Monday, February 27, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

Queen Elizabeth I had nowhere to put her three thousand dresses.  

But a woman as enterprising as Good Queen Bess didn't get boxed in.  She designed a special room, with a separate hook for each dress and so the closet was born.
Friday, February 24, 2012

First Line Friday: Twice Tempted by a Rogue

In today's market it's almost essential to hook the reader from the get-go.  And it needs to be done as close to the first words as possible.  A great first line in a romance (or any) novel is one that immediately grabs the reader's interest and compels her to keep reading.  One author who knows how to do this well is Tessa Dare.  Her first lines are amazing. Seriously.

This week I finally cracked open Twice Tempted by a Rogue, the second book in Tessa Dare's Stud Club trilogy. Here's the first line:

"Rhys St. Maur, newly Lord Ashworth, was a broken man."

When I read this first line, I just knew I had an intense and very emotional story on my hands.  And like every Tessa Dare romance novel I've read, I can't wait to discover the story of this character. There's something about this author's writing that makes the hero and heroine  - and all the delightful secondary characters - come to life from the paper.  Every word is to be savored.

What do you think about this first line?  Do you like it?  Do you love it?  Or does it fall flat?  Most importantly, does it make you want to keep reading?
Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Great Purge

There's no such thing as too many books. I tell myself this whenever I glance at the ever-growing pile of romance novels crammed on my bookshelves. For a long time my big TBR gave me great joy.  I liked knowing I always had a lot of books to choose from, all within easy reach.  But the guilt over my leaning tower of must-reads began to make me feel tense. 

Most of these novels have been in my pile for half a year.  I realized this week that it's finally time for some books to be purged.  So instead of rearranging and re-stacking my books for the umpteenth time, I decided to take stock of them and get rid of the ones I'll never touch.

Yes, I know, it's a sad thing to even contemplate getting rid of unread books.  But it must be done.  Somewhere along the way my TBR pile has developed a mind of its own and has overtaken my spare room.  I can't possibly read all of the books I've won or bought in the last six months.  It's time to let them go.  And set a few book buying ground rules. 

From now on I plan to read reviews for new authors before I decide to buy their books.  I also won't buy the second novel in a series until I've read book one.  That is, unless the book is part of a must-read series from a favorite author, such as Monica McCarty, Tessa Dare and Lara Adrian.

These rules are fairly simply and should be easy to follow.  I hope.  *crosses fingers*  

Do you ever feel guilty about your TBR pile?  How do you handle it?  Do you turn a blind eye and continue to add to the pile or do you purge your unread books?  Have you enacted any book buying rules?
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Messenger

I came across this can't-wait-to-read selection on Goodreads.  
I love the cover art.  And the story sounds pretty good, don't ya think?

Author: Leah Rose
Genre: YA
Expected Pub Date: May 1, 2012

Sixteen year old Jeilin leaves the ordinary behind when she's inducted into the king's service as a horseback riding messenger.  She expects a life of adventure and freedom, but those hopes are shattered after being captured by a foreign army.

Given the choice between death and conversion, she swears service to the enemy even though, in her heart, she remains loyal to her kingdom.

As Jeilin's youthful innocence crumbles, she wonders if the prince will still be fond of her; if she can even find a way to help place him back on his rightful throne.

Full of turmoil and sacrifice, The Messenger is a powerful tale of survival, bravery, and loyalty.

~ Book blurb from Goodreads
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Downtown Withdrawal

This week I'm in mourning.  Drapes pulled closed.  Knocker muffled.  A dress of stiff black bombazine.  You see, this past Sunday the last episode of the second season of Downtown Abbey aired on PBS, and I'm utterly bereft.  No more hobnobbing with the Earl of Grantham and his family.

No more peeking belowstairs where the butler Mr. Carson steers a taut ship. 

No more longing looks, tension-filled intrigue, or let's face it, what we all lived for - the dry, perfectly uttered wit of Cousin Violet played by Dame Maggie Smith.

What is it about this show produced for TV by Julian Fellowes that has captured America's imagination and kept us glued to our seats every Sunday night?  Is it the soap-opera melodrama, the gorgeous period costumes and extraordinary setting, or is it a peek at the doings of the aristocracy in a period when the first cracks in their unscaleable walls started showing and the seeds for great stories was born?

For me, it's a little of all three.

How far will the controlling and dangerous Sir Richard go to ruin Lady Mary now that she's thrown him over for the love of her life, Matthew, the heir to the earldom?  And will it affect their happily-ever-after?

What's next for Lady Sybil who broke with her uppercrust upbringing to marry the family chauffeur and Irish revolutionary Branson?

Will the evidence ever be found that will exonerate the valet Mr. Bates of the murder of his horrible ex-wife?

And what will the devious footman Thomas and his accomplice in nastiness the lady's maid O'Brien plot next?

PBS had been milking our obsession on their website with lots of fun extras.  There are synopses and film recaps to catch you up on each episode, blurbs introducing the characters, interviews with the actors and actresses and behind the scenes info on Highclere Castle, the gorgeous real-life setting for the fictitious Downtown Abbey, and even a neat interactive love/hate "rate the character" chart you can play with your friends.

If you're suffering withdrawal like me, the publishing industry has jumped on the bandwagon as well, and you can continue your fix with three books inspired by the show that have recently hit the shelves.

The World of Downtown Abbey
by Jessica Fellowes

Lady Almina and the Real Downtown Abbey
The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
by the Countess of Carnarvon

Below Stairs
The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downtown Abbey
by Margaret Powell

Hopefully by the time you've finished all that, it will be time for the third season to begin! 

What about you?  Are you a Downtown devotee?  Or are corsets, rigid class consciousness, and British stiff-upper-lip soulful suffering not your cup of tea?

 ~ copied from Blame It On the Muse blog
Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Freebies (2)

Need a good read this weekend?  Try one of these free e-books available for Kindle.

The Rumor Series - Prequel

The Elusive Lords - Book 2.5

Note: Double check before you download just to make sure the book is still free.
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Tie Me Down

There are fifty ways to leave your lover, and at least one of them is in a bind over tying the knot.  As the 1800's progressed, the cravat Beau Brummel popularized evolved into a myriad of styles.  In the 1820's, it was was still stiff and high, with a simple bow in front.

 Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility.

Beau Brummell and Co.

But over the next two decades, the cravat ballooned to cover its wearer's entire chest.

Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman.

Black was the favorite color for day, with elegant white for night.  But the most fashion-forward gentlemen favored wilder patterns like polka dots, stripes, and even flowers.

It was not easy to stabilize the huge, slippery cravats - until the Tie School was founded, that is.  Opened in Paris by an Italian businessman, it offered lessons, which lasted a trying six hours, at 54 francs each.  Books with elaborately illustrated instructions were included in the price - one showed over twenty cravat styles.

And not surprisingly, the hottest new accessory was the pearl-headed tie pin.

Titanic Tie Pins

By the 1850's, with the Industrial Revolution booming, gentlemen were too busy to fuss with their clothes; the flowing cravat was trimmed back to a modest, narrow bow tie.

But, as men's clothing styles grew more austere, the necktie became on of the last spots for a fashion plate to flaunt his individuality.  There was a brief flurry of favor for stocks and scarves during the 1860's.

Until a compromise was reached: the simpler, knotted, four-in-hand tie that school boys and Wall Street financiers wear today.

Robert Pattinson in the upcoming period drama, Bel Ami.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In My Mailbox (25)

I happened to be near Barnes & Noble last weekend.  So of course I just had to buy a book. =)

I'm looking forward to reading this debut by new author Kristen Callihan.  I've heard good things about the paranormal historical, which is the first book the Darkest London series.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Sweet Note


I hope you have a sweet day filled with love and romance.
Monday, February 13, 2012

Music Monday: Downtown Abbey

If you watch the juicy Edwardian soap opera Downtown Abbey on PBS then you know the soundtrack is amazing.  The haunting melodies and sweeping strings of the theme are so elegant and beautiful.  Every time I hear it, I'm instantly transported to the lavish world of the hit costume drama.  Oh, what a delicious escape!

Composer: John Lunn
I really need to buy this soundtrack.  Like now! :D
Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cuff Luck

One rainy day around 1850, an unnamed Englishman on his way to a wedding in New York turned up the bottoms of his trouser legs so they wouldn't be splattered.

 He arrived late, neglected to turn them down, and so trouser cuffs were born.
Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Freebies (1)

Looking for something to read?  Check out these free e-books available for Kindle. 

Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars - Book 1

The Garden Series - Book 1

The Weatherby Brides - Book 3

Note: Double check before you download just to make sure the book is still free.
Thursday, February 2, 2012


If it was good enough for the Greeks, it's good enough for the Romans, only more so: 

The Romans aped Greek hairstyles, with  just a few more curls and rolls.  

But by the 1st century A.D., hairstyles came into their own, creating a veritable hirsute revolution. 

Roman women sported high pompadours supported by pads, with curls framing the forehead, or wore turbanlike wound-up braids. 

Brides divided their locks into six long plaits fastened on top of their heads to form a crown.  Over the crowns was placed the vitta - three woolen cords, a sign of purity - and a huge sheer veil in orange, the color of flames.

Statues may have been marble, but even their hairstyles changed frequently. 

Roman ladies had their portrait busts sculpted in two pieces, so that the upper part, representing the hair, could be replaced with a more fashionable coiffure.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Releases

These are the new releases I look forward to reading: