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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well.

It took me a year and four months to write it, format it and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper. I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering ‘D’ is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations).   I had 8 pages of a new play, about Winston Churchill, written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

WRITE WITHOUT FEAR
EDIT WITHOUT MERCY

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.   This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing                                        
4 out of 5 quills   

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation? 

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

Q.  Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Sacred Oath of Office

I try to keep any political commentary from my blog, as DIFFICULT as that may be at this time. I am bursting!  So instead, I shall keep my commentary to WORDS. WORDS MATTER! 

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Parents! Teachers! Need to teach their children that the words in the oath MEAN SOMETHING. It is an oath swearing on each person’s honorable pledge.
A man’s (or woman) oath, followed by a handshake with the person/s receiving the oath was a pledge of honor that would be defended by (extreme measures) death of the oath giver if said oath was violated or not kept.  Are parents teaching their children that if they say they will do something (implicit oath) and don’t, there are consequences?  Are civil studies teachers teaching that OATHS mean something quite serious and if broken, there are consequences? 

If it were up to me, each person taking the oath would be asked, “Do you understand your rights and obligations as described  within this oath?”

History:  The Constitution contains an oath of office only for the president. For other officials, including members of Congress, that document specifies only that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” In 1789, the First Congress reworked this requirement into a simple fourteen-word oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

For nearly three-quarters of a century, that oath served nicely, although to the modern ear it sounds woefully incomplete. Missing are the soaring references to bearing “true faith and allegiance;” to taking “this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;” and to “well and faithfully” discharging the duties of the office.

The outbreak of the Civil War quickly transformed the routine act of oath-taking into one of enormous significance. In April of 1861, a time of uncertain and shifting loyalties, President Abraham Lincoln ordered all federal civilian employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath.

It appears that several congresspersons, senators, and law enforcement people didn’t 1) not understand the WORDS that they were swearing to, or 2) didn’t care, or 3) just heard “Blah, blah, blah” I got the job!”

WORDS MATTER!!  PROMISES MATTER!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.
 

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?

 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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How to Write A Stage Play: Exercise

In this exercise, featured in my Journal, “How To Write a Play’, I have started a play for you to continue writing. It can be a 10
minute play, a full one act play, or a full length play. I have left the story plot ‘threads’ dangling in order for you to choose where the plot goes.
Tip: If you choose to write a longer play you might want to consider writing something in front of these few lines to get more ‘back story’.
Remember the best plays begin, early on, with some tension. 

 

                                                                    Scene 1  ©

At Rise: A hallway in a high school.

              (JASON and ROBIN stand next to some lockers away from the flow of students
              hurrying to their classes.)

                                                                    ROBIN (Hissing.)

You better not hurt my friend.

                                                                     JASON

What are you talking about?

                                                                ROBIN

I know your rep….luv ‘em and leave ‘em.

                                                                JASON

Naw. Not me.

                                                                ROBIN

Yes, you. Just be careful.  Do not start dating Sara, coming on strong like she’s the only girl in the world. Then dumping her.

                                                                JASON

I wouldn’t.

                                                                ROBIN

You would. I’m just sayin’, if you plan on doing something like that, you’ll have to go through me to get to Sara.  

                                                                JASON  (Smirked.)

What if I’m planning on going through Sara to get to you?

                                                                ROBIN

What? You’re crazy.

                                                                JASON

That doesn’t answer my question.

                                                                ROBIN

You don’t even like me. 

(Now try continue writing this play. Make your own choices about where it goes and who does what.)
Want to read more about Playwriting?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Cowboy Who Saved Xmas

          3 out of 5 quills   ~~    Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Jodi Thomas contributed a short story to this collection of cowboys and Christmas.  With her fellow authors, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn, they have written three stories capturing the spirit of Christmas amidst ranch life. 

Father Goose by Jodi Thomas left this reviewer wanting more!  I was disappointed this wonderful story was not developed into a cozy length novel or a full novel. The story line could have supported either.  93 pages was just a tease but still conveyed Thomas’ unique style of writing and a taste of life on a ranch.  The children were well drawn and delightful. 

Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn contributed the other two short stories.  I wasn’t impressed. They seemed rushed and not developed. It was almost as if someone said to these two authors, ‘we’re publishing a trilogy of cowboys saving Christmas; your story needs to be 100 pages and your deadline is (date).  Oh, yes and your story needs to have kids in it.’  And that’s exactly what they provided.

I wished the whole book had been filled with pages from Father Goose

Goes on sale today. Click here
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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A Literary Commentary and a Book Review

Historical romances are fun reading and in the good ones, the reader learns a little history along the way. Second only to ‘sci-fi’, this genre is the most popular with the reading public. It is part of the ‘bodice ripper’ tradition that sex scenes range from vague titillation to  down-right pornographic in their descriptions.  In the well written ones, it’s a fine line between eroticism and blatant porn. Sometimes the most provocative is what is not said by the writer.  As in the case of my two favorite authors in this genre, Grace Burrowes (early books) and Annie Grace, who are masters at this. They suggest, they titillate, they let you use your imagination.  It is so much more satisfying than crude, blatant sex described in lurid detail which is porn written on paper and not to my taste.  In the case of sex scenes, less is more. 

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 5 out of 5 quills           ~~  Book Review

Madeline Hunter deftly walks this line successfully in her earlier books. She seems to know when to stop and let her readers participate with their imagination.  Lady of Sin was such a great story with many layers. Lady M. was a strong, independent woman. Nathaniel, our sexy hero was strong, confrontational and opinionated, but was a softie in love with Lady Charlotte.  The plot had lots of twists and turns and led our reader around by the nose until the very last page.

The main thread of the plot is about divorce. Women of that era (1800’s), were lobbying for ‘divorce’ laws more favorable to and including women who were victims of domestic abuse. They were not allowed a position in the House of Lords or House of Commons (our Congress) so they had to petition through the influence of their fathers, husbands, or brothers.
Then add in a wonderful sub-plot about a ‘lost boy’ of aristocratic birth, if it can be proven. No spoiler alerts here. All I am saying is the plot is sophisticated and rich in layers.  Excellent writing that never needs the crutch of flagrant sex scenes to prop it up. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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