Friday, 19 May 2017

The Darcy Monologues

Reviewed by Nigella (maritime historian)

Against the remit of RRM and expected due regard to anthologies, I am, as it were, obliged to read and review each story in turn and I haven’t. With two stories and a third of the next read I was Darcy fatigued. 

However I did feel obliged to flip through the table of contents and at random selected stories for a quick browse. To my utter dismay different eras alternating from Regency to modern threw me and never again will I pick up another modern day Austen novel or anthology riding on Ms Austen’s pelisse hem. My reasons for abandonment of the Darcy Monologues can be viewed at the bottom of the page.

Death of a Bachelor by Caitlin Williams inducts the reader with Mrs Fitzwiliam Darcy, nee Elizabeth Bennet, and her beloved Darcy travelling to London post-wedding nuptials. There is little more can be said of this well written short story with Austenesque prose befitting the period in third person perspective. To reveal more would entail a plot spoiler.

From the Ashes by J Marie Croft is another Darcy in which the author narrates the story from the perspective of Darcy’s harrowing and humiliating self analysis of Elizabeth’s rejection of his marriage proposal. Effectively it’s a well written cameo utilising Ms Austen’s fully-formed character with literate flair.

If Only a Dream by Joana Starnes is befittingly yet another well written Darcy Monologue, and it is with regret I could read no further. After two Darcy stories, the third began to rankle and my thoughts strayed to how wonderful Jane Austen’s characters were, and how overused they are by modern day authors obsessed with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

When young I didn’t appreciate Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice foisted on me as obligatory reading at my school until the untitled toff Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet the feisty and somewhat capricious female grabbed my attention. Both were superbly depicted by Austen, not least Darcy’s supercilious nature and contempt for the lower orders. Over the years I have read Pride & Prejudice several times and the chip that sat on Darcy’s shoulder has remained as plain as a pike staff and I believe he hailed as likely as not from Ms Austen’s observant eye of a gentleman of her time. On the scale of social mobility Darcy is a commoner regardless of family connections to a lordly base, for that reason Ms Austen portrayed him with sense of zeal as though she disliked him every bit as much as Elizabeth did. His deportment demands attention, his scornful nature thereby is his undoing in Elizabeth’s eyes until against all that he abhors he succumbs to physical desire for that feisty madam of the lower order. His deportment demands attention, his scornful nature thereby is his undoing in Elizabeth’s eyes until against all that he abhors he succumbs to physical desire for that feisty madam of the lower order. One wonders if in her own way Jane Austen derived great satisfaction from his comedown in marriage to Elizabeth. How ironic then Ms Austen left Darcy in a social set he had despised and ridiculed. For me Austen is Austen, and modern day Austenesque novels touch me not.


Sunday, 14 May 2017


Reviewed by Francine:

The title says it all, and as with any first real sense of romance, imagined or otherwise, who from amongst us forgets the name and description of their first romantic entanglement? Thus Cassandra remembers every aspect of the late Lieutenant, Lord Benedict Mallory’s appearance, or does she? Has the passing of time and heartbreak clouded her memory? For when she encounters a stranger in a position that is contrary to Ben’s former life she cannot believe her eyes, and yet, something deep inside wills her to pursue the notion it is he. 

Unsure how to proceed in matters of discretion is not easy for Cassandra, who is far from slow in putting forth in petulant manner and oft sharp tongued when it suits her. Equally frustrated by formal etiquette so prevalent within the elder echelons of society, she faces the added task of proving a young chit can balance emotional pull against sage thinking as a soldier steels himself to do what must be done. Therefore she strives to convince others Ben is indeed alive. But of course, love does strange things to a mind, and there I shall leave you to ponder Cassie’s fate. Has she seen the one she fell in love with, or is the man she encountered a figment of imagination and overt desire for something lost? I can say in all honesty I enjoyed following Cassie on her journey of discovery, and although the plot follows though pretty much as expected, there are steamy and sensual moments, emotional torments and strife aplenty, and of course, a Happy Ever After. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Georgian Romance

Reviewed by Francine.

This is a delightfully charming little country tale, and the fact I’m a bee-keeper’s moll, I naturally loved the storyline.

Set within the Georgian era and of Queen Charlotte’s love for hosting grand balls and social functions, beeswax candles were required in vast numbers from specialist suppliers. In those days beeswax candles were almost akin to gold-plated illumination in comparison to that of tallow candles. And so, when Oliver Hamilton, the Queen’s acquisitions officer, encounters Madelyn Wickham, disaster unsuspectingly lies in wait around the corner. But who wishes to harm her, and seeks to destroy all that she has? Albeit Oliver’s job is merely to acquire candles, a true gallant cannot abandon a young woman to the vagaries of harsh weather and destitution. Thus, as he and Madelyn work together to resolve her plight, a new kind of light sparks between them. Oh yes, it’s a sweet little romance and the delightful aspect, it has an original plot.

I just want to point out I award five stars for original plot themes, and for stories that touched my heart.

Dystopian Gothic with a touch of Romance.

Reviewed by Francine.

How to classify this thoroughly intriguing book in terms of genre is impossible, and so I'm going to refer to it as a futuristic gothic novel. I say that because it has gothic towers, ecclesiastical minsters along with island castles and fortresses and civil war has ravaged across the lands. It's a strange existence within the British Isles, and whilst the hero cavorts around in flying machines (aircraft) and solar vehicles, the political turmoil that seemingly prevails has a mediaeval bent that sets it aside from the usual Mad Max style of futuristic post apocalyptic plots.

In Skryker's world he's Minister of State Security, and when a traumatised Prisoner of State becomes his ward, he sets out to uncover the truth behind a 12 year old child's dark harrowing past. But even men who wield element of power within the greater scheme of everyday life, a bizarre dark mass (dislocation barrier) remains an unknown phenomena (what is it?), and worse, political unrest and royalist rivalry is afoot. Skryker has no idea why others are hell-bent on kidnapping and or killing him and his Prisoner of State, and Xanthe Chance proves to be his greatest challenge to date: in more ways than one. This novel touches on mystical properties and portrays elements of the present in latent terms, and therefore makes for a thoroughly intriguing read.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Who's in the Interview Chair?

Today the Lovely Katherine Kullmann, author of Georgian/Regency novels, has stepped to the chair! 

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

Ans:There was no one thing. I have always loved writing, and it has been an important part of my work, but it was only when I took early retirement that I had the time and space to consider writing creatively. I’ve been fascinated by the regency period since I first read Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen and it seemed natural to set my books there. As to what triggers a story—it can be something quite small, for example, take thisslight exchange between two women at a masquerade inPerception & Illusion:
“The carriage is outside if you still wish to leave. It has just struck midnight,” Thalia whispered.
“I do. And you?”
“I’ll stay awhile.”
I couldn’t stop wondering what happened when Thalia returned to the ballroom and the result was The Murmur of Mask. In the end, it was published first. I was so immersed in it by the time Perception & Illusion was returned from my editor that I decided to complete it before returning to P&I.

(2)  Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

Ans:I don’t think of my heroes in terms of alpha or beta but I would say they are a mixture of both. Luke Fitzmaurice, in The Murmur of Masks is the younger son of a baronet. Prevented by a previous illness from leaving university to join the Army in 1803, he will not be deterred from joining Wellington in Brussels in May 1815. He is a debonair man about town, an excellent brother, frequents a rough and ready fencing club in preference to Angelo’s and is interested in political reform.
The Honourable Hugo Tamrisk M.P, hero of Perception & Illusion, is the youngest surviving child and only son of the twenty-fifth Baron Tamm. One of the ton’s most eligible bachelors, he is inclined to be cool and reserved but is instantly attracted to Lallie Grey. On first sight, she finds him ‘very dark, with strong cheekbones and deep eye sockets set above a beak of a nose and a determined chin, above which his lips were fixed in a straight line’ but he soon reveals a ‘surprisingly attractive smile’.

(3)  Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– brief description!

Ans:Olivia Frobisher in The Murmur of Masks is the daughter and sister of naval officers. She is a competent and capable woman, used to sizing up a situation and making the best of it, but her aloof fa├žade conceals a longing for love.
Lallie Grey, in Perception & Illusion, is governess to her younger half-sisters. She is warm-hearted, impulsive and full of life. Hugo admires her ‘slanted green eyes and provocative combination of a little turned-up nose perched above a plump upper lip’ but also finds her very easy to talk to.

(4)  Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Ans: Yes. In The Murmur of Masks, Luke’s friend Lord Franklin plays a very important part, as does Olivia’s friend the Duchess of Gracechurch. Perception & Illusion is more of an ensemble piece, with Lallie’s and Hugo’s families to the fore.

(5)  Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

Ans: Both are set in England, but with some of the action in Brussels and surrounding areas. Book One of The Murmur of Masks is set in 1803, Book Two in 1814 and Book Three in 1815. Perception & Illusion runs from mid-1813 to early 1815. There is a slight overlapping of characters between the two books as much of the action occurs within the same social set.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

Ans: I love regency fashion. It reflects the light-heartedness of the period. But I am also fascinated by the darker side of a world on the cusp of modernity.

(7)  Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
Ans: Robert Grey, Lallie’s father, who only has an eye for the main chance, and his crony Frederick Malvin who leaps at the chance to marry Lallie.A thoroughly nasty pair.

(8)  Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

Ans: I don’t avoid sex scenes but do not include them gratuitously. They must be part of the plot and feel right for the characters in their time. I avoid gross violence.

(9)  How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, other...?

Ans: I describe my novels as ‘historical fiction for the heart and for the head’.

Back cover blurb, and point of sale links. 

Back Cover Blurbs;
The Murmur of Masks
1803/04 England is at war with France. Olivia Frobisher, daughter of a naval officer who is somewhere at sea, loses her home when her mother dies suddenly. Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the proposal of Jack Rembleton, a natural scientist, hoping that love will grow between them. She is unaware that Jack, fearing exposure of his innermost secret, has yielded to pressure from his elder brother to marry and sire an heir to his title. Luke Fitzmaurice,devastatedat being declared unfit for military service, suffers another disappointment when he learns that Olivia is already married. Olivia too is shaken and realises that in accepting Jack’s offer she has cut herself off from the world of youth and the promise of love.

Ten years, later, Jack spends most of his time at his experimental farm, visiting Olivia and their three children occasionally. With Napoleon defeated, he leaves to travel abroad indefinitely. Luke has become more radical in his outlook and under the pseudonym Otanes casts a critical eye on society. He is still drawn to Olivia but must accept they can have no future. A sudden turn of events changes everything but Napoleon escapes from Elba. Although offered a seat in parliament, Luke purchases a commission in the 1st/52nd and joins Wellington’s army in Brussels. Once Napoleon is defeated, Luke must fight the battle for Olivia’s heart.

“Catherine Kullmann's debut novel offers lovers of historical fiction an authentic portrait of the passion and turbulence of the extended Regency period. It is a story of love and war; an eternal triangle with a difference.”

The Murmur of Masks is available as e-book and paperback worldwide from Amazon 

Perception & Illusion
Cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, Lallie Grey accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.

Perception & Illusion charts Lallie’s and Hugo’s voyage through a sea of confusion and misunderstanding. Can they successfully negotiate the Rocks of Jealousy and the Shoals of Perplexity to arrive at the Bay of Delight or will they drift inexorably towards Cat & Dog Harbour or the Dead Lake of Indifference? Catherine Kullmann's skillful evocation of the Regency period rings true, as do her protagonists’ predicaments. It is a joy to step into this other world with her.

What they say about Catherine Kullmann’s writing
‘Fans of historical fiction will be delighted with a well-wrought story and a wealth of authentic detail.’
‘A page-turning plot of romance and intrigue with well-developed characters set in an extremely well-researched and detailed Regency period.’
‘The characters are particularly well drawn, and the English Regency setting is just perfect.’
‘You really get a feel for the Regency era and the conflicts and difficulties people faced.’

Perception & Illusion is available as e-book and paperback worldwide from Amazon 


Reviewed by Francine.

Short Afternoon tea read!

A lovely little short novella to wile away a moment of escapism with afternoon tea and cake. Albeit small, the author packs a lot of detail into this sweet tale of bridging the centuries, and all without the ubiquitous "sudden thunderstorm" which opens a time-warp fault so commonplace within time-slip novels. So what is it like to find oneself the object of attention by an unknown who is convinced you are a part of his life? There I shall leave you to discover how Lottie copes with amorous intentions, and whether she wants to, or indeed makes it back to the 21st Century. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Who's in Interview Chair?

In the Interview chair today is the lovely Erato... 

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

Ans: So, my entire Regency Romantics series began with choosing plots from actual old books and plays, and using those as scenari; kind of like you do with a commedia dell’arte play, where you use the same stories over and over, but it comes out new and different because you’re filling in the details from scratch – working in fresher or better ideas you got, improving what failed in the past incarnation, stuff like that. The book Sweet Errors is based on an opera from 1790 called Cosi fan Tutte. There are some significant differences even in the general description of the two plots, but that’s what Sweet Errors was modelled from. I tried to correct some of the issues with Cosi, such as how the scheme to test female fidelity had seemingly come out of nowhere, and consequently the characters seemed a bit unsympathetic because there was no motivation for putting everyone through the wringer like that. So, for instance, I made it that the girls were the ones who really started the ball rolling with this whole testing of fidelity, and the boys were motivated in response to that.

(2)  Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank? – brief description!

Ans: Sweet Errors has two male leads. They do have the fits of passion and emotion usually associated with alphas, but the fact that they aren’t really running the show sort of takes away the implication of leadership I would think of when I think alpha. They are both young guys, sons of wealthy country landowners, who don’t really have their own fortunes or properties yet, but also have every reason to expect they will eventually inherit those things from family members. Bertie Wooster types, I suppose, though a tad more rugged as befits their era.

(3)  Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank? – brief description!

Ans: The two females are sisters, and they are daughters of a reasonably wealthy merchant-landowner. They’d be marrying up by marrying squires. Their personalities are rather more ditzy than I’m used to writing, but I’m a believer in making characters to serve the plot, and Sweet Errors has a plot that doesn’t really suit heroines who are too intelligent or steadfast.

(4)  Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Ans: Mr. Hackett was originally going to star in a romantic subplot all his own, but I quickly found there wasn’t enough space for that in a book of the length that I wanted. I had imagined he’d end up with Despa, the maid, who was going to be smart enough to escape from her own crummy situation as a housekeeper who doesn’t even get to choose her own name; but her role was chopped down to almost nothing by the time it was over. I suppose I might recycle that story for some future work. Omitting that romantic plotline actually caused Hackett to come off as possibly gay, between his female pen name, his misogyny, and his unusual attention to the two young men – which maybe worked better for the story, really. One of my favorite romantic heroes in the whole Regency Romantics series is Richard Kensington from In the Fire; and he and Mr. Hackett actually seem to be almost the same character; they are men of science who didn’t find it to hold the answers they wanted, and turned to the comfort of literature instead. The main difference is that Hackett got older and kind of channelled his life’s disappointments into a literary career, whereas Kensington, alas, merely got really into Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther, and consequently didn’t get older. In Sweet Errors, Hackett is the one who is actually pulling the strings – the highwaymen didn’t come up with these stupidly literary backstories and Adam Ant style costumes on their own. That’s all Hackett’s direction.

(5)  Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

Ans: Sweet Errors is set in 1797, which is the year in which it is generally assumed that Jane Austen completed the writing of her book Pride and Prejudice (though that book wasn’t published till much later.) That was my only real reason for choosing that year. It is set mostly in a place called Walton Bay, which is apparently little more than a trailer park nowadays; but I wanted it to be set at the seaside, for reasons related to my memories of the staging of Cosi fan Tutte, I suppose; and it had to be in kind of a rural area where the characters wouldn’t encounter a lot of other people who might spoil their schemes. I had also intended to use the proximity to Bristol for some plot purposes, though in fact I wound up not using those sequences I had planned for the city. But, the female leads live in Walton Bay, and their boyfriends live nearby in Walton-in-Gordano and Weston-in-Gordano. I’ve never been to these places and had to learn about them from Google Maps, town websites and a couple little references in old books.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

Ans: I’ll tell you honestly, the Regency isn’t one of my favorite historical eras; the costumes are a little plain for my taste and it was the beginning of that “Victorian” idea of kind of prudish good behaviour. I remember once reading an old play from 1706 called The Recruiting Officer – I began reading it on Google Books from an early edition, but with the weird typefaces they used in that era, it was hard to read; so I sought out another copy. I ended up finding an edition from either 1800 or 1810, in a better typeface, but it was amazing how much was censored in that version compared to what was in the original. It showed how much the morals changed in just that 100 year span! Thing is, I find stories where everyone is behaving well to be incredibly boring – I kind of prefer the wild antics of the 18th century, to the 19th century’s backlash against it. When I first began to write Regency Romances, most of what I knew about the era was picked up from the Surgeon’s Hall Museum and from episodes of Blackadder. Consequently, I display what I recognize is kind of an unusual interest in the diseases everyone had. I got to use some of that in Sweet Errors. I was trying to follow the literary rules of disease, where too much stress causes a deadly condition called “brain fever” that was evidently thought to be a real thing at the time, and was understood to be potentially fatal. It sounds like the medical treatments they used against brain fever were the only reason it was ever deadly, though – lots of heavy bloodletting was the recommended course. Nowadays brain fever would mean a condition like encephalitis or meningitis, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the disease that everyone in novels was dying from after receiving distressing news – I guess because when you’re under stress, you can get headaches or have trouble concentrating, so they believed that it was a fever forming in your brain.

(7)  Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

Ans: I think I like all the characters in Sweet Errors. The book Honoria has characters I dislike – amusingly because I was trying to make them more likeable to the general public by toning down their worser traits. As I said before, I find stories where everyone behaves well to be so boring! Nobody behaves in Sweet Errors.

(8)  Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

Ans: Sex scenes, yes – not that I’m exactly prudish about sex, it’s just I don’t feel sex scenes add much to a work. It certainly doesn’t move the plot forward to know the details of her “mound of Venus” or his “Beefy McManstick” or whether anyone’s moaning with pleasure. Especially now that I’m an adult and can easily get real porn, if that’s what I want – I just don’t enjoy a good story interrupted with a description of imaginary characters having sex. It’s a great way to lose my attention. Gross violence, on the other hand – I love that! There wasn’t much opportunity for it in Sweet Errors, but in books like Pursuit I made good use of it. Violence, gross or not, can totally move a plot; and in a book it’s difficult for it to really be properly gross anyway, because you don’t get the kind of visuals you would from a film. When I was young, there were movies my mother forbade me to watch, like A Clockwork Orange – but she was fine with my reading the book versions, I assume because the inherent nature of its being a book just tones down the violence so much.

(9)  How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, other...?

Ans: Oh, god, this was really tricky to figure out when I needed to come up with titles and labels for the ISBNs! I think Sweet Errors is pretty definitely a romantic comedy, and in fact might be the most straightforward romantic comedy of the whole series, even if everyone does get the dreaded brain fever.  I used the neutral term “novella” for most of the Regency Romantics titles because some of the books aren’t quite as humorous. The ones I labelled as “romances” are usually so called because someone dies – and even then they are often a bit humorous or satirical. Like, In the Fire is almost making fun of the Werther-suicide phenomenon that went on around that time, even though I don’t think it’s quite right to call that story a comedy. I’m not very good at writing anything with a totally straight face, though. There’s very little that I can take 100% seriously, and it often seems kind of arrogant, to me, when people think that everything has to be serious and others are wrong to be amused.  That’s not to say I intended the Regency Romantics stories as satires – in fact I was a bit annoyed that that’s how they kept coming out – but it seems to just naturally fall that when I imitate the old style storylines, I automatically seize upon some really weird element that turns the whole thing into a John Waters kind of satire, every time. I don’t even like John Waters’ stuff all that well, but it’s undeniable that my style resembles his – I think because he’s doing the same kind of thing, taking his favorite old books and films and trying to imitate them and improve upon them, but through a mind a little too twisted to interpret with perfect sincerity.  

The Richmond sisters have met the men of their dreams — or have they?

Charlotte and Elizabeth Richmond have every expectation of marrying their devoted boyfriends, Thomas Marchant and Robert Benjamin; but when they come to question the fidelity of these men, a series of events are set into motion which can change their lives forever. Two highwaymen in hiding take residence near the Richmond home, and the sisters begin to fall for these mysterious strangers. Will the girls betray their long-time lovers, or will their fidelity stand true? It is a matter of the utmost importance — for Thomas and Robert have bet their entire fortunes on it.

A sweet and silly adventure in love, Sweet Errors plunges the reader into an exciting 18th century world of young lovers, secret identities, romance novels and breezy seascapes. Pick it up and you will fall for the charms of its amusing cast and vibrant story.

Amazon (UK)      Amazon Com