The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore

He saw her coming. If he’d known her effect he’d have walked away.

When it comes to doing it all, hard coated ‘wild child’ writer, Brittany Carter ticks every box. Having it all is a different thing though, what with her need to thwart an ex fiancé, and herself transported from the present to Georgian times. But then, so long as she can find her way back to her world of fame, and promised fortune, what’s there to worry about?

Georgian bad boy Mitchell Killgower is at the center of an inheritance dispute and he needs Brittany as his obedient, country mouse wife. Or rather he needs her like a hole in the head. In and out of his bed he’s never known a woman like her. A woman who can disappear and reappear like her either.

And when his coolly contained anarchist, who is anything but, learns how to return to her world and stay there, will And when his coolly contained anarchist, who is anything but, learns how to return to her world and remain, will having it all be enough, or does she underestimate him, and herself?

TheWriterandTheRake2_400I’ve been a fan of Shehanne Moore’s work since The Viking and the Courtesan. Now she brings us the Writer and the Rake, which is even better! I absolutely loved the concept. For certain people who happen to be Time Mutants, a kiss can take them backwards or forwards in time to a completely different century. This is what happens to struggling romance writer Brittany Carter, who is frustratingly whisked away into the past just as she is about to make her ex-boyfriend’s life a living hell.

I think I mentioned before how I hate romance heroines who are the paragon of all virtues. Well, Brittany is definitely not. This heroine is a vindictive, manipulative, chain-smoking alcoholic, and I love her. If romance heroes can be rakes, why shouldn’t the heroine be a ‘rakette’?

Brittany meme 1

Brittany arrives in 1765 dressed in nothing but a bathrobe, landing in Mitchell Kilgower’s teenage son’s bed. Mitchell, a long-suffering, brooding gentleman thinks his son has finally stopped being such a milksop and become a man, or rather the kind of man his father wants him to be. Brittany is just confused. She thinks her ex-boyfriend has murdered her and she is now in some sort of strange afterlife. Mitchell thinks she’s insane.

wandr 565656Of course, one can’t blame him as for all he knows, a woman has appeared out of nowhere and keeps babbling on about him being good fodder for her next romance novel. Mitchell’s uncle and slightly incestuous aunt (or former sister-in-law) show up, and the only way Brittany’s presence can be explained is in a lie hastily concocted by Fleming, Mitchell’s son, that she is Mitchell’s new God-fearing wife.

Hilariously unsuited to the role, Brit goes along with is because she needs to figure out a way to get back to the 21st century.  She may be a romantic novelist, but unlike her naive heroines, she’s not going to swoon and fall into Mitchell’s arms just because he has a gorgeous body and amazing cheekbones. All the same, there is an attraction simmering beneath the surface of her pretense.

mitchell meme44As for Mitchell, he starts out wanting to get rid of her, but he is by turns enraged and captivated by a woman the likes of which he’d never seen. A modern heroine unleashed on an unsuspecting 18th century world is a force to be reckoned with.

Brittany wreaks havoc everywhere she goes. She is a truly comedic heroine, though Ms. Moore deftly alerts the reader to how easily things could turn tragic if these characters don’t find love very soon.

Mitchell treats Brittany terribly, though she’s no picnic herself. However, she shows real resiliency and even keeps writing while in her 17th century imprisonment. One of the most beautiful lines of the book is, “A writer could write without paper, without ink, without hope.”

Time is working against them as Brittany can’t control her travels between centuries, but love might just bring them together in the end.

Click here to buy The Writer and the Rake on Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favourite scenes:

She hesitated. If Mitchell Killgower walked in now it would solve this. She hadn’t really come in here to ruin Fleming though. She’d come in to find that portal and failed miserably too, meaning she’d now have to come back here. Unless . . .

“Actually Fleming, I could do with your help and not just out of this bath either.”

“My help?” His flush deepened. “No-one’s ever wanted my help.”

She grasped his hand. “Well, there’s a first time for everything. Even for me being nice like this. So here it is. I’m not really from here. And that’s what I need your help with. To get home to where I come from.”

“Leave here you mean?”

“In one, Fleming. In one.”

It was risky taking him into her confidence like this, but she’d be long gone by the time they incarcerated her in a lunatic asylum, paraded her as a witch. Relief pumped into her veins, revitalized her heartbeat. It took every ounce of restraint not to dance about the room.

“But Aunt Christian and Uncle Clarence think you’re . . . Well, Father will be furious if you disappear. I’m not going to willingly help you with that.”

He let go of her hand as if he wasn’t going to help her out the bath either.

“But you just said to me to scream blue murder and I didn’t. As for making him furious? I hope you think me being here like this was my idea?”

“Nothing would surprise me.”

“Look, help me out of the bath will you?”

“Not when I’ve already withstood everything Father has tried to make me do. The drink, the visits to the Swan, you—”

“Fine.” She grasped the copper rim of the tub. “I’ll get myself out then. I wouldn’t like to die of pneumonia.”

“The Hellfire Club.”

“What?”

“Yes.”

His voice rose. Did he see how far her jaw had dropped open?

“That’s how low he’s stooped, Miss Carter.”

“So you’re saying he took you there? How old are you?”

“I don’t see what where he took me—”

“So he didn’t?”

“Obviously he didn’t, but what’s it to you?”

Mustering her calm she tweaked a damp strand of hair behind her ear. She’d heard of the Hellfire Club. She wrote historical romance. Why wasn’t she surprised Mitchell Killgower went there? In the name of research she wouldn’t mind going herself. She hoped that wasn’t why she said,

“I can’t be wife to a man who goes to such places. My God, it’s imperative you help get me out of here. Just think when I go how it will clear the way for you. You can go to your aunt Christian and tell her—very well, not that you lied, but that she was right about your father. I just couldn’t live with him.” Although he was staring in the opposite direction from her and his brow was knitted, she fixed on her best look of honeyed desperation. Surely enough to seal this deal? “All I need is your help for five minutes.”

He frowned harder. “What have you done to my bed?”

“Oh that? Nothing.”

“It’s not nothing. Look at it.”

The bone-jarring thud as he strode towards it, said that was an understatement. Realization slapped her that she needed to make her move now, not stand with the hem of her dressing gown in a soapy bath, equally bone-jarring chills spreading up her legs, her teeth chattering, stomach churning. Where was the portal? In the wardrobe? Because that same realization drove her over the rim and across the floor, leaving wet footprints behind her.

She pulled the door open. The smell of mothballs was so overpowering, she could barely stick her head inside, but stick it in she did, despite being jabbed with an empty coat hanger dancing above her head. No joy. How could there be no joy?

“You’ve broken it. My bed.” Fleming’s voice was a thread of sound. Anyone would think she’d broken his heart, his arm, his neck. Was he really so frightened of his father?

“Yes, I know.” She strode towards him. The portal wasn’t just above the bed. It was high above it. “It’s because I was jumping on it.”

“Jumping?”

“Yes. Like this. Watch and learn.”

Bio

When not cuddling inn signs in her beloved Scottish mountains alongside Mr Shey, Shehanne Moore writes dark and smexy historical romance, featuring bad boys who need a bad girl to sort them out. She firmly believes everyone deserves a little love, forgiveness and a second chance in life.

Shehanne caused general apoplexy when she penned her first story, The Hore House Mystery—aged seven. What didn’t she work at while pursuing her dream of becoming a published author?

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If you enjoyed this review and excerpt, check out The Writer and the Rake on Amazon.

The Prince

Hello again, friends, and sorry about my absence. I’ve been traveling about the UK and now I’m back in Canada feeling somewhat jet-lagged. I remembered a conversation I had with fellow blogger and wonderful poet Christy Birmingham of Poetic Parfait about Walter de la Mare. I wanted to tell her about one of my favorite poems by this author, but couldn’t find a link to it anywhere.

walter de la mare rhymes and versesSo I guess it’s up to me to put this masterpiece on the internet for all to enjoy.

This poems comes from a book called Rhymes and Verses: Collected poems for Young People. Some of the poems are quite creepy, though, and can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults as well. De la Mare often wrote about supernatural creatures such as ghosts, witches, fairies, or just mysterious unexplained things.

Anyhow, this particular poem has always been a favorite of mine because it’s about a dashing mouse prince who could quite easily have been a romance hero if some mouse maid could have reformed him from his rakish ways.

I also love the creative rhyming here which approaches Gilbert and Sullivan levels, such as rhyming ‘slices’ with ‘nice is’ and ‘Peridarchus’ with ‘a carcass!’

The Prince by Walter De La Mare

Sweet Peridarchus was a Prince,
The Prince he was of—Mouses;
He roved and roamed the haunts of Men,
And ranged about their houses.

He gnawed his way along a street
Through holes in every wainscot,
Fandangoed in the attics and
From basement on to basement.

His eyes like bits of rubies shone;
His coat, as sleek as satin,
With teeth as sharp as needle-points
He kept to keep him fat in.

His squeak so sharp in the small hours rang
That every waker wondered;
He trimmed his whiskers stiff as wire,
Had sweethearts by the hundred.

He’d gut a Cheshire cheese with ease,
Plum cake devoured in slices,
Lard, haggis, suet, sausages,
And everything that nice is.

Cork out, he’d dangle down his tail
For oil that was in bottle;
Nothing too sweet, nothing too fat
For Peridarchus’ throttle.

He’d dance upon a chimney-pot,
The merry stars a-twinkling;
Or, scampering up a chandelier,
Set all the lustres tinkling.

He’s skip in to a pianoforte
To listen how it sounded;
He bored into a butt of wine,
And so was nearly drownded.

At midnight when he sat at meat,
Twelve saucy sonsy maidens,
With bee-sweet voices ditties sang,
Some sad ones, and some gay ones.

For bodyguard he had a score
Of warriors grim and hardy;
They raided every larder round,
From Peebles to Cromarty.

Girmalkin—deep in dreams she lay,
Comes he, with these gay friskers,
Steals up and gnaws away her claws,
And plucks out all her whiskers.

He scaled a bell-rope where there sonred
The Bailiff and his Lady;
Danced on his nose, nibbled her toes,
And kissed the squalling Baby.

A merry life was his, I trow,
Despite it was a short one;
One night he met a mort of rats—
He bared his teeth, and fought one:

A bully ruffian, thrice his size;
But when the conflict ended,
He sighed, “Alack, my back is broke,
And that can ne’er be mended.”

They laid him lifeless on a bier,
They lapped him up in ermine;
They lit a candle, inches thick,
His Uncle preached the sermon:

“O Mouseland, mourn for him that’s gone,
Our noble Peridarchus!
In valiant fight but yesternight,
And now, alas, a carcass!

A Hero—Mouse or Man—is one
Who never wails or winces;
Friends, shed a tear for him that’s here,
The Princeliest of Princes!”

Guardians Trilogy: Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts

stars-of-fortuneThose who have been reading my blog know I’ve been living in a fantasy world lately, and I like it very much here, so I’m continuing my streak with Nora Roberts’s Stars of Fortune.

A stunning paranormal romance set on the Greek island of Corfu, Stars of Fortune is a bit like a really long vacation. If you’re tired of winter and longing for beaches and sunlight, it’s the next best thing. The characters enjoy luxuriating in a seaside villa with a few battles against the forces of an evil goddess thrown in, but mostly it’s just an exotic visit to paradise.

Sasha Riggs is a painter who just wants a quiet life in her North Carolina cabin in the woods, or so she thinks. But she can’t get these mysterious visions out of her mind. She puts them on the canvas instead, five interesting-looking people who battle along side her in some strange locations.

Finally, she recognizes the place as Corfu, Greece, and she realizes that she has no choice but to follow those visions, even though they reek of danger… and suntan lotion.

It’s there that she meets the first member of the crew, Riley, an archaeologist who tells her about the legend of the Stars of Fortune. Sasha learns that they have to find the stars before the evil goddess Nerezza gets them and uses them to enslave humanity.

the_seer_by_zemotionI could really relate to Sasha as she is a very sensitive person like yours truly, and she just wanted a peaceful life, but as fate would have it, she has to see the quest through to the end otherwise those visions will never leave her alone.

Riley on the other hand was my least favorite character. Like a female Indiana Jones without the scholarly charm of Harrison Ford, she struts around spouting cliches and driving way too fast, terrifying my poor Sasha for no good reason. It’s not like they were being chased by anybody!

Next, we meet Bran Killian, an Irish magician. He is a dark and handsome guy with real magical powers, and amazingly, not a jerkball. There is an instant attraction between him and Sasha, and he encourages her to use her own psychic powers rather than try to fight them.

The three of them set up base in a villa by the sea, and soon they meet the rest of their team mates, brought to them by fate. Annika is a real girly-girl, very playful and innocent. It’s clear she’s not of this world, but nobody can figure out where she came from. This is something that isn’t revealed till the end, so I won’t spoil it for you. Then there’s Sawyer, a Texan with a magical compass and a legacy left by his grandfather. I found both Annika and Sawyer quite adorable, and I can’t wait to read more about them in the next book.

The last to join the team is a guy called Doyle. He rides a motorcycle and carries a sword, so how could I not like him? Too bad Riley seems to have latched on to him (although so far I don’t see him reciprocating, and I don’t blame him), and I expect they will be the focus of the third installment in the trilogy. Despite all that, the story of Sasha and  Bran’s romance was thoroughly enjoyable. They had the perfect combination of humour, passion, and sexual tension, and they both grew and learned things from each other. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more in the series.

Magic a la Carte

I’ve been reading The Rivers of London, which has been the new and hot thing among fantasy readers, but actually I wasn’t that impressed. To begin with, the main character seems sexually needy and pathetic, but that wasn’t the main thing I wanted to talk about.

Today I want to talk about the way magic is portrayed in fantasy books. There’s a certain style to doing it which readers have gotten used to and are comfortable with… maybe too comfortable. After all, magic is something mysterious and unpredictable, in my humble opinion.

But there are many writers out there who insist that there should be a magic “system” which basically makes it boil down to a science. There should be a price for every type of magic, they insist, as if someone was ordering it from a menu.

Isn’t the whole point of magic is that it’s, well, magical?

In Rivers of London, as the main character begins his training, all I want to do is yawn from ear to ear. I suddenly feel like I’m back in grade school. But strangely I didn’t feel like that when I was reading Harry Potter even though the magic was literally taught in a school.

harrypotter_1702585cMaybe the difference is in the way the ‘system’ is portrayed. There are things and devices that work like they’re supposed to, but also there is a bit of unexpected chaos.

I understand the need for a system and having some rules in place so that the reader doesn’t feel completely lost. But at the same time, this idea has been bothering me for some time. Too often, I’ve been reading a book thinking it’s going to be about magic, when it’s really more like science, and boring science at that.

Anyway, I guess my point is… don’t buy this book!

Why Legolas is Awesome

I’m working on a fantasy romance story, as well as living in Oxford where JRR Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy, so I’ve been trying to get into the spirit of the Ox and high fantasy.

Aside from  the obvious reasons like he’s an elf and he knows how to use a bow, Legolas was central to this amazing scene in the Fellowship of the Ring.

I haven’t read LOTR since I was in my teens, and they’re just as good, or better, than I remember. This particular scene is not fully shown in the films, but it takes place when the company (4 hobbits, 2 men, 1 dwarf and 1 elf) are entering Lorien, the magical elf sanctuary.

They encounter an elf named Haldir who is patrolling the area with his elf buddies and says there’s no way they’re going to let a dwarf pass through their land because of a long history let’s just say elves don’t trust dwarves.

haldir-fellowship-of-the-ring
Doesn’t Haldir look like a total snob?

The company insists that Gimli the dwarf should come with them, and Haldir agrees to let him pass, but only if Gimli is blindfolded while they are led to the city. Gimly is like nope, not happening.

Things get pretty tense…

gimli-in-lorien

Then Aragorn suggests a compromise, for the whole company to walk blindfolded, even Legolas the elf.

To this Gimli replies, “a merry troop of fools we shall look! Will Haldir lead us all on a string, like many blind beggars with one dog? Bu I will be content, if only Legolas here shares my blindness.”

Legolas is pretty pissed off like, “I’m an elf. I don’t think I should be the one blindfolded.”

So finally they all settle on the whole company walking blindfolded, and Legolas says the coolest thing:

“Alas for the folly of these days!” said Legolas, “Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!”

… which is such an elvish thing to say. And it reminded me so much of everything that’s going on in the world right now. Although Tolkien states specifically that the books are not meant to be an allegory, he also said he wanted readers to be free to draw their own conclusions.

I completely agree that interpretations shouldn’t be prescriptive, and I don’t think a writer’s job is to get involved in politics, but rather to make people think by reminding them of some basic human values and ideals. The statements made in the book are just perfect at describing human folly both in Tolkien’s time and today.

I can’t help but think JRR Tokien is a genius for putting it so eloquently. It seems the world is as ever filled with folly, and the only sane thing to do is to read a good book.

I’m not going quietly, England!

This winter has been so cold and humid in Oxford that I’ve been feeling geographically troubled. I’m spoiled on the evergreen forests and mountains of the west coast of Canada, while here I’m surrounded by mostly flat land and bare trees.

Before the University of Oxford ever existed, there was a monastery here, and in fact the very first faculty of the university was the school of divinity. The monks who founded the very first settlement chose this spot for its marshy and gloomy character since they figured suffering was one of the best things if you want to get closer to God.

More often than not, I’m reminded of the movie Shanghai Knights in the finale scene…

shanghaiknightspic

in which Owen Wilson yells: “Roy O’Bannon will not go quietly. You hear that, England? Throw whatever you want at me! Your terrible weather! Your perverted killers! Your Spotted Dick!”

I hope my English readers will forgive me this mockery… I do love other parts of England such as Cornwall and the Lake District as they have the mountainous landscape I require. But Oxford really needs to get with the program.

I can’t wait for spring, when it will look like this again:

Oxford is quite small, and it doesn’t take long to go beyond city limits to find natural spots that may not be as grandiose as the Rocky Mountains but are stunningly beautiful, like these bluebell woods. Some of the college grounds too are like miniature parks, such as Worcester College pictured with the lake and the swan above.

All I have to do is get through February.

Book Review of Unavoidable: a Contemporary Royal Romance (Royal affairs series Book 1)

unavoidableThis novella takes place in the fictional kingdom of Justana, which I thought was a refreshing setting and more interesting than using a real country, but I would have liked to see more things that were unique to Justana, such as some interesting cultural traditions or something about the people or the language.

The hero is an athletic-looking bike courier who is unlucky or lucky enough, depending on  how you look at it, to get hit by a princess’s limo. I immediately liked Dylan even though he is at times annoyingly self-righteous about standing up for the common folk, but this hero’s heart is in the right place.

Princess Lucille was also a likable character who felt very real to me and even managed to go through some growth over the course of the novella. The incident with hitting the bike courier made her think about those less fortunate, and she starts to do volunteer work at various charities. That’s how she meets Dylan again, and they realize that they’re attracted to each other.

My only quibble is with the lack of romance in the second half of the story. After the excitement of Dylan getting hit by a limo, things get less exciting and just kind of ordinary as Lucille and Dylan go on their first date. Aside from the fact that she’s a princess who is not supposed to be dating a commoner, there is not much to make their encounter unique. Also, the sex scene felt a bit awkward, with Lucille being too nervous about the whole procedure so much so that it almost seemed like it was barely enjoyable for her.

This story is part of a series, and there is an interesting development at the end which creates a cliffhanger ending and makes me want to read the next book to see how it all turned out. Overall, Unavoidable had a promising beginning, slightly saggy middle despite the sex scene, and an intriguing ending. I would give this one three out of five stars.

You can purchase it by clicking here at Amazon.com or here on Amazon UK.