Saturday, February 24, 2007

Book Review

What I'd really like to do is provide a review of my critique partner's latest offering (you'll all love it, believe me!); however, since her editor has not yet finished with the manuscript, I'd better keep mum and instead tell you about another romance I recently read.

Lord Greville's Captive

The book title is a misnomer. Or, at the very least, the contraction is misleading. For it is not the heroine of Nicola Cornick's latest contribution to the Harlequin Historicals line who is in thrall to her conqueror but the exact opposite: It is Lord Greville who is the captive.

Throughout Cornick's tale, set during the English Civil War, it is Lady Anne Grafton who commands attention. From the moment she strides into the enemies' camp to bargain for the safety of her people — in a masterful first chapter told from the hero's perspective — the reader is held spellbound by the lady's pluck and courage. I found myself falling in love with both characters: he for his strength, might and utter masculinity (to-die-for, girls!), and she for her strength of mind and purpose.

Grafton and Greville are on opposing sides of the war, Lady Anne holding fast to fealty to her king and to a promise, and Simon Greville to the right of the people to stand together against tyranny. Will their differences keep them apart? (Surely they will). Will love conquer all? (Of course it will.) You may know how the story ends but it's the struggle to get there that counts, and I promise you'll not be disappointed. This 17th-century tale, just what I ordered in fact, is replete with tension, adventure and, best of all, passion galore.

For those of you in the UK who have Cornick's highly acclaimed Regency romp Deceived on your wish list, word has it that the UK edition is out this month. Don't miss it or Lord Greville's Captive.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Could Do Better

Most of the time being a writer is the ideal career to fit around having children (especially if, from a very early age, you foster in them a deep love of television. I count myself very lucky that my children are utterly indiscriminate viewers and from about 6 months would have happily sat through three hours of Japanese Art-house cinema, if provided with a jammy dodger and a box of raisins). However, last week was half term in our house and very quickly everything went the shape of the pear.

In theory it should have all dovetailed nicely. The deadline for the book was Monday morning, and by the time school finished on Friday it was all pretty much ready to go. Of course, that was only because, apart from the odd midnight trolley-dash around Sainsbury's, I hadn't been out of the house for the previous three weeks. I rather like that feeling though-- I remember the huge satisfaction last time of looking up from the last page of the book and noticing that the kitchen was in danger of being closed down by environmental health, the bath was striped with a month's worth of grime and the ironing pile was positively Alpine in its dimensions, but feeling totally ready to throw myself back into the domestic fray and restore order. (Or my own version of it. My standards are really very low.)

This time matters were complicated by the advent of Daughter no. 1's birthday, at the end of half-term week. Thanks to my self-imposed exile from the rest of civilisation while I finished the book I'd failed to buy her a single present, or arrange even the smallest celebratory treat. Had this been Daughters no. 2 or 3, this wouldn't have been such an issue, but Daughter no. 1 is gloriously, extravagantly ambitious in her birthday expectations. Every year she begins planning the festivities the moment Christmas is over, and usually mid-way through January we embark on the annual process of negotiation and bargaining (you can keep the triple layered chocolate cake with musical candles if you'll give up the twenty-one gun salute, fire-eaters and peacocks roaming the lawns...) until we arrive at something mutually agreeable. (Or until she breaks me with her devastating combination of charm and logic.)

So, by an exhausting and elaborate process of deception and distraction I managed to do the birthday present shopping with the children in tow, issued very last-minute invitations to the necessary friends (some of whom were even available!) and stayed up to burn the midnight oil making a cake (the midnight oil wasn't the only thing I burned, actually, but an extra batch of butter icing covered up the worst of the damage) . It was all going to be OK, I thought in a rush of relief on Wednesday morning. Excellent. Deadline met. Maternal duties satisfied. Mouldy stuff removed from fridge. So what if my legs hadn't seen the attention of a razor for weeks and my hair was desperately in need of a wash (and a cut and a colourist, come to think of it...) That hardly mattered.

Until the door opened on Wednesday evening and an enormous bunch of flowers appeared, and behind it, my husband.

'Happy Valentine's day, darling.'

Damn. Damn, damn damn.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Favourite love song(s)

It's time to cast your vote. What is your favourite love song of all time? For me it's a toss up between I Don't Want a Lover by Texas and Sarah McLachlan's Angel, which reminds me of U2's If God Will Send His Angels; in fact, a few songs of theirs. Then, of course, there is anything by Dido or the Cowboy Junkies. Is it possible to have one favourite love song? I don't think so.

What will you be listening to tonight with your valentine?

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

The importance of clarity

Below is a real conversation which took place between myself and a work colleague('WC'):

Me: So, what are you doing this weekend.
WC: I was taking my little boy to the county show, but I'm not sure he really wants to go.
Me: Oh? Why not?
WC: He's suffering with his nerves and he doesn't like big crowds.
Me: Oh dear. How old is he?
WC: 8.
Me: Oh, that's terrible. Has he seen anyone about it?
WC: Yes, he's been on medication for a while, but it doesn't seem to be working.
Me. When did it start?
WC: About a year ago.
Me: Did anything happen that set it off that you know of?
WC: Well, we're not sure, but we think he had a bad experience with a man.

At this stage I should mention this conversation took place at about the same time as a famous pop star was on trial for alleged interference with children - therefore, my mind was racing (which, as you know, is a pretty unusual occurrence and demonstrates just how concerned I must have been).

Me: How did you find out about it?
WC: We got home from one particular show and when we opened his box, he was sweating profusely and refused to come out.
Me: (with sigh of relief) You're talking about your horse, aren't you?

This conversation taught me two things:

1. People who have animals as child substitutes are dangerous; and

2. Clarity in the written word is even more important than clarity in the spoken word. At least in conversation it is possible to question the speaker; a reader does not have that luxury with the writer.

Do I make myself clear?


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What's your profession?

Actually, more to the point, what is your Heroine's profession? When I used to pilfer through my mother's bedside cache of Harlequin Romances—we're talking years ago now!— the Heroines were either nurses or secretaries, and the heroes doctors and executive types if not the boss himself. Times have changed and so have the people we love to read about.

What tickles your fancy? Have you had enough of jetsetting playboys? Arrogant sheikhs? Corporate cowboys sporting alligator boots and ten-gallon hats? What about the Heroines? Are writers and academics passé? Are female programmers in? Perhaps legal secretaries, copywriters and web designers? Or the stay-at-home mom? (Although, please, no desperate housewives!)

What do you think works these days?


Friday, February 02, 2007


...So called because when you're on one every line you write seems about as sparkling as roadkill.

Shall be spending the day trying to find suitable words to replace 3472 'thingies.'

Shall NOT spend 2 hours on Youtube researching my next hero.