Taste Me, Tempt Me! Or, Linotte Gets Published

So…I have a big announcement! Drumroll! Are you ready?

Tomorrow is the release day for the romance anthology Taste Me, Tempt Me: 8 Tales of Sweet & Spicy Romance. And guess what? I have a short story published in it: “Trouble with Trifles,” by Madeleine Keane.

Cover of Taste Me Tempt Me

Cover of Taste Me, Tempt Me. Image via Amazon.

And guess what else? All proceeds of Taste Me, Tempt Me go to America’s Second Harvest and Food Banks Canada! So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy and help feed the hungry! I would say that’s a win-win right there!

Spooky Stories: The Exhumation of Lizzie Siddal

Since it’s close to Halloween, I thought I would share this morbid little tidbit about Burne-Jones’s fellow Pre-Raphaelites, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal and how he had her grave dug up so he could get the book of his poems that he had buried with her.

Rossetti was born into a family that already had a love for literature and the arts. His father was a scholar and his mother was the sister of John Polidori. Many of the children were creative types. Gabriel himself was a painter and a poet and, along with painters Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and other young artists of the day, started the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s self-portrait. Image via Wikipedia.

Elizabeth Siddal, on the other hand, was from a working class background. She was employed in a millinery shop and was the daughter of a cutler. Rossetti and his fellow Pre-Raphaelites found her to be a very striking young woman, and she started modeling for them in 1849. She started taking drawing lessons from Rossetti, and this blossomed into an affair which lasted for years. Elizabeth began writing poetry and painting as well, but Rossetti eventually insisted that she sit only for him, though he continued to sketch other models, such as Jane Morris and Annie Miller.

elizabeth siddal self-portrait

Elizabeth Siddal’s self-portrait. Image via Wikipedia.

Elizabeth’s and Rossetti’s relationship was a tempestuous one, marked by Rossetti’s infidelity and reluctance to marry her and Elizabeth’s ill health and growing addiction to laudanum. In 1860, they finally married, but their happiness was to be short-lived. After a stillbirth in 1862, Elizabeth, who had been pregnant again, overdosed on laudanum. It is unknown whether this was suicide or an accident.

Ophelia by John Everett Millais.

Elizabeth Siddal modeled for John Everett Millais’s famous painting of Ophelia. Image via Wikipedia.

Elizabeth’s death sent Rossetti on a downward spiral of drug addiction. In his grief, he wrote a book of poems about her, which slipped beneath her hair during the burial. In 1869, Rossetti became obsessed with getting the book back so he could publish the poems. Elizabeth’s body was exhumed so the book could be obtained. The book was in remarkably good condition, as was Elizabeth’s body at the time of exhumation.

During a particularly dark moment, Rossetti destroyed all of the photographs of Elizabeth. Only two are known to have survived.

More reading about Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, and the Pre-Raphaelites: Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle and Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, by Lucinda Hawksley (the latter was my source).

Book Review: Forever Your Earl, by Eva Leigh

Eva Leigh begins with a promising start to her new Wicked Quills of London series with its first installment, Forever Your Earl. Leigh takes us from the finest houses to the poorest slums of Regency London in this delectable treat of a book.

Cover of Forever Your Earl.

Forever Your Earl, by Eva Leigh. Cover image via Amazon.

Eleanor Hawke, editor of the Hawk’s Eye, one of the most popular scandal sheets in London, is shocked the day the her favorite subject, Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford, walks into her office with a proposition. He and Eleanor come to an agreement: she will accompany him on his many exploits throughout London, identifying him only as Lord Rakehell in her articles. But Daniel’s reasons for this are twofold; he has been searching high and low for his old friend, Jonathan, who has disappeared into London’s slums, and he believes these articles may be just the thing to lure Jonathan out of hiding.

Daniel and Eleanor spend a delightful few weeks as she chronicles all of his scandalous pursuits, from phaeton races to gambling hells to masquerades to nights in Vauxhall Gardens. As she spends more time with Daniel, she begins to see that there is more to him than she thought. And Daniel finds Eleanor’s wit, independence, and humor to be exhilarating. Yet class differences and societal conventions doom their romance, and Daniel will do anything to persuade Eleanor that she is worthy of his love, even though he’s just a commoner and he’s an earl.

Leigh breathes life into Regency London in every word on the page, from simple everyday conversation to descriptions of such grand places as Vauxhall. The couple’s romance progresses as naturally as that between the hero and heroine of a Georgette Heyer novel and is very believable. Much like romantic leads in the other series Leigh has written under the name of Zoe Archer, Daniel and Eleanor come together for their own reasons and realize that they can help each other achieve their own goals. As their relationship progresses, they work together to find some resolution and to bring Daniel’s friend safely home. The couple emerges stronger than they were and you get a sense of how they help each other become better people. And that is how a romance should end – with some sense of a happily ever after.

I received an advance copy of this book in a giveaway hosted by the author.

Book Review: The Middle of Somewhere, by Sonja Yoerg

In Sonja Yoerg’s novel The Middle of Somewhere, Liz Kroft is about to turn thirty, but for someone so young, she has a lot of emotional baggage she needs to work through. The opportunity presents itself when she decides to take a solitary hike on the John Muir Trail in the Yosemite Valley. When her boyfriend Dante joins her, though, her plans change, and the secrets she carries become an unpleasant weight for. Throughout their journey, they encounter a host of different characters: an actor who is unwillingly making the hike for a movie role; a devoted older couple who found love the second time around; and a pair of sinister brothers, both professional outdoorsmen, who have their own secrets to hide as well.

As Liz and Dante hike deeper into the mountains, Liz begins to understand that she musr tell Dante all of the secrets she has been hiding. Dante, who prides himself on his strong Catholic morals, is shocked by each of her confessions. But soon one of the people they have been hiking with turns up dead, Liz and Dante discover that the brothers are playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with them. Even though Liz’s secrets have put a rift in her and Dante’s relationship, they must stay together so that they can make it off of the trail alive.

middleofsomewherecover

Cover image via Amazon.com.

Throughout the novel, we catch glimpses of Liz’s life before the hike. We learn that she is the daughter of a single mother and an estranged father who grew up as an only child, and that her curiosity about technology leads her to a career in engineering. We see her meet her college sweetheart and marry him right after graduation, only for their marriage to slowly begin to unravel and abruptly end with her husbands untimely death in a car accident. And we discover the most painful secret that Liz is keeping from Dante: that she did not inform him of her unplanned pregnancy and her decision to undergo an abortion rather than to tell him.

Sonja Yoerg’s novel The Middle of Somewhere combines the past and present narratives of Liz’s life all so that the reader will eventually see how they might affect her future, whatever it may hold. As Liz and Dante face the uncertainty of what will happen to their relationship once they have finished with their hike, they also must make moment-by-moment decisions when it comes to how to evade their pursuers. I kept flipping the pages with my heart in my throat to see whether or not Liz and Dante would get off of that mountain before their pursuers got to them. Liz, so accustomed to being on her own, has pushed Dante and everyone else in her life away, and she and Dante and forced to depend upon each other to escape their situation. The action builds to a satisfying conclussion

I received a free advanced copy from First to Read in exchange for my fair and honest review.

WIP Wednesday: A Thousand Oceans

Happy Wednesday, all! It’s WIP Wednesday, and since I’m in the home stretch of the Aimee novel, here’s an excerpt from the work in progress!

Aimee nearly dropped the glass of rum when she heard the words. Hook took her hand into his good one, intertwining his fingers with hers. It bordered on some kind of impropriety, but Aimee had to confess that she rather likes the feeling of is hand against hers. Even though he was a gentleman, he was a man who was not above work, for though his hand was well cared for, the palm was callused.

“Why do you ask such a thing?” she said to him, her heart beginning to beat rapidly. “I have nothing to offer you, Captain, other than being nothing but an incessant thorn in your side. You would have to protect me from Peter…”

“The boy forgets,” Hook repeated. “He forgets…but I do not.”

Aimee put her glass down on the desk, holding out her free hand. Carefully he placed his iron hook in her open palm. “I dreamed of you,” he went on. “I have dreamed of you for a very long time. Have you dreamed of me as well…Aimee?”

She stared into his piercing eyes, and it was then that she recognized that gaze. He was her cavalier, the one of whom she had dreamed before she had left France for Martinique.

She now understood why he seemed so familiar to her, and why he seemed to almost ache so for her to be near him, and why, just now, she felt so drawn to him.

“I have dreamed of you,” she told him. “Shortly before I left France, I dreamed of you…and of the boy.”

“Dreams,” he murmured. “Such an odd thing they are.”

“Yes,” Aimee said, her eyes widening. He took her hands and kissed them, his warm lips lingering on her wrists for what seemed some moments. He lifted his head and relinquished his hold on her hands.

“Think on it,” he said, “of whether or not you would like to stay in Neverland. I would forever be at your service.”

“But why?” she asked him. “Why would you like me to stay with you?”

He rose, drained his glass, and set it down. “Mademoiselle…Aimee, I have been in Neverland for almost a century. I have had nothing to sustain me but my desire for revenge on Peter Pan…and when one lives only for revenge, one finds that life can grow very bleak. I lived alone, with nothing but this hatred for the boy in my heart. Loneliness is a terrible thing, Aimee, and that was part of Pan’s curse: to grow old and die in this land, and to be forgotten by those who knew me and reduced to nothing but a villain in a child’s game. It changed when we first met.”

“I don’t understand,” Aimee said.

“Peter’s curse upon me might be broken, and perhaps I would someday be able to sail from Neverland,” Hook replied, “but only after the curse is lifted.”

“And you believe that I could lift it?” Aimee said.

“I know that you could,” he said. “If not…”

“If not?”

He shrugged “If not,” he said, “then if you should stay, we would pass many pleasant moments together. But I you choose to leave, I will do what I must to ensure that you reach the Faerie Queen’s island safely, so that you might return home to France.”


Book Review: Season of Mists, by Jen Corkill

Penny Dreadful won’t be back until next summer, and the end of the season left me with a hangover. No worries, though, there’s a plethora of novels and book series in the same vein that can give me the same fix Penny Dreadful does. Season of Mists, by Jen Corkill, is the first book in a promising historical paranormal romance series that does just that.

Young Justine Holloway, who has been recently orphaned, is on her way from school in France to live in London with her godparents, Harold and Frances Mendenhall. But it’s on the voyage from England to France that her life truly begins to change. She meets the handsome, mysterious Amun Farouk, the new Egyptian ambassador, who is en route to London to meet with her godfather about a prospective archaeological expedition in Egypt…and there is much more to him that meets the eye. But something far more dangerous haunts Justine’s footsteps as she makes her debut in London society, something dark, shadowy, and full of evil intent.

season of mists cover

Season of Mists cover. Image via Amazon.com.

Soon Justine discovers that her godfather is part of a secret society charged with protecting humanity from the Varius, a people from a parallel universe who possess magical abilities and who have begun to make their homes in London after a dark force has overtaken their world. When the exsanguinated body of a woman is found in Whitechapel, it becomes clear that that dark force has come to London, and may be responsible for the Whitechapel murders. As Justine makes her debut in London society, she finds that she has become the obsession of a vampire who would do anything to possess her. She and Amun must find a way to thwart whatever evil has visited itself upon London…and save herself from the sinister fate the vampire has in store for her.

Corkill has borrowed from several familiar tales of the Victorian era to create her own story. The heroine is not just a damsel in distress, but grows from a frightened young girl to a young woman determined to take her fate into her own hands. Amun’s motivations are unclear at first, but as the story progresses, we see that he is on the side of good and that he’s willing to do whatever he can to keep whatever evil he is fighting from consuming Justine. Corkill is able to build the action to an unexpected climax that will leave the reader breathless.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Magistrate’s Folly, by Lisa Karon Richardson

The setting of colonial Williamsburg and the impending American Revolution provide the backdrop for The Magistrate’s Folly, an historical romance by author Lisa Karon Richardson.

Merry Lattimore, a young governess, stands accused of theft by her former employer, though she insists she’s innocent of the charges. Despite this, she’s sentenced to a term of indentured servitude in the American colonies by no other than the man whom she had once loved and wished to marry, Graham Sinclair. When discovers that Merry is innocent of the charges, he realizes his mistake. He secures a pardon for her, then boards a ship to Williamsburg to see if he might find her and ensure that she not only receives the pardon, but because he wishes to redeem himself in her eyes.

Magistrate's Folly book cover

Cover of novel. Image via Amazon.

Meanwhile, Merry has been bought by the Bennings, a kind, wealthy local family, to serve as both governess and nursemaid to the children. Merry, who gained knowledge of herbs and nursing the sick through helping her father, a doctor, proves invaluable when the children fall ill. Under her care, they survive, and the Bennings are thankful to have Merry in their household. But just as the children recover, Graham arrives at the Benning home with Merry’s pardon in hand. Now free, Merry could leave and go wherever she wished, but she is loyal to the children in her care and is reluctant to leave. Mrs. Benning offers to let Merry stay as a guest in the home so that she can figure out where to go from here. Things begin to look up until tragedy strikes. Mr. Benning falls ill and dies after drinking his sleeping draught, which was poisoned. The woman accused of the murder is a fellow slave named Jerusha, who is arrested on the grounds that she had a perfect motive for the murder: Mr. Benning was going to sell her young son in a slave auction.

Merry knows that Jerusha isn’t guilty of the murder, and she promises to help Jerusha in any way she can. She goes to Graham about the situation, and he decides to defend Jerusha at trial. Together, he and Merry work together to investigate the murder and determine who the real killer is, so that Jerusha will be cleared of all charges. As the two work together, they begin to open up to each other about what happened so many years ago. Their partnership is one of equals working toward the same mission. Graham is defending Jerusha because he wishes to redeem himself and to prevent another innocent person from being wrongly convicted. Merry is keeping a promise she made to Jerusha and can empathize with her situation, her own pleas of innocence having fallen on deaf ears. As they work as equal partners toward one common goal, they begin to see each other in a different light, and the feelings they both had thought were long since dead are rekindled.

Richardson’s characters are very compelling, and throughout the narrative, she drops little tidbits of historical detail so you have know what exactly was going on at the time. The love story and the mystery both drive the plot to a very satisfying end that is full of promise for the two protagonists. All in all, a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.