Review: A Peculiar Engagement by Kara Louise

A Peculiar Engagement by Kara Louise is an interesting take on the life of one of Pride and Prejudice‘s lesser loved characters. Lady Catherine’s daughter, Anne de Bourgh.

I have to say I have never once wondered how Anne felt, what her child was like, or what happened to her after Darcy and Lizzy got together, but for those of you who have wondered, this is your answer. This book not only explains Anne’s view of the whole Lady Catherine-planned engagement of her daughter to Mr. Darcy, but it flashes back to their childhoods. Part adulthood and part childhood, this story flips back and forth, explaining their relationship as cousins. Their first meeting, as they both lost their parents at the same time and wrote letters to each other of encouragement, and how as they grew older the pressure of engagement infected their otherwise pleasant relationship.

While this book may not wow Darcy fanatics, it does give a nice glimpse of his possible childhood. It also connects another of Kara Louise’s variations, Mr. Darcy’s Rival.

My favorite bits of information gleaned from this book are:

  • Getting a glimpse of Anne’s father before he passed. Hard to imagine what kind of man would put up with Lady Catherine.
  • Richard (Col. Fitzwilliam) I’ve always liked him but he really comes alive in this book. I like the way Kara portrayed him here.
  • Seeing the “Georgianna goes to Ramsgate” situation arise while Darcy is at Rosings and Anne encourages him to investigate.
  • The fact that Anne is a writer and publishes books behind Lady Catherine’s back. Take that!
  • The connection this book has to Kara Louise’s Mr. Darcy’s Rival book.
  • Anne’s love interest is rather interesting and I love how the elopement is conducted.

A line from this book I find especially inspirational is what Anne’s love tells her when she mourns not being able to do things because of her asthma.

“Do not regret what you cannot do. You must allow yourself to fully enjoy those things you can do and be thankful for those blessings.”

This is a quote I will be putting up in my office to remind myself everyday. After being in a wheelchair for seven months last year, I could have used this little insight during recovery! But it’s a good thing to remember at all times.

While I’m not a fan of Anne de Bourgh in general and probably would not have read a book centered on her except for Kara Louise writing it, I am glad I did read this book for the pieces it filled in for me.

Now, if she’d only write a Colonel Fitzwilliam book! 🙂


Guest Blog: The Secret Victorian Language of Love

The Secret Victorian Language of Love

by M. M. Genet

I have a confession to make. Behind this tough exterior of jaded writer and road weary musician is a mushy, Meg Ryan, romance junkie. Whether she’s playing Kathleen, the New York children’s bookstore owner or the full-of-hope romantic listening to a broken hearted widower on a radio show, I’m all in. While I may love the pairing between her and Kevin Cline in French Kiss the best, there is a scene in Kate and Leopold that tops them all.

Victorian time traveler, Leopold tries to explain to his modern contemporary that there is more to giving a woman flowers than grabbing a bouquet at the local supermarket. In Victorian times, each flower meant something specific. Along with Meg Ryan films, I also adore flowers. I buy them for friends to say thank you for dinner or for hosting me in their home for a weekend (along with a good bottle of champagne.) I send them to friends who’ve been dumped and I buy them for myself when I need to celebrate the little triumphs in life. I’ve even been known to send them to the man in my life on occasion.

Want to send your love a message that mere words can’t express? Let’s see which combination conveys what is brewing in your heart.

Acacia has stalks with tiny yellow flowers. It represents a secret love between two people. Have a secret crush? What if the two of you hang out every day in the break room and smile, blushing, but neither of you can summon the courage to ask the other out? Why not send a bouquet of Acacia? Card optional.

Cactus. Yes you read that right. Love isn’t always about tingles and giggles and holding hands. Sometimes staying together is tough. Sometimes life is so hard that all you have is each other. A cactus represents resilience. If your partner sends you a cactus, it means that they believe the two of you will still be standing together no matter what the world throws at the two of you.

Carnations are maybe one of the most commonly gifted flowers in the United States. They’re beautiful and often inexpensive. Did you know they represent the ultimate in feminine beauty as well as delicate emotion? If you love a woman for all the things only she can be; sweet, loving, gentle, a celebration of both happy and sad tears, then the carnation is the one to send her.

Gardenias and roses became associated with love thanks to the writing of Shakespeare. Gardenias have a heavy, sweet floral scent. White pedals surround a yellow center with delicate green leaves. Their specific meaning is, “You are lovely.”

Ivy was long used in wedding ceremonies called Handfastings during the Middle Ages. During a Handfasting, the couple holds hands and ivy is wrapped around their wrists (instead of the exchange of rings) to symbolize “two becoming one.” Hence, Ivy is a serious addition to any bouquet as it represents betrothal, fidelity and commitment.

Jealous much? No really. Is there a certain someone that you pine for? You (and everyone else) can see that the object of your affection would be much better off with you than the unappreciative idiot their currently with. Want to steal their heart? Send Lilly of the Valley. This stealthy little plant, with it’s delicate bell shaped, white flowers are beautiful but the legend says that the magic is in the scent. One whiff of its intoxicating perfume and you will steal another’s heart. That said, be sure to send a card.

Orange blossom is often used in floral bouquets to symbolize fertility. More recently, people in long term relationships hoping to have a baby will send it to their partner as a sign of hope.  Send your love orange blossom particularly when waiting to hear the results of a fertility treatment, learning that it’s early days of a recent conception or to gently suggest that you’re ready to try to have a baby with them.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be an article about the language of love without mentioning roses. First painted in Renaissance portraits wrapped around the ankle of the Goddess Venus, roses were meant to represent femininity, beauty and the intoxication of love. While white roses imply very innocent love, pink roses mean maternal love and deep red roses symbolize long time, committed love.

However your heart is aching, express it by surprising that special someone (who may realize or not) in the language of flowers. The Victorians gave us some of the longest lasting stories about love and angst that have endured the test of time. In a modern world of text messages, swiping left or right and online profiles, flowers and their meanings need to make a comeback. The romantic in me needs to believe that there is something worth exploring in reserving a secret language reserved just for love.

M.M. Genet is the author of  The Clever Courtesan.  The book takes readers on a wild ride through the eyes of Cassandra Flemming, a Lady of Keys.  Fighting the norms of Victorian high society, Cassandra challenges all the rules when it comes to women, power, sex and power of a lock and a key.

Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I absolutely adore this book. I read the first couple pages of Edenbrooke over a few days, but when Marianne’s personality started showing, I was caught and could not put it down. I read chapters three-to the end and in captured anticipation.

Marianne is a country mouse who’s staying with her grumpy grandmother in Bath and being stalked by a creepy wet-mouth dude who writes bad poetry about her. Her twin, Cecily, is a city mouse so she’s off in London enjoying her season with aims to capture a rich, titled husband. Marianne is happy not to be in the society crush, but when Cecily writes to invite her to a country estate named Edenbrooke, she can’t resist.

Adventure and excitement thrill Marianne as she sets off for Edenbrooke, but when a highwayman shoots her carriage driver on the way, stealing her mother’s locket and leaving her and her maid stranded in the wilderness, it seems she may never reach the estate. Somehow Marianne finds the strength to get to an inn and even saves the carriage driver’s life.

Although she supposed to be an elegant young lady, she’s funny and adventurous and clumsy which makes her highly entertaining to read.

The gentleman in this story is unexpected and charming as well, although you aren’t quite sure who she’ll end up with in the end. The journey getting there is fun and satisfying.

There are so many gem scenes in this book, I found myself unable to take a break as I had to find out what happened next! Delightful side characters also made the tale fun and I found the family she stayed with to be refreshingly kind. Too many of the Regency upper class in books tend to be ugly self-serving jerks. The Wyndham family is completely the opposite. They are kind, compassionate, and really seem to care about their guests. There’s no talk about high society and how she doesn’t fit in, which I would assume was more the case when people came to stay with you in those days.

I really enjoyed reading this book and will look for more from this writer.

The Clever Courtesan by M.M. Genet

Like a little Erotica in your Historical Romance? Check out my friend M.M. Genet’s book!

Meant to Be Press

Buy now in Print or eBook

Heat Level: Steamy

Cassandra is beautiful, smart and afraid of nothing…except maybe falling in love.  Taking her destiny into her own hands, she chooses a life she has to carve out for herself in British society instead of taking the marriage proposal that’s been handed to her.
Selling the key to her chastity belt to the highest bidder, her lovers include daring pirates, exotic ivory traders and even ambassadors to kings. Cassandra will stop at nothing, always asking herself, ‘Who is the richest person in the room?’

When Lord Maddox secretly purchases her key from her current lover, Maddox proves to be far more of a challenge than Cassandra expected. While being his Lady of Keys may make them both richer and more powerful than she ever imagined, can either of them withhold their greatest possession? Can Cassandra and Lord Maddox support a royal…

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Jane Austen Society Gala – Great fun!

I had a great time this weekend talking about books and geeking out on Jane Austen with my fellow Janites at the JASNA NorCal Region Annual Birthday Gala. Below you can see some of our answers to the tough JA question posed to us by DiAnn Ellis.

If you are thinking about joining the JASNA, I would endorse it. The party was loads of fun and an experience no Jane Austen fan should go without. It felt really comforting and special to be with people who know Jane as well as I do. No explaining necessary! 🙂

My fellow panelists are: Abigail Bok, Jeannette Watts, and Reina M. Williams.

Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Vampire love. Sexy, eternal…deadly?

Experience love the vampire way with three great couples.

Julien is obsessed with a woman who has left him for a world and duties he only vaguely understands. Without her, he feels as if part of himself has been ripped away. Just think of the last time your heart was broken, and then imagine you have all of eternity to live with that intense pain.

Reidar, on the other hand, is in love with a woman he sees every day. She is always there, reminding him of her beauty, her scent, her laughter. He walks the line of keeping quiet but near her, or telling her of his unwavering love and chancing her sending him away. His heart aches with the thought of losing her.

Markham is a tortured soul. Every woman he’s ever loved has been ripped from his grasp in a horrible way. In Dusk’s Warriors, he’s all but given up when he sees a woman who is the spitting image of a love he lost in 20s to the vampire wars. Could it truly be her? Or is this new version a gift sent from heaven to fill the void he’s felt for decades? Will the guilt of his old love’s death hamper him from finding love once more?

These love affairs are captivating, addictive, and sometimes toxic. Read an excerpt of Julien/Jespa’s love affair below.

———-Excerpt of Dusk’s Warriors———-

Their mouths couldn’t connect fast enough as Julien latched on to Jespa with the force of a high-powered magnet. Before they hit the hotel suite, garments were stripped, and once inside the suite, a trail of clothes littered the floor to Julien’s room.

Not a word passed between them. Any emotions or questions they had about their time apart remained locked away in the dark corners of their minds. Primal lust took over as their bare bodies met.

Sex. Break. Thrust. Bite. Devour. Julien could think of nothing else than to have her. A mere hour later, they were too weak to go on. They had rushed everything, but their passion couldn’t be stopped.

The first words uttered were Julien’s.

“What took you so long?” He’d meant it as a joke, but the words came out in a wounded voice. Jespa lay in the crook of his arm, a lock of his white hair between her fingers.

“I didn’t know you were calling.”


“Well, I did, but…I saw your prayers to me, but…it’s difficult to explain, I…couldn’t be sure…I mean…”

“No matter. You’re here now. I will never let you go again.” He kissed her forehead, brushing back her auburn hair.

“You chose this life and didn’t come with me.” Her words caused silence between them.

Julien stood, anger inside him brimming over as he gripped his fist. A knife stabbed straight through his heart. Not come with her? The box in his heart he’d put his anger in burst open.

“You didn’t tell me! How could I know?” His breathe came in fast pants as he attempted to keep control. “I didn’t know I could come with you. I didn’t know it was an option. I would have gladly…but you pushed me away. You said you had to go. I didn’t know I could follow.”

“It’s not god’s place to push the will of her subject. You were supposed to…”

“I was supposed to what? Come after you? Beg for you? You seemed so full of importance, so ready to reclaim your heavenly seat. I felt unimportant to your destiny. How could I know?”

Jespa didn’t answer. She sat up in bed, her perfect, full breasts exposed, her face void of expression.

“Miss cool. Miss under control. Nothing bothers you. There’s nothing you can’t solve with a good fight and quick wit. I’ve never seen you crack. Your body was torn to shreds and even then you were a mask of control!” His fangs extended. Only then did she show concern.

“Your fangs. They’ve returned? You’re a vampire?”

“They’ve never left! Don’t you understand? I’ve not moved on! I’m frozen in the state of despair you left me in. I’m a being without a home, without control!” He approached her, grabbing her shoulders and throwing her back on the bed.


He heard her, but his blood lust had taken over. His fangs latched onto her precious skin, locked forever. Her blood was sweet, pure. It tasted like fresh whipped cream and honey.

“Julien!” Jespa screamed.

He couldn’t stop. He’d been craving her blood, her love, for longer than he could fathom. His mind told him to move, to release her, but his body would not give way.

Jespa shoved him away from her, his body as a scrap of cloth in her grip. She threw him across the room and he slammed into the wall. He sunk onto the carpet in a heap of despair.

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I…” He was no longer his composed, strong self, the one that stood gladly beside Jespa, ready for anything. He was a crumbled shell of a man whose soul had been tortured to the point of madness.

She crouched near him, pulling him into her arms. Her tender embrace felt much more like love than their earlier lustful lovemaking. She smoothed back his hair, gripping him tightly to her.

“I’m sorry I left you. I did not know what I was doing,” she said.

His voice came as a whisper. “Jespa, my love, I would follow you to Heaven. I would follow you to Hell. I’d follow you anywhere. I thought you knew. If I must beg to make you mine, I shall.”

Jespa pulled him to the bed. He was on his back and she rose over him, their hips together. She kissed him deeply. She smelled of honeysuckle and rain and he could think of no better place to be, but under her, inside her.

“Don’t ever leave me here again,” he said. “Truly, take me with you wherever you may go. I fear for a life void of you, my love. You don’t know what dark thoughts I had alone. My life up until now has been to serve a duty I never really felt was my choice. I thought I had to become Lord of Dawn to make all things right. I thought…” He swallowed. “I thought somehow if I accepted Dawn, you would be proud of me and I thought you would fight for me.” He swallowed. “It matters not. We are together now. I love you, and I’ll spend the rest of my days with you, for when you are gone, my days will be at an end.”


Jespa gasped as she landed on her back next to Julien. Lovemaking was glorious on Earth. Everything felt more thrilling, more real. Angels didn’t cut it. She curled in front of Julien as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her shoulder.

“You are delectable, love,” his voice rumbled in her ear.

She allowed herself to look into his mind and explore his soul. She found complete and utter devotion there. Was it true devotion or simply his infatuation with her godly presence? Did she still bewitch him enough to make him forget his own desires, or was he truly in love with her?

Give him a cup of Kingdom Tea and all your questions will be answered.

The tea. She glanced over to her jacket. Should she give the pouch a try? If he truly loved her, the tea would not dim his adoration. If he didn’t… Well, did she really want to know?

“Julien,” she said, turning to face him. “Would you really come with me, to my realm?”

“Without hesitation.” He ran his hand over her temple, smoothing back her hair.

She smiled. I have to know. Before I ask him to sacrifice his life to be with me, I must know if he is acting of his free will. She detangled from him and stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“I want some tea. You want some?”

“I don’t know how you can think about tea at a time like this.” He laughed. “But yes, I would like some.”

Jespa ventured into the main room for cups and hot water. When she returned, he was sitting against the headboard. His pale skin rippled with muscles, the veins in his arms making her want to run her tongue along them. She put the cups on the side table and retrieved the tea from her jacket.

“You came prepared,” Julien said.

“This is special tea from my realm. It…”

His expression was so open and accepting. How could she drug him without his knowledge?


“Well, it will let us sleep. Otherwise, I don’t think we’ll get any rest sleeping in the same bed.”

“You’re right. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

She laughed, tipping the pouch of tea equally into their cups. He took a deep breath.

“Smells glorious.” He rose the cup to his mouth and took a sip. “And tastes like blueberry or…”

“Zionberry actually.” She sat down next to him on the bed as he lifted the tea to his lips, finishing it off. He set the cup on the side table and then scooted down on the bed, a warm hand squeezing her leg.

“Julien, I love you. I probably haven’t said it enough. I do. I’ve never felt like this for anyone before. I’ve never looked to fall in love. I’ve never felt it was my place to hope for someone for myself.”

Julien’s hand went limp on her leg and she looked down. His eyes were closed and his face held a serene smile. She’d accomplished her task, she just had to wait for the outcome.

He loves you. This will prove it. After all, you drank the tea and still love him.

Jespa stood, taking the two cups to the sink in the main room.


Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shaurette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights:

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

Available now at in print and eBook

Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.



Guest Blog: The Ultimate Romantic Cemetery by Loren Rhoads

Loren Rhoads is a good friend of mine and just happens to be an aficionado on cemeteries. She’s here today to tell us about the most romantic one, Saint Giles Churchyard.

Eighteenth-century poet Thomas Gray composed his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” while visiting lovely old Saint Giles Churchyard in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire in the heart of England.

The manor, which stands 200 yards away, served as a Saxon thane’s home until the Norman Conquest in 1066. By the 1080s, the Normans built the first Christian church here. The chancel (the part near the altar), walls, and pillars in the main body of that Norman church still survive.

The word Stoke meant a stockaded place. In 1086, the lord of the manor became known as William of Stoke. In the 13th century, Amicia of Stoke, heiress of the manor, married Robert Pogeys. Their land became known as Stoke Poges.

The church is first mentioned in 1107, when it was “made over” with money tithed to the Priory of St. Mary Overie in Southwark. It was remodeled every hundred years or so, enlarged and improved. In 1702, the spire was erected — Gray admires it in his poem as the “ivy-mantled tower”— but the ivy-damaged the spire was in danger of collapse when it was removed in 1924.

Inside the chancel stands the tomb of Sir John de Molyns, Marshal of the King’s Falcons and Supervisor of the King’s Castles. Although he served both Edward II and Edward III, Sir John was a robber baron believed to have murdered his wife’s uncle and cousin to inherit their land. He died in March 1360.

Around 1558, Lord Hastings of Loughborough added a chapel inside the church for the use of inmates of a nearby almshouse. The chapel served as a burial place for succeeding generations of the Hastings family. Sir Thomas and Sir Walter Clarges were buried here with their families, but the graves have been lost. A mural with skulls and cherubs’ heads survives on the chapel’s south wall.

St. Giles’s oldest monument is a flat tombstone dug out of the churchyard, now on display inside the Hastings chapel. In Norman French, the stone says, “All those who pass by here, Pray for the soul of this one. William of Wytermerse he had for a name.”

Out in the churchyard, Thomas Gray lies beneath a brick sarcophagus next to his mother and her unmarried sister. His name doesn’t appear on the grave, but a tablet on the church’s wall records his burial. Immediately opposite the southwest door of Saint Giles’ Church stands the yew tree under which Gray composed his poem.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r

And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave

Awaits alike the inevitable hour:

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Saint Giles’ Churchyard is one of the 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads. She is also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel and writes about graveyards for the Horror Writers Association and She blogs about cemeteries as vacation destinations at

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die

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Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel