Cozy Criminal Ladies

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled

by Mary Jo

I'm not a major mystery reader. I'm not especially interested in puzzle solving, I want interesting, likable characters, and wit is always good. I absolutely do NOT want gory stories and high body counts. In short, I tend to like cozy mysteries if they're well written and have good characters.

So every now and then I go on a cozy mystery binge with some of my favorite authors, so I thought I'd chat a bit about what I've been reading.

Mrs. Pollifax

The oldest series is Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax books, which started in the '70s and went up to 2000, I think.  (Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled)  Emily Pollifax is a sweet white-haired widow who raises prize geraniums and was really bored with her life. So naturally she went to the CIA and volunteered to work for them. <G>


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The Word Wenches’ 10th Anniversary Celebration!

by Mary Jo

Can you believe it?  Today is the 10th anniversary of this blog–that's 597 years in internet time, you know. <G>  The world has changed, publishing has changed, we've all changed–yet here we are, still musing about romance and history, interviewing interesting guests, and inviting you all to join in the conversation!

LCCBThe idea for a historical romance writers' blog was sparked when Susan King and I were having lunch with Eileen Buckholtz, our friend and web wizard, and she suggested that since we were interested in blogging, a group blog was the way to go: more content, less work. <G>  This sounded like a fine idea to us, so Susan and I listed people we'd love to have join us.  To my surprise, everyone we asked agreed, and a blog was born.  Sherrie Holmes, our first site manager and cat herder, came up with the name Word Wenches, which we all loved, and here we are, ten years later.  

I believe we're the only romance blog to have published two Christmas anthologies, Mischief and Mistletoe and The Last Chance Christmas Ball, both with Kensington. Both were great fun to write. 

To celebrate this anniversary, we decided to invite back a few former guests to muse or reminisce with us.  Because we received such thoughtful responses, we'll be posting every day this week, with Friday being wrap up comments from all of us Wenches.  

And because we love giving books away, we'll be doing eight giveaways to eight lucky commenters from our Anniversary Week celebration.  (Winners to be chosen by the end of May.) Let the celebration begin! 

Candice.best_newOur first guest: Candice Hern, one of the old gang of Signet Regency writers where so many Regency writers started our writing careers.  Candice is not only a fine writer who has one of the best Regency websites anywhere, but because she was already an experienced blogger, she was extremely helpful when we started our own blog.  Thank you, Candice!  

Congratulations, Word Wenches, on your first TEN YEARS!

Quite a milestone on the internet. Not many group blogs survive that long. I have been reading your blog since Day 1 and continue to do so. I always learn something new, especially when one of you dives into an historical research topic. I love the diversity of the group, both in your books and your blog posts. (And I still miss Edith.) Here's wishing you all another ten years of entertaining and educating those of us who love historical romance. Way to go, ladies!

Next up: Mary Balogh. A romance star ever since her first Signet Regency was published a lot of years ago, Mary offers these insights:

Where Romance is going:

Romance is going in whatever direction the imaginations of romance writers take Maryonlybelovedit—or should I say directions? In the past several years we have seen it explode into innumerable sub-genres and trends, some of them enduring, some not.

I decided almost as soon as I started writing more than thirty years ago (ouch!) that I would no longer read romance or take any notice of trends or jump on any bandwagons. I cheat (a lot) on that first decision, but even so I would say that 90% of my reading is non-romance. So who am I to talk about where romance is going? I will continue to follow my own imagination for as long as I am willing and able and as long as I still have readers.

One thing that has pleased me greatly this month of May is the almost overwhelmingly positive response I have had to my new book, Only Beloved, the final book of the Survivors’ Club series. MaryonceupondreamThe hero is 48, the heroine 39. I held my breath as the publication day dawned. But readers had no objection to the older characters.

The same thing happened with the novella that came out with one of Grace Burrowes’s in Once Upon a Dream in April. The hero and heroine are both 40 or close to it. With so many aging authors still writing (ahem) and so many aging readers still reading, maybe this is one direction I will take more often in the future. Love, even romantic love, is not an exclusive preserve of the young, after all, is it?

And on the subject of the passing of time…congratulations Word Wenches for keeping your really excellent and intelligent blog site going for ten years. That is a remarkable achievement. May you continue for at least ten more.

To wrap up today's posting, Carola Dunn joins us.  She started out writing Walker Regencies, which were the first such romances I discovered in the library when I began to look beyond my well worn Georgette Heyers.  She moved from Regency romance into historical mysteries–I've been obsessively following her 1920's set Daisy Dalrymple series for years–and like Mary Balogh, she has some thoughts about older characters.

SuperfluousWomenPass Time with Good Company

I wrote my first Regency 37 years ago (Toblethorpe Manor, published 1981) and followed it with 31 more, as well as a bunch of novellas. As in most romances, the heroines were almost all youthful—even the oldest, at 42, seems youthful from my present age! When I started writing mysteries, I made my amateur sleuth, Daisy Dalrymple, 25. For reasons I won’t go into, over the course of 23 books she’s aged by only 5 years.

A decade ago, after turning 60, I decided I wanted a protagonist nearer my own Carola,MannafromHades
age. That was the genesis of Eleanor Trewynn, the main character of my Cornish mysteries. For many years, she and Daisy have been living in my head. Luckily, I find them excellent company. It’s gratifying to hear from so many readers that they too think of Daisy and Eleanor as good friends they want to spend more time with.

Thank you, Candice, Mary,  and Carola!  You've all created wonderful characters we want to spend more time with.  (And you're all on my personal keeper shelves.)  

Visit Word Wenches again tomorrow, when the inimitable Eloisa James and Lauren Willig will share their thoughts on romance! And remember, commenters might win books, and what reader doesn't love winning books?

Mary Jo

What We’re Reading in January

CardNicola here, introducing this month's "What We're Reading" feature. We've had a bumper reading month on Word Wenches as a result of the holiday season and we hope you have lots of recommendations for us too, if you've had chance to read in between all the demands of the New Year! So without further ado let's turn to our reading choices.

Anne writes:

I have a fondness for Christmas stories and over Christmas I read and reread a number of Christmas novellas, including some Louise Penny
collections by Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney that contained stories I'd never read. Then I embarked on a fantasy glom, Robin Hobb — starting with ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE and reading them in order up to FOOL'S QUEST. And now I have to wait for the next book to come out. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed them and have no hesitation in recommending them.

Then for a change of pace I read Kristan Higgins's ANYTHING FOR YOU, followed by a reread of some Loretta Chase reissues and a couple of Lisa Kleypas historicals, which I always enjoy.

Lastly I've just finished Louise Penny's THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. I've enjoyed all of Louise Penny's crime novels, and realized when I read this, that I've fallen behind and there are three more new ones I haven't read. A treat in store.

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What We’re Reading in July

Woman readingNicola here, introducing the July What We're Reading. We all love this feature as we get so many wonderful book recommendations as a result. We hope you enjoy it too. If, like me, you're going away in a few weeks time and are looking for the next read to take with you, or if you have already been indulging in some holiday reading, this is the place to share!


Only one book to recommend this month. It's been a busy time altogether. The RWA National Conference was a mad, lovely, exciting week. The rest of July was spent madly writing.

Still, I did get to read Robin McKinley's, The Hero Hero and crown
 and the Crown
 It's a YA that won the Newberry Medal a few years back. A princess despised and distrusted by her people steps outside their expectations and becomes a strong and magical warrior who saves the kingdom. The book is about choices and strength and what these cost.

McKinley has been a favorite of mine since I read Sunshine, her YA-vampire-not-quite-a-romance. A lovely book.


I’ve been cruising the high seas and spending more time in the moment than reading, apparently. And I watched movies on the plane! But here’s a couple of books I can recall.

Axeman’s Jazz, Julie Smith—a mystery rich with gritty New Orleans atmosphere. The heroine is a very good, very determined cop which gives a nice spin on the usual types of humor found in hapless female detective stories. The story includes lovely layers of satire on New Orleans society— the killer is picking off attendants of 12-step programs, which to the detective’s dismay means that half the city is a potential victim.

1395707162001-Fool-Me-TwiceMeredith Duran, Fool Me Twice—I went into this thinking “yawn, another book about a tortured, privileged duke.”  I have a real hard time being sympathetic to dukes who have everything and still manage to whine. But Duran pulls out ALL the stops. She beats this once-decent guy into a puling lump, then torments her innocent heroine beyond reason. Even though I was fully prepared to laugh at the preposterous setup, Duran made me root for both of them. Her emotional and descriptive writing twists the heart and keeps the pages turning.

Off the Reservation, Glen Merzer—if you want a novel that literally goes off the deep end on satirizing politics, try this one. The protag is a Congressman who grabs attention by saying just what he pleases and turns his lunacy into a campaign platform, while claiming over-population is the root of all problems and that there are no solutions. The way to bring honesty back to politics!

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Winners, Guests, etc.


A-Winner Kristal Shepherd, you have won a book from Carla Kelly, and Lori, you're the winner of a book from Carola Dunn.  Remember, we usually have multiple winners every month, so be sure to check for your name in the "Winners" sidebar on the right, and also check for Sunday announcements.  Congratulations to this month's winners!


On Monday, 12/14 Phyllis Radford will be Patricia Rice's guest.  Phyllis is the editor of Shadow Conspiracy, a steampunk e-book based on Byron, Shelley, and Frankenstein.  She represents Book View Cafe, a completely author-operated publishing venue run by well known science fiction/fantasy/paranormal romance authors.


Mary Jo Putney is this month's host for AAW, and her post will deal with animals/pets in romances.  You won't want to miss this one.  Mark your calendars for 12/16


As usual, the Wenches have something special planned for the holidays.  They'll be celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with a post every day, starting on December 26 and ending on January 6.  After that, it's back to the regular schedule.  Each post will be short and sweet, so it'll only take a minute of your time to drop by during the holidays.