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Archive for July, 2013

This drawing is now closed. Random.org has picked commenter beckymmoe as the winner of Susanna’s book. Congratulations to beckymmoe – I’ve sent your email address to Susanna; you should be getting a message from her soon!


It’s always a pleasure to welcome my favorite romance-writing military-history geek to the blog. Susanna Fraser stops by today to talk about her just-released novella, A Dream Defiant, and to give a copy away! Read on:


Cover for A Dream Defiant

Spain, 1813

Elijah Cameron, the son of runaway slaves, has spent his whole life in the British army proving that a black man can be as good a soldier as a white man. After a victory over the French, Elijah promises one of his dying men that he will deliver a scavenged ruby necklace to his wife, Rose, a woman Elijah has admired for years.

Elijah feels bound to protect her and knows a widow with a fortune in jewels will be a target. Rose dreams of using the necklace to return to England, but after a violent attack, she realizes she needs Elijah’s help to make the journey safely.

Her appreciation for Elijah’s strength and integrity soon turns into love, but he doubts she could want a life with him, knowing the challenges they’d face. As their relationship grows, she must convince Elijah that she wants him as more than a bodyguard. And she must prove that their love can overcome all obstacles, no matter the color of their skin.


Q: You’re an author who takes research very seriously. Did you find yourself setting an even-higher-than-usual standard of accuracy when it came to writing a protagonist of a different race from your own? And were there moments when you doubted your ability, or authority, to tell Elijah’s story in an authentic way?Susanna Fraser

A: I definitely wanted to be as accurate as possible, because I was writing about a culture and ethnicity that isn’t my own and one that, to be frank, has been systematically harmed by my native culture. That said, I was limited by the relative paucity of source material. (Although, as always, I’m sure there’s more out there I simply didn’t find–at some point you just have to take off your researcher hat and put the writer one on.) For example, I found scattered references to black soldiers, but I never found a detailed history of a man in Elijah’s position, so I was left to extrapolate what his experiences might have been like.

And I definitely had many moments of self-doubt about whether I should or could tell this story. Ultimately what helped was realizing that I didn’t have to tell the entire story of the black experience in 19th century Britain–that such a thing was FAR beyond the scope of one novella-length historical romance, to put it mildly. All I needed to do was tell a slice of ONE character’s life story. That much I could do.

Q: Like your debut, The Sergeant’s Lady, A Dream Defiant features a heroine widowed while following her husband at war. What is it about the plight of the “following the drum” widow that compels you as a writer?

A: I find myself drawn to widowed heroines in general for a very simple reason–it allows me to write older, sexually experienced heroines who aren’t necessarily “bad girls” or otherwise possessed of a complex or unusual backstory. They’ve been married, happily or otherwise, and now they’re widowed, which in a world with no antibiotics and only rudimentary trauma medicine is ridiculously easy for a writer to make believable.

As for widows following the drum, Rose’s circumstances in A Dream Defiant are quite different from Anna’s in The Sergeant’s Lady. As an officer’s widow and a daughter of the aristocracy, Anna had the resources to return home, and the social expectation that she would observe a normal period of mourning for her husband. Of course that’s not (quite) what happened, given that her husband’s death freed her from a miserable, abusive situation and she quickly met and had adventures with the RIGHT man.

Enlisted soldiers’ widows like Rose, however, were expected to remarry quickly. Each company was allowed a small number of wives officially “on the strength” (generally six), and once a woman was widowed, she lost the right to draw rations for herself and her children. Few women could afford to go home or had a way to support themselves and any children if they did, so most of them remarried almost immediately. I’d read about such women in my initial research for The Sergeant’s Lady, and I was drawn to the poignancy of having to choose a second husband so soon after burying a first one, especially for a woman who loved, or at least was fond of, her first. In fact, that was my initial inspiration for A Dream Defiant.

Q: Rose and Elijah marry for a fascinating mix of reasons, some pragmatic – she needs the protection of marriage; he likes her cooking – and some less so. Was it tricky to establish their mutual attraction in a way that wouldn’t detract from Rose’s sincere mourning, for, and Elijah’s friendship with, her first husband?

A: It was definitely a balancing act. I didn’t want Rose’s first marriage to have been wholly unhappy. I’ve written unhappy first marriages before and will probably do so again. Still, I do feel like it’s the easy way out with a widowed heroine, so I don’t want to go to that well too often. But I also wanted her to find something more with Elijah (this being a romance, after all). So I tried to show without being too heavy-handed that Elijah shared brains, drive, and frustrated ambition with Rose that would enable them to be more together than either were apart, while her first husband had been more of a dead weight. An affectionate, kind, well-meaning dead weight, but one who’d been holding her back all the same.

Q: The couple encounters a spectrum of responses to their marriage, among their regiment and later back in England. Were certain places or populations more welcoming than others to an interracial couple at the time?

A: Interracial marriages were far more accepted in England than in America during this period–really at any point during the 19th century. The fact that England itself wasn’t a slave society (though it still had slavery in some of its colonies) seemed to make its people more willing to accept blacks as equal to whites of similar financial and/or occupational status. Class mattered more than race in a lot of ways. By that measure Rose and Elijah are essentially equals. If anything, Elijah, who is relatively well-educated and has a colonel for his family’s (occasionally patronizing) patron, ranks a little higher.

That said, there was of course plenty of racial prejudice. For one thing, the stereotype about black men’s penis size and sexual prowess already existed, so we see a bit of that from some of the more prejudiced soldiers speculating on why beautiful Rose, who could have her pick of men in the regiment, chose Elijah. In general, I got the impression from my research that the degree of prejudice varied a lot from person to person, just as it does now, so I wrote my characters’ experiences accordingly.

Q: Rose has a passion and a gift for cooking. I know from your blog that you’re an avid hobby cook yourself. What was it like to write a character who shared one of your own avocations?

A: Because of my interest in cooking, I’d been wanting to write a cook or chef character for quite awhile. It’s easier to connect to a character when you share a common interest, and while Rose was my first culinary protagonist I doubt she’ll be my last. There’s that badass garlic-wielding vampire-slaying French chef in one of my unfinished manuscripts, for example…

Q: Is this the last we’ll hear from this set of characters? Late in the book there’s an intriguing mention of Elijah’s officer friend, Lieutenant Farlow. Might there be more to his story?

A: I’m working on a proposal for Henry Farlow’s story now! It will be a full-length novel.

Q: What are you working on right now, and what do you plan to be working on after that?

A: I’ve got several balls in the air. My next scheduled release isn’t until late 2014–a holiday novella from Carina. But I’m hoping to have at least one and hopefully two releases before then. In addition to Henry Farlow’s story, I’ve got a short Christmas time travel novella in the works, and I’m planning a series based around children and grandchildren of “Wild Geese”–Scottish and Irish Jacobites who took refuge in Spain and France after the failed Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century.

Thanks, Susanna, for stopping by! My ears pricked up at “Christmas time-travel novella” (?!), so you can be sure I’ll be watching for that :)


Susanna will be giving away an electronic copy (PDF, epub, or kindle) of A Dream Defiant to one randomly chosen commenter on this post. Tell us your favorite romance – from book, film, or TV – with a military/wartime setting. Star Wars counts! (But if you say “Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala in the prequels,” you will be immediately disqualified from the drawing.) (Not really.)*

Leave a comment by 11:59:59 PM Pacific time on Friday, August 2nd for a chance to win!

*Any comment at all will be entered in the drawing. “I want to win,” “I’ve never liked any military romance,” and “Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca, obviously” are all valid entries.   


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Somewhere or other I saw the author Courtney Milan say that she goes through a period of hating every book she writes before she’s done with it. I didn’t have that experience with A Lady Awakened or A Gentleman Undone, but boy, did I make up for lost time with A Woman Entangled. There were days – many of them in a row – when I doubted the book was ever going to come together in a shape suitable for publication, let alone suitable for following up what I thought were a pretty good debut and sophomore effort.

So good reviews and emails from readers maybe mean a little bit more with this book, and maybe still come as something of a surprise. And I’m surprised, and utterly delighted, to learn that RT Book Reviews awarded AWE its Seal of Excellence for July!

Yay, Romantic Times! Are any of you readers & writers planning on going to the convention next year? I’ve never been to an RT convention, but I’m thinking this next one – in New Orleans – might be a good first.

Oh, also, if you haven’t read A Woman Entangled yet, be sure to enter the giveaway on Goodreads.

 

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This has nothing to do with romance or writing (or giveaways). But it’s a month today since my dad left us, and I’m missing him a lot. So here’s a picture of me and my dad.

Picture of me and my dad, from many years ago

This is a long-ago Thanksgiving. The stainless-steel bowl contains jello salad.

Dad was – it still takes a conscious effort not to say “is;” to speak about him in the past tense – a very private person and probably would not approve of my posting this picture. (“Would not have approved,” I guess I should say.)

That’s all. No point to make; this is just where my thoughts are today.

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Goodreads giveaway

The Summer of Cecilia Grant Giveaways continues, this time on Goodreads! I have 15 copies of A Woman Entangled to give away there.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

A Woman Entangled

by Cecilia Grant

Giveaway ends July 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Note that you have to go to Goodreads (and I believe you need a Goodreads account) to win this one. Leaving comments on my blog won’t work. In fact I think I’ll disable the comments on this post, just to avoid mix-ups.

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7/14/2013: The giveaway has ended. My winners are Christiana M, Ellen Gwyn, and Ada. Christiana, Ellen, and Ada, check your email and tell me where to mail the books! Everyone else, thanks for entering. I’m hoping my Goodreads giveaway will go live any minute now, and I’ll let you know when it does.


I’ve got my author copies of A Woman Entangled!

I’ve earmarked a bunch of them for a Goodreads giveaway, the link to which I’ll post as soon as it goes live.  And in the meantime, I’ve got three copies to give away right here.


Cover of A Woman Entangled

Kate Westbrook has dreams far bigger than romance. Love won’t get her into London’s most consequential parties, nor prevent her sisters from being snubbed and looked down upon—all because their besotted father unadvisedly married an actress. But a noble husband for Kate would deliver a future most suited to the granddaughter of an earl. Armed with ingenuity, breathtaking beauty, and the help of an idle aunt with connections, Kate is poised to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a familiar face—albeit a maddeningly handsome one—appears bent on upsetting her scheme.

Implored by Kate’s worried father to fend off the rogues eager to exploit his daughter’s charms, Nick Blackshear has set aside the torch he’s carried for Kate in order to do right by his friend. Anyway, she made quite clear that his feelings were not returned—though policing her won’t abate Nick’s desire. Reckless passion leads to love’s awakening, but time is running out. Kate must see for herself that the charms of high society are nothing compared to the infinite sweet pleasures demanded by the heart.


Leave a comment below by 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time on Saturday, July 13 for a chance to win. This giveaway, unlike the one at Goodreads, is open to international entries.

As with all my recent giveaways, no elaborate comment required. “I want to win” will do the job.

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Here’s what happened.

Two days after my father died, and six days before the release of A Woman Entangled, I had an email from author Anna Cowan. She’d been thinking about me, she said, and thinking about the fact that I had a book coming out and probably no time, energy, or heart to promote it.

Actually she’d been doing more than thinking. She’d reached out to some other authors, and, if it was okay with me, they wanted to shoulder the promo of this book for me. They’d already coordinated, among themselves, a schedule of blog posts and giveaways. But they wouldn’t go ahead with the plan unless I was comfortable with it.

I wasn’t, at first. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d be taking advantage of my father’s death, or at least profiting from it, by accepting this promotion that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It felt unclean.

Besides, at that time none of the authors in question had read A Woman Entangled. And I was uneasy with the idea of them plugging a book that, once they’d read it, they might not even like. I’m a book-buying reader as well as a writer, and when a writer plugs someone else’s book to me, I want it to be because they read and loved that book. Not because they’re friendly with the author, or feel for her on account of the difficult life chapter she’s currently going through, or even because they liked her previous books and think there’s a good chance they’ll like this one too. I want my word to mean something, when I recommend a book, and I want other writers’ words to mean something too.

So I wrote back to Anna, thanked her for her kindness, explained some of my reservations, and said I needed to think about it.

And I thought about it. And one of the things I couldn’t help thinking was that I’m not the only person with a stake in A Woman Entangled‘s launch. A whole team at Random House, from editor to copyeditor to cover designer to marketers to the person who put together the book trailer, had invested time, creativity, and money in making this book a success. Surely they, and their investment, needed to go into the balance scale along with my nice thoughts about principle and integrity.

Maybe more to the point, after I sent the email to Anna, I didn’t feel like a person of principle and integrity. I felt like an ungracious jerk. Here were these authors, all with careers and deadlines and promo of their own to manage, carving out time to help me, stepping up to lessen my burden in what way they could, as humans have done for one another since at least the invention of the funerary casserole. Shouldn’t my answer be, “Yes, thank you so much?” Shouldn’t I trust these people to decide for themselves whether they wanted to plug my book (and to be capable of staging a giveaway that doesn’t come with an outright recommendation, in the event they don’t like the book)?

So I wrote back to Anna and said Yes, thank you very much; you’re absolutely right that I’m in no shape to promote a romance novel right now and I’d welcome your help.

This explains the links in the box at the top right of my blog. These are the authors whose kindness I decided to accept. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to spend time being sad with my family these past couple weeks, without feeling like I’m leaving my publisher altogether in the lurch.

Principle and integrity or no principle and integrity, I’m deeply grateful.

 

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