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Archive for November, 2012

Congratulations to Growlycub, winner of Susanna’s An Infamous Marriage giveaway! Susanna will be emailing you shortly to find out which e-book format you prefer.


I’m so happy to welcome author Susanna Fraser to the blog today.Susanna Fraser

Susanna writes romances set in the early decades of the 19th century, with a military milieu – she read Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian as well as Jane Austen in her formative years, and it shows in her stories. I always feel like I’m just sinking into a sort of hammock of immaculately woven, inconspicuously integrated research when I’m reading one of her books.

I was fortunate enough to have an early look at Susanna’s latest release, An Infamous Marriage, and she kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about writing the book.


Cover of An Infamous MarriageNorthumberland, 1815

At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.


Q:  I love romances that take risks, and An Infamous Marriage takes a big one:  hero Jack, a career soldier, has been unfaithful to his wife during the years he was away at war. How did you decide to write a story that featured the hero’s infidelity as an obstacle? Was it a historical-accuracy thing? A “let’s see if I can pull this off” thing? And did you worry it would make your hero too unsympathetic?

A:  Jack is the first hero I’ve written who’s in any sense a rake, and having set myself the challenge of writing such a hero, I didn’t want him to be a fake rake. I also wanted to give him and the heroine something real and difficult to work through. I don’t know if I always succeed, but I do my best to avoid plots driven by a Big Misunderstanding. (Big Secrets and Big Miscommunications are another story, however.)

Historical accuracy was a factor, too, in that Jack is a man of his time. The infidelity takes place during a five-year separation. His marriage is one of convenience, he hardly knows his wife, and he certainly isn’t in love with her yet. He’d say he hasn’t acted any differently than other men in the same circumstances—and he wouldn’t be wrong. But because he’s a hero, he learns that “everyone else does it” isn’t a valid excuse.

I did worry that the infidelity might make Jack unsympathetic. On the other hand, it was the story I wanted to tell. I try to stretch myself at least a little bit out of my comfort zone with every book I write, just to keep from getting stale.

Q: Was your publisher on board with the infidelity plotline right away, or did you have to do some convincing?

A: They never brought it up when they accepted the proposal or at any point during the editing process. As I was working on this interview I checked in with my editor, and she told me it wasn’t an issue, given the circumstances of the infidelity.

Q: Jack and Elizabeth meet and marry under some of the most unromantic circumstances I’ve ever read in a romance, and neither one expects to fall in love with the other. At what point would you say her feelings start to change, and at what point do his?

A: She’s aware of him as an attractive man on some level from the very beginning, but she’s too lost in grief for her first husband to feel much of anything for anyone at first. So she begins to fall in love with him a few months after they marry for the sake of the letters he sends her from Canada, where he’s serving with his regiment. This makes her feel all the more betrayed when she hears transatlantic gossip about his affairs.

As for Jack, his feelings only start to change when he comes home from the wars and Elizabeth confronts him over his infidelity—but once he falls, he falls fast and hard and doesn’t look back.

Q: Jack’s serving in the war with America is unusual for a Regency romance. Did you know a lot about that conflict already, or did you need to research? And was there any tidbit of military research that you regret not being able to work into the book?

A: I knew almost nothing about it, and what I knew was the kind of factoids I must’ve used as fill-in-the-blank answers on American History tests back in 11th grade. Francis Scott Key, the Star-Spangled Banner, Andrew Jackson, the Battle of New Orleans. (I sort of backed into my interest in Napoleonic Era military history—it started with a fictional crush on Richard Sharpe that turned into a historical crush on the Duke of Wellington, neither of which draws one to study the War of 1812.)

I’d certainly learned nothing in school about the conflict along the Canadian border, which is the part of the war Jack serves in. But once I discovered it, I knew I’d found Jack’s place in the war. I’m an American myself, after all, as are the majority of my readers, and I figured they’d have an easier time sympathizing with a hero defending Canada than one who took part in the burning of the White House!

As for research I couldn’t include in the book, I read a couple biographies of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who died in battle in 1813 leading a coalition of Indian warriors who fought alongside the British. He was a fascinating man, a real tragic hero, and Jack certainly would’ve known him well, but I ended up with no story-related reason to do more than mention his name a time or two.

Q: Some historical figures of the period, most notably the Duke of Wellington, appear as characters in An Infamous Marriage. What are the challenges of writing a real-life person into your story? Is there someone you’d particularly like to write into a book someday?

A: I’d say the biggest challenge in using a real-life figure is making him or her come across as a real person rather than a cardboard cutout, all while keeping within the limits of his or her actions as recorded by history.

I don’t see myself ever writing biographical fiction—I’m not even that fond of it as a reader. When I’m fascinated by a historical figure, I go straight to biography. In fiction, I don’t want to know exactly how it ends before I even start the book.

That said, my “book under the bed” is an alternative history involving, among other people, Wellington and Napoleon. One of these days I want to either polish that manuscript into publishable form or write a fantasy series with similar themes and character types.

Q: You have a novella coming up that I’m really excited about. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and about what you might be working on afterward?

A: It will be out on 7/29/2013, with a title yet to be determined. It’s an interracial romance set in the aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria in the Peninsular War in 1813. The hero is a black British soldier, born to parents who escaped slavery in Virginia by running away to the British army. Over the past few years I’ve been lurking on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, where he’s often written about the black Union soldiers of the Civil War. Bringing black men into the army was such a huge, hotly-debated step in America, yet I knew for a fact 50 years earlier there had been at least a few black soldiers in both the British and French armies.  So I decided I wanted to try to write one of their stories.

After that, I’m working on a proposal for a full-length novel featuring a secondary character from the novella, and I’m trying my hand at a Christmas novella.


I’ll be giving one copy of An Infamous Marriage to a commenter on this post in your choice of e-book format, and at the end of the tour I’ll be giving away a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s Books to one commenter on the tour as a whole. You get one entry per blog tour stop you comment upon, so check out my blog for the whole schedule! If you wish to be entered in the drawing, include your email address formatted as yourname AT yourhost DOT com.

Leave a comment by 5 pm Pacific time, Wednesday, November 21 to be entered in the e-book giveaway.


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Winner Winner!

annananner, random.org picked you as the winner of my autographed copy of The Siren! Send me a mailing address (cecilia@ceciliagrant.com) and I’ll get the book right out to you.


I have another book to give away, and, like last week’s, it has a little story attached.

Pictured below is an artifact from my trip to the Romance Writers of America national conference in 2010.

Notebook in which I've written "Sleeping Beauty Chronicles"

Yes, my handwriting is atrocious. In case you can’t read it, it says “Sleeping Beauty Chronicles.” The correct title is “Sleeping Beauty Trilogy,” but I think my brain was already checking out, saying, “Yeah, I’m never gonna read this.”

Periodically at the conference I’d strike up conversations with people who wrote in genres I didn’t read, and, in order to have something to say, I’d ask what books they’d recommend to a first-time reader in their genre. So my notebook has pages of paranormal recommendations, romantic-suspense suggestions, and, on that page, the souvenir of the day I sat down in the hotel lobby and wound up chatting with not-yet-published erotica writer Tiffany Reisz.

Book cover for The Siren by Tiffany ReiszI haven’t ever read those Sleeping Beauty books.  I doubt I ever will.  But when I started hearing buzz about The Siren (and if you’re anywhere in Romanceland, you can’t fail to have heard buzz about The Siren), I thought, “Hey, that’s that same author I met in the lobby at RWA 2010!  Wow, these are some eye-popping reviews.  Maybe I’d better check it out.”  And so, poetically enough, Tiffany Reisz herself became the first erotica author I ever read.

To cut to the chase, I think The Siren is pretty brilliant.  It’s not at all what I expected erotica to be:  I never felt like the author’s goal was to titillate, gratify, or shock me.  It’s just a story in which sex happens to be a major component, and it explores some of the psycho-dynamics (is that a word?) of sexuality, with a particular emphasis on power.  (Which in my opinion is what makes sex most interesting and dynamic, in a narrative role.)

Here’s the back-cover copy:

Notorious Nora Sutherlin is famous for her delicious works of erotica, each one more popular with readers than the last. But her latest manuscript is different—more serious, more personal—and she’s sure it’ll be her breakout book…if it ever sees the light of day.

Zachary Easton holds Nora’s fate in his well-manicured hands. The demanding British editor agrees to handle the book on one condition: he wants complete control. Nora must rewrite the entire novel to his exacting standards—in six weeks—or it’s no deal.

Nora’s grueling writing sessions with Zach are draining…and shockingly arousing. And a dangerous former lover has her wondering which is more torturous—staying away from him…or returning to his bed?

Nora thought she knew everything about being pushed to your limits. But in a world where passion is pain, nothing is ever that simple.

You might want to read a few reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to decide whether this book is right for you – there are several plot points that I know were troubling to some readers.  (There are definitely choices made that I don’t endorse in real life, but nothing ever happened that broke my connection to the characters. Your mileage may vary.)  On the flip side, the book is touching, thematically dense & ambitious, and consistently witty.  One of the best books I read in 2012.

So when I was at the RWA conference this past summer, I got a signed copy, and now I’d like to give it away.  She has a follow-up, The Angel, already out, and a third, The Prince, coming out on the 20th of this month, so if you wind up liking The Siren you don’t even have to wait to read more of that world.

As with all my holiday-season giveaways, I’ll ship anywhere.  If The Siren isn’t available in your corner of the planet, now’s your chance.  Just leave a comment below telling me what’s one of the best books you read in 2012.  I’ll pick a winner Tuesday, November 20 (which is also the day I’ll be interviewing Susanna Fraser and giving away a copy of her book An Infamous Marriage!  Giveaways galore!)

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Livia Maftei, you win my spare copy of The Only Gold. Email me at cecilia@ceciliagrant.com with a mailing address, and I’ll get the book on its way to you!

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For nearly a year now I’ve had a spare copy of Tamara Allen’s lovely romance, The Only Gold. Way back when I was ramping up to the release of my first book, I struck up a conversation with her on a Dear Author thread and we wound up swapping books. And – I know I’ve told this story before, multiple places, so forgive me if this is redundant – I loved The Only Gold so much that it felt wrong to read it without compensating her, so I bought a second copy just so she’d get the royalty.

I’ve meant to do a giveaway of that book on some appropriate occasion, and this week, with voters in not one, not two, but four different states having gone to the polls in support of marriage equality, well, it seemed like as good an occasion as is likely to come along.

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Jonah Woolner’s life is as prudently regulated as the bank where he works. It’s a satisfying life until he’s passed over for promotion in favor of newcomer Reid Hylliard. Brash and enterprising, Reid beguiles everyone except Jonah, who’s convinced Reid’s progressive ideas will be the bank’s ruin. When Jonah begins to discover there’s more to Reid than meets the eye, he risks succumbing to Reid’s charms–but unlocking the vault to all of Reid’s secrets could lead him down a dangerous path.

Losing his promotion–and perhaps his heart–is the least of Jonah’s difficulties. When the vengeful son of a Union army vet descends upon the bank to steal a government deposit of half a million dollars during the deadliest blizzard to ever sweep New York, Jonah and Reid are trapped, at odds and fighting for their lives.

The characterization, the dialogue, the historical detail – there are just so many wonderful things about this book.  (Here’s my review on Goodreads.)  I’m pretty sure it’s no longer available in hard-copy, either, so if you’d like to try it, and especially if you don’t have an e-reader, now’s your chance. Leave a comment below and a week from today – that’ll be Wednesday, 11/14 – I’ll draw a winner. I’ll ship anywhere on the planet.

Since it was election results that spurred me to get my act together and do this giveaway, please tell me: what’s the most interesting/gratifying place you’ve ever voted? When I lived on the East Coast I once voted on this big machine where you threw a lever one way or the other for each ballot measure, and there was also a bigger lever that drew a curtain around you, and opened the curtain when you were done! I still remember the feel and sound of those levers.

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Blogger Limecello does an annual “Social Media for Social Good” charity drive, and this year’s beneficiary is the excellent organization, charity: water. You can read about them on Lime’s page here, or on the organization’s home page, and you can also check out the details behind their four-star rating on Charity Navigator.

I pledged a dollar for every comment on Lime’s blog up to 100. We’ve already surpassed that, but other pledges are still active, so stop by and leave a comment.

Several of us have also donated prizes to be given away to random commenters. I threw in a set of audiobooks; one of A Lady Awakened and one of A Gentleman Undone. I’m squeamish about listening to someone read something I’ve written, so I actually haven’t listened to them yet, but people who have assure me they’re great.

You can enter to win right here.

FYI I’m planning some more giveaways as we get into the holiday season, so stay tuned!

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