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Julia Spencer Fleming on Infidelity: Adulterer. Cheater. Unfaithful. Home-wrecker. Other woman.

Julia Spencer Fleming’s books were not of interest to me. First, I am a romance reader. Second, the series is about a priest.   And a married cop.   I am not a fan of infidelity.   Keishon, however, kept suggesting them to me whenever I had a lull in my reading.   Amazing writer, says Keishon.   I resisted for a long time but then Macmillan gave away the first two stories in the JSF series. I downloaded and started reading.   And then bought the next one.   And the next one.   The unconsummated longing between Claire and Russ often had more sexual tension than the most explicit menage.   I was lost in the world of Millers Kill.

Even though JSF writes mysteries (with romance) I feel like she is part of our community.   She reads romances, comments on our blogs, and even participated in the Smart Bitches Book Club chat about the Kristan Higgins’ book, All I Ever Wanted (JSF is a fan).   I would not have given the Claire/Russ series a chance, though, had I not had the opportunity to have a no risk exposure to JSF’s writing.   In that vein, we are offering up 4 ARCs of One Was A Soldier signed by Ms. Spencer Fleming so that a few of you can have that same no risk experience.

Apparently Macmillan is of the same mind and are contemplating another giveaway to get new readers hooked on the Claire/Russ series.   Do you think that they should give away book 1 or book 6 (book 6 leads into the events of book 7, One Was a Soldier).

Which book should Julia Spencer Fleming & Macmillan give away?

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Up next is Ms. Spencer Fleming’s thoughts on infidelity.


Adulterer. Cheater. Unfaithful. Home-wrecker. Other woman.

That describes my hero and heroine. Needless to say, I don’t write Romance. But I do write about a romance, one that’s messy and painful and heart-breaking and life-healing for the two people involved. One that — I hope —   explores the terrible conflict between duty and passion, between commitment and conviction.

I write mysteries. My first book, In the Bleak Midwinter, has a pretty basic plot: a baby is abandoned on the doorstep of a church. Its mother is murdered. The Episcopal priest who found the child and the small town chief of police work together to get to the bottom of the story. It’s a whodunnit. But as a reader, I adore romance. And I love when other genres–crime fiction, thrillers, sf–include a healthy portion of romance on the side. So when I started that first book, I knew I wanted a love story running alongside the mystery.

One Was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery Mystery+romance is not a new formula. In fact, it’s almost a pattern in amateur sleuth series. The librarian/shop owner/garage mechanic meets a hunky cop in Book 1. In Book 2, they date. In Book 3, they almost break up because her investigation gets in the way of him doing his job. In Book 4, they’re engaged, in Book 5 they get married, and by Book 6–well, you’re not reading Book 6, because the relationship was never all that compelling. It was something to fill up the sleuth’s time between finding bodies and chasing down clues.

I wanted to write something different. I wanted to write a book where the relationship between the two protagonists was as high-stakes as the crime. I wanted to write a love story that had as much tension as a thriller, that would make a reader put her hands over her eyes and say, “Don’t do it! Don’t go there!” I wanted to write an affair of the heart that left the partners as battered and bruised as Sam Spade on a bad day. I needed two characters to fall in love; deeply, believably, hopelessly in love; and I needed them to have rock-hard, unshakable, insoluble reasons to stay apart–reasons that made sense in 21st small-town New York state.

Enter Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. She’s a fallible, impulse-driven, open-armed priest. He’s the responsible, sure-of-himself, cynical chief of police. And he’s married. 25 years married. Happily married.

That’ll do it.

There are plenty of romance purists out there who take one look at that description and say, “Not for me.” I can respect that–I won’t knowingly pick up a book where a child dies, where Scots brogue is abused, or anything in the vein of Playboy Sheiks and Virgin Stable-Girls. However, the most interesting part–to me–of the relationship between Russ and Clare is their attempt to not cheat. To draw the line and stick to it, even when they’re not sure where the line is. To honor their commitments and struggle with their feelings.

The mystery plot of every book need to be wrapped up satisfactorily, if not neatly, and conclude. The story of Russ and Clare’s relationship, however, limps and staggers and dances on. For me, the writer, that contrast is emotionally and aesthetically gratifying. For you, the reader? I hope it makes you gnash your teeth and howl and go right out and read the next book.

Julia Spencer-Fleming is the Agatha and Anthony-award-winning author of the upcoming One Was A Soldier, the seventh Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery.

One Was A Soldier is available for preorder at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million Borders Powell’s Books and your locally owned independent bookstore.

You can read more about Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books in this 2008 guest post by Val Kovalin on Dear Author.     Let us know in the comments if you want a no risk exposure to JSF’s amazing writing by commenting on how you voted in the poll (i.e. book 1 v. book 6).


The winners are:

Erica Anderson

All winners have been emailed.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Rene
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:06:25

    I voted for book 1- I like to start a series at the beginning. These sound great. Serious angst is serious.

  2. Anne Calhoun
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:10:39

    My sister reads more mysteries than I do and knows of my fascination with books that include romance and religion (I love Laurie R King’s work for the same reasons – wonderfully smart writing, relationships, fascinating plots) so she recommended your books and I read them all, one right after the other. The romance reader in me both loved and hated the growing romance between Clare and Russ, not because of the infidelity aspect (it’s not real life, after all), but because I was so emotionally invested in the characters I wanted them to be happy. You handled it so well…the books are a pleasure to read on so many levels.

    I adore your work and can’t wait to read And One Was a Soldier! (Don’t enter me in the drawing…I’ll buy it quite happily).

  3. Erin
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:11:42

    Definitely the first one. Who would want to start a series at #6? It’s reading through the series where you get the real experience of their relationship.

  4. ka
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:17:56

    I’ve been reading buzz about this author – thanks for featuring her.

  5. Silver James
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:20:33

    This is definitely a series where a new reader should start with Book 1 and read forward. The romantic arc between Claire and Russ is so much richer and, at the same time heart-breaking, that way!

  6. Babs
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:23:42

    I’ve heard so many people rave about this series…I think I’m going to have to try it.

  7. Lyssa
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:24:04

    As a fan of the series, I love the fact that the story does revolve around the temptations and trials that happen in real life as much as the ‘mystery’. I may never solve a murder, but I have been tempted by the man who has a relationship with another woman. So I appreciate the honesty that you approach the subject. I think what may cause just as much problems with your readers is the fact of Clare’s vocation. Many people don’t want their clergy to be human. They want them to be as ‘all knowing’ as the One they serve. I personally (having had a long term friendship with an Episcopal priest) love the fact that you let Clare be totally human, with all the faults, frailities, and challenges that priests do face.

  8. Dani
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:32:41

    Love JSF. Love. In the Bleak Midwinter should be the book given away. Clare and Russ must be understood and enjoyed from the very beginning.

    What’s intriguing about the romance of Clare and Russ is that your heart breaks for them but you really don’t want them to cross the line because it would break your heart even more if they fell from their pedestals.

    The mysteries are great, too. Miller’s Kill is an entity. JSF writes so very well. I hadn’t read mysteries since my Nancy Drew days but JSF was getting so much buzz, and she was mentioned on SBTB, that I had to try her out. I’m up to book #5 and I haven’t regretted one paragraph.

  9. Tiffany
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:37:48


    I found your series less that 2 weeks ago, inhaled all six novels, and ran around telling my friends that they HAVE to read it.

    I appreciated your discussion of the adultery. I have to admit, the idea gave me pause, but you handled it deftly. I’m wondering how you plan to maintain the tension now that Russ and Clare are (seemingly) together?

  10. evie byrne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:39:28

    Voted for book 1. I am totally intrigued by the premise of this relationship, and all the issues that must revolve around it.

  11. TKF
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:40:16

    I’ve been wanting to try this series, but the thing that holds me back is that for me, it’s the emotional betrayal, not just the sex, that makes infidelity unforgivable. I’m not sure I want to read a series where they’re clearly having an affair the entire time and justifying their actions by the fact that they haven’t consummated it.

  12. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:42:05

    I also say book 1 is the book to giveaway. It would do readers a disservice to start at 6. From personal experience, at RomCon I was given the newest release from the series of Meljean Brook and Jeaniene Frost. I haven’t read them yet, because I went back and bought the first in each serires. It is the way to go to bring in new readers.

    My question/comment to Ms. Spencer-Fleming is around writing In The Bleak Midwinter. My understanding is that you did not have a contract for the series (or even the book) that it was discovered through a contest. Is that right? If so, how daring to start a romance that would be so controversial that could not be completed in one book.

  13. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:46:56

    @TKF: I shared that concern. But nothing in these books makes me think either character is justifying their actions. It is so well done, you really don’t know what you want to happen.

  14. LizC
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:54:39

    Well I already had a no risk exposure when they offered the ebook versions of the first two novels a few years ago. I downloaded them and read them both in one day. I would totally kill for an ARC of One Was a Soldier, though. I feel like I have literally been waiting for that book forever and every time I thought it was going to be released the date was pushed back.

    You definitely need to start with book 1, though, otherwise book 6 will make zero sense.

  15. Sarah
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:59:12

    I’m willing to give it a try. I voted for one because I like to start at the beginning.

  16. Anon
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:10:01

    @TKF: Triciab is correct that the characters aren’t trying to justify their actions. However, if emotional infidelity bothers you I suspect that you may not enjoy the series. Claire & Russ begin what I would term an emotional affair from the very beginning. They don’t have sex, but IMO Russ was cheating on his wife right from the beginning. All the talk about where to draw the line is sort of closing the barn door after the horse has run away.

    The thing that really bothered me is the way his wife is basically “disappeared” from the story and not treated like a real person at all. She’s conveniently physically absent and for all that Ms Spencer-Fleming describes Russ as happily married, pretty much all his thoughts about his wife are complaints.

    The angst that Claire & Russ have about their relationship struck me as less of a genuine ethical dilemma about his marriage and more of a way to show that they’re really good people even though they’re cheating.

    So, it’s definitely a YMMV thing.

  17. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:14:08

    I will also say, when I started the series, I started it blind at Keishon’s recommendation after being in a horrible reading funk. I had NO IDEA that there was a romance a-brewing. My little mind kept spinning and shrieking, “Fire. You two are playing with fire! Don’t you see this??” Such a shock but so wonderful. I love starting books with no preconceived notions.

  18. Anon
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:20:40

    @TKF: Triciab is correct that the characters aren’t trying to justify their actions. However, they do go right on doing the things they feel aren't right, so I'm not sure how much weight you'll give to that lack of justification. If emotional infidelity bothers you I suspect that you may not enjoy this series. Claire & Russ begin what I would term an emotional affair within days of meeting. They don’t have sex, but IMO because of the emotional component Russ was cheating on his wife right from the beginning. All the talk about where to draw the line is sort of closing the barn door after the horse has run away.

    The thing that really bothered me is the way his wife is basically “disappeared” from the story and not treated like a real person at all. She’s conveniently physically absent and for all that Ms Spencer-Fleming describes Russ as happily married, pretty much all his thoughts about his wife are complaints.

    The angst that Claire & Russ have about their relationship struck me as less of a genuine ethical dilemma about his marriage and more of a way to show that they’re really good people even though they’re cheating.

    So, it’s definitely a YMMV thing.

  19. jennifer armintrout
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:31:01

    I have to get these. They sound fantastic.

  20. Barb
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:39:53

    Oh you must start with Book 1. The angst of the first books, in terms of their relationship, is wonderfully presented. And Book 5 (All Mortal Flesh) is absolutely essential to understanding Book 6. Jumping in at Book 6 would be cheating.
    I would dearly love to win an ARC of Book 7 (One Was a Soldier).
    Count me among those who are sitting, counting the days until the book is actually released.

  21. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:42:37

    @Anon: Without a doubt a YMMV sort of thing. I will say though, that despite describing Russ as happily married, I don’t think he is and I don’t think the author thinks he is. I thought Linda’s absence from the story is realistic based on a marriage that has grown apart and been untended.

  22. Christine Rimmer
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:43:39

    Book 1. No doubt.

  23. Isabel Cooper
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:45:54

    These sound amazing–I’ll absolutely have to get them. And I’d need to start with Book 1. I’m kind of a stickler for that.

  24. Tabitha
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:49:57

    I heard a lot of good things about this series as well. But I am not a fan of infideltiy so regardless of the recommendation and good reviews I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the books to read. As a free read, I would try it. But starting mid-series wouldn’t help me to understand the characters, the angst. So I vote for book 1 as a start to trying the series.

  25. Tili S.
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:54:02

    I voted for book 1. I always think the first bok is the best place to start in a series.

  26. Anu
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:56:33

    Definitely book 1. And I’m really excited about One Was A Soldier, I’ve been waiting for it for such a long time as the publishing date was pushed back.

  27. LEW
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:00:15

    Damn. I love a good “Playboy Sheiks and Virgin Stable-Girls” reference.

  28. Katherine
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:06:34

    I voted for book 1. I always want to start at the beginning of a series. I am definitely keen to read these books. The question of fidelity is very relevant in my life right now…

  29. Janet S
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:09:29

    I have resisted the series as well. I have a very hard time thinking of priests and married men as romance book material. And now I’m tempted. Very tempted. So I voted for Book 1. I think I’ll give it a try….

  30. Susan Reader
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:11:30

    Okay, I’m going to break the pattern and say Book 6, based on my experience.

    Years ago, I read book 1 and did not want to bother to read any more, primarily because of the infidelity. Yes, it was well-written, but so are lots of books, so why waste my time reading about characters whose personal choices annoyed me?

    Then, because there was nothing else available (I was on a trip) I read another book in the series (4 or 5, can’t remember) and THEN I was hooked… as soon as I could I read all the others, because now I wanted to see how they had gotten to that point, and where they’d go in the future…

    I am looking forward to One Was a Soldier!

  31. JenM
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:15:48

    I’m not a mystery reader AT ALL. I pretty much avoid it like the plague (the only exception to that being The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), so I have heard of these but had no interest in them. Based on this article, maybe I would like them after all. I usually grab all the free books, but probably didn’t get these because they were mysteries. If they offer it again I hope they offer Book 1. This time around, I will grab it.

  32. Sotheara
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:16:34

    I love this series and have been anxiously awaiting to read One Was a Soldier.

  33. Anon
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:22:19

    “Without a doubt a YMMV sort of thing. I will say though, that despite describing Russ as happily married, I don't think he is and I don't think the author thinks he is. I thought Linda's absence from the story is realistic based on a marriage that has grown apart and been untended.”

    No, clearly Russ isn’t happily married. That was part of my point. Spencer-Fleming describes him as happily married, but she didn’t write him that way because it’s part of the set up for Claire & Russ’ affair.

    Ultimately I was less bothered by the adultery per se than I was by the games I felt the series played to make it “OK” to root for Claire & Russ as a couple. I never believed for a moment that they wouldn’t eventually end up having sex.

    Because of that all the angsting over it felt less like a genuine ethical problem and more like a form of self-justification. We’re good people. Sure we’re cheating, but we feel really, really bad about it.

    I’m not saying that other people shouldn’t love the books. I simply wanted to let people who have issues with emotional infidelity and adultery know that, go reviews aside, this series may not be for them.

  34. Susan
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:23:16

    I have read all the other books in this series; eagerly looking forward to reading the next one.

  35. mssarahb
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:27:14

    This is such a wonderful series. The characters are flawed, complex, human and so true. I started reading them when the first was in HC, and it’s been such a LONG wait between each book. Voted for book 1, so that others will get hooked because Julia deserves to be a rockstar (in the mystery world).

  36. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:29:25

    @Anon: I was really rooting for Clare and Hugh. :-) I do see your interpretation of the ethical problem/self-justification. Did not interpret it the same way myself but see how and why others do.

    I do believe that without some of the plot points, the affair between Russ and Clare would have never been consumated in the traditional (sex) way.

    I also interpreted the “happily married” as much more of Russ’ cluelessness that he wasn’t happily married than anything else.

  37. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:35:02

    Wow. I got home from swimming and grocery shopping and the comments have asploded. Let’s see, in reverse order:

    Anon, I agree. If some one has had a bruising personal experience with emotional adultery, he or she would not, I think be able to let go and enjoy my books. (I would say the same thing about someone whose experience with organized Christianity has left them profoundly alienated from all things religious. It would drive that reader mad, as well.)

    That being said, if it’s not actually triggering pain, I’m quite content if the reader feels discomfort and doesn’t want to root for Russ and Clare. That, too, is part of the fictional DNA of the story.

  38. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:38:16


    Russ is an unreliable narrator of his own life. That’s why he keeps getting blindsided throughout the series.

  39. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:41:49


    My now-in-college daughter and I have read Smart Bitches together for years. We were both completely thrilled to find the actual “Playboy Sheik and his Virgin Stable Girl” at our local Borders. As I recall, the playboy sheik spends a lot of time referring to the VSG as “his little lizard.”

  40. Melissa
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:45:54

    Huh, I’d love to at least give this series a try. This sounds very, very close to my “sorry, so not my cup of tea” zone, but it really depends on how it’s done.

  41. Tiffany
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:49:24

    I think JSF describes Russ as happily married because Russ thinks he is happily married. In reality, I think he is settled in a 25 year relationship with a person he genuinely loves but who he shares very little other than a home.

    I agree that I do think the affair would have ended entirely and not been consummated.

    For me though, the important part is that there is no glorification of the emotional affair. It is messy and ugly and full of heartbreak for everyone involved.

  42. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:01:57

    I will say, I am surprised that the most talked about reason (at least that I have seen online) for hesitating about this series is infidelity. I do know one or two people who can’t enjoy any book with infidelity in it and so be it. But for me, my hesitation was all about Clare’s profession. As someone who has struggled to degrees with faith, I have such strong reactions to religion in books. Purely religious in focus books feel far too preachy and never let me escape into the story. Other books feel blasphemous and they make me uncomfortable. I really feel the faith is these books is handled extraordinarily.

    I look forward to the challenge of how you will write Clare and Russ coming to terms with the differences in their beliefs.

  43. Joanne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:06:24

    I love this series. Please enter me in the ARC draw for One Was a Solider.

  44. Carolyn
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:09:55

    I’ve been eyeing these books too, but wasn’t sure I’d like them. This post sealed the deal, I think. :-)

    Definitely I’d start with the first one.

  45. Jane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:14:07

    @Triciab Despite what I said on Goodreads about this book, I am not a fan of infidelity. I think because, for me, infidelity shows a basic disrespect of the promises that two people make to each other. When you see these much publicized affairs (Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Ethan Hawk – my god, who would EVER cheat on Uma Thurman), it’s very disheartening probably because you think that if beautiful people can’t make it together, if Ethan Hawke can’t keep his dick in his pants when he could be schtupping Uma Thurman, what hope is there for me? And in romance, when the fundamental principles are about a loving and lasting bond between the protagonists, the idea that one could be infidelitous mars that fantasy. It’s not something I enjoy reading about. I probably have a lot more thoughts about fidelity/infidelity than this and you’ll probably point out all the flaws in my argument, but this is what I am going with off the top of my head. I just have a knee jerk reaction against it. It would be a deep violation.

    For me, the fact that I could read this series is a testament to the skill of the writer who is able to make me see beyond my black and white lines about infidelity, but it is not a series I could have picked up without the encouragement of a trusted reader AND the no risk chance of the freebie because there is something that just shies away from those storylines.

  46. Susanna Fraser
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:15:04

    For me though, the important part is that there is no glorification of the emotional affair. It is messy and ugly and full of heartbreak for everyone involved.

    Very much this. I thought I could never enjoy a book with an adultery plot, emotional or otherwise, but I gave this a try after seeing them recommended by someone I trust. (Can’t even remember who!) And they’re such very wonderful books, not least because they stretched me out of my comfort zone as a reader.

  47. Joopdeloop
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:21:40

    Giveaway Book 1 – So well written, and ALL the characters and the town of Miller’s Kill come to life so vividly (my favorite is Russ’s mom). I love the developement of the relationship between Clare and Russ – that they wrestle with real issues including faith and fidelity, that they’re mortal, flawed and funny, the build up over the 6 books just made me that much more invested in their romance. can’t wait til book 7 is out.

  48. E.D. Walker
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:23:23

    I voted for 1 because so much of the greatness of this series is watching it build and change and grow, so I don’t think new readers should miss all that by diving right in to book 6. I know once I’d finally given up and decided to start the series (I had the same hesitations as Jane about the infidelity thing) I devoured all 6 books in about two weeks, reading one back to back to back, and loving all of them.

  49. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:32:32

    @Jane: Since I honestly didn’t know about the possibility of the infidelity when I began the series (like for a little while I wondered if I was making it up in my head) I do think I came at it from a different point of view. But at the same time, I have been able to read and enjoy literary type fiction with infidelity as a plot point. (I for the life of me can’t think of any off the top of my head).

  50. readerdiane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:33:28

    I voted for book 1. I have looked at thias series several time and then didn’t get because of the infidelity issue. I’m not a prude but it did bother me. Loyalty is very important to me.

  51. Joanne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:46:30

    I’m torn between my love of well written mysteries and my dislike of people who don’t keep their word.

    Since we’re talking about cheating I’d try skipping to the end and try book 6.

  52. KC
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:46:59

    Love this series & would love to get #7! I voted for #6 — I think it sets up this latest book the best. Then readers can get the first books to explore the whole angsty goodness of the rest of the series. Thanks for the opportunity & also for the background info, Ms. Spencer-Fleming!

  53. Keishon
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:49:26

    I think it’s awesome that JSF is getting more exposure because we want more Clare/Russ books (!)

    I find myself tongue-tied on why this series works considering how the relationship develops. Excellent characterizations. The author touches on a lot of controversial issues that grabs my attention. I love the church politics and the quirky people of Millers Kill. Like Jane said, it is the talent of the author that makes this work. You are awesome JSF.

    The biggest stumbling blocks I’ve encountered for readers not reading the series besides infidelity is that Clare is a priest. Yet, most of the stories are set outside the church. I like that we get to see Clare as a woman outside of the clerical collar if you will. I love the tension in the series. The only other author who has a series with this same relationship development is Dana Stabenow’s Liam Campbell series and they are OOP but are available digitally now. The only commonality between Stabenow and JSF is that they are both mysteries and both feature a strong romantic subplot but I can’t help bringing them up in discussion so sorry for the tangent there.

    Russ being happily married? Not my perception at all. It’s said quite often that Russ and his wife have had very little in common. But anyway, I look forward to reading One Was A Soldier. Great article. I enjoyed reading it.

  54. Lyssa
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:50:10

    @TriciaB I too love the way Clare’s faith and responcibities are handled in these books. One of my friend’s favorite expressions was “I can yell at God and know that it is just a sign of a healthy relationship.” I see this in how Clare deals with her faith. It is a relationship with her best friend, her comfort, and her strong shoulder. And the series always reflects that relationship.

    Regarding the infidelity issue, I think Clare and Russ started out as friends, who recognized each other in that way you do when you meet someone who is destined to be a great friend. I think Russ’ relationship with Linda became more defined with “To Darkness, and To Death”, where the reader was shown the dianamics that had developed between them. I will have to say that I thought the ending of All Mortal Flesh was the ONLY one that would have allowed the relationship to develop any further. This is because I think that without the character development of both Clare and Russ in I Shall Not Want I would have been disappointed in both of them. That is the beauty of this series, these are not Static characters. Events change them, and the fights, disagreements, reactions of the town do affect how they see themselves and each other, and what they expect from their relationship. But as others have said YMMV. I just know that my 73 year old mother loves the series as much as I do.

  55. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:50:40


    Madame Bovary? Le Morte d’Arthur? Tristan und Isolde? Anna Karenina?

  56. Triciab
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:54:02

    @Julia Spencer-Fleming: Oh you have a much higher definition of literary fiction than I do. :-D

    Also will never cease to be amazed at the lawyer turned novelist (and now it seems blogger world).

  57. Gracie
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 14:06:07

    JSF is the only author besides Lindsey Davis that I buy in HC, and I would love to win the arc for One Was a Soldier. I have been waiting sooooooo long for it to come out.

  58. JoannaV
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 14:28:05

    Oh definitely giveaway Book 1 – I always like to start at the beginning of a series and I have been hearing such good things about this one that I really need to start reading them!

  59. M
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 14:46:22

    **But I do write about a romance, one that's messy and painful and heart-breaking and life-healing for the two people involved.**

    What about the *third* person? The wife? No life-healing for her?

    ***I can respect that-I won't knowingly pick up a book where a child dies, where Scots brogue is abused, or anything in the vein of Playboy Sheiks and Virgin Stable-Girls. ***

    Way to slam another author to raise yourself up.

  60. chris booklover
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:00:43

    It’s always better to start a series at the beginning, so book 1 would definitely be my choice.

    Just read the recent review and thread on Marissa Day’s The Seduction of Miranda Prosper, which is a menage story. I find it surprising that anyone who has no qualms about reading menage stories would balk at reading about infidelity. If the argument is that menage is consensual, then it seems to me that menage is simply infidelity + wishful thinking.

  61. Lynnd
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:08:27

    I voted to start at book 1 as I think it’s always best to start a series at the beginning when there is the evelopment of this type of over-arching storyline. I have been looking at this series for some time now, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet (haven’t had time for a good glom :-) ).

  62. Lynnd
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:12:29

    @Lynnd: I meant to say development not evelopment, sigh.

  63. Nicole
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:14:23

    This is my favorite series going right now! I picked up one of the middle books in the series, realized that I was coming late to the party, and went back to In the Bleak Midwinter. LOVE! I can’t say enough good things about how well-written this series is, or how identifiable I find all of the characters in it.
    This is one series that I recommend to anybody – ANYBODY – who tells me that he or she is a lover of mysteries. I was sorry that One Was a Soldier didn’t come out in 2010, but I’m always willing to wait longer to read something that the author feels more strongly about. Off to preorder it now, but while I’m waiting for April to get here, I’m going to reread the series from the beginning. Joy!

  64. Isabel Cooper
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:15:06

    Infidelity also doesn’t bug me nearly as much as other tropes–*cannot* deal with overly innocent or traumatized heroines, for example–and I don’t think saying what pushes your Will Not Finish buttons is necessarily slamming another author. I don’t mind books where children die–I’ve read IT about thirteen times–but I don’t want to read about pregnancy plot. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good books featuring pregnancy out there, it just means that it’s a squick for me.

    I probably wouldn’t approach these books like I do romance novels. RL, I’m pretty cynical/casual/blase about infidelity and its causes, but I want the fantasy in my romance fiction: either blissful monogamy or cheerfully open relationships, please and thank you. ;) I really like small-town novels, though, and I like novels with clergy as heroes, so I’ll pick this up. (Weirdly, the stumbling block for me is that I don’t usually read mysteries.)

  65. Patricia
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:24:09

    I voted for one since I do not like to start series in the middle

  66. Kristen
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:28:15

    I started reading these books based on the recommend of an online friend. She liked the series because she was very active in the Episcopal Church. I was drawn to the mystery. And because of that, because of the depth of the mysteries and the depth of all the characters, I was perhaps as blindsided by the romance between Clare and Russ as Clare and Russ were. Of course, now that I know about it, I see it all over In the Bleak Midwinter. But as a new reader, the very stunning realization that these two people had such a deep soul connection left me a little breathless. Reading the rest of the books has been like slowly peeling back layers of paint: tremendously hard work, sometimes frustrating and sometimes satisfying.

    I think of Clare as kind of a catalyst for Russ. She shakes up his feelings about himself (I hesitate to say that she shakes up his marriage simply because Russ does love Linda, but he recognizes that Clare knows him differently). She causes him to think differently about women in traditionally male positions of power. And, I think most profoundly, through her outsider’s eyes he begins to see his town anew. And for Clare, Russ is the one person in her life who is able to see beyond what she presents to the world. He doesn’t see her Army rank or her clerical collar, he just sees her. He recognizes that she is flawed and human, and he responds to her in kind.

    Too often I read books where the characters, the setting, and the romance is too perfect. JSF’s books are, like all of us, human. They are deep and shallow, witty and biting, funny and heartbreaking. And her characters could be us, or our neighbors or friends. After all, to quote All Mortal Flesh: “It is a cliche to say that there are no secrets in a small town. It is also true.”

    Give away In the Bleak Midwinter. Let readers peel back the paint themselves.

  67. Anon
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:45:34

    “Anon, I agree. If some one has had a bruising personal experience with emotional adultery, he or she would not, I think be able to let go and enjoy my books.”

    I’ve honestly never had a “bruising personal experience with emotional adultery”. There are other reasons to be bothered by rooting for a relationship based on infidelity.

  68. Barbara
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 15:59:42

    I voted for book 1 – I have a thing about not starting a series from the start. It’s almost as bad as stepping on a sidewalk crack.

    I have pretty strong personal feelings about any sort of infidelity, but I’m willing to see where an author will take a story. I know how to close a book if I don’t like it – DNFs are rare for me, but I’ll make an exception for one that makes me personally uncomfortable.

  69. ruth
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:02:53

    Sold. I’m going to go download book 1. (So I voted for book 6) LOL

  70. Mary Beth
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:03:58

    I absolutely love this series. Everything about In the Bleak Midwinter was perfect for me. You really captured the ‘mood’ of winter in this book.

    If I were choosing where to start, it would definitely be with this first book in the series, for all the obvious reasons. Despite owning a kindle, I went back and bought Bleak Midwinter in hardcover because I knew it should be on my library shelves in tangible form!

    Please don’t enter me in this contest, I all ready own all of Julia’s stories. I am anticipating April for two reasons – the release of your book and spring.

    Kind Regards,
    Mary Beth

  71. Alison
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:09:07

    I voted for book 1 – I read the first two with the last free give away when they were mentioned by SBTB (who I don’t think had even read them at the time), and I don’t think the fact that they have been given away in the past, or even that they are currently available in paperback should influence your decision. The richness of the story, the subcharacters, the geographic location, are all drawn out bit by bit throughout the series. I re-read the entire series recently to get ready for April (which seems so far away!) Thank goodness there are a bunch of new releases that I’ve been waiting for occuring in March. That should keep me satisfied for a week. As far as a chance to win the ARC? Count me in. I’ll still be buying an e-copy when the book comes out in April.

  72. Ridley
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:18:39

    It’s funny. I think if you asked me about whether I like infidelity in my books or not, I’d answer no. But if I’m being honest, I can’t think of a book that has infidelity that I didn’t like. I loved Broken, which has a years-long emotional affair, and Spring Fancy which has straight-up cheating and a physical affair.

    Clearly I’ll read anything written well.

  73. Sandia
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:19:45

    I voted for giving away In the Bleak Midwinter as well. I downloaded the first two books and was completely hooked. I didn’t have much thoughts either way about Russ and Clare’s relationship, but thought I would be bothered more by Clare’s profession. I was afraid of an overtly Christian book. But one of my favorite parts of the book is actually when Clare is having issues dealing with her own faith.

  74. Maili
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:20:47

    @Triciab: Jane Eyre. Gone With the Wind. Wuthering Heights. Far From the Madding Crowd. And also, roughly 40% of the entire Romance genre in 100 years. Those suggestions are a lot lower in the brow than JSF’s suggestions, true, but hey. :D

  75. Diane V
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:25:16

    I hate cheaters ( due to not having my father for a year at age 6 because he was at my aunt’s helping her with my 5 cousins after my uncle left to be with the 18 year old) and tried to read this series because of the many recommendations I had received from friends.

    I made it through book 3, but I just couldn’t get over the cheating – so I stopped reading the series. On the other hand, I recommended the books to my mother who quickly devoured them (she does not have as much problem with infidelity as I do and still talks and interacts with my uncle).

    Definitely think that they need to offer book 1 for free not book 6 — I think the impact of the growing relationship between Clare and Russ would be lost.

    I think Julia is an excellent writer, but infidelity in my hero/heroine is not for me.

  76. Kelly S. Bishop
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:27:54

    I voted for book 1 because I hate, hate, HATE starting any series in the middle. I haven’t read this series but you’ve got my interest peaked, even though I’m not of fan of h/h infidelity.

  77. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 16:55:15

    It’s fascinating and gratifying and informative to read your opinions. Since I’ve got you all here (there’s a mystery cliche for you) I’d like to ask: how do you feel about the age differences between the sets of lovers? Russ is 14 years older than Clare, and the newly-sworn Officer Hadley Knox is 8 years older than the enamored Kevin Flynn.

    (Can you tell unconventional age pairings are another interest of mine?

  78. Tiffany
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 17:11:39

    If there’s a turn off in the books for me, it’s the age differences. However, age differences usually bother me based on questioning whether two people decades apart can really be on the same page with the same interests.

    The thing here, though, is that, other than the numbers, I’m not sure there are ages differences. I don’t think Clare is 35 in ITBM. I’m 35, and I don’t know anyone that sure of herself, her role in the world, or who is as mother hen-like. I would have guessed her to be at least early 40s. Kevin is not like any mid-twenties guy I’ve ever known. He’s so stable and serious and sure of what he wants.

    The supposed ages of the characters may be the one thing (other than the many dead bodies found in this small town) that strikes me as a bit unrealistic.

  79. Jane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 17:24:03

    @Julia Spencer-Fleming You should read Julie Ann Long’s book that is coming out at the end of this month. There is a large age difference between the two characters and I thought it was really well done. And you are invited to write another blog post about age differences between lovers. ;)

  80. Bethany
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:14:52

    I love age differences in my romances–I particularly love older heroes :) But I love conflicted heroines, and Hadley is so well-done. I can’t wait to see her and poor Flynn again. Their final scene in “I Shall Not Want” just killed me. If she won’t take him, I will. Many of my favorite books have the age difference thing–Breaking Point, Defiant Hero, and Into the Night by Suzanne Brockmann. Just finished Naked Edge by Pamela Clare where there’s a 6 year gap between hero/heroine and an even larger life experience gap. Clare and Russ’s age difference works really well too as it’s part of what shakes him up and also part of what keeps them apart–you can see him fighting so hard to not be *that* guy. The cliche one who leaves for a younger model. And she desperately doesn’t want to be the homewrecking younger model. As a rule I don’t like Infidelity, particularly in contemporaries (Sherry Thomas’s Private Arrangements is a great historical that touches on the theme), but Clare and Russ fight so hard against it, and that really is the beauty in it. I absolutely can’t wait for One Was a Solider.

  81. redz74
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:19:46

    I started reading in the series last December and I fell in love with the characters and the stories. It’s not clean cut romance, they have emotions that are raw and they hurt and they can’t be reasoned away. Both are strong characters that are one can truly relate to. They stories are beautifully developed. In the few weeks I devoured the books and can’t wait for April. The characters stay with you well past the finish of the book…like good friends.

  82. redz74
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:25:54

    I am currently 36…so right up there with Claire. I don’t find an age difference of 14 years that odd, especially since her and Russ have many things in common and connect so well. I never questioned that part of the story. On the other hand Hadley and Flynn seem to have an odd chemistry. It’s more that than their age that made me look twice. But opposites attract and maybe he is just what she needs to heal. Russ and Clare always seem like they are ‘home’ for each other.

  83. Bethany
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:29:20

    Oh and just wanted to that a good age difference plus incredibly complex and well-handled infidelity read is “The Paper Marriage” by Susan Kay Law. I’m not sure if I could have appreciated this gem (or even been willing to open it up) before reading JSF. Sometimes pushing boundaries is a really good thing.

  84. Sarah (Baker) Storme
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:33:19

    I have to say, I’ve been waiting on this chat so I could comment. I’m an author of both mystery and romance, and read “In the Bleak Midwinter” on advice from a fellow author. I read all 6 books in less than a week. I couldn’t put them down. This is by far the best case of continued sexual tension through a series I’ve ever seen. Their passion is believable, understandable, and heart breaking. I’m running around making Russ-Clare converts all over the place! Thank you!!

  85. Sarah (Baker) Storme
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:35:34

    And the age difference works for me. Their experiences are similar enough to make them a pair, in spite of the years. Actually, I think the difference makes the tension even hotter.

  86. Sarah (Baker) Storme
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:39:14

    Oh, and while I’m at it, I really enjoyed the way you handled each mystery differently. That worked for me, too.

  87. Alison
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:55:59

    Age difference doesn’t bother me at all. Perhaps too many Georgette Heyer novels as a kid? Seriously – it’s not like you can’t have any sort of relationship – friendship, love, siblings, etc. – with someone who isn’t the same age as you, or lived in the same town as you and had all the life experiences that you had? How dull would that be?

  88. DianeN
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 19:53:49

    This series is stunningly good. The mysteries are gripping, the small town ambience is spot on, even the church politics is fascinating and Clare and Russ feel like real people to me, people I care about despite their flaws and foibles. Anyone starting the series with book 6 would be missing out on so much gold that I can’t believe the publisher would even consider giving anything but book 1 away! It’s been a long wait for the new book, but I know it’ll be worth it!

  89. Billie
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 20:25:03

    There is a 12 yr age difference in my marriage. We’ve been married 34 yrs so no
    big deal for us. A new reader should start
    with #1. It sets the tone for the rest of
    the books. I can’t wait for the new one.

  90. ritu
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 20:43:05

    This series is on my radar always =) been hearing really good things.. But infidelity and to a lesser extent the age difference is keeping me back. Especially when I read that he is married for 25 years?!! Even after reading all the comments, I’m still hesitant to pick up the books. But if its a giveaway, it definitely has to be the first book!

  91. Kwana
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 21:01:19

    Wow these sound wonderful. I’ve never read any of her books bit now I want to. I voted for book 1.

  92. Leslie
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 21:18:41

    Just finished In the Bleak Midwinter and continued on with A Fountain Filled with Blood. Both audio books and Suzanne Toren does a wonderful job as narrator.

    I began reading the series for the mystery and characters, not for the romance so my expectations are different. I do love the developing relationship between Clare & Russ, looking forward to seeing it progress.

    I’m fine with the age difference. Clare & Russ have experienced a lot in life and have much in common. It works.

    I would start with book 1 and get to know Clare & Russ as they get to know each other.

  93. Karen S.
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 21:25:08

    I voted for book 1, partly because it’s usually best to start at the beginning, but in this case, also because book six *totally spoils book five*. Book five is a *huge* turning point in the series, with some “OH SHIT!” moments. Book six, not surprisingly, tells you how it all turned out. I wouldn’t have nearly shrieked out loud on the bus or have actually missed my stop if I’d read book six first, and that kind of experience is too much fun to miss out on.

  94. Peggy P
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 21:29:44

    When I think of how close I came to missing this series … well – it was close! I despise “preachy” fiction and that’s the way this sounded to me but that first free book changed everything! I highly recommend all authors of series give away that 1st book free, if you hook me I am yours for life (well, almost, sorry Janet Evanovich).
    Anyway, I am so looking forward to this book, would love to win it, of course, but will immediately buy it too.

    Hey, what happened to the audiobooks? Loved listening to this even more than reading!

  95. Myranda
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 23:14:06

    The author sounds like she’s a wonderful writer and her argument in the post is very well done. I really appreciate the points she made and those that fans of the books have written. Unfortunately, the subject of infidelity is not something that I find attractive. It is a complete turn-off to me. I don’t think it is something I could get past. And, in my opinion, feeling guilty about it does not make it okay.  Maybe I’ll pick the first book up at the library someday and be drawn into the story. But it’s not something I plan to seek out. I hope I don’t come off like I’m bashing the author or fans of this book. I would recommend giving away the first book. It sounds like a lot of backstory and character development would be missed if you started later. 

  96. Darlynne
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 00:27:42

    Too much happens in book 6 to skip the tension of everything that went before, so, please, tell the publisher they have to offer book 1. I can’t even imagine jumping into this fabulous series at any other point.

    But right now, I would love to win book 7. Thanks for the opportunity.

  97. Pam P
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 00:45:24

    Several readers in my book group keep recommending this series, but I too have been on the fence because of the priest and infidelity. Reconsidering again now reading this post, so I’d go for Book 1, seems best to read in order to fully appreciate the romance read, start from the beginning.

  98. Ann G
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 00:45:38

    I am not a mystery reader in general, but you caught my attention with the plots of your books. I do vote for IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, since I would rather start a series with the first book. Thank you for the chance to win a book.

  99. SAO
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 00:51:28

    I voted for 1 because as JSF herself noted, often by book 6, a series has lost its zing. I think romance/mystery combos should quit at book 5. The sexual tension dies if you know the two characters are never going to make changes to their lives to be together and live with the consequences of all the people they hurt.

  100. Ann_a_reader
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 01:09:48

    Voted for number one since it’s best to read the development of a relationship. Should be interesting.

  101. Kaetrin
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 02:59:24

    I voted for number 1. I like to start from the beginning of a series! Infidelity isn’t usually my thing either, so I think I’d need a “no risk exposure” to hook me into it.

  102. Lyssa
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 03:10:45

    @SAO, Don’t believe that this series lost its punch at book 5. JSF prevented that by the way she has carefully plotted out the series. Book 5 while an emotional rollercoaster ride, makes way for that growth that you want in your characters in book 6 and 7. (I was lucky enough to have already read an ARC of One Was a Soldier and can say JSF still has tricks and ways to make “Old tropes learn new tricks”.

  103. msaggie
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 04:43:04

    I voted for In the Bleak Midwinter too. It’s better for new readers to start at the very beginning. I love this series and I hope that Russ and Clare finally get married and have a bunch of kids! I really am looking forward to the upcoming book, and was so sad last year when it was delayed in publication until this year – but, hey, time passes so quickly!!

    I think Julia Spencer-Fleming has written the romance so well in these books – I miss the yearning in today’s romances – many are very shallow. I find that Clare and Russ’s story is much more romantic than many other standard romances on the shelves today, mainly because of the yearning they have for each other, which is enhanced by the conflicts due to their life circumstances (she is a priest, and he’s married). I am OK with the age difference. There is no adulterous sex, as such, although they fall in love. The conflict is handled very well by the author here. I would recommend this series very highly!

  104. Ivy
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 06:48:18

    I haven’t read JSF but they sound amazing and I have to now.
    I voted for book 1. Always start @ the beginning!

  105. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 06:59:22


    Are you saying I know how to turn tricks? ;-)

  106. Bev Stephans
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 08:33:14

    I voted for Book I. You have to start at the beginning to really appreciate all that Russ and Claire have on their collective (not collection) plates. If you start with Book 6, you’ll miss too much!

  107. Jeff
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 09:12:04

  108. CupK8
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 10:03:29

    I voted for book 1 for the same reasons many others have stated; starting in the middle of the series is weird for me.

    I haven’t read very many books with infidelity, but I’m intrigued by several things about how it seems to be portrayed in this series from the comments. It’s human. Mystery isn’t non-fiction, but I do like my human characters in my novels to be human. Sometimes you just marry the wrong person. And when someone comes along who makes your heart sing – what do you do with that? It’s an interesting dilemma, and I like to see characters wrestle with toughies like that, whichever choice they make.

    I am also fascinated by a female member of the clergy as a heroine.

  109. Allison
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 14:38:09

    Like just about everybody else, I voted for book 1. JSF’s writing and books are so fantastic that it’d be a shame to miss any part of them.

  110. GrowlyCub
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 20:03:44

    Okay, I just have to ask. If he really isn’t happily married, why the need for 7 books of martyrdom and emotional adultery? Why not just get divorced? Seems more efficient to me. :)

  111. Lyssa
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 22:06:33

    @Growlycub, Hey, perhaps because everyone is trying not to give away spoilers (other than the “unhappy marriage” one), the series are being miss represented. This is a series about “Showing, not telling”; so, JSF shows us this relationship from the first meeting all the way through (Spoiler stuff).

    That development takes time. Book 1 where the protagonists meet happens over 2-3 weeks at the most. Book 2 happens six months later and they are ‘reacquainted” after avoiding each other for those months. Book 3 happens six months later, and again the relationship has become a steady friendship with both pretending that nothing else exists other than that friendship. Books 4 and 5 both take place almost a year later, with both the books taking place over the period of 3 months. Book 6 takes place over a year, dealing with the emotional fall out of book 4/5. And Book 7 takes place 18 months after book 6, (the period of time that Clare is stationed in Iraq, Oh she is Army, reserve having become a clergy following her service in Desert Storm).

    The whole marriage situation is dealt with in books 4/5, but it is not a simple “Im’ Divorced’ thing. Clare holds the sacrament of marriage as something sacred, and Russ does not want to toss away what he knows. So we are shown this, not just told they had issues around it. We do get to know Linda the wife in books 4/5. She is shown at this time to be a woman who has a fully formed character. Love her, hate her she is a part of the story.

    Also don’t think these books are ANGST ridden. Russ and Clare (as well as Clare and the rest of the world) have a relationship built not only on drama, and ‘feelings’ but on frustration. The frustration comes from Clare refusing to be everyone’s “Proper clergy person’. She is, as my mom describes her, “a regular card.” She has opinions and if you disagree, well prepare either to be debated with or her to ‘ignore and go forward’ doing what she sees as right. And these things do make for some comical moments.

  112. Dana S
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 23:08:39

    I’ll try to keep the spoilers vague. But here’s a warning just in case.

    I would actually have preferred a divorce. It would have forced Russ and Clare to face the consequences, and really deal with Linda. I actually like the books, and Russ and Clare, but I never really loved the books, cause I was feeling sorry for Linda most of the time. In some ways, I think, emotional cheating is more harmful than just sex. And it’s hard for me to excuse the two of them just cause they didn’t have intercourse.

    I thought what happened to Linda was completely predictable. I was expecting that the outcome from book one, and thought it was too easy a solution. I despise adulterers, except for in extreme situations. It was hard for me to cheer on Russ and Clare, so I felt emotionally distant from the books, until book 7.

    But for all my complaints, I do enjoy the books, and would recommend starting with book 1. I prefer character driven books, and IMO, you get a better sense of the character arc, by starting with the first book.

    I may not always like the characters, but they’re well drawn, and the part of the books that were the most iffy for me, the religious part, was done well. The religion is explained, but never shoved down your throat. I never felt like I was being preached too, or felt that the author was trying to convert me. The good and bad aspects of organized religion were presented well. And happily, the anti-gay/choice/feminists/everything, were treated the way they should be treated. I think I’ve dealt with too many Christians like Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other fundies, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn’t hate the religious aspects of the book.

    It’s a complicated read, but IMO, well worth it.

  113. Dana S
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 00:15:45

    Hmmmm. It looks like my comment was stopped by the spam filter. Wonder why. Anyway, I voted for book 1.

  114. Tweets that mention Julia Spencer Fleming on Infidelity: Adulterer. Cheater. Unfaithful. Home-wrecker. Other woman. | Dear Author --
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 04:16:05

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Private Investigator, Stop Cheating, Stop Cheating, Debi Levine, dearauthor and others. dearauthor said: NewPost: Julia Spencer Fleming on Infidelity: Adulterer. Cheater. Unfaithful. Home-wrecker. Other woman. […]

  115. Lorraine from CA
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 04:52:33

    I voted for book 1. It is always good to start a series at the beginning. I have the first three books in my TBR pile. I think I’m going to start reading them during President’s Day weekend.

  116. Erica Anderson
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 12:39:43

    Huh. Not a fan of mysteries. Absolutely hate adultery in my H/H. But–to my great surprise–I’d give this one a try. I voted to start with Book 1.

  117. E.D. Walker
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 23:58:52

    @Julia Spencer-Fleming: I love May/December age differences if it is done really well. (Like Fawn/Dag in The Sharing Knife series). The only time an age difference will bother me is when the older person (usually the man) knew the other when they were a child. I just can’t imagine falling in love with someone who’s diapers I helped changed or something. The romance between Clare and Russ has never squicked me out, though, and, in fact, the age difference adds a nice bit of variety.

  118. E.D. Walker
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 00:07:08

    @Julia Spencer-Fleming: I also really like older heroines. Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You is a great example. I also thought the relationship between Flynn and Hadley is really cute.

  119. Roob
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 01:11:42


    This. I was wondering the same thing also.

  120. J
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 06:14:57

    I voted for book 1. I think you’d miss some of the impact of book 6 if you didn’t know what happened in the rest of the series. I’m looking forward to reading One Was a Soldier.

  121. LSUReader
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 08:41:47

    This series is on my TBR list. I voted for Book 1.

  122. Suzanne
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 10:05:12

    I voted for Book 1 as well…I like to start at the beginning. I would love a chance to read risk-free as this series combines my two favorite genres.

  123. Triciab
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 13:12:21

    @Dana S: I also saw what was coming but I think I prefer it to divorce. I think it forces them both to deal with a completely different set of emotions than a divorce would and since Russ and Clare face their emotions head on it is interesting and different.

  124. Triciab
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 13:14:35

    @Triciab: and clearly the only adjective I know today is the word different. ugh

  125. Julia Spencer-Fleming
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 13:19:24

    @E.D. Walker: I loved Fawn and Dag’s relationship in the Sharing Knife series. (Of course I love all things LMB.) I think she captured the best aspects of age differences: Dag and Fawn’s respective years (and more importantly, where they are in life) inform their characters and enable them to bring unique gifts to the other.

  126. Kanchb
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 17:21:56

    I voted for Book 1 too. I always like to start a new series from the. beginning

  127. Deb B.
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 23:04:52

    I don’t generally read mysteries but tore through this entire series as fast as I could. I love the complex relationship between Russ and Clare, the Miller’s Kill setting, the theology, and the supporting characters (love Flynn and Hadley!). I vote for book 1 and can’t wait to read One Was A Soldier!

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    Feb 15, 2011 @ 00:38:14

    […] author has been visiting several reader blogs, promoting her books. This is an author I don’t mind getting behind and supporting. Well, to […]

  129. Liz
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 15:41:16

    I read your interview on Lori Armstrong’s site on Thursday afternoon. Gnash your teeth, howl, and go read the next one? I’ve just finished ‘I Shall Not Want’. My work load does not thank you. But I definitely do. I don’t know what to say but Wow. Except now my teeth are gnashing and I want the next one!!!

  130. Carol
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 09:06:24

    I voted for book 1 coz I haven’t read the series yet and I’m anal that way. Have to start from the beginning.

  131. Bonnie
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 19:16:46

    @dana s The spoiler issue was my problem with the “emotional adultery” if you will. It’s too easy a solution. Others have used this (William Kent Krueger, Lauren Willig in her most recent), but as someone who has been involved in these conflicts in younger years I would rather see the folks involved work their way up to a divorce if that’s what’s appropriate or figure out how to live with the situation without doing something that makes them feel slimy. I loved the way Cynthia Harold-Eagles handled it in her Bill Slider series…him putting it off, her finally giving the ultimatum, then a weird comedy of errors that ultimately resultes in everyone understanding exactly what’s going on.

    So yeah, I love these books and JSF’s awesome ability to capture all these nuances, but in the end it was “cheating,” in a way. Not that Russ and Claire don’t have plenty of other problems to deal with. And yeah, I don’t have a problem with the age difference, either.

  132. Leslie Dowhan
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 20:39:59

    I do love JSF and Clare and Russ and all the quirky characters of Millers Kill. Can I live there?
    Please don’t laugh too hard, but I have no clue what YMMV means. Could someone please enlighten me?
    Russ and Clare’s hard-fought-against love affair came across to me as a poignant life struggle, which must have been almost as painful for Julia to write as for R&C to live out.
    I have one annoyance w/ heroines of nearly all mystery series: their uncanny ability to show up at the wrong place, wrong time, with all kinds of excuses as to why they are somehow in the middle of it all. Yes, I know, then there would be no story. But it isn’t very subtle, lol.
    Start with #1 and savor the journey….

  133. Lyssa
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 00:52:10

    @Leslie YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary. Don’t feel bad it took me a bit to figure that one out as well. (Grin)

  134. readinrobin
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 12:49:15

    When it comes t series I tend to be very anal about reading them in order. If I pick up a book somewhere and then discover it’s part of a series, I have to hunt down the first book and read it first, and then so forth, before reading the one I picked up first. So I voted for the first book to be the one given away as that’s where I would want to start!

  135. Julie
    Apr 22, 2011 @ 19:15:49

    I am a brand new fan!!! My mother just lent me the first one and I am hooked. That is why I voted for #1.

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