July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part II

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Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

I didn’t realize that the majority of my reading for this last quarter were romance novels until I reviewed this list. Sometimes I feel like I need to read something else on purpose, but the truth is that I love romance novels the bestest.

Rachel Lee made a career out of writing a book series set in fictional Conard County, Wyoming and the series is addictive. Rugged country, rugged men, sweet heroines, good neighbors… and she always, always writes these really dreamy heroes who make you swoon. Who doesn’t like swooning when reading romance novels?

But Rachel Lee’s Conard County series became so formulaic that you know exactly what to expect: woman in grave danger, abusive ex-husband, special forces hero who kills or puts ex-husband behind bars. And this was exactly the premise for Her Hero in Hiding but I truly did enjoy reading it. I wrote about it here.

Another Rachel Lee book I read was What She Saw. I didn’t enjoy reading this one at all. It was almost as if someone else wrote it. Rachel Lee’s novels are usually packed with emotion and action. The action scenes seemed to be written in a stilted manner and there was zero chemistry between the hero and heroine, Buck and Haley. It took everything I had to keep reading this book.

A Conard County Homecoming by Rachel Lee contains two stories, Miss Emmaline and the Archangel and Ironheart. I enjoyed reading them both very much. They were written in the early days of Rachel Lee’s writing career and it’s these early stories that made me fall in love with her Conard County series.

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Then I read a bunch of early books (from the 1980s) by Sandra Brown. Shadows of Yesterday is one of my favorites from the bunch. The hero, Chad Dillon, was super nice and romantic and practically perfect. In other words, he was not even one tiny bit a jerk (because they usually are in the 80s romance novels). But the story is not realistic at all. The premise is that Chad finds Leigh, the heroine, stranded on the highway, about to give birth to her child. So he delivers her baby, then they fall in love and then they marry. It’s pure fantasy, although that’s not a bad thing. We all pick up a book to escape reality.

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The other two books I read by Sandra Brown are Honor Bound and Led Astray. Really romantic and well-written. I think Sandra Brown doesn’t write romance anymore. She is strictly thrillers/suspense now, but I love those earlier novels best of all.

And this wraps up my third quarter reading. Feel free to share what you’ve been reading too. 🙂

xoxo, Jane

{Also, July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I}

A fun little Q&A

Hi, friends. So, I was inspired by kitty marie’s reading corner to do this fun Q&A.  Thanks for humoring me!

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What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Any Jane Austen novel.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one book character, who would you choose?

Anne Elliott from Jane Austen’s Persuasion because she is the nicest and is never judgmental. Plus Captain Wentworth would miss her a lot and come rescue us anyway.

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Not book-related, but I just love this quote by Vaclav Havel and it’s more true today than ever.

If you wrote a book, what would its genre be?

I do write books. I’m a romance and women’s fiction writer and working towards publication.

What is your favorite book?

Persuasion by Jane Austen. (I wrote about my love for Persuasion here.)

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What is your favorite coffee flavor? (Or another type of drink, if you don’t drink coffee.)

I am a tea connoisseur and I love Fortnum’s Countess Grey best of all. It’s a softer, lovelier version of Earl Grey.

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My precious copies of Persuasion and Jane Eyre.

What is your least favorite book?

I had to think about this one and it’s Catcher in the Rye. It kind of left me feeling depressed. I prefer uplifting stories.

Is there any book coming out this year that you’re looking forward to reading?

I have so many books on my TBR shelf that I don’t dare look ahead to what’s being published next week or next month. I need to give my TBR shelf a little TLC. #love.books.so.so.much

What completed book series would you like to see one more new volume for? 

Harry Potter. A girl can dream.

What genre do you read the most?

Romance and women’s fiction. But I read a lot of nonfiction too. Usually biographies.

Thanks, Kittie Marie, for the great questions and inspiration! This was super fun! Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments. I love getting to know my readers!! xoxo, Jane

Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh

It’s time for another romance novel review. Why? Because I love them best of all.

Description:

Celebrity rodeo rider Grayson Fortune is seeking a reprieve from the limelight. So as his sweet real estate agent, Billie Pemberton, searches to find him the perfect home, he struggles to keep his mind on business. With his famous (philandering) Fortune father, Grayson is sure he’s not cut out for commitment. Roping young, innocent Billie into a fling would only break her heart. But Billie is convinced that love and family are Grayson’s true birthright…

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What I love

Well, the first thing I love about this book is that it’s a romance novel. I repeat, I love romances best of all! Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh packed a lot of romance and emotion. Even though it’s part of a series, I didn’t have any trouble at all reading it out of order.

I like that Grayson and Billie are friends at first. Slowing getting to know each other in a cautious way while spending time together during their real estate jaunts. It’s obvious that they like each other, but none can admit it to the other. Plus, Billie knows that Grayson has a reputation as a lady’s man and she doesn’t want to be another girl on his list. So she tries to guard her heart against him. (This gave me all the feels!)

Billie is very strong and likes to depend on herself. She loves what she does and does it anyway even though her mother wishes she’d gone into teaching Economics (why for heaven’s sake?). She lets Billie know this on a regular basis, thus making Billie feel perpetually guilty.

I can relate and you probably can too. Mothers have a tendency to make us regret our (very good) life choices. After high school, I wanted to return to Europe for college and I especially wanted to stay there afterwards. But my family was dead-set against it. They wanted me closer to them, where they could see me (and maybe control me?). I sure wish I didn’t let them persuade me otherwise. I suppose my life ended up just fine. I travel to Europe at least once a year and live life on my terms. But that’s why I love that Billie sticks to her guns and does what her heart tells her. I wish I was more like Billie when I was her age.

Maybe that’s why this portion of the story broke my heart. It’s obvious her mom is NOT proud of Billie’s accomplishments. Billie is so accomplished. Only 24 years old, yet holds a real estate license and a BA in Economics.

Personally, I am not the type of gal that needs rescuing and I’m pretty sure I would not like those types of romance heroines either. Billie, with her grand passion for her job and her education and gumption, is my kind of girl.

I don’t want to give away the conflict, so I’ll keep mum on that, but it involves a rodeo, a really nice mother and a truck! Intrigued yet?

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Via Pexels.com

What I don’t love

I think my only gripe is that the hero, celebrity rodeo rider Grayson Fortune, kept referring to Billie as “darlin” even when they didn’t know each other very well. I know that I’d get annoyed real fast if some random dude kept referring to me as “darlin.” But since this is a cowboy romance, it’s par for the course. Otherwise, it was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

What’s the next book you’re grabbing off your bookshelf?

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

 

Thursday Reading Links #5

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I’ve been sick with a cold most of this week, but I’m back on the mend. I hope you are doing well! Here are some interesting links. 🙂

Empress Masako: The Japanese princess who struggles with royal life.

My current read. I’m laugh-crying as I’m reading. Review to follow next week.

Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they’re talking about, study suggests.

I don’t understand why someone paid $6.5 Million to get their daughter into Stanford, plus tuition on top of that.

What’s your opinion on this? Judge rules museum ‘rightfully owns’ Nazi-looted painting.

Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels.

Have a great weekend! xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

Writing Prompts

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I was searching for writing prompts for myself when I came across an author’s website where she was charging for them. That didn’t sit right with me, so I came up with my own prompts which I’m sharing with you. Enjoy!

  1. Write the first sentence of a cozy murder mystery but use the words “green” and “rendezvous.”
  2. It is modern day. You are standing in line at the post office. Your favorite 19th century writer just walked in. What do you do or say?
  3. Your cell phone rings. You answer and it’s the FBI. What happens next?
  4. You discover an unpublished Jane Austen manuscript. What is the title?
  5. You find your late great-grandmother’s diary from 1917. Assume you can read the language in the diary. What’s the most interesting entry you read? Write it diary-style.

Feel free to leave your own writing prompts in the comments.

xoxo, Jane

Reading Links for {Romance} Writers #1

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Happy Thursday!

I’ve been reading a number of interesting and educational articles. Here are some links for my fellow romance writers (or anyone who wants to read them, really).

The first three links are from a really cool writing website that teaches you how to DIY your MFA. Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part I

Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part II

Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part III

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How to self-publish your novel.

This Bustle article is very well-written and researched. Has #MeToo Changed Romance Novel Publishing?

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

Wild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock

WildWyomingNights.jpgWild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock is Book # 8 in the nine-book series, The McNeill Magnates. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but I was able to enjoy this story without reading the earlier books.

Emma Layton is hiding out in Wyoming. Her abusive ex-boyfriend was released from prison and is looking for her. Emma took a job as a stunt double for a movie being filmed on the McNeill ranch in Wyoming to hide out from her ex-boyfriend. Emma is great at the fight scenes, but isn’t an experienced horse-back rider. The owner of the ranch, Carson McNeill, notices Emma’s lack of horse training and decides to work with her so she can become a better horsewoman. Carson’s decision comes under the guise of making sure the horses aren’t mistreated because of her lack of training. But it’s obvious that Carson is attracted to Emma and he conjures up an excuse to be closer to her on a daily basis.

As they get to know each other, they soon discover their secrets. Emma learns that a blackmailer is threatening the McNeill family. Carson finds out about her abusive ex-boyfriend and decides the best way to protect her is to move Emma into his house (I’m not going to lie. I love this trope!!).

Carson is supposed to be the “fun” McNeill brother. He dates to date and doesn’t think highly of matrimony. Except, I didn’t get this sense from him at all. He seemed quite responsible, thoughtful and kind. His protective instincts kicked in when it came to Emma. But it’s possible this “wilder” side of him was fleshed out in earlier books.

Without spoiling anything, while Emma and Carson’s romance was blossoming, a McNeill family mystery was unfolding that threatened their future together.

Though the book came to a satisfactory conclusion, the mystery was actually not solved! I presume this mystery shadows over the entire series and will be solved in the final book. Either way, it was an enjoyable read and now I need to read the next one in this series.

Reading this story gave me all the feels. This book is what Harlequin Desire is all about. A++

If you love Harlequin novels and strong heroes, this book is for you.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

Fashion For Your Characters!

I love reading and learning about fashion and fashion history. Luckily for me, my characters seem to enjoy fashion too. My main characters are female heroines who like to look chic while fighting off their adversaries. Since they live in the 1950s and 1960s, I consult the following books for a good grasp of the fashion.

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The Kyoto Costume Institute – Fashion: This two-volume set is incredible. It focuses on clothing, shoes and accessories between the 18th Century and 20th Century. The well-researched writing is accompanied by hundreds of glossy photographs.

Fashion The Definite History of Costume and Style: This book is a treasure trove. It’s jam-packed with fashion and style history from prehistory to present day. It contains timelines, graphics, photography and fashion designer biographies.

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Forties Fashion – From Siren Suits to the New Look: This book is about the fashion history of the 40s. The book’s focus is on Europe and North America. It’s organized in a coherent manner and the historical tidbits are invaluable to my fashion research.

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How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards: This is a fun book to read, whether for research or just for personal pleasure. It focuses on fashion from the 16th Century to the 20th Century. The author included personal family photographs to showcase some of the fashions of her foremothers, which I found touching.

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For further fun and/or research, I listen to the podcast Dressed. The hosts are well-versed in fashion history and dive into all aspects of fashion history and fashion culture.

Let me know if you have any favorite books on fashion history. xoxo, Jane

The Cold War Q&A Part II

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Welcome to the second part of my Q&A session that I presented last year. Find Part I here.

Last week we ended our post with containment. Let’s pick up where we left off. Please remember, this was just a basic Q&A session. It is not comprehensive of the era. Feel free to ask me any follow-up questions.

Also, you might want to settle in with a cup of tea because this post is a long one.

What is detente? This is when the US and the Soviet Union began to thaw their icy relations. Nixon first went to China to meet with Mao. Important Chinese officials were literally waiting for Nixon at the airport and greeted him as soon as Nixon got off Air Force One. Then shortly after that, he went to Moscow to continue “thawing” relations. Things were looking up. Tensions were loosening. But then, the Iranian Revolution happened.

We all know about the US embassy takeover, the hostage crisis and the ousting of the US-backed Shah. Much to the bafflement and confusion of the West, this revolution was not about communism. It was about fundamentalism. This was really bad for the US because they lost their ally in Iran. And their steady supply of oil.

But that’s not all. Then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. But the Mujahideen fought back. With US weapons. 

And with those US weapons killing Soviet soldiers, detente was over.

What resources do you use? I use the Encyclopedia of the Cold War by Thomas S. Arms to make sure I get everything straight in my stories. I also like to read modern nonfiction about the spies and spycatchers that lived during this time. Most importantly, I use a lot of primary sources such as booklets that were provided to US soldiers during their deployments or Russian travel books printed by Russian publishers.

There is some fiction I recommend if you really want to get a sense of the era, like John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. It’s a short, dark read. For a funner option, the YA trilogy, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, is set during the Cold War. It’s about three teenagers trying to save the world from nuclear war. This is a super fun series that gives you a sense of the eery era.

Afterword: In one of the James Bond movies, Judi Dench’s character, M, said something along the lines of, “Damn, I miss the Cold War.” I feel exactly the same. It sounds strange, I know. The Cold War was a terrible time. It was a scary, anxious time. All of us were terrified of a nuclear war. Now a majority of Americans talk fondly about this era. I didn’t research why this is the case, but I’m going to guess it has something to do with living through 9/11, ISIS, the Taliban, the current US presidential administration…I suppose the nostalgia makes sense under the stressful times we currently live in.

This is the historical era I love to write in. I love to write stories that are interesting, mysterious and romantic and the Cold War is the perfect setting. Plus, I’m always learning something new. I feel like I will never know everything about the Cold War (well, maybe I would if I didn’t have the #dayjob).

Thank you for reading! xoxo, Jane

The Cold War Q&A Part I

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I’m a romance writer and I’m working on a romance series set during the Cold War. (More on that another day.) Of course, as a romance writer, I’m a very proud member of Romance Writers of America. Last year I hosted a Q&A for my history chapter, Hearts Through History. Just for fun, I thought I’d post the Q&A here too. I’ll post Part II next week.

What was the Cold War? The Cold War was a nearly 50-year struggle between the USSR and the USA for economic, political and military control. In other words, it was about global dominance. For example, both countries were in fierce competition to win the nuclear arms race and the space race.

As you know, the two countries never went into direct military battle. Instead proxy wars were fought between the USA and the USSR (Vietnam War, Korean War, Albania, Afghanistan, South America…) The Cold War affected the entire globe and millions died in these battles.

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When did the Cold War start? Ok, the answer depends on who you talk to. Some historians will say it began with the fall of the Romanovs. But generally most historians will say that it began after WWII. Winston Churchill announced to the world the start of the Cold War with his great speech “Iron Curtain” in March 1946.

What is containment? It was a defense policy of the USA and its allies to prevent the Soviet Union from spreading communism into Western Europe.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions. I love chatting about the Cold War era.