by Mary Jo
Today’s Ask A Wench question was submitted by JaneAnn Railey Clear. JaneAnn will receive a copy of one of my books. Also, because of the nature of this blog, there will be a second book giveaway. Read on!
"What book would you give a person that you think would hook me/them to go looking for all your books?
This is intriguing and difficult, particularly since we’re all reluctant to gush too much about our own work. But we did come up with selections, and at Anne’s suggestion, many of us are including mini-excerpts to give an idea of what we do. First up:
It would depend on who you are and what you like to read. I've published over 40 books from sexy medievals to sweet Regencies, Victorian era Americana, westerns, magical islands, and that doesn't even touch my mystery or my contemporary romances that cross the country. I can't possibly hook everyone with just one book, more's the pity. I need to learn to limit myself.
So, since this is a blog about historical romance, I'll excerpt a line from The Wicked Wyckerly, my most recent Rita nominee:
John Fitzhugh Wyckerly, newly styled seventh Earl of Danecroft, tilted back his late father’s wooden office chair and plopped his muddy boots on a towering stack of yellowed invoices. From that position, he contemplated the gun collection on the far wall left to him by his freshly departed brother.
If guns were the solution to his problems, he had a vast array from which to choose.
And for those of you who might prefer contemporary romance, here's the first line from my digital reissue of Almost Perfect.
I am a rotten person.
Biting her lip, Cleo Alyssum painstakingly printed this fact into her journal. She thought the whole idea of a journal of emotions about as silly as it got, but if the counselor wanted honesty, that’s what he would get
I never know what to say when people ask me this — different books appeal to different readers — but I know that readers often recommend my first Berkley book, The Perfect Rake. Before I'd started writing it, I'd planned to make the hero dark and brooding and dangerous, but then this hero called Gideon just strolled onto the page, being flippant and funny and very dangerous to a girl's heart, and he walked away with the book. It sparked a series, so that's the book of mine I recommend you start with.
Here's a short excerpt:
"I asked you to stay away from me."
He simply smiled, and Prudence could see why so many women had made fools of themselves over him. Well, she would not be one of them!
"I would appreciate it if you would stop . . . stop . . . ogling me like that," she hissed, tugging her very modest neckline higher. "It is very embarrassing." She folded her arms across her breasts defensively.
He tried to look contrite. "It wasn't me," he confessed. "It was my eyes. They are bold and easily led and have no sense of propriety."
Here's a longer excerpt of when the hero and heroine first meet.
I'd send folks off to read Forbidden Rose.
This is the first in my Spymaster series, chronologically, so there's a certain logic to handing this one over. I like all my books, which is a good thing since I have to spend a long time writing them, but I particularly like this Romance pair. My Maggie and Doyle.
This is my French Revolution book, so there's lots going on. Here’s an excerpt.
I always struggle when someone asks me to recommend one of my books but if you put me on the spot I would say try Unmasked. Readers have told me that they particularly like the unusual historical background, the element of adventure and the gorgeous protector hero (their words!). I loved writing a book set in my native Yorkshire and I hope it channels something of that place's wild spirit. In fact I loved writing Unmasked, altogether and I hope that that comes across in the writing.
Here is a short excerpt:
Nick stepped forward and took Mari’s gloved hand in his. “You seem very well recovered from your fall yesterday, ma’am,” he murmured. “We were sorry to miss you in the evening but it is a pleasure to see that you are now restored to good health and spirits.”
“I am very well, I thank you,” Mari said, removing her hand from his grip. “Pray do not let me keep you from your business.”
Nick grinned. “You do not seem particularly pleased to see me again, ma’am.”
“I have no feelings on the matter,” Mari said, very sweetly.
“You claim to be indifferent to me?”
“I make no claim to anything at all.” Mari said.
There is more information on the book and the research behind it on my website:
Interesting question! And a tough one. I always find that “what’s the ONE book you love, recommend” question exceedingly difficult to answer. It’s the old “which one of your children do you like best” dilemma. So I really had to think long and hard about it . . .
I like to think there are compelling characters and an engaging storyline in all of my books. For me, I strive to have humor, sharp banter, “chewy”—that is, complex—characters, who have meat and gristle on the bone. (The heroine is usually a little offbeat) I also like weaving a mystery or adventure into the plot.
I’m constantly trying to play with all those elements, and sharpen my skill at weaving them together. So maybe it’s taking the easy way out, but I’d recommend my latest book, Too WIcked to Wed, which comes out in two weeks.
Here's an excerpt-(the encounter takes place in a gaming hell and brothel):
A low bark of laughter sounded, and then tightened to a gruff snarl as the man turned to Alexa's companion. “Are your brains in your bum, Stiles? What the devil do you mean by bringing a respectable young lady here? Your message mentioned Becton, not-”
“It's not the captain's fault. I gave him no choice,” she interrupted. “I am Alexa Hendrie, Lord Becton's sister. And you are?”
“This isn't a damn dowager's drawing room, Lady Alexa Hendrie. We don't observe the formalities of polite introductions here.” The sneer grew more pronounced. “Most of our patrons would rather remain anonymous. But if you wish a name, I am called the Irish Wolfhound.”
“Ah.” Alexa refused to be cowed by his deliberate rudeness. “And this is your Lair?”
“You could say that.”
“Excellent. Then I imagine you can tell me straight off whether Sebastian is here. It is very important that I find him.”
“I can.” His lip curled up to bare a flash of teeth. “But whether I will is quite another matter. The place would not remain in business very long were I to freely dispense such information to every outraged wife or sister who happens to barge through the door.”
“Is it profitable?” she asked after a fraction of a pause.
“The business?” The question seemed to take him aback, but only for an instant. “I manage to . . . make ends meet. So to speak.”
“Now see, here, Wolf-” sputtered Stiles.
“How very clever of you,” went on Alexa, ignoring her companion's effort to cut off any more risqué innuendoes. Smiling sweetly, she shot a long, lingering glance at the Wolfhound's grey-flecked hair. “I do hope the effort isn't too taxing on your stamina.”
“I assure you,” he replied softly. “I am quite up to the task.”
“Bloody hell.” Stiles added another oath through his gritted teeth. “Need I remind you that the lady is a gently bred female?”
The quicksilver eyes swung around and fixed him with an unblinking stare. “Need I remind you that I am not the arse who brought her here?”
Mary Jo Putney:
Like Cara/Andrea, I hate being asked which book I'd recommend. I love them ALL! But the book that keeps getting listed on ‘all time best romance’ lists, which is not only close to my heart but also characteristic of what I write, is The Rake, aka my “alcoholic hero” book. It has all my favorite themes: the tormented hero, the strong, independent woman who probably has to work for her living. And now and then, some humor.
The inspiration for the story was my exasperation with all those hard drinking Regency rake heroes who never suffered consequences for their behavior. In The Rake, the consequences of alcoholism almost destroy my hero, Reginald Davenport.
I’m delighted that Kensington is going to reissue The Rake next April, and I hope they keep it in print for a long time. This snippet is from the scene where Reggie has reached the breaking point, and the heroine, Alys Weston, must check up on him:
Alys chased the concerned watchers away, saying the man would never come out if he had an audience. Then she took the prepared tray and entered the library.
Reggie was a lean, silent shape slouched in his favorite chair, half turned away from her. The room too shadowed to see his face, but his clothing was neat. With luck, he had not availed himself of the liquor cabinet.
She set the tray on a table to the left of the door and said quietly. “Are you still among the living?”
His head turned in her direction. After a lengthy silence, he said in a slow, rusty voice, “I've read of penguins that jump around on an ice floe, trying to decide if there are sharks in the water. Eventually they push one of their number into the sea. If the sacrifice isn't eaten, they all dive in. You, I assume, are the sacrificial penguin.”
She had to smile. Obviously there was some life in the old boy left. “I’ve have been called many things in my life, but never a sacrificial penguin. How did you know there was a committee outside trying to decide what to do about you?”
“Occasionally the door would open, very quietly, then close again.”
“After they had determined that the shark was still lurking here.” Without asking if he wanted any, she poured two cups of tea, with heavy dollops of milk and sugar in Reggie's cup, then went and put it in his hand. Close up, he looked dreadful, with haunted eyes and a gray tinge to his dark skin. As he stared at the dainty cup, she said helpfully, “It's called tea. People drink it. It's the British cure for whatever ails you.”
He smiled faintly, then raised the cup and took a deep swallow. “In that case, you had better order a larger pot.”
A longer version of this excerpt.
Though it seems odd to pick an early work, I think Emily and the Dark Angel is likely to appeal to a wide range of potential readers. It won't shock the sensitive with sex or violence, but there's plenty of action and desire. It also has humour, which few can resist. Emily and the Dark Angel won a number of best Regency awards, including one from Romantic Times, and also a RITA from Romance Writers of America. An excerpt:
"Lost for words, Miss Grantwich?" he challenged.
Emily was perilously close to it. Nothing in her life had prepared her for Piers Verderan. "All I can say, Mr. Verderan," she said primly, "is that your conversation is not that of a gentleman."
"Ask anyone. They´ll tell you it´s been my life´s work to avoid being anything so tedious as a gentleman."
"What pray are you, then?"
His smile widened into that devilishly charming one, and it was as if little flames sparked in his eyes. "Why, Miss Grantwich, haven´t you guessed? I´m a rake. And I´m also Casper Sillitoe´s heir. I believe this land is contested between our two estates. I´ll have to consider carefully this matter of your sheep."
Before she could say a word, he turned his horse and set it back the way he´d come at a gallop, flying over a fence with elegance. Emily felt Nelson twitch with the urge to follow and challenge that dark beauty. She felt the same urge herself, but it was not a riding challenge that called her. It was something else.
Oh, it's never easy for an author to choose among the books, but I do have a certain fondness for my Sarah Gabriel quartet of historical romances set in Regency Scotland. I'd happily recommend those to anyone looking for a fun adventure-romance (I also write bigger, deeper mainstream historicals, and if you like that sort of thing too, please give them a try!). Here's an edited bit from The Highland Groom, as our heroine Fiona, amateur geologist, walks through the remote Highlands in the fog and suddenly looks up the slope:
A man stood on the rise above her, one booted foot propped on a rock, kilt draped over powerful thighs. Leaping to her feet so quickly that she almost tripped, Fiona looked up. "Who—are you?” she asked breathlessly.
He stepped downward, extended a hand. “Come up to me,” he said, beckoning.
Fiona gaped. The man looked fierce, powerful, and wholly not of this earth in the enveloping fog on the hillside. He seemed to have stepped out of time, in kilt and jacket, strong legs swathed in stockings to his knees, with chestnut hair sifting to his shoulders, jaw dusted with a dark beard, eyes greenish and glaring.
She had heard stories of the Sidhe—an ancient fairy race of tall, magnificent beings who sometimes appeared to humans, even captured them. And this stranger had stepped too suddenly out of the mist in this remote place.
The Highlander gestured again. “Miss. Come up to me.” He grabbed her arm and drew her toward him.
“Let go!” She pulled back. “You would steal me away!”
“What?” He looked down, the angle making him seem tall as a giant. “Who the devil do you think I am?”
“One of the, ah, Sidhe--?” Now she realized how foolish that sounded.
He chuckled, his laugh not otherworldly, but warm and delightful. "Not bloody likely,” he said.
And now over to you. As readers, which Wench books would YOU choose to encourage a new reader to read more of that author? I’ll give a second book to someone who leaves a comment by midnight Saturday.