At RWA and having a blast! It’s so great to see/meet everyone!

I mostly ended up staying by my table during the signing (thank you, people who stopped by, you made my YEAR, and it was so nice to meet those of you I already knew online in the flesh!!) but I did sneak out for a bit near the end and managed to get a few signed books to give away on the website over the next little bit: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (this book has one of my favorite difficult heroines and one of my favorite bad first marriages EVER), His at Night by Sherry Thomas (actually her only book I haven’t read yet, how did that happen? I think I got confused and thought I had read it. Should have bought two copies! Luckily I have my Kindle with me), The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (I may have gotten gushy about how much I love Adrian), and Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer (!!!). I got a little starstruck while talking to Jenny Crusie and forgot to tell her that my dad is a huge fan as he asked me to, I hope he won’t be too mad. (Yes, I got my dad hooked on romance!)

I’ve been reading a lot lately and haven’t had time to post on Goodreads, but the conference is making me want to spend hours talking about books! So those of you who have me friended on Goodreads and Twitter may be deluged by reviews in the next few weeks. Sorry!

Also Susanna Fraser and I went to the Pompeii exhibit this morning. So awesome! Apparently the discovery of the ruins of the nearby city of Herculaneum in 1709 and the later discovery of Pompeii and their excavation was really important to the creation of modern archaeology and a lot of that was happening in the 18th and early 19th century. I wish to learn more. LOTS more. Anyone have any book suggestions?

That was a lot of exclamation points, huh? Whatever, it’s that kind of week.

Now I want a hat with a veil

Happy new year, everyone!

On New Year’s Day, Gwen Mitchell and I went to see “The King’s Speech.” I’m a sucker for:

1) Helena Bonham-Carter
2) historical costume
3) World War II
4) cross-class friendships
5) heroes who are underappreciated by their families
6) stories about disabilities.

Therefore, this movie was perfect for me. I loved it. Also, I was concerned they were going to ignore the future Duke of Windsor’s Nazi sympathies (which were the real reason he was forced to abdicate), and while they certainly focused on the Wallis Simpson stuff, they did bring it up several times so I was pleased.

Plus I saw a preview for the new Jane Eyre movie and it looked AWESOME. The actress is the gymnast girl from In Treatment and I thought she was very talented.

I also spent the last week or so reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which I ADORED. It’s a sort of Dickensian-thieves’-kitchen gritty historical novel with a lesbian love story. I was recently reading a conversation on historical accuracy on Courtney Milan’s blog and keep coming back to this comment by Robin:

When I think of some authors whose historical world-building seems most successful to me, it’s not as much the “correctness” of specific details (although dates, places, and well-known historical events are easy to get right and less tolerable to me when they are not), as much as feeling of transportation to a fictional world characterized by a cogent but still translatable “otherness” (i.e. verisimilitude). In that place, I feel as if I am placed into an entire universe that extends far beyond what the author shows me, one that remains consistent no matter which direction the narrative turns.

This is a perfect description of the amazing historical world created in Fingersmith, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially Victorian historicals.

I hope the new year brings all of you lots of amazing stuff to read. Tell me a book (besides mine of course) that you are looking forward to in 2011!

It's the most wonderful time of the year

EEEEEE it is December 24th! This means two important things:

1. My “Best Books of 2010, Most Anticipated of 2011” post is up at the Book Smugglers!

I won’t be around till later this evening to answer comments, but I am excited to discuss some of my new favorite books and TV shows with you, and also some of the freaking awesome stuff happening next year! Doctor Who Season 5 got a mention in the bonus “Best TV romances” section, which brings me to:

2. The Doctor Who Christmas special is tomorrow! EEEEEEE anything could happen! Here, have an adorkable video of the cast doing a dramatic rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”:

New contest, Favorite Thing EVER, and a rant

This month I am giving away a signed copy of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair! Check it out! I love that book a LOT, and the series just keeps getting better. I just started his new book Shades of Gray, too.

I also made my second post over at Favorite Thing EVER, on The Online Etymology Dictionary. I also talk about Regency words for blowjob and how I CAN’T FIND ANY GOOD ONES.

I am reading a biography of Ann Yearsley, the working-class poet “discovered” by Hannah More: Lactilla, Milkwoman of Clifton by Mary Waldron. I’m really enjoying it; the author has the perfect mixture of affection and humorous clearsightedness about her subject and it’s got lots of great information about smalltown life in late 18th century England. But it just said this:

Few even of the agitators for political reform or supporters of the American revolutionaries would have contemplated doing without their servants. Most people—even, it must be said, many of the poor themselves—would have agreed with Bernard Mandeville, writing in 1723 about the charity school movement, which had begun in 1699: “Going to School in comparison to Working is Idleness, and the longer Boys continue in this easy sort of Life, the more unfit they’ll be for downright Labor, both as to Strength and Inclination. Men who are to remain and end their Days in a Laborious, Tiresome and Painful Station of Life, the sooner they are put upon it at first, the more patiently they’ll submit to it for ever after.”

I just don’t think that’s a fair transition. I agree completely that very few people (maybe no one) were free of class prejudice in Georgian England. (But then, the same is probably true of modern America.) But unless you’re going to argue we should get rid of social class altogether and redistribute the wealth, which this author doesn’t seem to be doing, saying that having servants was unprogressive seems to me to completely ignore the reality of 18th (and 19th) century life.

1. They didn’t have vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, sewing machines, central heating, food processors, electric lighting, or much in the way of processed/prepared food. Very, very few people had any kind of indoor plumbing.

“The Laundress” by Jean Siméon Chardin, via Wikimedia Commons.

Maintaining even a small middle-class family home was a full-time job for more than one person. Doing without servants entirely would have meant turning the women of the household into unpaid drudges who worked every minute they weren’t sleeping and slept five hours a night. How progressive!

Even women who had servants spent huge amounts of time in household chores. Even the Lucas girls in Pride and Prejudice (a VERY upper-middle-class home, with presumably more servants than most) helped in the kitchen (or so Mrs. Bennet says with some degree of plausibility, even if she’s being catty).

2. Domestic service was a huge part of the economy. Not employing servants meant depriving working-class people of jobs without, as far as I can see, empowering them in the slightest.

3. There’s no connection between employing servants or not and supporting mass education or not. Servants can go to school as children just like anyone else.

Anyway. Sorry, awesome biography author! I do love your book.

YA appreciation, part 2/2

And now, some YA I love so much I still have it on my shelves (or in the case of the last one, “bought the day it came out, fairly recently, and is NOT on my shelf as I have loaned it to a co-worker, but WHATEVER IT COUNTS”):

1. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. An Elizabethan-set retelling of Tam Lin with a no-nonsense heroine, scary but compelling fairies, and a guilt-ridden hero she has to save from paying the fairies’ tithe with his own life.

2. The Gawgon and the Boy by Lloyd Alexander. My favorite of his books (although I love the Westmark books too, and I adore the Vesper Holly series), probably because it feels the most personal. It’s about a boy who is recuperating from a serious illness and has to be tutored by his intimidating elderly relative, a woman who turns out to be awesome and teaches him all kinds of cool stuff.

I think what I love best about this book, though, is that the main character writes Mary Sue fanfiction, among them an ongoing Sabatini pastiche called “The Sea-Fox” (his imaginary girlfriend, of course, goes by “the Sea-Vixen”).

3. The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death by Daniel Pinkwater. About two high-school boys who sneak out of the house at night to go to midnight old-movie showings, and end up fighting a mad scientist. This book was my lifeline through large parts of high school because it captures with such brilliant parody just how crazy families and high school teachers can be. I used to laugh uncontrollably through the entire first chapter. It’s still pretty damn funny.

4. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. Here’s what I wrote in my Goodreads review: “I adored this! Funny, absorbing, touching story about what it means to love someone, what it means to be a family, oh and also teenagers fighting magicians and demons with knives and guns and one-liners. I cried in the happy way at the end. It’s been a while since I read a story that grabbed me so much I wanted to read it over again as soon as I finished it.” I’ve been following the author’s blog since long before she was published, and she is just a generally awesome and funny person. I would probably read her grocery lists, if she wanted to publish them.

And just to cap it off, a favorite blog: What Claudia Wore, devoted to the fashion of the Baby-Sitters’ Club.

What’s your favorite YA book/series?

Through the tunnels of doom and the planes of hope

I can’t remember if I mentioned that I would be in New York visiting family this week—anyway, my uncle, who knows me well, took me to a used bookstore. My purchases:

The Secret History of the South Sea Bubble: the World’s First Great Financial Scandal by Malcolm Balen, about an 18th-century share scheme/fraud and the cover-up.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Regency slang dictionary. I hear this one quoted all the time and have wanted it for a while without ever actually buying it, although I do have James Hardy Vaux’s Dictionary of the Flash Language, specifically about criminal cant, which I’m very fond of. Here are a couple of cool entries I’ve come across in my preliminary scanning:

HOB OR NOB. Will you hob or nob with me? a question formerly in fashion at polite tables, signifying a request or challenge to drink a glass of wine with the proposer: if the party challenged answered Nob, they were to chuse whether white or red. This foolish custom is said to have originated in the days of good queen Bess, thus: when great chimnies were in fashion, there was at each corner of the hearth, or grate, a small elevated projection, called the hob; and behind it a seat. In winter time the beer was placed on the hob to warm: and the cold beer was set on a small table, said to have been called the nob; so that the question, Will you have hob or nob? seems only to have meant, Will you have warm or cold beer? i.e. beer from the hob, or beer from the nob.

TO COAX. To fondle, or wheedle. To coax a pair of stockings; to pull down the part soiled into the shoe, so as to give a dirty pair of stockings the appearance of clean ones. Coaxing is also used, instead of darning, to hide the holes about the ancles.

PUSHING SCHOOL. A fencing school; also a brothel.


And my final purchase: The Dragon in the Sword by Michael Moorcock (whose name should probably have stopped being hilarious to me a long time ago, but hasn’t, because I’m secretly 12). Here is the back cover copy:


Trapped by a timeless existence, doomed to fight forever, John Daker is the Eternal Champion. Boldly he ventures into spheres unknown to search for his lost love, the beautiful Ermizhad—and the key that will free him from his fate.

On a dark ship piloted by a blind captain…amid the slave stalls of the Cannibal Ghost Women…through the tunnels of doom and the planes of hope…the Eternal Champion must now confront the heart of evil itself—a man named Adolf Hitler


Wow. Just wow.

A certain little attendant demon or sprite

I went to Third Place Books a couple of days ago to pick up one of my birthday presents to myself—a shiny copy of Homes of Family Names in Great Britain by Henry Brougham Guppy, printed on their book machine!

It’s basically a list he collected of English last names in all the different counties, and I wanted it for naming characters. Here are the first two paragraphs of the Preface:

“Most books have a history attached to their inception, and, although strongly tempted to inform my readers as to how I came to write this work, I prefer to follow the advice of a certain little attendant demon or sprite, call him what you will, that hangs, metaphorically speaking, to my coat-tails, and brings me up sharply with a prohibitive pull. It will be enough for the author to crave the generous judgment of his readers, and there are few men in this world on whom kindly appreciation and a little timely encouragement are altogether thrown away.

When, some thirteen years ago, whilst a young naval surgeon, I measured the water discharged of the Yang’tse, one of the largest rivers of the world, I little thought that it would be my future lot to be intimately concerned with problems of such widely different natures as the origin of coral islands and the distribution of names in Great Britain. The first of these problems I hope still to work at for many years to come, and particularly because in this matter English geologists have abandoned the safe road of observation and research for the doubtful track of airy speculation under the shadow of a name. A solution of the second complicated problem I now present to my readers, and I await their verdict with no inconsiderable anxiety. Their approval will encourage me in another work of a very different character, on which I am at present engaged, namely, on the homes of the oceanic races of men; but for the prosecution of this and my other works means are necessary, and, failing other aid, I appeal in these pages to the English people.”

WHOA. That’s a huge mess of rhetorical flourishes and professional politics right there. Also, I’d LIKE to pretend that he was doing research on the great cities of the merpeople, but I suspect (and superficial googling appears to confirm) that “oceanic races” is part of the Victorian racial classifications and means, like, Polynesian or something.

And in fact, reading the rest of the preface, the point of the book appears to be in large part to pin down racial differences within Britain. It gets creepier and creepier the more I read: he mentions that “if some disinterested person were to make a study of the distribution of family names in Ireland on the lines adopted in this work, he would provide the legislature with information of practical value,” and follows that up with this gem: “in truth the vexed question of Alsace and Lorraine might be more easily settled by a study of the family nomenclature than by the manufacture of smokeless powder.” Because of course the most relevant question in that dispute was whether the people who lived there had more DNA in common with the French or the German. You have to love those white male Victorians scientists.

Anyway, while I was at the bookstore, I decided to just take a look around…and ended up with:

1. Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley. (I adored The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, the first book in the series.)

2. Ancient Whispers by Marie-Claude Bourque. (Marie-Claude is my friend and this book sounds fantastic!)

3. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs. (I loved the first two books in this series. Mercy is such a fabulous heroine!)

4. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher. (The Dresden Files #11, I think–I’ve been reading this series for years and adore it, and when I realized I’d somehow gotten two books behind, I had to do something right away!)

What’s the last book you bought on impulse?

Angry heroines, part 2/2

As promised in the first part of this post, ten of my favorite angry heroines. Warning: mild spoilers for all these books!

1. Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It meant so much to me that Mary was a bratty, unattractive little kid and she still got to blossom and be a heroine. Way too many classic children’s book heroines are sweet, self-sacrificing, and beautiful even at age 8. I loved A Little Princess too, don’t get me wrong, but The Secret Garden had a special place in my heart.

2. Beth Ellen from The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh. Beth Ellen SEEMS like a sweet little girl. Her grandmother always tells her it’s important to be ladylike, and she listens. But underneath, her feelings are sometimes different and disturbing.

This is by the author of Harriet the Spy and all the Harriet characters make appearances. It’s a brilliant, brilliant book and the ending is ridiculously satisfying. I read this book over and over again as a kid.

3. Sophy from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I love love LOVE the romance in this book. Howl is a vain, cowardly wizard who’s really nice and charming, and Sophy is a responsible oldest sister (but her sisters are nice, not awful! and even her “wicked” stepmother gets a fair shake) who’s transformed into an old woman. She gets a job as Howl’s cleaning lady and yells at him a lot. It’s really quirky and sweet and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of beta heroes.

4. Jessi from Kyle XY. (N.B. The link goes to Season One but Jessi doesn’t show up till Season Two.) I love very nearly everything about this show. It’s a surprisingly naturalistic yet dynamic portrayal of family life, it’s heartwarming and wholesome without ever being saccharin, and the plot is driven forward naturally by believable character motivation and conflict, and people COMMUNICATE with each other. On a shallower note, this show introduced me to my current top celebrity crush, Nicholas Lea.

But one thing that stands out to me is the range of well-developed female characters and the way all of them, even the super-extra-nice ones, get to express anger and stand up for themselves.

I love ALL the women on this show, every last one of them, but I think my favorite is Jessi. Jessi came out of a pod at age 16 (it’s a sci-fi teen drama) and has to learn how to be a teenage girl. She’s not a naturally empathetic person, and she doesn’t have a very nice early life. She tries, and tries, but she doesn’t quite get how she’s supposed to behave, and why. And she’s angry.

5. Agent Lisbon from The Mentalist. She struck such a chord with me from the moment she walked onscreen in the pilot. Finally, a woman who cares deeply about her job, who takes things seriously and follows the rules and who isn’t made fun of for it. Her issues with intimacy and relationships are never, ever minimized by the show. She’s tough and kickass with angsty backstory and a lot of buried anger starting from her childhood and extending into all the awful things she sees everyday running a California Bureau of Investigation homicide unit, plus she has a great smile and sense of humor and she looks out for her team. She’s wonderful.

6. Harriet Vane from the Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers. What can you even say about the romance between Harriet and Peter? It’s SO GREAT. And Harriet’s resentment at her obligation to Peter, his acceptance and respect for that anger, and her learning to deal with it and make peace with it without surrendering her independence and selfhood, is one of my very favorite things about it. There’s this bit in Gaudy Night where she says “I only know that if I once gave way to Peter, I should go up like straw.” And her friend asks, “Has he ever used it against you?” And he hasn’t. ♥

7. Agnes from Agnes and the Hitman by Bob Mayer and Jennifer Crusie. I loved this book. Agnes has anger management issues. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a romance heroine with honest-to-God anger management issues before, and I was thrilled. Is Agnes more violent than I was personally comfortable with? Yes. But I have read so, so many romances where the hero goes into black uncontrollable rages from which only the heroine can talk him down, and I wanted a heroine to be allowed to do the same, and not be judged. Plus, everyone in this book is incredibly charming and there are flamingos and a mob wedding and really, what’s not to love?

8. Mary Wollstonecraft from Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Perhaps this is cheating a little since it’s technically a biography, but it’s a biography written by her husband after her death, and he loves and admires her so much. it’s obvious how brilliant and brave and amazing he thought she was–he praises her to the skies on every page–but he still portrays her as a full person, not as some sweet cardboard cutout (and he’s not even visibly jealous of her previous relationships!). It’s incredibly romantic.

In the first chapter he’s talking about her childhood and he says, “Mary was what Dr. Johnson would have called ‘a very good hater.’ In some instance of passion exercised by her father to one of his dogs, she was accustomed to speak of her emotions of abhorrence, as having risen to agony.”

9. Lydia from The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase. This may be my favorite Loretta Chase, although it’s a tough competition. Lydia is just so angry, and so determined to maintain her independence, and so afraid of losing face because her tough image is the only protection she has in a world that doesn’t much like independent women. Plus, she’s a girl reporter! I LOVE girl reporters.

10. Lily Sharpe in Fall from Grace by Megan Chance. ALL of Megan Chance’s heroines are wonderful and angry, but Lily may be my favorite. Adopted by the outlaws that killed her parents (it’s a Western), she’s vowed her entire life to get her revenge and escape to live the life she should have had as a respectable woman. And she’s not going to let her marriage to the gang leader’s son stop her, even though she might actually love him.

This book is amazing. I love the romance between Lily and Texas as they gradually come to realize the lies they’ve believed about themselves, each other, and their relationship. At the start of the book, Lily has run away and Texas comes after her. She’s living in a boarding house and she’s bought two bonnets. Texas just can’t see Lily, his gun-toting Lily, wearing a bonnet. She tells him it was just a cover and leaves the hats behind without a backward glance, but Texas can’t get them out of his head. Gradually he comes to understand what the bonnets meant to Lily, the entire life she’d been dreaming of without his knowing, and it’s just…I swooned. Because he really, really wants to understand her, and he figures it out no matter how hard she tries to keep herself hidden.

I realize I’ve strayed off the track of her anger, but…she tries to kill him. Twice. How often do you see that in a romance?

Tell me about your favorite angry heroines!

I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful Canadian wilderness at Pemberley.

1. A number of people have been asking me about e-books for In for a Penny. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to figure this one out; the deal is that Dorchester’s e-book program is still a little new and the releases aren’t quite simultaneous yet. But the e-book version is being uploaded to our distributor this week! After that it is up to the individual websites when it’s available for purchase. Some sites are slower than others, but it should be available most places (All Romance, Books on Board, B&N, Sony, Amazon, etc.) at least by the end of the month. Thanks for your patience!

2. I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I’m a huge Kate Beaton fangirl. She was at the Emerald City ComiCon this weekend so I headed over to meet her! There was a pretty long line at her table, which made me both sad (I had to wait in it) and happy (Kate Beaton is successful!). She did a little drawing for everyone, which was incredibly generous of her, and mine is fabulous! I know she likes both Paul Gross and Jane Austen, so I asked for something about Paul Gross making a Jane Austen adaptation.

He’s also one of those artists who likes to write, produce, direct, compose the soundtrack, and star in his own movies, and…sometimes the results are not as great as the stuff where he just acts. (For example, in his curling movie Men With Brooms, the end credits roll over an original song called “Kiss You Till You Weep.” Who thinks that’s romantic? Show of hands?) So the idea of him, say, remaking Pride and Prejudice is hilarious to me. Anyway, here’s what she drew:

A Mountie bowing to a Regency lady.

The scan isn’t great (sorry!), but he’s saying “Excuse me, ma’am, I heard you were looking for a husband. Allow me to assist.” And underneath she wrote “Best movie of all time?” Answer: YES.

3. For Wodehouse fans: What if Bertie Wooster were secretly Batman?

4. I’ve been having great luck with romances recently. I just read Bound by Your Touch, Proof by Seduction, and Something About You, and loved them all. Which is actually partially a lead-in to me reminding you that if you want book recommendations from me, you can follow my reviews at Goodreads! (I say “book recommendations” because that’s what I’m using it for–I have no problem with readers openly critiquing or even mocking books they don’t enjoy, so long as they avoid ad hominem attacks on the author, but as a writer I think it would be kind of unprofessional of me to do it myself. If I don’t like something, I just won’t review it.) I won’t be talking about what I’m reading much on the blog, but I love talking about books, so feel free to friend me and I’ll friend you back!

An embarrassment of riches

Last week I was very, very good and finished all my writing goals for the week! I even cleaned my bathroom (and boy, did it need it). So I promised myself I could buy as much as I wanted at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale this weekend. Here’s what I ended up with:


1. The Making of Victorian Values: Decency and Dissent in Britain 1789-1837, by Ben Wilson.
2. Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650-1838, by Barbara Bush. (A different Barbara Bush.)
3. Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East, by Juan Cole.
4. Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871 by Adam Zamoyski. I’m not sure how much of this will be Regency, nor does he appear to talk much about women. However, I’ve been wanting to read more about the Romantic movement for a long time and the book looks interesting, so we’ll see.
5. London Life in the Eighteenth Century by M. Dorothy George. She seems to mean the long eighteenth century (which can start as early as the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and end as late as the Great Reform Bill of 1832, although in this case it means 1700-1815), which is nice for me. It mostly focuses on the details of working class life, with a whole section on “London Immigrants and Emigrants,” one of my current research topics!
6. The Illustrated Companion to Nelson’s Navy, by Nicholas Blake and Richard Lawrence.


1. Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy. I remember this got a great review on Smart Bitches when it first came out.
2. Seduction of a Proper Gentleman, by Victoria Alexander.
3. The Boys Next Door, by Jennifer Echols. (YA. I loved her debut about the marching band, Major Crush.)
4. All-American Girl by Meg Cabot. Possibly her last YA series I haven’t read any of.
5. Love Letters from a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle.
6. The Admiral’s Bride by Suzanne Brockmann. Someone recced this to me YEARS ago.
7. Aaaaand, an extra copy of Lord of Scoundrels. Because you never know.


I don’t cook at home as much as I used to now that I cook for a living, but I still love it and I always look in the cookbooks section. In past years I’ve found such gems as Barbara Cartland’s The Romance of Food, The First Ladies Cook Book (featuring the favorite recipe of each First Lady of the US), and last year a book of excitingly-shaped cakes (dinosaurs, volcanos, &c.). This year I ended up with:

1. Romantic Italian Cookery by Mary Cadogan.
2. The Joy of Liberace: Retro Recipes from America’s Kitschiest Kitchen. I never even knew Liberace was a cook! The book is full of amazing photos of him cooking, and also food with rhinestones on it.

Not a bad haul! If you’re looking for me in the next month or so, I’ll probably be diving into my books like Scrooge McDuck into his Money Bin.

Does your town have a library book sale? What’s the best find you ever bought there?