Winter Blog Hop Day 19 – Happy Book Birthday to Me!

Today on the hop I’m featuring yours truly. 🙂  Today is release day for my third book, Tempting Mr. Jordan. I really love this book, which tells the story of Julia Tenwick (Jonathan’s little sister from Stirring Up the Viscount, all grown up). I hope you like it too! (And do scroll to the end of this post for a chance to win a Maine gift basket from me and Becky Lower!)

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Tempting Mr. Jordan

After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.

Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.

But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.

Excerpt:

Cranberry Cove reminded her of home, her family’s estate in Durham, where ton rules were abandoned in favor of lazy days riding, reading, caring for her pets, or playing the piano. It occurred to her that she had not played in weeks. Her fingers itched to touch a keyboard, and she flexed her hands inside her calfskin gloves. She vowed to play soon. She thought she had seen a harpsichord in the drawing room of Maria’s enormous house.

Reaching the end of the little lane on which Maria lived, she took a right onto Main Street. It consisted of several houses similar to the one in which she was staying, so she turned left onto Maple Street, which was much more interesting. There was a green grocer, a bookseller, a milliner, a tailor, a blacksmith—everything one could want in a village. The streets were clean—much cleaner than London—and the air was crisp and fresh, even if it smelled ever so slightly of fish.

Julia was staring into the newspaper office—a badly written but oddly gripping tale about missing lobster traps was plastered to the window—when she was nearly knocked off her feet.

“Oh, I beg your pardon!” She managed to right herself, wondering why she should be the one to apologize. She looked up into the hooded eyes of Geoffrey Jordan, who held a book in one hand. “Mr. Jordan!”

“Lady Julia.” He reached out to steady her, the touch of his hand on her arm causing a charge to shoot up her spine. “Please forgive me. Are you hurt?”

“Are you in the habit of running over tourists on your streets?” She freed her arm, flustered by her own reaction, and busied herself with adjusting her hat. When she regarded Mr. Jordan again, he was smirking.

“No, just the ones who stop in the middle of the street,” he said.

Julia opened her mouth to retort, but he held up a finger to silence her. “Nevertheless, I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. And the scintillating prose of our local newspaper could halt anyone in her tracks.”

She laughed. “It is not The Times, to be sure.”

His lips quirked up at the tips in something approaching a smile. Julia thought she hadn’t seen him do that before and found it oddly entrancing. “Where are you headed, Lady Julia?”

She forced herself to look away from his lips. “Um. Nowhere in particular. I was in need of a walk after luncheon, so I thought I would explore a bit.”

“The Universalist church, just around the corner, is particularly beautiful, and you will need to sample lobster from the establishment run by the Maclays, on the pier. It will melt in your mouth.”

The way he looked at her as he made the remark made her own mouth dry. Her cheeks burned.

“Um. Yes. That sounds lovely.” She gazed down at her feet until she collected herself. Raising her head, she found herself caught in his sights. She swallowed nervously. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Jordan, I really must get back. Constance will be wondering where I’ve got to.” She brushed past him, her shoulder tingling at the contact with his arm.

“Lady Julia?” His tone was vaguely amused.

She stopped and turned to face him. “Yes, Mr. Jordan?”

His thin lips turned up at the corners again, and he pointed behind him. “I believe your house is that way.”

“Oh. Yes. Of course.” She willed herself not to stumble as she passed him, at least not until she’d cleared the corner.

You can find Tempting Mr. Jordan at these retailers: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iBooks ~ Wild Rose Press.

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway for this fabulous gift basket Becky Lower and I are offering. In addition to the items pictured, Becky is offering an ecopy of her new Wild Rose novella, Love’s in the Cards!fullsizerender
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Book Blast Friday: Cover Reveal!

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with breathless anticipation–or possibly not–but finally, the time has come to reveal my beautiful cover for my third book featuring the Tenwick family.

Tempting Mr. Jordan is set six years after my first book, Stirring Up the Viscount, and features Jonathan Tenwick’s younger sister, Julia, all grown up.

After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.

Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.

But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.

So without further ado, here’s the cover, designed by cover artist extraordinare, Rae Monet:

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Stay tuned for a release date! In the meantime, check out my Pinterest page for some of my inspiration for this book.

Musings on an Anniversary

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750This weekend marks a year since my first book was published. I actually almost missed it–I was sitting in a hockey rink (as usual) watching the kid practice, when I got that Facebook “you’ve got memories” reminder, and there it was. A year ago, I was giddy with excitement, celebrating with many friends, drinking champagne, basking in my accomplishment. This year I’m in my pajamas at 6:30 am, drinking tea, hoping the menfolk will sleep in long enough for me to get some work done on the third book without interruption.

So I thought that I’d throw out some of the lessons I’ve learned after a year in my tiny corner of the crazy publishing world.

  1. People are always impressed when you tell them you’ve written a book. It IS an impressive accomplishment to write a book, let alone publish one, whether you are traditionally, independently, or self-published. It’s okay to be proud of yourself.
  2. On the other hand, it’s not okay to rest on your laurels (unless of course you only intended to ever publish just one book). Just because you’ve been successful once doesn’t mean you’ll stay successful. Authors get dropped by publishers or agents, even in the middle of a series. This realization was a bit of a shocker for naive little me, although it shouldn’t have been. I suppose we as writers tend to believe that once we find that agent, that publisher, who loves us, they will always love us, no matter what we do. Nope. Keep learning, keep writing, pay attention to the market for which you write, and above all…
  3. Be nice. Don’t write a snarling one star review of someone else’s book. Don’t take someone down to build yourself up. Don’t be an arrogant shit to other writers, readers, or your editor. Most of the writers I know are the loveliest, kindest, funniest, wackiest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. But there are always a few out there who are not. Don’t be one.
  4. You’ll never be Nora Roberts, or Stephen King, or JK Rowling. Deal with it. Find your own success and your own happiness, and don’t try to be like anyone else.
  5. Not everyone will like what you write, including the people who know and love you. Some of them will be very excited to read your book, but then they will never say anything to you because they hated it and they are–see number 3–too nice to tell you so. That’s okay. But if you are a friend of a writer and you did like their book, please tell them, or write a nice review on Amazon or Goodreads, or both. Writers need to hear praise. It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but it’s true.
  6. There’s always more to learn. There’s a tendency to think that once you’ve published a book, you know everything you need to know as a writer. You don’t. Not even close.
  7. Hang out with writers. They are the only people who will truly understand your writer side. This is not to say you should only hang out with writers–goodness, no. But if you have an opportunity to go to a writers conference, or join a writers group, or just have coffee with a writer friend, you should take it.
  8. Write with writers. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor. But I have discovered lately that writing in the same room with other writers (even if it’s a virtual room) is a wonderful spur to productivity.
  9. Keep reading. My biggest mistake in the past year was to stop reading so much. I have always been a voracious reader, and have always considering reading to be my escape from the harsh realities of life. My happy place. But when I started writing, I thought that I shouldn’t read so much, and I certainly shouldn’t read many historicals. I found it distracting, I was afraid I’d inadvertently stick someone else’s words in my own work. Huge mistake. HUGE. Not reading stifled me in ways I didn’t realize until I started reading again. Don’t be afraid to read the kinds of books you write, and plenty of others besides.
  10. Keep writing. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about getting stuck in the middle of a book, consumed by doubt, yadda yadda. I don’t call this writer’s block, because I no longer think a writer ever gets blocked. There are always words to be written, and if a writer sits her ass down in the chair, she will write them. They might not be the words she wants to be writing, but those will come eventually. Just keep writing.

 

Johnson’s Island

So now that Secret Promise is loose in the world, I wanted to share some interesting facts about the time period in which the book is set.

Secret Promise takes place primarily in England in 1867, just after the American Civil War. The book’s hero, Edward Mason, had left England about seven years before, to deliver a ship for his father. Unfortunately, he was thrown off course by weather and circumstance, and instead of returning quickly to his sweetheart, he spends most of the next five years in a Union prison.

We first learn about Edward in my debut novel, Stirring Up the Viscount. Edward is the brother of the heroine in Viscount, which leaves us completely in the dark about his fate. When I wrote it, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what had happened to him. Stranded on a deserted island? Amnesia? Jail? So many choices!

Jail sounded promising, so I did some research about Civil War prisons, and discovered there was actually a prison for Confederate soldiers in northern Ohio, on Lake Erie. Even though I had to take some literary license to do it, I knew I had to put Edward in it.

Johnson's Island-mapJohnson’s Island is a tiny dot of land in Lake Erie, just three miles across the bay from Sandusky (home of Cedar Point Amusement Park, for those of you who love roller coasters!). In order to cut down on traffic on the island, there’s a gate at the start of the causeway that connects the island to Marblehead, and you need to pay $2 to open it. (I know this because I dragged my son there one weekend last March. The photo at left is a screen shot from the Maps app on my phone.)

The island was initially called Bull’s Island, after its first owner, E.W. Bull. It was purchased by Leonard B. Johnson in 1852 and renamed. Its 300 acres were inhabited and farmed solely by his family. At the start of the war, the U.S. military toured locations around the Great Lakes for suitable prisoner of war camps. Johnson’s Island was selected—it made a perfect prison, as it was small and easily defended, readily accessible from the mainland by boat, and difficult to escape.

 

The U.S. government leased the island, built guard barracks, a prisoner stockade, hospital, and other buildings, and sent the first Confederate prisoners there in April of 1862. In the 40 months of the prison’s operation, over 9,000 prisoners were housed on the island. At the start of the war, most prisoners were exchanged for Union prisoners after about five months, and others were released into the Union Army after taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. After Gettysburg, most prisoners were held from 12 to 18 months.

The average number of prisoners held at any one time was 2,000 to Oath2,500. In January of 1865, however, about 3,200 prisoners were in residence, which was substantially more than capacity. Prisoners slept in narrow bunks, two men per bed.

Johnson’s Island wasn’t a particularly harsh place to be imprisoned, other than the weather. (In March when I visited, the wind was bitingly cold as it whipped off Lake Erie, and I was wearing a down coat. I can only imagine how miserable a Confederate soldier must have been in prison garb.) The biggest problem most of the prisoners faced, at least in the early years of the war, was boredom. The men devised ways to entertain themselves, including producing plays, writing letters, journals, and poetry, and conducting rat hunts. Other men amused themselves by trying to escape. In nearly four years, however, only four men succeeded, escaping to Canada in January 1864.

CemeteryOther than exchange or transfer, swearing allegiance, or escaping, the only way to leave the prison was death. Approximately 241 men died while confined on Johnson’s Island, most due to illness. The majority of these men are buried in the Confederate Cemetery, which is the only publicly accessible part of the island. I discovered when writing this post that Heidelberg University does archaeological digs on the island, and research suggests that there may be others buried on the island in other locations.

The last prisoners left Johnson’s Island in September 1865. The buildings were auctioned off—to Mr. Johnson, who eventually dismantled and sold most of them. Since then there have been many attempts to develop the island, but it was named a National Historic Landmark in 1990, and now serves as an exclusive residential area.

If you’re ever at Cedar Point, take an extra hour and head over to Johnson’s Island. And to learn more about Johnson’s Island and the prison there, check out these sites:

http://johnsonsisland.org/history-pows/civil-war-era/
http://history.rays-place.com/oh/erie/johnsons-island.htm
http://johnsonsisland.heidelberg.edu/
http://www.ohperry341.com/JohnsonsIsland.html
http://deadohio.com/johnsonsisland/ (ghosts!)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson%27s_Island

 

Father’s Day–Better Late than Never

I was supposed to post this last Sunday, but I was traveling from Oklahoma to Missouri and, well, too lazy to write anything.

So today, in a belated tribute to Father’s Day, I thought I’d write about notable fathers in romance novels–I’m referring specifically to the father of the hero or heroine, not heroes who are fathers, as there are a fair number of those–Google “fathers in romance novels” and you’ll see what I mean. There aren’t that many of the other kind. If they are mentioned at all, they are either gravely disappointed in their child, villainous, or dead, so the fathers who are not any of those things are significant. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

C’mon, you knew this had to be first on the list. Mr. Bennet is justifiably famous. “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.” His affection for Lizzie is surpassed only by his long-suffering tolerance of his wife. He is flawed, of course–his habit of hiding in his study instead of taking a more active role in the raising of his headstrong younger daughter does get them all in trouble–but that makes him all the more relatable, even 200 years after he was written.

 

The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn

The father of the titular viscount in this book is, in fact, dead, but his influence is felt so keenly by Anthony Bridgerton that he is almost another character. Anthony so adored his father, who died unexpectedly at age 38, that he “simply couldn’t imagine ever surpassing his father in any way, even in years.” That sentiment so colors his thought that he puts his own happy-ever-after in serious jeopardy.

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

Yes, I know, it’s trendy to bash Twilight, but I never bash other authors. We put too much of our heart and soul into our books to deserve the shaming that is sometimes heaped upon us. Plus, I enjoyed the series quite a bit. Charlie loves his daughter, Bella, but he doesn’t understand her at all, and his awkward attempts to parent her are endearing.

 

This Thing Called Love, by Miranda Liasson

Olivia’s father is protective of his daughter–at one point he threatens to castrate the hero “like a county-fair hog”–but he also respects her enough to make her own decisions. “Frank Marks looked around. His gaze did a panorama of Brad’s naked chest, Olivia’s wild hair, Annabelle’s drooly smile, and the spread of food at the table. He chucked the baby under one of her chins and sat down. ‘Well, I don’t know about you all, but I’m starved.'”

The Reluctant Debutante, by Becky Lower

“Ginger watched her father’s jaw flex. He was not an imposing man, but he had a will of iron. He needed a strong constitution to have successfully raised nine children and to have provided a privileged life for all of them. So, when she saw the movement of his jaw, she knew what it meant. Things were not going to go her way.” I love this description of the patriarch of the Fitzpatrick clan in Becky Lower’s first book. He is a strong, serious, and thoughtful man, but he loves his children and would do anything for them.

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750Stirring Up the Viscount, by Marin McGinnis

Last but not least, I love the hero’s father in my first book. Lord Longley is a bit like Mr. Bennet, in that he would rather leave the running of the household, and the children, to his wife and stay out of it, but there the similarity ends.  “The man never met a stranger. He likes everyone, and everyone likes him. Her ladyship is a bit more practical, but she has a fun side, too. She and his lordship are always laughing, and I’ve seen ’em kiss a time or two when weren’t no one looking.”

I’m sure there are more out there–do you have a favorite father in a romance?

Grey Towers of Durham

 

My debut novel, Stirring Up the Viscount, takes place in County Durham in northeast England. I lived in Durham for a year in the mid-80s, while I attended the University of Durham. I was struck by the city’s beauty and grit back then, and found it an inspiring setting for a romance all these (many, many) years later.

Durham Cathedral 1985

Durham Cathedral 1985

 

Durham has a fascinating history. It begins with the story of St. Cuthbert, a seventh century monk from Northumberland. He was for many years the bishop of Lindisfarne, an island off the coast of Northumberland, who traveled far and wide across northern England. When Cuthbert died in 687, he was entombed in the monastery on Lindisfarne. Some years later, the monks on the island inspected the coffin for some reason, and discovered that Cuthbert’s body was perfectly preserved, a miracle deemed worthy of sainthood. St. Cuthbert continued to lie undisturbed until Vikings threatened to raid Lindisfarne in 793.

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne

The monks fled the island, along with holy relics and the coffin of St. Cuthbert. Legend has it that they carried it around for more than a century until they reached a spot to the east of what is now Durham. The saint’s coffin suddenly became too heavy to lift, and no amount of effort would budge it. After three days of prayers and fasting, the monks reported that a vision of St. Cuthbert appeared to them, instructing the faithful that Dun Holm (meaning “Hill Island”) should be his final resting place.

The monks had never heard of such a place, but now that they had their marching orders they were able to move the coffin again. The story goes that while they were searching, they overheard a milkmaid asking whether anyone had seen her dun cow, and was told the cow was last spotted at Dun Holm. Overjoyed, the monks followed the milkmaid until arriving at Dun Holm (I like to picture a very Monty Python-esque assembly chasing after a milkmaid through the forest), which was a peninsula set inside a tight bend of the River Wear.  Eventually known as Durham, the area was found to be an ideal resting place for St. Cuthbert, and the monks settled there.

Durham Cathedral from riverbank

 

A wooden “White Church” was built in the center of the peninsula in 995, and replaced by a stone minster in 998. The present cathedral was constructed between 1093 and 1133.

Durham Castle

 

 

Construction began on Durham Castle in 1072. It housed the Bishop of Durham, and enabled defense of the area from invasion by the Scots.

Durham became one of England’s leading centers of scholarship during the medieval period, and three of the colleges which are now part of Oxford University—University, Balliol, and Trinity–had their origins in Durham. Although efforts were made to create a university in Durham as early as 1541, politics and North-South rivalries prevented it until 1832. Durham Castle housed the first of Durham University’s fourteen colleges, University College. Still in use today, the Castle is the oldest university building in the world.

Durham from train station

I had the titular Viscount in my novel, Jonathan Tenwick, attend the University of Durham. By the time he would have matriculated in the late 1850s, there were two more colleges, St. Hild & St. Bede and Hatfield. The paths that Lucien Ravensdale and the Earl of Longley would have walked continue to exist, and the train station still offers one of the most breathtaking views in England (although it’s kind of hard to tell from my really bad 1985 picture).

But it is there that the similarity between the real Durham and my fictional one ends. Although County Durham has been the seat of more than one nobleman and home to plenty of great houses, there is no Earl of Longley, no Longley Hall.  Nevertheless, I find that being able to picture a real place in my mind when I write makes it easier to describe the setting, and lets my imagination run wild with the possibility of what might have been.

For more information on Durham and its colorful history, check out:
https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/
http://www.englandsnortheast.co.uk/DurhamCity.html
https://www.dur.ac.uk/about/shaped/

And if you haven’t yet read about my fictional denizens of Durham, Stirring Up the Viscount is ON SALE for 99 cents at The Wild Rose Press through May 14. Also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 

My Book Birthday, and a Giveaway!

Today’s the day!

My debut novel, Stirring Up the Viscount, officially releases today from The Wild Rose Press.

I am alternately excited and terrified.

It’s a funny thing, a book birthday. Not unlike sending your kid to school for the first time. Is she wearing the right clothes? Will the other kids like him? Will she say something stupid or mean and get expelled on her first day? (Yes, this is where my mind goes.)

In the end, all you can do as a parent, of child or book, is to wave goodbye and hope that you did a good job getting him ready to face the world.

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750Stirring Up the Viscount, by Marin McGinnis

Seeking to escape an abusive husband, Theodora Ravensdale answers an ad in The Times for a job as cook in a country home. A fortuitous house fire enables her to fake her own death and flee to northern England and live under an assumed name. But Theodora’s refuge is not all she would wish, when she stirs emotions in the heir to the estate, Jonathan Tenwick, and in herself.

Meanwhile, as the connection between Theodora and Jonathan grows, her husband learns she did not perish in the fire, and searches for her. Fearing he is close to finding her, Theodora must flee again to protect the family and the viscount for whom she cares deeply. In the final confrontation with her husband, Theodora learns she is stronger than she ever knew, and love is worth fighting for.​

Available today from The Wild Rose Press and on Amazon.

I am also giving away an autographed paperback copy of the book: a limited, first edition with a typo on the cover! (Or you can have one without the typo, if you prefer.)

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Revelations

So, today is my birthday–I won’t tell you which one–and I received the coolest present:

Gorgeous, no? I love the soft, elegant romance of it. Many, many thanks to the talented cover artist, Debbie Taylor.

I have to tell you, this whole cover business has been kind of weird. Theodora has been living in my head for the past two years, and it was an oddly intimate experience to see a photographic depiction of her. I can only imagine how strange, scary, and wonderful it will be to send the final version of the book out into the world.

Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press.  Happy birthday to me!

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