Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blog Tour: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer Excerpt + Giveaway!

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Good morning, all! Welcome to the Sun-Kissed blog tour! Sun-Kissed is a wonderful anthology of Austenesque romances (though I may, admittedly, be a bit biased as it includes one of my own stories). One of its many excellent tales is Second Chance on Sunset Beach, written by the lovely and talented Sophia Rose. It is this story that you will be getting a glimpse of today. Please join in the conversation and give Sophia some love in the comments! Enjoy. :)

*****

Hello Songs & Stories Readers! 

I am so happy to be with you today.  It has been a tremendous experience participating in the Meryton Press short story contest and having my story, a modern-day Persuasion retelling chosen to be a part of Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology.

Natalie has graciously allowed me to share an excerpt from my story, Second Chance on Sunset Beach with her readers.  It is a second-chance romance at heart as well as a tribute to my favorite author. 

Second Chance on Sunset Beach
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Sophia Rose

“Meet me at the pier…

Eight years ago, a summer romance beginning on a beach had the makings of forever love for a budding artist and a Navy SEAL.

"If you don’t show, I’ll know to move on.”

But then inexplicably they went their separate ways.  Now, the wedding of mutual friends brings them back - older and with bitter regrets and maybe a wistful longing- to Sunset Beach.

Excerpt:

Now, Callie’s heart twisted on seeing Cameron. She wished she could be as indifferent to Lt. Commander Cameron Fforbes as he seemed to be towards her. She took her time putting her supplies away and giving the others the opportunity to settle. To her chagrin, Callie watched in fascination as Cameron smiled at the statuesque woman beside him and then tucked a blond tendril loosened by the breeze back behind her ear. Callie recognized Sarah from pictures on Kristy’s dresser and remembered Sarah was a veterinarian. Callie hoped to slip onto the edge of the blanket unnoticed. However, Evan, ever the gentleman, guided her over with a wave and cheery smile.

“Hey, Cal! Glad you’re enjoying the beautiful day instead of slogging over our wedding. You know my brother Dante, of course, but this is Max, my younger troublemaking brother, and over there is Cam. You remember, Cam? That’s Kristy’s bestie, Sarah. This is her other bestie, Britney, and well, of course you know your own cousins.”

She smiled as the rest laughed. Callie avoided eye contact with Cameron as Dante made room for her on the blanket.

Dante swept his arm out over the spread of food and people. . “We already started, but I’ll get you a plate. Any preferences?”

Callie looked over the containers and shook her head. “Surprise me!”

Evan’s older brother grinned and went to work piling on food. Kristy stopped him. “Smaller portions. Callie doesn’t eat like a guy. She won’t eat half of that.”

“Finicky, huh?” Cameron’s voice spoke to her even though he was looking at his plate. There was the hint of annoyance.

Sarah laughed. “Well, I’m not. I’ll try anything.” Sarah tossed her silky blond hair over her shoulder drawing Cameron and Max’s eyes to her.

Dante moved back to sit with Callie. Callie took what he offered. “Thanks! I’m actually pretty hungry after being out in the fresh air and sunshine. It’s not that I eat like a bird. I just get busy and forget to stop and eat.”

Dante nodded. “I’m that way at the office, and my assistant has to remind me to eat when I get like a bear.”

Callie kept up a friendly conversation with Dante, valiantly ignoring the people at the other end of the blanket. “I imagine your cases can be fascinating, and they distract you.”

“Like your painting distracts you? I saw you. Kristy said your name three times, and you didn’t notice until she was right beside you.” Callie smiled. She did get lost in her work.

Kristy said, “She was always like that when she painted or sketched. Callie is so talented and dedicated to her work.”

“Well, that’s surprising,” Cameron muttered.

Kristy flashed him a confused glance but finished her thought. “But she doesn’t get to paint anymore since my uncle keeps her busy as his assistant. It’s all paperwork, phones, and computers for her these days.”

Callie glanced at Evan, and he gave her a slight shake of the head. He hadn’t told Kristy about Callie and Cam’s secret past.


*****

Thanks for reading!  Are you a Jane Austen fan?  What’s your take of the second-chance romance trope?

Displaying Sun-KissedCover.jpgAbout the Book:

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in…” —Thomas Hardy

If you desire a little heat, a summer flirtation, or an escape to bask in your own private sun, this whimsical collection of original short stories is inspired by all things summer. In collaboration with some of Meryton Press’s most popular and award-winning authors, this anthology debuts other promising and emerging talent.

 In KaraLynne Mackrory’s “Shades of Pemberley,” Mr. Darcy, with some fantastic assistance, discovers Elizabeth Bennet in a most unlikely place.

 Karen M. Cox’s “Northanger Revisited” modernizes Northanger Abbey at a fictionalized Georgia seaside.

 Linda Beutler takes us to Paris as a young gentleman is schooled in the ways of amour in “The Incomplete Education of Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

 In “Spyglasses and Sunburns,” J. Marie Croft takes the Miss Bennets to the seaside where they chance upon handsome acquaintances.

 In Abigail Bok’s “A Summer in Sanditon,” a little sea bathing seems just the thing to cure what ails Anne de Bourgh.

 In Natalie Richards’ “Midsummer Madness,” an honest confession and a promise between strangers at a masque ball mend a misunderstanding.

 Sophia Rose reimagines a modern-day Persuasion in “Second Chance at Sunset Beach.”

 In Morgan K Wyatt’s “Dream Spinner,” a near-death car accident and an unlikely trucker bring new perspective to a young co-ed’s life and love.

Contemporary and Regency alike, each romance was dreamt as a perfect summer refreshment to bring a smile to your own sun-kissed face.

Displaying SKverticalbanner.jpgAbout the Authors: 


Karen M Cox writes stories with romantic and historic elements. Her novels have garnered awards from the independent publishing industry, including two IPPY awards: a Bronze in Romance for 1932 (2010) and a Gold in Romance for Find Wonder in All Things (2012), which was also a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2013. Her third novel, At the Edge of the Sea (2013), won the Romance and Chick Lit categories in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her favorite part of writing is readers saying her stories made them smile, or think, or remember.

KaraLynne Mackrory is better known for her hilarious and ready wit than for her books, though they aren't too bad either.  She has published three books with Meryton Press: Falling For Mr. Darcy (2012), Bluebells in the Mourning (2013) and the 2015 Romance Bronze medal IPPY winner, Haunting Mr. Darcy (2014). In her spare time she likes to pretend she does not have chip crumbs down her shirt from when her kids ate their snack on her.

Linda Beutler has published three novels of Austenesque romance through Meryton Press: A Will of Iron (June 2015), Longbourn to London (July 2014), and the Silver IPPY Award-winning The Red Chrysanthemum (September 2013). She is also a garden writer, publishing through Timber Press, including the forthcoming Plant Lover's Guide to Clematis (March 2016), Garden to Vase (2007), and Gardening with Clematis (2004).

J. Marie Croft is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Her lighthearted novel, Love at First Slight (Meryton Press, 2013), bears witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter.

Sophia Rose, a northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes region of the U.S., is a quiet yet curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening, and is encouraged in her pursuits by an incredible man and loving family. Writing has been a compelling need of Sophia’s since childhood, and being a published author is a dream come

Morgan K Wyatt is an author, mother, former special needs teacher, and avid gardener. She’s published seventeen books with four more coming out this summer 2015. She’s active on the blogosphere at Writer Wonderland, Lowcarb Believer, and Dating After Fortyeight--the last she started writing when dating her husband. While mainly a romance writer, she’s also working on a new cozy mystery series with her beloved husband.

Natalie Richards is a blogger, singer and writer. She started her book review blog, Songs & Stories, in late 2010 after falling in love with Jane Austen fanfiction. Her writing can also be found on Figment, the Darcy & Lizzy Forum and in TeenInk magazine. Midsummer Madness is her first published short story. She resides with her family in the Oregon countryside and currently works as a professional babysitter.

Abigail Bok is the author of a contemporary Austenesque novel, An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, and of "A Dictionary of Jane Austen's Life and Works," published as part of The Jane Austen Companion. She is currently at work on a series, called Darking Hundred, set in England in the year 1800.

Christina Boyd wears many hats as she is an editor at Meryton Press, a contributor to Austenprose, and a ceramicist for the Made in Washington stores under her own banner, Stir Crazy Mama’s Artworks. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen's England remains on her bucket list.

*****

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I'm Published! Check out Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer!


Check it out! This lovely anthology of Austenesque short stories includes stories by some of my favorite authors in the genre as well as several new ones I am very excited to read for the first time, and, da-da-da-daaa, a story by me!

Description:

If you desire a little heat, a summer flirtation, or an escape to bask in your own private sun, this whimsical collection of original short stories is inspired by all things summer. In collaboration with some of Meryton Press’s most popular and award-winning authors, this anthology debuts other promising and emerging talent.

• In KaraLynne Mackrory’s Shades of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy, with some fantastic assistance, discovers Elizabeth Bennet in a most unlikely place. 

• Karen M. Cox’s Northanger Revisited 2015 modernizes Northanger Abbey at a fictionalized seaside in Georgia.

• Linda Beutler takes us to Paris as a young gentleman is schooled in the ways of amour in The Incomplete Education of Fitzwilliam Darcy.

• In Spyglasses and Sunburns, J. Marie Croft takes the Miss Bennets to the seaside where they chance upon handsome acquaintances.

• In Abigail Bok’s A Summer in Sanditon, a little sea bathing seems just the thing to cure what ails Anne de Bourgh.

• In Natalie Richards’ Midsummer Madness, an honest confession and a promise between strangers at a masque ball mend a misunderstanding.

• Sophia Rose re-imagines a modern-day Persuasion in Second Chance at Sunset Beach.

• In Morgan K Wyatt’s Dream Spinner, a near-death car accident and an unlikely trucker bring new perspective to a young co-ed’s life and love.

Contemporary and Regency alike, each romance was dreamt as a perfect summer refreshment to bring a smile to your own sun-kissed face.

Sun-Kissed is available on Amazon.

There is a launch party tomorrow on Facebook and everyone is invited! There will be music, games, Q&A and lots and lots of giveaways! Each author gets an hour slot, starting at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time (mine is at 6:00) and running until 8:00 p.m., so you can stay all day or just pop in and say hi. Check it out here! I hope to see you there!

                              Natalie, aka Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Series Review: Outlaw Hearts + Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

Outlaw Hearts and Do Not Forsake Me
by Rosanne Bittner

Genre: Western / Romance / Adventure / Historical

Ages: 16 and up

I received advance e-copies of these books through NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Outlaw Hearts:

Miranda Hayes has lost everything-her family, her husband, her home. Orphaned and then widowed, desperate to find a safe haven, she sets out to cross a savage land alone...until chance brings her face-to-face with notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner.

Hunted by the law and haunted by a brutal past, Jake has spent a lifetime fighting for everything he has. He's never known a moment's kindness...until fate brings him to the one woman willing to reach past his harsh exterior to the man inside. He would die for her. He would kill for her. He will do whatever it takes to keep her his.

Spanning the dazzling West with its blazing deserts and booming gold towns, Jake and Miranda must struggle to endure every hardship that threatens to tear them apart. But the love of an outlaw comes with a price...and even their passion may not burn bright enough to conquer the coming darkness.

My Thoughts:

Western romance is not my usual cup of tea; while I read a few every once in a while, it is rare that I have enough to say about one to fill a review. Outlaw Hearts, however, caught my attention. It took almost half of the book to do so, though. Miranda Hayes, Randy to her friends, is a sweet, likable, almost too-perfect heroine. Jake Harkner is her opposite with a plenty of flaws and a dark enough past for three romance heroes. I liked them well enough at first, and the story was entertaining, but there was no pop.

The 'pop' I was looking for never really showed, but the story and characters gradually grew in intensity and depth until I was engrossed. I confess I came close to tears at a couple of points in the second half. It caught me by surprise, which was nice. I always love a story that manages to exceed expectations.

The story has several very dark elements such as rape and murder, but despite that there was a peculiar sense of innocence to it, even during the sex scenes. The villains and heroes were always very easy to tell apart; the only morally ambiguous character was Jake, and even he took to the high road with relative ease. There are gently placed Christian themes throughout, no heavy-handed preachiness.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It turned out to be unexpected and refreshing, both sweeter and more dramatic than anticipated.


Do Not Forsake Me:

Miranda Hayes' life was changed the day she faced down infamous gunslinger Jake Harkner...and walked away with his heart. Their fates have been intertwined ever since. Hunted by the law, fleeing across a savage land, their desperate love flourished despite countless sorrows. Now, twenty-six years later, their family has finally found some measure of peace...balanced on the knife's edge of danger.

Jake has spent his years as a U.S. Marshal atoning for sins, bringing law to the land he once terrorized. But no matter how hard he fights the demons of his brutal past, the old darkness still threatens to consume him. Only Miranda keeps the shadows at bay. But when outlaws looking for revenge strike a fatal blow, Jake risks losing the one woman who saw past his hard exterior and to the man inside.

He always knew there'd be the devil to pay. He just never realized he might not be the one to bear the ultimate price.

My Thoughts:

While the first part of Jake and Randy's tale just got better and better, part two, Do Not Forsake Me, did the opposite. It started well enough, though there was the minor annoyance of a certain character dying off-page for no good reason...Anyway, I liked the new side character, Jeff, a writer who wished to pen the true story of notorious outlaw turned lawman Jake Harkner, but other than him this book had very few redeeming qualities.

The core story was okay. Not great, but okay, maybe even good. However, it could have been told with maybe 150 fewer pages. It was the sheer repetitiveness that really got me. Every time something happened, the author showed every single character's reaction to it. Separately. This might have been okay once or twice, or maybe if the characters' reactions had varied, but it happened over and over again and their reactions were nearly identical. Yes, Randy is sick and it may be serious, let's show Jake's reaction, their son's reaction, their daughter's, a neighbor's, another neighbor's, etc. The repetitiveness was not limited to that, though; there is a guy who is in love with Randy but who will never do anything about it because he's so noble and knows she loves Jake, exactly like in the first book. *facepalm* I could go on, but then I would just be ranting.

My other biggest complaints are the moral plot holes. The male characters make a big deal over trying to be less violent and not kill people, yet at the end they basically just shrug off shooting an unarmed man in the back and promise each other not to tell the women! He may have deserved to be shot, but still, it was painful.

For the redeeming factors, there was Jeff (mentioned above), and Randy. Her storyline was the only one that kept me reading; I had to know how sick she was, but that curiosity was mostly leftover from enjoying her story in the first book.

Overall, this book was pretty bad. It tried copying Outlaw Hearts too much rather than trying new things, the characters quickly dulled as they repeated the same conversations over and over again and even though it was not an unusually large book, it felt way too long. My advice would be to read Outlaw Hearts and just skip this disappointing sequel.

Content Ratings: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme).

Profanity:
I rate it 7.10 for several uses of the f-word as well as quite a bit of mild to mid-level swearing.

Sexuality:
I give it 7.10 for multiple scenes of varying explicitness.

Violence:
I rate it 7.10 for rape (not graphically described), murder, violence against children, fights, torture, etc. Little was described with gruesome detail.

                         Lieder Madchen

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy Blog Tour: Guest Post from Jenetta James


 It is my great pleasure to be hosting the lovely Jenetta James, who is telling us a little bit about her work space and writing routine as part of the tour for her novel, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy (see my review here). Enjoy, and please leave some love for Ms. James!

 Messy Janite seeks well-regulated desk
 by Jenetta James
 A quick visit to Jane Austen’s house at Chawton, which is about an hour’s drive from where I live, puts me to shame. Her famous writing desk is so small and neat and self-contained. The simplicity of it is somehow redolent of her writing – spare and accurate and perfectly formed. It makes me think of the circumstances that I write in as being ludicrously expansive, disorganised and messy. My desk is piled high with books and bills and notepads. My phone sits on a pile of children’s board books in need of repair. The number of used coffee cups is a bit embarrassing too. It is certainly not a contender for any stylish work space of the year competitions.
 This is all the more frustrating because I know that I can work effectively in a tidier space. I wrote almost all of Suddenly Mrs Darcy in my local coffee shop here in London. The idea of the story had popped into my head and I just had to write it down in any spare moment I had. Unfortunately, at the time my two children who are now 2 and 1 would only nap at the same time if taken out for a walk in their buggy. So, I would stash my laptop in the shopping basket and walk until they both dropped off. Once I had two sleeping babies I would run to the café and type for all I was worth until one or both of them woke up.
 So, my spring resolution is to try to be a bit more like Jane and work in a smaller, less cluttered space. I wonder what my prospects are? Certainly my family and everyone who has to share a work space with me are hoping that the tentacles of Janeite inspiration can reach into my working practices as well as my stories. Here’s hoping!

 About the Author:


Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs Darcy is her first novel.

 About the Book:

 Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger. But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome. Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret. Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blog Tour Book Review: Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James


Suddenly Mrs. Darcy
by Jenetta James

Genre: Romance / Austenesque / Pride & Prejudice Re-telling

Ages: 15 and up

I received an e-copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. A big thanks to Jakki Leatherberry for putting this tour together! Stay tuned for a guest post from Ms. James next week and be sure to check out all of the other stops on the tour, the next one being tomorrow at My Jane Austen Book Club.

Description:


Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger. But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome. Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret. Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?
 
My Thoughts:

I loved the premise of this book. What if Darcy and Elizabeth were trapped into marriage the night of the Netherfield Ball? Neither knows the other very well; Elizabeth hasn't developed the worst of her prejudices yet and Darcy is...well, Darcy is very mysterious.

The story is told entirely from Elizabeth's point of view, so the reader must puzzle through Darcy's motives and actions along with the heroine, much in the same style as in P&P. It was an interesting and different route for the author to take, and one that she executed well. I enjoyed Elizabeth's gradual change in feelings as she goes from trying to make the best of a civil but passionless marriage to falling in love with a man she still doesn't quite know.

Ms. James' writing style is very sweet and straightforward. At first I thought it was a little overly simple, but it grew on me. She has a very subtle way of catching the reader's emotions that I truly appreciated once I noticed just how ensnared I was. It took me a while to notice because it was so sneaky. I like sneaky.

This was a lovely story with a unique, delicate style and just the right amount of angst to keep me happy. I'm looking forward to what Jenetta James does next.

Content Ratings: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme).

Profanity:
There is no profanity in this book.

Sexuality:
I rate it a 4.10 for multiple scenes of sexuality, none of them graphic or detailed.

Violence:
 I give it a 1.10 for a scene of peril, but no real violence.

About the Author:


Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs Darcy is her first novel.



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