Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
So this epileptic Norse woman is sold into slavery because her family thinks she’s been witched. She’s transported to ancient Byzantium where she’s bought by a eunuch spymaster. He hopes to convince the world that her “falling sickness” gives her a special window on the spirit world and she’s a seer of great ability. Before she’s placed in a silk trader’s harem to ferret out a plot against the emperor, she’s tutored in Greek by a disgraced Viking in the Varangian guard who falls in love with her and vows to see her free. Then they–
What? You haven’t run across this story?
Hmm. And just a month ago the folks at one prominent review site were saying historical romance was dying because the genre was too narrow and full of familiar tropes.
Granted the historical market is heavy on dashing dukes and debutantes, but that’s because readers love them. And they’re wickedly fun to write. However, for readers who enjoy something out of the ordinary, for those who aren’t put off by stories that aren’t quite safe, there are options out there. May I offer one?
People who live on the ragged edge, like the eunuch in Silk Dreams, fascinate me. They redefine the limits of human experience. A heroine who grapples with epilepsy during the Dark Ages, well, that sort of makes my daily challenges seem piddly. And as bad as those bad boys of the North were, what would a Viking have to do in order to be exiled in disgrace?
All right. I’ll admit it. I love this story and the wildly “not-the-usual-suspect” characters who live in it. Doing the research on 11th century Constantinople satisfied all my history geekness in spades. Interviewing my friend who lives with epilepsy to get that part of the story right was an eye-opener and it’s not often sexual dysfunction is dealt with in a romance, but when there’s a eunuch in the story, it can’t be ignored.
Will Silk Dreams sell like a half dozen dukes at Almack’s? Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean Valdis and Erik‘s story didn’t need to be told. Love has always been part of the human heart, whether its dressed in a contemporary setting, a phantasmagorical paranormal world or the cruel labyrinth of ancient Byzantium.
So to those readers who love a walk through an unfamiliar world, with a hero and heroine who aren’t “pattern” (a description of conformity that would have been a high compliment in the Victorian Era but for some reason sets my teeth on edge), this story is for YOU!
“The lush smell of spices, the soft silk of the harem and the intrigue of court life combines as Marlowe sweeps readers into her novel of medieval Constantinople. She crafts a lavish love story that’s as entertaining as it is epic.” ~ RT BOOKReviews
“The colorful and captivating world of ancient Byzantium provides the intriguing setting for Mia Marlowe’s lushly sensual, sumptuously written historical romance.”—John Charles, Chicago Tribune
Here’s my question for you: If you could travel to any time and place, where would you most want to visit? (Don’t worry. This is only armchair travel. I’d never allow you to live for longer than a brief stay in anyplace that didn’t have running water, antibiotics and ebooks!)
My new book CELEBRATION’S BRIDE hit the shelves yesterday! It’s a milestone in my career because it’s my twentieth published novel! My how time flies when you’re having fun! In celebration (no pun intended – since the book is set in Celebration, Texas), I thought I’d do a Q&A that gives you a little more insight into the writing process and characters. If you answer my question at the end of the post, you could win a gift card!
* Where did you get the idea for CELEBRATION’S BRIDE?
This is the fourth book in my Celebration’s, Inc. series, which is about a group of women who run a catering business that’s also featured on a reality television show called Catering to Dallas. CELEBRATION’S BRIDE is Sydney James’s story. Since she has been a prominent secondary character in the other books in the series, the idea for her story developed organically out of the other books.
* Tell us about the hero of the book? Why will we fall in love with him?
Miles Mercer is one of my favorite heroes I’ve ever written. He’s a complex guy who is more than a little disenchanted with life: his career is not at all where he thought it would be at this point in his life, and he and his father have some “issues” to workout. Yet, the other members of his family remain at the heart of everything he does. In fact, one of my favorite aspects about his character is his capacity to love.
* Tell us about the heroine?
Sydney is a major commitment-phobe, in both life and romance. Because she grew up in the foster system, she’s never settled in one place for long. She’s been in Celebration, Texas much longer than she thought she’d be. She knows her job on the reality television show Catering to Dallas, which chronicles the inner workings of the Celebrations, Inc. catering company, will not last forever. If life has taught her one thing, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts. She interviews for an overseas job that seems a perfect fit and a logical next step in life. But when Catering to Dallas gets a new director, career-driven Miles Mercer, suddenly things look especially delicious in the catering company’s kitchen.
* What life lessons do your H/H learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
Growing up in the foster care system, Sydney has never known what it’s like to have permanent family ties. When she meets Miles and his big, boisterous family, she sees the beauty in their bond and, in turn, she helps Miles learn the importance of making amends with his father. Along their journey to happily-ever-after, Sydney learns to trust and Miles learns to forgive. It soon becomes evident that through their growth they’re both ready to fall in love.
* What was your favorite scene to write?
There’s a scene in the book where Sydney, who is a bit perturbed with Miles, calls him late one night expecting the call to go to voice mail because his cell phone should be turned off and he should be sound asleep. Much to her dismay, he picks up and she completely forgets her well-rehearsed speech because she’s so flustered. Of course, he seizes the opportunity to flirt with her until she forgets why she’s angry…or maybe she suddenly realizes her bone simply doesn’t matter anymore.
* What do you feel are some of your strengths as a writer and how did those show up in this particular book? I love developing characters that my readers would want to call friends. So, it’s especially fun when these characters make appearances in other books both before and after they’ve found their own happily-ever-afters. Also, I grew up in a small, close-knit community and in CELEBRATION’S BRIDE; I hope I’ve been able to create that same sense of place that I cherished as I was growing up.
* So, does that mean some beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth book in the Celebrations, Inc. series. So, many of the cast members of my previous books make appearances in CELEBRATION’S BRIDE. It’s a lot of fun writing about them. It’s like visiting old friends. And the friendship among the four girlfriends, Sydney, Pepper, A.J. and Caroline, continues to play as important a role in this book as it did in the others.
* Is there an underlying theme to the story?
This book is about finding love and family where in the most unexpected places. It’s also about redemption and the power of love and forgiveness.
Tell me about a milestone in your life. What did it mean to you? What are your goals now? As I said, one person who comments will win a $10 gift card (Amazon or Barnes and Noble – your choice). I hope you’ll enjoy reading CELEBRATION’S BRIDE as much as I loved writing it. Thanks so much for being part of the Jaunty Quills community and making it possible for us to do what we love.
The Jaunty Quills are excited to host Kate Noble for Bring a Friend Friday. Kate’s new book, Let It Be Me, is the next book in the Blue Raven series. Keep reading to find out how to win one of Kate’s books.
Shana: I have serious cover envy whenever I see your books, Kate. Do you have much say in your covers?
Kate Noble: I have always been so lucky with my covers. I am lucky too, in that my editors allowed me in on the process a little bit. They ask me in advance of their cover conference about the book, the characters, and what is important and should be featured. And they take what I say into account when creating the cover. (I actually wrote a blog about it a little while ago.)
Shana: Tell us a bit about the Blue Raven series and Let It Be Me. Why did you set the new book in Italy?
Kate Noble: Bridget Forrester has long lived in her sister’s shadow (Sarah, from If I Fall), and earned a reputation as something of a shrew because of it. I knew I had to get Bridget out of London and get her a fresh start. Venice is a city that exists like a dream to me – an island bisected by canals, literally living on the water. A perfect place to fall in love.
Shana: Your heroine, Bridget, is a musician in Venice to study piano. Music is an enormous part of her life and a major part of the book. Do you play? Did you do any research or listen to any period music when writing the book?
Kate Noble: I took piano lessons growing up, but then quickly moved onto something more my speed (the trumpet, only three keys). But I am nowhere near the musician that Bridget is, and so I did a ton of research on playing techniques, on music from the period – I must have listened to Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 23 about six hundred times while writing this book.
Shana: You were one of the writers for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Are you sad that it’s over? Any similar projects in the works?
Kate Noble: Of course I’m sad it’s over, it was a wonderful project to work on the fan response was so fervent, it was such a rush. I feel like every generation gets their Pride and Prejudice and I just feel so lucky that I got to be a part of this one. I am also going to be involved in the Gigi spinoff Welcome to Sanditon, coming later this summer.
Shana: Very exciting! Tell us what you coming soon.
Kate Noble: I’m hard at work on my next historical romance trilogy, the first of which will be out in 2014. And of course, there is Welcome to Sanditon. I’m also working on a comic book with Javier Grillo-Marxuach of the Middleman fame, and artist Kel McDonald. I have another couple of pet projects that I can hopeful make see the light of day.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you enjoy novels set in romantic locales like Venice or do you prefer authors to stick to London or the USA? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win a copy of Let It Be Me. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
London weather is chilly—and the social scene even more so. Luckily, Bridget Forrester is just getting warmed up…
Bridget longs to meet a gentleman who doesn’t mention her beautiful sister upon shaking her hand. But since being branded a shrew after a disastrous social season, Bridget knows she’s lucky to even have a man come near her. It’s enough to make a lady flee the country…
So Bridget heads to Venice for music lessons with the renowned Italian composer Vincenzo Carpenini, with whom she’s been corresponding. But not only is Carpenini not expecting her, he doesn’t even remember her! His friend, theater owner Oliver Merrick, does, though. And one look into her tantalizing green eyes has him cursing his impulsive letter-writing, which brought her across the continent. Yet before Merrick can apologize, Carpenini has ordered her away.
Little does either man know that they will soon be embroiled in a wager that will require the beautiful Miss Forrester’s help—or that there’ll be far more at stake in this gamble than money…
The Jaunty Quills are excited to bring back veteran author Heather Snow. Heather’s new book, Sweet Madness, is the third in the Veiled Seduction series. Keep reading to find out how to win one of Heather’s books
Shana: Welcome back, Heather. You’ve been our guest before, but I’ve never interviewed you, and I’m excited to have the opportunity. Tell us about Sweet Madness. I love the tagline: There is a fine line between love and insanity…
Heather Snow: Hi Shana! I’m thrilled to be here. The Jaunty Quills is one of my very favorite places to be…oh, and please tell Jaunty that Armando the Cravat-Wearing Armadillo says hello, too.
Unlike my first two novels, which featured a lady chemist and a lady criminologist/mathematician who reveled in pushing Society’s boundaries, Sweet Madness is about a young lady who is Society’s darling. She’s always been perfectly behaved. She has the perfect husband. And she’s perfectly content to live the privileged society life she was born to…until her husband’s tragic death changes her forever. It drives her to study the maladies of the mind and leads her to a traumatized soldier who needs her help…and her love. But she also finds that healing is a two way street. To be able to follow our hero to the dark places she must go to reach him, she has to open up wounds of her own. It’s really a story about the healing power of love, with a little mystery and some racy bits thrown in!
It was great fun helping Penelope discover her inner genius and learn that she, too, was brilliant…just in a different way.
Shana: I’m not currently speaking to Jaunty, Heather. I hope armadillos are nicer than porcupines–or at least not as interfering.
Gabriel Devereaux suffers from what we call now PTSD. I did some research on this condition when I was writing If You Give a Rake a Ruby and found there wasn’t a lot out there. What drew you to write a wounded warrior and how did you research Gabriel’s “episode” scenes?
Heather Snow: All three heroes in my debut series served in the wars in some capacity, and their experiences changed each of them. But I knew from the moment this series was planned that this third book would be the darkest. I sort of backed into how I handled Gabriel’s “episode” scenes. Luckily, there is a lot known about PTSD today, even if there was little available back then. I read texts, medical journals and firsthand accounts from today’s soldiers, pulling the signs, symptoms and effects I used to depict Gabriel’s struggles.
As far as figuring out how Penelope would help him, that part was a bit harder. Since little was known about “battle fatigue” at the time, I had to look at the remedies that help today and choose only those that could have been determined or intuited through what Penelope might have known or experienced in her life and her own common sense.
I am glad you brought up the PTSD aspect of my book. As I’ve said, Sweet Madness is a story of the healing power of love, and just as important, of hope. Gabriel is a fictional war hero but there are many real life heroes and their families suffering today. Therefore, my husband and I have decided to donate a portion of all royalties earned from the sale of Sweet Madness to Hope For The Warriors®, an organization dedicated to “restoring a sense of self, restoring the family unit, and restoring hope for our service members and our military families.” You can find out more at http://www.heathersnowbooks.com/Hope_For_the_Warriors.ht
Shana: You’re known for heroines who are smart and scientific, and I know you have the science background to make them authentic. Do you think you’ll keep writing scientifically minded heroines?
Heather Snow: I would love to, and maybe later on I will, but right now there’s a new series percolating in my mind that I’m itching to get started on. I can’t share until all of the details are finalized, but it will certainly feature the smart strong heroines readers have come to expect from me, if not scientifically minded ones.
Shana: What’s it like writing with two small children? How do you manage to get anything done? Is there a magic spell or secret password, and if so, please share with Emily, Robyn, and me!
Heather Snow: Ha! I was going to ask YOU that! You always seem to have it so together.
Let’s see…Bose noise canceling headphones and the infinite patience of my poor husband? Really, I don’t know how women do it. I don’t know how I do it and stay sane (which is debatable, really, my sanity). The last three years have been like running on a giant treadmill and trying not to go flying off of the back and crashing into the wall. I guess I just keep telling myself that the boys will be in school soon enough and then I’ll have more time. And yet, just typing that, I feel horribly guilty for wishing their toddler and preschool years away…
I guess the answer is there is no answer. We just all have to do what we can when we can do it, and rely on our families to pitch in when we’re down to the wire. I do, however, have a fortune from a fortune cookie taped to the top corner face of my laptop screen…it says “Focus your attention.” I look at that a lot when I’m working to remind myself I only have so much time to accomplish what I need to.
Shana: That all sounds very familiar to me. I’m glad I have you fooled!
Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Heather Snow: Vacation! Sweet Enemy sold when our eldest was still in diapers, and the second was written right after the birth of our youngest—while my husband was finishing up his masters on top of his full time career! He graduated right after I finished Sweet Deception and we’d barely had time to enjoy a breather before I jumped into Sweet Madness. My family and I are looking forward to a couple of weeks on the beach together during the month of May—our first real vacation in three years. Then I’ll get started on my new series…
Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you enjoy historical (or contemporary) romance novels where the characters deal with real life issues like PTSD or miscarriage or a cancer diagnosis or do you prefer books that take you away from real life tragedies? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win their choice of Heather’s first two novels, Sweet Enemy or Sweet Deception (which just won the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for published historical romance and was named a finalist in the New England Reader’s Choice Bean Pot Awards!). This giveaway is open internationally.
Ever since her husband’s sudden and tragic death, Lady Penelope Bridgeman has dedicated herself to studying maladies of the mind, particularly those of soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars, but Gabriel Devereaux’s unpredictable episodes are like none she’s ever seen. Even though she knows the folly of loving a broken man, she can’t help herself from trying to save him, no matter the cost…
Read the Prologue and First Chapter HERE…
Rainy Day Books (my local indie)
Amazon (Kindle Edition)
Amazon (Mass Market Paperback)
Barnes and Noble
The Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide)
Walmart (online only)
Heather Snow is an award winning historical romance author with a degree in Chemistry who discovered she preferred creating chemistry on the page rather than in the lab. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two rambunctious boys, and one very put upon cat. Mr. Snow recently promised the boys they could have a dog when the family returns from their beach vacation. The cat is not happy.
The final book in her Veiled Seduction series, SWEET MADNESS, hit shelves April 2, 2013. RT Book Reviews Magazine gives it 4 ½ stars, saying “In this emotional, compassionate romance…the powerful love story will sweep readers away.”
Find out more at www.HeatherSnowBooks.com or connect with Heather at www.facebook.com/AuthorHeatherSnow , www.twitter.com/HeatherSnowRW or at her blog, Heather’s Historical Reader Salon at www.heathersnowbooksreadersalon.blogspot.com