It’s time for our monthly round up of reading choices, but first—our Word Wenches RITA finalists! Anne Gracie and Cara Elliott have both been nominated for the Romance Writers of America Best Historical Romance award. Anne’s nominated book is Bride by Mistake, and Cara’s is Too Dangerous to Desire. Wenches rock!
Now on to What We’re Reading:
The Temptation of Your Touch by Teresa Medeiros is on my Nook right now. Lovely faux-gothic atmosphere with a hero who used to be perfect but was unlucky with the love of his life and has retreated to father's recent acquisition on the cliffs of Cornwall. As always with Terri's books, the fun is in the way the protagonists play off each other, and the lovely cast of extras: demented butler, comatose cook, and bewigged footboy.
Just finished Vicki Lewis Thompson's Blonde With A Wand. I adore Vicki's light-hearted nerd romances but her witches are wonderful, too. This one turns the perfect boyfriend into a cat. <G> I love the humor and the intelligence.
Mary Jo Putney:
Having just read Blonde with a Wand myself, I think that Jasper was just a handsome jerk to begin with, which is why he was transformed into a cat. The process improved him greatly, I might add. <G>
On the non-fiction side, I’m now reading the delightful Sisters of Fortune by Jehanne Wake. As soon as I saw that she and I were both on a panel at last weekend’s Virginia Festival of the Book, I looked up what she’d written, and ordered it immediately. The subject of the book is the American Caton sisters who took London by storm during the Regency. Not only are they American, but they are local history here in Maryland—when I first moved to the state, I lived in Catonsville, which is named for the family.
The four Caton sisters were granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the one who outlived all of his fellow signers. American aristocrats, the three who went to London were called the “Three Graces” and they were immediately swept up by Regency society. The Duke of Wellington fell “violently” in love with Marianne and kept her portrait in his study. Louisa became the Duchess of Leeds, and most interesting of all, Elizabeth was a brilliant financial speculator. This is not only great Regency and Maryland history, but a fine read.
I've spent a bit of time away this month, and haven't read as much as usual. The standout reads have been a crime novel, a fantasy novel and a contemporary rom-com, which begs the question, what fabulous historical romances am I missing out on?
The crime novel was Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths the latest in a series I'm really enjoying, about Ruth Galloway, an anthropologist who specializes in bones. The fantasy was Juliet Marillier's Flame of Sevenwaters, which picks up the story of Maeve, who as a small girl was badly scared by fire in an earlier book in the series. I love how love triumphs in all of Juliet Marillier's books, even though they're fantasies and not genre romance.
Finally I've been enjoying Kelly Hunter's The Trouble With Valentines, which is an extended version of her first book (Wife for a Week.) I loved it — it's just as tight and clever and fun as her shorter books, and she's added a whole new subplot.
Right now I'm reading Jean-Francois Parot's The Chatelet Apprentice, the first in the Nicolas Le Floch series. The book is poorly translated from the French — I have to get hold of it in the original — but I love the concept and the main character, a police commissaire in Paris in the late Eighteenth Century. I love the details of the city. It helps me picture Paris of my own writing era, two decades later.
They made it into a TV series in France. You can find some of the episodes online in various places.
I finished Mercedes Lackey / Rosemary Edgehill's Spirits White as Lightning about a week ago. Urban Elves and Bards. MAGICAL Guardians. Street busking. Immortal bad guys. What's not to like?
Next up is Judith Ivory's Black Silk which I read so long ago it will be like coming to it new.
On a similar note I'm deep in deadline territory at the moment so I have a big pile of books I've promised myself to read as a treat after I've sent in my manuscript. Meanwhile I've been relaxing when I can with comfort reads and old favourites, amongst them Silence and Shadows by James Long. The story is set around an archaeological dig and it's a history story and a love story with shades of the paranormal. I love James Long's writing – his reincarnation story Ferney is one of my all time favourite books. This one is just as special for the way he evokes the past and when I discovered the story was based on a real live dig just a couple of miles from where I live it was even more exciting.
On a similar note I'm re-reading Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb, a YA novel about a girl raised as a witch in Elizabethan England. It's a brilliant read and it's just won the RNA's YA Romance Novel of the Year award.
I have a confession to make — I haven't done much reading in the past month. That's not quite true, as I'm sure you can guess. Like most of you I'll read cereal boxes if there's nothing else around. What I mean is, I haven't read many novels — other people's novels.
Part of the problem is that I've been re-reading and tweaking backlist that I'm going to e-pub in the next few months. That takes longer than reading someone else's work because I want to read every word and pay close attention.
I've also been catching up on a long backlog of The Economist. That's mainly my husband's interest, but they have interesting obituaries, and occasional articles about books, art, and history that are fascinating. I've also dipped into a bunch of Googlebook finds as research for the MIP. One gave all the import duties of the time. It's hard to find anything that wasn't taxed on arrival.
Another problem is that I got caught up on a book I felt I should enjoy but didn't. It sat by my chair, an accusatory barrier to picking up anything else. Does that ever happen to you? I broke free by reading another MC Beaton, Death of a Witch, a pleasant comfort read.
The only other book I've read, or mostly read, is Terry Pratchett's A Blink of The Screen — collected shorter fiction. This seems to be all his short fiction, going back to 1963 with a story first published in his school magazine. He's about 6 months younger than I am, so I reckon at the same time I was writing my medieval romance, Quodonna. He was doing better than I was. He sold it that year to Science Fiction Magazine.
As one would expect, the early stories are early works, but they form a fascinating insight into his development as a writer, and the later ones are all one could expect. Being a Granny Weatherwax fan, I particularly enjoyed The Sea and Little Fishes.
I’m reading an ARC of The Paris Affair by Teresa Grant, which comes out next month. (I’ll be interviewing Teresa here at Word Wenches on April 5th, so be sure to stop by!) For those of you unfamiliar with her Regency-set mysteries featuring a husband/wife duo who are both spies and sleuths, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric series set amid the turmoil of the Napoleonic War and its aftermath. It features intricate plots and complex, nuanced characters who wrestle with the fundamental questions of loyalty, honor, betrayal and friendship. The writing is beautifully crafted and I highly recommend the books.
On a different note, a friend recently gave me a book of essays by Phillip Lopate, the head of the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia, entitled To Show and To Tell—The Craft of Literary Nonfiction, which I am glomming up. It’s one of the best works I’ve ever read on the art of writing—he conveys his thoughts, observations and advice with great clarity and a delightful sense of humor. It makes me wish I could be a student in his class! But just reading the book is teaching me a lot.
This month I've been on an art kick, and still in mystery mode too. So I'm reading Daniel Silva's The Rembrandt Affair, featuring Gabriel Allon, Israeli art restorer turned spy. I've read a couple in the series, though I'm jumping around reading more for the art mystery content, which interests me particularly, than the international spy angle. The Rembrandt Affair has just the art stuff I like — a missing (and secretly rediscovered) Rembrandt portrait. Blended with the great characterization, pacing, plot twists, tension and the satisfying detail that hallmark Silva's books, it's an enjoyable, intelligent read.
I'm also reading Girl in a Green Gown by Carola Hicks, a fascinating exploration of van Eyck's famous Arnolfini Portrait. Hicks investigates the iconographic detail and hidden content, from the little dog to the oranges to Margaret and her dragon on the bedpost; she also explores the identity of the subjects, the artist as witness in the mirror, and the context of the Italian community in Bruges (my focus area in grad school was Northern Renaissance and I wrote an iconographic study of a van Eyck in the National Gallery, so I love this sort of thing).
Those are the downstairs books. Upstairs, I've just started Sheila Connolly's Buried in a Bog, a cozy mystery set in Ireland, and it's a good start so far, with solid writing and a lovely feel for things Irish. I'm also re-reading Captain Blood — one of my favorite classics, a refresher course in character and the dazzle of historical fiction, and a reminder how much I enjoy a 17th century setting. I've got my eye on several other books, so I'll read these fast and move on! Also reading my own backlist for upcoming ebook production, and reading what I'm currently writing — like the other Wenches, that's quite a bit of reading all at once!
MJP: Having just assembled all the comments into a post, I'm struck by how many different types of witches we're reading. <G> Are there books here you've also read and enjoyed? Or would like to read? Or do you have suggestions of your own for us to put on our book lists?!!