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REVIEW: Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan

Disclosure: Back in the days when pterodactyls soared across the skies (about a dozen years ago or so) I took a couple of eight week novel writing classes with Patricia Ryan. She was a wonderful teacher, and I learned a lot from those classes. Aside from those two courses, and a one day writing workshop she gave which I attended six years later, I’ve had almost no contact with her, which is why I feel I can review Still Life with Murder. I don’t think there’s much of a conflict of interest, otherwise I would not review the book, but I’m disclosing this connection so that readers can decide for themselves. — Janine

Dear Ms. Ryan,

I had greatly enjoyed your medieval romances, and hold fond memories of Heaven's Fire and Silken Threads especially, so when Still Life with Murder came out back in 2003 I snapped it up. I was glad to discover that your first foray into the mystery genre was a compelling page turner.

still life with murderRecently, I heard from Keishon and Jane that you are selling both your Patricia Ryan medieval romances and your P.B. Ryan mysteries on Smashwords for a bargain price. At Jane’s request I dug up a post I wrote for a Yahoo group I belong to at the time I first read the book, and reconstituted that post into this review.

Still Life with Murder takes place in Massachusetts in the 1860s. The book opens in 1864 when its heroine, Nell Sweeney, is assisting Dr. Cyrus Greaves who has been called to deliver a housemaid’s child at a Cape Cod mansion that belongs to the wealthy Hewitt family. But there is trouble; the baby is lying transverse, and the doctor needs to perform a caesarian.

Soon after the operation is complete, it becomes apparent that Annie, the housemaid, doesn’t want the child. Her husband is away at war, and not the child’s father. Meanwhile, Viola Hewitt, the matriarch of the WASPy, Brahmin Hewitt family, has recently learned that the eldest two of her four sons, both Union soldiers, died in Andersonville of dysentery.

The grieving, wheelchair-bound Viola now wants to adopt the little baby girl Annie is determined to abandon, and after seeing Nell hold the baby lovingly in her arms, she offers Nell the position of little baby Grace’s governess. Nell, who is Irish, has just enough education to be a nursery governess. She’ll have eight years to learn what she needs to know to become a preparatory governess, Viola insists. Nell tries to tell Viola that she may be harboring illusions about Nell, but Viola replies that “Gentlewomen have no monopoly on virtue.”

Nell is thrilled not just at the opportunity to better her circumstances, but even more at the chance to have a baby to hold and love and raise almost as her own. It is something she thought could never happen, so she eagerly accepts the position with the Hewitts.

Four years pass, and in 1868 the Civil War is over and the Gilded Age is in full swing in Boston. Grace is now three and a half and known as Gracie, and Nell loves her dearly. She would do nothing to jeopardize her position as the Hewitts’ governess; nothing that is, until Viola Hewitt’s oldest son, one of the two Viola believed had died in Andersonville, turns out to be alive and in prison for a murder Viola is convinced he could not have committed.

August Hewitt, the patriarch of the family, is furious at William Hewitt for not telling his family he was alive for four whole years. He refuses to aid his son and is willing for him to hang. Therefore Viola has to go behind her husband’s back, and the only one she can turn to is Nell. And Nell suddenly finds herself thrust back into the world of thieves, prostitutes and cardsharps, a world with which she was once all-too-familiar. Now she must hide that familiarity so as not to lose her position with the Hewitts and along with it, Gracie.

This recap covers only the beginning of this rich, well-crafted mystery. I sometimes find mysteries too cerebral and not as emotionally involving as I would like them to be, but reading this book I wasn’t bored for a minute, because at the same time Nell is investigating clues, she is also learning more about what kind of men William Hewitt and Detective Colin Cook of the police department are, while they (and the reader along with them) are learning more about Nell and her past. Since this is the first in a six book series, not everything about Nell’s past is revealed, but the reader's appetite for more is whetted.

The attraction between Nell and Will, a doctor who became addicted to opium after it was medically administered to him in Andersonville, is palpable. But there are many barriers in the way of their association, not least of which are that to remain Gracie’s governess, Nell has to keep her reputation spotless, and that her employers prefer that she not marry.

While there is a lot of character and relationship development in this novel, I would have liked a bit more, because I enjoyed what I learned about Nell and Will very much. Nell is a true survivor, someone with a lot of strength and determination. These qualities allow her to get to the bottom of the truth as well as to surmount numerous obstacles. Will is perhaps more vulnerable, but like Nell, he has endured a lot in his life. If the two of them are scarred by their pasts, neither one wears it on his or her sleeve nor complains about it.

I liked the wealth of details about Boston in the 1860s, and found the description of the opium dens particularly fascinating. Although I don't know much about the setting, the book felt authentic to me.

Some of my friends refrain from reading mysteries for fear of violence and gore, so I want to assure readers that in this book, only a few details are given about the corpse, and these are not gratituous — that is, they are strictly there to identify clues like whether there was a struggle, whether the dead man was still alive when so-and-so saw something, etc.

Still Life with Murder was thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing. Many of the historical romances published when I read this book, back in 2003, were lighter in tone and set in England, so although this was a mystery rather than a romance, the difference from my usual reading was welcome. I suspect the book would hold up well and be just as entertaining today. A- for Still Life with Murder.


Janine Ballard

Book Link | Kindle| Smashwords

| Amazon

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.


  1. Karenmc
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 11:38:17

    Janine, thanks for posting this. Not that I don’t already have more TBR books and ebooks than I can count, but with the discount code at Smashwords, I’ll be adding some P.B. Ryan to the heap.

  2. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 11:49:11

    @Karenmc: You’re welcome, Karen! I hope you enjoy the book.

  3. CathyKJ
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 11:52:12

    Just downloaded this (though, like Karenmc, my TBR pile is a heap). A non-gory historical mystery set near Boston is right up my alley.

    Janine, have you read the rest of this series? Is it of similar quality?

  4. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:27:48

    @CathyKJ: I read books 2 and 3, Murder in a Mill Town and Death on Beacon Hill. Murder in a Mill Town was also an A- for me. Death on Beacon Hill I’d grade as a B.

    Three books is further than I typically get with series that have the same protagonists in each book. Still Life with Murder is my favorite of the three, but it’s hard for me to judge if that’s just because I was new to the characters when I read it. I tend not to stick with series that follow the same main character or two, even when they are excellent and written by writers whose books I otherwise love. New characters always interest me more, for some reason.

    To give you a sense of where I’m coming from, I’ve only read one J.D. Robb In Death book, one and a quarter books in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy series, two books in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, one book in the C.S. Harris historical mystery series, and I could go on. By contrast, when a series has a different set of protagonists in each book, I have no difficulty sticking with them.

    So I may not be the best person to answer this question. Maybe someone else who has read this series will post about the later books.

  5. lucy
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:39:50

    @Janine: I have the same problem. I don’t really like reading series with the same protagonist throughout the books. On the other hand, I hate loose ends, therefore I sometimes feel obligated to keep reading the series even when I don’t want to.

    Is this a stand alone book? Because if it is, it sounds interesting enough to give it a chance.

  6. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:44:36


    Wow, someone else with the same issue! You’re the first one I’ve met. Most people seem to prefer to read about familiar characters.

    The mystery is resolved at the end of this book, so as a mystery, it’s stand alone. The romance, though, is developed through the six books. So I guess I would say that if you are reading for the romantic HEA ending, you’ll need to read all six. But if you’re reading for the mystery, it comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of this book.

    FWIW, I really enjoyed this book despite my tendency not to finish same-character series. But I don’t hate loose end unless they are cliffhangers.

  7. Karenmc
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:07:49

    @Janine: I read the excerpt at the author’s website; I’m definitely interested. Are her medievals worth a look?

    I don’t have a big problem with series books, but I must admit that I lost interest in Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series when I matured and Kinsey didn’t.

  8. Ridley
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:29:25

    I’m a shameless homer, so you sold me at “set in Massachusetts.”

    Onto Mt. TBR it goes!

  9. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:32:34

    @Karenmc: I remember enjoying the medieval romances very much, but I think it’s been a decade since I read them.

    My favorite was Silken Threads, which was based on Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and had a heroine who was a silk merchant.

    The hero was injured and laid up in her shop, and was trying to solve a murder mystery while laid up in her shop.

    The book was set in medieval London which made it different from the castle-set medievals which were more commonplace back then.

    Another one I liked a lot was Heaven’s Fire. That one was set in medieval Oxford and had a hero who was a cleric and a heroine who was an illuminator (illustrator) of religious manuscripts.

  10. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:34:45

    @Ridley: LOL Ridley! There are some nice details about Boston in the 1860s in this series. I hope you like the book.

    I’d also enjoy hearing back from any of you who want to report back your thoughts on it.

  11. Ridley
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:43:43

    Oh lord, they’re even having a 25% off sale at Smashwords. As if $2.99 weren’t bargain enough.

    I foresee a bunch of Alexis Harrington falling in my cart on this trip as well, and it’s all this site’s fault for sending me there.

  12. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan | Dear Author --
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:46:22

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Malle Vallik, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: REVIEW: Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan […]

  13. Janine
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 14:50:28


    and it's all this site's fault for sending me there.

    Hee hee. We’re evil.

  14. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 16:18:04

    Thanks for the great review, Janine! I love having new readers discover these books. Still Life, especially, is very close to my heart.

    About maintaining interest in the same characters through a series, I think that really has to do with maintaining sexual tension and emotion–really maintaining it, not just giving it lip service. Nell and Will develop deep feelings for each other as the series progresses, but there are really good reasons why they need to avoid a relationship. Romance fans, rest assured you’ll have a smile on your face by the end of Book #6. :)


  15. Susan/DC
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 16:46:08

    I liked this series very much, and when I read the 6th and last one, I e-mailed P.B. Ryan to beg for more. As in any series, I liked some more than others, but the mystery and romantic elements are much better balanced than in many other similar series I’ve read. I read widely in both genres and often come away dissatisfied when an author doesn’t succeed in combining the two, but not here.

    One of the best things about the series is that the characters exist on their own, not just in relationship to each other. Will’s struggles with his addiction are powerful and poignant, as his relationship to his parents. Nell is smart and brave, and her love for Gracie makes her attempts to keep Will at arm’s length completely understandable (there is a scene in a train station that required tissues). In addition, Ryan presents a fascinating portrait of a city at a time of dramatic change: new technologies, new immigrants, new relationships among the classes. Definitely recommend.

  16. P.B. Ryan’s Gilded Age Mysteries « Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 18:04:21

    […] first book, Still Life With Murder and has finished the second. Dear Author also did a review of Still Life With Murder as well (Janine). As readers, we are all excited about authors making their backlist available to […]

  17. MikiS
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 21:07:05

    @Susan/DC: I fully agree.

    And Nell is a layered, complex character as well. She has a past, and at one point it definitely raised my eyebrows! Not a typical romance heroine.

    Hmmm, if SFR = science fiction romance, is MR = mystery romance?

  18. MikiS
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 21:10:45

    @Janine: Okay, you sold me on these two. I don’t generally care for the castles-and-knights medievals, but these sound worth a try. Plus, all those stories about the crusaders…it just seems like setting a romance with an SS guard as the hero *shudder*.

    Back to Smashword’s horrid interface! (Luckily, I know what I’m looking for!)

  19. Eva_Baby
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 22:17:32

    I have to second, third and fourth a rec for this series. I got my hands on these books at a used book store and read them all back-to-back.

    I Loved how each book built on the last and revealed in layers the character and personality of both Nell and Will. And the mysteries were not at all predictable.

    I also loved the time period. I am a sucker for books set in the Gilded Age and the author does a wonderful job of using the setting of time and place as a part of the series. .

    Anyway, a fantastic series and even though I would have loved to see more of them, I thought the last book did everything it needed to do in wrapping up the storylines. I closed the last book with a sigh of satisfaction.

    And count me in as a person who loves to read a series that follows the same people (couple) throughout. I think this is why I rank Lynne Connolly’s Richard & Rose series, JD Robb’s In Death series as favorites.

  20. MaryK
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 22:51:11

    I checked out her website (to see if there was any order to the medievals), and I must say the ebook covers are better than the original paperback covers.

  21. Jennie
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 22:52:13

    Great review, Janine. I really liked this series. I think the first book is one of the best in the series, but the whole series is worth reading, IMO.

    I also do like Ryan’s medievals. I really don’t remember them that well – I read them so long ago – but I think I liked Secret Thunder the best. They were all pretty good though; definitely a cut above average.

  22. Maili
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 00:41:49


    I checked out her website (to see if there was any order to the medievals), and I must say the ebook covers are better than the original paperback covers.

    Yes! I made a similar comment about the covers on Twitter. (Better than most ebook and mainstream print covers, too.) Does anyone know who did those covers?

    Janine, I bought all six P.B. Ryan books in a frenzy a couple of nights ago, after @SarahTanner and @avidbookreader (Keishon) brought my attention to those books at Smashwords. I read the first three books years ago, but never had a chance to read the rest, so it was fantastic to see those available as ebooks.

    I hope other authors will go down the path of Anne Frasier and P.B Ryan, and publish their back lists soon.

  23. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 04:02:02

    @Maili: That scene in the train station? It required tissues for me, too. But it was while I was writing the last book that I really got weepy–two scenes in particular. I was like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, typing away with tears in my eyes.

    @MikiS: LOL about the crusader/SS guard analogy. Too true!

    @MaryK: @Susan/DC: Thank you for complimenting the covers! I actually did them myself. Once upon a time, I was going to be a painter–that’s what my degree is in–and I’ve figured out just enough about graphics software over the years to be able do stuff like this. It’s so much fun–and so satisfying to be able to give my books the covers I always felt they deserved. And make my name as big as it always should have been. ;)

  24. MikiS
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 06:44:17

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: Okay, wow. Those covers are gorgeous. If you ever got bored with writing, I imagine you could do quite well supplying covers to other Smashwords authors or independent epubs.

    (And – squee! – an author answered my comment!) :-)

  25. Karenmc
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 13:00:40

    @Janine: I bit big time and bought the six mysteries and the two medievals you mentioned.

    I’m glad most of the money from Smashwords sales goes to the author; I’m relieved that these are ebooks, because there really is no room left on my TBR shelves.

  26. Janine
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 13:25:56

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: You’re welcome. It was Jane’s suggestion that I post the review to alert readers to the rerelease of this series.


    One of the best things about the series is that the characters exist on their own, not just in relationship to each other. Will's struggles with his addiction are powerful and poignant, as his relationship to his parents. Nell is smart and brave, and her love for Gracie makes her attempts to keep Will at arm's length completely understandable (there is a scene in a train station that required tissues). In addition, Ryan presents a fascinating portrait of a city at a time of dramatic change: new technologies, new immigrants, new relationships among the classes.

    You’ve named some of my favorite aspects of the books. I also loved that Nell had a toughness to her but that it didn’t prevent her from also having a caring side. Agree about Will’s struggles with addiction and his relationship with his family, too.

  27. Janine
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 13:36:22

    @MikiS: I hope you enjoy the medievals. It’s been ages since I read them but I suspect they will hold up. I wish I had time to reread them but I’m a slow reader and it’s a challenge to keep up with all the new books I want to read and review.

    @Eva_Baby: I’m glad you enjoyed this series too. I too love Gilded Age settings. I wonder why they are so underutilized in the romance genre. As a reader who reads more romance than other genres, I sometimes envy readers of genres like mystery and young adult for the variety of settings those books have.

    And count me in as a person who loves to read a series that follows the same people (couple) throughout. I think this is why I rank Lynne Connolly's Richard & Rose series, JD Robb's In Death series as favorites.

    I think there are many more readers like you than like me, Eva, or there wouldn’t be so many bestselling series that follow the same characters. I suspect many readers feel an instant connection with a character they’ve read about before, which they prefer to having to take a while to get to know a brand new character, whereas for me characters I don’t know well yet are more exciting.

  28. Janine
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 13:46:14

    @Jennie: Thanks for weighing in. I remember enjoying Secret Thunder too. It’s a little fuzzier in my mind than the other two, maybe because it had a castle setting? But I remember really liking the heroine.

    @Maili: I also hope other authors will follow suit. There are some great books that have gone out of print, like some of Judy Cuevas/Judith Ivory’s.

    I’d also love to see authors e-publish books that were previously unpublished because they were considered risky by New York publishers. For example, Kathleen Gilles Seidel once mentioned in an AAR interview that she wrote a contemporary romance no one wanted to publish because it was set in a circus. But I would read it in a heartbeat! Sharon Shinn has a lot of unpublished manuscripts too. It hurts to think of books by such good authors going unread.

  29. Janine
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 13:48:42

    @Karenmc: I hope you enjoy the books. I’d love to hear what you and others think of them though since my memory is fuzzy I may not be able to discuss them in detail.

  30. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 24, 2010 @ 14:17:58

    @Karenmc: Thanks so much for buying the books! I hope you like them. Yes, it is nice that authors get such a big cut of self-published ebooks, and it’s also great that we can price them low enough to encourage new readers to try us out. I myself can’t resist a bargain book–I don’t know any real reader who can. Mwah ha ha…@Janine: Oh, yes, Judy Cuevas! Bliss is one of my all-time favorite reads. I bought that book after reading an excerpt booklet where the heroine meets the hero for the first time. He’d cut himself shaving, and I remember thinking, man, she is one heck of a writer to make a drop of blood on a guy’s neck sexy! As for not being allowed to set romances in a circus, tell that to Susan Phillips. And while you’re at it, tell her she can’t have sports figures for heros. :)

  31. Estara
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 03:04:58

    A series similar to Richard and Rose in its historical accuracy and crime solving setting? Nifty. I ordered all the recommended ones – they still had the savings code, too (although it’s not all over Smashwords – I ordered some other books too and those didn’t have it). Now I’ve got the newest Richard and Rose and all these (ordered the two recommended medievals, too). Nifty!

  32. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 05:07:11

    @Estara: The Smashwords July sale is something authors can choose to opt in on or not. I’m glad I did, because it reduces the price of a set of 6 of my books (so many people have been buying them in sets!) from $17.95 to $13.44, which is a pretty sweet price point. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have so many new readers discovering these books!

  33. Estara
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 06:39:43

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: Many thanks for opting in ^^ – I wouldn’t have splurged on all the books of a new-to-me author recommended here otherwise (just the first one), and if I enjoy the two recommended medievals you can be sure I’ll follow up on the rest of them there as well. I’m a big backlist glommer once I’ve found an author that works for me.

  34. Janine
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 08:38:35

    @Estara: I hope you enjoy the books.

  35. Kim
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 11:03:46

    Janine and friends – thanks so much for the review and the info on Smashwords. Based on this review and the fans of the series, I just downloaded the six books; they sound terrific (plus, I really like series books whether they feature the same individual/s or change with each book in the series). It is raining here, so it is a good afternoon to read. Again, thanks!

  36. Estara
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 11:30:26

    @Janine: *wink* So do I, but DearAuthor recommendations have worked for me quite a lot, so I’m not really worried.

  37. Janine
    Jul 25, 2010 @ 13:47:00

    @Kim: You’re welcome!

    @Estara: That’s great to know; thanks.

  38. Ana
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 06:47:44

    Thank you for this review. Since reading it I downloaded all six books and devoured them within 48 hours (fast reader once hooked) and I can say that I loved every minute of it! My thesis still awaits me but I am all the more richer for having had the pleasure of encountering William and Nell.

  39. Janine
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 10:57:42

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: Somehow I forgot to reply to this. I wish Cuevas/Ivory were still writing. It’s such a loss to the romance genre that she’s not. And yes, Susan Elizabeth Phillips can write almost anything. Though athlete heroes seem to be getting popular — it seems every time I turn around I see a book with a hero who is a football player, hockey player, NASCAR driver or extreme sport athlete. But maybe I just notice them because I’m not crazy about them. I have a hard time buying into a HEA with professional athletes.

  40. Janine
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 10:59:19

    @Ana: That’s awesome! So glad you liked the books. Wow, you are a fast reader! I’m lucky to finish one book in 48 hours. And you’re welcome.

  41. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 07:31:32

    @Janine: Holy cow, Anna! All 6 books in 48 hours! Did you sleep? Seriously, I’m so glad the books swept you away like that. That’s what I always hope for, both as a reader and as an author!

    Thanks, Pat

  42. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 07:32:36

    @Ana: Oops–sorry to have misspelled your name, Ana!

  43. Ridley
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 09:49:52

    Thanks, Janine, for the review. I absolutely loved the book and am now off to glom the series in short order. I also just started Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series, so perhaps I’ll read them together, alternating between Nell and Adrien.

    I’d write my reaction, but my hands are bad today and hunting and pecking makes me crabby. Suffice to say, it was fab.

  44. Janine
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 11:46:57

    @Ridley: You’re welcome. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the book.

  45. Ali R
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 12:55:42

    Thank you for the review. I bought Still Life and The Sun and Moon and stayed up very late last night finishing both. I am now tired and behind in my work ;-) but glad I discovered another wonderful author. I’ve already gone back and bought the other books in the mystery series and two more romances. I hope more authors make their backlists available on Smashwords–even if it means I go way over my budget for books for the month!

    Thanks again to Patricia and to Janine

  46. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 14:15:49

    @Ali R: Sorry to make you lose sleep, Ali. (Not really–it’s what I aim for.) Thanks for trying out my books!

  47. Janine
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 15:19:17

    @Ali R: You’re welcome. I remember staying up late and losing sleep reading some of Pat’s books myself. I think The Sun and the Moon is the only one of the medievals I haven’t read, and I should rectify that. I was a little reluctant at the time it came out because if memory serves, it’s influenced by the Hitchock movie “Notorious,” and I didn’t care for “Notorious.” But I’m not sure it’s a good enough reason not to read it, when I’ve enjoyed the other Ryan medievals so much.

  48. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 05:27:22

    @Janine: You don’t care for Notorious?? It’s my favorite movie. Ever. Seriously. And it has the best kiss in the history of cinema. What I took from it for The Sun and the Moon was the idea of a spy (in my case, Hugh de Wexford, a former mercenary knight who now spies for Henry II), recruiting a beautiful young woman for an espionage mission, falling for her, and then finding out that the mission involves her seducing the bad guy, who’s had a thing for her for years. This premise was also used for the second Mission Impossible film, which came out around the same time The Sun and the Moon was pubished by NAL. I remember watching the movie and thinking, “No! You can’t steal that idea! I already stole it! It’s mine!”

  49. Janine
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 10:53:09

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: It’s been a long, long time since I saw Notorious but what I didn’t like at the time was the way the Cary Grant character kept distrusting Ingrid Begman’s character and she kept having to prove herself to him, to the point of almost dying at the end. I could be misremembering but I remember that he believed the worst of her for a long time. There’s only so much of that I can take and I wanted him to realize how wrong he’d been about her a lot sooner.

    My favorite movie is probably Casablanca, and my favorite Hitchcock of the one I’ve seen may be Rebecca (love the cinematography there — all those shots of billowing curtains) though I’m very fond of North by Northwest and Rear Window as well.

    I will probably give The Sun and the Moon a try sometime, since I like the plot you describe.

  50. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 12:59:21

    @Janine: Yes, Casablanca is just about as good as it gets. Robert McKee’s 3-day Story seminar (although I think it may be 4 days now) ends with a 6-hour scene-by-scene screening and deconstruction of Casablanca. I think McKee received an AFI award for his analysis of that film. It was amazing, one of those powerful educational experiences of my life. The McKee seminars are AWESOME. I took his comedy and thriller seminars, too. I highly recommend them for anyone who’s interested in fiction of any kind.

  51. Janine
    Jul 29, 2010 @ 15:27:17

    @Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan: Thanks, I’ll look into it.

  52. Ariel/Sycorax Pine
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 20:09:04

    I too made my way to Smashwords and snapped up all of your books (Patricia) on your recommendation here (Janine), and I have barely put them down since. They are marvelous! There is something how slowly and realistically the relationship between Nell and Will builds, detail by detail, that reminds me again of how much I love and admire long forms like series (in fiction as in television, I have to admit). It is like reading a mammoth 19th C serial novel – you just get utterly absorbed into a complex world in which people have time to make slow, subtle, careful decisions about what kind of character they are going to be. I am just starting Black Friday now, and am already dreading the end of the series. Sigh.

    On the other hand, I can’t wait to soothe my withdrawal with The Sun and the Moon, since Notorious is my favorite Hitchcock, and by far (I think) the sultriest. It is, however, troubling as a romance, because so much of it concerns everything that is unhealthy about their attraction to one another – but that is what makes it so fascinating as a study of desire….

  53. Patricia Ryan/P.B. Ryan
    Jul 31, 2010 @ 04:05:11

    @Ariel/Sycorax Pine: I’m so glad to know there are readers who appreciate the gradual development of Nell and Will’s relationship. Given the conflicts that keep them apart and the nature of 19th century societal constraints, it really couldn’t have been any other way–and it made for much better storytelling, IMHO, than if I’d thrown them together in Book #1. I, too, love long forms in fiction–a big, juicy family saga, a TV show I can follow for years. I’ve written a few short stories, but they’re not really my thing. Although I do think the novella length is ideal for some stories.

    Yeah, Notorious is kind of dark, relationship-wise, but there’s something about it. Hitchcock said it wasn’t really a suspense film at all, it was a romance pure and simple, and that the heavy metal or whatever in the wine bottles was just a McGuffin (he coined the term) to serve the love story.

  54. Janine
    Jul 31, 2010 @ 13:25:15

    @Ariel/Sycorax Pine: I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying the books.

    Are you going to do a review on your blog? Off topic here, but I really like your blog and your comments here and would love to see you post more often.

    (Also, I recently stumbled on your old blog post about books by my critique partners, Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran, and I really enjoyed it.)

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