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The Wenches

  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam

  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

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Wench Staff Emeritae

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  • Want to read ALL the posts by a specific Wench? Just scroll down to the bottom of her post and click on her name!

June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)

    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Bestseller Lists:

    NY Times

    • Wall Street Journal

    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

    • Amazon.com

    Chicago Tribune

    • Rocky Mountain News

    • Publishers Weekly


« Too hot to trot? | Main | Worldly Wench Returns! »


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My love affair with historical romance began with a fabulous marketing display.

SHANNA, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

A lush tropical cover in deep-hued colors of fuscia hibiscus and jungle leaf teal made me put my hand on the book. It was big book, soft-cover. Trade paperback, I guess. I bought it. I read it. Several times now.

Prior to that I'd read Styron, Dickens, Austen and a host of other "greats."

SHANNA ruined me forever and the story lived up to the hype on the cover. Dear G-d, this gorgeous blonde with a fabulous wardrobe lived in a mansion on her father's tropical island. She sailed half-way around the world, falling in love with a prisoner, who fought pirates for her. The prisoner turns out to be a wealthy colonist!

Good Lord, why would I ever return to tragic fiction again?

Ever since then I resist reading anything that does not end in HEA. Despite all the hooplah, I did not read the DaVinci Code.

Some people think I should be somehow apologetic for my love of SHANNA, and especially Woodiwiss. BUT, I consider myself a loyal reader and fan. Sure, she used "orbs" for eyes way too much, but her writing has provided the flavor for my taste in romance, so I admittedly I like Romance slightly over the top.

And for every other author of historical romance fiction... Kathleen Woodiwiss pulled me into the bookstore's romance aisles and kept me there, searching for new authors. I discovered Garwood, Putney, Chase, Rice, Hendrickson, Kinsale, Kleypas... the list goes on. For each new author I find and love, I get mired deeper and deeper into the genre. My book buying dollars approach obsessive-compulsive in our genre. Which is good for authors!

I do not think I've really wandered far from our topic because I'm discussing what draws me in. Unlike you, Susan, I do read the author endorsement cover blurbs. If MJP says so-and-so is scintillating, or some such thing, I buy the book. I've since learned these are professional courtesies most of the time, but I do not think an author would endorse a crummy book.

Displays only pull me in if something about it intrigues me. I avoid shattered glass, lightning strikes and bloody bodies, too.

I love covers. DUCHESS is beautiful, Susan. I haven't read it yet, but I did buy it. And that counts.


Nope, store displays won't pull me in, either. And I give very little credence to reviewers online. I'll read just about anything my sister recommends. And I rely on other readers at the message boards I frequent. I will look at the author endorsements and sometimes that will persuade me if it's one of my favorite authors and I was already thinking about trying the book. Mostly, the cover copy (or inside copy) has got to pull me in, with an occasional "That cover is just so great that I've got to try it" decision, though that has only happened about 5 times in the last 10 years.


Cathy, I guess I don't pay attention to author quotes because I know that quoting authors often say something nice not so much for the book itself, but because their editor or agent asked them as a favor, or because the authors are friends. Not always, true, but often. And most authors will also find something favorable to praise because they don't want to tempt incurring bad writer-kharma.

Yes, I totally agree that the DUCHESS cover is a beauty. But remember that constipated muppet sea captain from an earlier book: oh, yes, I do believe in writer-kharma....!

And yes, yes, yes, buying a book ALWAYS counts. :) Thank you!

Denise, I'm a total sucker for covers. Make it beautiful, or intriguing, or just bright or sparkly, and I pick up that book like a magpie with a bottle-cap.

True confession: I first discovered Laura Kinsale when I bought "Lord of Midnight" for the Fabio cover. Shallow, shallow....:)


I don't pay any attention to marketing. I'm glad to see it if I like the author because I want them to do well, but it doesn't affect my buying. I read reviews in magazines I already get (or news) but don't seek out reviews. I never ask friends what they're reading. I might get something based on an online suggestion - but mostly it's me and the bookshelf going 'hm.'

Susan Wilbanks

I'm a contrary consumer. Splashy store displays, Oprah's choices, the advertising campaign for "If All Seattle Read the Same Book...", etc. just make me turn up my nose and say, "I don't need them to tell me what I should read."

I do read reviews, though I don't pay much attention to the grade unless I know and trust the reviewer. Reviews just help me get a sense of what the book is about and how it meshes with my tastes. I also go by friends' recommendations, and I'm willing to try almost anything a favorite author says s/he loves to read.


Advertising hype generally turns me against the thing it is pushing, rather than towards it. I do not necessarily believe reviews, and deliberately ignore all cover 'art' (if I did not, I might never have read a romance in my life, since I loathe the great majority of fiction covers). I will listen to friends' recommendations, but know well that my tastes differ in many ways from those of even very close friends. (I need only say that Talpianna loves Tolkien...!)

No, one has to READ part of the book: it's the only way. My 'tasting' method requires the first page or two, a random couple of pages in the middle, and another couple of pages near the end. If the book passes that test, I'll buy it. The beginning alone is not enough for me, especially since it became so fashionable to have a lot of frenetic action at the very start. I dislike that, so I need to read bits further on to get a more balanced view.


If everyone's reading it I don't want to. I refuse to buy/read anything Oprah recommends.

I discovered Dan Brown with Digital Fortress in '96 and then Angels and Demons, so I read the DaVinci Code before the hype. I would never have picked it up after the hyping started.

I also don't trust author blurbs and I'll rarely read something a friend recomends.

For me reading is personal... I like what I like and I don't trust anyone else's opinion.

My husband is much worse than I am about reading "recommended books". It took 12 years to get him to read Terry Pratchett. (and I own them all, so they weren't hard to get). I tricked him into Pratchett by taking the "Guards, Guards" CD on vacation with us. He was trapped in the car and had to listen to it and he liked it.

But normally...


Since my list of auto-buys in romance and mystery is quite long, I am very particular about the new authors I try. I pay no attention to promos or paper reviews or TV hosts recs. Sometimes I buy a book by an author whose on-line personality seems appealing. Sometimes I try a book based on a review by a particular on-line reviewer whose tastes I know are similar to mine. More often the new authors I try are recommended by real-life or on-line friends. Even then, I usually read the first few pages and the last few pages before I buy the book. For me, the ending is more important than the beginning.


I'm prejudiced against hyped books because of so many disappointments. It started in high school with a best seller everyone insisted we had to read, so the English teacher put it on the reading list. Bad writing. Even then I could tell. I hated it. Later I tried another Hot Book of the Year or Month or whatever. More bad writing. I started seeing a pattern: quirky or sensational or "different" plot and cardboard characters and/or clumsy prose. So I quit paying attention. I read the authors I know I can count on. I try some new ones based on reviews, either because the review is by someone I respect or because the story sounds intriguing. I test books by reading a passage in the middle. And, yes, I will try something new my sister recommends.

Nina P

Hi All... there's only two things that will get me to part with my hard-earned cash -- the first few pages of the book and a WW's blurb on the cover.

And Susan/Sarah... I finished Duchess about a week ago and I am still speechless (or wordless) as to describe how awed the story left me. And not just the story but the book’s tone. It was... well I have no words yet. I sure hope it hits the NYT's best seller list. You deserve it!

--the littlest wenchling

Kalen Hughes

I'm another one of those contrary readers. I'd NEVER pick up something being pushed that hard (if it's so darn good, why does it need such hype?). And I won’t buy anything that Oprah recommends or that has a movie tie-in cover.

I mean, it took me being trapped on holiday in the middle of nowhere to get me to read Harry Potter (and now I'm freaken addicted, so I acknowledge that my knee-jerk NO isn’t always the correct response).


See, I KNEW you all would be cussed individuals when it came to choosing book, and more power to you for it! :)

On the other hand, however, I just checked the Amazon sales number for the current rank of that big-push novel.

It's Number Four.

That's NUMBER FOUR out of, oh, half a billion or so.



Yep, I'm like you, Susan/Miranda - do NOT tell me what to buy *g*. The more a book is hyped, the less likely I am to buy it. Especially if it's l-i-t-e-r-a-t-u-r-e. I buy based on author, setting, period and genre (sometimes I want a historical, sometimes a mystery and sometimes chick-lit).

Katy Cooper

"I try a book based on a review by a particular on-line reviewer whose tastes I know are similar to mine."

Yep. There used to be one online reviewer whose tastes were so opposite to mine that if she hated the book, I'd trot right out and buy it . I think that's the thing you have to do with any reviewer--calibrate your tastes to his or hers and act accordingly.

"I test books by reading a passage in the middle."

Having been fried by one too many books with a great beginning that couldn't be sustained, I also read from the middle.

As for hyped books, if the book sounds interesting, and the excerpt is appealing, I'll check it out from the library. Sometimes that means waiting for a while, but that's okay--it's not like I don't have (literally) hundreds of books to read...

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