Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


The DA3 Interview & Giveaway: Lois Lanes

The DA3 Interview & Giveaway: Lois Lanes

Maybe not exactly Lois Lane, but each book in today’s DA³ Interview features a heroine who works at a newspaper. Here, in order by chronological setting, are the books:

Seducing Mr. Knightly

FIRST LINE: Some things are simply true: the earth rotates around the sun, Monday follows Sunday, and Miss Annabelle Swift loves Mr. Derek Knightly with a passion and purity that would be breathtaking were it not for one other simple truth: Mr. Derek Knightly pays no attention to Miss Annabelle Swift.

Words Spoken True by Ann Gabhart

FIRST LINE: Adriane Darcy’s heart pounded as the darkness settled down around her like a heavy blanket.

The Last Woman He'd Ever Date by Liz Fielding

FIRST LINE: Sir Robert Cranbook glared across the table. Even from his wheelchair and ravaged by a stroke he was an impressive man, but his hand shook as he snatched the pen his lawyer offered and signed away centuries of power and privilege.














In Seducing Mr. Knightly, Maya Rodale concludes the Regency-set Writing Girls series with Annabelle, the shy advice columnist who asks her readers’ help in attracting the attention of the man she loves from not-so-afar—he’s the paper’s owner.

Editorial wars fan the flames of the social and political unrest of 1850’s Louisville in Ann Gabhart’s Words Spoken True. Adriane writes for her father’s newspaper, but the arrival of a Northern editor challenges her beliefs.

Finally, back to Britain and the present day for Liz Fielding’s The Last Woman He’d Ever Date. Claire is the gossip columnist for a village paper, which is far from the prestigious journalistic career she had in mind for herself pre-unplanned pregnancy. One great story on the self-made millionaire in town could turn things around, though.

The interview:

Instead of the usual six-word memoir, let’s stick with the newspaper theme: A headline for your protagonist:

Maya Rodale: Lovelorn Writing Girl Attempts Audacious Schemes To Seduce Rogue

Ann Gabhart: Editor’s Daughter Defies Conventions by Writing News Stories

Liz Fielding: Single Mother Struggling To Keep Job

How your heroine came to journalism:

Maya Rodale: Annabelle entered a contest in The London Weekly, never imagining that she’d win the position of advice columnist (“Dear Annabelle”) and become one of the four scandalous and celebrated Writing Girls.

Ann Gabhart: Adriane was born to it, a newspaperman’s daughter. She grew up in the newspaper offices of her father and learned about getting out the news.

Liz Fielding: Claire Thackeray should have been a high-flying journalist. Instead she fell in love with the wrong guy, had a baby and is now writing up the women’s interest and gossip on a small town newspaper.

What readers will love about your hero:

Maya Rodale: Besides being devastatingly handsome, wealthy, and powerful… He’s a man that gives women a chance to be something more that what society allows. While he is fiercely focused on his work at the newspaper, Annabelle recognizes “the intensity with which he might love and make love to a woman—her—if only he would.”  She’s right. Oh, so right.

Ann Gabhart: Blake Garrett reports the news as it happens. He fights for what he believes and refuses to be intimidated. He works and loves with his whole being.

Liz Fielding: He’s a man hell-bent on revenge, but right from the start we see his vulnerability, and a well-developed conscience when he bathes Claire’s wounded foot.

The setting for the first kiss: 

Maya Rodale: In the drawing room…

Ann Gabhart: In a carriage…

Liz Fielding:  In a muddy ditch…

A scene you vividly remember writing:

Maya Rodale: I had spent years writing the first chapter in my head and I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. Finally sitting down to write it—in bed, on a crisp autumn day—was such a pleasure. (Take a look at chapter one!).

Ann Gabhart: The election riot scene where Blake and Adriane see the mob burning the Irish tenement houses. The history is intense and so are the characters’ reactions to what is happening and to each other.

Liz Fielding: Hal invites Claire to be his date at a charity auction. Until now, although he hasn’t been able to stay away from her, he has been planning to make her pay for what her father did to him as a boy and every scene between them is underpinned with threat. At the auction, he realises that he’s been fooling himself, that what he wants is Claire Thackeray, in his bed, in his life. On the surface the scene is all about sex, but the subtext is all about letting go of the past.

For me, the heart of a good tale of journalism lies in the ethical dilemmas. Tell us about one your heroine faces.

Maya Rodale: Annabelle receives a letter requesting advice from her rival for the hero’s affections. She’s torn between doing her job well—and thus giving advice that would thwart her own goals—or putting herself first for once. Of course, the first thing she does is stuffs the letter in a book on a high shelf and tries to forget about it.  It’s true: even romance heroines are prone to procrastination.

Ann Gabhart: In the 1850s, newspapers were how people got their news. Editors wrote fiery editorials intended to incite readers. Adriane knows her father’s editorial rants are escalating the political unrest in the city, but there’s little she can do to influence his opinions. Then she finds out her father owes one of the politicians money and she wonders if her father is reporting what he believes or what he thinks the politician wants him to believe. She wants their news stories to be truth, but at the end of the story, she is confronted with the dilemma of reporting the truth of what has happened and facing social and economic ruin or not reporting the whole story and being in a position to write the news on another day.

Liz Fielding: In order to get back onto the career path she originally envisaged, Claire needs a big story. The arrival of Hal North, the bad-boy made good, is her opportunity. He’s a person of interest but he guards is privacy well. He’s a scalp every editor would pay highly for and she knows where he comes from and all his youthful misdeeds. Then she discovers the truth about his birth and can name her price.

What’s distinctive about the role of the press in the time period of your novel?

Maya Rodale: The Writing Girl novels center around The London Weekly, a fictional but “typical” newspaper from the Regency era that is based largely on actual newspapers from that time period that I read while doing research. Those papers and the society were gossip-tastic–just like our society today. Whether The London Weekly or People Magazine, or calling hours, Twitter, salons, and Facebook, it just seems human to want to know what other people are doing and to connect with them.

Ann Gabhart: The 1850s were a decade of political unrest in America. Not only was the Civil War lurking on the horizon, but also an influx of Irish and German immigrants was settling in cities like Louisville, the setting of Words Spoken True. Some of the established citizens of these cities feared the immigrants would take over the country if they began getting elected to office. That led to election riots like “Bloody Monday” in Louisville where dozens were killed. Some people put part of the blame for the riots on newspaper editors because of how their fiery editorials incited the public.

Newspapers were how people at that time got the news. People also looked to newspapers as a means of entertainment and enjoyed reading about their own social functions and activities. These stories were generally reported in the flowery language of the Victorian age.

Liz Fielding: The present-day obsession with celebrity has led to phone hacking, bin diving journalism. Personal privacy has been lost in the rush to salivate over the latest scandal or ogle Prince Harry’s bum, all in the name of “public interest”. We have become voyeurs of other people’s intimate moments.

How was your heroine’s characterization affected by putting her to work in this particular profession?

Maya Rodale: It was a tricky balance because Annabelle is decidedly not the sort of daring girl who would do something scandalous, like write for a newspaper. And yet one of her defining characteristics is that she extremely generous, kind and helpful to others, even at her own expense. So while she would never author, say, a gossip column, she’s a natural to offer advice to anyone who asks.

Ann Gabhart: Adriane’s character was greatly influenced by her work on the newspaper. She had “ink in her blood,” which meant she could never be truly happy unless she was involved in the business of getting out the news. At this particular time period, the middle of the nineteenth century, such work was not something a lady would do or even be thought capable of doing. So Adriane had to be independent and not concerned with the rules of society.

 Liz Fielding: Claire gave up her place at a premier university to have her baby, defying her mother and her teachers who tried to persuade her to have an abortion. She’s probably the smartest reporter on her local paper, but is confined to women’s interest, reviews of the local pantomime, small stuff. Hal’s story gives her a chance to break out, but instead of excitement at the challenge, the reality of exposing someone to the public gaze makes her uncomfortable. Even when she discovers what he is planning, she hesitates to send her story to one of the big tabloid newspapers. And yes, like everyone, I read the gossip columns!

What’s coming up next? 

Maya Rodale: In addition to Seducing Mr. Knightly I’ve also published a light-hearted and humerous novella, Three Schemes and a Scandal. I’m also at work on a new series which features a contemporary heroine writing a series of historical romance novels based on her own romantic misadventures.

Ann Gabhart: My inspirational novel, Scent of Lilacs, will be re-issued in March 2013 with a new cover. Then in July, my second Rosey Corner book, Small Town Girl, will be released.

Liz Fielding: I have just finished the first draft of my second “ice cream” book. The first, Tempted By Trouble, was published a couple of years ago and I’ve now written Sorrel’s story. No title as yet.

Your favorite book at age 10:

Maya Rodale: Anne of Green Gables—which is still one of my favorite books.

Ann Gabhart: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Liz Fielding: I read so much as a child and I’m trying to remember what I was reading about that age. What Katy Did Next, maybe. It’s a book I loved. Anne of Green Gables, Pamela Brown’s The Blue Door Theatre, or Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes. They are all still bright in my memory.

Many thanks to Maya, Ann, and Liz. Readers, leave a comment or question for a chance to win one of the featured books.


JOINT REVIEW:  A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

JOINT REVIEW: A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

Dear Ms. Long,

Dabney and I are both fans of your work and we both enjoyed your latest Pennyroyal Green novel, A Notorious Countess Confesses. I, however, liked it more than Dabney did and thought it would be interesting to discuss the book with her.

ANCCA Notorious Countess Confesses continues the pattern of the last book—it’s not about one of the Eversea or Redmond children. The hero of this book is Pennyroyal Green’s handsome vicar, Adam Sylvaine, a distant cousin of the Eversea family. Adam is grateful to have been gifted his living as a vicar. He takes his role very seriously and is honored to attend to the births, deaths, and souls of the residents of his town. The citizens of Pennyroyal Green adore him, and his unmarried status make him the subject of many of the town’s young women’s (and their hopeful mothers) dreams. The female population of Pennyroyal Green hangs on his every word when he ascends his pulpit each Sunday morning. Thus, he is truly startled and a bit put out when, one Sunday, he notices a beautiful woman nodding off during his sermon.

The unknown woman is Eve Duggan, a widowed countess, newly arrived in Pennyroyal Green. Evie has a scandalous and much gossiped about past. She once caused a duel between two young men as she tried to blink an eyelash out of her eye. Using her beauty and charm, she went from opera singer, to mistress, to the wife of the elderly Earl of Wareham, who won her hand in a card game. The Earl died due to “marital exertions” which prompted the ton to dub Evie “the Black Widow.” Eve has come to Pennyroyal Green to take up residence at Damask Manor, an unentailed property her doting husband left her. More than anything, Eve wants a quiet life, filled with friends and happiness.

Unfortunately, her reputation has preceded her to Pennyroyal Green and the women in town shun her. But Eve is accustomed to getting what she wants, and she’s determined that she will make friends in her new home. She decides to enlist Adam.

Adam is sensitive to what this “fallen” woman’s reputation could do to his own. But despite his misgivings, he agrees to help her ease her way into Pennyroyal Green society. As Eve and Adam find themselves together again and again, Adam is charmed by her grace, humor, and lack of pretense. Adam’s no virgin but it’s been a very long time since he wanted a woman and the more time he spends with Evie, the more he desires her. Evie, despite having sworn off men, is equally drawn to Adam.

Kati: I’ll be honest, I was unsure about this book. A vicar as a romantic lead? I wasn’t sure I was buying it. But as usual, the world of Pennyroyal Green drew me in and charmed me. I found that despite the fact that Adam Sylvaine was never a character that I was intrigued by, I was drawn to him. He is such an upright, truly good man. He works very hard and takes his responsibility to his parishioners seriously. When he meets Eve it’s what I call the “moth to the flame” effect. He knows she’s not good for him; that her questionable reputation is not something he should associate with. But he’s charmed by her. She is lovely, and that’s part of the attraction, but she’s also funny and honest and earnest in her wish to make friends and make a place for herself in Pennyroyal Green.

Dabney: I struggled a bit with Adam in that he seemed too perfect to me. Unlike the heroes in What I Did for a Duke or I Kissed an Earl (my two favorites in the Pennyroyal Green oeuvre), Adam was flawless. He was gorgeous, sweet, extraordinarily ethical, sexy, tall, and witty. I wish I’d seen a bit more of his pre-vicar past in order to see how he became the phenomenal man he is in A Notorious Countess Confesses. I loved his scenes at the local pub with Colin and Ian, his famously badly behaved Eversea cousins. There, he seemed a bit less faultless.

Kati: I found Eve, a character that could easily have become a caricature – the opportunistic courtesan – to be truly entertaining. She was quite self-aware, which delighted me, and I loved that she was not above attempting to use her feminine wiles to get her way, although it rarely worked with Adam.

Dabney: I too liked Eve and was pleased she didn’t slip into “hooker with a heart of gold” territory. I enjoyed her interactions with the denizens of Pennyroyal Green although I had a hard time believing some of her more explicit statements wouldn’t have irrevocably damaged her standing in the staid community. I especially liked her lack of guilt about her past. She did what she had to do to survive and she’s fine with that.

Kati: I’ll confess to being a Julie Anne Long fan girl, she’s easily the historical romance author I recommend most. Mostly it’s because her writing style is eminently readable. She writes really sharp dialogue and her characters’ internal monologue can be at times heartbreaking, emotional, and sometimes just darn funny.

Dabney: She is great with dialogue and with silences. And, you’re right, she hits just the right note between not having her characters over share yet having them give readers enough of their motivations for such revelations to be interesting.

Kati: Another thing that I enjoy about Julie Anne Long books is they are romantic. Too many times, I feel like authors work too hard try to hit the right notes, and end up missing the mark altogether. I like it when authors bring the romance, and Ms. Long tends to be an expert at it.

He leaned over and kissed her. She tasted heartbreak, and fury, and love, and infinity in that kiss. She felt the persuasion of it weave itself through her very soul, felt her body stir, felt her thoughts begin to dissolve into need. And he knew it. –Kindle location 5384 of 5749

Dabney: You say romantic, I’d add sexy. Julie Anne Long’s lovers, when they work for me (and they almost always do) are alive with passion. Even before the hero and heroine ever kiss, there is a tangible, romantic, sexual connection between the two. Many reviewers complain about “overlusting” in romance novels. In Ms. Long’s work, the lust is so integral to the love story and so embedded in the characters’ actions and words, it’s a joy to read. A Notorious Countess Confesses is a bit less steamy than many of the other books in this series, but it still tells a sexy, charming love story.

Kati: While this wasn’t my favorite of the Pennyroyal Green series, I felt that Ms. Long did move the story ahead (yes, there are several mentions of Lyon and Olivia, for those, yearning for their book, as I am). And I really enjoyed a quieter story, full of more character relationships than action. Overall, I’d give A Notorious Countess Confesses a B+.

Dabney: There were two things that kept this book from being an utter joy for me.

One, I struggled with the conclusion which I thought unbelievable and overwhelming. Prior to the last chapter, I felt Ms. Long did an admirable job of making Evie’s entry into Pennyroyal Green’s society believable. There were things that went well and things that didn’t. I liked that. It seems inherently unlikely that a small 19th century British town would embrace a known courtesan, but Ms. Long made the relationships and connections Evie created viable. That realism vanished in the last pages of the book.

[spoiler]Then, boom, it’s the last chapter and everyone stands up for her and she and Adam live happily ever after surrounded by and protecting everyone Evie ever loved. I just didn’t buy it and I felt it weakened the novel.[/spoiler]

Two, as a love-term lover of the Pennyroyal Green series, I am dissatisfied with attention Ms. Long paid to the plots she so interestingly raised and pursued in the first five books. The history between the elder Everseas and Redmonds, the role of slavery in the Everseas’ wealth, and the focus of Lyon’s journey were ignored in this book. And as for what is revealed about Lyon and Olivia, I thought it was at best disappointing and at worst distressing. I still have faith the eminently talented Ms. Long will resolve these plotlines in rewarding ways, but this book frustrated me.

I did like this book. Ms. Long is one of my very favorite writers and, even with its flaws, I’d recommend this book. I, however, would give it a B-.

Kind regards,
Dabney & Kati

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE HQN