Tag Archives: Maria

Brooding Dukes and Damsels in Distress

Gothic novel: a novel in which magic, mystery, and chivalry are the chief characteristics.

A Handbook to Literature (6th edition) by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon

Windswept moors, drafty and remote castles, stormy nights, and a dark and dangerous hero suffering lots of angst. Jane Austen spoofed it in Northanger Abbey in 1816 while the Bronte sisters epitomized it in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the Victorian era. But what about today? Read on for some historical romances with a darker journey to happily ever after.

Máire Claremont’s Mad Passions series.

darklady

In the Victorian era, it wasn’t considered unusual for powerful men to send their troublesome women to an insane asylum for reasons such as, say, having a nervous breakdown after the death of a child (The Dark Lady) or witnessing a father murder a beloved mother (The Lady in Red). Men, however, are not immune to commitment by a parent for opium addiction (The Dark Affair).

Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell. (Sons of Sin series)

seven

As payment for her married sister’s gambling debts, Sidonie Forsythe agrees to replace her sister in Jonas Merrick’s bed. In doing so, she will give up her virtue to a man haunted by his past and determined to prove his parentage.

Taken by the Duke by Jess Michaels. (Pleasure Wars series)

taken

Lady Ava Windbury is kidnapped by Christian Rothcastle and taken to his estate in revenge for one sibling’s death and another’s incapacitation in this Romeo and Juliet love story.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. (Castles Ever After series)

duke

Take one penniless and homeless orphan, add one tormented duke, and a dash of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and you get this charming gothic spoof.

A Duke’s Temptation by Jillian Hunter. (Bridal Pleasures series)

temptation

Lily Boscastle is the biggest fan of the mysterious and handsome Duke of Gravenhurst’s “horrid” novels. When she becomes his housekeeper at his remote estate, she discovers the real secrets behind the man. Another gothic spoof, this one is best listened to aloud on e-audio, read by the enchanting Justine Eyre.

-Maria A.

Note: This post is the fourth in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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Walk the Walk

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been walking for pleasure as well as exercise for so long that it has become ingrained in my psyche. Walking is just something I must do, a restlessness that has yet to abate. If I’m inside too long, I get what I call “inside head,” a fuzzy feeling, not a headache, but as if my head is stuffed with cotton. Only spending time outdoors cures this very uncomfortable feeling.

Why walk?

  • You only need a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, no other special equipment required.
  • You can do it anywhere, in your neighborhood, in the city, at a park, in a mall, on vacation.
Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

  • You can walk alone or with a group.
  • It’s how to get to know a place really well; you see things when you walk that you miss when you’re in a car or on a bus.
Clear Creek State Park trails.

Clear Creek State Park trails.

  • You can incorporate it into your workday so you don’t have to take extra time to workout; I try to make time for at least two 15-minute walks. The city block around the Main Library in Oakland and the museums and Schenley Plaza is perfect for this goal. If it’s too cold, I walk up, down, and all around the eleven stacks in the library. On weekends, I try to walk for an hour or more.
Walking in Chatham Village, where I live, is like living in a park.

Walking in Chatham Village is like living in a park.

  • It’s a great way to connect with your partner or a friend; during the summer, evening walks after dinner are how my husband and I discuss our day–as well as help our digestion.

-Maria who, oddly enough, rarely uses a pedometer

 

 

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Amusing, Whimsical, and Diverting Historical Romance

I started reading historical romance a little over two years ago because I was sick and tired of reading sad and depressing books that were highly touted in literary circles, The New York Times Book Review, and book clubs. I once derided the entire romance genre as frivolous until I actually read one.

I now only want happy endings, sparkling dialogue, and a passionate love story; even better: a book that can make me laugh and smile.

I thoroughly enjoy the witty works of Jane Austen, so historical romance is my favorite reading pleasure. I can always count on a lovely story and, with these three authors, laugh out loud humor.

wicked

The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflowers series) by Maya Rodale

We don’t own all of this author’s delightful books except for her Writing Girls series, about Regency era working women who write for the scandal sheet, The London Weekly–which, incidentally, makes a recurring appearance as it reports on scandals in almost all her novels.

Isn’t this a great cover?! In this story, the first in the series, Lady Emma Avery is a wallflower whose name is falsely linked with the handsome and rich Duke of Ashbrooke in The London Weekly. They decide to keep their pretend engagement so that he might redeem his debauched reputation and find investors to fund his invention and she, in turn, can raise her social standing in society. Of course, things don’t work out as planned. This book is part of an amusing concurrent historical/contemporary series–the contemporary part being a series of novellas called Bad Boyswith a similar theme of a pretend engagement–Rodale calls it a “fauxmance”–on Facebook and other social media. Fun fact: the heroine is a librarian at the New York Public Library.

“’It can’t be any more torturous than a wallflower’s fourth season on the marriage mart.’” (p52)

“It was official: she’d had more callers in this one hour than in four seasons combined. Behold: the power of Ashbrooke.” (p26)

heiress

In the Arms of the Heiress (Ladies Unlaced series) by Maggie Robinson

With her cheeky Courtesan Court series about the everyday lives of a group of mistresses on Jane Street to her London List series about a Regency-era scandal sheet of provocative personal ads spoofing today’s craigslist, to her most recent Edwardian-era series, Ladies Unlaced, which takes place around a slightly unorthodox employment agency, I can pretty much count on Maggie Robinson to always make me laugh.

A wacky, independent yet vulnerable heiress, Louisa Stratton hires Charles Cooper, a traumatized war veteran down on his luck, to pose as her fiancé on a visit home to her undeserving family. She hopes to display a veneer of successful independence with a loving, artistic husband while Charles just wants the cash.

“Louisa Stratton was a handful who would drive the average man to drink. Hemlock, if it was handy.” (p175)

”’If you were my wife, I’d rescue you. You could live just as you pleased—I wouldn’t interfere with whatever cork-brained scheme you dreamed up.’” (p240)

Any husband she’d have would risk being henpecked until he resembled a dartboard.” (p289)

secrets

The Secret Brides series by Valerie Bowman

Bowman is a newcomer to historical romance and her lighthearted and charming Regency era Secret Brides series is wonderfully entertaining and funny. Each title represents the scandals in the books, written in pamphlets–think of today’s zines–and are the same titles as the books:

  • Secrets of a Wedding Night is about what really happens on a wedding night as written by an unhappily married young widow.
  • Secrets of a Runaway Bride depicts the adventures of a young and impetuous debutante who tries to run away with a young man who does not requite her love.
  • Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage, the last in the series, is penned by a death-row duchess accused of murdering her husband. There are also two novellas that round out the series.

From Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage:

Since coming in the back door, she was already warming up, and she hadn’t had a proper bath in over a fortnight. No doubt she smelled like a foot. A very dirty foot.” (p44)

‘If you’re going to be a scandal, darling, be a complete scandal.’” (p318)

From Secrets of a Runaway Bride:

“First of all, you should not have been eavesdropping. It’s unspeakably rude, and second, what would you know about a marital bed? You’re not married!” (p59)

“Arthur isn’t here now to see, is he? If you’re heaven’s gift to the fairer sex, why don’t you prove it?” (p61)

-Maria, who is done with sad books forever

Note: This post is the third in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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Girl Singers

When I was a teenager, I came upon a record album in my parents’ huge LP collection, along with some cassette tapes and even some eight tracks. It was a Reader’s Digest multi-record album called The Swing Years. I can’t recall what made me pick it up and put it on the turntable but, when I did, it immediately made me smile. I soon became familiar with many of the great big bandleaders as well as their lead singers. I even got to hear (and meet!) Tex Beneke, Helen Forrest, Ray Eberle, and Helen O’Connell when they performed at the local summer music venues where I lived.  I even have a friend who plays trombone in one. To this day, swing and big band music hold a special place in my heart.

But what fascinated me most were the girl singers, those glamorous female singers who fronted the bands in a gorgeous dress.

Here were some of the big ones in no particular order:

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-Maria, with thanks to my co-worker, Tim, for previously mentioning FM 90.5 Rhythm Sweet & Hot, which plays music of the swing era on Saturdays from 6-8pm.

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Change, the Only Constant

“The only thing constant in life is change.” Francois la Rochefoucauld

The Eleventh Stack blog’s last group post of 2013, was about a quote that spoke to you or was meaningful in any way; for me, it was this one.

It sounds so simple yet encompasses a great deal. When I first read it, I felt like a weight had lifted from my shoulders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Purple coneflower bud (author’s photo)

In the last three and a half years, I’ve had a lot of change in my life. I moved from my home state, settled in a new home, and started a new job. I had to find grocery stores, a hair stylist, and where to have my shoes fixed. Too many changes for someone like me who prefers the calm and soothing waters of routine.

All my life, I have resisted change. As a child, I suffered from anxiety over it and I think it’s long past time I accept what is and go with the flow instead of fighting against the current. It is something I struggle with every day. Change will happen no matter what.

The library has some wonderful resources–search Change Psychology in the subject field of the online catalog–that explore this topic. Here are two that I found to be helpful. Perhaps they can help you or someone you know.

changehappens

Change Happens: When to Try Harder and When to Stop Trying So  Hard

by Avrum Geurin Weiss

change

It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change

by Joan Borysenko

-Maria

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The Last Word For 2013

A group of us got together and decided that the last blog post of 2013 should be a shared effort, with each of us offering a notable quote from something he or she read during the 2013 calendar year.  So we each humbly offer you our last words for the year that was 2013.  Just a note: we’ve preserved any idiosyncratic formatting when it seems important to the meaning and impact of the quote.

Scott

In the midst of a tough year I oddly found myself reading Dante for the first time in my life.   Here’s one of many quotes that stuck with me.

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Inferno, Canto I  by Dante Alighieri

Don

The best invitation to a classic novel ever comes in the form of this quote from the book itself: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse:

Anarchist Evening Entertainment
Magic Theater
Entrance Not For Everybody

For Madmen Only!

Natalie

I am not from West Virginia but I married a true mountain man who grew up in the hollows of the southern part of the state. Reading Dean King’s The Feud over the summer gave me a new perspective of this bloody family history that helped mold the state, its inhabitants and the nation.

Mountains make fighting men. No matter where in the world you go, you’ll find that’s true. – Ralph Stanley

The Feud: The Hatfields & McCoys. The True Story by Dean King; 2013; Forward

Jess

I’m currently reading The Little Women Letters and as to be expected, it’s put me in the mood for Louisa May Alcott‘s original text.  This line has always stuck with me:

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Holly

I can identify with Scott: 2013 was a tough year, so this lady was diving head first into self-help books, while she’d spent most of her life rejecting them.  At the end of the year, I was recommended the best self-help-book-that-isn’t-a-self-help-book: Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke.  Rilke praised solitude so highly, and I’ve found solitude to be a great friend.  So apologies for getting a little emo – but this is the quote hit me the hardest this year. And here’s to 2014, may it bring you all peace, love, healing and good books!

Embrace your solitude and love it. Endure the pain it causes, and try to sing out with it.

Art by Scott M. Fischer, copyright held by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Art by Scott M. Fischer, copyright held by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Leigh Anne

There’s a gorgeous quotation near the end of Quiet Dell, Jayne Anne Phillips’s astonishing novel based on actual events, that captures what I’ve been feeling about the darkest nights of the year, and the return of the light. The passage is taken from composer David Lang‘s work “again (after ecclesiastes),” which you can listen to here.

these things make me so tired

I can’t speak, I can’t see, I can’t hear

what happened before will happen again

I forgot it all before

I will forget it all again

Suzy

I took one book with me on my epic bike tour and it was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (somehow in the midst of all those Women’s Studies classes during undergrad I missed reading it). I’m not sorry because I read it exactly when and where I needed to.

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”

Richard

I’ve written about Phlip Caputo’s The Longest Road : Overland In Search Of America, From Key West To The Arctic Ocean before, but it merits another mention.  In an age dominated by “social media”, how connected are we as Americans; how tolerant are we as individuals?  Which is greater, the ties or the divisions? What is it about being Americans that we discover as Caputo, his wife Leslie and their 2 dogs traverse almost 12,000 miles from Key West to the Arctic Circle and back?

“Kaktovic had the architectural charm of a New Jersey warehouse district: a dirt airstrip, a hangar, houses like container boxes with doors and windows.” – Philip Caputo

Irene

In 2013 I fell in love with the illustrations of Kay Nielsen.  Fairytales have always been one of my favorite genres, and his illustrations perfectly capture how beautiful and disturbing the stories are.  The stories in East of the Sun and West of the Moon are more adult than you might imagine, full of violence and even (implied) sex.  Unlike many other fairy tales I’ve read, in which the princess waits for the prince to rescue her, several of these stories feature strong heroines who need to go to great lengths to rescue their handsome princes (or themselves).  In one of my favorites, The White Bear, the heroine is constantly reaffirming her bravery and strength.  This repeated refrain perfectly illustrates what I love about this character:

“Are you afraid?,” said the North Wind.
No, she wasn’t.

Melissa F.

David Levithan‘s newest young adult novel, Two Boys Kissing, is groundbreaking on a level rarely seen. It speaks to the very truth about what it means to be human, to be vulnerable, to be your own true self.  As one of my favorite books of 2013, it’s an incredibly affecting (and very important) read for teens and adults alike.

The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.

May your 2014 be full of confident first sentences.

spotted at Someecards.com

spotted at someecards.com

Tara

I’ve been a bit of a hermit these past few years, so I found inspiration in 2013 from artist and writer Miranda July to go outside on occasion and take a look around. In her book/art project It Chooses You she writes:

Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it’s not impossible to imagine losing my appetite for those things; they aren’t always easy, and they take so much time. In twenty years I’d be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered.

Also, when life gets either too heavy or too dull, a little absurdist British humor never hurts:

“What problems? We’re on the pig’s back, charging through a velvet field.” — Bernard Black, from the BBC television show Black Books

Eric

The following  is the first line of Chapter 3 of  Robert Kaplan’s book Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. This chapter is about Macedonia. This line encapsulates a lot of how Kaplan looks at the world he navigates in this book. Maybe we can take a tip from him, and not just look at the world around us, but read the world around us. Happy New Year!

The landscape here needs to be read, not just looked at.

Abbey

I read a lot of young adult books and I have loved many of them. However, I find it rare for many other readers to love young adult books. This quote and this book though have stuck with me for a long time, and the book has been enjoyed by many other readers I know, adult fiction and young adult fiction lovers in general.

“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.”

From The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Maria

My new favorite quote this year relates to all the big changes in my life the last few years, something I instinctively struggle against, preferring the calm waters of routine. As soon as I read it, I instantly felt better.

The only thing constant in life is change. — François de La Rochefoucald, Maxims

Amy

I offer this bit of wisdom from Professor Farnsworth (of Futurama fame) as the perfect antidote for taking-yourself-too-seriously.

There’s no scientific consensus that life is important.

From Into the Wild Green Yonder by, erm, some TV dudes.

Happy New Year!

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My Year in Books 2013

We recently did a wonderful group post on our favorite books from the past year but that didn’t allow me to tell you about all the books I enjoyed.

I read a lot. Like, almost 200 books according to my Goodreads‘ account–I don’t own a television so this is one way I entertain myself. Yes, they were mostly historical romance, my favorite genre, but there was also historical non-fiction, young adult, mystery, and one in that trendy new genre, “new adult.”

Here are the books that stood out that the library owns:

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~Maria

*All books were published in 2013

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