Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Kay: What Does Your Book Smell Like?

Extracting the smell of an 18th century Bible in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole House. National Trust/James Dobson

I’ve just returned from a trip to my home state, where I engaged in a lot of high-powered thrift store shopping, my cousin’s favorite sporting activity. I don’t buy very much on these excursions, because whatever I purchase has to be either shipped or schlepped back to California, a transaction that depresses the carefree, low-risk joy of the acquisition.

But I’m always in the market for reading material, so when I’m in a thrift shop, I check out the books. The prices at these stores can’t be beat, and often there’s something I can be tempted by.

The biggest problem with books at thrift shops (compared to used book stores, which are a whole different kettle of fish) is that you never know where those books have been. Continue reading

Elizabeth: New Book Squee – This Time Around

I’ve been going through a reading phase lately, due in large part to the staggering size of the TBR pile that is threatening to swallow up my library.  Since the story I’m working on is a mystery, I powered my way through a number of books in that genre this week, both for pleasure and for inspiration – Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, and P. D. James Death Comes to Pemberly.  After all that murder and suspense however, I was in the mood for something a little lighter as a palate cleanser before (finally) getting back to work.

Lucky for me, I recently joined Tawna Fenske’s “street team” (aka grass-roots marketing team) , and had an Advance Reader’s Copy of her latest novel, This Time Around,  just waiting to be read.  Like Jilly’s novella squee on Sunday, it is a second chance romance and can be read in a sitting (well, it is if you stay up really late), but the similarity ends there.

Here is the official blurb: Continue reading

Jilly: Good Novella Squee–Gaslight Hades

I treated myself to a book binge last Sunday. I chose carefully, but my day of self-indulgence did not begin well: neither of the first two books I read hit the spot. In the first I liked the main characters but the plot resolution was weird; in the second I liked the worldbuilding but the characters lacked depth. Fortunately I saved the best for last. Grace Draven’s novella Gaslight Hades rescued my readathon.

The story is a steampunky second chance romance with a difference, and at 39k words it’s compact enough to read in a sitting, but long enough to avoid that rushed plot feeling you sometimes get with shorter novellas.

Here’s the official blurb:

Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he’s earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married.

Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.

I really enjoyed this story, and here’s why: Continue reading

Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

Continue reading

Jilly: Writing Flawed Sex and No Sex

The birds are singing, the sap is rising, and we’ve been talking a lot here on the blog about writing great sex scenes.

Kay started the party by sharing her battle to reward her long-suffering hero and heroine with a gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful one-on-one. Last Saturday Michaeline shared her thoughts on the sex scenes in Charmed and Dangerous, an anthology of short gay fantasy stories, and yesterday she told us about a pair of happy couplings she decided not to write. In between, Nancy gave us five points to ponder about writing sex in the romance genre.

I’d like to drop another suggestion into the mix.

Continue reading

Jilly: Cold Comfort Reading Recommendations

cold-comfortDo you have a favorite book or author you always read when you’re feeling under the weather?

I’ve been out of sorts for a day or two, but during Friday night I hatched out the mother of all colds. I’m not properly ill, just the usual—head full of cotton wool, sandpaper throat, sneezing the house down—and feeling very sorry for myself.

I had a couple of possible posts in mind for today.

My first topic was the preponderance of gratuitous sex scenes in the mainstream romantic fiction I’ve been reading lately. I love a well-written sex scene, but I expect it to follow the same rules as any other scene–it should be particular to the characters and it has to move the story. Two people repeatedly having a good time together, however inventive they may be, does not of itself move the story forward. It takes up pages of real estate that could better have been used to make the relationship and eventual HEA between the H&H unique and unforgettable.

The alternative was to discuss a romance I just started. It’s standard paranormal romance, not erotica. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but it’s a continuation of a series so I’m already familiar with the characters. I’m reading on, because I like the author, but I’m filled with trepidation because there’s a huge gap in age, experience and status between the H&H. He’s mid-forties, a good guy in a dominant leadership position. He’s freaked out to find himself head over heels in lust with a nineteen year-old girl Continue reading