Reading: The Wild Child

the wild childTitle: The Wild Child
Author: Mary Jo Putney
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 310 pages

Summary: Meriel’s beauty is more than fey, it is rumored she returned from India after the murder of her parents when she was five-years-old madder than any hatter in all of England. Dominic, though entirely against the idea, has agreed to help his twin brother Kyle to woo the mad, mute heiress. In exchange, Dominic will be awarded land of his own, which is all he has ever wanted his entire life. He never expected to fall in love her. He never expected he would take on the impossible task to make her speak again.

Excerpt:

pg 148 – God knew that he was living proof that, for despite all his warnings to himself, he had fallen in love with her. She elicited tenderness and desire, laughter and wonder, a fierce need to protect her from all threats.

Why should you read this book?

Another book which tackles the aftermath of a traumatic event, this time the raid of a compound while in India which leads to the murder of the heroine’s parents. Meriel returns from India a mute, content to spend her days in her extensive English garden communing with nature and ignoring the pain of the human world. When Dominic arrives, having never been able to stand watching any animal hurt, he finds a kindred spirit in Meriel, despite her silence.

Though the plot is fairly standard for historical fiction, as always, Putney’s characters shine. Meriel has these inklings, a different understanding of the world. She sees beauty in weeds, auras around those who matter, and disregards societal rules. Which made for her seductive pursuit of Dominic rather entertaining. She had watched animals in rut for years, she thinks she understands what is to be done. Poor Dominic, though he had rakish years, is mortified, making for humorous and sensual scenes where he clutches the arms of chairs and refuses to look at Meriel as she pursues him.

I feel as though the treatment of the relationship between the twins Kyle and Dominic could have been explored more. I loved the tender and passionate relationship between Dominic and Meriel. Again, this is a story where the beta hero shines, helping the heroine come out of her shell so they can have a healthy, equal relationship. Read this book for an unconventional heroine, a wonderful beta hero that I’d want to bring home with me, and hints of Putney’s Guardian series through the odd little quirks Meriel exhibits.

10 Irrational but Nonetheless Persistent Fears I’ve Picked Up from Reading Adult Historical Romances

  1. Apparently, I either have to be so beautiful everyone chases after me, or so unique no one knows what to do with me, in order to get anyone’s romantic attention.
  2. Because I’m fairly certain I’m neither of the above, I shall be forever alone.
  3. I will never be able to breathe properly around my love interest, either because of my unmentionables (damn corset) or because he looks so delicious I hyperventilate into a faint.
  4. When I fall in love it will be with someone who probably doesn’t deserve it.
  5. My romantic interest will have a rake’s past, and therefore, the sexual infections that come along with all those bed adventures.
  6. One or both of my parents will die before I meet my romantic interest, meaning I will doubt his interest in me over my inheritance (which, let’s be honest, will probably not be very much).
  7. When I catch my romantic interest’s gaze across the room, our gaze will burn so hot we might cause people to spontaneously combust.
  8. I will want to have sexy time with him every time I see him. This will prove to be inconvenient should I see him in church.
  9. My romantic interest will have a brooding past, which the books tell me is supposed to make him irresistible. I now fear for my sanity.
  10. The first time I have sexy time with my romantic interest, it will either be mind-blowingly good, or so bad I’m crippled.

What about you?

Best, Belinda

Romance is About Making the Tough Choice

When I first typed the title to this blog post, a Freudian slip occurred and I typed “touch” rather than “tough.” Seems to me both are accurate when it comes to romance, heh. Anyway, I’ve been thinking lately about how people make decisions, and why.

The fact is, romance is a tough decision for some people. “Timing is everything,” I always hear people say. But romance is so more than just timing. Romance is about personalities, wants, needs, desires. Conversation. Physical attractiveness. Mental and emotional attractiveness. Financial compatibility. Family traditions, cultures, expectations. Friends.

Romance, or rather, a meaningful romantic relationship, is a tough decision when you consider all these factors! Yet, people date all the time. People find someone to date, to spend time with, to hang out with friends. People break up with, cheat on, abuse and take advantage of those they date as well.

Way to be a Debbie Downer, Belinda

Those  aren’t the relationships I like to write about. Part of the reason why I write (young adult) quirky  Victorian romances is because the culture is more accessible to me, from a relationship-longevity standpoint.

Don’t get me wrong, just because people stayed married (legally-speaking) for decades only to be truly separated by death, doesn’t mean they didn’t have problems. Well-born Victorian men were notorious for cheating on their wives because they were told it was their nature, they were expected to have a mistress. On the other hand, Victorian women were fed the bull that they were the reason society was as civilized as it was; that the men who courted them would treasure them and therefore they should do their best to give him a wonderful home. Sounds like Mad Men a little, doesn’t it?

I’m stereotyping and simplifying, of course.

Then why write about Victorian romance at all?

The fact is that despite these factors, I choose to write quirky Victorian fiction because I’m allowed to fantasize about a time when men and women made commitments to one another that were meant to surpass time and aging and death and famine and cheating all that. My idealist teenage-reader-mind soaked up Louisa May Alcott, LM Montgomery, Janette Oke, Jean Ferris, Ann Rinaldi, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell… these classic women wrote about heroes who took time to get to know their heroines and determine they were a match.

Not just financially (thank you, dowries), but emotionally, personally, familial…ly… The motivations behind the romances in my books are people are looking for a match. Not a perfect one, for sure, no one is perfect. Even the phrase “don’t look for someone perfect, look for someone perfect for you” implies this person is imperfect and these imperfections may, one day, make you want to throw a vase at him. But there is something fun and magical in reading a story about two people who just might have finally met each other and recognized kindred spirits. It’s something I hope for my friends, family, and myself.

So romance is a tough decision, right? But with the right person, things align. And in a perfect world (that is, fiction), we get to relive those moments over and over again.

For those of you who haven’t yet read Catching the Rose or Haunting Miss Trentwood to see just  how I write about meaningful romance, you might be interested in the promotions below.

Haunting Miss Trentwood is discounted on Kindle. And guess what, Catching the Rose is also discounted on Kindle!

The audiobook version of Haunting Miss Trentwood will be discounted from $19.95 to $5.95 (even less to audible.com members) Saturday August 25 to Sunday September 2.

The newly released behind-the-scenes chapter called The Seance from Haunting Miss Trentwood will be free on Kindle Monday August 27 to Tuesday August 28.

Best,

Belinda

John Stamos’ Guide to Cuddling

Dear Reader,

We break this blogging hiatus to bring the most pressing of news…

John Stamos has kindly agreed to provide a guide to cuddling. I’m sure more than one historical romance hero (especially those pesky alpha males who are sooo above cuddling or anything remotely romantic) could use a pointer or two.

Enjoy. I know I did. Perhaps a little too much.

But then, John Stamos is one of the most handsome men I can think of off the top of my head.

So you’ll just have to forgive me.

Not entirely safe for work, make sure you wear headphones. And maybe turn your monitor from your manager. This video definitely gave me my morning almost-spew-my-tea-on-my-keyboard laugh.

Best,

Belinda

3 Ways I Knew I Write Young Adult Historical Romance

Dear Reader,

I have been struggling with my genre for almost a year now. I write historical fiction, that much I know because I write stories about fictional people set in a historically-based setting. I use real-world facts to provide the skeleton of my story, fill in details, and let my imagination run wild from there.

My stories also have a romantic element. I write about emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles between personalities. I care about the vulnerability of opening one’s heart to someone else, knowing they may destroy, cherish, or be apathetic to it.

As such, I’ve been saying I write historical romances. Quirky historical romances, if I were to be precise. The quirky is because I bring in elements from the other genres I read for inspiration: fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction, etc. My last book was pegged as gothic because of the setting, ghostly elements, and suspenseful mini-mystery.

Yet, historical romance doesn’t feel like such a great fit, either. Why? Because I read a lot of historical romances. The Julia Quinns, Candace Camps, Mary Jo Putneys, and Amanda Quicks of the world might raise a brow if they actually read one of my books. Why? I don’t write sex. I’m not interested in writing about it, I never hint at my hero/heroine having sex or even thinking about it. There is sexual tension, of course, or else they wouldn’t be attracted to each other.

Thinking about this made me wonder, you know, maybe I’m writing historical romances for young adults. After some soul searching, I realized there are three ways to tell that I’m writing historical romances for young adults.

1. I include enough historical detail to keep the attention of a fifteen year old, and not much more.

I make no claim to being a historian. I am, at best, a hobby historian. I’ve always loved learning, I am a very disciplined sort of researcher and can access a lot of information in a short amount of time. I had two journals full of handwritten notes from multiple primary and secondary sources for Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Yet the one complaint I hear more often than anything else about that book is I could have gone into a little more detail. Just another paragraph or two in a few spots. My point is that I had more than enough information with which to choke the story. Should I have included a little more? Yes, if it would have helped the story. It is not my goal to provide a history lesson, it is my goal to entertain, without stretching the facts of history as we know it today.

For The Rebel’s Hero, I do plan on writing an author’s note at the end of the book because there will need to be more historical background. I’m covering a part of the Civil War that you just don’t hear about as often, and I won’t be able to cover it in as much detail as I’d like within the actual story.

2. My protagonists are coming of age.

Now, Mary from Haunting Miss Trentwood was in her mid-twenties when the story occurred, which is a bit older than the traditional coming-of-age story. The fact remains that in the story, Mary goes through a change and comes into her own, as it were. She has a romance, deals with family struggles, and makes decisions about who she wants to be and what she can do to become that person. Pick up any young adult book, no matter the genre, and it will be addressing the same issues. Think of Libba Bray, Ann Rinaldi, Laurie Halse Anderson.

3. My stories are fairly straight forward.

If the protagonist is in a love triangle, you will probably be able to guess who they will pick before the end of the story. I don’t like tricking my readers into thinking they’ve figured someone out, and then writing a sort of “Gotcha!” where the character suddenly runs off with someone else. I believe I do this because in every love triangle I’ve seen in real life, only the third wheel sees the love triangle. The couple who is actually falling in love has no idea that third wheel is there.

When there is conflict in my stories, it is something where the hero and heroine need to work together… after or while they work through their interpersonal struggles. I find this is a common thread in young adult stories as well: the hero/heroine don’t quite understand one another, but they are attracted and WANT to understand each other. They go through the growing pains of attempting to become a couple, and their bond is strengthened by a common goal. Again, it is the relationship that is important to me, the coming of age within a relationship that occurs.

This isn’t to say that a young adult historical fiction doesn’t have plot twists and turns, of course.

Thoughts?

There are other ways, I’m sure, that are pointing me in the direction of young adult. But these are the three that came to mind immediately. What are some other ways to tell if you’re writing (or reading) a young adult book?

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Book Review Extravaganza

Dear Reader,

I read five books last week. Rather than splitting up my reviews so each book gets a dedicated post, I instead posted my reviews on Goodreads and am linking to them from here. They’re all some form of historical romance; three are Regencies and two are Victorian. I’m always surprised there aren’t more Victorian romances… it makes sense, I suppose, because society totally freaked at how loosey-goosey the regency was in terms of morals… but the fun thing about the Victorians is that they actually continued those loose morals… they just stopped talking about it as frequently.

As a quick ROW80 update… I wrote another chapter to The Rebel’s Hero, but I don’t like how it ended. So that needs a rewrite. I’m also keeping to my goal of writing 750 words a week… pretty much blasting that out of the water. So that’s cheering.

Enough of that. Onto the reviews!

His Sinful Secret (Notorious Bachelors, #3)His Sinful Secret by Emma Wildes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Julianne and Michael are brought together by an arranged marriage, and they start their familial duty of producing an heir for the duchy as soon as possible. Through their entanglements in bed and the pillow talk after, they realize that it just might be possible to have that long-sought-but-rarely-found sort of marriage within the aristocracy: a happy one.

ImpulseImpulse by Candace Camp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As always, I love Candace Camp’s stories because she allows the hero/heroine to get to know one another, to feel confident that they have found a healthy match/complement in each other, before hopping into bed.

It’s just refreshing.

The BargainThe Bargain by Mary Jo Putney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think it’s Putney’s heroes that make me love her writing. Here we have David, who is very good at what he does, killing people efficiently to save his own skin. But the hardships of war didn’t dull his sensitivities toward a Jocelyn, beautiful woman who shies away from marriage the way a horse shies from a snake. He might have been a major, but David is a wonderful beta hero who kept me smiling and wishing he were real so I could take him home to meet my mother.

The Education of Mrs. BrimleyThe Education of Mrs. Brimley by Donna MacMeans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think what I loved most about this book was that even though Nicholas could have completely taken advantage of Emma, he always gave her a choice. Now, he could have been a true gentleman and not required Emma to pose for him, but then the story wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. Talk about foreplay… the slow undressing of the heroine for months built up the tension between them like crazy.

The Fire Rose (Elemental Masters, #1)The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The story began slowly, and the description sometimes got in the way of the plot, I felt. At its heart, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. We have the beast, Jason Cameron, a elemental wizard who got too big for his britches and tried a spell he didn’t know how to uncast. We have the beauty, an heiress who was working on her PhD when her father died and left her penniless.

A decent retelling of a familiar and well-loved fairy tale, I wish there had been a little less world-building and a little more relationship-building.

View all my reviews

Chapter Two of The Rebel’s Hero

Dear Reader,

Remember, my goal for ROW80 was pretty simple: write 750 words a week. I like achievable goals. They make me happy. Here we have the second chapter of The Rebel’s Hero, something that I wrote three times because each time I wasn’t hitting the right tone. Read the first draft of chapter one.

What do you think about this chapter? Is the characterization over the top? Is Tempest unbelievable, given that she’s a tomboy during the Civil War?

After they finished their silent dinner, Tempest followed Howard and Sophronia to the parlor. Still stinging from Howard’s remark of her “wildness,” Tempest made sure to float across the room and sink into her chair with no more noise than a soft sigh. She kept her posture rigid, her eyes narrowed, and her hands clenched in her lap.

Howard paid no attention, which meant she was giving herself a headache for nothing. Sophronia lounged on a chaise in a dark corner, a handkerchief laid across her eyes. There would be no help from that corner, of that Tempest was certain.

Tempest’s mind raced. Howard had been serious at dinner, she knew he had been serious. And her mother had sat there, sipping her soup because Howard had instructed her to. Tempest worked her jaw in an effort to fight the telltale growing pressure of impending tears.

Of all people, why Walter?

Fifteen minutes passed as the three of them listened to the grandfather clock ticking from the hallway. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Tempest cursed her heart for the way it continued to beat, keeping time with the clock, as if the world had not just ended. Tick. Tock. Everything slowed and Tempest just knew if she did not leave at that instant, she would scream. At the chime of the quarter hour, Tempest jumped to her feet.

“Pardon me, I have a headache,” she said in stiff tones. She held her chin high and refused to look at either Howard or Sophronia as she sailed from the room, her wide skirts swaying with the speed of her escape.

She walked to the front porch of the house and stared out at their farmland. No doubt this was why Walter was agreeing to marry her. It was always about land with these stupid men. Tempest shook her head. She would never understand it. How could a man marry a woman he knew didn’t love him, didn’t even like him, would prefer to spit on the ground than speak to him, just for some dirt?

Howard is hiding something.

Tempest sat on the swing that hung from the rafters of the porch and with smooth, practiced motions, lifted her skirts high, and dropped the hoop skirt then and there for all the world to see. Not that anyone could or would see, it was just her and the slaves and the farm and the black sky. Not even the stars dared shine tonight, not under the threat of Tempest’s furious frown.

Freed of her hoops, Tempest crouched easily to remove her shoes and stockings, discarding them where Howard would be able to see them when he came out for his evening smoke. Might as well. He already thought she was wild, and one evening of perfect behavior wouldn’t change his mind. Tempest tucked the hem of her skirt into her waistband so she could do what she had been wanting to do since hearing Howard’s awful news. Run.

Why now? she thought, knowing she would get a stitch in her side if she ran as hard as she wanted to, thanks to the stupid corset she was forced to wear. I’ve been of age for two years, why now? And why Walter?

Leaping from the front porch, Tempest ran. She ran from the house in her bare feet with sure strides that belied the way her stomach sloshed with every step. The tears she refused to show to Howard now flowed freely, hanging in the air like rain drops as she sped to her tree by the creek.

Walter. The name sent shivers down her back even though the air was thick with hot humidity. Her hair curled at her temples at at the back of her neck. Her arms became slick with sweat. Walter the Breaker, she had once heard him called on a bright morning before Sunday church. Breaker of spirits, horse and human. Another shiver.

It’s because I’ve been asking questions.

Tempest’s toughened feet paid no mind to the grass, twigs, and bugs they crushed. Tempest was the very embodiment of her name, dust flying, birds squawking, as she reached her tree. She caught a low-hanging branch without bothering to slow down. She swung around and kicked off the side of the tree trunk to jettison upwards. She caught another branch, and another, scrambling up the tree with the speed of a squirrel. She stopped when she was high enough to see the farmhouse.

Plopping onto a branch that was thick enough to hold her weight, Tempest leaned back against the tree trunk and crossed her arms over her panting chest as she wheezed.

Things had not been right since her father’s death. Everyone said Reginald Granville died via an unfortunate accident with the drink, but Tempest knew better. Reginald had never had problems with drinking. Even Tempest, at eight years old, had known that her father wasn’t a drinker, that he couldn’t have smashed his head into the cellar floor because he had tripped over his own feet. But that was what Howard had insisted, with tears in his eyes.

Tempest scraped the back of her hand against her traitorous tears. She should have known better than to ask Sophronia about Reginald’s death the other day. She should have known her questions would send Sophronia into ten years of latent hysterics, and Howard would come running. Tempest hadn’t expected to trigger Sophronia’s bad habit of sleepwalking to the cellar, though. No doubt that was why Howard was trying to get rid of her. To silence her questions and stop causing her mother’s hysterics and sleepwalking. Things could be peaceful at the farmhouse, if only Tempest wasn’t around.

Her chin jutted out. If Howard wanted to get rid of her, he didn’t have to marry her off.

A plan began to form. Hadn’t Sophronia received a letter not too long ago? They so rarely received letters these days. Tempest had been surprised at how dismissive her mother had been about it. If only she could find that letter. Someone knew they existed, even though as a principle, the family refused to leave the farm for anything but church.

Maybe, just maybe, Tempest could find that letter, and find the writer of it, and get some of the answers her family refused to reveal. No doubt this person had a history with Sophronia, one that went longer than the last ten years, and lived far enough away to not know how she had changed.

Everyone in the village knew Sophronia was not of this world any longer. She floated through it, suffered it, paid no mind. Someone knew her before Reginald’s death, and cared enough to write. Whoever this person was, whoever it was that cared about her mother, this was Tempest’s best option.

“One of these days, Howard,” Tempest muttered as she climbed down the tree, “you’re going to regret pushing Reginald Granville’s family around.”

All the best,

Belinda

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This is part of the ROW80 Bloghop