Review, author interview, and giveaway – Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt

Cover image, Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt

I’ve mentioned a few times how much I enjoy Elizabeth Hoyt’s books.  I dig the Georgian setting (with modern sensibilities), the less-than-perfect characters, the ethical questions that are explored.  I abso-freaking-lutely adore the way Hoyt arranges the story so that it weaves around a legend that introduces the book’s main themes–and that those themes differ in each book.  (I hadn’t realized it before, but those legends, which are told throughout the chapter introductions), are rather like the Opening Collects of all sorts of liturgies.)  Anyway, I just love these books, and it’s always a fine day when I sit down to read one.

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

When Strangers In The Night

He lives in the shadows. As the mysterious masked avenger known as the Ghost of St. Giles, Godric St. John’s only goal is to protect the innocent of London. Until the night he confronts a fearless young lady pointing a pistol at his head—and realizes she is his wife.

Become Lovers…

Lady Margaret Reading has vowed to kill the Ghost of St. Giles—the man who murdered her one true love. Returning to London, and to the man she hasn’t seen since their wedding day, Margaret does not recognize the man behind the mask. Fierce, commanding, and dangerous, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles is everything she feared he would be—and so much more.

Desire Is The Ultimate Danger

When passion flares, these two intimate strangers can’t keep from revealing more of themselves than they had ever planned. But when Margaret learns the truth—that the Ghost is her husband—the game is up and the players must surrender…to the temptation that could destroy them both.

My review

I love a good courtship story, but I also get a real kick out of stories that are basically about a couple of strangers who are married (or otherwise tied to one another) for whatever reason and have to muddle through the muck and mire of interpersonal nonsense in order to reach their happily ever after.  These stories are refreshing (to me) because (1) the author doesn’t have to spend time dreaming up ways to throw the characters in company–they’re stuck together– (2) they fly counter to the idea that marriage (or even an engagement) is an end unto itself, a guaranteed happily ever after, and (3) they occasionally contain darker or deeper themes than courtship stories (the characters marry, and suddenly the heroine isn’t just herself, she’s also “wife,” and that added identity can make it more difficult for hero and heroine (also husband and wife) to develop a relationship as individuals outside their marital roles.).

Anyway, Lord of Darkness is a fun twist on the strangers married story type.  Not only are Margaret and Godric (got to love a romance hero named Godric, right?) pretty much a pair of married strangers, but they also have to work through an added layer of difficulty–Godric’s secret identity.  Also, both characters show up with the emotional baggage of a former love (Marianne Dashwood would be horrified), and Margaret’s biological clock ticks at a deafening volume.  I love me some deep-seated emotional issues, so I was a very happy reader as Godric and Margaret each worked through their grief and guilt with emotional poignancy and occasional humor.

As usual, my favorite thing about the story was the legend that was told throughout the chapter introductions, calling attention to the book’s main theme (between the characters, at least), the restoring power of love.  Beyond that theme, the book also discussed social justice, vigilantism, depression (in a way) and family, among other things.

I’m not saying that I loved everything about the story.  The intrigue plot felt like a little bit of a redo, and it seemed (to me) as though Margaret took Godric’s news way too well.  But on the whole, I enjoyed this book, and I’m super excited to read the next one.  I highly recommend this series (and all of Hoyt’s books) to anyone looking for romances with interesting characters set in Georgian England (but with modern sensibilities and language) that explore deeper themes than just person A meets person B; they boink.  (Actually, that would be a fun story to read…)

Interview with Elizabeth Hoyt

I want to start by thanking Elizabeth for coming on the blog today to answer some questions about her newest release.  As those of you who have been following this blog for a while know, I’m a bit of a fan, and I clapped my hands like a little girl when I found out I had the opportunity to host an interview with her on the blog and offer a giveaway of her current series.  (Seriously… I was in public when I read the email… my husband was pretty embarrassed.)

1.  RwA: Is there any historical example for the Ghost of St. Giles, a real-life vigilante?  

Hoyt: I don’t know of any real-life examples (there are of course plenty of fictional ones.) I do know about an example of a historical urban legend that worked kind of like the rumors that swirl around the Ghost. In the late nineteenth century several newspapers reported on a figure called Spring-Heeled Jack, a sort of satanic figure with glowing red eyes who popped up and scared people. He was supposed to make inhuman leaps, hence his name.

2.  RwA: When I read this book, I noticed some parallels (possibly of my own imagination) between the individual ghosts and some modern vigilante archetypes.  Did my imagination get away from me, or are there parallels?

Hoyt: You mean fictional characters? My Ghost was definitely influenced by the modern Batman films, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouche, and an obscure 1970s Disney film, Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarcrow.

3.  RwA: What illness did Clara St. John have?

Hoyt: LOL! No one has ever asked me that. I think she had some type of cancer or tuberculosis.

4.  RwA: Is it difficult to bridge the gap between a modern audience’s understanding of medical matters and a historical setting wherein many medical matters are unknown and mysterious (and in which the practice of medicine bears almost no resemblance to modern procedures)?

Hoyt: Actually, yes. It’s hard because we all know about germ theory and the importance of hygiene, especially around wounds, but really they had no idea back then. A lot of “medicine” consisted of wine or other spirits and herbs that might have no effect at all. But, oddly enough, people did survive horrific wounds that by all rights should’ve killed them either outright or by infection.

I did quite a bit of research into Godric’s arm injury in Lord of Darkness and the bulky, awkward splint the doctor uses is historically accurate—as is the fear of being crippled for life from a simple break. Bonesetting was an important art.

5.  RwA: During this book, some of the male characters have a discussion about a law attempting to regulate the flow of gin in St. Giles.  What is the significance of this law?

Hoyt: Overall there were seven gin acts put into law over twenty years trying to control gin in London during this time—most of which either didn’t have any effect or actually made matters worse. The act the characters are talking about in Lord of Darkness had to do with trying to arrest unlicensed gin sellers. Unfortunately, the act resulted in a lot of poor people who were selling gin out of wheelbarrows and carts getting arrested. It didn’t stop the bigger sellers (who paid bribes) or the overall distribution of gin. And there were several bloody riots with informers being lynched.

6.  RwA: Most readers of historical romance have a familiarity with Regency England as a historical setting. What are some of the cultural differences between the Georgian period in which you set your books and the later Regency period?

Hoyt: The Georgian period is more earthy, more opulent, and slightly freer. Also, lady’s underwear hadn’t been invented yet. 😉

 7.  RwA: Lady Penelope is a delightfully awful character.  Is there any chance that she’ll get to star in her own story?  (I have my fingers crossed… she’s one of my favorite characters.)

No, but never fear, she does get her own happy ending. 😉

Thank you for having me on Reading with Analysis! Readers can learn more about my Maiden Lane series and Lord of Darkness at my website: www.elizabethhoyt.com. You can also chat with me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ElizabethHoyt), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethHoytBooks?ref=search&sid=1033016156.428653851), Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16202.Elizabeth_Hoyt), and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/elizabethhoyt/)

Giveaway epicness!

FOREVER Romance has generously agreed to host this epic giveaway and will send one print copy of all five books in the Maiden Lane series (Wicked Intentions, Notorious PleasuresScandalous Desires, Thief of Shadows, and Lord of Darkness) to one lucky commenter, chosen at random (thank you, random.org).  There are, of course, some rules:

  1. This giveaway is limited to US residents only (sorry!).
  2. You must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
  3. You must comment on this post in order to qualify.  Don’t worry, I’ll give you a topic.
  4. You must be willing to provide your mailing address in order to receive your copy of the book.
  5. The giveaway will run through 11:59 PM pacific time on Thursday, March 14.  I will announce the super lucky winner on Friday, March 15.

Please leave a comment about vigilantism in literature (including comics), movies, and/or real life.  Many of us enjoy stories about dashing heroes taking justice into their own hands, but would you really want to meet one?  What is the draw?  Feel free to ignore my arbitrarily chosen topic in favor of one that is more interesting to you. 🙂

Lord of Darkness was released on February 26, 2013 as a mass market and e-book from Forever.

* FTC Disclaimer – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. *

Review, author interview, and giveaway – An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere

Cover image, An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere

I am thrilled to be able to talk about this fantastic book on the blog today, to feature an interview with the author, Jennifer Delamere, and to facilitate the first-ever giveaway on this blog, kindly hosted by the publisher.  I think the technical term for this sort of post is Extravaganza!  Let’s get down to business.

A New Beginning

A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend, Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her façade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?

My review

In short: I loved this book.  I have a bit of a soft spot for inspirational romance that doesn’t strangle one with sweetness and sparkly rainbows, and this book more than fit that bill.  It is a lovely romance featuring a slew of flawed but likable characters, a case of assumed identity, some pining, a bit of despair, a spoonful of righteous indignation, and a fantastically awful villain (and he TOTALLY did the Wilhelm scream).  Further, even though Lizzie endures years of unpleasant consequences and guilt as a result of her ‘youthful indiscretion,’ nothing about this book raised my lady hackles.  The feminist in me was well-pleased.

I loved all of the history that is sprinkled throughout this book–there is enough historical detail to provide a proper setting for the characters’ actions but never so much that I grew bored or impatient–especially the parts relating to the Great Exhibition.  So often in a historical novel, there is not a clear connection between the world-building and the characters, but Delamere does a fantastic job here of making the historical details that establish the setting relate to the characters and to the characters’ story arc.  There is this lovely little bit wherein Geoffrey, a vicar-turned-baron, refers to the Great Exhibition as an occasion “where the rich and the poor might meet together,” and that line becomes a motif that demonstrates one of the novel’s themes and sheds light on Lizzie’s thoughts on where she stands vis-à-vis Geoffrey.  As a reader, I get so frustrated when books suffer from a glut of unnecessary detail, but An Heiress at Heart was a balm to my soul.

Interview with Jennifer Delamere

The youngest child of a Navy pilot and a journalist, Jennifer acquired a love of adventure and an excitement for learning that continues to this day. She’s lived in three countries and traveled through the U.S. An avid reader of classics and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books. She resides with her husband in North Carolina. You can learn more at: http://www.jenniferdelamere.com/

I want to start by thanking Jennifer for coming on the blog today to answer some questions about her debut novel.  As some of you know, I have kind of a thing for history, and it is rare to have the opportunity to discuss it with anyone who is not put off by my creepy enthusiasm (in general, and about history in particular).

1.  RwA: An Heiress at Heart includes many rich historical details about London and Australia in the early Victorian Era. Where and how did you conduct your research? Did you do any traveling?

Delamere: Most of my research was done through books. Victorian London, by Liza Picard, was extremely helpful. It focused on the period 1840-1870, and included fascinating details on all aspects of everyday life, right down to the sounds and smells. It had an entire chapter devoted to the Great Exhibition, which is where I first learned about it.

And of course there is a treasure trove of sources available online! I even found a site that had scanned copies of Australian newspapers going back to the 1840s—very helpful because the backstory for An Heiress at Heart takes place in colonial Australia. The color paintings that the London Illustrated News produced of the Great Exhibition
were valuable for helping me describe it. Readers who want to get a better “look” can easily find dozens of these pictures by doing a Google search for images from the Great Exhibition.

I did also travel to England. Many of the descriptions of Hyde Park and the homes in Mayfair are based on what I was able to see for myself. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London had wonderful displays of Victorian clothing and jewelry.

2. RwA: What drew you to the early Victorian Era as a setting for your books?

Delamere: It was an easy choice for me. I have so many favorite authors from that time, including Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m a big fan of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operettas (written in the 1870s and 1880s), and the plays of Oscar Wilde. I’ve read lots of books about Victorian England just for enjoyment. Because my head was already in that era, so to speak, I felt I understood the Victorian world well enough to set my novels there.

3.  RwA: I loved your use of poetry throughout this book. Could you talk a bit about the specific poets you chose and their importance to the period?

Delamere: I first came across a few lines of a Tennyson poem in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. I loved it so much I found a book of Tennyson poems so that I could read the whole thing. That poem is the one Lizzie Poole is reading on the hillside at Rosewood. Tennyson was the poet laureate at the time An Heiress at Heart takes place, and he was immensely popular. He really was in many ways the quintessential Victorian poet. I ended up finding two other poems that also suited the book very well.

4.  RwA: Much of the action in London takes place at the Great Exhibition. Why was this exhibition so important?

Delamere: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was meant to show England’s prominence in trade and manufacturing, and it succeeded, even though countries from around the world were exhibiting their marvels as well. At times it’s referred to as the first world’s fair. It also boosted Prince Albert’s popularity. He was heavily involved in its planning and promotion and was vital to making it successful. Because of his foreign origins he’d initially had a hard time being accepted by Britons, but after the Great Exhibition he was held in higher esteem. This made Queen Victoria (who visited the Exhibition dozens of times) very proud and happy. The Exhibition made a lot of money, much of which was used to buy up property south of Hyde Park and fund (among other things) the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. The Royal Commission that was founded to run the Great Exhibition is still in operation today, funding research in science and engineering. That’s quite a legacy.

5.  RwA: I am curious: did the Prince’s Cottages end up being a success for both the working poor and the investors that funded their construction?

Delamere: I haven’t studied it in detail, but it does seem true that many successful housing projects were completed using that business model. The “Prince’s Cottages” that Geoffrey and Lizzie toured is in fact still standing, although not in Hyde Park. It was torn down after the Great Exhibition and rebuilt south of the Thames River in Kennington Park. It’s now called the Prince Consort Lodge.

A block of flats built on the design of the Prince’s Cottages is also still standing today, in a neighborhood near the British Museum. It’s a large group of condos built around an enclosed courtyard. I was not able to go inside, but I did get a picture of the outside, which still proclaims their original purpose. I’ve included a copy for you here.

6.  RwA: Who are your favorite authors/what are your favorite books?

Delamere: I’m a pretty eclectic reader. I love classics, histories,  travelogues, historical romances, and contemporary romances. I’ve listed many of them on my GoodReads page; I love to connect with readers there: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5814224.Jennifer_Delamere.

7.  RwA: I see you have another book in the works; is there any chance we will get to explore James’ story in a future book?

Delamere: Funny you should ask! Yes, we will see more of James. His story will conclude in the third book of this trilogy. I like to say he’ll be the last man standing! No one will be more surprised than James at the woman who manages to finally steal his heart. I believe the readers will be pleasantly surprised, too.

Thank you for these wonderful and insightful questions! I enjoyed answering these immensely. I hope readers will take great pleasure in reading An Heiress at Heart.

Giveaway!

FOREVER Romance has generously agreed to host this giveaway and will send one print copy of An Heiress to Remember to one lucky commenter, chosen at random (thank you, random.org).  There are, of course, some rules:

  1. This giveaway is limited to US residents only (sorry!).
  2. You must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
  3. You must comment on this post in order to qualify.  Don’t worry, I’ll give you a topic.
  4. You must be willing to provide your mailing address in order to receive your copy of the book.
  5. The giveaway will run through 11:59 PM pacific time on Wednesday, November 7.  I will announce the winner on Thursday, November 8.

Please leave a comment about your favorite historical time period, assuming you have one.  Would you want to live in a time bendy universe wherein you could experience that time period for  yourself, or are you quite content with modern conveniences (and lack of time travel)?   Please feel free to ignore my arbitrarily chosen topic in favor of one that is more interesting to you. 🙂

An Heiress at Heart was released on October 30, 2012 as a trade paperback from Forever Trade Paperback and as a mass market.  If you are interested in the book, please visit its page on Goodreads here.  Jennifer Delamere is on Twitter (@jendelamere), so feel free to follow if you’re into that whole Twitter thing.

* FTC Disclaimer – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. *

Opposite ends of a very small spectrum

I’ve got another ridiculous story on the docket, but I thought I should actually write about books this week.  My backlog of books I’ve read but haven’t discussed here is growing, and that’s partially due to laziness on my part (it’s easier to read a book than to write about it) and to a recent trend of reading books that are actually very good (it’s easier to write about a stinky book than a very good one).  At any rate, it’s time for me to get off my duff and do some   on-topic writing.

Cover image, The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina Darby

At 93 pages (in my Nook edition), The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe weighs in as a novella (with an absurdly long, but perfect, title).  I read an excerpt of this book on the author’s website and felt compelled to purchase it.  The writing is good, and the premise is very interesting, but it was the characters that sold me on this book.  Angelina is a nearly washed-up courtesan–not your average wide-eyed innocent heroine–and John is a damaged hero (of the went-to-war-and-returned-with-issues variety).

A lot of romance authors force their characters to discover love, to work it out like a difficult puzzle, throughout the course of the story.  This book is different; its characters discover trust.  The resulting story is so much more adult and interesting.  Let’s face it: trust is hard.  It’s so easy to love someone, but it’s very difficult to trust someone to love you back.  I give major props to this strangely beefy novella for veering into some difficult interpersonal territory.  Also, there’s a dog, and y’all know how I feel about animal antics.

On the whole, though, The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe is serious in its subject matter and content.  There is wit, but it is dry.  It does not sparkle, but not every book has to in order to be good and enjoyable, and sometimes I yearn for a book that doesn’t need to pretend that the world is full of sunshine, rainbows, and sparkles shooting out of unicorn butts.

Of course, sometimes a book that revels in levity, sunshine, and light-hearted humor, in which bad things either don’t happen or aren’t dwelt on is enjoyable, too.  For those moments, there is this:

Cover image, Upon a Midnight Dream by Rachel Van Dyken

I gave Upon a Midmight Dream an unfair read to start with.  I read it right after I finished The Siren.  The difference in style, genre, storytelling, etc. was unbelievably jarring.  I went back later and did a brief re-read, and I enjoyed it so much better.  The thing is, this book is a fairy tale romance, so it holds only the most tenuous connection with reality.  It is light and funny and a little bit spastic.  And, seriously, Stefan, the hero, had to have been based on Disney’s Flynn Rider.  

It was so charming and refreshing to have a truly stupid hero, that I didn’t mind all the stuff that would normally have annoyed the bejesus out of me (e.g. the plot device the keeps Stefan and Rosalind apart is Rosalind’s desire to receive a properly romantic proposal matched with Stefan’s seeming inability to deliver one, and this despite the fact that members of both their families are or appear to be dying from a mysterious curse that only their marriage can stop… SERIOUSLY?!).

If you approach this book expecting it to make sense or convey a little bit of truth about life, you’re going to be disappointed.  But, if you come at it expecting to have a good time, to laugh, to say, “Wait, WHAT?” an awful lot (but not always in a bad way), you surely will.

And, again, because y’all know how I feel about animal antics in a book, this book had me at Sampson, Stefan’s horse, who is pretty much this guy:

So, there you have it.  Good can mean a lot of things, depending on your mood.

Ready for a tangent?  Good!  My e-reader of choice (mostly because it’s the one I own) is a Nook, so when I saw this character card in a game I played with some friends over the weekend, I knew I had to post it here.  My Nook Color seems just a little bit more badass, like it could don a salmon-colored capelet and punch you (or me) in the face with lightning, if it wanted (thanks, Jason!).

Nook the Wizard likes to punch pudding in the face