The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Monday, 31 August 2015

LIFE IS A DRAG: Meet author Janie Millman

I am delighted to welcome fellow 'Accenter' Janie Milliman today! Hello Janie and thank you so much for coming on the blog to tell us about your debut novel LIFE IS A DRAG, which has been getting terrific reviews! I believe you live in a beautiful part of the South of France. I am so envious... 

Can you tell us about your novel?
'Life's A Drag' is set in San Francisco and Suffolk.

A struggling San Francisco Drag club.

An idyllic English village.

What do they have in common?

 More than meets the eye.
 
It is a riotous account of two very different communities coming together to help each other and though they seem worlds apart it soon becomes clear that appearances are not everything and that sometimes human connection can surprise us. San Francisco collides with Suffolk and nothing will ever be the same again.

'A magical bucolic frolic with a cast of characters you'd love to meet.'


What kind of man is you hero?
I have two heroes – Drew Berry ( Honey Berry in the evening)  is a drag queen in San Francisco.  He is fighting a battle to save his club and the livelihoods of his closest friends and the community who depend on him.

With a heart to match his waistline he is larger than life –  charismatic and compelling - an extrovert who lives life to the full.

Jamie is a straight talking Scot. He is an actor, full of fire and passion, embracing life with energy and enthusiasm.

What about your heroine?
Roz is my heroine – she is Jamie's wife and also an actress. She is kind and compassionate – she cares deeply about people and worries for England.


They are both struggling to come to terms with some recent life changing news and have moved to Suffolk to start a new chapter in their lives.

What do you absolutely need to write? I know I need - but rarely get - silence and a reasonably neat house.
I like to have peace and quiet to write at home but bizarrely I am able to write in trains, busy cafes, planes etc. I usually try to get up at 6.00am and get words done before the day starts and madness ensues! I aim for 1000 words a day – sometimes happens – sometimes doesn't!

I love finding titles for my novels. What about you? Do you find it difficult to come up with titles for your novels?
This is my debut novel – so I've not really had a problem with titles yet ....  having said that  this novel did go through about five different titles before we settled on 'Life's A Drag.'

I think it's a great title! How do you pick names for your characters?
I try not to use names of close mates or family....there are quite a few characters in this book and  to be honest I have no idea where the names came from .. they just seemed to pop into my head. It was quite a challenge because I also had to make up names for the drag queens!

 
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on my second novel at the moment – which still remains untitled....

It also has a dual setting – Marrakech and SW France.

After that I hope to write the sequel to 'Life's A Drag' which has been  tumbling around in my head for a while!

Thank you so much, Janie, for being my guest today. I wish you lots of success with your novel and with your writing!
 
LIFE IS A DRAG Blurb:
Fabulously funny debut fiction!
Actress Janie Millman opens up the world of ‘women’s’ fiction in this warm-hearted and hilarious debut, as she brings together an English village fighting for its traditions and some of the San Francisco’s hottest drag queens… 
 
Roz and Jamie have moved to leafy Suffolk from London in search of a quiet life so it is a surprise to find that the village is embarking on its riotous annual drag competition. Fuelled by large quantities of alcohol and ubiquitous community spirit, they soon find themselves caught up in a battle for the identity of the village itself. 
 
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Drew is fighting his own battle to save his club and the livelihoods of his closest friends. Though they seem worlds apart, it soon becomes clear that appearances are not everything and that sometimes human connections can surprise us.
 
Drag is the new cool – think Conchita Wurst, Ru Paul, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Kinky Boots in London. This fun-filled and life-affirming romp will appeal to anyone who enjoys humorous fiction.
“High jinks and high heels… imagine The Archers in drag, with a huge heart and lots of laughs.” Veronica Henry (award-winning romance author)
 
Author Bio:
Author Janie Millman was an actress for twenty-five years, appearing in the West End, on UK and World-wide Tours, on television and film. Her least-recognised role was as Leonardo the Ninja Turtle. Since 2009, she and her husband have lived in south-west France where they run Chez Castillon in an eighteenth-century house which provides an idyllic setting for painting, photography and creative-writing courses. She contracted breast cancer a couple of years ago and was inspired to write a popular blog: ‘Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow’ which sparked an interest in wild and unusual wigs, which probably helped when writing the Drag Queen characters.
LIFE IS A DRAG is available from:
and
 
 
 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Happy Birthday Romancing Robin Hood: Medieval Murder and Modern Love by Jenny Kane

Today I am handing over the blog to Jenny Kane, who celebrates the first birthday of her fantastic novel Romancing Robin Hood!
Many thanks Marie, for letting me visit today to help celebrate the first birthday of my novel Romancing Robin Hood, which is part modern romance, and part medieval mystery.

The last thing I expected I'd be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!), and yet, that is exactly what I did when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn't so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn't see this coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood – Blurb.

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.
But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…
Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…
Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance all about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is nuts about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. So not only does Romancing Robin Hood tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched in-depth as a student many moons ago.
In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist Mathilda is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as living with them, she suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion.

I must confess I'm rather enjoyed weaving this sub plot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood.

I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun!! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are!
Here’s an extract from part of the medieval tale Grace is writing... 
Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched out her arms and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, still clapped in irons, abandoned and rotting. Mathilda battled the voice down; knowing it that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated Mathilda on her level headedness, and now it was being put to the test. She was determined not to let him down now.
 
Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless...

...Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.
 
No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript...

***
Buy links

Amazon.com- http://www.amazon.com/Romancing-Robin-Hood-love-story-ebook/dp/B00M4838S2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409936409&sr=8-1&keywords=romancing+robin+hood

Nook- http://www.nook.com/gb/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&%5Bs%5Dkeyword=Jenny+Kane

Many thanks for inviting me over today Marie.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny xxx

Bio

Jenny Kane is the author of the bestselling novels, Abi’s House, Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), and Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), as well as its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent 2014), and the forthcoming, Christmas in the Castle (Accent, 2015)

Jenny’s next novel, Another Glass of Champagne, will be published by Accent Press in April, 2016.
You can keep up to date with Jenny’s book news via her blog - www.jennykane.co.uk
Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor
Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Isabelle Eberhardt, an inspiring dreamer, nomad and writer

I was always fascinated by North Africa, by its history, art and culture. My mother was born and brought up in Algiers. She was from a French, Spanish and Italian background and had a very original, colourful and at times slightly crazy family (to say the least!).
The Cantrel family, January 1940 - My mother is the little girl standing on the chair
The young man in uniform is her brother Paul, who was to die at Dunkirk
She left Algeria during the war of Independence in 1962, never to return, but her colourful childhood stories made the place special for my sisters and I.

La Robertsau, Algiers
 
The 'cabanon' (literally 'shack') in seaside Suffren, about 50 kilometres from Algiers, where the family would go fishing and spend holidays. It was shared with two other families
As a teenager I read many novels and short stories which were set there. I particularly loved 'Bivouacs sous la Lune' by Frison-Roche for his beautiful tales of the Sahara and its lost kingdoms.

And then I discovered Isabelle Eberhardt and fell under the spell of her short stories, which brought the tastes, smells and landscapes of North Africa to life. Her often tragic characters were unforgettable. Her writing was neat, precise, simple but incredibly powerful and transported me to a bazaar in a small town of the M'zab, or along the steep, narrow alleyways of the Algiers Kasbah, or again across the magnificent wilderness of the Saharan plains.

I was also intrigued by her as a person because her life is definitely a case of reality being more fascinating than fiction. Like Alexandra David-Neel who travelled to Tibet and converted to Buddhism, Odette du Puigaudeau in Mauritania, or again Ella Maillart in Asia, Isabelle was one of the very first Twentieth century women who travelled alone - and relished the adventure and the solitude.

'For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all.'

 
Isabelle Eberhardt: 'A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.'

Isabelle was born in Geneva in 1877, the illegitimate daughter of Natalia, the widow of a former aide de camp to the Russian tsar Alexander II, and a Ukrainian scholar - an anarchist, according to some. Although her family was shunned by Geneva's polite society, Isabelle was well educated and spoke French, Russian, Italian, German as well as Greek, Latin and Arabic.

From a young age she dreamt of adventure in far away lands, North Africa especially, where two of her brothers joined the Foreign Legion. She was twenty when she travelled to Bône in Algeria, where she lived with her mother and converted to Islam. After her mother's death, she started travelling extensively across Algeria, alone, dressed as a man and under the name Si Mahmoud Saadi. 

 
'Je suis seul, et je rêve' (I am alone, and I dream). 

It's interesting to see that she writes about herself as a man (by using the masculine form of 'seul'). Dressing up and living as a man allowed her freedoms which would have been denied to her as a woman - the freedom to travel or have access to zouaias (islamic religious schools), taverns and brothels.

In 1901 she married Slimane Ehnni, a spahi - a soldier from the French colonial army's light cavalry regiments, but her life was cut tragically short by a flash flood in Ain Sefra in October 1904. She was only 27 when she died.

I can't resist posting this beautiful painting by Maxime Noiré, 'the painter of horizons on fire and weeping almond trees'. Actually it sounds better in French: 'Le peintre des horizons en feu et des amandiers en pleurs'.

And what about this extract of one of her short stories set in Bou Saada - the Saharan oasis nicknamed 'the city of happiness' which was well-known to Hugo and Lucas Saintclair, the heroes of my historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE.

'Bou-Saada, la reine fauve vêtue de ses jardins obscurs et gardée par ses collines violettes, dort, voluptueuse, au bord escarpé de l'oued où l'eau bruisse sur les cailloux blancs et roses.' Isabelle Eberhardt, Pleurs d'amandiers, 1903

I won't even attempt to translate this into English!

North Africa and my mother's childhood stories also inspired me to write short stories, one of them was published in Accent Press' SHIVER anthology last October. I find the mix of cultures and popular beliefs fascinating. Berber, Arab, Spanish, Italian, French  - brought their own superstitions. But that will be for another post....

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shiver-collection-halloween-stories-best-selling-ebook/dp/B00O9VKGJG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

What about you? Who was the writer who influenced you the most and made you dream?

Thursday, 6 August 2015

THE REST OF MY LIFE

Today I am welcoming Sheryl Browne to talk about her latest release by Choc Lit, The Rest of My Life. Don't forget, there is a lovely giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Hello and welcome Sheryl! Can you tell us about The Rest of My Life?

Ooh, I would love to, thank you! The Rest of My Life comes from Choc Lit on recommendation of the WH Smith Travel Fiction buyer. My books generally tend to turn around the male character, looking at the fragility of love life and relationships, ergo I always start off with a nicely formed man (which isn’t a bad way to start, you have to admit). Whether he’s good or bad, or a dangerously heady mixture of both, my hero is always right there, his features, his hair, his clothes, his mannerisms, his conflicts. The heroine actually grows from him, as in: what kind of woman would be attracted to him? Is she not attracted to him? In denial? If so, why? I suppose I’m playing the ‘what if’ game. What if … she was attracted but couldn’t/wouldn’t admit it? What if a relationship between them was unacceptable – to society, to family, to themselves? You can see how a  story might grow. The premise for The Rest of My Life was simply that Adam isn’t your usual hero material. He has the essential human flaws, but Adam’s run a little deeper. He’s a Lothario, a womaniser and a commitment phobe with a dark, defining secret in his past. The questions I wanted the book to answer were: Could we love him? Could he learn to love himself?

Adam sounds like a fascinating hero, but if you only had three words to tell me about him, what would you say?

Sienna’s thoughts: Cocksure, lonely, terrified

I do love your heroine's name... I find Sienna wonderfully romantic and evocative, but in three words again, what kind of woman is she?

Adam’s thoughts: enigma, sensual, innocent

What did Adam think the first time he saw Sienna?

Adam’s thoughts: Bloody hell. Adam did a double take. It was the girl from the cottage. Innocent looking and fresh-faced, a radiant smile as she chatted to the punters she served at the pub, seemingly unaware of most of them eyeing her up, Adam had tried hard not to notice her. He couldn’t help but notice her now. She was wearing the shortest of shorts and the skimpiest of bra-affair tops he’d ever seen in his life. It was her hair, though, which she was now wearing loose, that really caught his attention. Red hair flecked gold, tumbling carelessly down her back, it was stunning. She was stunning. Barefoot, with tanned long legs, she was undeniably attractive. Definitely his type, he might once have confided to Nate – as he had when he’d first met Emily. She’d been barefoot too, he recalled the image vividly, fishing from the side of a boat with her father. Pretty hopelessly it turned out. She hadn’t had a hook on her line, because she hadn’t wanted to hurt the fish. She’d caught him that day, the day he’d learned to smile again after his mother had gone. Emily had been his first love. His last love, too, as far as Adam was concerned. 

And what did Sienna think of Adam the first time she saw him? 

Sienna’s thoughts: She and Lauren had caught a glimpse of the well-sculpted torso of the owner of the little white river cruiser moored at the quayside directly opposite – the man they’d christened Lothario, having noted certain nocturnal activities on board. Due to his late comings and goings, Sienna hadn’t really spoken to him, other than a passing hello – and then he barely acknowledged her, but she could see what his obvious attraction to women was, on the surface anyway. Tall, toned, tousled dark hair, bronzed skin the colour of caramel mocha latte, the man was definitely eye candy. They’d spotted him again last night. Living up to his reputation, he’d been sneaking a woman onto his boat, amidst much shushing from him and giggling from her. They’d both been tipsy and, judging by the need for secrecy, they were obviously having an affair.  

I love this! What is the one thing you absolutely need to write?

When you are really in character you need quiet, otherwise they go all shy.

 I couldn't agree with your more! One cannot overestimate the importance of silence. Unfortunately my house is anything but quiet. Right now my eldest is practicing on his electric guitar at full blast with AC DC! Do you find it difficult to come up with titles for your novels?

Extremely, they’re either there or they’re not – ever. My first book was called Loose Screws. My agent loved it. The publishers loved it … the title only, unfortunately! Back to the drawing board.

One of my greatest pleasures when I start a new novel is to choose names for my characters. Can you tell me how you pick the names of your characters?

I can’t work until my characters are christened. I like short names, particularly for men. I tend to use that indispensable writers’ tool nowadays: Google. Even when writing contemporary fiction, it’s important to make sure your character’s name fits his date of birth.

Yes, you are right Sheryl. There are so many trends and fashions for names, you do need to be careful. What are you working on at the moment?

I have three books begging to be written, would you believe? Firstly, a poignant romance (possibly romantic suspense) currently titled, Ripples on the Water. Here’s a teeny smidgeon of an outline (still a work in progress): Aaron Calthorpe-Jones, a police dog handler, has been at odds with his father for as long as he can remember. He leaves his family home under a cloud of hostility and resentment when the husband of the woman he’s having an affair with apparently commits suicide. Aaron’s father, who washed his hands of Aaron years ago after his younger sister tragically drowned while in Aaron’s care, renounces him as a home wrecker, a man with no morals and no son of his. Five long years later, Lyndsey, the woman with whom Aaron had the affair, also leaves the small farming community. Seeking Aaron out, she presents him with the daughter he’s never known existed, and then disappears from his life. (The book opens with Aaron returning to the village where he knows he’s not welcome. I did say I like to start with a nicely formed man!).

The second is a poignant family drama (idea suggested by the WH Smith buyer). I’m still playing with that, but I have the first chapter which opens with a grandmother and granddaughter discussing why the lady in the middle, dutiful mother and daughter, has suddenly decided to run away from home.

Finally, I have a sequel to my thriller, Death Sentence, which is the respective daughters’ stories, Ashley’s and Taylor’s. I’m feeling a ‘Fatal Attraction’ mood settling over that.

Clearly, I’m going to need to focus on one, but they are all clamouring for headspace!

PLUS! Breaking news here: I have just received another contract from Choc Lit for my book, Learning to Love!  I think I’m going to be a busy little bee.

Congratulations Sheryl. This is wonderful  news! I can see you are going to be very busy in the next few months. Good luck with all your projects.
 
 
And now for the word association fun test!

Day: dreams                                                         

winter: Christmas                      

summer: wine … um?               

films: Ghost

love: romance

 
Blurb for The Rest of My Life

“You can’t run away from commitment forever … “

Adam Hamilton-Shaw has more reason than most to avoid commitment. Living on a houseboat in the Severn Valley, his dream is to sail into the sunset – preferably with a woman waiting in every port. But lately, his life looks more like a road to destruction than an idyllic boat ride…

Would-be screenplay writer Sienna Meadows realises that everything about Adam spells trouble – but she can’t ignore the feeling that there is more to him than just his bad reputation. Nor can she ignore the intense physical attraction that exists between them.

And it just so happens that Adam sees Sienna as the kind of woman he could commit to. But can he change his damaging behaviour – or is the road to destruction a one-way street?

Amazon US
Choc Lit
 

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has seven books published to date.
Sheryl’s new contemporary romance novel was recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer. THE REST OF MY Life comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.

Author Links



This is the code for the giveaway! Good luck!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be0301796/?