Monday, November 29, 2010

Tarquin's Book has a Title

Tarquin Compton, the tall dark dandy with a taste for rare poetry and pornography, is the hero of my third Burgundy Club book. I can now reveal that the title of the book. THE AMOROUS EDUCATION OF CELIA SEATON will be published in August 2011. (Pre-order now from Amazon)

You may find the book listed around the web as How to Marry a Governess, but that was a placeholder while discussions went on with my publisher. I'm over the moon about The Amorous Education - it's really descriptive and not at all generic. By the way Celia is a governess so the placeholder wasn't inaccurate either. (I don't think it's a spoiler to let on that Tarquin and Celia get married in the end).

Settling on a title is quite a business, with all sorts of factors being considered, mostly relating to sales potential. My editor and I typically come up with dozens of ideas, most of them pretty terrible and many very silly. My all time favorite stupid title was a chick lit idea for NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION: Baking and Boinking - the sexy tale of a pastry chef and her bad boy British lord.

Hm. I kind of like it. Maybe we could do a reissue?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's Next?

Quite a few people have asked me what's coming after THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT. While the information is buried somewhere on the website, I thought I'd better make it accessible.

My next book will feature Tarquin Compton, who is about to lose most of his clothes and be brought down a peg or several. I don't usually have anyone specific in mind when I create a hero, but Tarquin is very dark and I'm always happy to look at a picture of Richard Armitage (aren't you?) so here you are. The book is still untitled but it will be published in August 2011. I think the story is great fun and includes the reappearance of Sebastian, Diana, and Minerva from The DV.

I am working on a book about Minerva, Diana's little sister. I'm not saying anything more now except, in Minerva's case, "be careful what you wish for...." No release date for this one yet. Gotta finish it first.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ladies Make Passes at Viscounts in Glasses

Sebastian Iverley, the hero of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT, is not your average romance hero.

1. He wears spectacles.
2. His clothing fits badly and it’s years out of fashion.
3. His hobby is rare book collecting.
4. His favorite means of communication is the grunt (which might be OK in a caveman romance but this is a Regency)
5. He despises women. That’s not so unusual but…
6. He has never had anything to do with women. Nothing. Nada. In fact he’s a [whisper] … virgin.

So what happens to this unpromising male specimen? He falls in love. He takes one look at Diana Fanshawe’s accidently exposed leg and he’s a goner. But sadly for Sebastian, Diana wants to be a duchess and she bets Sebastian’s detestable cousin Blake (a ducal heir) that she can get Sebastian to kiss her.

Poor Sebastian! When he finds out he’s devastated, he’s miserable, and hell hath no fury like a bookworm scorned. With the help of his buddies in the Burgundy Club he gets an extreme makeover and the fun begins.

Sebastian cleans up really well, and Diana can’t help noticing that he’s really quite the hunk. On the other hand she kind of misses the clever, inarticulate guy he used to be…

So romance readers. Are you ready for a nerd hero? Would you love him even if he didn’t get cleaned up?

[this blog has also been posted at]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting ready for Tamara Lejeune Day

October 2010 is a big month in the world of historical romance. There are new books on the way from Liz Carlyle and Elizabeth Boyle, eagerly awaited debuts from Jenny Brown and Tiffany Clare, and not one but two books by Janet Mullany. There’s even a new book from yours truly. But all these events, thrilling as they may be, pale into insignificance beside the Really Big News. A new book by Tamara Lejeune. I for one will be beating on the doors of my local Borders, itching to get my hot little hands on CHRISTMAS WITH THE DUCHESS. And by God, Borders, you’d better have it in stock or There Will Be Trouble.

I discovered Ms. Lejeune by accident. SIMPLY SCANDALOUS is, I believe, the only book I’ve ever bought because Amazon told me I’d like it. Also, it was only $3.99 and I thought that was a special deal, just for me. (When I learned Zebra was selling books to every Thomasina, Richenda and Henrietta for $3.99 I stopped being excited about it.) Also, the color was such a repellent shade of pink I couldn’t resist. Best $3.99 (plus shipping) I ever spent. I had no idea.

Look at the cover. Think the cover model is good looking? It doesn’t matter. Lord Swale, the hero of Simply Scandalous is one hundred times as hideous; he’s ugly, ill-mannered, crude, and borderline illiterate. Take this dinner table discussion of Shakespeare.

So that’s Hamlet, is it? The man’s mother marries his father’s brother—have I got it right?” asked Swale. “Fairly beastly, what? I must say, I can’t approve. English people ought to behave better, set an example for the world even in our plays.”

The Family Cary did not know what to say.

“Ancient Rome, yes, obviously. And the Greek chap who married his own Mamma–Octopus or Edifice or what is it?”

“Oedipus,” Horatio said contemptuously.

“Well, foreigners, after all. But one expects better from the English race, by God.”

“They’re not English, you ridiculous man,” said Juliet severely. “They’re Danes.”

“They’re what?”

“Danes. The play is set in Denmark.” Juliet shook her head, almost unable to credit the extent of his ignorance. “for heaven’s sake, it’s called Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”

“Which explains his rather poor grasp of the English language,” said Swale.

How can one possibly resist such a man? Actually, as Swale himself claims, he had hidden depths with knobs on. And Juliet has her issues, like being a towering bitch. She calls him Ginger and sets fire to his food; he swears to break her heart and stomp it into the ground. They are perfect together. I laughed out loud all the way to the last page of this inspired farce and counted the days till the sequel.

SURRENDER TO SIN did not disappoint. The hero, Juliet’s brother Cary, wears nothing but purple, right down to his tinted glasses. The heroine, unlike your standard feisty lass, is so shy and amiable she can’t bring herself to disagree with anyone. I’m not going to discuss the third book because I hated it (hey, even the Beatles recorded the occasional dog) but Tamara came roaring back with THE HEIRESS IN HIS BED.

Julian is not only penniless but a stockbroker (a word that usually makes my eyes glaze over) and Lady Viola Gambol (great name) the most charmingly willful, spoiled, over-the-top sweetheart of a heroine I’ve ever read. They made an adorable couple and I hope they will reappear in CHRISTMAS WITH THE DUCHESS. (Knowing Viola, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d managed to have her penniless stockbroker made a duke.)

The author is a mystery. She has no website and seems to exist under the romance social network radar. The only person who reviews her is Mrs. Giggles, who loves her as much as I do. (BTW I love Mrs. Giggles even though she said my couple reminded her of puppies. No one can insult a book with such panache). Since Ms. Lejeune refuses to publicize her own books, I have decided to undertake the job for her.

So people: get out next month and buy CHRISTMAS WITH THE DUCHESS. Pick up the back list too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

News From RWA, Orlando

Back last night from Orlando in a fairly exhausted state. The RWA conference is always enormous fun and very draining. I posted my photos on Facebook - mostly a lot of romance writers partying and trying on a pirate hat. When I get the energy I shall do a proper post here, but it may not be for a while. As people kept reminding us at the conference, our most important job is writing our books and I have one to finish. But I had to just show you this lovely snap from the Avon party of my editor Esi Sogah (right) and the super fabulous Meg Cabot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nice Reviews are Always Welcome

With only two months to go until launch day, I can expect to see a few early reviews of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT popping up via Google Alerts. It's nerve-wracking, waiting to see if everyone is going to hate the book. (That hasn't happened yet but there's always a first time and writers are neurotic lunatics). Months later the thrill of a good notice hasn't diminished. After all, we hope our books will continue to find new readers for years to come.

Since it's been almost a year and a half since the book came out, I was pleasantly surprised to get a nice review for NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION from Susan May on the Petits Fours & Hot Tamales blog. She calls it "a hot historical where food is a turn on. A hunky hero and spunky heroine, and a fun time. Well worth a read." Thank you, Susan!

Then today a review site I'd never encountered before reviewed THE WILD MARQUIS.
The setting and the use of the rare book auctions during that era, and tales of the folks who went to great lengths to own them was original and extremely interesting. I always enjoy a story where I not only am entertained but learn something of historical significance as well. Ms. Neville did an admirable job of creating lively and interesting protagonists, including a fine cast of secondary characters, a surprising villain and original plot. Those looking for new authors who can spin a good sensual story without a lot of graphic intimate detail should find THE WILD MARQUIS to be a perfect story and one I can seriously recommend.
Thank you, Marilyn, of CK's Kwips & Kritiques. You appear to be a lady of unusual intelligence and perspicacity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Day With the Brit Romance Writers

I was already booked up for two weeks in England this July when Janet Mullany mentioned she was going at the same time and planned to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association (Brit version of the RWA) conference. It happened to work with my other commitments so I signed up for the first day of the conference, which took place in Greenwich, on the outskirts of London.

I know people are excited about Disney World but when it comes to locating a conference, the RNA knows how to pick’em. The Royal Naval College is a huge seventeenth century spread built by Sir Christopher Wren in a stunning location on the River Thames. I traveled to Greenwich the traditional way – by boat from Westminster Pier.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning and the river was pristine. Too pristine. Since the last time I took this journey by boat, probably twenty years ago, a lot had changed. New buildings crowded every inch of the water front on both sides. And the river was empty. The port of London no longer operates in the old center and the docks, so rich in history, have been developed into blocks of flats and offices for financial service companies. Yes it used to be dirty and smelly and noisy but now it’s so quiet. There’s nothing going on at all on that beautiful expanse of water. I find myself nostalgic for the days when the London docks were the hub of a bustling commercial empire. I would have liked to see it when it looked like the 1806 Rhinebeck Panorama at the end of this post, rather than this, as it appeared last week.

The approach to Greenwich never disappoints. I disembarked, walked along the river front and into the central courtyard flanked by the wings of the Naval College and leading up to the Queen’s House, built for James I’s wife Anne. The conference took place in the left hand wing, now part of the University of Greenwich campus. For the buffet lunch we were able to take our plates out and sit in the sun in the Wren courtyard. I shared the experience with Mills & Boon luminaries Louise Allen, Joanne Maitland, and Sophie Weston.

The conference was much smaller and more intimate than the RWA – only 200 or so attendees as compared to the 2000 who will be at the US bash in Florida later this month. But like romance writers everywhere, everyone was friendly. I enjoyed putting faces to a few familiar names: Lynne Connolly (familiar from a number of loops and blogs), Nicola Cornick, and Anna Sugden (one of the dear Romance Banditas).

Because I was only attending one day out of the three, I missed most of the workshops, including a speech by the venerable Joanna Trollope and a presentation by Lucy Inglis, whose Georgian London blog I adore.

For me, the stand out workshop was a presentation on the state of UK publishing by David Shelley of Little, Brown. Some of his concerns are the same as those of US publishers – the decline of indie book stores, the significance of the growing electronic market, the power of Amazon and Apple – and some a little different, such as the role of the big supermarket chains in the book business. Shelley says romantic fiction is booming, citing Nicholas Sparks (!), Stephanie Meyer, J.R. Ward, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Tess Gerritsen, and Erica Spindler as top names. He did mention that UK readers prefer their romance to be packaged as something else. Books about “aspirational lifestyles” are particularly popular. (I interpreted this as aspiring to be, say, a successful businesswoman rather than a vampire).

Literary agent Erin Niumata and writers Janet Mullany, Nicola Cornick and Rosemary Laurey gave a panel to the Brits about writing for the US market.

After tea (of course) a panel celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the RNA with some excellent reminiscences. I was most impressed that Sophia Weston had been taken to a champagne lunch at the Ritz by the original Mr. Boon of Mills & Boon. Sadly, such occasions are not offered to writers nearly as often as one would wish.

When everyone retired to their rooms to tart up for the gala dinner, I left for the Underground to return to a family party in central London. Being an old church fan, I popped inside St. Alfege, Greenwich (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of my favorite architects). A wind and piano quintet was rehearsing Mozart for a concert. I sat and listened for fifteen minutes, a lovely ending to the day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Aristocratic Roman Catholic Chapel

Roman Catholics in England labored under severe disadvantages. Before the passage of relief acts culminating in Catholic Emancipation in 1829, a Catholic couldn't attend a university, enter the armed services or professions, or sit in Parliament, without paying lip service to the Church of England. Nevertheless, there were a number of noble families that remained catholic and some of them were rich. The Arundells of Wardour, in Wiltshire, are an interesting example. By cleverly marrying a succession of Catholic heiresses, Lord Arundell held one of England's most prosperous estates in the second half of the eighteenth century.

In the 1770s he commissioned the architect James Paine to build New Wardour Castle, a huge Palladian mansion that included an elaborate chapel. While not quite secret, the chapel was discreetly incorporated into the house so it couldn't be seen from the outside. Inside was another matter: the decor is ornately Roman in style. The 8th Baron Arundell brought a socking great marble altar from Rome and the chapel had to be enlarged. John Soane designed the expansion in 1788 (an early work by the architect who went on to great distinction).

The Arundell family no longer live at Wardour Castle but Chapel has remained in continuous use as the local Catholic parish church.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Salisbury, acting as London

Mompesson House in Salisbury is a beautiful early 18th century house. If it looks familiar, it may be because it appeared in the movie of Sense and Sensibility, playing the part of Mrs. Jennings' London house. It certainly isn't hard to imagine Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, dressed in their Jane Austen garb, staying here. Unlike many of the huge British country houses that are open to the public, Mompesson is a nice manageable size that one can imagine living in without an army of servants.

The feature I liked best is the hall and stairway. The plasterwork on the walls and ceiling is simple and elegant -- plain white with no gilt in sight. The walled garden at the back is delightful. A chalkboard was marked up with the names of the roses in bloom.

The house is located in the Close, the area around Salisbury's famous cathedral. I set part of The Wild Marquis in Salisbury (which happens to be the city where I was born). Juliana Merton, the heroine of the book, takes a nostalgic walk thorough the city. The scene was quite easy for me to write because so many buildings remain that existed in 1819. Shown below (left to right): seventeenth century alms houses; the medieval High Street Gate leading into the Close; the spire of the cathedral, seen across the Close.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Vacation (of Sorts)

I'm off to England on Thursday for a family wedding. Unfortunately my laptop goes with me. I have a book to finish so it won't all be fun and games. I also discovered the UK Romantic Novelists Association is holding its conference while I am in London. I've signed up for one day and I'll be fascinated to find out how they do things, compared to the RWA.

The conference takes place at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. I'm not sure if it's actually going to be in this incredible Christopher Wren building, right on the Thames. The National Maritime Museum is located here, but there's plenty of room.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oscar Wilde and the Art of the Sandwich

My friends Gavin and Deborah gave a party to promote The Wild Marquis. Now understand, they live in Hanover, New Hampshire, the small town that is home to Dartmouth College. We’re not talking the average romance reader here and I figured it could be a tough crowd, so I decided to soften them up with cucumber sandwiches.

I don’t know when the cucumber sandwich was invented. I’m guessing they weren’t around in the Regency. The famous English afternoon tea didn’t come into fashion until the 1840s and cucumber is the quintessential English tea sandwich.

The cucumber sandwich is famous in literature for its star turn in The Importance of Being Earnest. Algernon is expecting his Aunt Augusta, the alarming Lady Bracknell, for tea.* Before she arrives, Jack Worthing turns up and eats all the sandwiches. When Lady B complains, Algie’s manservant, a literary forebear of Jeeves, comes to the rescue and says there were no cucumbers at the market that day, “not even for ready money.” I have an image of the man standing around Covent Garden, brandishing a fistful of pounds notes in a vain effort to score some forbidden fruit. (Yes, cucumber is a fruit according to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge).

I know how to make cucumber sandwiches. I am English and learned at my mother’s knees, along with how to eat marmite and make a nice cup of tea. But, because it’s what I do when I cook, I consulted a book: Great British Cooking by Jane Garmey. What Ms. Garmey has to say about cucumber sandwiches is of no importance –I ignored it. But she did provide me with an Oscar Wilde story I never heard before. Apparently a waitress brought him a plate of cucumber sandwiches that he found unsatisfactory. “My dear,” he said, “I asked a for a cucumber sandwich, not a loaf with a field in the middle of it.”

History does not reveal whether Oscar made his own, but he understood the principle. A cucumber sandwich should be slim, elegant, and deceptively inconsequential. A bit like a Wilde play, come to think of it. So here’s my recipe:

Very thinly sliced white bread (or whole wheat if you insist on being healthy but really, why bother?). I use Pepperidge Farm Very Thin

Good quality unsalted butter

English cucumbers (about† one and a half per loaf of bread)


1. Slice the cucumbers very thin. Put them in a colander mixed up with some† salt, weigh them down with a plate, and leave them in the sink to drain for an hour or two.

2. Wash the salt off and pat dryish with a dish towel.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Put two layers of cucumber slices in each sandwich and press flat with your hand so it all sticks together, preferably without becoming totally squashed.

5. Cut off the crusts (very important). With a big sharp knife cut each sandwich into four – triangles, squares, or strips, your preference.

So how did it go? The guests were charming, appreciative and asked intelligent questions. Many of them bought copies of my books. They seemed to like the sandwiches too. Many thanks to my hosts for putting on a lovely event and providing much delicious food in addition to the CSs.

Back to Oscar. I am a big Wilde fan. The title of my first book is a reference to one of his lines (“I can resist anything except temptation”) and the text itself contains a line swiped from one of the plays. If anyone spotted that daring theft (though I prefer to call it a homage) and can cite it, I’ll send them an ARC of The Dangerous Viscount (which happens to contain a similar homage)

* Earnest has another important tea food reference:

Jack. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon. Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

† If you want exact quantities, buy a cook book. I’m a novelist. I make stuff up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My New Cover

I finally got the go-ahead to reveal the cover of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT, which will hit the shelves September 28, 2010. When I saw that gorgeous blue I let out a big, happy "aaaah!" (Given the lack of control we authors have over the covers of our books, it's always a relief when we get a good one.)

Readers of THE WILD MARQUIS may remember Sebastian Iverley as a bespectacled, woman-hating book collector, not the most obvious hero material. To put it bluntly, he's a Regency nerd. When he falls in love, he falls hard, only to discover that the lovely Diana is trifling with him. Hell hath no fury like a bookworm scorned, so he's determined to get back at her. Not only does he conveniently inherit a peerage, he also cleans up very well indeed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vacation with Volcanic Interruptions

My friends and neighbors, Rick and Emmy, have a little house in Tuscany they bought a few years ago and visit twice a year, renting it out as a vacation home at other times. After I dropped hints too heavy for them to ignore, they invited me to join them for April vacation (Emmy is a schoolteacher and has a week off then.)

The plan was to fly from Montreal to Florence, via Paris. With genius timing, we left the first day European airline traffic went into meltdown due to the eruption of an Icelandic volcano with an endless name. By the time we made it to the airport our Air France flight had been cancelled. Determined to get to Italy, we managed to buy the last three seats on a flight to Rome late that night. (Side note: this small airline also had a flight to Paris that wasn’t cancelled. When we asked why, the counter clerk, who must have skipped Airline Customer Relations 101, informed us with glorious frankness that Air France had really high safety standards and Air Transat was less fussy.) I’ll spare you the details of an endless journey that ended with a five-hour drive from Rome to northern Tuscany. What with the time change it’s hard to figure, but I believe the journey ended up taking about 36 hours.

As a result we were pretty exhausted, but rest was not in the cards. Rick and Emmy have many delightful Italian friends and a group had organized a visit to a Parmesan cheese factory. The only rub was that we had to leave at 7 am the very day after our journey. So, half dead, we piled into a minivan and crossed a mountain range in a snowstorm. This was Italy? Too bleary to notice the less than toasty weather, I had put on my brand new sandals.

In my imagination I had decided a Parmesan cheese factory would be something like a liqueur distillery, probably located in a medieval monastery where ancient recipes had been perfected by wise old monks. Wrong. The setting was rural, agricultural and thoroughly modern. Sadly for my sandals (black patent leather) it was raining. But I am extremely fond of Parmesan cheese (actually all cheese) so I was fascinated to see the process by which the stuff is made. This co-operative caseificio produces 40 giant cheeses a day (each with a “street value” or Whole Foods retail price of about $1500). Thousands of cheeses are stored awaiting aging, a rigorous inspection process, and sale.

At the end of the tour we were treated to a feast of samples: fresh ricotta, salami made from local pigs fed on leftover whey (We got to visit them too. My sandals!), and three different Parmesans – one, two and three years old. The oldest and most expensive is demonstrably superior. The flavor is intense, enhanced by an almost gritty texture. A chunk of it goes superbly with a glass of local wine which was, of course, served with the cheese, even at 11 am. We were pretty hungry and ate well, only to discover that lunch had been laid on at a local restaurant. Five courses and more wine were a harbinger of dietary disasters to follow.

The next day the skies cleared and I was finally able to take in my surroundings. During a few visits to Italy I’ve done the famous parts of Tuscany: Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Montepulciano, and so forth. I was unaware of the existence of the northernmost corner, above the city of Lucca. The Garfagnana region lies between two mountain ranges, the Apuan Alps and the Oracchiella. The area is best known for its quarries, in particular Carrara where Michelangelo got his marble. Tiny villages and ancient towns are perched on hillsides, reached by terrifying mountain roads twisted into hairpins. It’s a different landscape from the conventional Tuscan one, but nonetheless spectacular. My hosts’ house sits in the tiny village of Vibbiana, surrounded by snow-capped crags with a spectacular view of the medieval fortress at Verrucole, a kilometer or two below us.

As keen hikers, Rick and Emmy were initially attracted to the region by the number and variety of walking and climbing trails. Though not a major outdoorswoman myself, I knew what I was getting into: they’ve dragged me over Vermont mountains on foot and skis. I did quail when they pointed at an Alp visible from their house. That’s the Pania di Corfina, they said, a nice easy climb and a rite of passage for our guests. Did I say Alp? More like a Himalaya. Readers, I made it. And it was worth the slog. Marvelous views (too hazy to see the Mediterranean over the next range but I could believe it was there) and a delicious reward of chocolate and oranges. We descended the longer but gentler way, through alpine meadows with wild flowers and patches of snow, reminding me of scenes from Heidi. We’d just disturbed a herd of muffloni (wild sheep) when modern life rudely intruded in the form of Rick’s cell phone. His boss called from Vermont, asking him to find some replacement bolts for an Italian-made hay cutter. Searching for these bullone became a minor theme of the following week.

Another day we drove up to Campocatino, an abandoned high mountain village used in the past for summer livestock grazing. More fabulous views of the two Vagli villages in their picturesque setting on a lake formed by a hydroelectric dam – nature improved by art though not so fun for those whose houses were lost in the drowned valley. We walked a trail further up the mountain to a magical secret place. Built into a sheer cliff face overlooking a narrow gorge, the hermitage of San Viviano, a medieval ascetic, supposedly dates from the fourteenth century.

On a more earthly level, Emmy is a brilliant cook and she loves to shop. Even exploring the local supermarkets is fun, but the best time was weekly market day at Castelnuovo. While Rick went to a guy’s shop in search of the elusive bullone (what is it with men and machine parts?) Emmy and I examined every stall in a market that stretches all over the historic center of the town. We bought purple-tinted artichokes, blood oranges with green leaves still attached, tablecloths printed with designs of olives (only 5 euros each!), lace-trimmed petal-soft cotton scarves, and farro – a local product and the oldest cultivated grain in the world. (Not to be confused with spelt, whatever you do. No chance of that with me since I had no idea what spelt is either).

While Rick and Emmy came to the Garfagnana for the hiking, they stayed for the people. They possess a circle of Italian friends remarkable for their joy and generosity. Communication in a mixture of Italian and English somehow works, despite limited linguistic skills on either side. For my part, a year of Italian in college has been topped up over the decades with vocabulary gleaned from Italian restaurants and opera. I’m strong on food and drama (revenge, passion, curses, and death in all its forms) but not so much on everyday conversation. Somehow it doesn’t matter: as the week progressed I understood better and spoke more (something to do with quantity of red wine drunk) and had a marvelous time.

Sadly, our visit ended too soon. Once we knew our flight was taking off early on Sunday morning, we drove to Florence to spend a day and a night. Much of the day was spent wandering: the Boboli Gardens, the famous piazzas, the Duomo. The lines for the famous museums are endless and we decided to skip them. Even in April the city is chock-a-block with tourists. Yet it isn’t hard to get away and remember that Florence is a city where real people live and work. Not a foreign word was heard in the San Ambrogio market where we gazed on exquisite fresh produce and mouth watering prepared foods.

That evening we walked up to the church of San Miniato al Monte and the dazzling panorama of the city from the heights. Opting for a picnic dinner and early night, we found a small grocery run by Asians (a little touch of New York) and bought tiny spicy stuffed peppers, artichoke hearts in olive oil, and wine. The store owner uncorked our bottle and provided plastic cups. Sitting in front of the Palazzo Pitti we feasted on the last of our three-year-old Parmesan cheese, salami, and bread. Red wine and many toasts to Italy kept us warm despite a chilly wind. And it’s never too cold for a gelato.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Evening at Lady Jane’s Salon

Several months ago I stumbled across a description of Lady Jane’s Salon, Manhattan’s only romance reading series. That sounded just my cup of tea so I contacted one of the four organizers, my fellow Regency writer Maya Rodale, and asked how I could get on the roster. Turned out this salon, in only a few months of existence, had got pretty popular: I had to wait six months for a slot.

The group meets on the first Monday of each month and, as befits an organization of New Yorkers, the location is nothing so mundane as a library or bookstore. The location is a bar in Soho called Madame X. The d├ęcor can best be described as Victorian brothel: dim light, shabby old furniture and a preponderance of red velvet. I loved it. And so, apparently, do others. I arrived early but there was already a decent crowd and by seven o’clock it was standing room only: about a hundred romance readers, writers and publishing professionals chattering like magpies. But only before, after, and in between the readings. While I and my fellow readers were on stage the concentration of the listeners was all one could wish, rapt silence broken only by pleasing laughter at the right moments and gratifying applause at the end. I couldn’t have asked for a better audience for my selections from The Wild Marquis – and in such a romance savvy crowd I could read some of the naughty bits without blushing (much).

So. Gossip column time. Who was there?

I was joined on the roster by N.K. Jemisin. A selection from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her debut fantasy, whetted my appetite for a book that’s in a genre I don’t pay much attention to. At RWA in D.C. last year Kate Noble and I, being members of the small and exclusive group of “N” authors, waved at each across the aisle at the Literacy signing. She has been nominated from a RITA and her new book, The Summer of You, has been winning all sorts of rave reviews. Hearing a chapter of this charming Regency historical told me why. It was definitely Regency night because the last reader was new Avon star Sarah MacLean. I’d already read Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake and adored it. So I wasn’t at all bored to hear her read the brilliant first kiss scene. Nine Rules has made it to the New York Times and USA Today lists this week, a very totally deserved success for the best historical romance debut in years.

I was thrilled that my wonderful agent, Meredith Bernstein, came downtown to see me. From Avon: Carrie Feron, Tessa Woodward and my very own Esi Sogah, looking stunning is a low cut black and white dress. I chatted with Leis Pederson and some other nice ladies from Berkeley and Mary-Theresa Hussey from Silhouette. I’m told there were also people from Orbit and Scholastic in the room.

I was very happy to meet Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens (Don’t miss her recent release To Sin With A Scoundrel). We’d been emailing back and forth and while the internet is wonderful for forming connections, and even friendships, there’s nothing like being in the same room with one’s friends. Ditto historical novelist and non-fiction writer Leslie Carroll, whom I know from the Beau Monde loop. She’s about to move to Vermont so I should get to see her in the flesh (why does that phrase sound a little creepy?) more often. I’d met Sara Lindsey in DC. She’s doing a library degree and taking a rare book course so we chatted about that mutual interest. Despite her intended avocation, Sara isn’t at all prim and neither is her recent debut Promise Me Tonight. Stacy Agdern invited me to sign my books for stock at Posman Books in Grand Central Station. We sat at the bar for a while and talked books and writing. It’s always a treat to see the lovely Wendy La Capra, who will herself be reading on that stage one of these days.

I ended the evening (quite late) on the outdoor porch in back of the bar with three of the four Lady Jane organizers: Ron Hogan, Hope Tarr and Leanna Renee Hieber, talking books and industry gossip. Among other things we agreed that American historicals are past due for a come-back. Why should Edith Wharton hold the monopoly on the Gilded Age?

I wish I had pictures but, although I packed my camera, I was too busy gabbing to take any. If anyone has any I'd love to get copies.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I am a Very Sane Person

It’s book launch week and a friend just emailed me and asked what I was doing about it. The answer is, not a lot. I will be blogging quite a bit; the blogs for next week are all written and sent off. I shall stop by a few local bookstores, drop off bookmarks and sign stock. On Saturday I have a reading and signing at my nearest store.

But otherwise there isn’t much I can do. The books are printed. My publisher has taken orders and shipped copies. (OMG paranoid nightmare! Suppose they forgot!) Starting Tuesday, The Wild Marquis will appear on shelves. I hope readers will snap it up, take it home and enjoy it. But there’s not a whole lot I can do to convince a shopper to buy my book.

Instead of sitting around obsessively googling myself every five minutes and checking my Amazon rankings, I have an agenda for the week.
• Buy a recliner. I wish to write the next book in a semi-recumbent position.
• Buy myself flowers. Tulips are gorgeous right now. And I’m not going to settle for one of those measly bunches of 5 (Didn’t you used to get 6? When did florists get cheap?) I’m going to buy LOTS. More than one vase worth. Maybe enough for three vases.
• Do my taxes.
• Go to the movies. I hardly ever see a film in the theater. I don’t know what’s current but investigating will give me something to do.
• Meet friends for dinner and hear about their lives.
• If I run into an acquaintance and they ask me what’s going on I shall shrug and say “Nothing much. Same old same old.”

OK, not so much with the last one. Not going to happen.