Five Books I’d like to read again for the first time

By Mary Jo

I’m a great re-reader and there are many books I’ve read over and over. But there are certain books I’d love to be able to read again for the first time so I could have that wonderful sense of discovery for a second time. This is a listing not of my favorite books, though they mostly are, but books that took me to fascinating new places.

1) The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart.

Mary Stewart was an inspiration for many romance authors, and this is the first of her books I ever read, though far from the last.

Technically I didn’t even read the book, but rather a condensation published in one of my mother’s Lady’s Home Journal magazines. I was enthralled by the location in Northumberland by the Roman wall and by the characters, the story, the romance, the lyrical prose, the suspense. And there was a twist at the end that I probably would have seen coming if I were an older and a more experienced reader. But it stunned me then, and it’s still a great story.

Read more

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…

Read more

Heyer Quiz #2

Anne here: Welcome to the new WordWench blog site. We hope you like the new design. Make sure you bookmark it, as the URL has changed. And since the system is new to us all, please be patient while we sort out the kinks.

To start us off with a bang (or a scratching of the head), I’m presenting another quiz — the second Georgette Heyer quiz, where we test your knowledge of her novels. It’s just for fun, and your score doesn’t matter in the least.

Make a note of your answers, check them on the link at the bottom, then come back and tell us how you went, and whether you enjoyed it, found it too hard, too easy or just right.

1)   Who said: “I feel an almost overwhelming interest in the methods of daylight abduction employed by the modern youth.” ?
a)  The Marquis of Alverstoke
b)  The Duke of Avon
c)  Miles Calverleigh
d)  The Duke of Salford

2). Who is our hero talking about here?
          “She blurts out whatever may come into her head; she tumbles from one outrageous escapade into another; she’s happier grooming horses and hobnobbing with stable-hands than going to parties; she’s impertinent; you daren’t catch her eye for fear she should start to giggle; she hasn’t any accomplishments; I never saw anyone with less dignity; she’s abominable, and damnably hot at hand, frank to a fault, and – a darling!”
a)  Phoebe Laxton
b)  Phoebe Marlowe
c)  Tiffany Wield
d)  Hero Wantage

3) Who is X in this exchange? 
    “What do you mean to do when you reach Lacy Manor?” asked X, regarding him in some amusement.
      “Wring her neck!” said Z savagely.
      “Well, you don’t need my help for that, my dear boy!” said X, settling himself more comfortably in his chair.
a)  Lord Sheringham
b)  Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal
c)  Charles Rivenhall
d)  Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy

Read more

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)

Read more

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.

Read more