Tuesday, December 23, 2008

MERRY, MERRY, MERRY EVERYTHING


WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE:

CHRISTMAS, HANUKKAH, KWANZAA, AND SO ON....I WISH YOU ALL THE JOYOUS TIDINGS OF THIS SPECIAL SEASON AND A WONDERFUL, HEALTHY, PROSPEROUS, PEACEFUL 2009.

FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW MY BLOG, A SINCERE THANK YOU AND I PROMISE TO TRY TO POST MORE OFTEN NEXT YEAR.



Lisa Marie

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Writerly Stuff: Regency Etiquette Rules



I was invited to write a piece for the Unusual Historicals blog this month on the topic of Social Taboos, so I thought I might have a little fun with it (and hopefully those who read my post will, too).

On Monday, November 17th, please spend a few minutes of your day to
take the "Regency Etiquette Rules Quiz." It's all in fun. I don't think I could have survived the Regency era. Just too darn many rules!









Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Review: Broken Wing by Judith James

Note: This is a re-post of a post originally published last year. I joined the re-read challenge issued by a group of bloggers and am posting my review of Judith James' Broken Wing.

I’ve always been a fan of the tortured hero. Not only from the perspective of a reader witnessing the redemption of the hero as he battles to triumph over his personal demons, but also as a writer interested in the study of craft. For generations, writers have used their skill at portraying the soul in torment to create heart-wrenching stories with unforgettable characters.

“Broken Wing,” the debut novel by author Judith James, contains one such memorable tortured hero in the form of Gabriel St. Croix, a young man who was grown up in the tawdry environment of a Parisian brothel. Gabriel has learned to insulate himself completely from the world around him in order to protect his soul from the endless parade of strangers who want only his body. Beneath Gabriel’s harsh, cynical, often uncivil exterior beats the heart of a good man who cannot bear to see a child abused in the manner Gabriel has been abused. Gabriel takes it upon himself to protect the young boy Jaime from predators who would debase and ruin the child. In doing so, Gabriel sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually lead to his own salvation when Jaime’s widowed sister Sarah comes to liberate her brother.

“Broken Wing” is an engrossing love story with themes of redemption and the power of love at its core. While some readers might find the subject matter unsettling, the author has navigated Gabriel’s dark world with sensitivity and compassion. From the moment Gabriel and Sarah first set eyes on each other, the spark of attraction between them is palpable. Even when Gabriel is consistently rude and deliberately shocking, Sarah remains undaunted and increasingly curious about this unfriendly stranger who suffered untold hardships and new humiliations in order to spare her brother the same fate Gabriel has experienced.

There are no false notes in this story; the relationship between Gabriel and Sarah unfolds at a believable pace, with scenes of revelation and tenderness that are heart-breaking yet thoroughly engaging as Sarah slowly reveals the sensitive, tender man beneath Gabriel’s gruff, wounded exterior. Sarah’s initial feelings of gratitude over Gabriel’s rescue of her brother yield to deeper emotions as Sarah realizes that Gabriel’s exterior is an artifice built out of self-loathing. It is Sarah who is able to make Gabriel see himself as she sees him; convincing Gabriel that he is greater than the sum of degrading experiences forced upon him during his short life. In the end, Gabriel is redeemed through Sarah’s love, earning “Broken Wing” a permanent place on my keeper shelf.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writerly Stuff: Another Debut Novel Milestone: My First Experience with Edits

My Advance Reader Copies (aka “ARCS”) were distributed with the same content contained in my original manuscript submission. That is, with every content, grammar, syntax and what-have-you type of error committed by yours truly during the writing of my Great American Historical Romance novel.

The timeline to publication required by my publisher necessitated that I did not receive my edits until recently, and so I’ve had several months to hear about the overall edit experience from other writers, including those who write for other houses.

It’s interesting, this mysterious process of editing. The specifics of the method seem to vary from publisher to publisher. There are publishers who employ no editors (these folks must also like to bungee-jump off the precipice of Niagara Falls for kicks and giggles, too) to publishers who assign specific editorial tasks across multiple editors. My publisher believes in the value of an editor, I’m happy to report.

There seems to be a general consensus among writers that edits arrive at the worst possible moment. Examples cited to me that tend to support this theory: edits received on the day one’s spouse or beloved parent passed away, edits that hit the inbox while the writer was away on vacation, a 72 hour contractually required turn around when the writer had contracted a severe case of the flu and had a fever of 102…these are just a few of the horror stories I’ve heard. In my own case, I received my edits on a Friday morning after I had been scheduled to work the entire weekend. My edits were due back by early the next week. Not the worst scenario, but I think we’ve already established that I’m a worrier.

For months prior to receiving my edits, I anguished over how extensive the edits might be. A writer friend who also writes for the same publisher encouraged me by saying that the senior editor who purchased my book would not have purchased a book with any major flaws. Still, I’d also heard reports that this editor had a long list of pet peeves, and although I had scoured my submission and attempted to remove as many of these verboten items as possible, I was worried. So, it was with a great sense of foreboding that I downloaded the file attachment of my manuscript from my Yahoo Inbox.

I opened the file and started to scan through the document, my heart racing as the pages flew by and I searched for editorial comments. The instructions to me were to review and approve the edits. Approve? I didn’t think that instruction really stated the case with accuracy. Basically, the edits are the changes the editor is proposing to make; and a debut author is not wise to argue each point. There is a tacit understanding that the editor knows best. As I reviewed the editor’s comments and her proposed changes, I saw the value in that position. I noted some idiosyncrasies, for example, my editor has an aversion to the word “small,” therefore, almost every instance of the word had a substitution such as “modest,” or “little” inserted. She noted my bad habit of substituting pronouns in place of proper names (a technique I picked up after a contest judge scored me low because she felt I used my character names too often and suggested I use more pronouns). I concurred with my editor, and in fact, agreed with the majority of her suggested changes. I picked my battles and inserted a comment with (what I hoped was) a cogent explanation each time I felt strongly that I wanted the original to stand. It took only a few hours to review the entire manuscript and add my comments. A few days later, I inquired and was told that my suggestions had been accepted and my book had now entered the production phase, bringing it one step closer to my March 2009 publication date.

What have I learned from the experience? That edits are only to be feared if one has an unskilled editor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Writerly Stuff: Writers on Readers

I've been thinking this week about the importance of the reader in a writer's life.

With my debut novel less than six months from release, I keep thinking, "who will buy my book?" Family, assuredly. Friends, hopefully. Colleagues, perhaps. But what about those people who don't know me who would much rather spend their hard earned dollars on a known quantity, (i.e., an author they already enjoy). With readers, I guess it's a leap of faith when a debut author is involved.

A month ago I began running a drawing on my website for a free ARC (advance reader copy) of my novel. I thought, "5 people will enter, and I'll send something to everyone who showed interest." To date, I've had over 100 people enter, so now I'm planning to have 1 ARC winner, plus I'm trying to decide what I can do for all the other entrants on my small promotional budget. Anyone who expresses interest in "Fire at Midnight" at this stage has earned my lasting gratitude and a permanent place on my mailing list (unless they ask to be removed). I've read every comment form and savored the encouraging comments from people who don't know me and have yet to read my work. That's why I've been thinking about how very important readers are to writers.


I've come across some fabulous quotes from writers far more talented than I on the topic of the relationship between readers and writers, and I'm going to post a few here because they're worthy of sharing:


"Readers, after all, are making the world with you. You give them the materials, but it's the readers who build that world in their own minds."--Ursula Le Guin


"Story is to human beings what the pearl is to the oyster." --Joseph Gold


"The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story."-- Ursula K. Le Guin


Happy reading and writing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writerly Stuff: Blogging on Unusual Historicals Today

An article I've written on the Romany wedding ceremony, along with an excerpt from my upcoming novel, "Stolen Promise," is featured in today's edition of Unusual Historicals.

http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2008/09/women-romany-wedding-ceremony.html

This type of research is what makes writing historical novels so much fun!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Film Review: The Reckoning

It's easy to understand why a powerful film like "The Reckoning" could appear and disappear almost simultaneously upon release. With the current popularity of Japanese horror film rip-offs and tired, formulaic romantic comedies, a morality tale set in 14th century Europe probably wasn't the most commercially viable undertaking for Paramount, the studio that released this film. The Reckoning stars Willem Dafoe and Paul Bettany in such solid performances that it is disheartening this film did not experience a wider release.

After watching Willem Dafoe ("Platoon") mug his way through "Spiderman," it was nice to be reminded that he is indeed a capable actor. Paul Bettany's body of work has demonstrated range (a flair for comedy in "A Knight's Tale" and skilled, dramatic turns in "Master and Commander" and "A Beautiful Mind"), but those films did not prepare me for the riveting performance he delivers in this film. As a disgraced monk fleeing justice, Bettany attaches himself to an itinerant group of actors who roam the countryside performing plays in exchange for food and shelter. He journeys with them to the next town, where they conclude that a woman has been falsely accused of a crime and has been unjustly sentenced to death.

I won't divulge more of the plot here because my goal in writing this review is to encourage others to see the film. While the film does have flaws (Vincent Cassel is wasted in the one dimensional role of the villain, and Brian Cox is likewise not given enough to do), "The Reckoning" is an allegory on personal responsibility in the context of good versus evil and it is a moving, gorgeously filmed, well-acted drama. If your personal taste does not embrace historical morality tales, this probably won't be your cup of tea, but anyone who enjoyed "The Name of the Rose," or "Flesh and Blood" (Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh), should find this a thought-provoking, well-crafted film.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Win an Advance Reader Copy of Award-Winning Historical Romance "Fire at Midnight"

I'm having a drawing on my website offering a signed copy of an advance reader's copy of my award-winning debut novel, "Fire at Midnight" as the prize.


This will be a bound, unedited, warts-and-all version as submitted to the publisher. The novel is scheduled for release on March 1, 2009.


If interested, please visit my website and fill out the online form.

http://www.lisamariewilkinson.com/

"Fire at Midnight," Medallion Press March 2009
"Stolen Promise," Medallion Press March 2010
http://www.medallionpress.com/blurbs/firemidnight.html

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Writerly Stuff: I'm a Finalist in the Published Division of Utah RWA's "Heart of the West" Contest!

I learned last weekend that my current work-in-progress, "Forget Me Not" is a finalist in the "Heart of the West" contest held by the Utah chapter of Romance Writers of America. This is thrilling for me because I'm currently in somewhat of a limbo stage between being unpublished and published, therefore I don't qualify for the majority of RWA chapter contests. My debut novel, a historical romance entitled "Fire at Midnight" will be released by Medallion Press in March of 2009.


As an unpublished writer, I received a great deal of encouragement from contest judges during my stint submitting entries on the unpublished contest circuit. While most folks might think that finding a publisher and having two historical romance novels under contract awaiting publication might provide sufficient validation, I still find myself listening to that insidious inner voice that constantly says, "You're terrible. You stink. Why are you spending all your free time trying to write stories when you obviously have no talent?" So, finaling in a contest where I'm competing with other published writers provides the boost I need to think if I finish my current WIP, I might interest a publisher in it as well. I wonder: are all writers neurotic like this, or is it just me?



I'm going to publish the full list of finalists in the Utah RWA "Heart of the West" contest, both unpublished and published, because the difference between those two categories is often just that one serendipitous moment when a writer's work connects with the right editor and the phone call or e-mail happens.



Congratulations to all!



16th Annual Heart of the West Writers Contest Finalists



Historical

The McCUTCHEONS by Caroline Fyffe

THE MASQUERADING DUKE by Stephie Smith

DONNE WITH LOVE by Sally Orr

THE RANCHER by Kelli Ann Morgan



Contemporary

HOT BODS by Dara-Lee Snow

SOUTH OF HER BORDER by Cindy Nielson

THEIR IMITATION MARRIAGE by Kirsty Cleverly

THE NEIGHBOR UPSTAIRS by Anne Lum



Mystery/Suspense

GUARDIAN ANGEL by Rita Henuber

STEALING BEST IN SHOW by Elizabeth Pina

DANCE AWAY, DANGER by Lexi Connor

AFTER THE WAR by Jessica Dawson



Paranormal

THE IMPETUOUS AMAZON by Sandy James

TOUCH OF TWILIGHT by Clarissa Ellison

WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES by Maree Anderson

THE WIZARD'S ORPHANS by Rosemary Haggerty



Published

LOST IN LOVE by Kathy Johnson

PAYING THE PIPER by Rachel Brimble

DELICIOUS by Judie Aitken

FORGET ME NOT by Lisa Marie Wilkinson



Inspirational

THE QUEST by Dani Pettrey

SOURDOUGH CREEK by Caroline Fyffe

TURNING PAIGE by Kara Bonnevie

THE WALLET by Elizabeth Pina



Golden Pen- URWA Members Only

SOUTH OF HER BORDER by Cindy Nielson

THE RANCHER by Kelli Ann Morgan

THE SCARRED HEIR by Denise Patrick

CROSS MY HEART by Iamni Miller

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Writerly Stuff: Do People Sometimes Predict Their Own Deaths?

Because I write historical novels, and they tend to be, ah, unusual, I've had the honor of being invited to become a regular contributor to the Unusual Historicals blog. My first article as a contributor falls under the category "Famous People," and I've chosen to create a fictional interview with inventor Henry Winstanley, whose wish to test the lighthouse he designed and built during "the greatest storm there ever was" proved to be prophetic. I also managed to work in an excerpt from my upcoming Medallion Press release, "Fire at Midnight," into the article as well. The famous lighthouse figures prominently in my novel. The following link will take you to the article:



http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2008/07/famous-people-henry-winstanley.html

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review: Her One Desire by Kimberly Killion

“Her One Desire” provides all the elements necessary for a thoroughly satisfying historical romance. Broc is an alpha hero with just enough insecurity to render him endearing. Lizbeth is a plucky heroine who earns the sympathy and support of the reader as surely as she wins the hero’s heart, and Lord Hollister is definitely a villain worthy of contempt.


This stunning England/Scotland set medieval historical romance by talented debut author Kimberly Killion is a fast-paced, sensual, emotionally engaging story that not only delivers the exciting story promised by the cover blurb, but also manages to deliver a fresh plot that deftly balances tense drama with scenes of tenderness and humor.


With themes of redemption, salvation, hope—and most of all, the power of love—“Her One Desire” allows the reader to witness Lizbeth’s growth from the timid “Lady Ives,” daughter of England’s Lord High Executioner, into Scottish chieftain Broc’s beloved wife “Lizzy.” Lizbeth holds her own against a mother-in-law who comes equipped with a sword and a villain determined to steal everything Lizbeth has ever valued in life. This author is one to watch, and I’m looking forward to her next novel, “Highland Dragon.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Film Review: Dracula (1979)

Reprising the role he played on Broadway in this 1979 film, actor Frank Langella’s interpretation of “Dracula” is stylish and sexy with the requisite undercurrent of evil. In this film version, Lucy’s fascination for the mysterious, charismatic Count causes her fiancĂ© Jonathan Harker to be wary of Dracula even before there is cause to suspect the Count of any wrongdoing. After Lucy’s friend Mina dies unexpectedly, Harker slowly comes to realize that much more is at stake (forgive the pun) than merely Lucy’s affection. This movie is heavy on atmosphere; with foggy exterior locations and evocative settings that include a decaying abbey and a convincingly rendered insane asylum.

This is one of the better Dracula movies for several reasons, not the least of which include quality performances by the entire cast, Sir Laurence Olivier in a late- career performance as Van Helsing, and a sweeping, dramatic score by film composer John Williams (“Jaws,” “Star Wars”). It takes more than one viewing of this film to fully appreciate its sly humor and inventiveness. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that Professor Seward (Donald Pleasance) is almost always eating and perpetually wears the evidence on his shirt front.

There are subtle, creepy hints of menace such as an overhead shot of a large spider traversing its web as Lucy (Kate Nelligan, “Eleni,” “Without a Trace,”) simultaneously enters Dracula’s home in response to his dinner invitation. Director John Badham (“WarGames,” “Saturday Night Fever,”) artfully delivers the scares at regular intervals; the pace is deliberate and the visual impact carefully calculated. The scene in which Van Helsing discovers that his daughter Mina has become a vampire begins as a claustrophobic search of the tunnels beneath the cemetery and builds during a nail-biting sequence that slowly moves from Mina’s decayed slippers to the horror of her demonic, ruined face. For lovers of the genre, this is a satisfying entry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Film Review: Streets of Fire

1984’s “Streets of Fire” is billed as a “rock and roll fable,” and that seemingly pretentious label is actually quite appropriate. The film has an unusual look: a stylish hodgepodge of images that evoke American culture: rock and roll, vintage cars, Capitalism and class struggle. Walter Hill directs a cast of deliberately stereotypical characters: the loner tough-guy hero (Michael ParĂ© of “Eddie and the Cruisers”), the damsel-in-distress (Diane Lane of “Unfaithful,” and “The Perfect Storm,”), and the villain (Willem Dafoe of “Platoon,” and “Spiderman”). Contrasts abound: the music is 80’s pop, the clothing and automobiles are from the 50’s and 60’s, and the entire movie plays out against a backdrop that looks like a movie set. This is one of those genre defying films that requires you to believe in the world it presents to you. Films such as “Legend,” “Dark City,” “Phantom of the Paradise,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Moulin Rouge” share this surreal quality. The plot is simple: bad guy steals girl, good guy (ex-boyfriend), goes to rescue her. One performance in particular that makes the movie memorable is Amy Madigan (“Pollock” and “Field of Dreams) as a spunky, philosophy-spouting, spoiling-for-a-fight drifter who offers (for a price) to help the hero rescue his ex-girlfriend from the motorcycle gang that kidnapped her. The soundtrack boasts a Top 40 hit by the late Dan Hartman (“I Can Dream About You”) as well as the talents of Ry Cooder, Jim Steinman, Stevie Nicks, and Maria McKee, among others. This is a largely undiscovered gem of a movie that is well worth taking the time to view.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book Review: Run Among Thorns by Anna Louise Lucia

Having grown up cutting my reader-teeth on romantic suspense novels by Mary Stewart, I immediately know when I begin reading what will be, for me, a keeper. "Run Among Thorns" opens with grim government agent types reviewing footage of Jenny Waring expertly dispatching her captors during a tense hostage situation. The reader senses the appalling skills exhibited by the young woman have tossed her from the frying pan into the fire when we're introduced to Kier McAllister, a master of interrogation and psychological games of terror. McAllister spirits Jenny out of the country and takes her to a secluded cottage in Scotland, where he plans to use every technique available to him to force Jenny to abandon her cover story. The problem is, Jenny isn't an agent, secret or otherwise. She's a young woman with outstanding survival instincts who learned marksmanship at an early age, but when faced with the hard core McAllister, she's hard-pressed to convince him she isn't a product of special training being primed for military action. When McAllister squares off against his captive in a test of wit and will, he gradually concludes Jenny might be no more than the innocent she claims to be. He begins to suspect the agency who hired him has ulterior motives that have nothing to do with scoring Jenny as a new operative . McAllister, who has always taken pride in his work, must now use every survival trick he knows to keep Jenny alive. Fans of romantic suspense will find this novel satisfying because the story focuses on the building relationship between Jenny and Kier; the special operative/secret government agency theme forms a backdrop, but the story is really about the developing rapport between the two main characters. On the strength of this debut novel, I'm looking forward to the author's next release, "Dangerous Lies."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Film Review: Swept from the Sea

Adapted from Joseph Conrad’s short story “Amy Foster,” “Swept from the Sea” chronicles the ill-fated romance between a shipwreck survivor and the outcast of a coastal village. Bound for a better life in America, European emigrant Yanko (Vincent Perez, “Indochine,” “Queen Margot,”) is stranded in a vaguely hostile English coastal farming community after he survives a violent storm at sea. Initially believed to be a thief or a madman, Yanko is mistreated by all except Amy until the local country doctor, (Sir Ian McKellen, “Lord of the Rings,” “Gods and Monsters,” “X-Men,”) realizes that the non-English speaking stranger in their midst is the sole survivor of the shipwreck.

The connection between Yanko and Amy (Rachel Weitz, “About a Boy,” “The Mummy,” “Stealing Beauty,”) is immediate and electric, and Yanko is enthralled by her. He is motivated to learn English and earn money so that he can eventually come courting, and the scene in which he shyly comes to call on Amy for the first time is awkward and endearing. The fact that Amy and Yanko are both outcasts in the community forges a bond between them. Yanko is not accepted because of his foreign-ness and Amy is shunned for no discernable reason other than she is perceived to be different. This film presents an unflinching view of how intolerance isolates people, and the tragic conclusion only underscores the importance of acceptance and community. This lyrical, well-acted period piece will appeal to those who find a film satisfying even when the conclusion is not the requisite happy ending one expects from a romance.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Film Review: Dear Frankie

“Dear Frankie” is one of those extremely satisfying small films that often get lost in the crush of the major motion picture distribution machine. How do you market a film that does not boast A-list stars, a multi-million dollar budget, car chases, wars, police dramas, historical sagas or monsters of either the human or alien kind? This film stars Emily Mortimer (“Bright Young Things,” “Young Adam,”) and Gerard Butler (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Timeline,” “Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life,” “Dracula 2000”) in lyrical performances that both entertain and touch the heart. Lizzie (played by Mortimer) is a single mother with a nine year old son named Frankie. Frankie has grown up believing that his absent father is a seaman assigned to the HMS Accra. Frankie has been writing letters to his Dad for years, and Lizzie has been reading and replying to Frankie’s letters. Frankie is deaf and is not a particularly communicative child, so Lizzie depends upon the letters to provide insight into what is going on in her child’s mind. Lizzie has fostered the lie about Frankie’s father in order to protect her son from the truth, but when Frankie learns that the HMS Accra is scheduled to dock in the small village where he and his mother currently live, Frankie is thrilled by the idea of a reunion with his father, while Lizzie is horrified by her predicament. Convinced that telling Frankie the truth will destroy their relationship, Lizzie decides to pay a stranger to play the part of Frankie’s father for the brief duration of the visit. The stranger (played by Butler) is somewhat judgmental about Lizzie in the beginning, but he quickly bonds with Frankie and as he learns the reasons behind the lengths to which Lizzie has gone to protect her son, he finds himself being drawn into their lives. “Dear Frankie” employs sentiment in moderation, so it’s not a cloying film, and the quality of the acting makes the characters multi-dimensional, even edgy, with a human heart.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Film Review: Ladyhawke

1985’s “Ladyhawke” is a well-acted, unabashedly romantic medieval fairy-tale. Rutger Hauer (of “Blade Runner”) and Michelle Pfeifer (of “White Oleander” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys”) star as two lovers separated by a curse placed upon them by an evil bishop. The story begins as wily thief “Mouse” (played by film and Broadway veteran Matthew Broderick) crosses paths with intrepid knight Navarre and quickly finds himself entangled in Navarre’s quest to find a way to end the spell that causes Navarre to take the form of a wolf by night while his beloved Isabeau is trapped in the body of a falcon by day. The curse is a cruel enchantment that allows the two lovers only brief glimpses of each other as they shape shift into their animal counterparts each day. Despite strong elements of fantasy in the plot, “Ladyhawke” contains a strong emotional core. By the time Navarre and Isabeau are finally able to confront the evil bishop side by side in their human form, we share their triumph because we’ve shared their journey and witnessed the torment and danger they’ve faced. The dialogue is witty, the action is well-choreographed, and the poignant characters and satisfying ending will appeal to viewers who enjoyed such films as “Ever After” and “A Knight’s Tale.” Fans who enjoyed Rutger Hauer in the medieval setting of “Ladyhawke” might also enjoy the adult-themed “Flesh and Blood.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Film Review: Jane Eyre

My first exposure to the 1983 version of “Jane Eyre” starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke was over 10 years ago when I happened to tune in on an installment of it on my local PBS station. Even though I had tuned in mid-story, it was apparent that I had stumbled upon a treasure. When it was released on VHS, I immediately added a copy of it to my video collection, and when I learned that it was about to be released on DVD, I was thrilled that this masterwork would be available in DVD format. If you have enjoyed any of the many filmed versions of “Jane Eyre,” do not hesitate to add this one to your rental queue, because it is inarguably the best of the lot. The performances in this version capture the complexities and nuances of these complicated characters at a level that transcends simple acting technique; Dalton and Clarke ARE Rochester and Jane. Actor Timothy Dalton can claim the distinction of having played both of the Bronte sisters’ classic male leads (Edward Rochester in “Jane Eyre” and Heathcliff in 1970’s “Wuthering Heights,”) and his multi-layered, complex interpretation of Rochester is both haunting and mesmerizing. Stage actress Zelah Clark provides the pluck and fortitude that embody the title character. It is the sparkling chemistry between the two actors that elevates this “Jane Eyre” above other versions that also feature noteworthy actors. (Other film versions pair Orson Welles/ Joan Fontaine, Ciaran Hinds/Samantha Morton, William Hurt/Charlotte Gainsbourg, and George C. Scott/Susannah York). This longer (330 minutes) version is faithful to the book; the well-crafted dialogue is preserved and the story is allowed to progress at the rate necessary for development of the passionate romance that forms the heart of the story. If you are a Charlotte Bronte fan who has been disappointed by other attempts to bring “Jane Eyre” to the screen, you should enjoy this exquisite interpretation

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Scandal's Daughter by Christine Wells

The aspirations of many an unpublished romance writer includes winning the coveted "Golden Heart" award sponsored by Romance Writers of America. In 2006, "Scandal's Daughter" won the Best Short Historical Romance category, and after reading this charming Regency-set novel, I believe the accolade was well-deserved.

Author Christine Wells paints the English setting beautifully and introduces us to Gemma and Sebastian, two likeable characters whose lifelong friendship forms a bond that gradually evolves through tenuous bouts of passion into a deep love capable of healing the wounds of the past.
Gemma is plucky without being obnoxious, and Sebastian is a complex character driven by a dark childhood filled with abuse and culminating in the loss of his beloved brother. The author's skill at portraying the deep emotional ties between the hero and heroine brings an emotional context to the story that makes it a very satisfying romance.

Ms. Wells employs a skillful balance, using humor to occasionally lighten the mood and deftly working in the Regency-era details that form the flagstone of this type of novel without making them an intrusion. She creates an interesting world populated with endearing characters and provides the requisite happy ending. As a reader of romance, I couldn't have asked for more.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book Review: First, There is a River, by Kathy Steffen

After I finished reading 'First, There is a River,' by Kathy Steffen, I started thinking about what makes a book memorable. Out of the thousands of books we read in our lives, what is it that makes us remember plotlines and characters years after we've read a particular book? I think part of it might be that something about the story resonates with the reader. Another component could be that the characters are so well-drawn that they become real people to the reader and as the story unfolds, the reader comes to feel he or she has a vested interest in the outcome. This novel about a wife's escape from her abusive husband is just such a story. 'First, There is a River' should not be dismissed as a story about abuse. This story is more about hope and redemption as heroine Emma Perkins flees from her abusive husband Jared, taking a job as a cook aboard the 'Spirit,' a riverboat co-owned by her uncle Quentin. The journey down the river parallels Emma's path to regaining her sense of self-worth as she struggles to find the courage to escape the cycle of abuse her life has become and find a way to regain her children, who have been sold into labor by Jared. As Emma emerges from her cocoon of fear and begins to thrive aboard 'The Spirit,' her tentative friendship with Gage, an engineer scarred from youth from an explosion aboard a riverboat, becomes a poignant romance. Gage is the quiet, reflective antithesis of Emma's brutal husband Jared, and Emma gradually falls for the kind, perceptive engineer, unaware that Jared remains on shore, following the path of the riverboat, waiting for the opportunity to exact his revenge, not only against Emma, but against all those who have assisted her in reclaiming her life, especially Gage. Set during the days when elaborate excursion boats paraded up and down the Ohio river, the author infuses her story with fascinating descriptions of the riverboats and details about life on the river, using her research to form a framework for her story without detracting from the story by inundating the reader with too much detail. The result is an engrossing, exciting story set against a colorful, unusual backdrop. I will remember Emma and Gage's story for a long time to come.

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