Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


The older I get, the more I dread them.

So this piece of timeless wisdom hit me in a particularly vulnerable spot:
Despite her frailty, Nani's voice was steady, strong. You're twenty-six, naantin. You are beautiful, but if you wait much longer you will have only divorcés and shop owners to choose from."
Demon Moon, Meljean Brook.

NOOOOOO!!! Not (gulp) divorcés!

(Good book, btw).

Anyway, Fate - perhaps sensing my delicate emotional balance at this most unhappy of times - sent me an early birthday present today. I got home to find:

The Vampire Queen's Servant, by Joey W. Hill
Queen of Dragons, by Shana Abe (shiny!)
Demon Night, Meljean Brook
The Spymasters Lady, Joanna Bourne
London in the 19th Century, Jerry White


The thrilling ARC (hey, my first ever) for Ann Aguirre's Grimspace.

So my birthday will pass in a happy haze of oblivion, with no Nani to warn me of time's decay. Unless she turns up in Demon Night.

Incidentally, one of the most annoying things about growing older is when heroines start getting younger than yourself. It'll be the heroes next... (see: The Scream)

Sunday, 10 February 2008


Polls are good fun and I regret not taking part in last year's top 100.

So I thought the AAR Annual Readers Poll would be a great opportunity to atone for that piece of laziness. Just one problem: I haven't read a great many books published in 2007 and there are 32 categories in the poll. 32. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn't read much last year, and what I read was sometimes uninspiring. However, to rectify the matter, I have spent the past week and a half catching up on some of the notable reads of 2007. Namely, If His Kiss Is Wicked, Untouched, Never Deceive a Duke and Not Quite a Lady.

This brings my total reads in 2007 to an underwhelming 24, which I have put in a groovy table (there's no stopping me). Of those 24, I've highlighted the books that stood out for me in particular.

Behold! (Or, rather, squint... Clicking on it will make it bigger. Shut up.)

It's clear my ballot is severely compromised by my limited reading and I am left with some troubling questions.

9 books for 32 categories? Is 32 categories 22 too many? Can I really say Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night was the best paranormal of 2007 when I've only read two other Paranormals from the same year? Why haven't I read any Sci-Fi? Why is there a 'tortured hero' yet no 'tortured heroine' category? Can't heroines be tortured? They seem like increasingly tortured creatures to me.

How can I create proper tables on blogger?

ETA: Creating a proper table will take me a few more sleepless nights. Watch this space.

Saturday, 9 February 2008



Dear Jo Goodman,

Please stop writing regencies.

Let me be clear. I love your work. In the last eight years I’ve read all but three of your books and I wouldn’t rate any of them below a B. In a genre brimming with stock characters and recurring plots, you have consistently created characters and stories that shine with originality, plotting that shows careful thought and intricate implementation. You have mysteries that genuinely mystify, twists I don’t see coming and characters I can’t easily decipher.

I’m a fan. My Reckless Heart (which I must blog about) is one of my top 3 romances of all time.

In the twenty plus years you’ve been writing romances, your heroines have ranged from reporters, engineers, actresses, photographers, doctors and artists. There was even a nun thrown in, for variety. You’ve set your stories in Colorado, New York, Australia, San Francisco during the Gold Rush, the South during Reconstruction, the revolutionary period - and that’s just off the top of my head. More recently, your last seven novels have been set in Regency England. I believe your next novel is also a regency. Sadly, the hackneyed plot description does nothing to ease my mind.



If His Kiss is Wicked is the story of Emmalyn Hathaway and Restell Gardner (first seen in One Forbidden Evening) and it begins with a familiar Goodman premise: Emma is a woman mired in mystery, her life is quite possibly in danger and her closest family and acquaintances cannot wholly be trusted. She goes to Restell - the younger son of an aristocratic family - because she has heard he solves problems. And Emma has plenty of problems. You don’t really want to be Emma, even though she has blue-green eyes and a perfectly pared nose (all Goodman heroines do). I don’t want to spoil anything by being too specific for those of you who haven’t yet read it, because Goodman is the master of unexpected twists and there’s a pretty good one right at the beginning.

So, Emma hires Restell to protect her. Of course, Restell is fascinated by Emma. And credit to Goodman, all her heroines are more than worthy of their heroes, and vice versa. Forgetting their beauty for a moment (honestly, I don’t think Goodman needs to have beautiful heroines; they don’t need to be), a Goodman heroine is always

• Incredibly smart
• Gifted
• Selfless to the point of martyrdom
• Emotionally closed up (she always has the power in the relationship because the hero is constantly unsure of her whilst being utterly besotted himself)
• Carrying enough baggage to sink a barge
• Her family is almost always evil and consequently, she needs to hero even if she won't accept it at first (glaring exception: the Dennheys).

So, of course, this combination is fatal and heroes are snared all too easily. Restell is no exception. And, truly, you’d be into Emma too. By the time her really annoying traits are revealed, it’s far too late in the book for Restell to turn back: he’s well and truly hooked.

Restell is also a typical Goodman hero in that he is:
• A thoroughly good guy
• Not macho, but his masculinity is never compromised
• Smart enough to keep up with Emma
• Respects and admires her from the start
• Has a decidedly sane and healthy background which allows him to provide an emotional sanctuary for Emma.

Emma lives with her Uncle - a famed artist - and her cousin Marisol, who is everything that Emma is not: outgoing, vivacious, utterly self-absorbed and consequently a bit of a selfish monster, but charming enough to get away with it. Someone’s life is in danger but, because Marisol and Emma are very similar in appearance, it is up to Restell to discover whose.

Emma’s worst trait is her willingness to think the best of everyone, in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary, and a lack of care for her own well-being.

A deviation: I’ve been catching up on my shameful reading past, that is to say, I’ve discovered a wonderfully snarky blog about the Wakefield Twins and because the two things happened at the same time, I can’t help but compare Jessica and Elizabeth to Marisol and Emma. Because... they look alike and have blue-green eyes. Below, I've listed some further characteristics to illustrate these similarities.

Casey (over at the Diari Burger) diagnoses Jessica with a Histrionic Personality Disorder, which, hilariously, fits Marisol rather aptly - here’s a checklist
• Constant seeking of reassurance or approval.
• Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions.
• Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval.
• Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior.
• Excessive concern with physical appearance.
• A need to be the center of attention (self-centeredness).
• Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification.
• Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear shallow to others.
• Opinions are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details.
• Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are.
• Make rash decisions
• Threaten or attempt suicide to get attention

But I digress. My point is that Emma takes a little too much of Marisol’s crap and suffers for it by looking like a bit of a idiotic do-gooder/ enabler. In fact, like Liz, you could say that Emma is a typical co-dependent.

Criticisms aside, there are many reasons you should pick up a Goodman if you haven’t already. For one thing, she writes very well, and evocatively. Here’s a scene from the story:
Oak leaves turned their silver-green undersides upward as a rush of wind swept through the park. Slim birches shivered. Two young women walking side by side had to make an instant decision whether to save their bonnets or their collective modesty. They simultaneously put both their hands on their heads and let their skirts snap and flutter so that silken ankles , calves and even knees were revealed. Giggling, they spun about. ...

Can’t you just see it? Goodman’s dialogue has been praised, too, for its authenticity and whilst I agree that it is very good, I see her more as a late Victorian (truly, her tone is more a sly Wildean than breezy Austen. You can just picture Restell’s mother as a Lady Bracknell type). This is partly why I wish she would leave the Regency period behind. Her tone is really too dark for it. Plus, her characters deserve to be set in a period when their horizons are wider - all those smart and capable heroines would do so much better in a time when they could actually utilise their talents to become reporters, actresses, doctors, businesswomen.

Lastly, seven Regencies on the trot? Goodman is too good (heh) an author to go stale. The best - like Gaffney or Kinsale - experiment. They try new times and places. I don’t want to be a lone voice of dissent when Goodman is finally getting the recognition she deserves, but I’ve felt her last couple of novels have bled into each other to the point where I can’t even begin to tell the characters apart.

A B for If His Kiss is Wicked. Were it not for the deja vu my grade would be higher.


Well, there's Hugh Laurie. Then there's Robert Sean Leonard and the sizzling Lisa Edelstein. I really don't need to go on.

However, my incorrigible shipping tendencies have become all confused and muddled since watching the last two episodes of House, because I can't work out who has the best chemistry; House and Wilson, or House and Cuddy.

Take a look. I would add a third (Wilson and Cuddy) but, quite frankly, this cropping and chopping of videos has really strained my mad techno-skillz. I'll leave it at this. For now.