Friday, January 10, 2014

Blog Tour: Interview with Suzan Lauder, author of Alias Thomas Bennet + INT Giveaway!


 It is my great pleasure to have Suzan Lauder over today to answer a few questions and give away a few copies of her book, Alias Thomas Bennet. Please be sure to say hello and enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Dear Ms. Lauder, it is lovely to meet you. Thank you so very much for coming to call. Would you care for a cup of tea? Or coffee? How do you take it?

I’m a west coaster, so definitely coffee. Decaf Americano, extra shot, with milk to cool it down a bit.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? A few gossipy tidbits or perhaps a great scandal in your past? 

I’m Canadian, which makes me darned interesting in the first place. I grew up on the prairies, where we drank vico. Men were men and women wore Sorels with their Canada Goose parkas—except dressed like that it was hard to tell them apart. In those days, my personal choice for winter activities was live blues venues, but now that I’m on Vancouver Island with its mild winters, it’s more likely to be long walks along the ocean. I had the honour of eating prairie oysters with famous novelist Carol Shields (The Stone Diaries) because her husband, my then boss, was quite insistent we try them. You’ll have to look some of those things up.

I've been to Vancouver Island a couple of times; I shall retroactively wave at you. You wouldn't happen to be a fan of German choirs, would you? Hmm...I did look up a couple of those things and, frankly, I am disturbed. This is very scandalous news, indeed!

I was very impressed by the originality of Alias Thomas Bennet, how did you come to think of putting such dramatic twists into the pasts of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet? 

Austen leaves many of us with two feelings: a great deal of fondness for the characters, and a great deal of curiosity about what’s left unsaid… and that’s where fan fiction comes in. In the case of Alias Thomas Bennet, I had an interesting thought about what might have influenced the Bennet family members’ irreverent behaviour to the point where it became a barrier in Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship: Mr. Bennet abandoned his family as a role model and partner. Austen (Elizabeth) says:
“that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible.”

So the question became, if the negatives Darcy saw in the Bennet family were erased, what would Pride and Prejudice look like? It was a bit complicated thinking up a way to make Mr. Bennet change, but once I had figured that out, the story fell comfortably around it.

I also wondered what might have caused Mrs. Bennet to be so nervous and distractible. Of course, a new-and-improved Mr. Bennet can be a wonderful influence on a traumatized wife.

Do you have any favorite novels involving secret identities? It’s always been a favorite subject of mine and one that attracted me to your novel in the first place.

Two of Michael Ondaatje’s books, The English Patient and In the Skin of a Lion have some interesting identity subthemes. I read a lot of bodice rippers and occasionally the plot twist in one of those is a protagonist’s realization of their connection to the peerage, and even if it’s a bit cliché, it’s quite a lot of fun to read.

Have you embarked on any further writing adventures since the completion of Alias Thomas Bennet

I posted a new adult novel at JAFF website A Happy Assembly in 2012 that I’m preparing for submission to publishers. It’s Pride and Prejudice set in the disco era. I’m also working on another P&P Regency what-if, where Elizabeth meets Georgiana at Ramsgate, and her first impressions of Darcy are Georgiana’s glowing reports of an admired older brother. Of course, she also meets Wickham and Mrs. Younge while she’s there. I’ll be posting it as a serial at A Happy Assembly.

Those sound very interesting; disco P & P is just mind-boggling yet oddly amazing sounding at the same time and having Elizabeth and Georgiana become friends before anything else sounds like it has great potential for interesting situations. 

If your Thomas Bennet was in a movie, would he be played by Donald Sutherland, Benjamin Whitrow or someone else entirely? 

Actually, it would be Colin Firth! He’s now in his 50s and a perfect age to play Elizabeth’s parent. Of course, now you’re dying to know the other leads! Simple. Jennifer Ehle as Fanny, Henry Cavill as Darcy, and Emma Watson as Elizabeth. All are age-appropriate and physically suited, and Cavill and Watson are at a good point in their careers to tackle a new Pride and Prejudice.

Ooh, I like the way you think! I would love to see that movie.
And now, for something completely different: 

How is the weather outside your window? It is quite wet and dreary from my perspective. 

I think I see you across the street there! What’s with the mask?

Ah! You've caught me! How did you know I have a mask? That's verging on creepy x-ray vision powers. *draws curtains, peering about in a paranoid fashion*
As a fashionable, creative lady, what is your opinion on feathers or flowers adorning hats? Which do you prefer?

It depends upon the occasion, of course. And the bird. We must not be cruel. But I do look well in hats.

Jason Bourne or James Bond, so far as gentlemen with secret identities are concerned? 

I’m not familiar with either of these gentlemen in a literary sense, so I’m trying to think back to the actors who played them in movies. But truth be told, I’m even not sure I’ve ever seen a full installment of a movie for either of them. I think it has to be Bourne, just because I’ve seen Matt Damon in other stuff I’ve liked. Plus my feminist side allows only so much man-whoring and then it’s icky, and that’s what I frequently think of when Bond comes to mind.

Thanks for having me on your blog! It’s been fun!

You are very welcome and it certainly has. :) I completely agree with you so far as Agent 007 is concerned, and you should really give the literary Bourne a try (that book is beyond awesome, not just for the secret identities). Thank you so much for coming and answering my questions!


And now, for the giveaway! I've been authorized to give away one paperback copy of Alias Thomas Bennet as well as two e-copies, making three winners in all. This contest is international, so the best of luck to all of you! To read my review of Alias Thomas Bennet, go here.

Thank you to Ms. Lauder, Meryton Press and Ms. Leatherberry.


. . . of most interest to Bennet was Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. 

When Fitzwilliam Darcy attends the Meryton assembly, he befriends a quiet, intelligent gentleman. In frequent visits to his friend's home, he becomes acquainted with the Bennet family of Longbourn. Yet Mr. Darcy is distracted by a strange feeling of having met some of them before.

This is a different Bennet family from the cleverly crafted one in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. This Mr. Bennet is a responsible gentleman who takes an active role in the education and upbringing of all five of his daughters, manages Longbourn to be prosperous, and displays loving guidance toward Mrs. Bennet-a gentle, caring mother and wife.

There is a mystery lurking at Longbourn-a secret unknown even to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is entangled in its extraordinary revelations.

Who is Thomas Bennet?

This book contains one brief scene of non‑explicit sexual violence that may be concerning to sensitive readers. The sexual violence does not include Elizabeth Bennet.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Blog Tour Book Review: Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder


Both today and tomorrow, I am participating in the Alias Thomas Bennet blog tour, hosted by Jakki Leatherberry, so be sure to come back tomorrow to say hi to the author while she answers some of my questions and enter to win a copy of the book!

Alias Thomas Bennet
by Suzan Lauder

Genre: Austenesque / Pride and Prejudice Variation / Historical / Romance / Mystery

Ages: 17 and up

I received an e-copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.


. . . of most interest to Bennet was Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.

When Fitzwilliam Darcy attends the Meryton assembly, he befriends a quiet, intelligent gentleman. In frequent visits to his friend's home, he becomes acquainted with the Bennet family of Longbourn. Yet Mr. Darcy is distracted by a strange feeling of having met some of them before.

This is a different Bennet family from the cleverly crafted one in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. This Mr. Bennet is a responsible gentleman who takes an active role in the education and upbringing of all five of his daughters, manages Longbourn to be prosperous, and displays loving guidance toward Mrs. Bennet-a gentle, caring mother and wife.

There is a mystery lurking at Longbourn-a secret unknown even to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is entangled in its extraordinary revelations.

Who is Thomas Bennet?

My Thoughts:

It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did, I enjoyed it. It was wonderfully original, taking more than one fascinating turn. The writing style never truly clicked for me, but the story certainly did.

The book starts with interesting peeks into the background of certain important characters, one of them shockingly violent, before turning to Hertfordshire, where Netherfield is let at last. The rapid-fire POV switches and sudden changes in mood felt a little confusing and awkward to me at first, but I gradually got caught up in the mystery as the POV changes became less frequent and more natural.

This novel has some fascinating variations to the original P & P. The simplest of the what-ifs in this book is what if Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were a sensible couple in love with each other and caring towards all of there children. I loved this, particularly with views as to how the younger girls were different, and how Elizabeth was less hesitant to confide in her parents. The other twists you shall have to discover for yourselves, but I enjoyed them all, delighting in the sheer creativity of them even though a couple require a certain suspension of disbelief. I don't want to be too specific so as to avoid spoilers.

Mr. Bennet took center stage for most of the book and made for a surprisingly awesome main character. Darcy and Elizabeth had some pretty good moments as well, but the spotlight was all his. I enjoyed his deviousness, as well as the fact that he didn't particularly like being deceptive, even though he did it very well. The villains were less interesting, but they did turn the story in interesting directions, therefore putting the heroes in interesting situations.

Overall, I liked this book, the second half more than the first. It was interesting and entertaining, looking at Pride and Prejudice from a completely different angle.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence 
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it a 3.10 for some very brief, mild swearing and a couple of uses completely justified mid-level name-calling.

I give it a 7.10 for a couple of fairly descriptive scenes and a non-explicit yet still somewhat disturbing rape.

I rate it a 6.10 for one scene of rape, an attempted rape, as well as attempted kidnapping and references to a duel.

                      Lieder Madchen

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat_Elizabeth Scott_coverHeartbeat
by Elizabeth Scott

Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance / Tragedy

Ages: 13 and up

I received an e-copy of this book through NetGalley and Kismet Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Since her mother's sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She's being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma's own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

My Thoughts:

This book was surprisingly painful to read in the very best of ways. I cried more than once and had a lump in my throat for almost the entire novel. It's not a very long book, but every page has an emotional depth that made me feel like I was reading a bigger book. Heartbeat wasn't my usual cup of tea (too sad) but it grabbed me immediately and the more I read, the more I was pulled in.

I loved how the author slowly revealed layer after layer of Emma's feelings; her grief, her anger, her hurt. She started with the ones on the surface, then gradually dug into Emma's soul. It's probably one of the most perfectly written character arcs I have ever read, beautiful and heartbreaking. Reading it, I firmly agreed with her stepfather's decision to keep her mom on life support to give the baby a chance to live, but it was impossible not to empathize with how awful it would be to have to tell yourself every day that your mom was dead, even though her heart was still beating. Then as more layers were revealed...Ms. Scott is most definitely a master at writing emotional anguish and tearing the reader's heart in different directions.

The relationship between Emma and Caleb was soft and sweet and lovely. They come together through mutual understanding of what it is to lose someone, and with them your entire way of life. Their romance brought a little much-needed hope to the narrative, keeping the story from getting too depressing.

The secondary characters are just as well-written as the heroine, particularly Dan, Emma's stepfather, and Olivia, her best friend. Even the minor, hardly-in-the-story characters were memorable, like Olivia's parents. They gave the book a wonderful, multidimensional feel.

I highly recommend this book, but I must warn you to keep tissues at hand for the inevitable tears.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence 
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it a 3.10 for one or two mid-level words and some mild swearing.

I give it a 3.10 for teenagers making out, kissing, etc.

I rate it a 1.10 for references to fatal accidents.

                   Lieder Madchen

Series Review: The Mine Novels by Cynthia Eden 1-3

The Mine Series 1-3
by Cynthia Eden

Genre: Romance / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller / Action

Ages: 17 and up

I received e-copies of Mine to Keep and Mine to Hold through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I decided to add Mine to Take to complete the trilogy and review them together.


Mine To Take by Cynthia EdenMine to Take

Sometimes you want someone so much…
Sometimes you need someone so much…
Lust can become love.
And love can turn into a deadly obsession.
Skye Sullivan knows that someone is watching her. Not just watching—stalking her. Months ago, Skye was involved in a dangerous car accident. The accident ended her dancing career and sent her fleeing back to Chicago. Skye is convinced that her stalker caused the crash, and she fears that he won’t stop pursuing her, not until she’s dead.

When someone breaks into her apartment in Chicago, Skye turns to the one man she believes can protect her—Trace Weston. Once, Trace was her lover. Two lost souls, they’d come together in a firestorm of need and desire. But then Trace had pushed her away. He’d joined the military, vanishing from her life. She’d put all of her emotion into dancing, and she’d tried to forget him.

Now Trace is one of the most successful men in the United States. Rich, driven, and carrying dark secrets, he agrees to help Skye. He’ll protect her from the danger that lurks in the darkness, but Trace wants more than to just be a guard for Skye.

He wants her. And he’ll take her. The years have changed him, hardened him. He’s not just a poor kid from the streets any longer. Now, he can have anything—or anyone—that he wants. And the one woman he has always wanted has just come back into his life. He won’t let her go again.

But with the threats mounting against Skye, she suspects that her stalker may be intimately close. He’s a man who knows her too well. As his attacks grow ever more dangerous, she realizes that if she trusts the wrong man, she could be making a fatal mistake.

Lust. Love. Obsession.

Just how far would you go in order to possess the one person you want the most?

Mine To Keep by Cynthia EdenMine to Keep

Love is the most dangerous obsession…

Skye Sullivan is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. She survived a brutal stalker and escaped his abduction, and now she is looking to the future—a future that includes Skye’s lover, billionaire Trace Weston. Skye thinks the danger is finally over for her.

She’s dead wrong.

When Trace’s past comes back to haunt him, Skye discovers that the man she loves isn’t quite who he seems to be. Trace has been leading a double-life. An ex-special forces agent, his military training turned him into the perfect killing machine. He made more than his share of enemies during his time in the military—and as he built his security empire—and one of those enemies is striking back.

He won’t lose her.

Skye is the one weapon that can be used against Trace—his only vulnerability. But he won’t let her go—he can’t. Trace will do anything necessary to protect Skye. Anything. Yet when she discovers the secrets that he’s tried to keep hidden, Skye’s pain and rage may send her running directly into the cross-hairs of a killer…

Mine To Hold by Cynthia EdenMine to Hold

She was one man’s obsession…

Nine years ago, Claire Kramer’s lover brutally killed her family, and he tried to kill her. She escaped, but she’s been haunted ever since that attack. Too afraid to trust another man and too worried that her past will catch up with her, Claire never gets too close to anyone. But then she meets Noah York.

He must have her.

Noah York is a man with secrets. The world sees him as a billionaire hotel tycoon, but Noah has a dark and dangerous side. For years, he worked covert military operations before he built his fortune. When it comes to death, Noah is a master. He knows that he should steer clear of Claire, but the white-hot attraction Noah feels for the delicate beauty is instant—and consuming.

He will never let her go.

Someone else is just as consumed by Claire—someone who will kill to possess her. And if Noah can’t stop the hunter in the darkness, he may just lose the one woman that he can’t live without.

My Thoughts:

Ms. Eden first caught my eye when I read an excerpt from one of her books. The intensity of her writing caught me immediately, so I set out to find a full novel. I found the covers a little off-putting in an 'oh dear, is it going to all be about sex?' sort of way; I was hoping to see her intensity put to use in more action and drama than just straight romance. Once I started reading, however, any and all doubts were erased. Sure, there was sex, but it didn't take over the story, despite the blatant covers. All of that lovely intensity hinted at in the excerpt was put into making creepy, dark mysteries full of emotional anguish; suspense at its best.

Mine to Take had a great dynamic from page one; two characters who love each other deeply but have been separated for a decade are brought together when Skye seeks out Trace, who left her, as her last hope against a stalker. While she sees him as a desperate measure, he sees her as a second chance. The two of them dance around each other warily, and it is most engrossing to watch. With some stories, the author does such a good job with the characters that I can practically feel them, and this is one of those stories.

The mystery in this novel is fairly simple, taking second place to the interactions between Skye and Trace, but that was okay. The villain could have been slightly more fleshed out like in some of Ms. Eden's other novels, be he managed to deliver a couple of shivery moments.

Mine to Keep picks up where the first book left off, with only a short period of time passing between them. Both Skye and Trace are suffering from nightmares after the events of Mine to Take, unable to forget how close they came to losing each other. Watching the different ways they react to what happened was fascinating; Skye struggles to return to a semblance of normalcy, to prove that she is not a victim, while Trace is determined to make sure that nothing bad ever touches her again, protecting her even when she doesn't want to be protected. Their relationship is strained almost to the breaking point as secrets are revealed and they learned things about themselves and each other that they never suspected before.

The mystery in Mine to Keep is much more complex than the one in the previous novel; I spent the book guessing and wondering and never quite figuring it out, and in the end...Wow. I thought Ms. Eden was intense before, but with this book the angst and suspense was through the roof. This is a great sequel, both building on the first book and surpassing it completely and setting up for an interesting third novel by introducing some lovely new characters.

Mine to Hold takes the series away from Skye and Trace, giving them a well-deserved break from murder and mayhem, and tells the story of Noah and Claire. I loved both of them on sight when they appeared in Mine to Keep and was very interested in both their pasts and their future. Claire has been running since she was sixteen, and desperation has driven her to Noah's door in search of work. Their relationship was very well written; him protective, her afraid to trust, neither of them able to stop. Their romance becomes downright fascinating, taking on that signature Cynthia Eden intensity, when Claire's enemies start dying and each of them thinks the other might be the one killing them, both jumping instinctively to protect the other whether they are guilty or not.

I figured out most of the mystery in Mine to Hold pretty early on, but there were a couple of surprises along the way and I loved the darker tenor to the novel. The story was more focused on what the villains and peril caused Noah and Claire to learn about each other than it was about the villains and peril themselves, which was fine with me. This is a wonderful continuation of the series, opening it up for more books about certain other characters, especially a certain man who has the worst luck with women...Oh, yes, I would love to read that book.

I recommend this series to those who like an edge of danger to their romance and spine-tensing suspense.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence 
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it an 8.10 for several uses of the f-word per book, as well as some mild and mid-level swearing.

I rate it an 8.10 for some fairly descriptive scenes, innuendo, references, etc. throughout the series.

I give it an average of 7.10 for murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, fights, blood, etc.

                                Lieder Madchen