July What We’re Reading

Christina here with a round-up of what the Wenches have been reading this month. This is a truly varied selection and I hope there will be something for everyone and that you find something that appeals to you. I’ve already clicked on a few things myself …

My own favourite reads this month were the two new Wench books – The Crystal Key by Patricia Rice and The Rake’s Daughter by Anne Gracie.

Crystal KeyThe Crystal Key is the third book in the Psychic Solutions Mystery series, and these stories just keep getting better and better. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which broadened the cast and built on the previous books in a most satisfying way. Ghostbuster Evie Malcolm Carstairs has finally got together with gorgeous lawyer Jax Ives and they are raising their ward, Loretta, together while trying to make ends meet – her by speaking to ghosts and him by setting up a new law practice in the tiny town where they live. When Evie and her hacker team at the Sensible Solutions Agency take on a new case that involves a dead former FBI agent – an old lady who had been poking around in things she shouldn’t have – and a potential murder, things start to heat up. Jax tries to keep Evie out of trouble, but she has her own way of dealing with things and doesn’t think she needs his help. He wants to do things the proper way while Evie and the others don’t always take the legal approach. Add to that the fact that his reclusive sister Ariel starts to help his best friend to uncover a major scamming network run by some seriously unscrupulous people – while slightly coming out of her shell – and he has his work cut out for him making sure everyone is safe and the bad guys get their come-uppance. With a huge cast of crazy but wonderful characters, this is a fabulous story that kept me turning the pages. I can’t wait for the next book in the series to see what will happen next!

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An intriguing Emperor . . .

Napoleon 1Andrea/Cara here, I recently finished a new Lady Arianna mystery—the first full-length addition to the series since its original publication by NAL—which was great fun, as I love writing these books. In Smoke & Lies, (it releases on May 15, and is available for pre-order now) the mystery takes Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook to Elba, where the scheming and intrigue of Napoleon’s court in exile tests their mettle . . .

Smoke and Lies-smallNow, weaving a plot line for this was an interesting challenge, given that we all know what ultimately happened! Since I wasn’t about to change history and have my intrepid protagonists stop him from returning to France, I had to figure out how to create tension and a compelling mystery within that context. I really enjoyed weaving together actual history with my own inventions to give them a compelling conundrum to solve (at least I hope readers find it compelling! You can read an excerpt here.)


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The Magic of History

Andrea/Cara here
, thinking about how delightfully magical it is when actual history confirms an author’s fanciful imagination! See this amazing artifact—I will explain in a moment. But first, a brief preface . . .

Napoleon_I_of_France_by_Andrea_AppianiAlthough I write fiction, and am allowed to take artistic license and make things up when my plot requires it, I feel very strongly about creating an accurate Regency world for my make-believe characters. I try to get all the little details right, from manners and titles, to fashion and food, and all the other elements of daily life. And when actual events are part of the story, I do a lot of background reading to make sure I stick to the facts. (Granted within those events, I let my characters create their own reality.)

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No Man Is An Island . . .

Bodleian_Libraries ElbaAndrea/Cara here, I’ve recently started working on a new Lady Arianna mystery novel, and after having sent her and Lord Saybrook to Scotland in the last adventure, I decided to head south to the Mediterranean.

More specifically, to a certain island in the Mediterranean—one that will likely ring a bell with aficionados of Regency-era history. (Though there’s a little unexpected excitement along the way.) Elba was home to Napoleon during his first exile from the world stage. But I knew little else about the rugged speck of land in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Which of course meant I needed to do some research.

Aerial_view_of_Elba_2Oh, joy. Now in the spirit of full disclosure I’ll confess that I have a thing for islands. I love the sense of their being a little world unto themselves. The closeness of water seems to bathe them in a special aura—things always feel calmer and more relaxed on an island. (Yes, yes, I know—an oxymoron when it comes to Napoleon!)

Elba didn’t disappoint. I found it to be a fascinating place, rich in history and natural beauty. Allow me to share some of the highlights of my research . . .

Tuscan_archipelagoFirst let’s place it a little more exactly. It’s a mere 6 miles off the coast of Italy, which raised concerns from the start among the Allied leaders at the Congress of Vienna when Napoleon requested it as his place of exile. As the Emperor of Austria wrote to his foreign minister, Prince Metternich, “The important thing is to remove Napoleon from France, and God grant that he may be sent very far away. I do not approve of the choice of the Island of Elba as a residence for Napoleon; they take it from Tuscany, they dispose of what belongs to my family, in favour of foreigners. Besides, Napoleon remains too near to France and to Europe.” Lord Castlereagh of Britain agreed, but Tsar Alexander harped on the need to get Napoleon to abdicate quickly, and so he was grudgingly given the island as his new empire.

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