Thursday, 16 February 2017

Review: A Valentine Secret by Emily Murdoch

review-valentine-secret-emily-murdoch-book-the-writing-greyhound

Today it is my stop on the blog tour for Emily Murdoch's regency romance novella A Valentine Secret, which as you probably guessed from the title, is all about Valentine's Day! Now I know I'm a few days late for Valentine's Day itself, but it's still a really fun and light-hearted quick read - besides, we could all do with a little extra dose of romance in our lives, right?

The novella is a short and sweet read and can easily be devoured in one sitting. I read it on my lunch break over two days, and although I'm a fast reader, I think that shows just how quickly you can read it.

Similarly, the story itself is simple and follows one main plotline. It's uncomplicated and straight to the point - if you want a bedtime read that doesn't require you to think too much, then this is the ideal book for you.

review-valentine-secret-emily-murdoch-book-the-writing-greyhound
Image: Emily Murdoch / Writerly Yours
We have two main characters in the book - Penelope Dryden and Jonathon Brodie. Destined to be star-crossed lovers ever since their first meeting, class and status get in the way of the pair's romance. Miss Dryden is the adopted daughter of the local florist, whereas Jonathon is the only son of the local gentry, Sir Roger Brodie. Undeniably, this is an unlikely match, but Jonathon is nothing short of persistent in his pursuit of Miss Dryden, and without giving away any major spoilers, through a series of events their eventual union becomes more and more likely.

I find it a little odd that the two could fall in love so quickly - they go from never having spoken before to being on the verge of declaring their undying love for one another after having met only a handful of times. Personally, I find this to be unbelievable and slightly off-putting.

However, on the whole, A Valentine Secret is a fun and light-hearted read. If you don't take it seriously but do take it by its surface value, it's a short and sweet read perfect to satisfy your inner hopeless romantic this Valentine's Day.

Rating: 3 stars

If you missed my review of A Christmas Surprise, another of Emily Murdoch's regency romance novellas, you can catch that here. A Valentine Secret is available to buy now.

How was your Valentine's Day this year? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Guest Post: Writing in a Different Gender by Sam Taylor-Pye

Writing Jones’ story was an exciting journey. He started out as a young man of around twenty, a side character in a story that centred on a woman of similar age in mid-19th century San Francisco. I sat down to ‘talk ‘to him one day and sensed something vulnerable, wanting, and even dangerous around him. When he began to talk in that simple yet profound way that he does, and tell me what his story was all about, I knew he was the real star of the show.

I chose to start the novel back when Jones was a kid. Lost in San Francisco without protection, he finds shelter with other street kids looking for safety. Soon, he finds that sex work will be his best chance for a livelihood. All the while, he’s looking for love and security, in a violent, unforgiving, and divided world.

From the onset, I knew writing in the opposite sex was considered tough. But I thought Jones’ same-sex attraction would make it somewhat easier for me. I believed I only had to look back at myself at fourteen to learn what made his heart leap, and what hopes and dreams for a relationship with a boy he might desire.

On the surface, it seemed it would be a breeze. I’d just imagine my younger self -falling for a man inappropriate for my age, which wasn’t hard, and there we go. But as a writer, I had to get deep inside Jones' head. Really nestle in there. And not surprisingly, he started acting like a teenage boy, rather than a girl in a boy’s body, which I suppose was how I was imagining him. Jones started railing against being ‘a girl in a boy’s body’ from page one. He completely refused to play ball.

guest-post-writing-different-gender-sam-taylor-pye-books

To understand more of what I thought I knew but didn’t, I began to research queer theory. In the end, I began to consider that people who identify as feminine, regardless of sexuality, are more vulnerable to abuse from those people who identify as masculine, particularly the toxic kind. This, for me, became a dilemma for Jones, who appears very feminine and is seen by others as being so, but is drawn to the ideal of a strong man, sexually and otherwise. In the story, I think he’s often badly treated in the same way women can be in submissive feminine/overtly dominant masculine relationships, which I didn’t really think would happen.

Then there was the whole problem of how to write about the subject matter - particularly Jones’ youth sex work, as well as his relationship with an adult who has issues with his own masculinity.

To help with the writing, I drew from several sources: historical research relating to youth male sex work from the late 19th century and early 20th century (the time authorities began making records). I researched contemporary sex workers (via blogs from male escorts, for example) and also explored the terrible legacy of child sex abuse in our culture.

For historical accuracy, amongst other research, I read newspaper articles written in California during the civil war and found political and social opinions divided. Some of what was written was shockingly racist and xenophobic. There was talk of separatism from the State amidst moral decline. I was influenced by some of this when writing dialogue for the novel’s villains and had to consider, all the time, how my main character would be affected. I also researched Native American people of the Bay area and the long time settlement history of people from Mexico and China.

In addition to this, I needed Jones’ voice to be authentic and give the illusion of historical place. Huckleberry Finn became the main resource for me to try and make Jones’ 19th-century voice sound as authentic as possible when reading it. I wanted to emulate this in the novel, without making Jones sound like Finn. But, like Finn, I had him talk about the violence, cruelty and passions in a gruff, matter of fact, sometimes darkly humorous way. I also looked at John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy for some of the writing style, dialogue particularly, and at the same time had a mind toward folklore and oral storytelling. In my head, Jones tells me the story, at other times I watch it play out and write it down.

About Goldsmith Jones

guest-post-writing-different-gender-sam-taylor-pye-books
Image: Sam Taylor Pye / Authoright PR
Fourteen-year-old Goldsmith Jones is left stranded in crime-ridden, gangland territory. He finds himself living at The Shades, a home to local street kids. While selling sexual favours down the Dead Man’s Alley to survive, Jones is charmed by a seaman he knows as Sweet Virginia. Moving further away from the relative security that The Shades and his best friend, Raccoon, offered him, Jones is drawn ever closer to the manipulative Sweet Virginia. When Raccoon falls gravely ill and is taken to convalesce on the rural Rancheria, Jones is left under the controlling powers of the unscrupulous navvy. Swindled and wrongly accused, he is unexpectedly rescued by the leader of the villainous Suarez Brothers, the charismatic Saul. Faced with a choice between becoming Saul’s ‘little brother’ and saving Sweet Virginia’s life, Goldsmith Jones must embark on a dangerous journey which will change his young life forever.

Goldsmith Jones is available to buy now.

About Sam Taylor-Pye

guest-post-writing-different-gender-sam-taylor-pye-books
Image: Sam Taylor-Pye / Authoright PR
Sam Taylor-Pye grew up on the border between Washington state and British Columbia, Canada and currently lives in Kent in the UK. She received her BA from the Open University and has an MA in Creative Writing. This is her first published novel.

What are your thoughts on gender within fiction? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review: White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

book-review-white-lies-wishes-cathy-bramley-blog-tour

What happens when what you wish for is only half the story...?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meet by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.


Book, Review, White Lies and Wishes, Cathy Bramley, Blog Tour, Corgi, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland
Image: Cathy Bramley / Corgi Books
Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Cathy Bramley's newest release, White Lies and Wishes. This is the first book of Cathy's that I've had the pleasure to read, so I'm very happy to have had the chance to read and review this one.

On the surface, White Lies and Wishes is a fun, lighthearted read, a sort of contemporary rom-com in bookish form. We follow our three main characters - Jo, Sarah and Carrie - as they go about the process of completing their wishes, becoming firm friends along the way.

That all sounds rosy, but then as the story digs deeper we discover that each of the women is hiding something. In fact, none of them has been entirely truthful about their wishes or admitted what it is that they really want. Without giving away any spoilers, I actually find their true wishes to be a little sad. Each of their real wishes is a completely valid thing to want, and the sad thing is the fact that they feel they have to hide these wishes for one reason or another. It just makes you think - how many women are out there in the real world facing similar dilemmas?

book-review-white-lies-wishes-cathy-bramley-blog-tour
Image: Cathy Bramley / Penguin Random House
Despite that, it's an entertaining read, packed with plenty of humour. I loved how different the three women are, yet how well they work together as a team, really bringing out the best qualities in one another. They are interesting to read about, engaging, and you find yourself really rooting for them and wanting them to succeed and achieve their wishes. 

The plot is a little predictable, but then I suppose that's to be expected. This is the type of book you go into knowing there will be a happy ending, but when it comes you're happy all the same. I also loved the grounding and down-to-earth realities of the character's lives. I'm from Northamptonshire myself, coming from a family in the shoe-making industry, so it was great from a personal perspective to read about Jo and Gold's. 

Rating: 3 stars

White Lies and Wishes is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Guest Post & Giveaway (CLOSED): Ethnicity's Place in Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red is an interracial crime novel but it is, first and foremost, a crime novel. At its centre is the theft of a priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace. That theft sets in motion the novel's action and, together with the hunt to find the necklace, it pushes the action forward. The crime also brings together the novel's disparate characters, each of whom contributes something different to the story, but the ethnicity of the characters is incidental to the plot. In other words, with minor exceptions, a reader would not know whether a given character was white or black if the character weren't described as such. On this latter point, permit me a slight digression. 

When an author doesn't point out a character's ethnicity, the widely accepted default position is that the character is white. I haven't done a scientific study but I think this statement is true. Therefore, even where race or ethnicity is an issue in a novel, the author expects his readers to assume that all of the characters are white unless the writer says a particular character is black or describes him or her as such. This default position is a little trickier to handle where the novel's setting is a place where blacks predominate, such as Africa or certain countries in the Caribbean like Jamaica. In those cases, authors do often specifically point out when a character is white to distinguish that character from the predominant group. My novel takes place in Chicago and Honolulu, so I have adhered to the default position by directly pointing out when a character is black or by indicating it by describing the colour of the character's skin.

The above digression aside, the point of this piece was to explore ways of addressing two questions that arise when writing a crime novel in which some of the main characters are black (or are of some other non-white ethnicity), but in which their ethnicity is not central to the story, as is true in my novel. The first question is how the novel should be marketed. The description of Pigeon-Blood Red on the novel's back cover is completely silent as to the ethnicity of the characters, because their ethnicity is incidental to the story. Here is that description:

"After an unfaithful husband and his lover try to double-cross a loan shark, they endanger the lives of the man's unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue. Pursued by a "killer with a conscience," the wife and her newly found protector must decide what to do with a stolen ruby necklace worth millions. And their pursuer must decide what to do with them: murder them as ordered - although one of them saved his life - or refuse and risk the life of the woman he loves."

The unfaithful husband and his lover are both black, as are the unsuspecting wife and the old flame, while the loan shark and the killer with a conscience are white. Race is irrelevant to these characters as they react to the theft of the necklace and as they interact with each other. Therefore, pointing out their race in the description of the novel adds nothing. This is not to say that race might not have been relevant to a different set of characters I might have imagined. It could have, just not in this novel. But wait for the sequel!

The second question is whether a realistic interracial crime novel can be written where race is merely incidental to the story. My answer is yes because Pigeon-Blood Red is that novel. That said, I do in fact mention race in the novel, but only a few times and then only tangentially. Addressing it, if only incidentally, was a bow to reality. Regrettably, at this time and place in our history, it is very difficult to ignore race completely. Perhaps it will not always be so.

About Pigeon-Blood Red

guest-post-ethnicity-place-pigeon-blood-red-ed-duncan
Image: Ed Duncan / Book Publicity Services
For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime. 

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?


About Ed Duncan

guest-post-ethnicity-place-pigeon-blood-red-ed-duncan
Image: Ed Duncan / Book Publicity Services
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland and is at work on the second instalment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.

For more information about Ed and his work, visit his website or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

Giveaway

If you think Pigeon-Blood Red sounds interesting, then you're in luck, as I've kindly been given a copy to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note, this is a US only giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 5th February 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one paperback or Kindle copy (winner's choice) of Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan.
  3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by the promoter, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
  4. This giveaway is open to US residents only.
  5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
  6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
  7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.
Pigeon-Blood Red is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Interview: Faye Hall

Today I am super pleased to be able to bring you an interview with historical romance author Faye Hall, ahead of the release of her latest novel, Deceit and Devotion.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

My name is Faye Hall and I’m a published author of steamy historical romantic suspense stories set in the beautiful coastal towns of 19th Century Australia. I currently have six titles available from Beachwalk Press and Red Sage Publishing.

How did you first become interested in writing? 

I’ve written stories ever since I can remember. I got really dedicated, though, towards the end of High School when my then English teacher told me I would never amount to a decent writer. That gave me the drive to want to prove him wrong.

What draws you to writing romance? 

I love happily ever afters. But more so I love putting the characters’ lives through turmoil and knowing that no matter what I put them through they will always end up with the love of their life. To me, that’s something very important and not something often allowed in people’s real lives.

Image: Faye Hall
Why did you decide to write historical fiction? 

I love history. A few years back, I did my own family’s history and how they came to Australia. It made me wonder about the struggles these families must have gone through together and how they were lucky enough to have a love to survive it all.

Tell me about Deceit and Devotion. 

My newest release Deceit and Devotion is a complex tale of a young half-caste aboriginal man, Jarrah, who is hired to seduce a white man’s wife. In turn, the wife, Emily, hires Jarrah to spy on her husband and find his connection to her father’s missing black opal collection. The relationship that develops between Jarrah and Emily is a very controversial one and was very taboo in the 19th century.

Do you find it difficult to write about race, as it can be such a sensitive topic? 

Yes! I find it very hard to write about race as there is so much tension and controversy surrounding the racial past of Australia.

How do you get inspiration? 

My husband is always my greatest inspiration and he is always letting me rebound ideas off him and he often gives me ideas for new stories.

What’s your writing process? 

It’s very scattered. I have a large family so writing happens when and if I can. I’ve also got very used to writing with constant interruptions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Usually, the beginning is the hardest for me to write. I never quite know where to start. More often than not, by the time I’ve written the ending, I need to go back and rewrite the first few chapters to tie everything in.

Image: Faye Hall
What do you love most about writing? 

I love creating the characters with all their different personalities. That would have to be my favourite part by far.

Which authors inspire you? 

Love Amanda Quick! She has always been my greatest inspiration.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

Never give up and learn to take criticism. Don’t take too much to heart and just keep writing if that’s what you love.

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

To Kill a Mockingbird.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

I would love to have multiple best sellers.

What are you currently working on? 

A book called Heart of Stone – a story about an Australian slave trader who becomes entangled with an Irish slave.

Deceit and Devotion is available to buy now. To find out more about Faye and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook

Have you read any of Faye's books? Let me know in the comments below!