Anne Gracie and a Sparkling Spring Bride

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Due to stealth and cunning, I was able to acquire an early copy of Word Wench Anne Gracie's The Spring Bride, third in her Chance Sisters series.  I volunteered to interview her about the book, which gives me an opportunity to gush about it.  <G>

I love the Chance Sisters, and I'm not alone in that. The first book, The Spring Bride US versionAutumn Bride, made several "best of the year" lists including Library Journal and NPR, and was also a RITA finalist.  The Winter Bride received several starred reviews, an RT top pick, and was voted Favourite Historical by members of the Australian Romance readers Association. The Spring Bride received 4 1/2 stars from Romantic Times, and I think it may be the best Chance sister book yet.

MJP: Anne, could you tell us how the Chance Sisters came to be?   

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The Winter Bride: an interview with Anne Gracie

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

TWO Word Wenches releases are due on April 1st!  An abundance of good reading.  I waved my hand first to claim an ARC for Anne's The Winter Bride. This second book of her Chance Sisters Quartet is another delight.  (Abby's story, The Autumn Bride () was first in the series, and chosen by Library Journal as one of the Top Ten Romances of 2013.  AND has just been listed as an RWA RITA finalist!)

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A quiz with a difference

Anne here, posting another quiz for you, one with a small difference. Here I'm quizzing you on a book you haven't yet readThe Winter Bride, which comes out on April 1st. Perhaps a handful of people have read it — reviewers and people like that. So it's not testing knowledge as such — it's not testing anything. It's just for a bit of fun, guessing at the answers. 2WinterBride_2

Don't worry, there are no spoilers here; the questions relate to minor occurrences, and are more about the characters, who some readers will have met in the previous book, The Autumn Bride. It's  intended to give you a little taste of the book to come, something a bit different from an excerpt or a blurb.

So here it is, a fun little quiz on a book you haven't read. Make a note of your answers, check them on the link at the bottom and come back and tell us how you went, and whether you enjoyed it or hated doing a quiz on something you can't know. I'll be giving a copy of The Winter Bride to someone who leaves a comment.

1) Max asks Freddy to keep an eye on Lady Beatrice and the three girls because:
        a) Freddy is a reliable chaperone
        b) Freddy wants to get closer to the girls   
        c) Max doesn't trust his aunt to behave herself
        d) Max thinks the girls are in danger

2) Lady Beatrice's favorite form of exercise is:
        a) riding in a carriage
        b) being read to   
        c) gossiping with friends
        d) all of the above

3) Lady Beatrice says:
        a) "A lady should never keep a man waiting."
        b) "Punctuality is a virtue."   
        c) "Punctuality is quite unnecessary."
        d) "It is good for men to be kept waiting."

4) Freddy attends Lady Beatrice's literary society because:
        a) Max made him promise to go
        b) there's nothing else interesting on   
        c) it's a good place to meet women
        d) he adores poetry and good literature

5) Damaris grew up in:
        a) Italy
        b) Venice   
        c) China
        d) Scotland

6) Freddy says muffins:
        a) are food for the lower classes
        b) make a delicious snack   
        c) are the perfect breakfast food
        d) follow him around and are a dratted nuisance

7) Damaris needs money. Freddy thinks it's because:
        a) she's a spendthrift
        b) she's got gambling debts   
        c) she's being blackmailed
        d) she buys too many hats

8) Freddy knows his valet is displeased with him when:
        a) he serves Freddy tea that is cold
        b) he sniffs meaningfully and often
        c) Freddy's shirts are presented with a crease in the wrong place
        d) he whistles loud and long

9) When Freddy and Flynn first meet
        a) Freddy is impressed with Flynn's sartorial elegance
        b) Freddy admires Flynn's earring   
        c) Flynn is impressed with Freddy's sartorial elegance
        d) None of the above

10) Freddy teaches Damaris to drive a carriage because:
        a)  he has entered her in a ladies' race.
        b)  he wants to get her alone.    
        c)  he plans to kidnap her. 
        d)  he thinks scaring her will make her feel better.

11) Lady Beatrice's beloved half sister Griselda is:
        a) living in Venice
        b) a terrible woman
        c) completely imaginary
        d) a very rich woman

12) Freddy claims the novel Pride and Prejudice is a horror story because
        a) it's all about girls catching a husband
        b) every single man in it ends up married
        c) it gives him nightmares
        d) all of the above

Now you have guessed the answers, click here and find out the results. Then come back and tell us how you went. Did you have fun with this, or was it annoying to be quizzed on a book you can't yet have read? (Be honest, I won't mind.) I'll be giving a copy of The Winter Bride to someone who leaves a comment.

My First Audio Book

Anne here, and I'm excited to announce that The Autumn Bride has been made into an audio book. That's a first for me, and I'm really thrilled about it.

I love audio books now, but for a long time they didn't appeal to me at all. When I was a child I used to love being read to, but that stopped not long after I learned to read. It wasn't that people stopped wanting to read me a bedtime story — it was me, being greedy and impatient. I could read much faster than they could speak, so I fired my parents and older siblings from bed-time duty and read the books myself.

And apart from the occasional radio serial I did all my own reading for the next umpteen years. I have friends who take it in turns reading books to each other. They love it. Not me.

It was a really evil paint job that converted me to audio books. I have an old house and at the time I couldn't afford to renovate it, so I was sprucing it up myself. I'd used a steam machine to remove a glowing metallic feature wall from the lounge room and four walls of frolicking donkeys from the study.
Now it was time to attack the moldering vestibule/entry hall. Small space, small job, I thought.

Hah! Turned out there were 3 or 4 layers of wallpaper, and each one had been painted over at some stage and then papered again. I don't know what they'd put on those walls over the years, but it was made to stay. I tried everything the guys at the paint shops could suggest. The only way I could shift it was to peel and scrap it one shred at a time. So first thing Saturday morning, I started.

The time c-r-a-w-l-e-d. By 10.30 am I felt like such a martyr. Hours of scraping and hardly anything to show for it. Worse, it was the last long weekend before winter, everyone else had gone away to the beach or the mountains or the bush and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. And there was I stuck indoors in the vestibule from hell: scrape, scrape, shred, shred, martyr, martyr. 

Then I recalled that I'd borrowed an audio book of a favorite author from the library, only because it was the one book of his that I hadn't been able to get. I pulled it out and started listening. . . Hours later the book was finished, and somehow, almost without me noticing, a heap of wall had been scraped clean. The time had flown; I'd been miles away in the world of a book.
So I whizzed off to the library and borrowed a pile of audio books. By the end of the weekend, the vestibule was clear of shreds, washed, sanded and ready for a coat of sealer — and though my arms were aching, I felt like I'd spent the weekend reading. Magic.

Now I'm still impatient for the story and my preference is still to curl up with a book and devour it in one sitting but when I'm doing a mundane chore or driving long distances, I love being read to.

So now one of my books had gone into an audio edition, and though I would have been happy with any of my books being chosen, I am so pleased that it's The Autumn Bride, because it fits with the story.

FdeTroyLectureMoliereThere's quite a bit about books and reading them aloud in this book, and it starts when Lady Beatrice, bedridden but still feisty discovers a new pleasure — books read to her by the heroine and her sisters. And when an old friend visits, and Lady Beatrice asks her to wait until the chapter is finished, her old friend is stunned.

“You’re reading books now, Bea? Good heavens! Well, of course I don’t mind, if that’s what you want.” But though she allowed herself to be seated in a comfortable chair by the fire, it was clear she thought the request a peculiar one.

However as Abby read on, Lady Beddington edged forward in her chair, twisting her shawl into a rope, listening eagerly, until by the end of the chapter she was perched right on the edge of her chair, hanging on every word.

When Abby finished the chapter Lady Beddington fell back in her chair, exclaiming, “Bless my soul, I never knew a book could be so entertaining.”

“I know,” Lady Beatrice said. “Before these gels came to live with me, I can’t remember when I last read a book. All the books I’d ever been made to read were dreary, improving things, full of morals and lessons and homilies or facts—and that’s when I could understand the dratted things. But Abby and the gels always find the most thrilling tales, and the only thing that’s improved when we’re finished is my mood.”

The audio edition of The Autumn Bride goes on sale on 18th Feb. I haven't heard it yet, and I suspect it will be a bit weird hearing my own words read back to me, but I can't wait. 

So what about you? Do you enjoy having someone else read to you? Do you listen to audio books or not, and if you do, what do you enjoy about them?

And where is your favorite place to read or be read to? (The painting on the right and the one above of the girl in the hammock are by E. Phillips Fox, one of my favorite Australian painters, who painted in the late 19th/early20th century.)

I'll give a copy of the Autumn Bride (paperback version) to someone who leaves a comment

The Autumn Bride: An Interview with Anne Gracie

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I’m delighted to interview Word Wench Anne on her new release, The Autumn Bride. (Okay, I begged a little in order to get an advance reading copy. <G>)

The book has received excellent advance notices, including this starred review in Publishers Weekly:

***“Gracie (His Captive Lady) charms and entices with this launch of the Regency-era Chance Sisters series….Abby’s warmth and caring nature shine from the first moment, and Max’s dedication to his family and friends make him worthy of her love. Layers of secrets and deft characterization make for a deep, rich story that will leave readers starry-eyed.”

Plus, a four and a half star review from Romantic Times BookClub:

“Readers will want to take a chance on this delightful, heartwarming series about sisters of the heart, family, friends, and the fun and passion of romance. Gracie lifts readers' spirits, creating a delightful cast of characters, tender moments and lighthearted repartee designed to tug at the heart. Keep a hankie handy for tears of laughter and joy.”  Review by Kathe Robin.

Cover--LargeThese are the kinds of reviews that both delight and terrify authors.  <G>  Having read the book, I’ll vouch that the reviews are richly deserved.  Now for the interview! 

MJP:  Anne, I really enjoyed The Autumn Bride.  In particular, I enjoyed the set up.  Will you describe how you created the Chance sisters?

AG: Thanks, Mary Jo, and thanks for doing this interview. The book, like so many of my stories, started with a kind of half-awake dream, a scene rolling in my head like a movie. It involved a respectable but desperate young woman, breaking into a mansion and finding an aristocratic, bedridden, badly neglected old lady. It stayed in my head for months, nagging at me with questions. Then I had to dig around to find the story.

My heroine, Abby, sprang to life fromHoppnerLady the first — she's a worrier, a protector, loyal and impetuous — and once the story started moving, so did the other girls; Jane, Damaris and Daisy. I love it when characters arrive on the page almost fully formed; it doesn't feel like I'm 'creating' them as much as meeting them.

MJP: Tell us something about your hero, Max, Lord Davenham. 

AG:  Max is my kind of hero — alpha male, but not alpha-jerk. He takes care of his own — he's been doing it since he was eighteen and inherited a title and a mound of debts. He's sacrificed his youth to do what's right and he prides himself on being a man of his word. But he's just a little too duty-bound; he's forgotten to live for himself and when he finds his aunt's house has been taken over by an impostor, claiming to be her niece— a charming impostor who he grudgingly admits is taking excellent care of his aunt— it throws all his beliefs about himself and what's right into chaos.

MJP:  Your last series, the Devil Rider books, was built around four friends who were cavalry officers together in the Peninsula, and are now rather restlessly retired to postwar life.  Before that, you had the Merridew Sisters.  Do you find any difference in writing a series that’s built around the men vs. one built around women?

AG: I have to say, I enjoy both. I like the sisterly interaction of a girls-linked series —I have sisters myself.  I also enjoy it when the guys get together —  I adore the way guys will rib each other but quietly stand shoulder to shoulder when danger threatens.  This time I'm trying to put all four sisters and all four guys on the page together (more or less) and yet still have the stories stand-alone. It's fun but also tricky.

MJP: A key character in the book is one of your splendidly feisty little old ladies the Dolleymadisonunconventional and sometimes outrageous Lady Beatrice.  Since she’s the widow of a baron, Lord Davenham, her usual title would have been Lady Davenham.  How did she come to be Lady Beatrice? 

AG:  She was born the only daughter of the Earl of Fenton, so she's had the title of Lady Beatrice since she was a baby. When she married Lord Davenham, a mere baron, convention dictated that she be called Lady Davenham, but in the early months of her marriage people sometimes forgot and called her Lady Beatrice, and it annoyed her mother-in-law so much, she decided to keep on being Lady Beatrice. She's a bit of a law unto herself, Lady Beatrice. *g*

MJP: Could you give us a bit of an excerpt? 

AG: Here's part of what came from that original dream/scene I talked about:

    “Have you come to kill me?” The hoarse whisper coming out of the darkness almost stopped Abby’s heart. She swung around, scanning the room, braced to flee. Nothing moved, only shadows outlined by the faint shimmer of moonlight from the windows where she’d pulled back the curtains. No sign of anyone.
    “I said, have you come to kill me?” It came from the bed. Sounding more irritated than frightened.
    “No, of course not!” Abby whispered back. She tiptoed closer to the bed, straining her eyes in the darkness. What she’d taken for a bundle of clothes piled on the bed was an old woman lying awkwardly, fallen between her pillows, her bedclothes rumpled in a twist.
    “You’re a gel. Wearing breeches, but I can still tell you’re a gel.”
    “Yes.” Abby waited. If the woman screamed or tried to raise the alarm she’d dive out of the window. It was risky, but better than being hanged or transported.
    “You’re not here to kill me?”
    Abby blinked. “Pity?”

The actual start of the story is here.

MJP: And now for the big question: who’s next?!!!  Max’s friends are coming to London, and there are three single Chance sisters.  I expect sparks!

AG: Then sparks you shall have! Next up is Max's friend Freddy, a marriage-allergic, muffin-avoiding, charming rake about town, who is about to get caught in a trap of his own devising, along with Damaris, also marriage-allergic, though for very different reasons.

MJP: Anne, thanks so much for telling us about your new book.  Already I’m hungry for the next!

I’ll end with one more review:  This from Nightowl Reviews:

"I honestly can't remember the last time I've enjoyed a book quite this much. The Autumn Bride is a story for readers who like their romance with just the right touch of humor along with a bit of intrigue to keep it exciting. I predict The Autumn Bride is going to be “THE” book to add to the TBR list of Historical Romance fans everywhere."

AussieAutumnBride12kAnne will be giving away a copy of The Autumn Bride to one person who comments between now and Saturday midnight.  So ask your questions or make your comments now!

Mary Jo, adding the Australian cover of The Autumn Bride on the left. The official release date is February 5th, but it might show up in some stores earlier.