Swan Bay


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Swan Bay cover painted 11 14 14

Simon Low is a rake. His name travels across New York on whispers and titters. Owner of a luxury department store on the Ladies’ Mile, it’s his job to create desire.

He makes women want things. 

At least, that’s what Chloe Swan’s brothers tell her.

But her brothers must have the wrong man.

Simon is the most awkward man Chloe has ever met. When Simon visits his brother’s grave at the cemetery managed by Chloe’s family, he refuses to touch her. He can barely look at her, let alone seduce her.

What in the world could he make her want?

But Simon has a secret. He and his twin shared an extraordinary connection, one that was lost when the two were separated during the storm. He had always felt that connection. And then, with the single gulp of the river that had swallowed his twin, had not.

Until he meets Chloe.

Now, Simon has the devil of a time telling her the truth…that he can feel her from the inside out.

Set in New York against the Thousand Islands Region and Manhattan in 1893, Swan Bay continues the story of Wolfe Island.

Yes! Sign me up! I want to read SWAN BAY.

Kindle, Paperback Publication Date: February 14, 2016.


REVIEW – Kiss of a Tyrant – Margaret Pargeter (1980)


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Kiss of a Tyrant PargeterKiss of a Tyrant by Margaret Pargeter
Harlequin Romance #2375

The virgin’s vindication. One of my favorite tropes. If you don’t know of it yet, it’s a good one. It culminates with the hero – an angry man of the highest order – as his head snaps up to look in mute horror to study the face of the maiden beneath him after he’s inadvertently stolen her virginity. The inadvertent part is important.

But not as important as the hero’s grim belief that the heroine is not a virgin. And dammit, she should be.

What if I asked you to prove you’d never belonged to another man?

Such is the way with Kiss of a Tyrant.

Sloan Maddison is an Australian alpha male who finds himself in the English countryside where his widowed mother contemplates returning to live. In a country inn, he meets interior decorator Stacy Weldon. Stacy is “on leave” from her career, helping her mother and sister at the inn after being nearly raped by her boss. She is wounded and angry and not optimistic about her future.

Sloan is attracted to her. Pretty sure he wants to marry her. So uses his mother’s illness as an excuse to carry her off to Australia. But on the way out the door, he gets wind of that “affair” with her boss. And he’s hopping mad about it. She must have asked for it, and along the way, collected other affairs that now debases their own kindling desire.

The hero’s she-must-have-asked-for-it motivation is a hole in the plot that has widened over time. But it’s easy to jump across. Because Sloan is sexy in the way only an angry pants hero can be. Mean, misguided, and hard to get. Oh, but in love nonetheless.

The wrap-up is a bit holey, too, and would have been for readers even in 1980. Sloan is mean to Stacy up until the final moment, but claims he had known of her innocence for the preceding two whole days before the final page. He wanted to see if she could really adapt to his remote Australian way of life. Huh.

Sloan is mean as a billy goat. But, alas, sexier. So I can forgive the holes, even if Mr. Angrypants can’t.

REVIEW – The Angry Man by Joyce Dingwell (1979)


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The Angry Man Joyce DingwellThe Angry Man by Joyce Dingwell (1979) Harlequin Romance #2318 The Angry Man. How could I not?

First, a detour to cover art. I am working with an artist on the cover of book two of the RiverLust series, Simon’s Story. It’s called Swan Bay. I don’t believe you can paint a handsome man on the cover of a romance novel. Beautiful heroines? Yes. But the heroes always come off wrong.

Point in fact: The Angry Man cover hero is bleak. Crocodile Dundee with a longer face and shadowed, sunken cheeks. His hair is some kind of a poofy gray 70s mullet. Go ahead. Take a look at the cover of The Angry Man. Does he look angry to you? See that slight lift of his upper lip, over there on the right? The way his brows are furrowed together as he regards the heroine? Yes. The lovely doe-eyed one.

He is not angry; he’s sardonic, bemused. The man on this cover looks more perturbed than angry. Which is the perfect summation of Joyce Dingwell’s hero in this book.

English Polly loved her neighbor, who loved her sister, so her uncle sent her away. To Australia. Where after working on a statistics team as the resident non-statisician, she is told she has to stay another six months, because her former lover’s courtship of her sister is going more slowly than anticipated. So she takes the position of paid companion to Mrs. Clemance, young and beautiful wife of Thorn Clemance. Thorn is an ag specialist for a pharmaceutical company. A medical herbalist. But the beautiful Mrs. Clemance is not his wife. It’s his cousin’s widow. The hero is, in fact, not married. We learn this as the heroine does, and it’s a breathless beat.

Look at me, MissKendall, look at me, tell me what you see.’ ‘I-I don’t understand you.’ Polly tried to retreat a step, but he advanced, and at once they stood barely an inch apart. I think you do understand. I think you see a man who is a no-half-measures man. I think you see a man who would not be put off with subtleties, evasions and half-truths from any woman he made his wife. I think you see a man who would demand an entirety, a fulfillment, a conclusion, a completion.’ A pause. ‘I think you see a man who would be demanding four, not eight walls.”

Oh, dear. Here’s looking at you.

The ultimate logic of conflict? Unknown.

There is an ancestral puzzle requiring a flow chart to comprehend. And, for some reason, Thorn couldn’t tell Polly about his cousin’s widow’s recent sanitarium visit, her convalescence in his home, or the will that required that before she inherit, she must remain unmarried for two years. Which would have explained Polly’s charge to keep the young woman away from men.

The hero is in fact exactly like his picture (and the reader). Confused and frustrated. Not an awful book. Joyce Dingwell (b. 1908) wrote 80 of them. She knew how to write.

But for this one, in the end, I am left with only a single, bright nugget: Upon first introduction, her toes were dipped in the river until he found her and hauled her out. A shark had taken the hero’s dog from that very rock, only a week earlier.

There is no cure for a shark attack…When you put your gear on we’ll get back.’ ‘Gear? I’ve only removed my shoes and my pantyhose!’ He shrugged, saying almost uninterestingly: ‘Put ‘em on.’ Incensed, feeling a fool, hoping at least he would look away as she did so, Polly complied. It was not easy to wriggle discreetly into pantyhose, and she wished he would wander off. A tactful man would have. But he didn’t, he stood there right to the final hitch.

The final hitch? This whole line of books is worth reading for the settings. These girls get to go everywhere.

SWAN BAY cover sketch – Book Two


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Working again with Tracy Hetzel of Long Blue Straw on the cover for the Wolfe Island follow up, Swan Bay. Again, set in the thousand islands of upstate NY in 1893. Though historically ‘accurate,’ the setting is fictionalized representation of Thousand Island Park and the surrounding region.

This is Simon’s story.Swan Bay sketch Giulia Torre Longbluestraw

For text and image teasers, visit my Wolfe Island Pinterest Board.

My husband proposes that this be called the RIVERLUST series. Which is funny. So may just stick.

REVIEW – The Travelling Kind – Janet Dailey


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TThe Travelling Kind Janet Daileyhe Travelling Kind – Janet Dailey (1981)
Harlequin Presents #427

She noticed his kit before she noticed him. A firm leather saddle, smooth from riding. A promising start indeed. I’m a new country gal, and I love me a cowboy.

Charley Collins works an Idaho ranch with her brother, who has just broken his leg, so she needs a hired hand. She gets in her old truck and drives around looking for one.

She finds Shad.

No. No comment.

Shad Russell is a drifter. As the teaser promises, “Falling in love with a man like Shad would be asking for heartache.” He’s a loner, never settling in one place for long.

In the mean time, she hires him and he sleeps in the bedroom across the hall.

I’d never read a Janet Dailey book before. She wrote a romance for every state in the union. I’m embarrassed to admit that in 1981, I don’t know how many books that means, but somewhere close to 50. In the year The Travelling Kind was published, Harlequin saluted her as “the world’s No. 1 publisher of romance fiction!”

A little taste of the no-good-for-Charley drifter…

His mouth came down those last few inches to settle onto her lips with tantalizing ease. A sweet rush of forbidden joy ran through her veins as her hands slid around his neck and she melted into his arms. A steel band circled her waist to press her tighter to his length while his other hand tunneled under the thickness of her hair to cup the back of her head. The driving hunger of his kiss parted her lips, giving him access to the most intimate recesses of her mouth. She was caught in a whirl of sensation, all golden and consuming.

Although a stew of familiar now, this is a pretty great kiss for 1981. But with this book comes a few cock-blocks. Namely, the neighboring rancher, Chuck, who wants to marry her. Yeah, Chuck and Charley. Chuck is neither smart nor sexy. When Shad finally does leave, after Charley’s humiliating sobs (humiliating for Charley and the reader) and shouting at Shad that she won’t wait for him, she doesn’t. And she gets engaged to Chuck.

Until Shad returns two months later, the night of the engagement party. “I know I hurt you when I left but – Aren’t you glad to see me?” Banal cowboys must not be my thing. Because when he walks away, and Charley returns the ring to Chuck, I just want Shad to keep on drifting.

Sex in our Ears – Listening to Romance


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If the medium is the message, what does it mean that for the last several years, more and more readers are listening to books read aloud?

If the narration is good, I will listen to a book multiple times. If the narration is poor, or if the words do not hold up to the test of speech, I do not finish.

Yet not everyone can listen to audiobooks. Quintessential readers in my life cannot. They lose the plot, get distracted. Perhaps for the same reason readers avoid films of their favorite books. They prefer the voices created in their own heads to the ones put there by others.

The more I’ve listened to books, the more I hear my stories as I write them. When these stories are aloud between your ears, does writing becomes something different? Transcription. Dictation.

Writing with the ears. Not world building, or ensuring that, if your characters are outside, that there’s a bird, some rustling leaves, or the sound of a chainsaw. But actually hearing the story in your head as you read. As though so much space exists between your ears that the characters can stand up, walk around, and echo.

Orality. Literacy. Age-old questions. Can you listen?

REVIEW – Fool’s Paradise – Ann Cooper


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Fool’s Paradise by Ann CooperFoolsParadise
Harlequin Romance #2383 (1980)

Recently a girlfriend told me about a neighbor’s bachelor party she surveilled while crouched in the yard beneath a window. One stripper. A dozen men. Wouldn’t you know it? Two hours later she was watching these friends fight in the street.

It’s an age-old formula: sexual tension minus sexual release equals…

For one incredible moment she thought he was going to beat her.

Girls in these romances knew how to keep it close and tight. As a result, Fool’s Paradise features another angry-pants alpha male. I love a Mr. Angrypants when he’s dropped in an HEA…So long as he doesn’t leave me with a case of blue-box, which I’m realizing this era of Harlequin breeds in spades.

Meet-up: He’s the distant family relation (and former lover) newly appointed to save from bankruptcy her historic heirloom home. (cf. The Grass is Always Greener with Debra Kerr, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum c. 1960).

Conflict: He is angry because she ran away when he proposed marriage. She loved him, but he’s city refined and she’s country estate, so she thought he was proposing marriage to get into her panties. Which would have been my preference.

Although some highly-prized petting does occur off-scene:

He kissed her toes – no one had ever kissed her toes before – then he kissed her knees and finally, a long time afterwards, he was kissing the tips of her fingers. There wasn’t anywhere at all left undiscovered.

Nowhere? Nowhere at all?

In the end, their consummation had me chucking the book onto the nightstand:

It was a long time later when Emma finally woke up in Nicholas’ bedroom.

Am I angry? Not really. It was a good, fast read. And a house full of blue-boxed women won’t result in fighting in the streets.

REVIEW – Rough Justice – and Hero Archetype #2…Mr. Angrypants


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rough justiceRough Justice – by Janine Ellis. Harlequin Romance #2330 (1979)

It’s difficult to describe the disappointment of effective sexual tension that does not end in consummation. Oh wait. I know how. Harlequin has blue-balled millions of readers (and heroes).

No penetration station for these Harlequin Romances. None of Kleypas’ inexorable slides. A euphemism would have been fine. But there is even none of that.

Many of the back cover plot summaries promise women marrying men they hate, don’t know, are scared of, or are otherwise duped by. Perhaps when I hit one with a post-marriage plot, I’ll get my consommé. In the mean time, I am stuck with hauntingly unfulfilled. I am haunted, because this is really quite a well-written book.

The heroine is not stupid. She’s accepted the position of chambermaid at a rich friend’s hotel in Cornwall, England, where from 7am to 1pm she cleans rooms, (including the hero’s), but after work, she’s like one of the family – feuds and all.

As is typical with this decade, multiple actors people the set. The hero has his pick of three other women, total. The heroine, two men.

The title – Rough Justice – describes the hero. Lots of bruised wrists and lips, and jaw muscle clenching, twitching, and jumping. My favorite type of hero, Mr. Angrypants, who gentles when the temperature is right.

He hauled her to her feet, and for a moment she thought he was going to hit her. His hand found her throat and he forced her chin up so that she met his eyes. She had never seen such naked anger, and when he spoke he seemed to have difficulty keeping himself under control. ‘You won’t marry Graham, Lorraine,’ he bit out. ‘I don’t care what I have to do to prevent it…The sooner you give in to me, the better it will be for both of us. The longer you resist me, the worse I’ll make it for you.

Ahh. Make it worse. Please.

Mr. Angrypants is a sub-type of Hero Archetype #1, Mr. Reserve. Mr. Reserve may be trying not to do any number of things while he tries not to kiss you. Mr. Angrypants is simply trying not to rape you. The final scene of Rough Justice illustrates this, where you would think perhaps now that they’ve agreed to marry, you might get some:

‘Do you surrender?,’ he asked, and she nodded, stilling underneath him, and breathing rather shallowly as she felt his full weight against her…After a while, Mark lifted his head and gazed down at her with a warmth that made her shiver…’Tempting as you are, my darling, I’m still angry enough to hurt you – and, he added softly, ‘you know I don’t want to do that.’

Do it. Do it do it do it do it.

His 70s fashion standouts – a navy blue velvet suit, which he wears whenever they play dress-up. The other men wear black velvet suits, so I am assuming navy is somehow innovatory (sic). Innovatory is a word actually used in this book. I feel silly that I haven’t been using it myself.

Her 70s fashion. Simply awesome. I wanted every outfit she wore. Lots of gauzy white cotton dresses and leather sandals. Tight Tshirts and blue jeans. A navy blue and white striped shirt that she finished off with a ‘jaunty’ red kerchief around her neck, because she wanted to look ‘young, fresh and vulnerable.’ This heroine makes fashion choices.

I loved this book! As pitched on the back cover…She’d always wanted to meet Mark Taylor.

Me too.

REVIEW – Kaleidoscope – Joan Elliott Pickart


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KaleidoscopeI thought I was finished with Joan Elliot Pickart. But the box of books delivered by my brother were, alas, not my beloved Loveswepts. I had high hopes for a reread of Iris Johansen’s Return to Santa Flores. But instead the box was filled with 1970s Harlequins. Stay tuned. In the mean time, we’ve got more Joan, because I won 20 on ebay.

Kaleidoscope. Loveswept #179  (Feb 1987)

Meetup: Slapstick. Aging mothers share a creative project that gets them into trouble, and the H/H must bail their respective mothers out of jail in the wee hours.

Conflict: He’s a divorce lawyer who doesn’t want to get married. The heroine loves kids enough to open a childcare center, and her biological clock is ticking. (She’s 29.)

80s standouts: Lunch. Avocados stuffed with shrimp. Shrimp in an avocado. However you say it, it seems wrong. But people are making it.

His fashion: Brown suit and tie with a pale yellow shirt.

The Penetration Station: “Without hesitation she opened herself to him, and he entered her with a thrust that stole her breath away” (p. 159).

Survey Says: This book has a well-written beginning. Great banter throughout. Likeable hero. Likeable heroine. Nice tension. Cute.

The Golden Touch (Second Chance at Love, No. 58) by Laura London, Robin James


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The Golden Touch (Second Chance at Love, No. 58)The Golden Touch by Laura London

The meetup: Superstar hero walks into local instrument shop to have his guitar peg fixed by small town heroine.

The conflict: He’s a superstar; she’s smalltown. She’s also a widow, which throws a wrench in the gears, but really it’s the bigtime vs smalltown.

80s fashion: This book was published in 1982, so really it’s still 70s fashion. He wears lots of leather pants. Doeskin for him anyone?

The Penetration Station: Get a load of this one!! I am including the text even after ellipses, as grammar manuals agree that an ellipses at the end of a sentence would include four dots, and RJ included only three….

And then the pinpointed, specific attentions of his fingertips ceased, and he placed his two broad hands on her bare hips, holding her up to him, and she waited in a rapt and aching anguish before she felt a low, warm sliding, and the waving tips of the clover and the brilliant blue sky seemed far away, and yet lent themselves to an unimaginable clarity as she dug her fingernails into the small of his back and moaned…His mouth simultaneously invaded hers, to no resistance, fierce, hungry kisses, random and love-violent, different from the gentle rhythmic movement of his hips as he lifted her, his hand under her shoulders, her blond hair spilling around them over the clover as he searched for, found, and held her most profound and silken depths, covering her face and mouth in fiercely loving kisses, murmuring love words (p. 113).

Ladies, we have a winner. The longest penetration sentence ever.

Survey Says: I read this book because of The Windflower. I’m moving through all of this couple’s books (Tom & Sharon Curtis). Where are they now? I prefer to leave it a mystery. In the mean time, I am enjoying their books. The Golden Touch was published immediately before Lightning that Lingers, which preceded in publication The Windflower.

As when reading Lisa Kleypas, the later books developed a level of expertise that only practice can make perfect. Earlier books can be lackluster, especially in comparison. This book is an example. The hero and heroine both lack a certain like-abilty, even credibility. But the story is still one I kept picking up, wanting to see how it ended. I gave it four stars because if you like Laura London, this is a why-not read. Doesn’t seem like they’ll be writing any more….

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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