What I Read: April to June 2018

I've been keeping a reading list off and on since I was in college...let's just say many years ago. I will always regret that I haven't been consistent with it because I love having a record to look back on and remember those hidden gems that I loved but might have forgotten.

When I look back at this past three months of reading, I'll have plenty to remember fondly. Click on any of the titles below to find out more about these recommended reads. Follow me on Goodreads or leave a comment below to let me know what you think I should read next.

Meet Me at RWA in Denver

A quick note for those readers headed to the Romance Writers of America national conference in Denver this year. I'll be signing books at the Pocket and Gallery signing at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 19. Bring your coffee and come get a copy of The Light Over London signed!

I will also be teaching a workshop on writing synopses that sell with Alisha Rai on Saturday, July 21. Come for the practical advice, stay because Alisha is a delightful person with great hair and lipstick game.

I can't wait to see you at all RWA!

Here Comes the Royal Bride

With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle just days away—and the speculation over who will wear what at the wedding of the year at its max—I thought it would be the perfect time to take a look back at four of Britain's royal brides of the Victorian era. 

Queen Victoria

 10th February 1840: Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901) and Prince Albert (1819 - 1861) on their return from the marriage service at St James's Palace, London. Original Artwork: Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock. Courtesy of  WikiMedia Commons

10th February 1840: Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901) and Prince Albert (1819 - 1861) on their return from the marriage service at St James's Palace, London. Original Artwork: Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock. Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg on February 10, 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace. She famously proposed to him, befitting her status as the monarch. Queen Victoria's wedding is also notable for setting the trend of wearing a white wedding dress.

Victoria, Princess Royal

 The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, 25 January 1858, Courtesy of  WikiMedia Commons

The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, 25 January 1858, Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Queen Victoria's eldest daughter was married to Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future German Emperor and King of Prussia Frederick III). The marriage was arranged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Frederick proposed to Victoria in 1855 when she was 14 years old. Their betrothal was announced in 1857, and the wedding took place on January 25, 1858.

Alexandra of Denmark

 The wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and Alexandra of Denmark, London, 1863,  Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

The wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and Alexandra of Denmark, London, 1863, Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Princess Alexandra of Denmark, or "Alix" as she was commonly known to her family, married the Prince of Wales on March 10, 1863 at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. That same chapel will play host to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.

Princess Louise

  Princess Louise at her wedding, 21 March 1871, Courtesy of the  Royal Collection .

 Princess Louise at her wedding, 21 March 1871, Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

Princess Louise (my favorite of Queen Victoria's daughters for her work as a sculptor and her love of the arts) married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and the heir to the Duke of Argyll. This was extraordinary for a few reasons:

  • Louise chose her husband, expressing no desire to marry a prince as had been proposed by several members of her family
  • It was the first marriage between the daughter of a sovereign and a British subject that had been given official recognition since 1515

The pair were married at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on March 21, 1871. Her veil was made of Honiton lace which she deisgned herself.

Publishing, Happily Ever Afters, and the #MeToo Movement

Publishing, Happily Ever Afters, and the #MeToo Movement

In my wide-ranging interview, I invited Kassia and Simon into the world of romance and genre fiction. We spoke about how I came to write my first books, the importance of marketing and social media for writers, and the pros and cons of self-publishing in this genre. I also talked about the impact of the #metoo movement on the world of romance.

Celebrating the Woman With Two Birthdays

A very happy birthday to the woman who has, well, two birthdays!

Queen Elizabeth II was born on this day in 1926. It's her actual birthday, but she also has an official birthday or June 9 when the weather is usually better for Trooping the Colour. This has been a common practice among the British monarchy for several rulers.

If you'd like to celebrate the queen's actual birthday, I strongly recommend you head to The Court Jeweller. The blog chronicles the royal jewels of royal families across the world and, as you can imagine, the queen features heavily.

Many happy returns of the day, Your Majesty.

Hollywood's Underestimated Woman

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved the glamor and drama of old Hollywood. It probably started with To Have and Have Not. I watched it when I was around 12. There was something about Lauren Bacall, all smolder and vulnerability, with her beautiful hair and deep voice. I wanted some of her grown-up sophistication for myself, and so I snapped up as many of her movies as I could find. The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage, How to Marry a Millionaire.

From there I discovered Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews in Laura. (One of my favorite movies.) The list goes on and on and on.

As I got older, I began to learn more about the other side of Hollywood that is often sordid and sometimes tragic. I've listened to most of You Must Remember This, an excellent podcast about the film industry, Los Angeles (where I grew up), and the people who created the movie myths we still believe today. However, I only knew bits and pieces of one of its most extraordinary women.

Hedy Lamarr was widely recognized as one of the most beautiful women in the world during her heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. An Austrian actress, she was scandalous and alluring. She was also an almost unrecognized genius, but the documentary Bombshell is trying to change that.

Lamarr was an inventor with an inquisitive mind. During World War II, she came up with a technique called frequency hopping that would allow the navy to deploy torpedos that couldn't be jammed by German submarines. Her invention, largely neglected at the time, has become the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military technology being used today.

Her fascinating, sometimes deeply sad story, is told through interviews with Hedy, her family, and others. You get a picture of a woman who was pigeon-holed into being just a beautiful face because, to paraphrase one interviewee, you don't get to be Hedy Lamarr and be smart. She was difficult and complex and funny and so many things, and now the movie-going audience who loved her films is getting a chance to see a more complete version of her.

Come Meet Me in Boston!

A quick note for those readers in the Boston area: I'm coming to you guys! I'm going to be teaching a couple workshops at the Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference from NECRWA. My workshops will be:

  • Sell Your Book in 3 Pages: How to Write Gripping Synopses
  • How to Maintain a Brand While Writing Across Subgenres… Or Not (with Megan Erikson and Kristen Strassel)

Unfortunately, those sessions are only option to conference registrants, however, I will be supporting my fellow authors at the conference signing which is open to all member of the public. If you come say hi, I'll have some The Look of Love bookmarks to give away!

What I Read: January to March 2018

It's always been easy to tell what sort of mood I've been in based on the types of books that are on my completed list. Lots of romances? High stress time.

Plenty of mystery? I've probably been writing to meet a deadline and have been looking for something completely different.

Loads of history? Guess who's doing research.

January, February, and March (or Q1 for those of your who are business minded) was a mix of all of those things. I read a few standouts across several genres, and they're definitely worth a shoutout. Keep reading for those recommendations, and be sure to follow me on Goodreads and BookBub for more!

If you like your history glamorous...

The Riviera Set, by Mary S. Lovell

If you like intrigue on the high seas...

Dangerous Crossing, by Rachel Rhys

If you like gritty Western romance...

Cowgirl, Unexpectedly, by Vicki Tharp

If you like dark thrillers...

The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware

If you like your female detectives witty...

A Curious Beginning, by Deanna Raybourn

If you want to be swept up in a YA saga...

Hero at the Fall, by Alwyn Hamilton

Your First Look at The Light Over London

I'm very happy today to be sharing with you a first look at my first historical women's fiction, The Light Over London, which will be coming out in paperback and ebook this fall. Split between present day and World War II, it's a story of love and loss, secrets and discovery. And there's a dreamy cover to match this beautiful story.

Available for preorder in print and ebook

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

For Cara Hargraves, burying herself in the past is easier than confronting the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is the perfect salvation. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship; among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform—the same one Cara’s grandmother wore during the war. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara embarks on a journey to untangle the affair, and just maybe uncover her grandmother’s deeply guarded secrets, too.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until the wealthy son of her mother’s best friend returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. But their whirlwind romance is cut short when Paul’s unit is deployed.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise defies her parents and joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit. As bombs fall on London, she relishes in her growing friendships with the gunner girls and knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to Paul are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Lady in a Blue Dress — The Allure of Attraction's Got a Cover!

If you've ever wondered what it's like when an author gets a book cover from a publisher, it goes something like this: *email from editor dings to phone*

Me: Oh my god, please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

*opens email inbox on laptop for higher image resolution/because I'm terrified that I'm going to hate the cover and this delays the reveal for a moment*

Me: Just don't suck. That's all I want. I can handle mediocre. Totally. No problem. Oh, please, please, please don't suck.

*clicks on email and downloads image*

Me: OH THANK GOD.

That is an exact play-by-play of what happened when I opened the email from my editor for The Allure of Attraction's cover. And you know what, it didn't just not suck. I loved it.

AmAmazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Not only was I blown away by how striking that vibrant blue is, the cover model is smiling. Smiling! I've never had a smiling heroine on the cover of my historical books, and something about it makes me so incredibly happy.

In this book, you're going to meet Lavinia, our heroine. She'd be the first to tell you that a lot of bad things have happened in her life, but she's made the most of it. She's a successful dressmaker in Edinburgh, and between her shop, her friends, and her somewhat irresponsible but charming brother she has a full life. Everything is going well until the childhood sweetheart she was supposed to marry years ago walks back into her life.

Andrew's life sailing merchant ships has taken him across the globe—convenient given that he's also a spy for Her Majesty's government. He's all set to retire until his handlers give him one last job: go back home to Scotland and recruit Lavinia, the woman who broke his heart, to help him infiltrate a group at the center of a dastardly plot.

So yes, dear readers, in the summer you're going to get this beautiful book and all the second chance romance/enemies-to-lovers/espionage romance goodness inside. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

The Allure of Attraction releases this summer, but you can preorder it now from all major ebook retailers!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Explore the Romance of Historic Edinburgh

It's no surprise that Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities. It has it all, from the elegance of the New Town to the historic mystery of the Old Town. It's also a great walking city—if you don't mind some hills—with plenty to discover. When I started to write my The Matchmaker of Edinburgh books, I wanted to make sure readers felt transported to 1870s Edinburgh. For Caroline and Moray, the heroine and hero of The Taste of Temptation, that meant sending them gallivanting all across the city on their journey to love. Whether it's bickering amid the dramatic beauty of Holyrood Park or dancing for the first time in the grand, Georgian Assembly Rooms, I hope readers will fall in love with this incredible place as much as they do my characters!

Click through this interactive map to read excerpts from the book, images and drawings, and little tidbits about the settings you'll see throughout the book. 

A previous version of this article appeared on XOXOafterdark.com.

PODCAST: "So Many Scandals" with Lindsay Emory from Women With Books

There's nothing cooler than having a friend working on a project you're really excited about. Well... maybe there is one thing: getting to join your friend on that project! At the end of January, Lindsay Emory interviewed me for her podcast Women With Books ahead of the release of my new book The Taste of Temptation, which came out on Monday. WWB is kind of like a book club in your pocket. Lindsay interviews authors and librarians about their work, favorite books, movies, and more. And the best thing is that the conversation often veers off into really fun directions.

For my episode, Lindsay and I talked about the royal wedding, Outlander, Persuasion, and so many scandals. You can listen to my episode with Lindsay on her site, Apple Podcasts, and Google Play.

You Can Start Reading The Taste of Temptation Today!

Those of you who’ve been reading my books for awhile will know that I used to be a journalist in New York City. In fact, I’ve set a book in the news business before—Nick from my Julia Blake title Changing the Play was a TV sports reporter—and I went back to that well again for The Taste of Temptation, my Scottish historical romance that came out this week. The second book in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series, is set in and around the Edinburgh newspaper world. It was a time when steam presses clanged away to print the morning edition and horse and cart-delivered scandal sheets could set everyone atwitter. But the principles are actually not all that different from the news business I used to know. Journalists are still driven to get the story fast and first, and breaking news is a rush that's hard to replicate.

My hero in The Taste of Temptation, Jonathan Moray, is a journalist to the core. He owns a successful broadsheet and a less respectable scandal sheet that prints some of the best gossip in Edinburgh. That's why when Caroline Burkett, a woman the London press made famous for suing the fiancé who jilted her, travels up to Edinburgh, he's off in pursuit of the biggest gossip story of the year. Sparks definitely fly in this enemies-to-lovers book because Caroline hates Moray, thinking he's just another ruthless newspaperman. And he kind of is until he realizes that he wants her more than he wants the story.

I hope you enjoy the latest installment in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series, merry band of journalists and all!

The Taste of Temptation is available at all major eBook retailers:

Amazon | iBooks |  Kobo | Nook | Google Play

If you’d like to try before you buy, you can read two exclusive excerpts of The Taste of Temptation: