The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Historical Romances for Summer

Thanks to my publisher, MuseitUp Publishing, my two historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE will be available at the special price of £0.77 or $0.99 this weekend, ending on Sunday 27th July. You can buy either from MuseitUp or from Amazon by clicking and following the link or simply click on the covers on the right-hand side bar!

ANGEL HEART
A mysterious Templar relic. A web of intrigue and lies. A woman about to lose her heart.

Super Weekend $0.99 BUZZ Deal…
Angel Heart by Marie Laval
Historical Romance
Now ONLY $0.99 until midnight Sunday, July 27

“Angel Heart by Marie Laval is a stunning piece of historical romantic suspense, exquisitely written and lovingly told, against the backdrop of the close of the Napoleonic era in France.” 5 star review

“The book is well written and detailed. There are a lot of unsavory, devious characters and many secrets for Marie-Ange to find out. Secrets about who her father really is, secrets about what really happened to her mother, and secrets about why everyone wanted to possess the Cross of Life.” 4 star review

“If you enjoy a good romance, mystery, fantasy, and history ANGEL HEART fits the bill. ANGEL HEART kept my interest with the ending pages being the best part with a good deal of tension and intrigue.” 4 star review

 and MuseItUp Publishing

THE LION'S EMBRACE
Passions, lost treasures and deadly secrets in the heart of the Sahara...
Super Weekend $0.99 BUZZ Deal…

The Lion’s Embrace by Marie Laval
Historical Romance
Now ONLY $0.99 until midnight Sunday, July 27

“The Lion's Embrace by Marie Laval is a wonderful exploration of a lost world - the desert state ruled by an unsympathetic colonial power. It's also a powerful romance with two engaging central characters: Harriet Montague and Lucas Saintclair.” 5 star review

Exotic locations, steamy romance, intrigue, and tons of action. This story will have you on the edge of your seat and anxious for each turn of the page.” 5 star review

Excellent read!” 5 star review


and MuseItUp Publishing


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sue Barnard Visits Today!

I am delighted to welcome Sue Barnard today and learn about her novel, The Ghostly Father.

Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase "non-working mother" would be banned from the English language.

Since then she has had a series of part-time jobs, including some work as a freelance copywriter. In parallel with this she took several courses in Creative Writing. Her writing achievements include winning the Writing Magazine New Subscribers Poetry Competition for 2013. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is stranger than fiction; she'd write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.

Sue joined the editorial team Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine's Day 2014.  Her second novel, a romantic mystery entitled Nice Girls Don’t, is due for release in July 2014.

You can find Sue on Facebook, Twitter (@SusanB2011), or follow her blog here.




I must say I am thoroughly intrigued by this novel. Here is a little bit more about it.

Romeo & Juliet - was this what really happened?  
 
When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome...  
 
A favourite classic story with a major new twist.


You can find the novel at

Facebook Events page -

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com

Waterstones

Smashwords


And now for an excerpt of The Ghostly Father:

The friary clock struck the hour of four.

“May it please Heaven to smile upon this happy union.”

“Amen to that, Father!”

Romeo was pacing around my cell in great agitation.

“But just to be able to call her my wife is sufficient.”

I shuddered. Had I been too hasty in agreeing to perform this marriage?
He loves too strongly, and too soon, I thought. Could he fall out of love just as swiftly and as violently? Heaven forfend…

“Son, even the sweetest things can lose their appeal if taken to excess.”

I gestured towards the half-filled pots of honey on the table.

“So do not wear out your love too quickly. It will last longer, and be stronger, if you love in moderation.”

There came a faint tapping at the door. Romeo froze.

“Come in!” I called.

The door opened and Giulietta entered.

As she bade me good afternoon, Romeo crossed the room in two strides, clasped her tightly in his arms and kissed her passionately – a kiss which she returned with equal fervour. If I had previously harboured any doubts about the strength of their feelings for each other, now I saw them together these doubts were utterly dispelled. 

Each totally absorbed in the other, it was as though they had already forgotten that I was even there.

I coughed gently to attract their attention, and beckoned them towards the improvised altar. As one they knelt down before it, their faces radiant, their fingers still interlaced.

I opened my breviary:

Ego conjugo vos in matrimonium, in nomine Patris, Filii et Spiritus Sancti…”

Their vows exchanged, and one of Giulietta’s own rings blessed and employed as a wedding ring, the newly-made husband and wife left my cell and reluctantly went their separate ways until they would meet again at nightfall. I watched them go, and murmured a silent prayer for their happiness.

Had I but known what was to befall them ere that very same day was over, I would have said many, many more…

I hope you enjoyed reading about Sue and The Ghostly Father. I certainly did!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Sophia's Secret by Julie Ryan - Interview and Giveaway!

Today I am very happy to welcome author Julie Ryan to talk about her latest novel, Sophia's Secret

Before we start the interview I must mention the giveaway! You will find the codes to enter the competition at the end of the post, after the interview, the author bio and excerpt. I hope you will enjoy reading all about Julie and her novel, Sophia's Secret, the second book in her Greek Island Mystery series.  Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, Jennas’s Journey, do make an appearance.

Here is a little bit about the story. 
Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart.  It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

And now, my interview with the author. Hello Julie and welcome. Can you tell us a little about you?

I am a bookaholic – there I’ve admitted it. I live in rural Gloucestershire with my husband, young son and a dippy cat with half a tail and a collection of books that is threatening to take over the house. I am physically unable to pass a second hand book shop or charity shop without buying something for my collection and also have a one-click addiction. I read a lot but even so, I probably won’t manage to read a quarter of them in my lifetime. It doesn’t stop me from buying even more though! I love travelling and in the past, I’ve worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. I have a strong attachment to Greece as my experiences there formed the inspiration for my Greek Island mystery series.
When not writing I’m a member of our local amateur dramatic group and enjoy taking part in the annual pantomime among other events.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to write? 

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always loved writing. Even as a small child I’d be the one asking to stay in at break time to finish my story. I didn’t really imagine that I would be a writer when I grew up though. I went through a phase of wishing I could be a classical musician until I realised I would never be good enough. Then I really wanted to be an actress but with a mortgage to pay, it just wasn’t viable. Now I work part time as a teacher and write whenever I can.

What is your writing process, and how did you get the idea for ‘Sophia’s Secret’?

I start with a vague outline of a story and a couple of main characters. To be honest, I have no idea how the story is going to turn out as I end up writing draft after draft as the characters take me off in a totally different direction to the one I originally planned. I love it when that happens but it’s also a bit frustrating at times. As a result the title may also have to change. ‘Sophia’s Secret’ began life as ‘Sophia’s Story’. Originally when I came up with the title, the main character was young and as I went on, the grandmother became more and more important until it became her story. I couldn’t have envisaged that when I started writing it.

I find it difficult to keep to a set routine as I work full-time and have three children, but what about you? Do you have a writing routine?

I write when I’m in the mood and more importantly when I have the time. As a result I don’t have a fixed routine. I can often be found at the dining table in the mornings as I type onto my trusty Mac. Equally, on long car journeys if I’m suddenly struck with inspiration, I can be found scribbling longhand into a notebook. I swear that it’s writing as I travel that makes my writing difficult to read and nothing to do with my handwriting. I may have inadvertently invented a new form of shorthand!

Ideally to get the creative juices flowing then I need a good supply of coffee and chocolate. The icing on the cake would be to put the desk together that I bought about a year ago and have my own study. As we’ve been renovating for the last ten years though I don’t think that is likely to happen any time soon. In the meantime I’ve kind of become good friends with the dining table.

How did you choose the title of your novel? Do you find it easy to come up with titles?

I need to have a title in order to write but as I can’t plot for the life of me then, as you can imagine, the title often changes. My first novel, Jenna’s Journey started life as The Greek urn and was supposed to be more of a mystery suspense story. However, as the novel progressed, the Greek urn in the story became just one thread and the main element was about the heroine Jenna. I also toyed with the idea of The Greek Villa but rejected that for the same reason. I find it easy to come up with titles, but it’s hard to find the right one.

Titles are so important, indeed, and can be tricky to choose. By the way I really love the cover of Sophia's Secret. Although I have never been to the Greek islands myself, I can just picture myself there. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m just planning out a few ideas for the third book in the Greek Island Mystery series but it’s very early days yet. I have a provisional title in mind but knowing me that will change at least twice before publication. I’m also writing something completely different, a Christmas novella, which has nothing to do with Greece. It will be interesting to see how that pans out as it’s a totally new departure for me and more chick-lit than suspense.

One last question...How do you choose your characters' names?

For some reason my characters don’t like the names I give them. Jenna was originally Jenny but I think Jenna suits her better. For the Greek characters I either use the names of people I knew or taught or sometimes I’ll do some online research to find a suitable name. Sometimes though it’s pure chance, for example, I was waiting for a Chinese takeaway when I heard a parent call their child Keisha. It was such an unusual name that I knew I just had to use it.

Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Julie, and good luck with Sophia's Secret

A little bit about Julie Ryan
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail. She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance!
She is the author of two novels set in Greece, Jenna’s Journey and Sophia’s Secret both part of the Greek Island Mystery series. She is currently working on a third book, Pandora’s Prophecy.


Here is where you can find her:
Facebook - www.facebook.com/Julieryanauthor
Twitter  @julieryan18


Book links
Sophia's Secret 

Jenna's Journey - www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EXDPZD2


Excerpt from Sophia's Secret

The boy knew he shouldn’t be out so late on his own but a dare was a dare! His best friend, Vasilli, had dared him to meet up at midnight in their den in the woods. He’d been so excited he could barely sleep. His mother had come to tuck him in—not that a boy of nearly eight needed tucking in he’d reminded her as they went through the usual nightly ritual.

“Night night.”

“Sleep tight, mind the bugs don’t bite.”

Then when she’d gone, he forced himself to stay awake until he heard his parents come back up the stairs to their room.  He waited for the light to go out and gave it a few more minutes to be on the safe side. The luminous watch that he’d asked for on last birthday was showing nearly 11.30. There would be plenty of time to get there. He peered out of his bedroom window. It was dark out. There were no streetlights in his village. It was lucky that he’d remembered to pack a torch. He crept silently down the stairs, careful not to wake either his parents or the sleeping twins, put a jacket on over his pyjamas, slipped his trainers on and spying the fruit bowl on the table, put a couple of apples in his pocket in case he got hungry.

The gang had built the den during the long summer holidays when they were allowed to play out until late provided that they told an adult where they were. This was different. The summer had given way to autumn and there was a chill in the night air. He wrapped his arms round himself for extra warmth or maybe just to give himself courage. He thought fleetingly of turning back but he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand Vasilli’s taunts of ‘chicken’ the next day. All he had to do, he reminded himself, was cut through the woods at the back of his house and meet his friend in the den. Just then, as if giving him a signal, the moon came out from behind the clouds illuminating the woodland path. He set off at a run, not wanting to be late. Once he reached the safety of the den, they’d have a good laugh about what a great game it had been.

An owl hooted in the branches above him almost scaring him silly. It felt so different at night. Every sound was magnified a thousand times, making him alert to every eerie sound. Little creatures scurrying around made the leaves underfoot rustle. Twice now he’d thought he heard someone following him but when he stopped there was no one. Only a few more metres to go and he’d be safe.

Not wanting to cut through the churchyard, he kept to the wall until he reached the woods. The moonlight showed him the den, just as he’d left it. He rushed inside, breathing heavily, surprised to see that Vasilli hadn’t arrived yet. He glanced at his watch. It was only 11.54. He decided to wait no more than ten minutes and then he was going home. His father would give him a right talking to if he got caught. He’d probably be grounded for weeks. It never crossed his mind that his friend wasn’t coming. He settled himself into the snugness of the den to wait. At least it was warmer in here, out of the wind.

He woke up suddenly, surprised that he’d fallen asleep. There were footsteps just outside the den: Vasilli must have been held up. He was about to shout to him but thought he’d surprise him instead by shouting ‘boo’ as he crawled through the entrance. The footsteps stopped and he heard a scraping noise. He peered into the darkness but couldn’t make out what his friend was doing. Then the moonlight clearly showed him that whoever it was, he was far too tall for his friend. It was a man with a spade. He could hear the soft earth plop onto the ground as he dug a hole. Suddenly the den smelt of fresh earth and vegetation. He hoped the man wasn’t going to be long. He was in enough trouble already. The moon disappeared and it was dark again, totally silent now except for the sound of the spade on the damp earth. He’d wanted an adventure but suddenly an adventure on your own wasn’t nearly so much fun.  He wondered what the man was doing. 

Maybe he was burying treasure. They could come back tomorrow and dig it up. That would be fun. He knew though that he shouldn’t be here and was afraid. What if the man caught him and told his parents? His heart was thumping so loudly he was sure the man could hear him but the spade just continued to thwack as the soil was lifted. It seemed like hours but his watch showed it was 1.10am. When the moon came out again he saw the man lift something big and heavy into the hole and start to cover it up. Now he knew he had to remain totally silent or else he’d end up in the hole too no doubt! He had a horrible thought that perhaps instead of treasure, the man was burying a body. At any rate it certainly didn’t look like treasure. Why was he out here in the woods at this time? He couldn’t be up to any good? Just then the man trampled down the earth so that it wouldn’t leave a trace just as the moon slid out from the shadows. 

The boy realized with a jolt that he knew the man. Fear trickled through his body, just as he lost control and wet himself. Hot urine trickled down his leg, turning cold seconds later. He didn’t consider the trouble he’d be in for wetting his pajamas, right now he just wanted to be anywhere else but in the middle of the woods with a murderer for company. He was tired, cold and wet. He watched the man leave and when he was sure it was safe, he ran all the way home. He was relieved that his parents hadn’t missed him.  He half expected all the lights to be on and his father standing in the middle of the living room asking him where the hell he’d been. Instead there was a gentle snoring noise coming from the bedroom.  Luckily the twins hadn’t woken his parents up while he’d been out. He quickly changed into clean pjs. He’d admit to wetting himself in the morning but that was all. 

He crept into bed and fell asleep straight away but somehow his mother’s words kept playing on his mind over and over again. ‘Mind the bugs don’t bite.’ He dreamt of bugs covering him but instead of a bug’s face, he saw the man in the woods. He was to dream the same dream time and time again.

And now for the giveaway! 
Click on the link and you will be taken to the Rafflecopter site: 

www.rafflecopter.com





Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A lot of Sense and some Sensibility Too! How to choose the title of your novel

There are many informative articles and blog posts on the subject of naming novels, but I must confess I hadn't read any before choosing Angel heart, the title of my debut historical romance. It came to me one day, in the early stages of researching the story. I liked it because it was short. I found it catchy and easy to remember, and I liked the fact it related both to the name of my heroin and to the plot, so I stuck with it and never considered changing it.

It was the same for my second historical romance, The Lion's Embrace, which once again just popped into my mind. It immediately felt right because it related to the main character - the hero this time - and the North African setting. As for the two romances I recently completed, Dancing for the Devil, and The Lady of Bellefontaine, and which will both be published by Áccent Press in the next few months, I found the titles before I even worked all out the details of the plot!

Now I have researched the topic I realise I got it all wrong and I should have taken more time and experimented with different ideas - even if I still love all my titles and would probably keep them anyway.

First and foremost, I should have 'Googled' them to make sure they didn't already exist or weren't too similar to others out there. The most important function of a title is indeed to identify your novel among the hundreds of thousands of books on the market, and a good title should be unique and make your book stand out. This makes so much sense I can't believe I didn't think of it.

Secondly, I should have waited until the end of the writing process before deciding on the name. This is because the original title you may have fallen in love with when you started writing your story may not reflect the plot, characters or style of the final manuscript and may therefore mislead or confuse potential readers. This is something else I didn't do, but then again I feel it would be too much like leaving the choice of a baby's name until after the birth, and I'm not sure I could wait that long.  


Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing a title. Should you go for an obvious title that reflects the genre, style and content of the novel so that readers know exactly what they are buying, or choose a more intriguing title, one with different layers of meaning?

Many romance novels are often easily identifiable from their title. Anything with the words 'heart', 'passion', 'temptation', 'wedding' and of course 'love' and 'heart' (I am guilty here!) could point to a romance. Add an aristocratic title - 'Viscount', 'Marquess' or 'Duke' - and you fall into the sub genre of historical romances. Further references to a geographical or historical setting will immediately appeal to a specific market. For example any mention of the Highlands or Highlanders evokes Scottish lairds, clan wars or Jacobite plots, and of course men in kilts... 


Some romances have very long titles which look like mini-blurbs and give away most of the plot. There can be no doubt in the reader's mind about who the hero and heroin are, and what the conflict is going to be. 

Even without being too obvious some book titles give you an instant feel for the mood of the novel. I doubt anyone picking up Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables or Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath would expect a cheerful read with a happy ending, even if they knew nothing of the story.

But what about the element of surprise? Is it a good idea to have a title so obscure readers have absolutely no idea about the story and they feel compelled to pick up the book and look at the blurb? Or is there a danger that they might feel let down, or even a little cheated, if the novel turns out to be somewhat less original and enchanting than the title suggested?

There are of course many great novels with great titles around. Successful French novelist Katherine Pancol has a few of those, such as The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, Cruel Men aren't so Easy to Find, or again The Squirrels in Central Park are Sad on Mondays (my own translation since the book is not yet available in English). And what about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger, One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Madam, Will you Talk by Mary Stewart?  I wish I could come up with one of those. 

So what can you do if you are stuck and can't think of a title for your story? Using the name of the main character, or of the place or period where the novel is set is a good idea. So is referring to key words, concepts or images recurrent in the story and contrasting them (War and Peace is a classic example). Play on words or the use of alliteration will help make your title memorable (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility), and so will rhyme (The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss). 

     

If you are planning a series, it makes sense to have catchy titles that follow on from one another or have the same style. Sue Grafton takes letters from the alphabetA is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse. Sophie Kinsella uses the same word in her Shopaholic series, and so does Kathy Reichs for her thrillers, Bones Are Forever, Devil Bones, Break No Bones. I very much like the titles fellow MuseitUp Publishing author Anne Stenhouse chose for her historical romances, Mariah's Marriage, Bella's Betrothal and her forthcoming novel Daisy's DilemnaThis is definitely something I wish I had considered for my own romantic novels, since Angel Heart, The Lion's Embrace and Dancing for the Devil are part of a trilogy. 


So what about you? How do you choose the title of your novels?  And which titles do you wish you had thought of first?