Archive for the tag 'Historical Fiction'

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet

October 22nd, 2013

PursuitMaryBennet pbIn case I haven’t mentioned it…I have a new book coming out next month. November 26th, to be exact.

THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET is my homage to Jane Austen, a sequel to the beloved PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, about Mary, the middle Bennet sister. I imagined a life for Mary beyond Austen’s rendering, one that seemed within the realm of possibility for her. Here’s the copy on the back cover of the book:

For most of her life, Mary, the serious and unpolished third daughter of the Bennet family, has been overshadowed by her sisters–beautiful and confident Jane and  Elizabeth, and flirtatious and lighthearted Lydia and Kitty. But with nearly all of her sisters married and gone from the household, awkward, unrefined Mary has blossomed into an attractive young woman with a quiet poise of her own.

When a very pregnant Lydia unexpectedly returns to the Bennet home and scandalously announces she’s left Wickham, Mary and Kitty are packed off to visit Jane and her husband, Charles Bingley, in Derbyshire. Yearning for the solitude of home, Mary is dismayed to discover Bingley’s handsome and eligible friend Henry Walsh everywhere she turns. Unschooled in the game of love, Mary finds Henry’s warm attentions confounding . Is his interest genuine or does she foolishly mistake friendliness for something more? With her heart and her future at risk, Mary must throw cautiion to the wind to find the truth–a journey of discovery that will teach her surprising lesons about herself and the desires of her heart.

The on sale date for THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET is Nov. 26, and you can pre-order it right now from many retailers.

There are Austen-inspired sequels to suit any taste. Do you have a favorite?


Paperback Release of Kissing Shakespeare

August 6th, 2013

I can hardly believe it’s been nearly a year since KISSING SHAKESPEARE was released! And on Aug. 6, I’m celebrating the release of the paperback. In honor of that occasion, I offer here, drum roll please, a deleted scene from the book. Last year, after KISSING SHAKESPEARE made its debut, YA librarian Joy Davis published a deleted scene on her blog, BOOK LAGNIAPPE. This is a different one.

The players here are Miranda, who at this point in the story is called Olivia, Stephen, and Will Shakespeare. The action takes place near the end of the book, and Shakespeare has gone off in search of Edmund Campion. Miranda and Stephen decide to go after him. The three of them end up in a cell, but figure out a way to escape. Here’s what happens after they think they’re safe:

Slowing at the church door, we stepped cautiously out into the sunlight. From a wattle and daub building not far up the road, we heard voices and laughter. “The soldiers,” Stephen said. “Quaffing ale, no doubt.”

“Then let’s go,” I said. My adrenaline rush had ended, anxiety taking its place. When I started to walk toward the horses, Stephen grabbed my arm.

“Soft,” he whispered. “They would be fools if they hadn’t left a man here.”

So we waited. Interminably. Unable to bear it any longer, I quirked my mouth at Stephen. He met my eyes. “You’ll ride with me. We’ll leave Peg behind.”

“But my things,” I protested.

“I have your things.”

“Stephen, I can clearly see my bundle at the back of Peg’s saddle.”

“Trust me.” His voice brooked no argument. “Let’s go.”

We raced over to the horses. Will climbed up, ready to ride out. Stephen mounted Bolingbroke, but just as he leaned down to haul me up, a soldier came around from behind the church. Wearing a rapier at his side, he unsheathed it quickly as he rushed toward us. Before I had time to react, he grabbed me around the waist and said to Stephen and Will, “Dismount and walk back to the church. I have no qualms about hurting the young lady.” My pulse racing, my senses heightened, I felt keenly aware of the precarious position I was in.

I heard Stephen’s sharp intake of breath, saw the defeated look on Will’s face, but they both climbed down and headed back to the church entrance. The soldier kept his weapon drawn and his other arm around me, dragging me along. “Keep your hands where I can see them,” he said to Stephen and Will. Not that it made any difference, since neither of them had a weapon.

So fast the whole scene later blurred in my memory, Copernicus shot out of nowhere, from wherever he’d been waiting for us, and hurled his huge body into the soldier’s, knocking him to the ground. Stephen and Will immediately reversed direction and ran for the horses. Cop whimpered, and I realized the rapier had wounded him. I stood rooted to the ground, scared out of my mind that Cop would die. I kicked the blade away while Copernicus held the soldier down, growling his menacing best.

“Olivia!” Stephen yelled. “We must go.”

Still, I hesitated, staring up at him and back at Cop, who was oozing blood from his chest. Then I felt Stephen’s strong arm lifting me, dropping me onto the saddle in front of him, and we rode away, the men spurring the horses into a gallop. I hadn’t cried once all day, despite Will’s disappearance, a head injury, and imprisonment. But now tears blinded me.


“We must stop somewhere for the night,” Stephen announced after we’d ridden a few hours.

“It’s not that late, is it?”

“Vespers rang a few hours ago, and the horses are tired and hungry. In truth, I’m tired and hungry.”

Will rode alongside us and concurred with Stephen’s judgment. Personally, still feeling upset about Copernicus, I had no appetite and only wanted to be back at Hoghton Tower in my safe, warm bed.

“Will, ride ahead and see if you can find a spot suitable for us,” Stephen said. Will nodded and rode off.

“This will give us an opportunity to talk to him about his plans,” Stephen said to me. “Perhaps we can do some persuading.”

“I don’t know what’s left to be said.” I had no interest in it anymore.

“We’ll think of something. Let’s get down and walk.”


“When you say ‘whatever,’ I know you are displeased.” Stephen jumped down and then lifted me down beside him. I started to walk, but he touched my shoulder. “Stop a moment, Olivia. I am sorry for what happened to Cop. I know it has made you sad.”

I felt sweaty, dirty, and hot, with a throbbing head and a stiff, sore body. I knew if I let myself cry, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Stephen and Will would have an out-of-control girl to deal with, and I didn’t want that to be their last impression of me. So I simply shrugged, not meeting Stephen’s eyes.

“It may only have been a superficial wound. Cop came at the man so hard and fast, he barely had time to react. Let alone—”

“It’s all right, Stephen. I’m sad, but I’ll get over it. It’s just that he was such a true friend to me. I’ve never had a pet…Cop was my first pet.”

Just then, Will called to us from several yards up the road. “I’ve found a place!”


If you’ve read KISSING SHAKESPEARE, you’ll know that Will doesn’t go in search of Edmund Campion. Neither Miranda, Stephen, nor Will spends any time in a cell. When my critique group read this version, they strongly protested. They couldn’t bear knowing that the big galumphing dog, Copernicus, dies. As it turned out, I changed the ending, leaving out the necessity of doing away with the beloved animal!

Let me know what you think about this “different” ending!







March 1st, 2012

After a long hiatus, while working on my revision and copy edits for KISSING SHAKESPEARE, I’m back! More about my revising and copy editing experience in another post. For now I just want to say that Francoise Bui, my editor at Delacorte, and her behind-the-scenes team made it a pleasure rather than a chore.

KISSING SHAKESPEARE is launching in August 2012, and I’ve been amazed (and thrilled) that several bloggers have already contacted me about copies for review. The Florida Virtual School invited me to be a guest speaker at their Shakespeare Festival in April. And the ARCs are expected any day now!

For those who may not be familiar with it, here’s a synopsis of the story:

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood; she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening night party. All she wants to do is hide.

 Fellow cast member Stephen Langford has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks her if she’d like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he’s a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to sixteenth century England—the world he’s really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare, who is showing alarming signs of taking a very different path in life. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world’s greatest plays will never be written. 

 Miranda isn’t convinced she’s the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Still, she reluctantly, agrees to help. After all, Stephen promises that once Miranda’s part is played, he’ll return her to the present and she can get on with her “real” life. What Miranda doesn’t bargain for is finding true love…with no acting required.

 I’m very excited for your questions and comments!


















Wolf Hall

February 7th, 2010

I savored Wolf Hall. I made it last as long as possible. Like nibbling on a brownie, or spooning tiny bites of ice cream. My strategy worked, too. I got it for Christmas, and here it is, Feb 6, and I just finished it.

It’s the kind of book that allows you to savor it, because it’s not plot driven. I read it in the mornings, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time, and not every day. The driving force of the novel is Thomas Cromwell, who I knew mainly from C. J. Sansom’s historical mysteries; The Tudors;  and various, scattered pieces I’d read about the Dissolution. Most often, he’s portrayed as a villain. Brilliant, sly, but a villain nonetheless.

Nothing is what one expects in Wolf Hall. It’s all complexities and contradictions. Cardinal Wolsey is a giant of a man; Sir Thomas More, a brilliant hypocrite. Henry VIII, selfish, obsessed with his former queen, Katherine, and the fact that people still love her. And Cromwell himself, a driven workaholic genius, but closer to hearth and home than we’d ever imagine. A loving husband and father, and a person who takes in orphans, children of friends, women in trouble, and earns the love, respect, and devotion of them all.

The book opens with a stunning scene depicting the brutality of Thomas Cromwell’s father kicking him down the street, nearly killing him. The years that came after, before his return to England and a place with Cardinal Wolsey, we learn about in bits and pieces throughout the book. Mantel shows us his fierce loyalty to Wolsey, and his gradual, deliberate transformation into King Henry’s chief adviser.

There are gorgeous descriptive passages, funny asides, moments of emotional clarity, and countless times we see the man behind the persona. The man who, though he hides it well, has never quite gotten over being thought of as a murderer, the son of a smithy, a mercenary, a person of low birth. He is, in fact, all of the above.

The juxtaposition of Cromwell with More was a stroke of genius. A dinner with the More family, Sir Thomas presiding, is revealing. More is exposed as cruel to his wife, pitiless to his daughter-in-law, and horribly condescending to everyone else. It’s a painful scene for the reader to witness. In the end, we can’t shed a tear for More’s demise. But Cromwell, despite his lifelong animosity for the man, still feels sorrow for him. “He can hardly bear it, to think of More sitting in the dark.”

I’ll close with a particularly beautiful passage, near the end of the book: “Clouds drift and mass in towers and battlements, blowing in from Essex, stacking up over the city, driven by the wind across the broad soaked fields, across the sodden pastureland and swollen rivers, across the dripping forests of the west and out over the sea to Ireland.”

I admit, the title Wolf Hall has me stumped. It’s the country seat of the Seymours. Cromwell has a special friendship with Jane Seymour–not a romance–before she’s caught Henry’s eye. At the end of the book, Cromwell is planning Henry’s Progress for the year, and says they’ll end at Wolf Hall. The last line of the book: “Early September. Five days. Wolf Hall.”

What do you think? Why is the book called Wolf Hall?

A book to read again. And again.

My Sinful Secret

September 8th, 2009

Until recently, I was one of those people who never read romances and was proud of it. Ugh. How stupid. How inane. How way, way beneath me. No thanks. Not me. Never. Ever.

Then someone in my Jane Austen group suggested I read a Georgette Heyer novel. Supposedly, the next best thing to reading Jane. Not my words, nor the words of the person who recommended Heyer, but I actually did read that somewhere recently. So I read Bath Tangle, and I loved it, which forced me to read several more of her books. Georgette Heyer, for the uninitiated, is the queen of Regency romance. She practically invented the genre. Her books are full of witty repartee, undercurrents of sexual tension, and meticulous historical detail. Heyer wrote from the 1920′s up until her death in 1974.

Someone else suggested Mary Balogh. I started with A Summer To Remember, read all the Simply’s, plus a few others, and I loved them all. Typically, they have a certain sweetness about them. Then I discovered Julia Quinn. Besides five of the Bridgerton family novels, I read The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever and  Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. Quinn’s trademark seems to be humor, sometimes of the laugh-out-loud variety. Then I got going on Jo Beverly and her Rogues, and after that, Stephanie Laurens and the Bastion Club. Are you getting the picture?

Last winter, I was knitting a sweater that was way beyond my abilities, and therefore taking forever. To entertain myself, I began listening to audios of some of these books. Doing so saved me from insanity. Although in retrospect, perhaps concentrating too much on the stories caused me to make all those mistakes which eventually had to be ripped out. Unlike Georgette Heyer’s books, the modern regencies are very sexy!

For pure escapism, the Regencies can’t be beat. Oh, yes, there’s a formula to them, but that’s okay. It’s what romance readers expect, indeed, demand. At least I think it is. Because, as I mentioned before, I’m not really a romance reader.

Historical Mysteries

April 12th, 2009

I love historical mysteries, especially the English ones. The time peiod doesn’t matter; right now I’m following several series from different centuries.

Some crucial ingredients for historical mysteries, at least in my mind, are characterization, period detail, and mood. And of course, a mystery that keeps you guessing until the end, with plenty of plot twists and reversals. A little romance thrown into the mix isn’t bad, either!

Two series I’ve been into lately are C.S.’s Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, set during the Regency, and Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Gray mysteries, which are Victorian. They make an interesting contrast: the first with a male protagonist, the second, a woman.

Sebastian St. Cyr, the dashing Viscount Devlin, is our hero in Harris’s books. There are now four of them: What Angels Fear, When Gods Die, Where Serpents Sleep, and Why Mermaids Sing. Devlin is handsome, smart, brooding, fearless, and his life itself is a mystery of sorts. He was not in line to inherit his father’s title, but his two older brothers both died young. He feels he’s been a disappointment to his father, especially because of his liaison with Kat Boleyn, an actress. In the third book, he finds out the real reason his father is so opposed to their romance, and it’s devastating. But, of course, all may not be what it seems. Continue Reading »

The New Maisie Dobbs, Among the Mad

March 26th, 2009

Am I the only Maisie Dobbs fan who didn’t like this book? Judging from the various reviews I’ve read or skimmed, everyone has nothing but praise for it. Although the New York Times crime critic, Marilyn Stasio, did refer to Maisie as “humorless.” In spades.

Some of what was wrong with this book could have been fixed by line editing, or an editor’s eye. Certain phrases were repeated numerous times. For example, when Maisie shook hands with male detectives from Scotland Yard, she’d say, “He held onto my hand a few more seconds than was absolutely necessary.” That lets us know, I guess, that they’re attracted to Maisie and revealing their feelings in an inappropriate way which she does not appreciate. Part of the humorlessness, I guess. Continue Reading »

Teenage Shakespeare

September 30th, 2008

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research into Shakespeare’s young adult years. From the time he would have finished grammar (elementary) school, until he began to write and act in London, next to nothing is known about his life. (See my post “Shakespeare at Hoghton Tower.)

This opens new opportunities for fiction writers who may want to do some speculating about what exactly happened during that time. Did Shakespeare continue his studies? Did he work? Fall in love? Was he an athlete? Did he poach deer from Sir Thomas Lucy’s land? Since no one really knows, anything goes! Continue Reading »

Review of Crooked River

September 25th, 2008

I’m posting from Chicago, where I’m visiting my daughter for a few days. While it rained yesterday, today is supposed to be warmer and sunny–so I’m hoping for a walk along the lake to get my creative juices flowing!

I recently came across a really impressive middle grade historical novel. It’s CROOKED RIVER, by Shelly Pearsall. It was published a few years ago, but somehow I managed to miss it until now. Set in 1812, it’s the story of a family on the Ohio frontier and what happens when the father brings an Indian to their home to be imprisoned while he awaits trial for the murder of a trapper. The father is a cruel and vindictive man, with little empathy for anyone, even his own daughters. Continue Reading »