Some Some Summertime

Joanna here, 

The thermometer tells us it's 100 degrees today, (thank you, Mercury, god of thermometers). Another ikea bookcases
The cat is conked out on her back in the shade, too tired to harass the birds.  I'm listening to my heatstroke playlist. That's the one that starts with the Beachboy's Kokomo, ("Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take ya to …") and shimmies on to the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City, ("Doesn't seem to be a shadow  in the City").

Summer is upon us.

So let me ask, "What books would you take to the beach this summer?  Old friends?  New discoveries?"

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs. 
                                 Henry Ward Beecher

HammockonBeach wiki

Here in the South we know all about the heat index creeping stealthily up toward the triple digits.  We've raised 'doing nothing' to a graceful art form.  It's an art practiced by the swimming pool or a big 'ole lake,  or at least in company with a hose spraying around the backyard.  Bonus points for the lifestyle include barbecued ribs and cold Mountain Dew.  And beer.    Backyardhose attribclapstar

For me, any day of the simmering summer is incomplete without a book in the bag.  Or a couple books, since you never know exactly how the spirit will move you.  Summer reading needs the background noise of kids running around barefoot and yelling about nothing at all.  It needs a shady porch or umbrella and maybe a dragonfly hovering just off the port side of the hammock.    

Kai lungI'll tuck an old friend in the straw bag — Kai-Lung's Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah.  There's a funny, clever, dreamy, irrationality to it that suits hot weather and lying by the pool.  I own it in paperback, but it's free on e-readers, being out of copyright an' all. 

(Go ahead and click on any of these book names for more information 'bout the book.)

Jennifer Crusie always picks me up.  Funny, funny woman.  I haven't had a chance to read, Tell Me Lies yet, and I'm looking forward to it.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a new book out in July The Great Escape: A Novel.  I might top those two off with rum and coke and Grace Burrowes' most recent book, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal

In one of those fortunate happenstances, the ARCs for Mischief and Mistletoe are wending their way Wenchward, so I have that to look forward to.  A cool read in so many ways.

Mary Jo Putney says:

I am a Reader for All Seasons, and certainly can’t evoke languid summer reading times as well as Joanna can. (The dragonfly is a nice touch. <G>)

But a favorite I just reread fits the summer reading theme: White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz.  The  book is one of her Arcane Society romantic suspense novels, and it’s set in blazing summer heat in Arizona as the heroine, Clare Painteddesert wikiLancaster, becomes involved with murder, mayhem, and a hot alpha hunter named Jake.  I like  the characters and the plot—Clare is a human lie detector, which gives her an unusual philosophy of life.  And I like the JAK banter. 

I also like the way the book makes a reader feel the Arizona heat.  The burning steering wheels and the blasts of air conditioning when entering a building.  The deliciousness of a desert night, with softly slinking coyotes and giant stars on a dark velvet sky.  The crunch of bruschetta and the cool wine that follows.  Perfect summer reading if one is lounging on a shaded patio.  

But in general, any good story will do, summer or winter!

(Teacup attrib merdeglace, girl with hose attrib clapstar, bookshelves charliebrewer)

Nicola Cornick, who is not suffering the Virginia swelter or even Arizona's At-Least-It's-A-Dry-Heat desert, says: Teacup attrib merdeglace

There is a saying that summer in the UK consists of three hot days and then a thunderstorm, but this year it’s been so cool and damp we’ve barely had three hot days in a row and not much in the way of humidity.  So when my thoughts turn to summer reads they tend provoke ideas of pale sandy beaches and cool breezes off the sea and me sitting behind a wind break as I try to read, cradling a cup of tea from the flask to warm me up!

5 Paul Cesar Helleu (French artist, 1859-1927) ReaderMaybe that’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to reading The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. It sounds wonderfully evocative of the county, its coastline, its history and its atmosphere. I love holidays in Cornwall and one of my all time favourite books is Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier, which evokes the spirit of time and place in Cornwall so beautifully. I was even lucky enough to stay in Daphne Du Maurier's house at Frenchman's Creek one year and I could feel the ghosts all around me.

Which brings me neatly to my other hotly anticipated summer read. This is The Silent Touch of Shadows by HWW Christina Courtenay, a time slip book set in the present and the 15th century. I love time travel books and can never find enough of them to read. There's a pdf file with an extract from the here.  It's out in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to pick it up! 

Susan King brings us three recommendations and a garden:

I'm a dedicated year-round reader, though I tend to read a little more during the summer, with the pace of the household quieter, the Guys being busy and not around as much — I'll find an air-conditioned corner, curl up with the dog, and make a dent in the TBR pile. If it's not too hot 'n buggy, I love sitting out Morton_distanthoursto read on the shady side of the deck. But summer or winter, the reading situation depends on the deadline situation, but with my deadline a ways off yet (I'm time-dyslexic, ahem), this summer I have serious Reading Intentions.  

I've just started The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and then I've got my eye on A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. At the same time (because who reads just one book), I'm catchingDeck_summer up with some Wench novels (Mary Jo's delicious No Longer A Gentleman is toppling the stack). I've also loaded up the Kindle with lots of books and good intentions — mysteries, romance, a couple of YAs.
In a few weeks, when we'll be at Lake George for a bit, I'll find time to sit out on the breezy porch and read for hours. There's always the bottomless stack of research books, notes, and pages to read/revise — that sort of reading never stops!
It's a lovely thing, reading. I couldn't get through a summer (fall, winter, spring) or a lifetime without it!
The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don't, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper.
                    Polly Horvath

Andrea Pickens
brings us a couple few interesting suggestions, including our only hit on nonfiction:
It’s been a little hard to think of summer reads because here in the northeast where I live, it’s been unseasonably cool. But the vernal equinox seems to be bringing in a wave of sun and heat, so am looking forward to stretching out under a beach umbrella and diving into some of the books on my TBR pile.

I can highly recommend one that I just finished. Anatomy of Murder, by Imogen Robertson, is the second in her Georgian-set mystery series and it features fascinating characters, a compelling plot and wonderfully gritty description of life in London. It’s a compelling read that’s very hard to put down.  I’ve also got Past Wench Loretta Chase’s new release, Scandal Wears Satin, in my beach bag, for her pithy humor is perfect for making me laugh on a lazy summer day.

Now,  I know it’s the season for light reads, but I thought you all might get a laugh at what else I’m currently reading. A  dear friend of mine is fascinated by physics—about which I know less than nothing. However, he finds the subject so interesting that I recently read The Clockwork Universe, which was about Isaac Newton,  the Royal Society and the making of the modern world of science, so I could talk to him about it. To my surprise, I found it fascinating. However, I’ve now opened Pandora’s Box, because he just gave me Quantum, a book on quantuBanished bridem physics. I have started it—and feel like I’m back in school because I’ve started taking notes so I can try to understand some of the concepts. To my utter shock, I am enjoying learning about something that is utterly alien to me. And given that we want young people to get excited about science as well as reading, I feel I’m doing my bit. (If I don’t surface for the rest of the summer, you will know why!)

And (Shameless plug!) for those of you in the mood for a traditional Regency read, I've just posted three more of my old Signet books in e-book format at Amazon.  The Banished Bride, Second Chances, and A Stroke of Luck.

Jo Beverley points out:

I've never understood the concept of summer reads. To many it seems to mean a Marie_Danforth_Page Young Girl Reading 1914time when they're allowed to goof off and read the books they actually enjoy instead of the ought-to tomes. Come on now, break free and read for pleasure all year long!

Next, I'm not sure people have the most reading time in summer. Why should that be? Surely many people spend their summer holidays places they enjoy, not escaping to somewhere else in fiction. Now a long winter evening — that sounds like good reading time!

Anyway, I've never liked reading in the sun. However, that might not be a problem, given the weather summer's starting with here in England!
Irving Ramsay Wiles (American artist, 1861–1948) Reading in the Garden
Do you read more in summer?

And we round it off with suggestions from Anne Gracie:

It's a lovely idea — summer reads — but it's a bit hard to wrap my head around at the moment, because where I am (downunder) it's cold and wet and wintry, so I'm thinking more of reading curled up in front of the fire, or snuggling down under the bedclothes with a good book. In any case, I'm like Jo — I don't much like reading on the beach. Too bright and glarey to read, and I always end up with sand in the pages.  Give me a shady garden with a hammock and a long, cool glass standing by, any time.

R Curt Herrmann (1854-1929) Sophie Herrmann. (2)I'm actually not reading a lot at the moment because I'm on deadline, and at such times I reread, more than read,  but I have a lovely pile of new books ready on my TBR pile, and a few more on order.

I have Eloisa James's Paris book waiting, and Loretta Chase's Scandal Wears Satin on order, and I did try to leave Nalini Singh's Tangle of Need until after I'd finished my book, but I gave in. I've been hooked this series since Slave to Sensation. Julia Quinn's latest is singing its siren song to me, too. I've also got a pile of P.G. Wodehouses standing by — a lot of my old copies have gone walkabout, so I treated myself to a pile of new ones recently.

But summer heat or winter chills, as far as I'm concerned it's always time for a good book.

So, there you are — round about two dozen books for your delectation and enjoyment.  Have you read any of these?  Would you second the recommendations?

Is summer your time for light reading and a lot of it?  Are you expecting to get much reading done over the next few weeks?

Eloisa James: Paris in Love!

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo
Two months ago we were fortunate to have Eloisa James visit to discuss her latest historical romance, The Duke is Mine.  (Incidentally, her previous title, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, is a RITA finalist for historical romance, so congratulations, Eloisa!) 

Besides discussing your novel in January, Eloisa, we also touched on the subject of your memoir, Paris in Love, which has just been released.  The book sounded so fascinating that all the Wenches and many of our regulars wanted to know more! Here's an excerpt.  

Paris-in-Love-FINALI’m most of the way through the book, and it’s a marvelous mosaic of observations and feelings, amusing anecdotes and poignant insights, that together form a rich, in-depth picture of Eloisa’s year in Paris.  But don’t just take my word for it. <G>  Here’s a blurb from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love:

"What a beautiful and delightful tasting menu of a book: the kids, the plump little dog, the Italian husband. Reading this memoir was like wandering through a Parisian patisserie in a dream. I absolutely loved it."

MJP: Eloisa, you seem to have the perfect, glamorous romance writer’s life.  You’re a bestselling novelist, a tenured professor of Shakespeare and creative writing, you have a handsome Italian husband, two great looking kids (one of each gender), and an adorable rescue dog.  So—why did you run away to Paris for a year?
EJ:  I’m laughing at my laptop screen! Mary Jo, you know perfectly well that a ELO-2012glamorous sounding life can be its opposite, and that’s certainly the case here.  Those kids, for instance? Teenagers.  Enough said.

To return to your specific question, our great adventure happened after my mother died of ovarian cancer; two weeks later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After I finished treatment for a (blessedly) early case, I was desperate for escape. We sold our house and cars, rented an apartment on the Internet, and took off.  We ran away.
EiffelTowerMJP: I love the cover of the book, which sketches a tall, elegant woman with short bright hair striding confidently down a Parisian street.  In the background are a man and two children.  It seems to be a family portrait of sorts, though I notice that the chubby Chihuahua seems to be getting higher billing than the family. <G>
Oddly, what immediately came to mind is the fashion style of French women.  They have an impressive, put together elegance.  Even riding on the Metro, I would find myself studying average women with bags of vegetables and thinking how well dressed they looked.  Wonderful detailing.  Is that just me, or did you find that to be the case also?  If so, did you find yourself changing your own personal style?  Or didn’t it need to be changed?
VintageParisVogueEJ:  I spent hours and hours doing just that. A significant chunk of the book is taken up with figuring out how Frenchwomen dress; I even wrote an essay on how to achieve their flair.  The year did significantly change the way I dress, but not so much in what as how. The biggest lesson I learned had to do with tailoring: unless you are a perfect size, a tuck here or there will make any garment far more flattering.  In short: become friends with your local tailor!
MJP: Of course another thing France is justly known for is the food—I learned a lot about cooking by reading Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Following recipes step by step was really educational, and the results were pretty good, too.  Were you a foodie when you moved to Paris? Were you one when you came home? <G>  Did you experiment with new foods and cooking techniques while you were there?
EJ: I did play around with cooking in Paris. It was the first time in a long time that I had time to experiment, and I hugely enjoyed myself.  (I even put some recipes in the book.)  While my experiments involving French ingredients such as lavender mustard were signal failures, I ended up perfecting recipes that I already knew—mostly learned from my Italian mother-in-law. 

Lavender MustardMJP: In your previous interview here, you talked about how you wanted to capture the special moments of this family year, so you tweeted and did Facebook posts about your experiences—in other words, a real time diary.  How much shaping, editing, and reflecting was involved in turning that material into a full length memoir?
EJ:  Oh, it was awful.  It took a solid two years, and I found it a far more difficult process than writing a novel, which actually makes sense:  I didn’t know how to write a memoir, and I wrote my first novel so long ago I can hardly remember.  Luckily, I had a wonderful and patient editor, Susan Kamil.
 MJP:  What are your favorite places that you visited in Paris or beyond? 
EJ:  May I turn this question on its head?  I fiercely believe that our happiest ParisInRainmemories come from daily life rather than visits to extraordinary places.  My favorite memories of Paris stem from the fact that every day I would stop my daughter off at school on one side of Paris and walk home to the other side, crossing the Seine.  Paris has wonderful lemony light; watching it bounce off the water and reflect gilded statues and pale marble was even better than Versailles’s majesty.
MJP: If you were to run away another year—where would you go?  Paris again, or some other marvelous city? 
EJ:  I love Paris!  But I’m not sure that running away works the second time… I doubt there will be a Moscow in Love, for example.  It was a very special year, a healing year.
MJP: Any last words you’d like to share?
EJ: For those of you who are thinking, II love romance, not memoir , I just wanted to tell you that there is indeed a romance in Paris in Love!  And in fact, the end of the love story I tell here is about as romantic as anything Mary Jo or I ever imagined—plus it’s true.  I hope you love it!

MJP: Thanks so much for visiting us today, Eloisa!  I've been thoroughly enjoying Paris in Love, and I'm sure many of our readers here will also.  I was even tempted to find some lavender mustard and use it to turn a chicken purple!
When Beauty Tamed the BeastEloisa will be giving away a basket of French goodies and a copy of When Beauty Tamed the Beast to someone who comments between now and midnight Saturday.  So talk to us about the book, or your experiences and/or dreams of Paris….

Mary Jo

An Interview with Eloisa James: The Duke is MINE!

Cat 243 Dover

by Mary Jo

We Word Wenches are delighted to have Eloisa James as a guest today.  Possessor of one of the most original voices in historical romance, Eloisa has a background that enthralls journalists and readers alike.  Since she is always being asked about it, I shall briefly summarize so we can move onto more interesting questions.  <g>

Eloisa is the daughter of Robert Bly, the distinguished poet and National Book Award winning author of Iron John, a seminal influence on the men’s 1358518movement and an international bestseller.  The family roots are Norway and Minnesota (yes, like Garrison Keillor), and Eloisa has the tall, lean, blondness to prove it. <G>  She has degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, and is a professor of Shakespeare and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University.

Despite the fact that both her parents were distinguished literary writers, Eloisa was a born story lover and story teller.  She loved reading romance, which progressed to writing romances, and she is one of our genre’s most eloquent advocates.  As her website says, she has two jobs, two kids, two cats, and one husband, the Italian born Alessandro, who is not only gorgeous (I’ve met him and can verify this <g>), but also a hereditary Italian knight, a cavaliere.  Is that romantic or what?

Eloisa JamesI have a suspicion that Eloisa never sleeps, so I’m glad she has taken the time to visit us.  Her new January book, The Duke is Mine, immediately leaped onto the New York Times bestsellers list, and is third in her current series of fairy tale inspired books.  It features a heroine who is just too full of life to be the perfect duchess her parents raised her to be, and two men, both of them very unusual characters. (Excerpt)

Eloisa, The Duke is Mine is loosely inspired by the Princess and the Pea, and it is variously very funny and rather tragic.  Could you tell us about the story and how you came to write it?
The Duke is MineEJ:  I jumped into the story as part of my fairy-tale retellings without thinking through the pea, in particular (which proved to be very difficult to transform).  What interested me right away, though, was the question of how we judge perfection.  In The Princess and the Pea, the girl who arrives in the middle of a rainstorm is tested by her future mother-in-law (including a trial involving the infamous pea and 100 mattresses), and eventually declared a “real” princess, perfect in every way.

So I started the novel thinking about our standards for perfection.  Every character reflects that preoccupation, in one way or another.  Olivia, my heroine is no perfect heroine; she’s impudent, bawdy, and plump. Her sister Georgiana, by contrast, approaches “perfection,” in that she’s mastered all societal rules.  Olivia is torn between a duke, Quin, with an Aspergers-like inability to express emotion, and her fiancé Rupert, who is all emotion with almost no logic.  Olivia, Georgie, Quin, and Rupert are all perfect and imperfect in different ways.  

MJP: How does your work with Shakespearean plays and language influence your romance novels?  
 EJ:  Most obviously, teaching Shakespeare for years has given me a rich poetic vocabulary to fall back on, though the poetry in The Duke is Mine is more Keatsian than Shakespearean (I had to make up a poem for Rupert).  I do think that it is extremely useful to be teaching plays.  I find dialogue an on-going challenge, and teaching a genre that’s pure dialogue is always helpful.
MJP: Do you have any comments about the abundance of dukes and duchesses in your books and in your titles?
EJ:  At some point it became clear to my publisher that my books sell better with dukes & duchess in my titles.  That speaks for itself.  But I would also say that I grew up the daughter of a poet on a farm in rural Minnesota.  My prom party was in a gravel pit, and poets do not make a lot of money.  I am completely uninterested in writing books about money problems.  For me, “duke” often acts as shorthand for person-with-mucho-land (and thereby, money).
MJP: I’ve noticed that several of your books have small dogs with, to put it delicately, incontinence issues. <G>  Are the fictional dogs inspired by real dogs in your life?  I was also told to ask about Lucy and Milo, real dogs with real stories. <G>


EJ: Lucy is indeed our dog!  She is a rescue dog who looks exactly like the rather battered, loving dachshund in The Duke is Mine.  When I was writing The Duke is Mine, she was still having a little anxious incontinence now and then.  I’m happy to say that barring an unfortunate incident after she snatched and ate a full half pound of blue cheese, she’s had no accidents in the last year.

Milo features largely in the memoir I have coming out in April, Paris in Love.  Milo used to be our Chihuahua, until a sad day one summer when Air France refused to let him get on the plane back home from Italy because he was too fat.  Literally over-weight.  So my mother-in-law happily adopted Milo and since then he’s just grown chubbier and chubbier.  And chubbier.  He’s a very funny character. 


What I’ve discovered about dogs—never having grown up with one—is that they have characters, much more so than cats.  I’m really enjoying putting them in books.  They weave into the plot beautifully, and they can echo whatever I’m thinking about.  In Lucy’s case, she is a lot like her owner, Rupert.  They both live completely in the present, full of love and bravery and energy. 

At the moment I’m finishing The Ugly Duchess, which publishes August 28 (I’m running very late!).  At any rate, my duchess has adopted a rescue dog who is very beautiful, but has been maltreated.  It’s an obvious point, but I think it works.
 MJP: In addition to having another of the fairy tale books scheduled for September, you have a non-fiction memoir called Paris in Love coming out in April.  The book is about how you and your family sold the house in New Jersey and packed up and moved to Paris for a year.  I assume you and your husband timed your sabbaticals so you could have such a marvelous adventure.  Wench Anne Gracie says she loved your tweets from Paris.  
ParisSo—tell us about Paris!  What new things did you discover and pursuits did you pursue?  How did your children take to a foreign country and language?  And do you want to live there again at some future time?
EJ:  My children split the difference, as they often do: my son fell in love with Paris and is now fluent in French; my daughter hated the city and refused to learn the language.  Overall, we had a wonderful year.

Looking back, the lesson I learned is how fast life spins by if we don’t record it.  I knew when we left the US that I wanted to remember the year. I was leaving post-treatment for a very early case of breast cancer, which had given me a chilling sense of mortality.  Plus, Luca was already fifteen, and I had the chilling fear that once he grew up I would forget all those funny teenage moments, the way I had forgotten most of the adorable things he did as a baby.  So I had a fit of wanting to record life rather than just live it (and forget it).  That record turned into Paris in Love.  I think it’s a quite funny look at our year: life in Paris with Anna, Luca, my husband, the plump dog I mention above, Milo.

I’d love to live in Paris again.  My hope is that the book will inspire more people to snatch up a dream and just do it—trust that it’s OK to sell the house, move into an apartment you find on the internet, live in a foreign country without speaking the language (because I don’t!).
MJP:  What have I missed that I should have asked you, or that you’d like to say?
EJ:  Well, let me put in a word for The Ugly Duchess, coming next September.  This has been a really tough book to write, but fun.  It’s my first pirate book!  If I was thinking about perfection with The Princess and the Pea, this one is about beauty.  Now I’m realizing that I’m making my books sound awfully moralistic.  I assure everyone that they are not.  I aim at funny escapist, with a thread of thoughtfulness behind it.  I should have an excerpt up on my website,, pretty soon.
When Beauty Tamed the Beast MJP: Thanks so much for visiting us, Eloisa, and I wish you much success in your future careers. 

EJ: Thank you Word Wenches!  It’s always a pleasure.
MJP: Eloisa will be giving away two copies of her earlier fairy tale romance, When Beauty Tamed the Beast to readers who post comments between now and Tuesday midnight.  So—what would you like to ask Eloisa about her dual careers?  What are some of your favorite novels based on fairy tales?  And do you like pets in romances? <G>
 Mary Jo