Category Archives: books

What to choose for Reading in Lockdown?

Rather to my surprise, people have been asking me to recommend books for lockdown reading. Virtual strangers, some of them. I suppose they think a writer reads more than other people. Well, to keep abreast of the competition, if nothing else.

Now, I like talking about books. And I am congenitally incapable of ignoring a request for help.

But this particular question throws me into a quandary. I mean I can happily spout for hours on books I love. As you probably know. But…

Finding a story that somebody else might like, especially someone I barely know (not to mention that someone’s son, daughter or grandchild) is hard. To be honest, it has left me  with eyeballs swishing about, looking for the escape hatch.

So far I’ve blundered through, hauling up titles from the cellarage pretty much at random. Do people want books they can read together? Or are they trying to read to block out the effects of too much togetherness?

With a very uncertain Christmas coming, I thought I’d try to be a bit more disciplined.

New Lockdown Bookworms?

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Writing Settings out of Sequence

Writing energy, happy writerI love starting a new book

It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet  with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.

That is the point I am at now.

I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.

I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.

 It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?

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Christmas Reunion in Paris—a writer’s anxiety and joy

The beginning…

romantic novelist busy editingWriting Christmas Reunion in Paris was a curious mixture of fun and anxiety. Maybe it’s always like that. There are always tough moments when you can’t see an ending, when you sit and stare at the screen and the words won’t come. But, mostly, like childbirth, you forget the agonies when all is delivered safely.

It all started when my editor asked if I’d like to write the first book in a three book mini-series – Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel. My fellow authors, Kandy Shepherd (in Australia) and Susan Meier (in the US) were old friends. I was delighted to team up with them to work on the books that were about three siblings, each with their own painful past.

The collaboration…

writer at laptop smilingEmails flew back and forth as we worked on settings. The boarding school that James (my character) and his twin Sally had attended. The Harrington Park Hotel. The backstory of their parents, a stepfather, the moments that fractured a once happy family.

That was the fun part!

Paris…we’ve done that…

Paris for Christmas reunion

My story takes place in Paris, in the run up to the holiday, so I grabbed the chance to go and do a little research which I wrote about a few months ago.

More fun.

It couldn’t last…

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Before The Crown there was a love story

COMING 17th September: Before the Crown

One of my favourite authors has written Before the Crown, the wartime love story between a very young Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN.
I asked Flora Harding to tell me about it.

Young Royals

Sophie        I say a very young Princess Elizabeth. But actually she and Prince Philip must have known each other all their lives. Weren’t they related?

Princess Elizabeth with Dookie

FLORA   Yes, they’re both directly descended from Queen Victoria and part of an extended network of royal relatives. They would have come across each other at odd family occasions like weddings or George VI’s Coronation.

But there was a five-year age gap. They don’t seem to have had much to do with each other until the famous encounter in 1939. Continue reading

Celebrating The Aikenhead Honours with a Giveaway

This Bank Holiday, I am celebrating the publication for Kindle of four new (well, sort of new) stories—the four books of The Aikenhead Honours series. In revised editions. With four brand new covers that I love. See for yourself, in the image below:

The original Harlequin covers focused purely on the lovers. Fair enough, but I wanted my new covers to show how far afield my heroes had to travel to find their brides. Book 1 shows the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Book 2 shows Schönbrunn palace outside Vienna, Book 3 shows Notre Dame, in Paris, Book 4 shows the old city in Lyons. My heroes went to all those places on business, of course—spying business.

Editing the Aikenhead Honours Series

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Animals in books: cute, endearing. Risky?

When its eyes met mine…

cover Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie“On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she’d been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they’d met that she’d be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home on six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolour assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.”

Jennifer Crusie is famous for putting wonderful dogs in her books and this is no exception. Quinn’s destiny is a small black dog with desperate eyes and he isn’t a prop, a cute accessory for her heroine. He gets the opening line in Crazy For You, because he’s about to change her life.

Animals in books? Dogs, more dogs and a duckling or two

Georgette Heyer put animals in books, shown here with her dogGeorgette Heyer, seen here with her dog, was another author who used dogs, kittens, even ducklings to delight us. In a long scene in The Grand Sophy the ducklings escape, are recaptured and generally cause chaos. 

ducklings

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

Venetia‘s Flurry flew to her rescue when, shockingly, Damerel kissed her. Unfortunately Flurry desisted the moment he was commanded to “sit”, recognising a master when he heard one. But he was enough of a distraction for Venetia to extract herself. Once she’d done that, she was more than a match for the man!

And Ulysses, the disreputable mongrel Arabella foisted on Beaumaris, is a joy. 

But writers beware!

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Casting the Ideal Hero in Favourite Stories

The ideal hero? The Libertà blog has included a number of posts about heroes, most recently one I wrote about whether a plumber can be a hero. Also posts about villains, who can be more than a little droolworthy, especially when played by Alan Rickman.
Just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. 😉

Alan Rickman as Nottingham in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves

Today I want to ask about casting your ideal hero in the movie of a favourite book. Any book you choose. Maybe even one you’ve written yourself?
The key question is: who is going to play your hero? And why? Continue reading

Reading Fantasy

romantic novelist reading aloudDuring lockdown I’ve been reading even more than usual – and looking back over my Kindle intake for the last 13 weeks, I see that a surprising amount of it is fantasy. I use the term to embrace novels that may be classified also as paranormal, speculative fiction, time travel, alternative history, steampunk or even science fiction.

I was telling a friend this and he looked rather shocked. “You must have been desperate,” he said.

World building fantasy mirrorWell yes, I was – desperate for a cracking good read that would take me somewhere other than a world I was rather fond which seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket. But not so desperate that I lurched into uncharted jungle. I like fantasy. I’ve always read quite a bit of it anyway. Didn’t he?

He shuddered. “Oh romance!” he said. (Actually he said something rather crisper than that, and I found it funny and shouldn’t have, so I’m not sharing.)

I conscientiously did not take umbrage. (And a lot of it was not at all romantic, anyway.) But it set me thinking. 

Why Read Fantasy?

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Gone With the Wind

Cherokee rose, state flower of Georgia

Georgia’s Cherokee rose

This week my eye was drawn to a couple of exchanges about Gone With the Wind on social media.

Gone With The Wind First Edition coverThe book has always been controversial, even when it was first published. It was a huge, instant bestseller, so you couldn’t ignore it. But historians challenged its accuracy and many people were disturbed by its depiction of slave-owning as acceptable and the novel’s attitude to the slaves themselves.

It was published in the USA in 1936, between the end of the Great Depression and the start of the Second World War. It was a debut novel, written by Margaret Mitchell, a 35-year-old woman, and set in her native Georgia.

And it was enormous, a five-part tome covering the whole of the Civil War in the South and its aftermath.

In spite of that, it sold 1 million copies in its first year and won her the National Book Award in 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1937.

Hattie McDaniel, actress in Gone with the WindThe 1939 film of the book was the great colour-filled masterpiece, from the gloriously costumed drawing rooms of Clayton County to the terrifying burning of Atlanta.

It won ten Academy Awards, including Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar, the first award ever to an African American. Though her treatment at the ceremony was shameful, as Queen Latifah is the most recent to point out. It’s all part of the long controversy, social, artistic and academic, that the work has inspired.

Gone With the Wind – the Reader’s Dilemma

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Missing the Beach? Try Little Piddling’s Beach Hut Surprise

writers working together, with wineBack in 2019, the Libertà Hive met over supper and the odd glass 😉 to plot the future. We decided to write a Libertà Beach Reads anthology for summer 2020.

We didn’t know back then, of course, that beaches might be off-limits for a bit. But there’s no ban on beach reads. Writing them—and reading them, too—can be great fun.

As the evening wore on, amid much laughter and scraping of plates, we discovered the joys of Little Piddling, its history, its inhabitants… We also discovered some of the skeletons in our seaside town’s metaphorical cupboards (aka beach huts).

Beach Read challenge

We challenged each other to write the sort of stories we’d never attempted before. And we’ve all really enjoyed meeting those challenges. We even roped in two long-term friends of the hive, authors Louise Allen and Lesley Cookman.

The result?fanfare of trumpets

Fanfare of trumpets please for the Libertà Books anthology: Continue reading