Book Review

Book Review: The Forbidden Rose

Book review time again. Woo hoo!

I’m always delighted to happen upon an author I’ve never read before whose work I love. So this is a book review I am especially delighted to write.

I know I love a book when I keep putting it down not because I am bored but so I can make the experience of it last longer. That is the case with Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose.

It’s not that the story or the characters are so radical. She uses common themes and plot devices which are comfortably familiar. And the characters, while engaging, are super achievers. Personally, while I admire superheroes as much as the next girl, I don’t usually gravitate toward books which feature them. Plus, I tend to avoid historical romances since authors are often so excited about being historical, they neglect depth.

But this is not the case here.

I appreciate the comfort Ms. Bourne demonstrates with the time period she has chosen – Robespierre’s terrible reign. The references to time specific elements in the plot are neither professorial nor precious. Bourne is clear and specific without being overt about educating the reader.

I’m also impressed that no matter how many secondary characters Bourne introduces, none of them and none of the external events do anything more than ricochet off the central relationship of the two main characters.

However, what I love, love, love about this book is the sneaky generosity of the prose.

“Night stripped away the man and left myth. It was the myth she hungered for. This was the way the Old Gods came to the daughters of men. In dark strength, wearing the night around them like a cloak.”

Or this.

“The sun was low in the sky to her right, round and gold as a coin. The valley was a bowl of silence tipping away into a flat distance. Tiny figures of men had come out an hour ago to dig at a ditch in a field close to the horizon. Their piles of mud marked both sides of the black slash where they had worked. A sort of punctuation.”

See why I am dawdling?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. A book review occurs every week or so, depending. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Trees

Trees’ Fashion Tips for the Spring Season

Trees are in Prom Mode this month.

I wonder how trees feel this time of year, bursting with blossoms. Overdressed? Or finally hitting their stride?

When a tree goes to Sears or Macy’s to find a Spring outfit, does she head directly to the formal wear and chose a fluffy floral confection, or does she drag her roots down the aisle slowly, looking longingly at the track suits and blue jeans as she trudges along.

Surely not every tree wants to look like, well, like all the other trees in bloom this week. But tradition cannot be ignored and for trees heading for the debutante ball, there are certain expectations which must be met.

The obvious things can’t change. She’s not going to have a slimmer trunk before the big event. She put on a little weight over the winter and there isn’t time to diet it off. She can’t rely on the wind for exercise – sometimes there is wind and sometimes there isn’t. And surgery is out. The very thought of it makes her cringe.

Still, there are reasonable variants and accessories a tree can get away with – matching squirrel earrings, a rakishly tilted bird nest behind her leftmost limb, a delicate ivy necklace, and moss slippers. So she does her best, fluffing up her branches to make the best of her blossoms and swaying gently in the breeze. It’s hard to stand out, especially when one is surrounded by younger trees.

She remembers what it’s like to have a slender trunk, soft velvety petals, smooth bark. But even though looking beautiful is more work now, it’s less stressful. She knows what she is, and it’s good enough.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

sweet

Sweet Books Can Cause Cavities

Does hardship breed unbearably sweet children?

The many older hand me down books I read as a child send that message loud and clear. They don’t tell stories of sweet children cast into misery. Instead, they tell stories of miseries which somehow make children sweet.

From the perspective of these books, low standards are excellent practice for a happy life. By extension, the children who suffer privation should be grateful for the inherent lesson. The message: Appreciate what you have and make a game out of hardship. From a practical perspective, it makes sense.

You will be happy more often if you allow more things to make you happy.

Which would be a nauseatingly Pollyanna-like observation if anyone still remembered Pollyanna. Does anyone?

For those of my readers who don’t, Pollyanna, the main character in the eponymous book, focuses her entire being on seeing the good in any situation. If Pollyanna faces certain death by being dropped off a mountain top, she will find a way to be grateful for the view. I guess she nauseates me in retrospect. But at the time I read Pollyanna I considered her not only brave but ingenious in her attempts to make the best of everything.

The Five Little Peppers, an intensely saccharine bunch are even worse. All five children in the Pepper family behave dutifully, honestly, cheerfully and industriously at all times. Although they live a hand to mouth existence with their overworked and inhumanly patient single mother, they never complain. Complaint as a concept simply doesn’t exist in the world the Peppers live in.

Still, I loved those books as a child even while I understood that level of determined optimism was likely to send me into a diabetic coma.

Everyone should be loved more than they deserve. Even books. Which books do you love more than they deserve to be loved?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Writers

Writers Should Never Follow Advice. Or Should They?

Advice for writers can be helpful. Or not.

Writers are often puzzled by well meant advice. This is not to imply writers are puzzled more frequently than, say, barbers. Just that we get an awful lot of advice and well meaning or not, some if it is contradictory.

There is an old logic riddle about a wanderer who approaches two strangers, one of whom always tells the truth and one of whom always lies. The wanderer must choose between two paths which lie beyond the two strangers. One path leads to a vicious and hungry dragon who lives to eat wanderers while the other leads to a castle stocked with cookies and ice cream. The wanderer can only learn the best path by devising a question which will result in the same answer from both the truth teller and the liar.

The idea of one answer being both true and false is pretty cool. Unlike the actuality of an answer which is both true and false. That’s just frustrating.

For instance,  in high school English class my teacher quoted Mark Twain with advice for aspiring writers. Purportedly Twain said: Write What You Know. Although online research is telling me it could have been Hemingway, or some other random quotable person. No one seems to know who said it first.

For anonymous punsters, advising writers seems to be a popular past time.

In any case, that particular piece of advice is half wrong. If we all followed the Write What You Know rule, library shelves would be nearly empty. There would be little in the way of non-fiction on them and no fiction at all except for autobiographies which often are unintentionally fiction. I mean, really. Who would ever have come up with vampires, fairies, ghosts, disappearing islands, flying horses, flying broomsticks or the entire body of science fiction if we only wrote what we knew?

But the other truth is we writers can’t help writing what we know. We just don’t always realize we are doing so. Say Jane writes a romance about a relationship between a Billionairess from an imaginary country accessible only by spaceship and a Centaur/Merman from the continental shelf. Even though the characters and settings are out of Jane’s personal experience (unless Jane is a lot more interesting than I give her credit for) there will still be things Jane knows which end up in the story.

For example, she knows these two crazy lovers will never make it if they can’t grow and change. The Billionairess will have to give up her long held prejudice against ocean dwellers. The Centaur/Merman must learn to treasure his mixed horse-fish heritage. Jane knows this without having ever been a wealthy woman. Without having ever fallen in love with a denizen of the continental shelf.

Jane may not have personal experience being from an imaginary country or living under the sea, but she can apply the knowledge she does have to the situations she has created. Which is a good thing, since the situations she creates are pretty ridiculous.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Mockingbird

Mockingbird – Midnight Jazz Cat

The Secret Night Life of Morris

Last night I was awake late trying to consider my heroine’s options when I a mockingbird distracted me.

I assume Morris the Mockingbird does mundane stuff all day long, like kicking rotted food out of the nest. He stocks the larder with bugs, insects, and small things which can’t run away fast enough. He keeps a beady eye out for predators.

But in the middle of the night, Morris mutters an excuse to his long suffering wife, Rochelle, sneaks off to the bush outside my house, and becomes JazzMo.

He was amazing. The one man (well, bird) jam session lasted about an hour and as far as I could tell he sang a lot of old favorites without repeating even one.

All of which gives me hope.

Because there is a school of thought which says living beings are never truly altruistic. But JazzMo is an argument against that. I’m not saying JazzMo sang his heart out to give me pleasure. He was singing because it gave him pleasure.

The creation of unnecessary beauty is not much of a survival strategy when you think about it. But it is a great way to love the time you have.

Still, I wonder what Morris the Mockingbird says to Rochelle when he staggers home after one of these marathon sessions, exhausted yet exhilarated and reeking of hemlock sap. Maybe she secretly worries the shine has worn off their relationship. After all her feathers are dull from racing to feed nestlings all day long. She probably accuses him of hanging out with those no good opossums and while she scolds him she wonders if he’s started up again with that Mindy, the sultry hoot owl he used to go with before the babies started coming.

She doesn’t have to worry – I can vouch for him. Morris has been too busy pouring his heart out to the night sky to get up to the kind of trouble she’s concerned about. And if she reads this blog, she’ll figure that out.

So, if you see her, let her know. Better yet, tell her to sign up for the newsletter. That’ll keep her up to date.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

 

Tricky Grammar

Never Trust Grammar. Even if it is Delicious.

Plurality. Not that kind.

You just can’t trust grammar. Maybe, to be fair, you can’t trust grammar and etymology.

Our American English is like shish kebab – each word on the stake is part of the same delicious meal, but each one is also a totally distinct vegetable. Or in this particular case, a totally distinct flower.

I just looked up the plural of crocus to see if it is crocuses (easier to say) or croci (funnier to look at). Turns out either one is acceptable. In fact, it’s even okay to use the singular form, i.e., “While thinking about my blog post I accidentally stepped on a cluster of crocus”. Or crocuses. Or croci.

Not helpful. Because for those of us who suffer from indecision, multiple options like this can bring on total gridlock.

The problem is certain words like octopus, syllabus and cactus which originate in ancient Greece are pluralized as though they were of Roman origin. Think about alumnus/alumni and you get the idea.

Which begs the question, are these words purposely disguising themselves as ancient Romans and if so, what is their end game?

Are they operating undercover in our cities and towns, covering up their ancient Greek accents with more modern ancient Roman declensions? Can we trust words which have replaced their Grecian garb with togas?

Are they friends or foes? Do they mean to trip us up with their tricky pluralizing and are they laughing at us when we do trip up? Are they planning to go further undercover and re-emerge as, say, ancient Chinese words?

These are the kinds of things we all worry about. Okay, maybe you don’t. But apparently I do.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Romance Writers

Shipwrecked with Romance Writers.

When Being Marooned is a Good Thing.

Romance writers have odd problems. You know you’re in trouble when you haven’t been able to write in a couple days and you are lonely for your characters. How is that even possible?

I’ve only known Jock Durrell for two days in any depth, not exactly a meaningful relationship. Two days is barely even shaking hands.

But Jock is turning into just the sort of slightly irascible person I enjoy spending writing time with, primarily because he is kind to the bone. He just has a hard time owning that.

So I miss him. But it’s worth it, because I’ve been having sooo much fun.

Instead of hanging with Jock and delving into what makes him tick, I’ve been at the NECRWA conference this weekend which, for those of you uninitiated, is an annual convening of New England authors who write romances. Coolest thing ever.

First, because I can learn and relearn how to write better, how to think better and how to reach readers more effectively.

Second, because I get to spend time with fascinating conversationalists. Nobody tells a story like an actual storyteller.

But the best part is the “There’s room for all of us on this boat. Come on in and join us in the chorus of this sea chanty!” atmosphere.

This is why, if you are ever lost at sea, your best bet is a wandering barge full of romance writers. It might take you a little longer to get home, but you won’t mind. You’ll be having too much fun singing sea chanties.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

 

Library Books, Indulgence

Library Books. As Good as Chocolate.

Self Indulgence. Again.

I drove to the library to keep my husband company while he picked up a book for himself and I am mortified to say I walked out with twelve library books.

Ok. So I know I said I wasn’t going to review any more library books until I had my next novel well underway. Lies. All lies.

This is why you can’t trust people who promise you things over the internet.

When I got home, I started reading before I took my coat off. Talk about lack of restraint. On the other hand, it had been more than a week. And I was feeling malnourished.

The first book I devoured was Night School by Lee Child. I love the consistent quality of his characters. Because of that consistency, Jack Reacher is completely believable in the way that Superman is believable. The world those two men exist in is tailor made for exactly the sort of people they are, so it works out. Superman wouldn’t fit in at the neighborhood softball game (Think about it – No one would volunteer to play on the opposite team), and Jack Reacher seems allergic to the routine of daily life, but luckily for these two guys, they seem to thrive in their strife filled fictional circumstances .

Personally, I think anyone who moves to Metropolis, or Gotham for that matter, is out of his mind. Can you imagine the property insurance costs for citizens of those cities?

Now I have once again decorated my space with partially read library books, Jennifer Crusie is lounging on my bureau, Katie MacAlister is reclining on my night table, Faye Kellerman is lolling on the couch and J.D. Spikes’ The Possession is lurking on my Kindle. I feel so much better.

Besides this blog entry, what are you reading?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Excuses

Excuses, Excuses. You Know What I’m Talking About.

Rationale, Justification, Song and Dance – All Fancy Talk for Excuses.

What’s the best excuse you have ever come up with? I don’t mean the standard – my dog ate my homework, my car broke down, I have a headache, I thought I could fly if I flapped my arms hard enough type of pretext. Although those are all time tested excuses and stand up to hard questioning.

I’m talking about an excellent and thoroughly over the top excuse, the kind which offers a lofty other worldly reason or a self serving diatribe as a rationale for improper behavior.An excuse so good, you could wear it on a T-Shirt. One you can be truly proud of in a guilty way.

Here is a list of useful and classy excuses to prime your pump:

I eat ice cream by the gallon to reduce bovine unemployment.

I paid my bill late because inflation means my money is worth more today than it was when the bill was due, so you are getting more than you had any reason to expect. You’re welcome.

I arrived late to work because I overslept. I overslept because I stayed up late watching a horror movie. I stayed up late watching a horror movie because someone has to support B Level movie producers and directors. The Academy won’t.

I didn’t invite you to my party because I hate parties and I’m sure you do too. I didn’t want to be selfish.

You, oh dauntless readers, are practically perfect in every way, but I expect you have fertile imaginations or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. If you had ever done anything wrong, what would your excuse be?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

snowflakes

Snowflakes As Romantic Heroes

Love in a Time of Snowflakes

No two snowflakes are alike.

I think that old adage is supposed to evoke the majesty and infinite complexity of nature. Instead, I keep imagining some little guy sitting on a stool at a lab counter peering into a microscope and saying, “Nope. Not the same. Again.”

I think the emphasis on the importance of individuality is interesting though. As a society, as human beings, we all want to believe we are distinct even as we wish to not stand out that much. Most of us don’t want to our differences to separate us. We want them to make us special, intriguing, attractive.

We want differences we consider attractive, like the sapphire eyes of a mermaid, a lithe graceful body, a porcelain complexion. Most of us don’t yearn to be blessed with myopia, a port wine stain, or a body shaped like a spark plug.

This is where romance novels shine.

In a romance novel, snowflakes are not just different.

They are flawed in ways which prevent them from connecting with each other.

A snowflake heroine will be certain no one could love a girl with an asymmetrical shape. She’s pretty sure that’s why when she fell onto a city street as a child no one looked for her. A snowflake hero may have lost one of his six arms in his service in the snowflake blizzard army. He will feel it is unfair to burden a girl with a man who can only carry five bags of groceries at a time.

But overcoming these feelings of being unbearably different is what romance novels are all about. It may be true no two snowflakes are alike, but despite their unique attributes no one will confuse a snowflake with a can of tuna fish. In the end they are not that different. Any other snowflake can relate.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.