Guest Post by Author Blair McDowell on The Real Romantic Road + Giveaway

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Blair McDowell back to Reading Reality. Her most recent book, Romantic Road (reviewed here) was absolutely awesome. Actually, I think all of her books have been marvelous. I first discovered Blair’s work when I reviewed Delighting In Your Company back in 2012. I’ve eagerly awaited every new book, because she writes marvelous love stories with interesting twists and fascinating backgrounds. Every story has lots of lovely layers to immerse yourself in.

The Real Romantic Road
by Blair McDowell

It was quite by accident that I first discovered the Romantische Strasse, an ancient Roman road that winds through picturesque old walled towns, from Wurzburg to Augsburg in Germany. I had flown into Frankfurt on my way to Budapest for a meeting. With some days to spare, I decided to rent a car at the airport in Frankfurt and drive to my destination in Hungary.

Romantic Road by Blair McDowellWhat I hadn’t counted on was the German autobahn. I realized within the first half hour on this raceway that I was no match for German drivers. I had rented the smallest and cheapest car available, and I was surrounded by Mercedes and BMWs all traveling at the speed of light. Driving at about seventy miles an hour, I was in mortal danger. Not content with merely passing me, drivers pulled up to about three inches behind me and madly flick their high beams. Since I was already in the far right lane I’m not sure where they expected me to pull over. In full blown terror I looked for a way out. When I saw a sign saying “Miltenberg” I took the exit. Within a few minutes I was in a peaceful countryside, on a meandering two lane road, with almost nobody on it but me. An hour or so later, I was on the outskirts of a walled medieval town on the River Main. Exhausted by both a sleepless overnight flight and my hair-raising autobahn experience I decided to spend the night there.

rothenburg-1I parked my car outside the walls and walked through a huge stone archway into a setting that might have come out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Cobblestone streets, ancient houses huddled close together, and best of all, no cars. I checked into the Zum Riesen, an inn so old I had to duck to get through doorways. People were shorter in the fifteenth century.

The bed was heaven; I sank into oblivion with a huge square down pillow under my head and a plump down duvet over the rest of me.
In the morning, as I enjoyed my breakfast of black bread, ham and cheese, and strong black coffee, the proprietor said to me, “You’re traveling our Romantische Strasse, then?

That’s how, quite by accident, I discovered the Romantic Road.

RothenburgWallThe three medieval towns that officially make up the Romantische Strasse are Nördlingen, Dinkelsbuhl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The one that stayed most in my mind after exploring this part of southern Germany was Rothenburg. Surrounded by high stone walls interspersed with vast arched gates, it is a reminder of how perilous life must have been six hundred years ago. Tall houses stand huddled close together. From a small park, I could see the surrounding hilly countryside for miles ­- an advantageous position for a fortress town that had to be ready at a moment’s notice to close its gates and defend itself from attack.

The town center was a wide square with a clock tower, a town hall, and a gate chillingly named the Hangman’s Gate. It was evocative of a distant and dangerous time, especially when seen on a chilly, rainy March day, as I first saw it.

RothenburgHillsI returned to the Romantische Strasse many times over the ensuing years. I knew that someday I would have to bring a story to this setting. It was in Rothenberg that the plot of Romantic Road began to take shape. A heroine, I didn’t yet know her name, would take refuge here, pursued by someone who meant her harm. The title, I decided, would be double-entendre, reflecting both the old Roman road with the medieval towns on it, and the personal romantic road of my heroine’s life.

This was the kernel from which my novel of romantic suspense, Romantic Road, grew.


Blair McDowell 2About Blair McDowell

Blair McDowell wrote her first short story when she was eleven and has never ceased writing since, although only recently has she been able to return to her first love, writing fiction.  During her early years, she taught in universities in the United States, Canada and Australia, and wrote several highly successful books in her field.Her research has taken her to many interesting places.  She has lived in Europe, Australia, the United States and the Caribbean and Canada, and spent considerable time in still other places, Iceland, the Far East, and the Torres Strait Islands off the coast of New Guinea. Now she travels for pleasure. Portugal, Greece and Italy are favorite haunts.

Her books are set in places she knows and loves and are peopled with characters drawn from her experiences of those places.   The Memory of Roses takes readers to the Greek Island of Corfu, where a young woman finds her future while searching for her father’s past.  In Delighting in Your Company, the reader is transported to a small island in the Caribbean, with a heroine who finds herself in the unenviable position of falling in love with a ghost.  The setting for Sonata is the city of Vancouver, with its vibrant multicultural population and its rich musical life, and the heroine is a musician who finds herself in unexpected danger.

In her most recent release, Romantic Road, Lacy Telchev, is pursued along Germany’s famous Romantische Strausse as she follows clues left by her late husband in order to solve a mystery that she doesn’t understand, while being chased by dangerous and cunning adversaries.

She hopes her readers will enjoy reading these books as much as she enjoyed writing them. Blair is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America (Greater Vancouver Chapter), the Romance Writers of America (Women’s Fiction), and The Writers’ Union of Canada.

To learn more about Blair, visit her website and blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Blair is giving away two e-copies of Romantic Road! For a chance to win, enter the Rafflecopter below.

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Review: Romantic Road by Blair McDowell

perf5.000x8.000.inddFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: romantic suspense
Length: 290 pages
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Date Released: January 28, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon,  Kobo, All Romance

When Lacy Telchev buries her husband she finds herself in treacherous waters. Igor, much older than Lacy, had secrets. Suddenly Lacy is being chased across Europe by men who believe she can lead them to those secrets. Evading her pursuers with the aid of a chance acquaintance, the handsome and mysterious Max Petersen, Lacy travels across Germany, Austria and Hungary, to a shattering discovery in Budapest.

Along the way, she meets three women from Igor’s past. As Igor’s story unfolds through them, Lacy is less and less certain who her husband really was. Who can Lacy trust? Will she survive to find out?

My Review:

An alternate title for Romantic Road would be a paraphrase of the old song, “To all the girls my husband’s loved before.”

Lacy Telchev finds herself running around Europe, visiting the important women in her husband’s past, in order to retrieve pieces of a secret that he left behind. But while Lacy hides herself under multiple identities, sometimes not even one step ahead of the bad guys who are chasing whatever it is her husband left for her, Lacy is also chasing the past of the man she loved and married, but perhaps never knew.

She thinks she’s doing one last thing for him. It turns out that he is doing one last thing for her – only part of that thing makes her live on the run, often in grave danger, dodging bullets, bombs and kidnappers.

Igor was dead, to begin with.

When Lacy married Igor, he was 50 and she was 22. He had obviously lived a life before he met her, and his confidence and experience was no small part of what attracted her to him. That, and he knew how to sweep her off her feet. But while Igor knew everything about her relatively short life, She knew next-to-nothing about him. And he kept it that way.

After 5 years of marriage, three blissful, two fairly awful, he was dead. A second heart-attack had ended his life. Or so it seemed.

In the events that unravel after Igor’s death, Lacy comes to discover that she never knew the man she married. Igor left her a safe-deposit box filled with cash and multiple identities, along with instructions to visit his former lovers and retrieve material he left with them for safekeeping.

Igor died while writing a book. He had been an operative for the International Criminal Court, among other pieces of a more misspent life than Lacy had imagined. Igor knew which governments were dealing with terrrorists, criminals and organized crime. He had information that could bring down multiple corrupt powers, as well as expose one of the most insidious organized crime syndicates in the world.

Igor scattered the chapters among his old lovers. His last act was to send Lacy to find those chapters, and discover all the other secrets that he kept from her. But there are too many people who are willing to kill to suppress what Igor knew. And now they are all after Lacy, who has no experience living on the run and dodging crooks.

Or even, as it turns out, determining which are the crooks and which are the good guys after all. In Igor’s world, the world that Lacy has been thrust into, everybody lies.

Those lies may cost Lacy her life. If she survives, those lies cast their long shadow over her chance at a new life.

Sonata by blair mcdowellEscape Rating A: Like all of Blair McDowell’s marvelous stories (The Memory of Roses, Delighting in Your Company, Sonata), this romantic suspense tale operates on more than one level. There are the secrets that Igor wanted to protect, and the secrets that he kept from Lacy. He was both letting her help him one last time, and setting her free.

But Igor seems to have been someone who simply steamrollered past obstacles, so he either didn’t predict how much danger he was putting Lacy in, or he did and knew it would be the making of her.

Lacy has to pull herself out of the cocoon she has been living in and risk everything to find Igor’s legacy, and to find herself along the way. She also has to reach for her future while performing a task that lets her bid a firm goodbye to her past.

What she finds about Igor lets her know him better, even as it breaks her heart one last time. But it leaves her open for something new, while Igor’s life and Igor’s secrets are still all around her.

Lacy does not go on her journey alone. She intends to, but she just isn’t trained as a undercover agent. Igor’s friends help her, as does a man she first meets through Igor’s friends, but then discovers is always around when she needs him. Max Peterson attaches himself to Lacy to help her, but Max keeps almost as many secrets from Lacy as Igor did. When she discovers that Max is not the only man who is following her, she stops trusting everyone, with predictable, but disastrous, results.

The Romantic Road is a real place, the Romantische Strasse, in Germany. Lacy travels it both figuratively and literally as she tours Europe to find her husband’s old lovers, and possibly finding a new love of her own.

If you enjoy edge-of-your-seat suspense with a heart-pounding romance wrapped around a story that also makes you think, read Romantic Road or any of Blair McDowell’s marvelous stories.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post from Blair McDowell On Character Studies + Giveaway!

I’m very pleased to welcome Blair McDowell back to Reading Reality. Blair is the author of two of my favorite books from last year, Delighting In Your Company and The Memory of Roses. Those marvelous stories explored exotic places that Blair has lived. Sonata (reviewed here) is a fascinating look into Blair’s other love, classical music.

On Character Studies by Blair McDowell

We all use different approaches in writing. What works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another. For me it is vitally important to know the people about whom I’m writing before I put the first lines of any story to paper.

That’s not to say that characters never change during the course of a story. Often the story is about the change in a particular character from the beginning of the novel to the end. But it’s important to make the need for this change evident to the reader. It’s necessary to establish firmly who the character is at the beginning before showing the gradual changes to that character.

Having said that, the hero in Sonata, Michael Donovan, is not a character who changes much in the course on the book. He starts out a decent, intelligent, lovable guy, and he ends up a decent, intelligent, lovable guy. But through those absolutely consistent character traits, he causes change to those around him.

Here is the character study I wrote on my hero, Michael Donovan, in my new novel, Sonata.

Michael Donovan—hero. Thirty-one. A detective with the Vancouver police. Father and grandfather were policemen. Good looking in a hard tough way. Lots of muscles. Tall, capable, all business. Serious about his work. Appearance—think the young Clint Eastwood. Muscles like iron. Broad shoulders, slim waist, taut abdomen. Sandy hair that defies taming even though kept short, sharp green eyes, rugged face. Not handsome, but certainly attractive and very masculine. Off duty dresses very casually. Jeans, running shoes, etc. Former hockey-jock.

Michael’s hobby is cooking. He worked his way through university in restaurant kitchens, and took courses at the Vancouver Culinary Arts School. Michael’s cooking ability plays an important part in his seduction of Sayuri McAlister’s (my Japanese-Canadian heroine, a professional cellist).

He was Sayuri’s sweetheart in high school, where she was two years below him. Their relationship ended badly when his adolescent hormones too obviously reacted to the twelfth grade femme fatal. They haven’t seen each other since– (twelve years ago). They reconnect when he is assigned to investigate a break-in at Sayuri’s father’s house just as Sayuri returns home from Paris.

On his off-work hours Michael works on a sailboat that he keeps moored at Secret Cove. He whistles melodiously as he works. Picks up melodies he hears Sayuri practicing. He has a huge dog named Buttercup, a Malamute, St. Bernard, wolf cross, who is afraid of her own shadow. He rescued her, a shivering, malnourished puppy, in the course of a drug bust.

Michael has an efficiency apartment in Vancouver on Sixth and Granville, and a small house in Secret Cove on the Sunshine Coast that he inherited from his grandparents, while Sayuri, the woman he loves, comes from a different world. Her father owns a major tech company (think Blackberry) and she lives in a mansion in Point Grey. The difference in their financial and social status looms large in Michael’s eyes. He sees it as an insurmountable problem. Furthermore everyone in the McAllister household, including Sayuri’s father and his new fiancé and the couple who have worked for them for years and raised Sayuri after her mother’s death, must be considered a suspect in a multi-million dollar jewelry robbery that appears to have been an inside job.

How can Michael hope to win Sayuri in the face of these obstacles?

Below is a short excerpt. Michael has just persuaded Sayuri to have dinner with him.

Michael stopped the car before a gate to the underground parking garage of a high-rise condo building on Fourth Avenue. The gate swung up in response to his keycard.

“Where are we? I thought you were taking me to dinner.”

“I am. I’m taking you to dinner at my place.”

“I see. I suppose that’s all right, as long as you don’t think that I’m on the menu.”

Michael burst out laughing. “I wouldn’t presume…”

Sayuri laughed with him. “You can’t have changed that much Michael. Of course you’d presume if you thought you could get away with it. And I hope you can cook, because I certainly can’t.”

“Cooking is among my many and varied talents. You’ll never have to cook if you just stick with me.”

“That’s a very good thing, because if our survival depended on my cooking we’d starve. When other girls…”

“And boys,” Michael interjected.

“When other girls and boys were learning how to cook, I was practicing cello.”

Michael pulled his car into a numbered parking space and came around to Sayuri’s side of the car to open the door for her.

“Mmm. A man who can cook and who helps his dinner companion out of the car. Are you sure you’re for real, Michael Donavan?”

About Blair

I started to write soon after I found my first pencil. But I began to write for publication about 30 years ago — professional books. I wrote six of them, all still in print and still in use. Only lately have I turned to fiction. I’d have done it a lot sooner if I’d had any idea how much fun it was!

I’ve lived in many different places. The US — Certain cities call to me. I love San Francisco and Seattle and the wonderful Oregon Coast. Australia — among the most open welcoming people in the world, and a wide open young country with incredible land and sea scapes, with amazing animal and bird life right out of science fiction. Canada — HOME. The place where I belong.

I travel a lot. I usually spend the month of October in Europe, Greece or Italy, and the winter in a little house I built many years ago on a small non-touristy Caribbean Island. I have worked and studied in many places — Hungary, Australia the US and Canada, and have spoken in most of the States and Provinces as well as Taiwan and various cities in Europe. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures other than my own. I enjoy my own as well — but variety is indeed the spice of my life.

I keep busy — and I love my life. I love meeting the people who come here to the west coast of Canada and stay in my B&B. I love traveling after the tourist season is over. And I love writing. My interests?? Music, especially opera, reading everything in print, and Writing. And walking on the beach and swimming. At one point I had hoped to swim in every major sea and ocean. I’ve realized that may not be possible in one lifetime — but trying has been fun!

Website | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | Goodreads


Win one of five PDF copies of Sonata!

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Review: Sonata by Blair McDowell

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Romantic suspense
Length: 258 pages
Publisher: Rebel Ink Press
Date Released: November 1, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A jewel heist…

When renowned concert artist, Sayuri McAllister, returns to the west coast of Canada after an absence of five years, she discovers her family home has been a broken into and jewelry worth two million dollars is missing. Michael Donovan, Sayuri’s old high school flame, now a detective with the Vancouver Police Department, is the officer in charge of the case.

What chance can he have…

Michael takes one look at Sayuri and falls in love with her all over again. But they parted in anger years ago and Sayuri is no longer the innocent girl he once knew. What chance can there be for a Vancouver cop with someone as famous as Sayuri McAllister? Especially when that cop is investigating her family and friends?

An unexpected marriage…

Then Sayuri’s widowed father, Sean, marries Alyssa James, a woman Sayuri has never even met. The three live uneasily together in the Point Grey mansion until the unexpected arrival of Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, a devastatingly handsome, charming Irishman who immediately begins a campaign to bed and wed the delicious and wealthy Sayuri.

Things take a dangerous turn…

Accidents begin to happen. Or are they accidents? Nothing is as it seems. Michael distrusts Hugh James and fears that Sayuri’s life may be in danger.

Sonata by Blair McDowell is a love story, a family story, and a mystery. Make that two love stories.

Sayuri McAllister is a world-famous cellist. Coming home for the first time in five years, she discovers that her father’s house has been burgled, her father is remarrying after 18 years as a widower, and that her high-school crush is the ranking officer for the Vancouver P.D. investigating the burglary.

And Sayuri thought she was coming home to rest!

Sayuri’s life at home is much different from what she expected when she decided to come back after five years traveling the world’s concert stages. She and her father’s new wife, Alyson James, barely make an uneasy truce over the changes in their lives. Each woman had expected to be the only queen in Sean McAllister’s castle.

And Sayuri and Michael Donovan, that police detective, discover that the decade and more since high school hasn’t dimmed the attraction they once felt. But it has closed the gap between her wealth and his middle-class background.

As the investigation into the jewelry theft from her father’s house proceeds, Sayuri and Michael begin the relationship they couldn’t have all those years ago. But Sayuri is afraid to give too much of herself. Her concert career has always come first, and she doesn’t know how to mix her kind of all-consuming art with any kind of normal life.

But she wants to try.

Into the middle of this bursts Hugh James, Alyson’s brother. He tries to charm his way into Sayuri’s life. With his sister’s collusion, he tries to edge Michael out of the picture.

Then Sean, Sayuri’s father, starts to have mysterious accidents. Meanwhile, the jewel thief hides in the background, waiting for another chance.

Escape Rating B: The mystery in this romantic suspense is more of a “why did he do it” than a “whodunnit”, as the perpetrator is obvious almost instantly. However, the totality of his motivations are obscured until the end.

Sayuri and Michael’s love story is the one in the forefront. While it was sweetly done, there was just a bit missing for me. I wasn’t totally clear on why Sayuri was so afraid to commit emotionally. It seemed that her objections were cultural, but her internal debate needed a bit more externalizing.

Also, she let herself be hypnotized by Hugh James a bit too much. For someone who could be so commanding onstage, she was a little too subservient off of it. She let herself be swept along, even while she was being creeped out, and admitted to herself that she was creeped.

The gradual turn around of Alyson’s relationship, not just with Sean but with the whole McAllister household, was lovely. She started out on her high-horse and in the end fell in love with everyone. And we all understood why.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 1-13-13

Does that date look weird to anyone else? I think it’s the 13-13 that threw me for a loop.

Talk about being thrown for a loop…we just moved to Seattle from Atlanta, and, the Seattle Seahawks are playing the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC playoffs, today. As I’m writing this, the Seahawks just pulled ahead by one point, and there’s only 25 seconds left in the game. I’m afraid to watch.

Since everyone at work knows I just moved here from Atlanta, I’ve had way too many conversations at work explaining that I’m NOT rooting for the Falcons. No way. Now if the Cincinnati Bengals were still in it, we might have to talk, but it takes a lot longer than 18 months to get a piece of my heart. Which means I also still root for the Chicago Bears. (I lived in Chicago a long, long time)

And oh crap, the Falcons are in Field Goal range. And they made it. Damn it. I don’t think there’s going to be any joy in Mudville tonight. Mighty Casey just struck out. (Yes, I totally mixed my sports metaphors.)

The Seahawks may have just lost their playoff berth, but there was a winner here at Reading Reality. Tin Ong won the $10 Amazon Gift Card in the New Year’s Blog Hop this week!

Besides the last gasp of that New Year’s Blog Hop, what else happened last week?

B Review: Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning
B+ Review: Perfection Unleashed by Jade Kerrion
Interview with Jade Kerrion + Giveaway!
B Review: Immortally Yours by Angie Fox
B+ Review: Enchanting the Lady by Kathryne Kennedy
C- Review: Rock Hard by Olivia Cunning
Stacking the Shelves (30)

There’s a new week coming up, which means new treats for everyone!

On Monday I’ll be reviewing Tiffany Allee’s new superhero romance, Heels & Heroes. Let’s just say that the “Heels” involved in the title are the fashionable kind, but that the “Heroes” in the title are both super and yummy. As part of the tour for this book, Tiffany is giving away 3 copies.

Tuesday I’ll have a guest post from Blair McDowell, as part of her tour for her latest romance/suspense title, Sonata. I always love seeing Blair’s books come up on tour, because I enjoy her work so much, and Sonata was no except. I’ll have a review on Tuesday, and Blair will also have a giveaway.

Wednesday and Thursday I’m reviewing Olivia Cunning’s Double Time and Elisabeth Staab’s King of Darkness. Completist me, both of those reviews (as well as last week’s Enchanting the Lady by Kathryne Kennedy) were to get ready to review the latest books in those series. On Thursday at Book Lovers Inc. I’ll be reviewing Elisabeth Staab’s Prince of Power, if you want to “collect the set” for yourself.

Friday’s review is a treat for me. I’m reviewing The Killings at Badger’s Drift. It’s the first in  Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby series. I’ve enjoyed Midsomer Murders so much, that I couldn’t resist reading the books. And sharing them.

Last, but very definitely not least, the Happy Endings Blog Hop starts on Saturday, January 19. It will certainly be a Happy Ending for the winners of all the lovely bookish prizes at the hop participants!

And the week after next will be another busy week! I’ll be hosting tours for Waterfall by Lacy Danes, Nobody’s Angel by Stacy Gail and The Cat’s Meow by Stacey Kennedy. With giveaways!

Who said cats and water don’t mix?

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 1-6-13

It’s the first Sunday Post of 2013. And away we go!

During this week’s unpacking, we unearthed the box of stuffed animals. I found my Hedgie. Hedgie is a hedgehog. Isn’t she adorable? I got her on a trip to Vancouver a few years ago. She’s been quietly resting a box, along with a bunch of her friends, for several years. Now she’s back on my desk where she belongs.

But the cats didn’t rest much last night. We bought some new inserts for this type of cat scratcher. Basically they’re corrugated cardboard, but, well, anything that saves the furniture is all good. The humans didn’t open the package. The cats went wild during the night. There was a tiny package of catnip wedged between the two scratcher refills. Score!

If you want a more bookish score, there are still a few brief hours left to get in on the New Year’s Blog Hop. The prize here at Reading Reality is a $10 Amazon Gift Card. It might make a dent in your wish list.

What happened last week on the blog? Funny you should ask…

13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads
New Year’s Blog Hop
A- Review: The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
B+ Review: Devil in the Making Illustrated Edition by Victoria Vane
B+ Review: Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov, Guest Review by Chryselle
Stacking the Shelves (29)

Now let’s look ahead to this week!

On Tuesday, Jade Kerrion will be here to talk about Double Helix, her science fiction romance series. I’ve already finished book one in the series, Perfection Unleashed, and it’s an absolute thrill ride. So yep, I’ll have a review. And there’s a giveaway as part of the tour.

Rounding out the week I’ll have reviews of Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series, Angie Fox’s first Monster M*A*S*H, Immortally Yours, and one touch of pure fantasy romance from Kathryne Kennedy’s Enchanting the Lady.

There are two tours on the horizon for the week of January 14: Blair McDowell’s Sonata and Tiffany Allee’s Heels & Heroes. And we’ll end that week with the oh-so-appropriately named Happy Endings Blog Hop.

Stay Tuned!

Review: The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell

The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.” The story goes very well from beginning to end. The life that it tells, that definitely has some rough patches. But it ends very, very well.

Death and discovery. It could be a metaphor for the life of Ian McQuaid. He was, after all, an archaeologist. He was also the father of Britomartis McQuaid, and it’s his death that begins Brit’s journey. Because with her father’s death, Brit discovers that much of what she knew about her father was a lie.

Brit thought her parents’ marriage was a reasonably happy and faithful one. Her mother died of cancer when Brit was eight, and her father never remarried; Brit’s memories are those of a child. Her father’s will leaves her a house on the Greek island of Corfu, one Brit never knew he owned, and a package to deliver to his long-ago lover, a woman he met, loved and left on that island, one long ago summer before Brit was born. The summer just before Brit was born.

His last letter tells her to “Go to Corfu. I hope you will find there the peace, the beauty, the sheer joy in being alive that I found.” 

Brit goes in search of the mystery of her father’s life–the secret of what happened during that missing summer. She has time, and she has the burning need to know the truth. The things Brit doesn’t have are that peace, that joy that her father found on Corfu. She’s never had them, and she doesn’t expect to find them. She doesn’t believe they even exist, at least not for her. All the people she’s ever loved have left or rejected her, and she doesn’t even know why.

But on Corfu, she finds friendship, and in bringing the villa back to life, she finds peace and purpose. Brit starts to write, and finally finds joy in her work, real joy.

Love comes looking for her. And when it finds her, she begins to understand the reasons that her father made the decisions that he did, so long ago.

But there is one secret from that summer still left to be revealed. As Brit finally finds her joy, she discovers she has the power to totally destroy someone else. Or she can keep her father’s last secret.

Escape Rating A: I really loved this story. There were so many circles within circles, and they all came to the absolute perfect conclusions. There’s the mystery about what happened to Ian and Maria in the past, and you absolutely have to find out how their tragic love story ended so badly. Then there’s Brit’s unhappiness. You both want her to have a happy ending, and you want her to deal with her ghosts. Extra points for a particular person getting his just desserts near the end.

This is a story about resolutions. Not New Year’s resolutions, but about things getting resolved appropriately. Brit has to be ready for love before she can even get within shouting distance of happy, and Andreas is not just handsome, but also patient enough to be a friend first and wait for the moment to be right.

One other thing…this was just so good that I was able to forget the absolutely HUGE watermark that Rebel Ink Press puts on every single page of their eARCs. I was so completely immersed in the story and my eyes stopped seeing it.


The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 8-19-12

It’s so hard to believe that we’re sliding down towards the end of summer, isn’t it? But we really are.

High temperatures in Atlanta seemed to have finally dropped out of the 90s. Only down into the high 80s, mind you, but out of the 90s. It’s some kind of progress. Less beastly. I love winters in the South, but the summers are probably a foretaste of Hell. (I reviewed one of Eve LanglaisHell books this week, I loved it, but her Hell sounds like the U.S. Deep South for climate)

It’s good to be home. The cats missed us. They’ve mostly forgiven us for leaving them. (If you are owned by cats, you know exactly what I mean!)


So what’s happening at Reading Reality this week? Let’s get out the old calendar (actually Google calendar) and take a look…


After Monday’s Ebook Review Central feature, which is the June multi-publisher post, this week we have…drumroll please…

Tuesday I’ll be reviewing Only Scandal Will Do by Jenna Jaxon as part of a tour from Sizzling PR. Only Scandal Will Do is a terrific historical romance romp which starts with the absolutely opposite of a “meet cute”. The heroine gets sold to the hero at an auction in a whorehouse! This shouldn’t end well, and it doesn’t in the beginning, but of course it does in the end!


Wednesday is for The Memory of Roses. That’s not a commemorative, it’s a book by Blaire McDowell. Ms. McDowell also wrote Delighting In Your Company, a ghost/historical romance that I found, well, absolutely delightful when I reviewed it in June. So I couldn’t resist The Memory of Roses when it popped up on this Bewitching Books Tour.


Thursday I’ll be interviewing Gwyn Cready, the author of Timeless Desire. Since I’ve already reviewed Timeless Desire, I’ll be very interested to see what she has to say. The book was very good, a kind of Outlander-lite. And that feels right to me, after all, the subtitle is “An Outlander Love Story”.


Speaking of cats (well, we were a few paragraphs ago)…on Friday, I’ll have a guest post from Jacqueline M. Battisti, the author of The Guardian of Bastet as part of a tour from Bewitching. I’ll also be reviewing the book. I couldn’t resist. Bastet is the cat goddess.

And that all makes for one busy week!

But looking ahead to the next week, there’s one big event already on the calendar. Susan Wiggs’ will be here for an interview on Thursday, August 30 to celebrate her new book, Return to Willow Lake. And I’ll be doing a review. Naturally.

And then, and then, and then…it will be Labor Day. And Dragon*Con. Where did the summer go again?

Author Interview with Blair McDowell

Today is a very special day for author Blair McDowell. June 7 is the Release Day Blitz for her delightful (sorry, couldn’t resist) time-travel ghost romance, Delighting in Your Company (review here). Blair is popping up all over the blogosphere today, but I managed to sit her down (virtually, at least) to answer a few questions about her writing and this haunting story.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Blair McDowell when she isn’t writing about ghosts?

I run a B&B in the small fishing village of Gibsons Landing on Canada’s spectacular west coast. After the tourist season ends I go traveling—usually to Italy or Greece for a month. Then down to the Caribbean to a small island where I’ve had a house for 40 years. Then back to Gibsons to start the whole cycle again. Through all of this I try to write at least 4 hours a day. I’m retired from my day job so all of this is now possible.

Delighting In Your Company takes place on the island of St. Clement’s in the Carribean. Is there a real St. Clement’s? Or was there a particular place that served as the inspiration for the setting?

There is indeed a real island on which St. Clement’s is based. It’s St. Eustatius, and I built a house there some forty years ago. The legends and stories I heard there over the years were the inspiration for Delighting In Your Company.

It feels like a lot of research went into Delighting, about the legends of the West Indies, and about the “Triangle Trade” of rum, molasses and slaves. Would you like to share some of the interesting things that you found while you were researching the book?

I think some of the facts I discovered about the slave trade were the most interesting—and the most appalling. I made my hero, Jonathan, anti-slavery. I think one of the facts that struck me deeply was that although the slave trade was outlawed by Parliament in 1807, the actual ownership of slaves—the abolition of slavery in the British Isles — didn’t happen until some thirty years later. All the outlawing of transport did was result in a flourishing business for ships that could outrun the law.

Delighting is both a ghost-romance, and a time-travel romance. How did you decide to mix the two?

I couldn’t have done one without the other in this case. The story seemed to come from out of nowhere except my knowledge of the islands and their folk tales. It just arrived in my head, quite complete.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Odd. I can’t even remember learning to read. I’ve always loved reading and read in every spare moment. When other children were playing ball, I was off in a corner reading.

Who or what most influenced your decision to become a writer?

Again, no one. It was as natural a choice as breathing. I’ve written since I was a child. Long letters to friends, short stories just for myself, then professional books in my field when I was a university professor, and now (my favorite) novels. I love writing.

And are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot everything out in advance, or do you just let the story flow?

I plot carefully. First I choose the setting I want to work in, then I start thinking about possible characters in that setting, then I start developing plot. The plot may change as I work on the book, but I start with a very complete story idea.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Indeed. In Sonata, my book that will be coming out in the fall, one character completely turned the tables on me. I don’t know how it happened.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

There just isn’t ONE book. No two of us are alike in what we bring to the books we read. What one person enjoys another may cordially detest. My advice is to read widely and in many genres. Only in that way can we be broad enough as readers or as authors.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

Sonata is the story of a world class concert artist who falls in love with a Vancouver cop. There is a jewel heist, attempted murder and general mayhem before our hero and heroine finally get together.

What about your off-writing time? Any special hobbies or interests you’d like to share?

Travel. I love to travel. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures and languages other than my own.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee—the kind the Italians call “cappuccino oscuro” Dark Cappuccino. A Cappuccino made with a double espresso and topped with the foam of milk—not actual milk, just the foam.

Blair, thanks so much for letting us have a glimpse into your writing world!

(Photo credits: Photo of St. Eustacius: Walter Hellebrand from Wikimedia Commons, Diagram of the slave ship is from the Archives of the Library of Congress and is in the Public Domain.)

Delighting In Your Company

If the phrase “delighting in your company” sounds familiar, it should. It’s from one of the most persistent ballads in the English language. Still stumped?

It’s Greensleeves.

And the story, Delighting in Your Company, uses the tune and the words, as it is one song that is familiar to people in both the 19th and 21st centuries.

That’s important, because Blair McDowell has created a ghost story and a time-travel story that links people and events between those two centuries.

Ms McDowell interweaves the history and beliefs of the Caribbean, a stinging rebuke against the “Triangle Trade” of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a bittersweet love story that changes history. Because history needed a “cosmic kick in the pants”.

But first, the heroine needs a more localized one. Amalie Ansett’s life needs a do-over. Or at least a fresh start. Her marriage has ended in bitter divorce, and her beloved mother is dead. While packing her her childhood home, she discovers a family secret–the good kind for a change. She has family she never knew about. A cousin in the Caribbean, on the laid-back island of St. Clement’s.

One delighted phone call, and Amalie is taking a much-needed rest on a sleepy tropical island where the pace is life is slow, and time has a chance to heal her.

The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is a man. The other thing she doesn’t expect to find is a mystery.

Long ago, there was another Amalie Ansett. Her portrait hangs in the museum. And she’s a dead-ringer for 21st century Amalie. There’s something else dead about historic Amalie. Her eyes. They’re empty. Not just in the sense that the portrait was bad, but as though the artist painted her corpse.

He did. History-Amalie was catatonic while she was painted, while she was the governor’s wife. There’s a big mystery about her death. And Amalie’s cousin Julia knows it. Something went very wrong back there in the past.

Because that man Amalie has met in the here-and-now? He’s a ghost. Everyone on the island knows something haunts the old Ansett and Evans Plantations, and it’s him. Jonathan Evans. The man the original Amalie was supposed to marry.

Instead there was a slave rebellion, and history went way, way, way off track. Jonathan’s ghost thinks his Amalie has come back to him. Amalie thinks that her handsome ghost-man is using her as a substitute for the woman he really loves.

But he’s real enough to her that they manage pretty well. Until Amalie investigates that rebellion-and figures out that she might be able to go back and fix things. But if she makes things right, she’ll lose the man she loves.

Love is about making the one you love happy, not yourself, isn’t it? No matter how much it hurts?

Escape Rating A-: Usually it’s either the ghost story or the time-travel story. This time it’s both, and it SO works. Amalie has to meet the ghost of Jonathan in order to know she’s supposed to go back and fix things. And yes, it might be a little arrogant to think she’s the one who has to fix the past, but who else?

The story works on a lot of levels, the love story because Amalie knows it can’t last, but does it anyway. She’s always trying to make things right for Jonathan, aware that it’s a sacrifice for the greater good. But it only works when she builds trust with people in both the present and the past, especially her past self. That was fascinating.

The time travel angle works because Amalie goes back to herself. She’s not trying to create a new role, she’s already there. She works with what is.

The historic mystery has its roots in the Triangle Trade, and the money to be made there. Not just the slave trade itself, but also the sales of the cash crop from the Caribbean that the slaves produced. If you’re curious about the Triangle Trade, the best, and most colorful description is still the song “Molasses to Rum to Slaves” from the musical 1776. It indicts everyone involved.