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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What We’re Reading — July 2019

Anne here, bringing you our monthly What We're Reading post from Andrea's house, where five of the wenches have been holding a writing retreat. And I'm running late because my new book, MARRY IN SECRET came out yesterday and I was all over the place trying to promote it.

And His Lovely Wife

From Mary Jo:  I discovered Connie Schultz some years back while listening to NPR's Diane Rehm show.  A journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Connie was promoting her first book, …and His Lovely Wife, a memoir of how she met her second husband, Sherrod Brown (he sent a fan email to her at her newspaper comparing her writing to Barbara Kingsolver.  Swoon!  What female writer could resist that???)

At any rate, they married, combined families–and then Sherrod Brown, at the time an Ohio Congressman, decided to run for Senator. He was a real long shot, but like a good wife, Connie took a leave of absence from her newspaper and helped her husband on the campaign trail–and wherever they appeared, she was introduced as "…and his lovely wife."  Connie saw the humor in that, and she was so warm and funny that I bought her memoir.

LifeHappensLater I bought a collection of her newspaper columns, Life HappensIt's described as about: kids, dogs, politics, men, women, and how it all works, except when it doesn't." <G>  I enjoyed the book then, and I recently came across it on the bookshelf and am enjoying it all over again.

Her columns run about two pages each and they make delightful tidbits that can be wise, funny, heart warming, heart rending, and deeply insightful.  A favorite of mine is called "The real gift of giving unto others," and it's about her mother, who married young, worked hard, never achieved her dream of becoming a nurse, but who was one of God's gifts to the world.

Connie said her mother's one cautionary note to her daughters about marriage was "Don't marry him until you see how he treats the waitress."  She goes on to quote her mother as saying, "Everyone has a name.  Everyone has someone one who loves them.  Everyone deserves to feel that they matter."

Connie gives examples of how her mother lived her philosophy, and ends by saying, "She never held elective office, was never a company president or in charge of anyone other than her daughters.  But, when she died, more than eight hundred people showed up for her calling hours."  That woman had a life worth living, and this is a book worth reading.

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What We’re Reading in November!

by Mary Jo

The holiday season is a busy time, but the Wenches never stop reading!  Here are some books we've enjoyed recently.  

BollywoodFrom Pat Rice:  

For over-the-top emotion and a well-written circus that would make a perfect Bollywood film, try A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR by Sonali Dev. Strictly speaking, this is women’s fiction, but it’s also Bollywood, so you know among the tragedy and unrequited love is a happy ending.

We have the intrepid young woman from India, married at the age of five but never having met her husband after the wedding day, who fights all odds to gain a short grant to an American university in hopes that will impress and bring home her man. She’s been obedient, grateful, and hard-working as she’s been taught in her backwoods town. She probably would have remained so had she not met her husband’s brother—a rakehell Bollywood screenwriter and producer. He brings out the best and worst in her in a star-crossed romance if there ever was one. You’ll need a strong cup of coffee to go with the sugar, but it’s fun and entertaining and I’d love to see the scenes depicted.

Anne Gracie has struck chocolate!: Chocolate_touch_web-388x600

I've had a bit of a glom on Laura Florand's "Love & Chocolate" books. Set in modern day Paris,  each hero is a French chocolatier — a maker of exquisite boutique chocolate, and most of the heroines are American girls. I was particularly recommended the second book in the series, THE CHOCOLATE KISS, but I decided to start with the first one and work through the series. I found books 2, 3 and 4 especially yummy. Each book can be read independently, though there is some connection between SomeoneToLovethem.

I also read Liane Moriaty's BIG LITTLE LIES, which I thought was wonderful — clever and engaging — it's a mystery of sorts, and the reader has to work out what's happening. And without spoilers, I have to say it ends well — and with a romance.

Finally I read Mary Balogh's latest, SOMEONE TO LOVE which I devoured in one sitting. The heroine is a teacher in the orphanage where she was raised and, like all orphans, she dreams of discovering her origins and finding a family. But when her dream comes true, it comes at a terrible cost. It's the first in a new series, and I can't wait for the next.

From Andrea/Cara

This has been a mystery month for me, as my favorite historical mystery writer had a new recent release. I’m a huge fan of Charles Finch and his Charles Lenox series, set in  Victorian England. THE INHERITANCE is no exception. An old school friend has learned he’s been left a fortune by a mysterious benefactor, but someone seems intent on killing him before the legalities are worked out. He appeals to Lenox for help, and then the plots twists which begin are worthy of a Wilkie Collins classic!  I find Lenox such an appealing hero. By all outward signs, he's a paragon of propriety. He’s done all the right things in life that an aristocratic younger son should do—Harrow, Oxford, a place in Parliament. He’s thoughtful, sensitive, and the very soul of honor, a man well-liked and well-respected by all his friends.

His only quirk is that he loves solving crimes. It bemuses him at times, as he considers himself a very orthodox fellow. And yet, he has a passion for it, and a very-unordinary talent for sussing out the truth. Finch writes in a very quiet, graceful style, yet his observations on human nature are so spot on. And the lovely cast of characters that have developed over the series are so engaging. If you’re looking to curl up on a winter evening with a ripping good yarn, beautiful writing and appealing characters, I highly recommend a Finch book. (The first in the series is A Beautiful Blue Death,)

AmmieComeHomeNicola here.

Whilst away in Wales for a week I have been catching up on some previous WWR recommendations. First up was Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels which had been mentioned as part of our Halloween reads in October. Whilst I found some of it "of its time," I appreciate that it was written in the 1960s and it is still a seriously spooky story. Reading it by candlelight in a cottage in Wales (the power had gone off in a storm!) was extremely atmospheric. I loved the characterisation and also the historical story behind the ghost story.

I also read Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin, who was Anne's guest on the blog a few weeks ago. I adored this book and found it really hard to put down. I loved the way that Emily mixed the historical and paranormal details so easily and convincingly, plus it was a wonderful love story.

From Mary Jo:

I've loved Sharon Shinn's Elemental Blessings series, and the recently released fourth, Unquiet GroundUNQUIET LAND is no exception. Shinn's world building is wonderful and her kingdom of Welce is rich and fascinating.  All Welchins are attuned to one of five elements: water, fire, air, earth, and wood, and in the hours after their birth, three blessings are drawn for them by strangers.  These blessing resonate through their lives, though people also pull blessings for daily guidance.  Each of the elements has a prime who has great power over his or her element, and each book has a strong romance.  

In Unquiet Land, the heroine is Leah Frothen, who was an important secondary character in the previous book, Jeweled Fire.  A disastrous love affair drove her from Welce, leaving her baby daughter to be raised by relatives. Leah becomes a spy for her country and thinks she'll never return home, but at the end of Jeweled Fire, she was sailing back to Welce and hoping desperately that she can connect with the daughter she has always loved. 

Life back in Welce becomes complicated as she is recruited to spy on foreign visitors while she attempts to build a relationship with her daughter.  Most important of all, Leah must come to terms with the pain and errors of her past–and with falling in love. A great read.

For something completely different, try the Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series by my friend Patricia McLinn/.  Pat and I were both long term members of the Washington Romance Writers so I've known her for years.  She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern and has had a long and successful career as a journalist, including many years at the Washington Post. 

She's now a full time writer and has branched out beyond romance, but her journalistic past is what makes this mystery series so convincing. I'll use her description of the premise: 

Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher has been among TV journalism’s elite. Until she discovers divorcing her network exec husband ends not only her marriage but her career. She’s been banished to tiny KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming, to finish out her contract as the underemployed consumer affairs reporter.

Now she’s trying to figure out what comes next – in her career, her life, and her relationships with family, friends, and those who’d like to be more than friends. 

Sign OffAnd since this is a mystery series, dead bodies keep turning up.  <G>

I love the absolutely authentic feel of the newsroom and the journalists, plus Elizabeth's recognition that she's not in Kansas anymore. <G> The first book in the series, SIGN OFF is free, and that did its job because I bought book 2, Left Hanging, as soon as I finished book 1.  I'm looking forward to more books as Elizabeth searches for her new life, befriends a wary "ranch collie," and learns way more than she wanted to know about rope. <G>  I'd classify the series as "Western cozy," and they're great fun.

So–what have YOU been reading?

Mary Jo

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’ve been reading in April

Wordwenchesbaloghby Mary Jo

As usual, we're reading quite a range of books! 

From Joanna Bourne:

I’m always happy to read Mary Balogh. This one is Only a Kiss. Very fine. The slow development of the relationship delights me. As always, the romance comes to us in growing trust and understanding between the two protagonists. This one is about letting go of past pain and guilt and finding new love. It’s a gently joyful book for all that as these two find each other.

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