Thursday, January 31, 2013

Once an Heiress -- Cover Reveal

I just got the final version of the cover for Once an Heiress from headquarters, with the go ahead to share. I feel like celebrating today, and so does my cover:

Bubbly for everyone!

Once an Heiress releases March 11. Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads Want to Read list!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice!

Today marks the bicentennial of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Doesn't look a day over 165

First published on January 28, 1813, Pride and Prejudice was an instant hit and met with rave reviews -- except from Charlotte Brontë, who found the novel to be "a disappointment." Of course she did.

What can I say about this novel that has not already been said? I've lamented the myriad, mediocre spinoffs and sequels. I've already told you how ardently I admire and love Pride and Prejudice. Its popularity has only grown in the last two hundred years. Fans of Elizabeth and Darcy show no signs of flagging in their devotion. And why should they? The novels themes of love, family, marriage, and class are as pertinent today as they were two hundred years ago. Readers still relate to Elizabeth Bennet. We still cringe at her mother's embarrassing behavior. We still love the special bond she shares with Jane. We still want Fitzwilliam Darcy to recognize her for the smart, loyal, loving person she is. And, gosh darn it, we still want them to achieve Happily Ever After.

Of course we did.

Here's to the next two hundred years, Pride and Prejudice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mixed Tape

Earlier today, a fascinating Twitter personality posed a thought-provoking question:

The equally fascinating Vristen Pierce suggested the topic might make a good blog post. And friends, I believe she's right. She usually is.

In an attempt to answer my own question, I've been thinking about Marshall and Isabelle from Once a Duchess. As denizens of Regency England, the music they have to choose from might not make the most exciting mixed tape. [Although, the book does contain a scene at a musicale. Isabelle is moved by Beethoven's 26th Sonata for Piano, Les Adieux: "It was as though Herr Kaufman -- and Beethoven before him -- put her woes to music for all the world to hear." Maybe she'd toss that one in Marshall's face.]

So, in the spirit of the mixed tape, I'm giving Marshall and Isabelle access to all the songs I know. They're each allowed to choose three selections.

First up, Isabelle's tape to Marshall

She opens with "I Will Survive" as performed by Gloria Gaynor:

     "I think," Marshall said, "you're awfully brave."
     Isabelle pulled back in his arms, searching his face for a sign of mockery, but found none. "You do?"
     He nodded. "It's not every woman who could take care of herself when times got hard."

Next, Isabelle taunts Marshall with Queen's "Somebody to Love."

     Isabelle sighed and plopped back onto the couch in a rather unladylike fashion. "I just want a family, Lily. Is that really too much to ask? A respectable husband and a few children of my own?"

Finally, while Isabelle is busy hunting for a husband, Marshall is busy hunting for a wife. He finds a candidate, but Isabelle doesn't think much of her replacement:

     Lady Lucy raised her chin and turned her lips in a satisfied smirk. She laid her hand on Marshall's forearm.
     Isabelle's first impulse was to swat those bejeweled fingers off his arm. It was no surprise Naomi deplored a potential union between her brother and the calculating Lucy Jamison.

And now, Marshall's mixed tape to Isabelle

Marshall begins with "Broken Vow," by Josh Groban,to really drive home what a terrible thing she's done:

     ... If he had felt only a passing attraction for Isabelle, enough to beget his heir and little beyond, her betrayal would not have struck the blow that it had. But he had been strongly, deeply attracted to his young wife. She had awakened passion in him that no other woman before or since had come close to realizing. And that's what he could not forgive, the way she had him nearly eating from the palm of her pretty hand, and then turned to another man for what Marshall had so freely given her.

Having to find a second wife is a demoralizing prospect. He's starting all over again, but with the wariness of a failed relationship under his belt, and lingering emotions for his former wife. He expresses this through Coldplay's "The Scientist":

     Marshall squeezed his eyes shut and drew several deep breaths. These were just feelings stirred by the unwise dalliance they'd indulged in, he assured himself. Once they were both safely married off to others, he would no longer feel a possessive compulsion to have her for himself.

After the therapy provided by those rather maudlin songs, Marshall needs to tell Isabelle how he feels about her now. He takes her by surprise with an upbeat classic. Go ahead and try not to smile. Can't do it, can you?

     "If your idea is that I want to convince Isabelle to agree to marry me, and that I don't think I can do it without your help, then you would be correct."
     Naomi covered her mouth and made a squeaking sound.
     Marshall glowered. "Are you laughing at me?"
     She shook her head. "Oh no, of course not." She grinned widely. "I'm just very pleased to hear this."

I hope you enjoy my characters' mixed tapes! I'd love to see your suggestions in the comments for other songs Marshall and Isabelle could include in their compilations. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

True Romance

Given my proclivity for penning romance novels, it might not come as an earth-shattering shock to know I spend a good deal of time thinking about romance and what makes it believable. True romance, if you will. But what is it?

Romance stories often (but not always) feature a Grand Gesture. In a romance novel, the Grand Gesture will probably appear close on the heels of the Moment of Despair. You didn't know a romance novel had so many capitalized components, did you? Now you do. You're welcome.

The Grand Gesture is the moment in which everything is laid on the line. The hero or heroine does something to demonstrate their undying devotion to the other. What tips a Grand Gesture into the category of true romance is when it is exactly perfect for the recipient. Flowers and poetry and moonlight sonatas are great for some people, but not for others. A wonderful Grand Gesture demonstrates real understanding and a connection to the other person.

Oh, look! Yet more jewelry from Sir Lardbottom.
Lovely. Too bad what I really need is a kidney donation.
In Eloisa James' lovely novella Storming the Castle, the heroine, Philippa, expresses a long-held fantasy of being swept up by a knight in shining armor, riding a white horse. Her desire, however, isn't about wanting to play out a story book cliche: "It was only very recently that I realized the fairy story had more to do with escaping Rodney than being carried off by an acrobatic prince," she says. As the hero, Wick, comes to know Philippa and learn her reasons for wanting to escape her old life, he decides to help her. Enter the Grand Gesture. After Philippa thinks she'll never see Wick again, he suddenly appears and... well, I won't spoil the rest. You should read it for yourself.

Another Grand Gesture is delivered by Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. He hunts down and pays off the detestable Wickham so he'll marry Lydia, thereby saving the Bennet family from public disgrace. On the surface, his actions are almost banal. It's all legalities and finances. What makes this a Grand Gesture is the motivation for his behavior. We see over the course of the novel how Darcy generally disdains the Bennet family. Why does he pull them out of the fire? Darcy does this for Elizabeth, to save her from the scandal and the estrangement from Lydia that would arise from the younger sister's elopement. He knows how important Elizabeth's family is to her, how devastated she would be by Lydia's ruin, and he can't bear the thought of her enduring such pain.

Children playing on a see-saw, aka The Devil's Fulcrum
This is the heart of true romance. It might be a knight charging in on a white destrier, or it might be forcing a rogue to sign on the dotted line and marry your beloved's sister. The gestures are wildly different, but they both arise from truly knowing and understanding the loved one.

In my own life, I have been on the receiving end of a Grand Gesture that might strike others as absurd, but meant the world to me. On a particular date with Mr. B, he and I went to a park for a stroll. There was a playground nearby, and I suggested we play on the see-saws I remembered as being there. We walked over, only to discover the see-saws had been removed. I was disappointed, but we went on about our date. A week or so later, Mr. B invited me to his house. He led me into the back yard to unveil a surprise: He'd built an adult-sized see-saw in his yard. For me. It was perfect. It wouldn't be right for lots of other women, but it was exactly right for me. To this day, I'm the only woman I know who has been wooed with playground equipment. But it's the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. Right then, I knew that a man who would build me a see-saw was a man I had to hang onto.

What are some of your favorite examples of Grand Gestures from books or movies? How about a real-life example of true romance? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ode to Roget

This morning, while working through the edits for Once an Heiress (releasing March 11!), I found myself clicking over to to shake up a word rut. Seriously, how many times can characters behave in a 'blithe' fashion over the course of a single chapter? Quite a few, evidently.

While perusing the selections for a particular entry, I suddenly heard the voice of my high school AP English teacher chirping, "That's a refreshing word!" And for some reason, it sent my mind tripping to the best reference book I've ever owned.

I asked for powder blue makeup. This periwinkle is
quite unacceptable.
I received Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus for Christmas. I think it was my senior year in high school, the year I took AP English. In short order, I fell in love with that book. I could -- and did -- just sit and read it. Discovering new words has always been a thrill, but my thesaurus did one better: it helped me discover the right words. Roget's taught me about the nuance of language, and the value of saying precisely what one means.

In some ways, a thesaurus is like a paint store. If you go to the paint store for blue paint, you'll find yourself facing a selection of hundreds of different shades, all of which are "blue." There's azure, cadet, Prussian, cobalt, Tiffany, sky, ultramarine, robin's egg... Such wild variety, a veritable rainbow of blue.

Likewise, entries in the thesaurus list synonyms for a single word, but there's a wide range of meaning contained within the selection. For instance, the verb "irritate" is listed as being synonymous with both "annoy" and "enrage." There's a gulf of difference between "annoy" and "enrage," and you'd better decide which one you really mean if you're shopping in the "irritate" department.

My AP English teacher encouraged us to use "refreshing" words. "Very" was verboten in her class. I recall her writing the word on the chalkboard and drawing an X through it. I think the lesson was that if you stick "very" in front of a descriptor, there's probably a better, more precise word to use. Rather than "very fast," one could say "speedy," "rapid," or "expeditious." Instead of "very pretty," one could use "beautiful," "stunning," "exquisite," or "elegant" to more accurately convey meaning. My thesaurus was the holy tome that taught me to appreciate such linguistic subtleties, which, in turn, earned me many a "Good word!" on my class essays.

Synonyms: treasury, reference book, word list, bff
Roget's lived in my backpack for the rest of my school years. After high school, it went to college with me. In addition to my French-English dictionary, it even traveled with me to Europe for my semester abroad. It resided on my shelves, a little battered and greatly creased until, finally, I retired it in a book purge several years ago.

Though I rely on the Internet for my thesaurus needs these days, I'll always have a soft spot for that paperback treasure, as well as for the teacher who encouraged me to think deeper about words. Learning to discern slight variations in meaning and choose the right word are skills that have served me well throughout my academic and professional careers. My heart is filled with gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks.