Read Around the Rainbow: Favourite MM Romance Reads with Autumnal Covers

It was great to have a seasonal suggestion from the lovely Ofelia Grand for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow topic. Now autumn is on its way, it was proposed we might blog about our favourite MM Romances with Red, Orange and Yellow covers.

That might send a technophobe like me running for the hills, but lovely Nell Iris saved the day with a definitive list (and I even managed to save the link!) to happily look through the different colour-coded lists and see what jumped out at me.

Starting with red, there was the first book in a favourite series of mine, the delightfully bonkers Adventures in Aguillon by Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey. Red Heir is inventive, filthy and utterly hilarious. The premise is about an unlikely band of bravos breaking into a prison cell on an unlikely mission to rescue the lost Prince of Aguillon, undeterred by the fact that likeable opportunist thief Loth and his grumpy cellmate Grub both claim to be the red-haired prince.  I thoroughly enjoyed this offbeat mix of Wargaming tropes, medieval quest and bawdy humour that ticked all the boxes for me in terms of entertainment!

I was also thrilled to find a terrific story by our own Fiona Glass in the red list, the wonderfully atmospheric Echoes of Blood. Fiona is brilliant at building atmosphere, and in this subtle, eerie vampire novella, university professor Daniel, friendless and alone in a new city, makes connections that are more unnerving than he could ever have dreamed. The mood of uncertainty and threat is beautifully developed.

I found another favourite of mine with an orange and yellow cover, a delicious short tale by J.L. Merrow called Good Breeding. Short and sweet, this story is full of humour, crisply-drawn characters and situations. Giles’ initial snobbishness was hilarious and countered by Oz’s more nuanced approach to class. A vibrant coming-of-age story and great fun to read.

I’m sure there will be plenty of colour-coded recommendations to add to my TBR list from the other bloggers!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their top three non-romantic reads!

A.L. Lester : Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Holly Day : Amy Spector : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis

Read Around the Rainbow: What are your three top non-romance reads?

Although I both write and read romance, I also avidly read almost anything, so I was delighted by the chosen topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog. My only problem was choosing only three books – even though that was a splendid excuse (if I needed one) to have a lengthy perusal through my bookshelves. I could happily have chosen ten books at least (or more) but whittled it down to three contrasting non-romance reads that I thought would be fun.

The first is one of my all-time number 1 picks, Roaring Boys – Shakespeare’s Rat Pack by Judith Cook. Whenever I need any details about one of my favourite historical periods, the Elizabethan theatre scene, this wonderful book is my go-to. Although Judith Cook’s research is formidable, rather than textbook dry, she plunges the reader into incredible detail about the vibrant, thriving, cut-throat and often dangerous background of the early commercial stage in late 16th-century London.

I am always swept away by the opening chapter as the author introduces the scene, bustling, raucous Bankside in 1591, the cast, the people of London from all walks of life, then one of the playwrights, the notorious Robert Greene, “his feet squeezed into fashionable boots,” and “his wine-stained doublet is in his favourite colour, ‘goose turd’, a virulent yellowy green. Irresistible! I challenge anyone not to want to read on.

In terms of fiction, as well as romance, I do relish a good mystery or suspense series. Although I enjoy plenty of modern police procedural fiction, my author of choice is from the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction in the early 20th century, and that’s Dorothy L. Sayers. I read all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels as a teenager and re-read them regularly. The book I’ve chosen is Gaudy Night, one of the few books in the series not written from Lord Peter’s point of view.

This story focuses on Wimsey’s love interest, Harriet Vane, who happens to be a mystery novelist. This formidably clever, brusque and observant young woman is requested to solve a puzzling series of events at her old Oxford College. Since this was written in the 1930s, it is a very different world, but Sayers unerringly draws me into the long-forgotten mores and customs with her exact descriptions. In the unresolved relationship between Harriet and Peter, there is a romantic element, but what works for me every time I read this story is the development of Harriet’s character during the investigation as she comes to terms with her difficult past and her feelings for Peter. It’s simply wonderful storytelling.

My final choice is a bit left-field. It’s not a book I read very often, but if ever I lend or lose a copy, it’s one I have to replace immediately. Goblin Market by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti is a cautionary folk tale in poetic form as two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, are lured by forbidden fruit from goblin vendors. The richness of the language and imagery is dizzying, and despite the fairytale feel, this poem is far too complex and sensual to be intended solely for children. It begins with a catalogue of wares, including “Plump unpecked cherries, Melons and raspberries, Bloom-down-cheeked peaches, Swart-headed mulberries, Wild free-born cranberries,” and the list goes on. I’d be tempted, too!

I’m looking forward to finding out the other bloggers’ non-romantic book choices!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their top three non-romantic reads!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone : Amy Spector : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis

Read Around the Rainbow: How does music affect your writing?

I always enjoy reading about how music or sounds influence fellow authors when they are writing. So when music was suggested for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow topic, I was very much looking forward to hearing about everyone’s story playlists or what sounds inspire them to write.

Personally, I was slightly stymied, as at the first sound of music, I’m compelled to get up and dance. As that’s counterproductive to writing, I tend to write in silence! I thought I might have to give this month a miss, but when chatting online to the other lovely authors in the blog ring, we discussed the topic more generally, which gave me a germ of an idea.

My upcoming August story for JMS Books Night or Day submission call is called One Summer Night. It’s set in Regency London, and luckily enough, one of my main characters, Will, is a talented violinist, a profession he is unable to pursue due to his wealthy father’s disapproval. Although Will’s musical accomplishments are a side element to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the popular musical entertainments of the era when researching for this story.

The late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century were prolific for jobbing professional musicians. In London alone, orchestras were in demand, not only for private parties but also for performing in the many theatres, for example, Drury Lane or the Lyceum as well as other venues such as the Pantheon and the Argyll Rooms which hosted exhibitions, masquerades, balls and concerts.

Also, outdoor places of entertainment during the summer months catered for all sections of society and were hugely popular, like Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea (which still exists intact) to Vauxhall Gardens across the River Thames. In 1749 a rehearsal of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks at Vauxhall attracted an audience of 12,000, and in 1786 a fancy-dress jubilee catered for 61,000 revellers! In her wonderful Regency blog, the author Rachel Knowles has a couple of fascinating articles on the layout of the gardens and the variety of musical entertainments at Vauxhall in that period.

I stumbled across a comprehensive list of musicians who performed at Vauxhall Gardens in its heyday, and unsurprisingly, they were also regularly employed in theatre and assembly room orchestras. London’s live music scene was as vibrant then as it is now!

In One Summer Night, I couldn’t resist mentioning a performance featuring John Addison, a well-known and popular cellist at Vauxhall in the early 1800s. And when my characters attend a concert at The Pantheon on Oxford Street, I had to show Will, my violinist, escaping the confines of a theatre box and braving his father’s fury to mingle with his musical colleagues.

I’m looking forward to reading about the other bloggers discussing actual music!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are four other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their musical inspirations and playlists!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone :

Read Around the Rainbow: Do you set your stories where you live?

This is such an intriguing topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog, suggested by the lovely Fiona Glass. As we are a far-flung group geographically stretching over Europe and across the Atlantic, I’m so looking forward to reading about familiar and unfamiliar places!

I have to say I do tend to set my stories in familiar areas. Although I’m not English, many of my stories are spread across the West Country of England, where I spent my school and post-university years. As I write historical stories, I tend to have a map to hand from the specific era I’m writing about, from a book or online but it really helps creatively to be able to picture my characters in specific locations, walking down streets I know so well that I can see them in my mind.

So it’s not surprising that the counties of Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset all feature in my stories, including the towns of Marlborough and Cheltenham and the cities of Bristol and Bath. As a perk, I always enjoy discovering how these places appeared in certain centuries and finding out when certain areas and streets were built. I learn more while researching a place than I did when I lived there!

Also, I have quite a few stories set in London (as a capital city, it’s always a favourite amongst contemporary and historical authors). I thoroughly enjoyed researching the city limits of Elizabethan London for two of my romances, from the grandeur of Bishopsgate to the stews of Southwark. But it’s always a pleasure to write about the select world of Regency London, which I’ve described in several stories including my upcoming July release, Twelve Letters.

Although it was fashionable both then and now, I’m not that familiar with the exclusive residential district of Mayfair – far too posh for the likes of me! But I always try to include other areas and streets I know well. So I can imagine my main character Jo dashing across Piccadilly to save his best friend Ben from fighting a duel, or strolling through the streets of Soho with Daniel, his budding love interest, or popping into the Golden Lion on King Street in St. James’  for a hearty breakfast. If memory serves me right, that’s a little gem of a pub where I’ve enjoyed several reasonably priced lunchtime meals!

As always, I can’t wait to read all the blogs and learn about everyone else’s hometowns!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are eight other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their weird internet searches!

Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone : Lillian Francis: Holly Day :

Read Around the Rainbow: Story Characters as Teenagers at High School

What a happy coincidence that this month’s Read Around the Rainbow topic, suggested by the lovely Addison Albright, was the perfect fit for some of the characters in a couple of my upcoming stories.

Of course, since I write MM Historical Romance, high school (as we know it) wasn’t invented in the periods where my stories are set, but coming of age during teenage years is a similar experience in any era.

In my June Hugs and Kisses story for JMS Books, Luke and Jem, my main characters and central couple, are inseparable life-long companions who have grown up together in rural seventeenth-century Oxfordshire and shared their schooldays supervised by a strict schoolmaster. Outside the classroom, fearless Jem has always been the leader in all their boyhood adventures, but struggling with what we would now call dyslexia, he doesn’t excel at his studies.

On the other hand, Luke is a keen student with a passion for learning, especially literature, an interest he shares with their teacher. Luke covers for Jem in class, giving him his work to painstakingly copy out while the schoolmaster’s back is turned, to spare Jem from inevitable punishment.

The experience of their schooldays reflects how these two relate to each other. They are opposites in so many ways but fit together as a unit, their differing qualities complementing the other. Of course, growing up is not always easy, especially when friendship deepens to first love. As these two mature beyond their school years, with geographical distance and differing experiences, cracks appear to threaten their lifelong bond, which is where my story begins.

It was also fun to imagine the schooldays of Jo and Ben from my July story Twelve Letters for JMS Books’ Twelfth Anniversary submission call. In this London set Regency romance, these two are not a couple but have been friends since school and now in adult life, they have each other’s interests at heart.

In my story, easygoing Jo tries to persuade irascible Ben that he would be better off romancing rather than attempting to kill young Edward Stephens in a duel, whereas Ben is scathing of Jo’s choice of the spoiled and pampered Percy Havilland, an initial love interest before Jo comes to his senses.

In my mind’s eye, I can see the two of them at boarding school, even meeting on the first day, with outspoken, no-nonsense Ben drawn to Jo’s easy-going tolerance, and vice versa. I can imagine them becoming firm friends as they go through school, with Ben squaring up to anyone taking advantage of  Jo’s good nature. At the same time, Jo’s more diplomatic approach to life would help pugnacious Ben avoid getting into frequent fisticuffs or even expelled!

It’s been such fun to think of these four at school, and I’m so looking forward to reading about everyone else’s characters and their high school experiences.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are a few other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their characters during their high school days!

Nell Iris, Addison Albright, A.L. Lester and Kristin Noone.

Read Around the Rainbow: Weird Internet Searches

When we decided on the topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog, given I write gentle MM Historical Romances, I thought my contribution might be rather bland and vanilla compared to my fellow blog ringers. And that suspicion was only confirmed when I glanced through my recent bookmarks for this year.

For my Valentine’s story, The Spice of Life, set in Elizabethan England, I was looking up information on spice merchants and pomanders plus a map of Elizabethan London to check streets and routes for my characters to walk along. For my April story, London in the Rain, there were more maps (this time for 1930s London) and a couple of fascinating articles about clubs in the contemporary Queer scene in Soho. These were truly inspiring reads and lent so much vibrancy to my story.

There were similar searches relevant for my June and July stories. I looked up some info on 17th-century agriculture specifically for the county of Oxfordshire for my first story, and then for the second, some details about prosthetics for injuries sustained in the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

All was prim and proper until I got to my current story, One Summer Night. And then I went and spoiled it by having to fact check 18th-century dildos. I blame my characters entirely! Of course, there is nothing new about sex toys which are probably almost as old as the impulse. However, as available materials change over the centuries, it was important to ensure that any items mentioned in my story were made of historically relevant substances. That is my excuse, and I am sticking to it.

In case anyone ever needs some useless and random historical facts about sex toys, in 1793, according to James Caulfield in Blackguardiana: Or A Dictionary of Rogues, “dildoes are made of wax, horn, leather and other diverse substances and if fame does not lie more than usually, are to be had at many of our great toy shops and nick nackatories.” So now you know. And I’m definitely borrowing the term “nick nackatories” to drop into casual conversation.

Since then, normal service has resumed, and I’m back to searching early 19th-century entertainments at London’s Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and the 1802 Treaty of Amiens. That’s quite enough excitement for this year!

I’m thoroughly looking forward being amused and amazed by everyone else’s weird and wonderful internet searches.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are eight other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their weird internet searches!

Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone : A.L. Lester : Holly Day :

Read Around the Rainbow: My Ideal Writing Shack

I am so pleased to be joining in with the first entries in the Read Around the Rainbow Blog Ring. Thanks again to Ally, A.L. Lester, for organising us. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s posts!

I occasionally get inspiration while out and about and scribble something down in a notebook. But most of the time, I require a designated place and time to focus on my writing. However, when the lovely Nell Iris suggested this topic, I scratched my head as it’s not something I’ve much considered.

The amount of thought and care many authors put into their writing location is enviable. Nell often posts the most gorgeous pics on social media, full of seemingly effortless Scandinavian style, with a writing nook by a glowing hearth, or a specific area bright with fairy lights and candles. Truly magical.

In contrast, I simply write at my dining room table, facing a blank wall! But since this topic has made me ponder about where I write, perhaps that’s not a coincidence after all. Perhaps I need to look at something bland to visualise characters and situations in my mind’s eye? In my upcoming April story, for JMS Books, London in the Rain, while gazing at the wall, I could imagine my main character, Raymond, standing at the top of his office building deep in thought, looking over the foggy rooftops of 1930s London before descending the stairs to the rain-slicked pavements towards Soho and solace.

In an ideal world, I would love a study for writing. When I visualise this room, I realise I have modelled it on the middle room (as opposed to the front room, or the back room, aka the kitchen) in my grandmother’s house. The front room was a rather cold and chilly space, with glass-fronted cabinets containing often washed china ornaments, formal family photographs on the walls and a distinctly slippery and uncomfortable suite of furniture.

I remember when on regular visits to my grandmother’s as a child, being occasionally summoned into the front room to greet important guests. I would perch on the slippery sofa, my bottom slowly sliding off the surface, terrified that I would embarrass my grandmother by ending up on the floor in an unedifying heap!

The back room or kitchen was the hub of the house (the actual cooking took place in the scullery,) always full of activity, where my grandmother sewed, painted, listened to the wireless (as she called it) and welcomed neighbours for cups of tea and Welsh cakes. Apart from the hottest summer days, there was always a fire blazing, where we made toast at teatime.

But the middle room was a quiet, friendly space, lit by one sunny window, with none of the bustle of the kitchen or the off-putting sterility of the front room. Here, my mother did her homework and piano practice as a schoolgirl, my grandfather had his writing desk, and most of all, there were plenty of packed bookshelves. I remember spending many a peaceful afternoon curled up there, reading. So my ideal writing shack would be similar in atmosphere. I can see a cosy book-lined room with a comfortable-sized desk and a single window for brightness. In this peaceful space, I could comfortably describe all the characters who flit through my mind, chasing their happy ever afters.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month…find their posts about their ideal writing shacks here!

Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone : A.L. Lester

Read Around the Rainbow

Since you might have noticed the fancy new clickable rainbow graphic on the sidebar, I’m delighted to say that I’ve been included in an author blog ring, which means that our posts will be linked on the last Friday of every month. I am really looking forward to being part of this mini writing community alongside some wonderful authors, including A.L. Lester, Ofelia Grand, Holly Day, Nell Iris, K.L. Noone, Fiona Glass, Addison Albright, Amy Spector, J R Hart, and Lillian Francis.

It will be such a pleasure to be amongst authors who collectively write from every aspect of the rainbow and I’m very much looking forward to everyone’s posts. A big thank you to Ally Lester for coming up with the idea and then, and doing all the hard work for us! And also my personal thanks to Ofelia Grand for talking me through the techy side of things without any resultant explosions.

So on the last Friday of each month, do click on the rainbow graphic to check in with the other bloggers. I’ll certainly be joining in to follow everyone’s blogs with interest!