Best-selling author Elizabeth Hoyt has been writing historical romance novels for the past 10 years. The latest from this five-time Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist is Duke of Midnight, our Top Pick in Romance for October. Our reviewer, Christie Ridgway, calls the book "a sensual tale of forbidden love." Read Christie's full review here.
We were curious about the books Hoyt has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites:
NOWHERE BUT HOME
By Liza Palmer
Liza Palmer’s previous book, More Like Her, was both laugh-out-loud funny and thought-provoking, which is kind of like doing a triple backflip off the high dive for an author, so when I heard Palmer had another book out, I was psyched. Nowhere but Home more than met my expectations. In rural Texas, the heroine, Queenie Wake, has come home with her tail between her legs, having failed in New York as a chef. But she finds her art blossoming when she turns to her mother’s recipes and starts cooking last meals for the prisoners about to be executed at the local prison. The term ‘feel good’ usually makes me wince—it sounds so schmaltzy—but Nowhere but Home is a true feel good book, one with a spine of steel.
THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE
By Simone St. James
The Haunting of Maddy Clare was a Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards finalist in two categories—and won both, so naturally I was intrigued. Set between the wars, The Haunting of Maddy Clare has a wistful, melancholy tone and a spot-on period sensibility that gradually draws you into a mystery combined with a ghost story and a romance, all perfectly balanced. A simply wonderful read.
THE SPYMASTER'S LADY
By Joanna Bourne
This book had been sitting in my to-be-read pile for simply ages, and when I finally picked it up, I couldn’t figure why it’d taken me so long to read. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, The Spymaster’s Lady pits a French heroine spy against the English spymaster hero tasked with learning all her secrets in a battle of wit and skill that travels all the way from the coast of France to London. The action is fast and fun; the romance is visceral and hot; and Bourne has a rich, lovely voice that elegantly evokes the time period in a virtuoso performance. The Spymaster’s Lady is the type of book that made me fall in love with historical romance in the first place.
Calling all Debbie Macomber fans. Did you know that there's a new TV series called "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airing on Hallmark Channel? Based on Macomber's best-selling Cedar Cove series of books—including 50 Harbor Street, 44 Cranberry Point and Rose Harbor in Bloom, which comes out on August 13—the show stars Andie MacDowell as Olivia Lockhart, a well-respected judge in the small coastal town of Cedar Cove.
Judge Lockhart is considering leaving her hometown in order to take a dream-job position as a federal judge. But what about her budding romance with the mysterious, new-to-town newspaper reporter Jack Griffith (played by Dylan Neal)? And her daughter, just coming off of a broken engagement? And the townspeople, who look to her for guidance? Will she really leave? Guess we'll have to tune in to find out! Will you be watching?
"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airs on Hallmark Channel on Saturdays at 8 p.m. (EDT)/7 p.m. (CDT). Read more about the show and watch full episodes here.
I picked up Grace Grows thinking it would be a slow and easy read—book dessert, so to speak. The next thing I knew, I had devoured the entire book in one evening and was ravenously re-reading my favorite scenes!
So what makes Grace Grows so addicting? First of all, Grace is one of the most relatable characters I've found in women's fiction in a long time. She has it all—the beauty, the steady job, the fiancé—but on the inside she second-guesses herself and feels just as fat in those jeans as the rest of us.
Second, Tyler Wilkie has got to be the hottest man in fiction—if only he were real! And he has flaws, too, plus a touching vulnerability that haunts Grace throughout the book and forces her to be vulnerable with him as well.
Not only does Tyler Wilkie write beautiful love songs about Grace, we can actually listen to his songs on the album, written and recorded by Shelle Sumners' husband Lee Morgan on the book's website here.
My Q&A with Shelle Sumners proves she is just as interesting as her wonderful characters. In the interview, she told us that she is working on a sequel to Grace Grows about Tyler's sister Beck. I can hardly wait!
Anyone else have a fictional crush?
On the occasion of the publication of her 70th novel (!), author Emilie Richards offers advice for aspiring writers.
Today, my 70th novel hits bookstores. While most readers shake their heads in wonder, I know authors for whom 70 was a signpost on a longer journey. Still, for someone like me, who thinks every published novel is a miracle, 70 is delightful, particularly since this book, One Mountain Away, is the first of a continuing series.
Counting books is like counting birthdays. It's always good to pause when a zero's winking back at you. This week I've asked myself what I've learned since author copies began to overflow into my attic. Why have I continued writing? What one secret could I share with someone struggling to write a first novel?
Before you write that first sentence ask yourself this: What kind of book will you want to write 70 times? You're sure if you write a novel about the Amish or a vampire clan you'll get published, even though neither subject excites you? You might be right, but you might also be forced to write variations for the rest of your career, no matter how hard you try to break free.
In the mid-1980s, when publishers were enthusiastically scouting for new romance authors, I sensed I had found my niche. Did I want to tell the story of two people falling in love? Well, yes, that interested me, but I also realized there were other kinds of relationships to explore, as well. I was interested in the way people grow and change, the way they reach out or don't, the way they form bonds inside and outside families, and the way that they heal the wounds that life inflicts.
Could I write those stories inside the romance genre? Was it wide enough, deep enough? Did anyone care enough to read them? I thought so, and I was right.
Seventy novels later, the books I write are classified as women's fiction. They're longer novels, and the emphasis is different. One Mountain Away is about reconciliation and forgiveness more than romance. But in the most important ways, they are the same novels. Luckily I left myself room to grow.
A far greater writer said it best. "To thine own self be true." Just remember you may need to be true to yourself 70 times or more. Choose wisely.
When Alice Buckle answers a marital happiness survey after it mysteriously arrives in her inbox, she gets more than she bargained for in Researcher 101.
For a teaser, check out this book trailer:
Are you as intrigued as I am?
We interviewed Emily Giffin back in 2010, right when the filming of Something Borrowed was about to begin. (See more on the film in this blog post about the interview.) The success of that film pushed the already popular author's sales even higher, so her many fans can now begin the countdown to the release of her next book: St. Martin's will publish Where We Belong on July 31.
As usual in a Giffin story, the book puts its (successful, smart) female protagonist in a sticky situation. Marian Caldwell is a TV producer in her 30s who has put her youthful indiscretions behind her: until the most memorable of them, 18-year-old Kirby, comes knocking at the door of her New York apartment.
Will you read Where We Belong? Who's your favorite women's fiction writer?
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Atria • $26.99 • on sale July 12, 2011
A Jennifer Weiner novel is my favorite kind of vacation read. It holds my attention in between swimming and socializing; keeps me awake until the wee hours; and provides me with a topic I'll want to discuss at dinner . . . in this case: surrogacy.
I've been a fan of Jennifer Weiner's ever since I discovered an old paperback of Good in Bed in my college library's popular reading section. Weiner writes about women you recognize from real life; her scenes are alternately hilarious and touching; and the pages always fly.
Lizza Bowen reviewed Then Came You in the July issue of BookPage, and her final line is an accurate description: "Weiner has a history of turning out lighthearted and romance-infused reads like Good In Bed and Best Friends Forever. Then Came You is something different for her, offering an eye-opening perspective on parenthood in an age where the family is ever evolving."
The story is about four women who all have a different connection to surrogacy. There's the egg donor, the surrogate, the woman who wants a baby but can't have one on her own, that woman's step-daughter. Weiner has said that her novel was inspired by the controversial New York Times piece, "Her Body, My Baby" by Alex Kuczynski. Though the novel will definitely get you thinking about the politics of reproduction, this story is really about characters—and isn't bogged down by the issue at its heart.
Here's a scene from when the wealthy India Croft meets Annie, her surrogate:
I got to my feet as Leslie trilled the introductions. "Ms. Croft, this is Anne Barrow. Annie, this is India Croft."
She was Ms., and I was Annie. So it begins, I thought. For a moment, the two of us stared at each other. India Croft had the look I expected, a rich-lady look (rich bitch look, I thought, before I could stop myself), like one of the women from those Real Housewives of New York episodes I sometimes watched when Frank was working. I knew better than to tune in when he was home. "Bunch of silly people who think they've got problems," he'd grumble, and I couldn't deny it, or explain to him that sometimes the problems were kind of interesting, and it was at least fun to look at their clothes and their houses, and feel good that your kids weren't half as bratty as theirs.
India Croft was white, like I'd expected, with smooth, unlined skin. Her heart-shaped face narrowed to a neat little chin. Her lips were full and glossed, her nose was small, adorably tilted, her brows were perfectly shaped, and, beneath them, her eyes were wide, almost startled . . .
Standing there, my mouth full of Mint Milano mush, sweating in my long-sleeved dress, I felt big as a battleship and just as ungainly. I swallowed, ran my tongue over my teeth, and stepped forward, saying the words I'd rehearsed in the car: "It's a pleasure to meet you."
As a thank you to Book of the Day subscribers, BookPage is offering personalized book recommendations. There will be a new "book fortune" every day this week, and once a week thereafter until we reach 10,000 Book of the Day subscribers. Click here for more info.
Reader name: Janet
Hometown: Indianola, IA
Favorite genre: Women’s Fiction
Favorite author: Maeve Binchy
Favorite book: Firefly Summer
BookPage recommends the Werner Family saga; Trisha wrote about the posthumously-published Heartwood back in January (although you should start with Evergreen, first published in 1978). You will fall in love with the multi-generational family—especially the strong women—portrayed in this series.
Also, Plain's "Meet the Author" Q&A about The Sight of the Stars is one of my all-time favorites. Here's Plain's 50-word summary of the book: "Two brothers, totally different from each other, explode into hatred on one extraordinary day. And then things happen!"
I hope you enjoy these novels as much as we do.
For a chance at your own book fortune, send me an e-mail now (bookoftheday com). Also, for a chance to win a box of 10 books plus a $10 Books-A-Million gift card, sign up here to receive Book of the Day. We can't all get personalized book fortunes—but we can all receive a book review a day!
Kristina McMorris' debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington) is a World War II love story with a twist: It's based on McMorris' own grandfather's letters to his sweetheart—her grandmother. Here, the Portland author writes about the unique challenges this premise created for her work.
The challenges of writing historical fiction—when those who lived it are around to correct you!
guest post by Kristina McMorris
Finding inspiration to write my first novel, Letters from Home, was relatively simple. My grandmother had saved every one of the love letters my grandfather sent to her during World War II. Based on those beautiful pages, I imagined a Cyrano de Bergerac twist to their story, and voila! I had the premise of my book.
I brainstormed. I outlined. And then—oh, yes—I researched. A lot.
At first, my main motivation for accuracy stemmed from my fear of critics' feedback—namely from those ever-scary "anonymous" Amazon reviewers who supply their lengthy critiques in the form of bullet points. The deeper I delved into research, however, the more responsibility I felt to do justice to our humble veterans, whose sacrifices secured the freedoms we too often take for granted.
Writing historicals about any era poses a great number of challenges. In my case, I was featuring a period in which many of those who lived through it are still alive to call me a "nincompoop" over potential errors. (Not saying they'd use that word, precisely; but it's a great word, isn't it?)
On the upside, I eventually realized I had a wonderful opportunity that most historical authors don't: the possibility of hearing true accounts of the era firsthand. Before I knew it, my research process gained in-depth momentum. I had the pleasure of interviewing a wide variety of veterans, and even befriended a few members of the famed "Band of Brothers."
While I've gained an enormous amount of knowledge from textbooks, archivists, docents, and memoirs, no experience has compared to listening to tales from men who actually fought in the trenches. I'll never forget the Japanese-American vet who grew teary as he described the day that, unknowingly, he watched his own brother—an airman for the Japanese Empire—being shot down in a fighter plane overhead.
Sadly, two of the vets I met have passed away. Estimates claim we're losing a thousand of them daily, likely more. Hopefully, though, their amazing accounts and, perhaps more importantly, the lessons they've shared will live on through the written word. For that, I feel honored to contribute. And if, in the end, I still earn the label of a "nincompoop," it certainly won't be for lack of trying to get their stories right.
Kristina McMorris resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two sons, bundles of energy who take pride in transforming any cylindrical household object into a weapon. She is a former host of "Weddings Portland Style" and a winner of the Golden Heart. Find out more on her website.
Last week I was excited to see that Jennifer Weiner is a judge for the 2011 Tournament of Books, but now I have even bigger news. Weiner's ninth book will come out on July 12 and be called Then Came You.
The novel is about a Princeton senior, Jules, who is on a full scholarship—and who needs cash to help her dad. She donates her eggs to a woman (India) who wants to have a late-in-life baby with her older husband. Annie (also stapped for cash) decides to be the surrogate. But then India's husband dies and names his daughter as the guardian of the unborn baby.
Weiner has tackled everything from cheating politicians to the relationship of sisters to body image. I know her readers will be eager to read this story of motherhood, parental rights, family.
Read more about Then Came You in this blog post on Bookfinds. Are you looking forward to this novel?