Interview with Regan Walker + Giveaway

I’m very pleased to welcome Regan Walker to Reading Reality today. She’s here to talk about her debut novel, Racing With the Wind. It’s a peek into a fascinating historical period, the time after the Napoleonic Wars, and a look into the deadly spy game through the eyes of a very unusual couple. I’m glad it’s the start of a trilogy (take a look at my review for the full scoop).

Let’s hear from Regan about her journey from lawyer to author.

Marlene: Regan, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Regan: Sure. I live in San Diego, which I fondly refer to as “Paradise.” I have one son who is now out of the nest and has left me his Golden Retriever who is my constant companion. (Love the one who feeds you, right?) Though I have lived other places, I am really a creature of the West. As far as Romance writing goes, I am a new author and I love the creative side of it. Research for me is fun, diving into the past a joy. So much of my writing in the past was associated with my career in law this is a welcome change. I have traveled extensively, both for pleasure and business and I like to give my readers a sense of another place in my stories. I want them to experience adventure, too, as well as a love story.

Marlene: Why historical romance? And what attracted you to this period in particular. Why choose the period after the Napoleonic Wars are over and not during the war, for example?

Regan: Well, when I discovered Romance novels, rather late, I must say, the ones I loved most were historical novels. I think it’s because they actually taught me something. I like the deep ones that actually have history in them, not some vague historical setting. When I decided to write one, I knew I wanted to write Regency. The Napoleonic Wars are, for the most part, before that time. However, I have a prequel in mind for the Agents of the Crown trilogy that will take place in 1784, so I guess I’ll get to that time period eventually. The reason I chose the year 1816 for this first novel is that it was an interesting time in Paris. King Louis XVII had returned to the French throne but the allied troops still occupied the country and there was fear of yet another tumultuous time in France. The streets of Paris saw violence in some quarters and that made for a likely setting for some of my scenes. It was just the place a young English bluestocking could get into trouble. Besides, who doesn’t love a trip to Paris? Some of my readers have commented that they loved being there during the 19th century through my book.

Marlene:  Would you like to share with us a little about what kinds of research you had to do for the book?

Regan: As Virginia Henley once told me, “Research is my passion.” It’s mine, too. For this novel I dove into all things Napoleon. While he isn’t a character, he is talked about by the characters throughout the book. His imprint on Paris at the time is discussed and in some cases, lamented. For the Prologue and other scenes, I had to know something about Napoleon’s defeat in Russia in 1812. For many scenes, I had to understand what buildings of state were open in 1816. Two of my scenes are set in Notre Dame, though I had at first wanted them in the Sainte-Chapelle church in Paris, as it’s one of my favorites. However, my research disclosed it was closed in 1816 for renovation. For one dining scene, I communicated with the famous restaurant La Tour d’Argent to ascertain if they were serving their current specialty, duck, in 1816. They weren’t, so I had to change the menu. I also had to understand what books my bluestocking heroine might read in 1816. And, of course, some of my characters are real, historic figures. Germaine de Stael is one of those and I had to learn much about her to make the character seem genuine. In the end, my novel is better for those kind of details.

Marlene:  Some readers might think that Lady Mary is a bit ahead of her time. Did you have a model for her character?

Regan: I draw upon many people I’ve known for my characters, but I believe that there have always been women like Lady Mary. As my Author’s Note at the end of the book indicates, we know that even during the Regency, there were women who rode their horse astride, some even in men’s clothing. And Germaine de Stael, a real figure and a character in my novel, is an intelligent woman who was respected by government leaders, even Napoleon. She is very much like an older version of Lady Mary (minus the promiscuous behavior). So I do not agree she was ahead of her time. She was a rebel. There have always been rebels.

Marlene:  Is there a story behind your decision to become a writer? Who or what influenced your decision?

Regan: Yes, there is a story. I dedicated the book to my best friend who encouraged me to write it. And, with her permission, I modeled Lady Mary’s best friend, Elizabeth, after her. Before I was a writer of historical romance, I was an avid reader. When I discussed the books with my friend and told her I could often see scenes in my head that foreshadowed the events in the books I was reading, she said, “You are an author!”

Marlene:  What was the first moment you knew you wanted to write?

Regan: If you’re speaking of historical romance, it would be the day my best friend and I were standing in my kitchen and she said, “You need to write one,” and I said, “I will!” Really it was that simple.

Marlene:  Describe a typical day of writing. Are you a planner or a pantster?

Regan: Unlike some authors, I don’t write all day. I still practice law part time so some mornings I work. I then do some social media and usually settle down to write after lunch. Some of my best scenes come to me late at night and I keep a pad by my bed to write those down when they come to me. I am both a planner and a pantster. Usually at the outset, I have the first few scenes and the last scene. I know where the book is going. But in the middle I’m a pantster. I call it the “mire of the middle” as it is always a difficult place for me.

Marlene:  Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Regan: Yes, it’s a trilogy—The Agents of the Crown—all stories of British agents or spies working directly for the Prince Regent on “special assignments.” I am nearly done with the second, Martin’s story, Against The Wind, which takes place in the Midlands of England and features the Pentrich Rebellion of 1817. I am hoping it will be out by early 2013. Then next follows his brother, Nick’s story, Wind Raven, which takes place on his schooner and in the Caribbean. Nick is a rakish sea captain who meets his match in an American girl he is forced to take on as a passenger. And if I don’t get diverted to my medieval that I’m half finished with, I’ll next write the prequel, tentatively titled On Fair Winds, which will be set in France (mostly) in 1784. It’s is the love story of Martin and Nick’s parents, a most interesting couple.

Marlene:  Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read and why?

Regan: My mother taught me to read when I was 4 and told me I could travel the world through books. She was not wrong. Reading will take your mind to another place, whether it is to the world of ideas or the world of adventure and love. Why limit yourself to one life when, through books, you can live many? I love historical biographies and many have inspired me. You can also travel through books. I’ve traveled to over 40 countries and travel guides are some of my favorite books. For all of those reasons, I have never stopped reading, though now much of my recreational reading is historical romance for my blog (Regan’s Romance Reviews,

Marlene:  What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Regan: That one is easy—the Bible. It will change your life, both this one and the next one.

Marlene:  Morning person or night owl?

Regan: Night owl. However, some of my jobs have forced me to rise with the birds and when I’m in that groove, I rise early out of forced habit. But it takes very little for me to stay up late. It’s some of my most creative time, too. And that is why it is easier for me to fly west, rather than east.

Regan, I am so with you on the flying west. It is absolutely easier. And I can always stay up later. Maybe too much later. Especially if I’m reading a good book. Thank you so much for staying up late (or getting up early) to answer all my questions!

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Review: The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine by Jayne Fresina

Format Read: ebook from NetGalley
Number of Pages: 384 p.
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Regency Romance
Formats Available: Mass market paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Book Depository

Book Blurb:

“Wanted: one husband, not too particular. Small dowry, several books, sundry furnishings, and elderly aunt included. Idlers, time-wasters, and gentlemen with other attachments need not apply.”

Scarred in a childhood accident, Sophia Valentine doesn’t expect any takers on her ad for a husband in the Farmer’s Gazette, until the mysterious Lazarus Kane shows up at her door. To Sophia, he is an exciting, enigmatic stranger. But Lazarus has known Sophia for years and has come a long way to find her. Things are about to get complicated for the mischievous Miss Valentine.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Once upon a time, Miss Sophie Valentine did something very, very improper. She and her fiancé, the rather wealthy James Hartley, were caught, as they say, in flagrante delicto on a billiards table in the middle of a house party. There were scads of witnesses. (Not precisely, but nearby)  So James did the proper thing and asked Sophie to marry him. They would probably suit. They’d been friends for years, and he was rather handsome.

The worst part was that the experience wasn’t any good for her. Today we’d call it “wham, bam, thank you ma’am”.

No, the worst part was that while Sophie was standing on the balcony, waiting for James to bring her some punch, she saw him talk to one of the serving maids. And she saw that he showed the girl more real affection, more love, than he would ever show her.

And Sophie Valentine wasn’t ready to be a complacent wife. Not even to escape the scandal.

She climbed down the groundskeeper’s ladder next to the balcony, escaping the life that society expected of her, and tearing a gash on her face that left a permanent scar. Just like the one on her life.

The assistant groundskeeper who left that ladder out watched her every move–and was dismissed for his inattention to his duties.

Ten years later, Sophie is rusticating with her brother and his absolute harridan of a wife, still trying to live down that scandal, and she finally breaks out of her attempt at propriety by writing an advertisement in the local farmer’s journal for a husband.

Of course, the ad brings a handsome stranger to the village. And, because there are no coincidences in romance, it’s the assistant groundskeeper who got fired for watching her escape ten years ago.

And all the players from that long ago drama return to Sophie Valentine’s life to try to prevent her from causing yet another scandal.

Based on that opening scene, this should have been tremendous fun. Not terribly true to period, but fun. Except it all falls kind of flat.

The characters seem more like caricatures than real characters. There’s the hero of course, who had to go off and become dark and tortured before he could be redeemed and rescue the heroine. Lazarus has a number of secrets that he refuses to reveal to Sophie, but seem obvious to the reader. He also has a mysterious wound that might kill him at any moment, but is miraculously not a problem at the end of the book.

There’s Sophie’s brother  Henry, who isn’t capable of managing his estates without his sister’s more sensible advice. Henry is weak and resents his sister for pointing out the things that he should be taking care of and can’t seem to stand up to his shrew of a wife, who is spending money that they don’t have.

Then there’s the sister-in-law who resents Sophie. Sophie who is doing all the work Lavinia should be doing, and who occasionally reminds her that the household is spending far, far too much. And that she’s really, really stupid.

Are all the awful Regency sister-in-laws named Lavinia, or does it just seem that way?

The seduction of Sophie Valentine by Lazarus Kane from her prim and proper, scandal-reducing life back to her true improper self takes much too long and is down-right boring.  Sophie may have been teased but after she fell down that ladder, I wasn’t.

I give The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine 2 Stars.

***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 Taming of the Rake

The Taming of the Rake, by Kasey Michaels, is the first book in her new trilogy about the Blackthorn brothers.

The most important thing to remember about the Blackthorn brothers is that they are bastards. That’s not a value judgment, it’s a statement of fact. Their parents were not married, at least not to each other. Their father, the Marquis of Blackthorn, loved their mother, but married their aunt to protect her from being sent “away” because she was a bit, well, simple. Not to mention slightly fey. And their mother wanted to be an actress, not exactly a respectable pursuit for a Marchioness. So everyone came out ahead. Except for the Blackthorn boys. All three of them.

Beau, legally named but never called Oliver, is the oldest. And he is forcibly reminded of his bastardy by Thomas Mills-Beckman when Beau makes a quite respectable offer of marriage for Thomas’ sister Madelyn. Thomas has the servants horsewhip him for his effrontery, witnessed by the entire household, including Madelyn’s much younger sister Chelsea.

This is not the story of Beau’s and Madelyn’s thwarted love. Madelyn is not worth two minutes of Beau’s time. Beau takes his whipping like a man, picks up the shreds of his dignity and joins the Army. This is, after all a Regency, or close to it. Beau makes a name for himself at Waterloo. By the time he returns, Madelyn’s little sister has grown up.

The story is Beau’s and Chelsea’s story. Chelsea needs to escape from her brother Thomas’ desire to reform both himself and her by giving her in marriage to a scheming, fraudulent reverend with a perpetually wet mouth and wandering hands who only wants Chelsea for her access to her brother’s money. She throws herself on Beau’s probably non-existent mercy because she is sure he is the one man who will jump at the chance on using her to get revenge on her brother. And she is right. But instead of revenge, what Beau and Chelsea get is each other.

Escape Rating A: How Beau and Chelsea discover that what they really want is a future together is the heart of the story. These are two intelligent characters who find out that they have much more in common than a simple desire for revenge. On their way to Gretna Green for a hasty elopement, chased every step of the way, they still manage to have fun. And so does the reader.

This is just the first story. Beau has two brothers, each of whom should get his own book. I’m looking forward to them. The second brother Jack, seems to spy for the government at least some of the time, and he’s very secretive about it.  The youngest brother, Puck, wastes time as a “fribble”, in his own words. I also want to see if I’ve guessed right. I think their parents may really be married after all, but if it’s true, that will be part of the big finale at the very, very end. We’ll see.