What We’re Reading (WWR) – November Edition

We’ve been busy these past few weeks, but there’s always time for reading!
For this month’s WWR, we have a great array of reads and recommendations to further topple your TBR pile. Browse through our picks, and please let us know what you’ve read and enjoyed recently.
Mary Jo:
The big reading news for November was the release of Sharon Shinn’s Whispering Wood,  fifth in her Elemental Blessings fantasy series. Sharon is a master of worldbuilding and characterization and those qualities are fully on display.  The people of her fictional country of Welce all have affinities for one of the five elements: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Wood.  Each book concentrated on a protagonist with an affinity for one of the elements, starting with Book I, Troubled Waters. Whispering Wood is centered on hunti, the fifth element which is affiliated with wood. The heroine Valentina Serlast is a dedicated hunti introvert who wants to be left alone on the country estate.  But her older brother, Darien, is about to be crowned king of Welce, so she’s forced to come to the capital city for the coronation.  She starts out hating pretty much everyone <G>, but during her enforced stay she starts making friends, expanding her world, and reconnecting with Sebastian, the red headed rogue who has been her best friend since childhood.  By the end of the story, she demonstrates the strength and tenacity that is the essence of her hunti heritage. Though the book stands alone pretty well, it’s best to start with Troubled Waters, the first in the series so you can watch the characters grow and change.  It’s a rich, rich world!
For something completely different, I loved Emilie Richards’ women’s fiction bookWhen We Were Sisters.  The story rotates between three points of view:  Cecilia and Robin bonded as sisters when both were in foster care.  They fought to stay together and helped each other survive and have stayed the closest of friends even as Cecilia becomes a pop star so famous she’s known by her first name.  Robin gives up a promising career as a photojournalist to marry and have children.  The third character is Robin’s husband Kris, a workaholic lawyer who was raised in poverty and is determined that his family will never have to struggle as he did. When Cecilia teams with a well respected documentary maker to produce a series about foster care, she asks Robin to be the still photographer for the production.  When Robin accepts, her husband Kris has to figure out how to run a household and raise his two kids.  The filming takes Cecilia and Robin through the challenges of the past and darkest secrets of that time. All three of the characters grow and change in a story I found compelling and positive.  Emilie Richards is a terrific writer, and When We Were Sisters is one of the best women’s fiction novels I’ve ever read.
THE WHISPERED WORD (Secret, Book, and Scone Society Series #2), Ellery Adams
I’m a wee bit bored with all the cozy mysteries about bookshops, but this one is slightly different. The owner of the store, Nora, is an ex-librarian badly scarred from an incident that she caused herself. She provides what she calls bibliotherapy to her friends and customers. The town of Miracle Springs is a hot springs and health spa tourist area, so she sees many people who need help. The book starts off slow, but a malnourished, mistreated runaway held my interest until all the various action wheels began to turn. The characterization is a bit superficial because there are so many characters, but each one is easily defined after the first few chapters. The story itself is a humdinger, involving book lovers and long-lost secrets and con artists. By the end, the wicked are served justice and Nora and the runaway are in a much better place. And yes, there’s a quite romance as well. If you’re looking for something really cozy and quiet, give this one a try.
TEA AND EMPATHY: Tales of Rydding Village #1, Shanna Swendson
The queen of romantic fantasy is back! Shanna Swendson has a new series. In this first book, a runaway healer discovers a nearly abandoned village and hopes to hide by becoming the owner of a tea shop. But it’s impossible to hide her abilities, and when she finds a knight who obviously isn’t a knight in her garden, she knows the world will intrude too soon. But her knight in broken armor has no memory of who he is, and she hopes to stay a while longer in the community that needs her. I can’t tell more without giving away the story. Just know that this is lovely fantasy, with an interesting community of characters, and justice prevails. The romance isn’t complete. It’s a series, after all, and there’s this abandoned castle on the hill… So I expect many more delightful tales to come. Hurry, please!

This month has mostly been crime season for me. I read The Last Remains, by Elly Griffiths, the final book in her Ruth Galloway mystery series. As always, an intriguing crime story was mixed in with fascinating archaeology and that touch of the supernatural which always adds an extra layer to the mix. But as with all good books, it’s the relationships that make it so fascinating and this was a very satisfying ending to the series and to the relationship between Ruth and Nelson that has underpinned all the books. Still on a crime theme, I also enjoyed The Twist of a Knife by Antony Horowitz, an excellent “locked room” mystery in classic Agatha-Christie type style. Now I’m reading my way through all the LJ Ross DCI Ryan books in order…

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Ask-A-Wench: Writing Spaces

Jane austen“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

            –Jane Austen

Susan here, with a look at home writing spaces today for our “Ask-a-Wench” question for October. You know we’re pretty much writing all the time, but where do we write? Turns out we each have more than one favorite place to write in our homes and elsewhere. Authors don’t always need a big library-like space filled with books, a big table or desk, a beautiful view—though that would be wonderful! We do need a space that supports creativity, invention, focus, materials and research. Jane Austen wrote on a tiny octagonal table that barely allowed room for paper, pen, and ink, and the chair is pretty but spare as well. But it provided what she needed, at least for some of her writing hours. (image source)

Ursula Le Guin’s beautiful writing room, seen below, was filled with books and comfortable furniture, and she wrote wonderful stories here. A quick internet search for writer’s offices will show a wide range of rooms crammed with books, papers, sticky notes, all the flotsam and jetsam that writing a book can generate. We Wenches have a range of spaces too. Here are some of our favorite writing spots.



Do you have a favorite place for writing – your home office or another comfy place outside or elsewhere? 



Anne here.

I have several places in which I like to write. I've written in hotel rooms, cafes, airports and all kinds of places. When I'm deep into a book and have a deadline looming I can write just about anywhere. When I'm stuck on a scene, or don't know exactly what approach to take for the next scene, I will often go to my local library and write there by hand. I don't let myself leave until I have three or four pages of handwriting done (which usually translates to around 1000 words). Writing by hand nearly always gets me unstuck. 

In my old house, I used to write in my office, where everything was set up to write and all my reference books were on hand. But my main computer is now quite old, and I've had to replace it with a laptop, and that's made me more mobile. So sometimes I'll write at the dining room table, but during the last few months, through winter, I've taken to writing on my laptop in bed. I'm writing there now, and this is my view. 


Pat here.

My writing space can be the boring little corner of my house filled with computers and books… or if we’re broad minded, it’s the world. Seeing new places, meeting new people, enjoying new experiences are what develops the landscape for creativity. So here’s my space as I write this.  (Machu Picchu, above)

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The Scottish Bride & The Rhymer

The-scottish-bride-cropSusan here, with a first look at my upcoming book, The Scottish Bride, to be released in Spring 2024. I just finished revisions and the book is now in production–it's always a relief to reach this phase with a book, when the writing is done and I can relax a little before jumping to the next book. I’ve just seen the gorgeous cover draft, and I'm sharing a sneak peek here (once the cover is finalized, I'll share the entire beautiful thing!). Here's a slice or two of the cover, above and below.  

Read on for a little background info . .  The Scottish Bride is the first book in my “Highland Secrets” trilogy (and The Forest Bride and The Guardian’s Bride will be released late next year, all from Dragonblade Publishing). The books are so new we don't have links yet! More to come.

In Robert Bruce’s Scotland, three sisters inherit gifts from their kinsman, the soothsayer Thomas the Rhymer, and must protect his legend and legacy—but each sister encounters a Scottish warrior intent on taking the treasure and thwarting the game.

The-scottish-bride-crop title The-scottish-bride-

Lady Tamsin Keith escapes a castle tower to avoid marriage—and literally falls into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight. Sir William Seton, sent by King Edward I to demand the girl's grandfather’s book of prophecies, soon discovers that beautiful Tamsin is a gifted seer, a tad too truthful—and the most stubborn woman he has ever met. His forfeited lands, his wolfhounds, his very life depend on bringing the Rhymer’s book to the enemy king, yet Tamsin is unwilling to trust the knight who begins to thrill her lonely heart. Liam has a secret plan for her bothersome book, even as he falls for the lady’s headstrong charm…but first he and Tamsin must find the missing prophecies—and face a powerful foe who would tear down all they treasure.

The Scottish Bride is set in 1306, the year that Robert Bruce claimed the throne of Scotland and became a renegade king, hunted by Edward I’s troops even as he gathered a rebel faction for the cause of Scotland. By that time, Thomas the Rhymer was widely known, one of those intriguing legendary figures from
history who actually lived.
His presence as an off-stage character in The Scottish Bride mingles fact, legend, and a fictional spin. What a privilege, and what fun, to put my own spin on True Thomas’s tale.

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21 Daft Days

Susan here. Two hundred and one years ago this week, in August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland, landing at Leith Harbor and making his way into Edinburgh. The huge fanfare included not just thousands of people lining the streets to cheer and watch, but began with a greeting party of scores of dignitaries that included the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and civic officials, dukes, earls, peers of rank, clan chiefs, as well as Sir Walter Scott, who had organized much of the celebration that took place over the days of the king’s visit. Detail  Landing of King George at Leith Harbor  Alexander Carse  1822  Leith Hall

King George IV Lands at Leith Harbor, detail. Alexander Carse, 1822. Leith Hall. 

My newest novel, Laird of Rogues, in part centers on the king’s visit to Scotland that hot, rainy August, when a Laird of rogues - Copy whisky-smuggling laird and accused prisoner is invited to meet the king–striking great fear of embarrassment in city officials and requiring immediate etiquette lessons courtesy of an official’s daughter. But this laird has another matter to take care of, more important to him than meeting the king. 

George IV, the first English king to visit Scotland (without waging war) since Charles II’s visit in 1651, spent that whirlwind visit—called “daft days” by one witness at the time—meeting prominent Scots, including Sir Walter Scott, government officials, peers, Highland chiefs and their entourages, and their ladies. He greeted so many ladies at a special assembly held in honor of Scotswomen that he was said to have kissed (enthusiastically, with wet smacking kisses, it was widely said) literally George_IV_in_kilt _by_Wilkie (1)thousands of women in one afternoon. The king was the guest of honor at receptions, dinners, parades, and balls, and was celebrated, lauded, toasted, cheered.

He was also the subject of satire, caricatures, and tittering laughter from the Scots. Although George IV made a real effort to connect with the Scots and to admire and experience the Scottish culture, he had some bumbling moments and made a faux pas now and then—most notably wearing a pair of pink woolen tights with his kilt and gear of Royal Stewart tartan, rather than expose his legs in the proud traditional manner of the Scots. 

David Wilkie's flattering portrait of King George in Scotland did not include the king's pink tights.

Although excited to welcome King George to the north, historically the Scots were not big fans of the English. Some were skeptical about the visit, given the long cultural memory of centuries of conflict and oppression under pressure from the English – and eventually English rule with the Acts of Union in 1707, which joined the Scottish and English Parliaments and placed Scotland under English rule with the formation of Great Britain. That was followed by the Jacobite
wars and Culloden in 1745, with Jacobite sympathies lingering among some for generations – fueling political and ideological differences between the Tories and the Whigs – and the Highland Clearances, spanning more than a century of struggle primarily for Highland people tossed out of their homes as lands were sold or leased to those who preferred using vast, beautiful Highland acreage for hunting and country houses rather than raising sheep and cattle.

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Interview with Jaclyn Reding

Susan here – we are so pleased to welcome friend and author Jaclyn Reding to Word Wenches today to talk about her Jacci reding venice upcoming books and some of the very interesting inspirations for her writing. Be sure to scroll down to read this fun interview and a story excerpt — and then take a moment to comment for a chance to win a copy of her latest release, The Pretender! 
Jaclyn Reding’s award-winning, bestselling historical and contemporary romance novels have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. A National Readers' Choice Awards finalist, and Romance Writers of America RITA Award nominee, she is the proud, proud mom of two grown sons, and willing minion to an elderly cairn terrier and a tuxedo cat. Home is with her family in New England in an antique farmhouse that she suspects is held together purely by old wallpaper and cobwebs. A lifelong equestrian, she spends her free time in the saddle, going over plotlines and character arcs with her confidant and toughest critic, a very opinionated retired racehorse named Brunello.

The pretender jaclynredingSusan: Congratulations on your latest release, The Pretender, set in 18th-century Scotland. It's a beautiful new edition of a classic historical romance with a gorgeous cover! Tell us a little about the story.

Jaclyn: Thank you!  I'm very excited about this venture. In The Pretender, when the very English Duke of Sudeleigh discovers that his eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Drayton, is the clandestine author of a scandalous editorial, he decides it's time to bring the feisty young woman to heel. Unbeknownst to her, he will secretly send her off to an arranged marriage so that she might better concentrate her efforts on hearth and home instead of the spreading of contrary ideas. He means it simply to put a fright into her, but a mishap with her carriage en route brings headstrong Elizabeth the chance to foil her father’s plans. Douglas Dubh MacKinnon, an annoyingly handsome Highlander, will provide her with the perfect riposte. What Elizabeth doesn’t consider is that in these turbulent political times, she, too, might offer Douglas something in return: a convenient means of securing his birthright–-as well as the ideal disguise when the opportunity to save a prince on the run arises, leaving them both to wonder just who is the true Pretender after all?  Add in a comical goat and a dash of Highland lore for a true rollicking adventure.

Susan: You and I went to Scotland years ago and had a great time driving through the Highlands and across the Isle of Skye, with some hilarious adventures along the way, from lost luggage to a car boot full of a ridiculous number of books, and then a stalker sheep. Did you use any of that in your writing?


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