishing I thought it might help to have that credential. And this particular story, IMO at least, fit in both subgenres with appropriate additions and deletions, of course.

I hadn’t heard of anyone who’d released one inspirational version and one not, no matter how many authors I told. (I did come across a few who’ve done, shall we say, very spicy and less spicy versions.) And those authors thought it was a great idea and were curious about the results. So despite the additional expense and effort to do everything from cover design to editing twice, and the thought that went into striving to avoid confusion between the two, I decided to do it.

Your story is set during the Wars of the Roses, a period I love. How did you choose this setting?

I love it, too! I was in a production of Richard III in college, and wanted to know how much of what Shakespeare wrote about RIII was true…was he really so cruel, did he kill anyone much less family members, etc. That led to general interest in the 15th century. I like to incorporate some actual historical personages and events, so thought I’d start at the beginning of what we now call the Wars of the Roses rather than at the end.

Another thing I love is that the mid to late 15th century is far enough back that there are many unknowns. If a reputable source says, “No one knows how X happened,” I can make X up as it suits my characters, conflict and plot.

UnknownPlease tell us a bit about the book.

Thanks for asking. The setting is 1453 England. King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising (a real castle I visited, which helped inspire the story) without a man’s control.

Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home. A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart.

At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot. How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?

RKaufman_AtHisCommand_HistoricalRomance_285kbWould you like to share an excerpt?

Sure! Here are the opening pages of AHC-Historical Romance Version.

Sir Nicholas Grey’s scout leaned forward in his saddle, holding up two fingers to let the others know two horses approached. Nicholas heard only the slight jangling of harnesses blended with wind rattling through the trees, but relied on his scout’s uncanny ability to hear what no one else could.

He and his eight men sat alert, deep enough in the forest to avoid being seen while maintaining a clear view of the road through leafless branches. Nine armed men could frighten travelers. ‘Twas best to let them pass.

Each man watched, each horse sinking deeper into chilling mire as a mud-covered, black palfrey plodded over the rise in the road, its long mane whipping in the frigid winds.

“No rider,” Martin, the scout, murmured.

“Look again,” Nicholas replied. At first he too had thought the horse was riderless. Now he could see a woman collapsed on the animal’s back. Her dark hair draped down its flank, mingling with the horse’s mane. The palfrey placed each step as if trying not to jostle its burden.

Another horse, this one a brown rouncey ridden by a thin, balding man, galloped after the palfrey. A look of triumph brightened the man’s face as he spotted the horse ahead of him. He bent forward, extending his hand. Fingers like talons grasped the woman’s tangled hair.

“Mine!” he cried.

*          *          *

Amice Winfield jerked awake. Agony forced her head back, allowing her to see the man who gripped her hair as though he’d perish if he let go.

Harry Winfield.

She screamed. Arrows of fear pierced her as she clawed at his fingers. Her horse bolted, leaving her dangling from Harry’s hand by a small clump of hair. The long strands held for a few seconds, then tore from her head.

Pain seared her scalp. She dropped into a puddle. Stunned by her fall and her stinging head, Amice could only stare at her tormentor while freezing water soaked her clothes. How she hated him. How she regretted her desperate flight from home. But what other choice did she have?

Harry gaped at the dark tresses hanging from his hand. He threw them to the ground as she struggled to rise. Panic gripped her as his hostile glare changed to a slow, confident smile.

“There’s nowhere to run. I’ll catch you if it’s the last thing I do,” he vowed. He leapt off his horse.

Amice tugged her sodden skirts, trying to haul them out of the puddle. Where was her mount? Too far away to reach without being caught, weighted down as she was. Sprays of water flew as she heaved her skirts over her arm. Heart racing, she ran for the trees. A branch snagged her. With a cry of frustration, she pulled the wet wool until it wrenched free.

Ignoring twigs tearing at her skin and icy mud that sucked away one of her shoes, she forged ahead. She gasped for air as she plunged into a tiny clearing, then came to an abrupt halt at the sight of a group of mounted men. Slimy hair slapped her face and clung to her cheek.

Panting, cold air stinging her throat, she sought a path to escape the strangers. Alarm coursed through her. She focused on the man at the head of the group. Anxiety and uncertainty warred within her though she sensed an almost tangible power emanating from him. The wind tossed his chin-length black hair as he stared down with a stern expression.

Will he help me? Am I better off with him or…? Before Amice could decide, branches snapped behind her. Harry ran into the clearing. Instinctively she moved closer to the commanding stranger.

“I am Sir Nicholas Grey,” he announced, his voice deep. Confident, yet reassuring. “And you are?”

Harry’s pointy nose wrinkled. She knew he wondered if he could get away with a lie. “This miscreant is my daughter. She’s running away because she refuses to marry the man I’ve chosen for her,” Harry said.

“He lies,” Amice protested. “Harry Winfield was my husband’s cousin. He wants to marry me now that my husband is dead, which all know is against—”

“This is none of your affair, Sir Nicholas. ‘Tis a mere family misunderstanding,” Harry said. His spindly fingers closed over her wet arm, sending a shiver of revulsion through her. “Come, sweeting, ‘tis time to go home.”

Silence reigned while she twisted free. Amice hoped Harry’s friendly tone didn’t fool Sir Nicholas. If necessary, she’d beg him to help her. All Amice wanted was to go home and live her life in peace. Without Harry. Without any husband. One had been quite enough.

Sir Nicholas studied her, clearly assessing the veracity of her tale. Something flickered in his piercing blue eyes. The intensity of his gaze unnerved her, but she couldn’t look away. When Sir Nicholas broke their connection, she felt colder than before.

“I come on the king’s business.” He opened his cloak to reveal King Henry’s badge of a chained antelope. “Which makes whatever I choose my affair.”

Had Harry met his match?

Oh, very cool! What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing At His Command?

Great question. I’d have to say not including too much history and historical detail. Part of the challenge is knowing how much is too much. As a reader, I prefer that the time period be essential to the plot, rather than stories in which the hero/heroine are dressed appropriately for their setting, but if they moved to a different time and dressed for that, the story could still stand.

Among the first historicals I loved were Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde Chronicles. Those, to me, had a great balance of history and romance. That’s what I wanted to write. But editors, agents, and even Roberta herself one day, told me the market had changed…so I toned down the amount of history.

Perhaps I should’ve written historical fiction. An earlier AHC version had scenes in the king’s and queen’s POVs. Maybe I should put them on my website, or into a novella. Hmmm. Thanks for inspiring me!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The market is changing so fast, with indie publishing becoming more mainstream and already-successful authors walking away from traditional publishing contracts or being hybrid authors. We can now write what we want instead of trying to please an editor and/or agent or a sales department deciding what’s marketable or what pushes the envelope too far or not far enough.

But with that freedom comes other challenges…. First, the rush to release. Is your book really ready to compete with everything that’s out there? Without a traditional publishing editor or literary agent on your team to vet it, how do you know? Also, there are so many new releases including novellas and boxed sets and so many from household name authors who’ve already established a following that even a reasonably priced, great book from a newer author can get lost in the crowd.

Oher issues: take time and money into account. Do you have time to write new content, make all of the decisions to indie publish and/or submit while keeping up with social media and promotion? If you don’t want to take time or don’t know how to do everything yourself, can you afford a great cover, editor(s), etc.? A couple of indie published friends say they work 80-90 hours a week.

What’s next for you?

Decisions. What are my next steps? Do I create a series by releasing manuscript #2 (which revolves around something that actually happened in 1455), then #3 and #4? And do so as fast as I’ve heard makes the best use of Amazon algorithms? Continue to do two versions because that’s now my thing? Or should I move on with a medieval paranormal I think has a great series hook?

Do I want to spend money on promotion and/or advertising? What’s the best use of my time and money going forward?

To find out what Ruth decides or to learn more about her work, visit her websites, www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.  You can also connect with her on these social media sites:

Twitter: @RuthKaufman or http://twitter.com/RuthKaufman

Facebook: Ruth Kaufman Author & Actress or https://www.facebook.com/ruthtalks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ruth_kaufman

Ruth is giving away one download of each version to commenters today.  So tell us what your favorite book or movie with a medieval setting is, and in your comment, let us know whether you’d rather have the historical or the inspirational version.

Blythe Gifford’s Winner!

BanditBootyThanks to everyone who swung by to make Blythe Gifford so welcome yesterday. We had a ball in the lair!

I’m delighted now to announce the winner of the prize. It’s:

TERESA KLEEMAN

Teresa, would you please email Blythe on blythe @ blythegifford.com (no spaces) and let her know whether you’d like a copy of THE WITCH FINDER or SECRETS AT COURT, and also what your mailing address is?

Congratulations and happy reading!

 

Blythe Gifford Shares Her Secrets!

Blythe 4I’m delighted today to welcome the wonderful historical romance author Blythe Gifford who is here to tell us about her new release, SECRETS AT COURT, the first of the Royal Weddings series.

RT Book Reviews really liked this story, saying, “Royals plus secrets plus impending exposure always equals drama of the highest order.”

Here’s the blurb:

THE THRONE OF ENGLAND IS AT STAKE!

Anne of Stamford has long been the keeper of her mistress’s secrets, but when Lady Joan marries the king’s son, court life becomes ever more perilous. Sir Nicholas Lovayne has arrived to uncover the truth about Lady Joan’s past, and Anne must do something—anything—to throw him off….

Longing to escape the intrigues at court, Nicholas hasn’t counted on the way Anne distracts him—her refusal to accept pity for her clubfoot touches something deep inside him. Will he be able to follow his duty when every fiber of his being tells him to protect Anne?

Blythe 1Royal Weddings

A hint of scandal this way comes!

You can find out more about Blythe and her books at her website: http://blythegifford.com/

Blythe, welcome to the Bandita lair!  I’m so excited about SECRETS AT COURT, your new book. What were the inspirations behind this book?

Delighted to be here!  When Prince William and Kate Middleton married, the Harlequin Historical line released a series of short stories that looked back at British royal weddings of the past.  I was invited to participate, but had too many deadlines on my plate at the time.  I loved the idea, though, and I envisioned a full-length book using the premise.  Most of my books are set amidst the backdrop of real history and the medieval court of Edward III is familiar territory for me.  Thus, I wrote a book centered on a very unusual royal wedding!

blythe 5How fascinating. Can you tell us about this story?

SECRETS AT COURT, out now, is set around the wedding of the oldest son of Edward III, also an Edward.  History knows him as the Black Prince.  (As an aside, he was the first Prince of Wales.)  His chosen bride, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, had a bit of a scandalous past and they, in essence, “eloped” and married without the church’s consent. 

My hero, Nicholas, is charged with untangling the mess they made and getting the Pope’s dispensation for their marriage.  My heroine, Anne, who has been with Joan all her life, is the keeper of her lady’s secrets.  Secrets that, if Nicholas discovers them, could destroy the throne of England!

SECRETS AT COURT launches a new series for you, Royal Weddings. Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s to come in the series?

Blythe 3Right now, it is a series of two.  Both of Edward III’s oldest children married for love, unheard of at that time.  The second book, WHISPERS AT COURT, will center on the marriage of Edward’s daughter Isabella.  After remaining unwed until the ripe old age of 31, she fell in love with a French nobleman who was held hostage at the English court.  Release date is to be determined, but I hope it will be yet this year.  (I’m madly wrestling with revisions.)

Can’t wait for that. Did SECRETS AT COURT present any special challenges?

Several.  First, was understanding Joan of Kent’s checkered marital past.  At one point, she was actually married to two men at once.  (Yes, this is documented!)  It was a rather risqué background for a royal bride.  But sorting out the timeline and the legal aspects of her entanglements didn’t give me as much trouble as something more mundane:  the floor plan of Windsor Castle.  The castle was undergoing massive renovations during these years and trying to figure out what wings and rooms were finished was a real challenge.  I finally found a solid source, available only in print, with color coded floor plans and filled my iPhone with pictures. 

blythe 8The use of real historical events is a trademark of yours, isn’t it?

History inspires me.  One of the first books on my keeper shelf was KATHERINE by Anya Seton.  It is the story of the lifelong mistress of John of Gaunt, another of King Edward’s children.  They finally married, late in life, and her children were legitimized and sat on the throne of England.  I love the idea that love can change history!

Oh, I adored KATHERINE. Speaking of great books, I read and loved your indie novel, THE WITCH FINDER. Can you tell us about that story?

THE WITCH FINDER is set on the Scottish Borders during the middle of the seventeenth century and one of the worst witch hunts in history.  I was inspired by Sandra Brown’s famous comment:  “If your heroine is an arsonist, your hero better be a firefighter.”  In this case, my hero is a witch finder, a man expert in determining whether a suspect was really a witch or falsely accused.  And my heroine, of course, is an accused witch. 

Blythe 2Such high stakes in that story. I couldn’t put it down. How did you come to self-publish?

I actually wrote the book for Harlequin, but they were afraid it was too dark for their audience.  Your enthusiasm for the story was a real boost, and I am so grateful!  It encouraged me to go ahead and release it myself.  And the reviews, I’m delighted to say, have echoed your enthusiasm.

I’m not at all surprised. As this is your first visit to the lair, we’d love to hear about your writing journey.

I started writing seriously after a corporate layoff.  Ten years and one layoff later, I sold my Golden Heart finalist manuscript to the Harlequin Historical line!  (But the behind the scenes story is that I started writing my first historical novel at age ten.  In pencil.)  I’ve now had nine books with them, one more coming soon, plus one self-published, I’m astonished to say!

Blythe 6One of the things I love about your books is that you set your stories in, for historical romance, unusual periods. If you were to persuade a diehard Regency reader to try a book set outside the first quarter of the 19th century, what would you say to them?

I think we read historical romance for two things:  to be swept away to a different time and place and for the guarantee that all will end well.  For readers who think an unfamiliar time period might be off-putting, I would assure you the happily ever after survives intact.  So why not try being whisked away to a new time and place? 

So here’s a thought starter:  Do you read historical romance outside the Regency period?  What time periods have you tried?  (Or would you like to try?)  And if you have read something “unusual,” how did you feel about that experience?  Conversely, if you adore only the Regency, what is it about the period that draws you?

BanditBootyBlythe has very generously offered one lucky commenter today a print book of their choice, either SECRETS AT COURT or THE WITCH FINDER (international). Good luck! 

From Daring Damsels to Hockey Hotties– Joanne Rock

Thwack!

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 http://campboyfriend.net

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.)

 

Romance Book Covers – the Pleasure, the Pain

I hear a lot of opinions from people about the covers of romance novels. Some of these are informed opinions by romance readers and writers, who notice trends in cover composition and layout. I always welcome discussions about cover art, because all of us who write romantic fiction want beautiful covers. For those of us who have ventured into the waters of independent publishing, covers are dependent in part on our own taste, opinions and vision. So I love to talk covers with whoever will stand still long enough to listen.

Kick StartThen there are those of my acquaintance who do not (and may have never) read romance fiction. Do they love to opine about covers? Of course they do! Sometimes this is merely the topic of a casual conversation or to, say, rib a sister who happens to write these books. But sometimes it is more. A compilation of the best (or worst) covers of the year. A gleefully nasty “review” of the worst covers someone could find. Or an article by someone who figures their literary tastes are far above mere genre fiction and get pleasure from deriding not only the covers but, by association, the content of romance novels. I have little use for these types of opinions, although I will admit that I have enjoyed some articles where the authors themselves have lamented the art department’s lack of vision.

 

Today, I would like us to talk about covers. What we like, what we don’t. What works in a particular subgenre or should be banned from all romances of a certain sort. To get the conversation started, I’ll throw out some particular likes and dislikes of mine.

 

Taste For Trouble1. Feet On Contemporary Romances – Okay, yes, that is the cover for my May 2013 release, Kick Start up above and, yes, it does have those feet I love. But here is another for Susan Sey’s wonderful Taste For Trouble. I don’t know why, but feet totally work for me in a contemporary romance. They manage to convey a sense of time, place and tone for a book. Also, I am free to use my imagination for the heroine’s and hero’s faces, which I much prefer doing.

 

SavannahBreeze2. Abandoned Articles On the Beach Covers – Tossed-aside shoes. Empty pails with their lonely shovels. Sandy beach towels. These covers are often women’s fiction novels with a strong romantic element and I do not like them. First of all, it puts me in mind of scorching hot sand. Second, it reminds me of gritty sand between my toes. I don’t like either of those things, so these covers don’t work for me. I also don’t particularly care for seascapes or empty Adirondack chairs. I have no idea what these are supposed to convey. I do like lighthouses, but not alone on a women’s fiction cover. Go figure. I have to say, this Mary Kay Andrews book was great fun to read, but I could have done without the empty chairs.

 

bridemoon3. Gorgeous Gowns On Historical Romances – I adore these! We’ve had some incredibly gorgeous gowns on Bandita covers. Here is one I loved, Liz Carlyle’s A Bride By Moonlight. I have no idea whether the heroine wears anything like this in the book, since I read it months ago, but does it matter? It’s a delicious pool of lace and satin. *sigh* Liz’s October 2013 release, In Love With a Wicked Man also has a gorgeous dress, rich red and gold, and there is a beautiful purple dress for the release after that. They have really nailed the gorgeous dress cover at Avon!

 

Love is a Four-Legged Word4. Dogs On Romance Covers From Any Time Period – I know people will disagree on this one, but I am not fond of a happy couple with a dog at their feet (or the foot of their bed). I have lived with many dogs and one thing I know is, no matter how cute they are they do not belong in the middle of a romantic embrace. Or on the bed. They generally smell bad and have terrible breath, even the ones I love dearly. Sorry, y’all, but those are facts. I’m sure Kandy Shepherd is a delightful author and the dogs in her books are probably cute as anything, but that pug does not need to be on a book cover. Let the gnashing of teeth begin!

 

Castles In the Air5. Scottish Castles On Medievals – I absolutely love a medieval cover featuring a castle. I don’t much care if there are people at all, but I do love a castle. I have no idea where regular people lived in medieval Scotland, but I know that my hero and heroine are going to live in a castle or a keep, by gum, and I want to see it. I’ve seen other lovely medieval covers, but I want my castles (and moors! and lochs!). And really, if you had a castle like that in the background, would you be lounging about on the ground in your white dress? I think not!

 

What about you? Are there any types of covers that really catch your eye? Any that make you cringe? (Don’t even get me started on cartoon covers!) Please share with us!

I’m going to be away for a good part of the day at a church retreat, so I won’t be back until late afternoon. Y’all carry on without me, though, because I know there are LOTS of opinions in the Lair! 😀

Conversations In the Margins — with Kris Kennedy

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Today I’m pleased to welcome my good buddy and Lair favorite Kris Kennedy back to the blog to celebrate the release of her latest book Defiant. Yay, another great medieval romance with a HAWT cover! (Aunty wipes drool from her chin.)

Instead of our usual question and answer interview, Kris wanted to blog with us about those funny little conversations we sometimes have with friends and co-workers. Conversations that nobody else ever hears… Take it away, Kris!

I’m not sure about other authors, but I would never be published if I didn’t have great critique partners.

And by ‘great’ I mean the ones willing to be brutally honest, to say what needs to be said, to read as a reader (meaning they read for Story, and look for your unique story to unfold), but they also know craft enough to explain why it’s a problem, and suggest repairs.

The ones willing to go the extra mile, to read an entire manuscript in a hurry to meet a deadline, to re-read those same damned knotted pages over and over and over again.

Great critique partners add immeasurable value to stories. I’m especially fond of the conversations we have in the margins of manuscripts. The little notes we exchange, whether in pencil or Track Changes, the comments that clue you into the fact that that scene—you know the one, the scene you love more than any other scene, ever written?–yeah, that scene, is actually not a piece of fine art. It’s a piece of something else. The margin conversations where they rip you a new one, and you realize with shocking, blinding clarity that you would never be published without this person.

Great cp’s do things like:

  • Write edifying comments in the margins like, “Huh?”
  • Catch typos Word cruelly—or mockingly–ignored: “Um, do you really want to say ‘shitory’ here? Perhaps you mean ’history?’” Oh, umm, perhaps.
  • Suggest subtle ways to increase dramatic tension: “Cut the last 50 pages and do something different. Maybe try something interesting.”
  • Force you out of your comfort zone of descriptions: “You are not allowed to have eyebrows do anything ever again. Never. Again. No ‘arching’ and especially no ‘cocking.’”
  • Point out staging issues that have become invisible to the beleaguered writer by her fifth draft: “This room has a lot of windows. She’s passed 5. Really? 5 windows in this little room?”
  • Hone in those small, minute, barely-detectable flaws in characterization: “Wow, she’s a real bitch.”
  • And deliver the ever-simple and devastatingly effective: “This sounds stupid and doesn’t make any sense.”

I, though, have my own marginal replies to these critique partners who would ride rough-shod over my beautiful words. I’m not a puppet, for Heaven’s sake. I stand my ground, speak up. Some of my favorite replies run something like:

  • My ending hook was where? Three pages ago . . . ? Wow. That’s a long way back, huh?
  • So sue me, I like adverbs. No, it’s not really a law, you can’t sue me. You’re just scared.
  • Did I really? Again with the eyes? And the brows?
  • Point-of-View, Schmoint-Of-View. All I care about is “Does it flow?” Oh. It doesn’t? Oh.
  • Thanks. I’ll fix that. And that. And that. I was drinking wine at the time.
  • And the top apology I give to my cps: It made sense in the other version


What about you? Writer or not, what are some of the silly, wonderful conversation you have with those friends or colleagues that no one else in the world would probably understand?

One commenter wins a copy of Kris’s latest release, a starred Publisher Weekly review, Defiant!

Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website ( http://www.kriskennedy.net/) and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!